Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Australian Flying Saucer



Picture Credit: Skylifter


An Australian company named “Skylifter” is developing an aircraft that promises to revolutionize heavy air cargo transportation. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft will be capable of transporting loads that no current airplane or helicopter can carry. The new aircraft, a piloted dirigible, will be able to carry loads of up to 150 tones, of “any shape, [to] any location, [for] any distance”; all that with a minimal environmental footprint and great precision. Just as a comparison, Sikorsky's S-64 Skycrane has a maximum payload of 20,000 lb (9,072 kg), and the Russian Mi-26, the most powerful helicopter ever to have gone into production, can carry no more than 44,090 lb (20,000 kg) cargo. Besides, these helicopters have another disadvantage: the powerful downdraft created by their enormous rotor blades makes it difficult to handle their loads with precision. Some airplanes can carry much more weight. Antonov's An-225 has an incredible payload of 550,000 lb (250,000 kg). Airplanes, however, cannot land everywhere, not to mention the limitations of size and shape of the cargo they are capable of transporting.


PS: In case you are wondering why the Skylifter is discus-shaped, the reason resides in the aerodynamics. Unlike cigar-shaped dirigibles, it is oblivious to the wind direction.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Personal Flight: Something New in the Air


The videos below show two aircraft concepts that may change the way people fly.





Saturday, November 13, 2010

Edward O. Wilson, the Father of Sociobiology


Nowadays we know that our genes and the environment we live in, in constant interaction, are what make us what we are. Along history, however, much harm has been caused in the name of science by well-meaning ignorants and pseudoscientists who either didn't know or chose to ignore this fact. Eugenics, Social Darwinism and even Communism (which resulted in the most monstrous social experiments ever conducted) are some examples of the possible consequences of attributing human behavior either to genes or to environment alone. Unfortunately, pseudoscience and ignorance still abound and help sustaining myths, prejudices, racism, homophobia, among many other evils.
Outside the realm of science too, there have always been those who try to attribute much of what we do/are to supernatural causes (temptation, demon possession, witchcraft, etc). Witch-hunts, discrimination, obscurantism and religious extremism are good examples of the possible consequences.

Fighting ignorance and established prejudices is never easy. When Edward O. Wilson, after two decades observing animal behavior in the wild, published a book called “Sociobiology”, in which he tried to explain the origins of social behavior, he didn't imagine the furious reaction he was going to provoke. The problem was that the human species was also object of his analysis.

The video below is about Mr. Wilson and his work, which includes environmental activism. It is a little bit long, but it is worth taking the time to watch it.



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Geniuses, Dying Sheep and Depression




It is since long known that there is a strong correlation between the human immune system and depression. Depressed people seem to be more susceptible to medical ailments. However, statistical correlations are often misleading. How is it possible to know which one is the cause and which one is the effect, if there is any causal relationship at all? Recent studies have shown that the correlation may also work the other way around, i.e., physical illness may cause depression. The good news is that treating the physical illness may alleviate depressive symptoms in otherwise difficult to treat cases. Click here to read more.

Talking about the immune system, a recent study found that a weak immune system may, oddly enough, confer evolutionary advantages. Sheep with a strong immune system where found to produce less lambs than their more fragile and short-lived counterparts. This might help explain why debilitating characteristics are able to withstand the evolutionary process.

By the way, did you know that there really seems to be a link between depression and creativity?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Using Nanobots to Kill Cancer Cells

Because there are many types of cancer, it is difficult to find one treatment that fits every case. Nowadays chemotherapy is the most effective way of killing all kinds of cancerous cells. The problem is that it has severe adverse effects.
Depending on the types of medication used, chemotherapy can cause depression of the immune system, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, fatigue, or damage to the heart, liver or kidneys.
If the technology shown in the video below ever comes to fruition, cancer patients will be spared
the toxicity and inconvenience associated with chemotherapy.
Watch the video and learn how it works.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why Machines Will not Take Over the World



by Alexandre Couto de Andrade


Yesterday I watched an interesting documentary on the History Channel. It showed how robots are increasingly taking part in warfare. In the future, the ever more intelligent military robots will probably be capable of deciding whether or not to kill. They will also probably be able to repair or make copies of themselves. In the documentary, the movie “The Terminator” was often mentioned to illustrate how things could go terribly wrong. What if the machines became conscious and turned against us?


