Plus: Journey through the Center of the Earth, Cybernetic Human Tissue and 9 Billion Years of the Universe in Minutes.
Learning While You Sleep
Many of us want to study a new language, brush up on our math skills or research a new work project, but there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. However, a new study is paving the way to letting people learn in their sleep.
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, conducted experiments that showed sleeping humans can learn very basic lessons through conditioning. The principle is similar to the one seen in the famous experiments by Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov on his dogs.
Lead researcher Anat Arzi and her team first exposed sleeping people to pleasant and unpleasant odors. Then, they played a noise to accompany these smells. The sleeping test subjects responded with increased sniffing for the shampoo smells and less sniffing for the rotting fish smells. Eventually, subjects responded with the same reactions to the noises that were associated with the smells.
Moreover, the test subjects had these same conditioned responses to the pleasant and unpleasant noises while awake. It’s a small step, but could it possibly lead to reading a book in your sleep?
“This does not imply that you can place your homework under the pillow and know it in the morning,” Azit told Nature.com. “There will be clear limits on what we can learn in sleep, but I speculate that they will be beyond what we have demonstrated.”
The full report was published in Nature Neuroscience.
If the Earth Were Hollow…
Remember being a kid and wondering if you could dig a hole in your backyard that would go all the way to China? Impossible, of course — but what if there were an actual tunnel through the center of the Earth? It would change travel drastically, but the laws of physics would also produce some astonishingly weird results.
The folks at MinutePhysics have explored a variety of speculative scenarios about traveling through the Earth’s core, explaining just how the process would (and wouldn’t) work. Here’s a video highlighting many of the bizarre effects such a journey would produce:
The First Cyborg Tissue
In the next step on our march to the inevitable robot apocalypse, scientists have developed the first truly cybernetic sample of living tissue, integrating sophisticated electronic materials into a biological system.
Researchers from Harvard University created the world’s first “cyborg” tissue by embedding a three-dimensional network of conductive nanowires studded with silicon sensors into laboratory-grown human tissue. These electronic components were fully functional and proved to be biocompatible.
“The current methods we have for monitoring or interacting with living systems are limited. We can use electrodes to measure activity in cells or tissue, but that damages them,” Charles Lieber, head of the research team, told the Harvard Gazette. “With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin.”
Using the embedded nano-scale devices, the team was able to detect electrical signals produced by cells deep within the tissue and to measure changes in those signals in response to cardio- or neuro-stimulating drugs. The technology may have significant applications within the pharmaceutical industry, but it could also potentially lead to the development of synthetic organs that can be controlled at will.
“So far, though, the researchers have only used the electrical scaffolds to record signals – they have yet to feed commands to cells,” New Scientist explains. “So Lieber’s next step is to add components to the nanoscaffold that could ‘talk’ to neurons. He says the goal is to ‘wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does.’”
9 Billion Years in Just Over 1 Minute
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new system for computing models of the birth and growth of galaxies over billions of years. “We’ve created the full variety of galaxies we see in the local universe,” CfA researcher Mark Vogelsberger said in a statement.
The new model will allow scientists to study the way the universe developed. Take a look at the video example below, which illustrates 9 billion years of the universe’s growth in just over a minute:
Have a great Labor Day weekend, folks.