Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hatsune Miko. The Virtual Japanese Pop Star.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

In Japan, pop stars are now virtual holograms. I think that says enough about the situation at hand, enjoy the video ladies and gentleman.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Newly Released Wikileaks Documents Highlight US Foreign Diplomacy.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

  I know we normally write about upcoming developments in the scientific world, but I had to take a bit of time to talk about something that's taking the journalistic world by storm today. 

Wikileaks has recently released some MORE secret documents, this time on the United States' foreign relations and diplomacy with both their enemies and their allies. The documents discuss topics on everything from spy networks in foreign embassies to opinions on political leaders.

What Happened Before the Big Bang? ... A Big Bang!

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

Image Credit: NASA/ WMAP team.

According to some shocking new findings, scientists may be one step closer to figuring out what happened before the big bang!

The current evidence states that the Big Bang that occurred 13.7 billion years ago gave rise to a universe that is constantly expanding, cooling, growing. As it does this it loses energy; at one point it will have lost all its energy resulting in a permanently cold and energy-less universe: a heat death.

Friday, November 26, 2010

We've Come A Long Way Since Tetris. DirectX11 and the CRYENGINE.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

I've always been interested in any advances in computer gaming graphics, primarily because one day it might lead to virtual reality that looks and feels just like real life (similar to a form of the Matrix). So when I was shown a tech demo of DirectX11 and what it could do, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show you all. Here's what seems to be the manliest 3D video ever:

Now I'm not a computer scientist by the furthest stretch of the imagination so most of the software specs and features flew over my head for this one, but the main thing I noticed was how fluid and realistic it all looked.

Another really cool one (this one even better looking) is known as the CRYENGINE. The video below is the engine running the game Crysis. Check out the trees in the vast nature settings, even the leaves blowing in the wind look realistic; mind you, these ares all in-game graphics. For full appreciation, turn the video all the way up to 11 (ie. 720p).

We've come a long way since Tetris. Here's hoping that one day we get to wander strange worlds hooked up to a computer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Facing Your Mortality

An examination of the chronically-critically ill. How end of life care occurs in a modern US hospital. And how it can teach us about our own mortality. 

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

This is a 1-hour PBS documentary I stumbled on showing the growing issues faced by medical practitioners dealing with the chronicaly critically ill, and how their constant circling-the-drain health status impacts those around them. 

It's quite hard to watch at times because the patients are going through so much, as are their families, and they have minimal prospects of getting better.

The most interesting quote from the documentary, that these patients are in a state of limbo, a suspended animation, really outlined what modern medicine can do. It can keep people alive almost indefinitely, but is that necessarily an improvement on their quality of life? Millions of questions arise from this, hopefully we have answers one day, someday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flying Snakes....RUN!

Warning. If you're afraid of snakes, look away.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

I've been extremely busy lately with school, having barely enough time for sleep let alone writing proper blog entries. So until my exams are finished I'm going to be posting some short (but interesting) videos on the "wow" part of science.

I present to you flying snakes! In reality, the species shown here, Chrysopelea paradisi, is really gliding and not flying. They can glide about 10 meters and use their characteristic undulating motion for a bit of extra propulsion. And get this, they can use this to escape from predators, or even attack arial prey!

On a side note, for some reason DARPA is interested in this research. Are they planning to make arial undulating search-and-destroy drones? Only time and a lot of phobias will tell.

Video Credit: Dr. Jake Socha, youtube channel:


Socha JJ, Dempsey TO, LaBarbera ML. (2005). A 3-D kinematic analysis of gliding in a flying snake, Chrysopelea paradisi. J Exp Bio; 209: 1817-1833

Monday, November 22, 2010

Multiple Sclerosis patient dies after controversial new treatment

A controversial and yet unproven treatment has claimed the life of a Canadian patient suffering from MS.

There has been a lot of buzz recently over a suggested treatment for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). A recent, yet obscure, research paper published by Zamboni P. et al. (2009) has suggested that multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological disease that can leave one with severely impaired movement and motor function, is caused by blocked or impaired veins in the head / neck that lead to problems in blood flow. The paper thus suggests that treatment for MS would be possible by opening up these blocked veins.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mosquitoes, Annoying As Hell and Saving Lives!