We should really be concerned about the ethical implications of such technologies. But this is all we should be worried about. Although such scenarios may provide inspiration for great science fiction, it is extremely unlikely that anything like that will happen in a not distant future. First of all, we are light-years away from being able to create machines that are complex enough to sustain consciousness. Secondly, there are gigantic logistical and material limitations that renegade robots would have to overcome in order to successfully take over the world. Complex machines are generally made of thousands of components, manufactured all over the world. The raw materials of which such components are made also come from several different sources (not to mention that some of them are very rare). Each raw material must not only be extracted, but also transported and industrially processed.


If robots were ever to reproduce themselves without human assistance, they would have to somehow control overwhelmingly complex production and supply chains. Unless absolutely everything is automated and controlled by machines, we will never see “Terminators” taking over the world.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gender Differences and the Psychology of Sex



Why are males generally bigger and more aggressive than females? What makes someone sexually attractive? Why are females more sexually choosy? What are the differences between what men and women expect from a sexual partner? Why are men far more fond of prostitutes and pornography than women?
In the video below you will find answers to these questions and a lot more.


Psychology, Sex, and Evolution
By Paul Bloom


Watch it on Academic Earth

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Genetic Roots Found


Attention-deficit hyperactive children can be exasperating. They have trouble concentrating and therefore have a short attention span; they are impulsive, seem incapable of remaining quiet, fail to finish what they start, intrude into conversations or activities, and have trouble following instructions, even when they intend to do so. It is easy to blame the parents or the children for such behavior. However, things are not that simple.

For many years it has been known that there is a strong genetic contribution to ADHD. However, for the first time, direct genetic evidence has been found. Watch the video below to learn more about it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Climate Change: Being Skeptical about Skeptics


photo: NASA


by Alexandre Couto de Andrade

A group of researchers from the Columbia University (New York) has recently published a paper titled “Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments” in which they examine many claims and counter-claims being made in the public debate about climate change. The paper's unequivocal conclusion is that “the primary claims of the skeptics do not undermine the assertion that human- made climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat”. Nevertheless, in spite of the results drawn from meta-studies like this, the skeptics' arguments continue to find appeal among people all over the world.

Skepticism regarding climate science is particularly harmful due to the obvious relevance and urgency of the subject. The stakes are so high that we cannot afford to do nothing. Even if the worst case scenarios are unlikely to occur, we cannot wait until we are completely sure about what is going on. We must do something now! I am not talking about geoengineering or any other controversial “solution” that would probably make things even worse. I am talking about sustainability and rationality. And contrary to what many skeptics apparently want us to believe, sustainable development is not economically harmful, unless you consider dilapidating the planet a good long term investment. If we stop consuming natural resources at a rate that is far beyond that of their renewal (when they are renewable at all), what harm can we possibly cause to the planet? What harm will we cause to the planet if we reduce pollution and deforestation? What if we stop procreating like cockroaches? What harm will that cause?

The advancement of scientific knowledge would be nearly impossible without skepticism. For some scientists, however, skepticism seems to be an end in itself. They will simply never give up. When proven wrong, they will immediately look for some other way of undermining the arguments of the majority*. When you take a closer look at them, you realize that behind their intransigence almost invariably lies an agenda, bias or an inflated ego. Sometimes, finding out who sponsors their research sheds some light on the matter. But, unfortunately, it is rarely that simple.


*Click here and read John Cook's article “The contradictory nature of global warming skepticism



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mr. Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity




Although America's hegemony is since long not the same anymore, most significant events that happen in the United States still have serious implications for the rest of us, who are not americans. Anyone who thinks otherwise must probably have been living on another planet during the last economic crisis or since 9/11 for that matter.

That is why when science gets banned from school books, Sarah Palin starts having real changes of becoming the next US President (wasn't Mr. Bush bad enough?), or some lunatic menaces to burn the Koran, the rest of us, who live elsewhere, should be as concerned as any mentally sane american citizen.

On these grounds, I decided to use this space to help publicizing Mr. Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, an event programed to take place in Washington, D.C., on October 30. In addition to calling attention to the insanity that seems to have recently invaded America's public life, it will probably be very amusing.

