Archive for the Science Category

Moods spread like ripples on the water

Posted in Science with tags on January 30, 2009 by twinforces

Findings in a new study show that moods -good and bad- spread across networks of social connections like ripples on water.

Specifically, the study found that a happy friend increased the odds of someone being happy by 15 per cent – but that a friend of a friend boosted the chance by about 10 per cent, and a friend of a friend of a friend by about six per cent.

Last year the same research team, in another study , also found that a person’s risk of gaining weight increased significantly when friends gained weight. If their friends gained weight a similar but lesser effect was evident on the individual.

“Broken Windows” theory proven correct

Posted in Science on January 24, 2009 by twinforces

A theory claiming that a disorderly and unkept neighbourhood can encourage bad behaviour and low-level delinquency has now been proved empirically.

The theory, called the Broken Windows theory, has been around since the 80ies, and is based on the assumption and earlier anecdotal observations that a broken window or grafitti in a neighbourhood can often lead to further vandalism and more broken windows, and from the general assumption that an unkept neigbourhood feels “unsafe”.

Researchers in the Netherlands set out to test this theory, and for that purpose created a number of controlled experimental settings in street alleys, where the behaviour of passers-bys was observed secretly. Some of these situations had ordered and tidy surroundings, and some had littered and unkept surroundings, and in each of these the research subjects had a choice between a “good/unselfish” course of action and a bad/selfish one. What they found was that the research subjects in the disordered environments were at least twice as likely to choose the bad/selfish alternative, by littering further, stealing etc, compared to the research subjects in the ordered environments.

Our universe might be a giant hologram

Posted in Physics, Science on January 20, 2009 by twinforces

A large-scale scientific experiment in Hannover,Germany might inadvertedly have picked up evidence for the existence of observable granularities in space-time, the fabric which makes up our universe. This might in turn be evidence for that we are in fact living inside a giant hologram.

The observations are consistent with and predicted by a theory in cosmology, which states that the internal structure of the universe can be described by the structure of its “surface”, which is the limit of our observable universe, approximately 14 Bn light years away. However, this is exactly analogous with the physical phenomenon of holography (which we encounter in our everyday lives by the 3D images on banknotes and credit cards) where light bounced off a 2D surface generates a 3D image), and that is why the theory is called “the holographic principle“. The theory also predicts that the smallest measurable unit of space-time will be larger (and thus detectable) inside the universe than on its surface..something which might turn up as static interference noise in laser beams,among other things…and this is exactly what happened in the experiment!

Emotion of “Elevation” Explained

Posted in Science on January 14, 2009 by twinforces

Boing Boing writes about the feeling you can get on occasion when you listen to a particular piece of music or watch an epic movie,
“a feeling of spreading, liquid warmth in the chest and a lump in the throat”, and a sense of meaningfulness and context. It turns out that this emotion actually has a name, the emotion of Elevation, and it is currently being studied in laboratories. The latest approach taken by the researchers in order to induce this emotion apparently is letting their subjects listen to Barack Obama’s victory speech!

Slate also has a feature on “elevation” research.

“Verifier Approach” method maps scientific knowledge, proves ancient manuscript false

Posted in Science on January 7, 2009 by twinforces

The Voynich Manuscript is an ancient hand-written text from the 16th century,written in an unknown langugage, and reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. It contains fantastic drawings of plants and animals which appears to be purely imaginary, as well as sections with material resembling other areas of the natural sciences (although mostly fantastic/imaginary). Many attempts have been made through the centuries to decode the language contained in the volume, and many theories have been put forth regarding the contents, but so far none have been successful.
However, recently, Gordon Rugg , a psychologist teaching at the computer scientist department of the Keelee University near Manchester, England, took a different approach by using a method he had developed himself, called the Verifier Approach, and claims to have proved that the text is complete nonsense, and that there is no hidden message.
What is remarkable is that the method used is not a decryption mechanism in any sense, but what he did is that he actually analyzed the body of knowledge and all the work done so far relating to the analysis of the manuscript by various experts,building maps of the knowledge, looking at how they overlap, and identifying overlaps, discrepancies and empty areas where no work had ben done.

Rugg is also looking into applying the method into other areas, such as Alzheimer’s disease, in order to improve the quality of and to speed along research in those areas.

Something outside, tugging at our universe..

Posted in Science on January 7, 2009 by twinforces

Scientists have found streams of matter ,
for whose movement there is no explanation within our observable universe.
These are caused neither by the well known expansion of the universe itself (expansion of space itself since the Big Bang, 14 Billion years ago), nor by any detectable mass of matter within  our observable universe.
The only explanation for these streams of matter thus is that there is something “significantly large” OUTSIDE of our known universe causing these streams.
Exactly what this might be is not known yet, but this discovery has opened up speculation that our universe might be part of a significantly larger structure, or only one among a number of other universes.

CBS 60 Minutes on Mind-reading research

Posted in Science on January 5, 2009 by twinforces

CBS 60 minutes on current research in mind-reading technology.

From the contents:

Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University are using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanners to look inside our minds and detect our thoughts.

Among other things,they can tell which out of a number of objects the research subject is thinking of.
One of the reporters is shown 10 different images of objects,and instructed to think of them one at at time. A computer hooked up to the scanner successfully tells which object the reporter is thinking of, 10 out of 10 times,just by looking at the brain patterns produced by the scanner, even though it has never seen images of the reporter’s brain before!

-They have also devised experiments in which they can tell whether a person has seen a given environment before or not.This could be used to tell whether a suspected burglar has previously visited the victim’s home.

-They forecast that it would be possible to read a person’s mind by shining a light beam on the forehead of a person,which penetrates just beneath the skull bone, and by using detectors to study how the reflected light is modified by the activity in the brain lobes,while the person is being interviewed at an airport or similar situation,and without the person knowing it,and that such technology is being worked on right now.

They forecast that we will be able to read complex thoughts, not within 20 years, but within 3-5 years.

…& more.

How Technology May Soon Read Your Mind, 60 Minutes Incredible Research Lets Scientists Get A Glimpse At Your Thoughts – CBS (Transcript)