These are the latest articles and videos I found most interesting.
- Why Tomorrow Won’t Look Like Today: Things that Will Blow Your Mind
- How to Land on a Comet
- Quantum Tentacles and Flying Saucers: A Rare Look at Quantum Mechanics in Action
- Accelerating Particles with Plasma
- NASA Rocket Experiment Finds Flood of Cosmic Light
- Revolutionary ALMA Image Reveals Planetary Genesis
- Slow Down Your Brain to Get More Done
- Tuning in to the Big Bang
- Watch Flowers Bloom Before Your Eyes
Just when it seems that technology can’t amaze us further, here comes a new batch of next-gen, gee-whiz projects en route to reality. Our panel of big thinkers opens a window on tomorrow. Have you heard of asteroid mining? Eric Anderson’s company plans to probe space rocks for water and platinum group metals. Or how about John Kelly’s vaunted IBM research team, tooling up its Watson technology (of “Jeopardy!” fame) to help sequence DNA and speed cancer treatment? Or Eric David’s Organovo scientists developing printing capabilities to create living tissue–and even human organs–on demand? From the vastness of the cosmos to the microscopic foundations of life, this panel of visionaries points us to the marvels of the future.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is about to attempt something “ridiculously difficult” – landing a probe on the surface of a speeding comet.
Try your hand at landing a spacecraft on a comet with NASA Space Place’s Comet Quest!: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/comet-quest/
In a world where seeing is believing, one of the chief disadvantages of quantum physics is that it’s largely invisible. The wonderfully bizarre rules that allow a vanishingly small particle to exist in two places simultaneously, for instance, usually apply at scales too small to be seen by the naked eye. But not always. Here, physicist Boaz Almog of Israeli’s Tel Aviv University gives audience members of the 5th Annual World Science Festival Gala Celebration a rare macroscopic view of the magical properties of quantum mechanics. Sharing the stage with fellow physicist Brian Greene, Almog conducts the first public demo in the U.S. of an ethereal phenomenon he calls quantum levitation, sending a thin, super-chilled wafer zipping around a circular track like a miniature flying saucer. He also freezes the wafer in mid-air, as though trapped in a vat of invisible glue. How? Watch as Greene explains.
Researchers at SLAC explain how they use plasma wakefields to accelerate bunches of electrons to very high energies over only a short distance. Their experiments offer a possible path for the future of particle accelerators.
A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned stars flung out of galaxies.
ESOcast 69 presents the result of the latest ALMA observations, which reveal extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around the young star HL Tauri. This revolutionary image is the result of the first observations that have used ALMA with its antennas at close to the widest configuration possible. As a result, it is the sharpest picture ever made at submillimetre wavelengths.
The best-selling author Steven Kotler discusses hypofrontality — literally the slowing of the brain’s prefrontal cortex — and how it allows one to enter an optimal state of consciousness, known as flow. As Kotler explains, flow refers to those moments of total absorption when we get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears.
Kotler is the author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (http://goo.gl/QLe0gt).
Read more at BigThink.com: http://goo.gl/KrC7Lr
Transcript: Flow is technically defined as an optimal state of consciousness. A state of consciousness where we feel our best and we perform our best. It refers to those moments of total absorption when we get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears. So our sense of self, our sense of self-consciousness, they vanish. Time dilates which means sometimes it slows down. You get that freeze frame effect familiar to any of you who have seen the matrix or been in a car crash. Sometimes it speeds up and five hours will pass by in like five minutes. And throughout all aspects of performance, mental and physical, go through the roof. Underneath the flow state is a complicated mass of neurobiology. There are fundamental changes in neuroanatomy – which is where in the brain something’s taking place, neurochemistry and neuroelectricity which is the two ways the brain communicates with itself. The most prominent of this is the neuroanatomical changes.
So the old idea about ultimate performance flow is what’s known as the ten percent brain myth. The idea that we’re only using ten percent of our brain at any one time so ultimate performance must obviously be the full brain firing on all cylinders. And it turns out we had it exactly backwards. In flow, parts of the brain aren’t becoming more hyperactive, they’re actually slowing down, shutting down. The technical term for this is transient, meaning temporary, hypo frontality. Hypo – H – Y – P – O – it’s the opposite of hyper means to slow down, to shut down, to deactivate. And frontality is the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of will, your sense of self. All that shuts down so, for example, why does time pass so strangely in flow? Because David Eagleman discovered that time is calculated all over the prefrontal cortex. When parts of it start to wink out we can no longer separate past from present from future and we’re plunged into what researchers call the deep now.
Transient hypofrontality is interesting. It was discovered back in the nineties and it had very negative connotations; it was found in schizophrenics and drug addicts. And then in the early two thousands Aaron Dietrich who was then at Georgia Tech discovered or hypothesized that transient hypofrontality actually underpins every altered state – dreaming, meditation, flow, drug addiction – it doesn’t really matter. And then in 2007, 2008 Charles Limb at Johns Hopkins working with first jazz musicians and second with rappers was looking at flow in those contexts and found that the prefrontal cortex was shutting down as well. Though depending on the altered state you get different parts are shut down. Like in flow, one of the most prominent examples is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. It shuts down. This is the part of the brain that houses your inner critic, that nagging defeatist always on voice in your head turns off in flow. And as a result we feel this is liberation right. We are finally getting out of our own way. We’re free of ourselves. Creativity goes up. Risk taking goes up and we feel amazing.
My mission for the past 15 years has been sort of to reclaim flow research from the hippie community, from the new age community and put it back on a really hard science footing. And really what that took was flow research has been going on continuously at kind of both here and in the United State and Europe all over. And it really just took synthesizing all the information and bringing it together and putting it on a hard and neurobiological footing. That said there’s a bunch left to do, right. We have 150 years of flow psychology and flow science goes back all the way to the 1870s. In fact some of the earliest experiments ever run in kind of early neuroscience and early kind of experimental psychology were run on flow. In the past 25 years as our brain imaging technology has gotten better and better and better we can look farther into the brain and see what’s going on.
When astronomer Robert Woodrow Wilson and physicist Arno Allan Penzias were testing a new type of antenna, they hardly expected their work would lead to some of the most important discoveries of modern cosmology. What started as annoying noise in their measurements turned out to be the background hum of the early Universe.
Witness dozens of different types of flowers unfurling in this stunning time-lapse video from filmmaker David de los Santos Gil. He used 5,000 out of 50,000 shots of his floral subjects for the final video, which was filmed over a period of nine months.