Click here and/or watch the video below to learn more about it.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Saturday, September 18, 2010

WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS

Book Review
by Alexandre Couto de Andrade


The book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, written by Nicholas Carr, is one of those books that everyone should read. It shows how the internet profoundly changes the way the human brain is wired and discusses the possible resulting cultural and social impacts.

The human brain is an incredibly plastic organ. It can change to adapt to even small shifts in our circumstances and behavior. Particular brain circuits are strengthened through the repetition of  mental or physical activities. The reverse of the medal is that if you no longer use certain skills, you gradually forget them. The brain map space dedicated to the activities in question is turned over to the skills you practice instead. The habit of reading, for example, operates profound changes in the brain. Experiments have shown that the brains of the illiterate are different from the brains of the literate. They understand language, process visual signals, reason and form memories in different ways.

The changes that happen within the brain also vary according to the media one uses for reading. Reading a book is very different from reading internet content. The online environment favors cursory reading, superficial learning, as well as hurried and distracted thinking. Even worse, the net deliveries “precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli – repetitive, interactive, addictive – that have been show to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.” This prevents us from thinking either deeply or creatively. The changes in brain circuitry are not only profound, but also swift. An experiment performed in 2008 “actually showed people's brains changing in response to internet use.” Using magnetic resonance imaging, scientists observed what happened inside the subjects' brains while they navigated Web pages. As little as  five hours on the internet (one hour a day) was shown to be enough to significantly rewire their brains.

The reason why one gradually has his/her abilities to concentrate and think deeply impaired has to do with the way the brain handles memories. There are two different kinds of memory: long-term and working memories. The long-term memory is not some kind of warehouse of information. It is actually the seat of understanding. It not only stores facts and experiences, but also complex concepts (“schemas”). The working memory comprises the contents of one's conscientiousness at any given moment. Nothing is stored in the long-term memory without previously passing through the working memory.  “The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory to long-term memory and weave it into conceptual schemas.”

Unlike the long-term memory, the working memory has a very limited capacity. It seems to be incapable of processing more than two to four elements at a time, “with the actual number probably being at the lower rather than the higher end of this scale.” It is a bottle neck. Give it too much cognitive load (links, pop-ups, animated banners, incoming e-mail message alerts, etc) and it will be overwhelmed, hindering your capacity to learn and retain information.  As the author puts it:

When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or the most of the information (…) into the long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas. With the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next. We're able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source.

Moreover:

Experiments indicate that as we reach the limits of our working memory, it becomes harder to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, signal from noise. We become mindless consumers of data (the emphasis is mine).
(…)
The division of attention demanded by multimedia further strains our cognitive abilities, diminishing our learning and weakening our understanding.


There is much more to the book than what is summarized above. However, that pretty much gives an idea of the seriousness of the problem, showing why the book is a must read.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Aging: What does the Future Hold for Us?

As we age, our bodies undergo a natural deterioration process. Our mental acuity diminishes, our organs function at a slower rate, we become weaker and fragile. This process, however, is probably not ineluctable. The first video below shows what happens to our bodies as we grow older. The second one is about what the future may hold for us when it comes to expanding human lifespan.







Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Criminal Profiling: Do not Believe what you See on TV

I am currently reading a book called Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis. The book offers a multidisciplinary approach to the subject "criminal profiling", with a strong scientific basis. Due to the fact that I enjoy watching TV series like CSICriminal Minds, I have so far assumed that I knew a little about criminal profiling (OK, that is naive). However, while reading the book, I found out that most of the methods employed by profilers in such TV series are completely flawed. and

One of the flaws concerns the classification of murderers as  “organized offenders”  (psychopathic) or “disorganized offenders” (psychotic),  according to the characteristics of the respective crime scenes. Psychopathic offenders are generally intelligent and organized. They plan their actions, have good control over the situation and do not leave much evidence behind.  Unorganized offenders, on the other hand, are messy and not very intelligent. They act randomly and leave plenty of evidence.


However, according to the author, “the majority of crime scenes presents somewhere on a continuum between the two extreme classifications of organized and disorganized, not as simply one or the other”. In addition to that, “the amount of evidence left behind or not left behind must be viewed in the context of a dynamic series of events”. Only a well conducted forensic analysis can give insight into how and why a certain crime scene presents the way it does.  It is also not always possible to know if the disorganized crime scene is a result of mental illness. It can be a result of rage or drugs/alcohol, for example. On the other hand, an organized crime scene is not necessarily the product of psychopathic behavior.

