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Category: Science



This is Neptune. It is the outermost planet of our solar system, full time or most of the time, depending on your view of the status of Pluto (Pluto has a very eccentric orbit, which partially resides closer sunward than Neptune’s orbit).

Neptune was discovered on 23rd Sept 1846, and completed an entire orbit back to the point of its discovery on 2nd July 2011. Right, we know of Neptune’s existence for slightly more than one Neptune-year.

Also, there is a 2:3 resonance between Pluto’s and Neptune’s Orbit, so for 3 Neptune-years there are exactly 2 Pluto-years.

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The Measles vs your immune system

NPR has an article about the measles. It is already known that after a measles infection the immune system goes down for a few weeks and followup infections are common.

It seems that what the infection does is worse than that. With the introduction of measles vaccination it has been observed that other infections went down within 2-3 years after measles immunization took place. Researchers wanted to know why and found evidence that

Like many viruses, measles is known to suppress the immune system for a few weeks after an infection. But previous studies in monkeys have suggested that measles takes this suppression to a whole new level: It erases immune protection to other diseases, Mina says.

So what does that mean? Well, say you get the chicken pox when you’re 4 years old. Your immune system figures out how to fight it. So you don’t get it again. But if you get measles when you’re 5 years old, it could wipe out the memory of how to beat back the chicken pox. It’s like the immune system has amnesia, Mina says.


So parents putting their children into a “measles party” in order for them to “gain natural immunzation” may actually achieve the exact opposite of that.

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Car Sales are a markovian process

A group of people from SEAT, Uni Barcelona, Uni Lausanne and the Captain Obvious Institute for Market Research did Big Data on 10 years worth of car sales (PDF) . They find the process is unsurprisingly Markovian for at least 5 years. Meaning that past sales have an influence on current sales (and expectations of future market changes have an influence on current sales as well).

Meaning that while 2022 is probably not a bad horizon for going electrical, the change to carbon free transport is still going to be fast and violent.

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Language Pitch

Erik Bern did a fun exercise and analyzed the pitch of speakers in various languages: Apparently Dutch is substantially deeper than German (it is also louder, but he did not analyze that).

There was a very definite point when I realized that I had to change my voice to get to the next level with my accent. Oddly enough it was actually while studying German (my third language). It felt awkward at first to alter my voice to the point where I didn’t feel like it was myself talking. But on the other hand I could hear myself sounding so much more German (if you know what I mean). Having been through this transformation I decided to change my “English voice” as well.



Restoring Neuroplasticity

Children are learning much faster than you do. That’s because as you grow up, the brain turns down Neuroplasticity to protect what you have already learned from newer, potentially harmful influence. It used to make sense.

Now, how about some drugs that turn your brains ability to learn new tricks fast, on demand? The New Scientist knows:

Until the age of 7 or so, the brain goes through several “critical periods” during which it can be radically changed by the environment. During these times, the brain is said to have increased plasticity. […]

Hensch’s team has shown that several physiological changes close the door on plasticity in animals. A key player is histone deacetylase (HDAC), an enzyme that acts on DNA and makes it harder to switch genes on or off.

And they used a HDAC inhibitor on humans, with considerable success.

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