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Showing posts from May, 2021

Reset your Brain

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison New research published May 10 in Nature Medicine adds to the stack of evidence that Psychedelic drugs can be used to treat mental health. The study administered their test group with 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) in an attempt to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After three eight-hour sessions supervised by an attentive therapist, it was “found to induce significant and robust attenuation” of suicidality and impairment. At the conclusion of the study, 67 percent of the participants who were given MDMA no longer qualified to be diagnosed with PTSD. However, it is unclear how long the effects will last and larger, more racially diverse studies are still necessary to establish robustness. This is just the latest data point in research on psychedelic treatment. Other studies have shown that psilocybin (an active component of magic mushrooms) or lysergic acid (LSD) lowers distress in cancer patients with end-of-life anxiety. Other

DUNE and the Neutrino Mass Hierarchy Problem

  By: Hannah Pell Image credit: ProtoDUNE / CERN. Why does matter exist in the universe? Can we find evidence of proton decay, supporting Einstein’s dream of unified forces? These questions, among a host of others, are very much open for debate within high-energy physics, and one particle has the potential to help answer all of them: the neutrino. If only we could find out how much they weigh. This is the crux of the longstanding neutrino mass hierarchy problem that the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) aims to solve . Neutrinos oscillate between three different flavor eigenstates (electron, muon, and tau) and three mass eigenstates (1, 2, and 3). Each flavor state is a quantum superposition of the three mass eigenstates, so if the flavor is known, the mass isn’t (and vice versa). Although physicists can calculate the differences between the squares of masses based on experimental results (specifically Δ13 and Δ23), the discrete mass values are still currently unkn

Brain-computer Interfaces Decode Handwriting

  By: Allison Kubo Image Credit: Nature 593, 249-254(2021) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03506-2 The study participant, T5, was paralyzed from the neck down, but it was translated onto the screen when he imagined writing. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) aim to restore function to those who have difficulty or even lost the ability to move or speak. And, yes, it would allow you to control a computer with your brain. New research published in Nature on May 12 shows progress in restoring writing to those who have suffered paralysis. Study participant T5, given this denomer to maintain their privacy, used BCI type at near the speed of the control group with high accuracy. They achieved 94.1% raw accuracy and greater than 99% accuracy with an autocorrect function. How does this work? Studies have shown that even after years of paralysis, thinking about the desired movement still activates the necessary parts of the brain. The researchers instructed T5 to “imagine” writing

FASER Poised to Further Our Understanding of Neutrinos, Dark Matter

  By: Hannah Pell Neutrinos are ubiquitous and notorious. Billions are passing through you at this moment . Occasionally described as a “ ghost of a particle ,” neutrinos are nearly massless, thereby making them extremely difficult to detect experimentally (“Neutrino,” meaning “little neutral one” in Italian, was first used by Enrico Fermi in the early 1930s). Neutrinos were first confirmed in 1956 ( thanks to a nearby nuclear reactor ), and they’ve since been detected from different sources, including the Sun and cosmic rays, but not yet in a particle collider. Their elusiveness has been the source of much intrigue (and, of course, research funding) within the particle physics community since. What else makes them so curious? Neutrinos come in three flavors — electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino — and may switch between them through the process of oscillation. Neutrino oscillations have been experimentally confirmed only the past decade at the Super-K Detector in

An Orchid’s Best Friend

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Although today it may be easy to buy your maternal figure an orchid for Mother’s Day from the grocery store, in the 1800s, the acquisition of orchids was a dangerous, competitive and lucrative business. Orchids, which are generally tropical plants, grow across the globe and their family makes up 6-11% of all seed plants. In the height of the Orchidelierum, the craze for the plants that gripped European aristocrats in the 1800s, some orchids could sell for $2000. An amount roughly equivalent to $25,000 today. Rich collectors would hire explorers to collect specimens from the Andes, Indonesia, and across the continent. Due to the harsh conditions and long journeys, few hunters and even fewer orchids survived the voyage. At the time they were unable to cultivate orchids from seed and had to rely on wild orchids and try to propagate new orchids from healthy mature orchids, a process that took decades. A scientific study of orchids revealed why they were so dif

This Flat Pasta Morphs into Surprising Shapes As it Cooks

 By: Hannah Pell Think of your favorite pasta dish. The classic spaghetti with marinara, layered lasagna, pasta salad, macaroni & cheese — there are plenty to choose from, you might just have to use your noodle. Now, think of what you like most about it. Is it the texture? The flavor? Or are you mostly just happy to treat yourself to a plate of carbs? (Confession, that one’s me). Pasta is a wonderful culinary staple not only for its diverse uses but its variety of shapes, too. But textured pastas, such as rigatoni or farfalle, are fragile and can easily break apart during packaging and transit. Additionally, there’s extra, unused space in the boxes, which adds up to a lot more waste. Orzo, this used to be the case. Scientists may have recently found a solution for our pasta-packaging troubles (though not the incomparable yet potentially problematic joy of carbs). In a new paper published in the open-access journal Science Advances, researchers from the Morphing Matter Lab at

How the Publication Process Works for Science Journals

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Stack of papers on a black background. ISTOCK.COM/PURPLEANVIL How does work become a scientific consensus? Nowadays, it has to go through a process called peer-review. Science is conducted by researchers at universities, NGOs, national labs, observatories, and private entities. Then this work is compiled into a paper or journal article which is submitted to the appropriate journal. There are many subfield-specific journals for example the American Physics Society publishes 15 peer-reviewed research journals including Physical Review Letters, Physical Review Fluids, and PRX Quantum. Each of which has specific publishing guidelines. There are also larger publishers such as Nature or Science which publish a variety of topics the editors consider to be highly important.   We, scientists, love to measure things so we invented a way to measure the relative importance of different journals: impact factor. Journals with a high impact factor, the number of citatio

New Report Finds Power Sector is Halfway to Zero Emissions

  By: Hannah Pell  In 2005, future projections for emissions published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in their Annual Energy Outlook were bleak; business-as-usual for the power sector meant that carbon dioxide (CO2) emission levels could reach up to 3,000 million metric tons by 2020 (equivalent to CO2 emissions from roughly 544 million homes’ electricity use over one year). However, where we are today is much different, and for the better. In a new report, “ Halfway to Zero: Progress towards a Carbon-Free Power Sector ,” researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that emissions from the power industry in 2020 were 1,450 million metric tons — about 50% lower than initial projections more than a decade ago. By this metric, the power sector has progressed halfway to zero emissions in this timeframe. Researchers also found other encouraging statistics: consumer electricity costs were 18% lower, costs to human health and climate were 92% and 52% lower, an