The labeling also fails to take into account the evolution of the offender’s behavior.  A messy murderer can become more skilled and competent over time. Other offenders can become less skilled due to mental health deterioration. Similar flaws can be found in geographic profiling and investigative psychology as well.

But why does it matter? It is only fiction, after all. Well, that can be a problem when not so qualified cops or scientifically uninformed judges and juries believe in what they see on TV.



Bookmark and Share

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A “Divine” Comedy

After some internet surfing I incidentally discovered an interesting YouTube channel called “Mr. Deity”. Some people might find it a little sacrilegious, since the protagonist of the short comedy films that can be found there is no one less than God himself.
The videos, created by Brian Keith Dalton, are funny and intelligent. They are worth watching.
The video below shows Mr. Deity in the process of deciding what kind of evils he will allow to exist in the universe he has just created.




Bookmark and Share

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another Proof of Evolution: Watching Speciation Happen

The genome and the overwhelming amount of evidence provided by the existing fossil record are not the only proofs of evolution. In some cases we can actually watch it happen. Watch the video below and learn more.




Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Proof of Evolution: How Common Ancestry is Written in the Genome

Evolution is literally written in the genomes of all species. This video shows how the analysis of genomes can reveal common ancestry.



Bookmark and Share

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heart and Mind: How we Decide

It seems to be evident that the more rationally we take your decisions, the better we will decide. Feelings and emotions seem to hinder our ability to think clearly, impartially and objectively. But is that true?

For the most part of the Occidental history, that is how we have thought. Plato, for example, compared reason to a charioteer who must struggle to control two horses. One of them represents moral impulses, the “positive side” of our passionate nature. The other horse represents our irrational passions and appetites.

Spinoza was perhaps the first prominent thinker who noticed that instead of being antagonists, reason and emotions act together in order to make human culture and survival possible. A few centuries later, neuroscience would show that he was right. Moreover, decision making based on pure rational thinking is nearly impossible.

In the video below, Jonah Lehrer explains how our decision making process works.




Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why do We Believe?


Why do we so easily believe in ghosts, crazy conspiracy theories, flying saucers and many other myths and superstitions?
In the video below, Michael Shermer talks about the evolutionary mechanisms that might have made us that way. He explains how being pattern seeking animals makes us find meaning where there is none. He shows how feelings of lack of control leads to superstition and how the neurology of pattern seeking works. It is worth watching!






Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hocus Pocus of Radical Skepticism

by Alexandre Couto de Andrade




Human beings have a limited capacity to apprehend reality. Our senses are limited and we are incredibly prone to self-delusion and cognitive biases. For this reason, critical thinking and a healthy dose of skepticism are fundamental tools when it comes to understanding the world we live in. Radical skepticism, however, is much of a problem.

Radical skeptics claim that we cannot be sure of anything at all. Such an affirmation is completely detached from our daily experience. There are apparently many things that we can take for granted. There seems to be a physical world that is independent from the internal states of our brains. How can they deny the existence of animals, plants, planets, stars, other human beings, cities, oceans, etc? Even if we admit that these things are not exactly what they seem to be, we can still be sure that they do exist. So, how can radical skeptics support their arguments? I will now explain how they do it, and try to show that their claims are completely irrelevant.

Epistemology defines knowledge as “justified true belief”, i.e.:
1 – Knowledge requires truth, because you cannot not know something that is not true. For example: you cannot know that a circle is square.
2 – Knowledge also requires belief, because you cannot know something that you do not believe to be true. For this reason, a statement like “I do not believe in witches, but I know that they exist” is absurd.
3 – Knowledge requires justification, because to believe something you must have reasons to think that it is true.

Radical skeptics argue that knowledge is impossible because we cannot know the truth. The following text is an extract from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, that explain how they try to corroborate this claim:

According to [radical] skeptics, the limits of what you know are narrower than you would like to think. There are many things that you think you know but actually fail to know. For example, you think you know that you have hands, but in fact you don't. How can the skeptics expect you to take such a strange conclusion seriously? Here's how. As a first step, the skeptics will focus on another proposition, about which you are likely to agree that you don't know it. As a second step, they will get you to agree that, since you don't know that second proposition, you don't know the first one either: the proposition that you have hands.

