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Category: Science

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.

No such thing as a wilderness, part II

Science Daily writes:

New research investigating the transition of the Sahara from a lush, green landscape 10,000 years ago to the arid conditions found today, suggests that humans may have played an active role in its desertification.

[…] As more vegetation was removed by the introduction of livestock, it increased the albedo (the amount of sunlight that reflects off the earth’s surface) of the land, which in turn influenced atmospheric conditions sufficiently to reduce monsoon rainfall. The weakening monsoons caused further desertification and vegetation loss, promoting a feedback loop which eventually spread over the entirety of the modern Sahara.

Salted Doorknobs kill MRSA

Salted Doorknobs kill MRSA

Says this article at The Atlantic:

Superbugs like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, have wreaked havoc on the health-care system in recent years. […] How do you stop them? Frequent hand washing is one option, but that requires a behavior change, which can be difficult, even for hospital staff. Another option is to coat those frequently fondled objects most likely to carry the bugs—doorknobs, bed rails, toilet handles—with a special anti-microbial surface, like copper. […] Whitlock found that salt killed off the bug 20 to 30 times faster than the copper did, reducing MRSA levels by 85 percent after 20 seconds, and by 94 percent after a minute.

 

If you can find Nemo, the reef is already dying

The Atlantic has an article about intact vs. overfished coral reefs.

[L]arge predators both reflect and safeguard the health of coral reefs. If they’re fished out, the rippling consequences can be devastating, leading to fewer fish and sicklier corals. And since those changes happened decades ago, they’ve influenced our perceptions of what coral reefs should look like. We think of the kaleidoscopic realms of Pixar movies or aquarium tanks, but those are reefs that have already been badly depleted. Pristine ones are worlds where predators abound, and colorful prey cower within the coral. “It’s like the difference between the English countryside and the African Serengeti,” […]

When the ice melts, what does that look like?

Drum-Heller-Channels by User:Woofles

National Geographic’s Glenn Hodges explains the Channeled Scablands of Washington State, with some quite awesome photos by Michael Melford.

In the middle of eastern Washington, in a desert that gets less than eight inches of rain a year, stands what was once the largest waterfall in the world. It is three miles wide and 400 feet high—ten times the size of Niagara Falls—with plunge pools at its base suggesting the erosive power of an immense flow of water.

Before Code, there was the Codex

Nautilus has an article by Philip Auerswald, Author of The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand-Year History. Auerswald tries to tie our current practice of crystallising rules in Code back to the Codexes and Recipes of older times, and sees our civilisation as a system of dealing with complexity by packaging and encapsulating it. According to Auerswald, running Code on machines is new, previously we have been running it on humans:

“Code” as I intend it incorporates elements of computer code, genetic code, cryptologic code, and other forms as well. But, as I describe in my book The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand Year History, published this year, it also stands as its own concept—the algorithms that guide production in the economy—for which no adequate word yet exists. Code can include instructions we follow consciously and purposively, and those we follow unconsciously and intuitively.