When the skeptics get their argument started with some other proposition about which you are likely to agree you don't know it, what do they have in mind? They direct your attention to what is called a skeptical hypothesis. According to a skeptical hypothesis, things are radically different from what you take them to be. Here are several examples:
  • I'm lying in my bed dreaming.
  • I'm deceived by an evil demon.
  • I'm a mere brain-in-a-vat (a BIV).
  • I'm in the matrix world.

What the skeptics will point out, and what they think you will easily agree with, is this: For any particular hypothesis on the list, you don't know that it is false. This works better for some than for others. It works really well for the BIV hypothesis (...). The idea is that, if you are a BIV, you are reduced to a mere brain which is stimulated in such a way that the delusion of a normal life results. So the experiences you have as a BIV and the experiences you have as a normal person are perfectly alike, indistinguishable, so to speak, "from the inside." It doesn't look to you as though you are a BIV. After all, you can see that you have a body, and you can freely move about in your environment. The problem is that it looks that way to a BIV, too. As a result, the evidence you have as a normal person and the evidence you have as a BIV do not relevantly differ. Consequently, your evidence can't settle the question of whether or not you are a BIV. Based on this thought, the skeptics claim you don't know that you are not a BIV. That's the first step of the case for skepticism.

Let us now focus on the second step. The basic thought is that, if you don't know you're not a BIV, you don't know you have hands. That thought is extremely plausible. After all, if you are a BIV, you don't have any hands. So if you can't distinguish between being and not being a BIV, you can't distinguish either between having and not having hands. But if you can't distinguish between having and not having hands, surely you don't know that you have hands. Putting the two steps of the skeptic's reasoning together, we get the following argument:
The BIV Argument
  1. I don't know that I'm not a BIV.
  2. If I don't know that I'm not a BIV, then I don't know that I have hands. Therefore:
  3. I don't know that I have hands.

Of course, few radical skeptics would really argue that we actually are brains in vats. Our reality is so overwhelmingly complex and internally coherent that it would take the powers of a god to simulate it. This is just an allegory to make their point. Interesting, but irrelevant.

Just for fun, I will try to show that if you are a brain in a vat (BIV):
  1. The fact that you are a BIV is absolutely irrelevant for every practical purposes;
  2. In your BIV reality (BIVR), there are statements that are true;
  3. Due to (1) and (2), knowledge is possible, regarding at least some relevant matters, even if you are a BIV.
1 – Irrelevance argument:
If you are a BIV, your BIVR has some properties:
1.1 – It is absolutely impossible for you to know whether or not you are a BIV;
1.2 – It is absolutely impossible for you to change your condition or escape your BIVR.
1.3 – Even though it is illusory, your BIVR is extremely complex and internally coherent.

First of all, let's analyze the implications of statements (1.1) and (1.2): If your condition is unknowable and ineluctable, why should you even wonder if you are a BIV? It makes no difference. No questions will be answered, no conditions will be changed. Do not waste your BIVR time!. Enjoy it, instead! Explore your amazingly complex BIVR. Make lots of BIVR friends, listen to good BIVR music, travel to as many BIVR countries as you can, eat BIVR food, have BIVR children, read BIVR books, learn BIVR science... In short, live your BIVR life! It is the only one you will ever know!


2 – In your BIVR, there are statements that are true:
Truth is not independent of context. Consider the statement: “Most people are Chinese”. If we are talking about the whole world population, that is not true. But if we are talking about people who live in China, it is true. Similarly, in the context of your BIVR, there are statements that are true. For example: “the BIVR Earth orbits a BIVR Sun”;  “a BIVR triangle has three BIVR sides”.

3 – Knowledge is possible regarding at least some relevant matters:
From (1) and (2): regarding at least some relevant matters, knowledge is possible.


Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Art of Deception


Some insects are able to use sophisticated tricks to make other insects work for them. The video below, narrated by David Attenborough, shows two examples of this interesting behavior.






Bookmark and Share

The Perils of the Lack of Humility in Science




foto credit: NASA


Global warming, geoengineering, transgenic food and synthetic life: what do these subjects have in common? Well, they are all controversial and overwhelmingly complex subjects that may substantially change the way we live in years to come. And that is why we should try to be well-informed about them. Nevertheless, due to their already mentioned complexity, that is anything but easy. As laymen, the most prudent thing to do should be relying on the prevailing scientific views. However, the lack of consensus as well as the obvious political and economic interests involved make the task even harder. Impartiality is an extremely rare commodity (if possible at all).

But what does it all have to do with the lack humility in science? Well, it is there that the biggest problem probably resides. If we look back in history, one of the important lessons we learn is that scientific arrogance may be dangerous. Very dangerous indeed, if we consider the magnitude of the possible consequences. When it comes to climate and ecology, for instance, even the slightest interventions may cause very significant impacts. Let's consider some examples.

In 1935, thousands of Hawaiian toads were released in Australian sugarcane plantations to get rid of the beetles that were devouring the crops (the toads were their natural predators). The toads, however, not only failed to kill the beetles, but also became a nightmare to the local environment. They spread over a third of the continent, devouring local plant varieties, causing injury to humans with their venom, outcompeting Australian less aggressive toad species and ravaging beehives. It is worth mentioning that the plan was recommended by “specialists”.

Decades later, a Russian named Petr Mikhailovich Borisov had a brilliant idea. He proposed building a dam across the Bering Strait to divert cold Artic water to the Pacific, pulling warmer water from the Atlantic into the Artic basin on the other side. The project was intended to warm northern Asia by more than 30 °C, melting the permafrost, and transforming the tundra in a paradise for agriculture and cattle. According to Borisov, the temperature of the planet would then become more uniform, it would “improve our planet and make it more suitable for life”. In this case, it is very important to take the historical context into consideration. On those days the USSR, as well as the USA, were seriously thinking about taking action to alter the climate. Now, just try to imagine what would have happened if something like that had been done. The results would probably have been no less than apocalyptic.

One might argue that we now know much more about what we are doing. But let's not forget, for example, that many of the scientists that are so confident when talking about global warming (both skeptics and supporters) are the same that are unable to provide a reliable weather forecast for the next week!


Bookmark and Share

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why Can't We See More Than Three Dimensions?



String Theory suggest that there are up to eleven dimensions. But if there are more dimensions than the three we experience, why can't we see them?
In this interesting video, Brian Greene, author of the excellent “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality”, explains why.





Bookmark and Share

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Understanding the Male Brain


Until nearly a decade ago, the differences between human male and female brains were not evident to scientists. Although many of the behavioral differences between the sexes were obvious, it was not easy to tell apart the ones that could be attributed to cultural factors from those that resulted from differences in the brain circuits.
This situation changed after the advent of the magnetic resonance imaging technology, which made it possible to watch what happens inside living human brains. By now it is widely known that there is no such thing as an “unisex brain”.
On the video below, Dr. Louann Brizendine talks, in a well-humored way, about how male brains work and change since the womb until mature adulthood. The way a man's brain changes when he becomes a father is particularly interesting and surprising. She also gives nice tips that can help men and women to better understand each other and therefore have better relationships.
In the second half of the video, when the audience asks questions, other interesting subjects such as the “gay brain” and the influence of cultural factors on the development of the brain are discussed.




Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Powerful Images

Some photos are so powerful that they provoke people to act and change things. On the video below, Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, shows and talks about some of them. It is worth watching.




Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Would Aliens Look Like?

If we ever happen to find complex extraterrestrial life, it is extremely unlikely that the aliens would resemble us, like the ones that are portrayed in the movies or described in pseudoscientific ufology reports.

The short video below explains why and shows what alien life forms might possibly look like.





Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yet Another Collection of Interesting News and Facts

Here are some more interesting subjects about what I would like to have written but did not have the time:

Holly Anderson
New Scientist

Rex Dalton
Nature News

John Roach
National Geographic

Alexis Madrigal
Wired Science

David Grimm, with reporting by Greg Miller
ScienceNOW



Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The "Pale Blue Dot" and Our Place in the Universe



In 1990, when Voyager I spacecraft was leaving the solar system, NASA commanded the robotic space probe to turn its camera towards Earth and take a picture of the planet. The picture, taken from a distance of 6 billion kilometers, came to be known as “the pale blue dot”. Viewed from such a remote vantage point, our planet seemed to be an insignificant dot against the vastness of space.

The two videos that I selected for this post deal with different facets of this apparent insignificance when it comes to understanding our place in the universe. Both approaches are very interesting.







Bookmark and Share