Using Mosquitoes to Stop Mosquitoes: The Awesomeness of GMOs

Image Credit: Alvesgaspar, Wikipedia commons. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

As I walked to school today through piles of snow on the side of the road and sidewalk I was reminded of just one of the wonderful things about winter: there are absolutely none of those little bloodsuckers known as 'mosquitoes'. Not only do you have to deal with persistent whining next to your ear and an itch that won't quit no matter how much you scratch, mosquitoes are flying little hypodermic needles some of which are filled with pathogens that unbelievably may exceed the harm done by incessant biting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Antimatter Successfully Trapped At CERN.

Scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) have succesfully trapped an antihydrogen atom.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

Image Credit: False colour image of Omega Nebula. NASA, ESA & J. Hester(ASU).
The successful trapping of an antihydrogen atom by physicists at CERN has been published in an advance letter to Nature journal. Scientists have known about antimatter for quite some time, and CERN has been studying it since 2002. Using a magnetic trap (an array of magnets), they were able to successfully contain an antihydrogen atom for fractions of a second. The implications for theoretical physics are vast, and more work needs to be done to fully understand this form of matter that was around at the big bang. But just exactly what is this stuff and what does it explain?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Barack Obama Meets the Geminoid-F

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

Video: NECN.

A short update on everyone's favourite humanoid-robot, the Geminoid-F (formerly the Actroid-F). She's been in the news a lot recently, from being "born" and mimicking human facial expressions (here), to being the first avatar-robot to star in a play (here), to meeting the commander-in-chief of the United States of America! I wouldn't be surprised if It becomes the first humanoid robot to set foot on Mars one day.

By the way, what is up with its new body? It looks like some futuristic space solider. Either way, it looks much better, so I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Keepon Dances to the Beat

Keepon keeps on dancing, helping children while doing it.

Posted by Karen Cochrane

Greetings, earthlings. Alexandru here. Today I present our latest guest writer, the amazing Karen Cochrane who will be discussing a robot that not only helps children with developmental problems, but has rhythm too. Informative video inside:

Photo: Keepon robot by Marek Michalowski & Hideki Kozima
Even though it became popular in 2007, this litter creature isn’t loosing any steam. As this blog wasn’t around when this little guy was invented, I wanted to write an article about it and show the world. In reality, it’s gaining more popularity as time goes by. This little cutie came on my radar a few weeks ago and I thought it was important to write about him.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Robotic Radiosurgery. How robots are becoming a part of the cure for one of the most horrid of human ailments. Video Inside!

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

Image Credit: Howie Blog. www.howiehanson.com

Because it's Mustache November (for those that don't know, it involves growing a mustache in support of finding a cure for prostate cancer), I thought I would do a short piece on cancer treatment. But me being the tech-junkie that I am, I've decided to discuss a cool new piece of cancer-fighting technology that few people know about. It's called CyberKnife, and it's robotic, missle-guided, radiosurgery. Let that sink in before you read the rest, I'll wait here...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Invisible Killer Substance. How It's Creeping Around In Your Very Own Home.

How a silent killer may be closer to home than you think.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

I thought that I would finally post something in depth from my field of study. I've had trouble picking a topic (there are so many interesting ones), but I've finally settled on something that very few people seem to know about, yet may affect hundreds of thousands every year. I'm of course referring to lung cancer. We all know about the dangers of smoking and how it can vastly increase your chances of getting lung cancer, but can any other substances cause lung cancer? Did you know that another less well known substance can cause up to 10% of the reported lung cancer cases every year? Or, and here's the scary part, that you have probably been exposed to it sometime today? Or how about that this chemical is all-natural? In this article, we will take a look at the mysterious and deadly Radon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Auditions Now Being Held. Robots Invade the Arts.

A brief update on an old robotic friend.

Posted By Alexandru Nicolae

If you read one of our earlier articles about the Japanese Actroid-F (found here) you'll know that its facial features were unmatched by any other current robot on the realistic robot "market". Another version of this amazing piece of robotics is now trying its hand at acting! During the play the Android was cosidered an avatar, that is it was being controlled though motion sensors and computers by a human operator. Once again, the video will do more talking then I ever could. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New NDM-1 Positive Super Bacteria On the Rise

The growing spread of multi-drug resistant pathogens has many people fearing potential epidemics

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

It all started when a Swedish-Indian citizen traveled to India for a simple visit. In New Delhi, she developed a urinary tract infection by an antibiotic-resistant pathogen called Klebsiella pneumoniae. This new strain was resistant to a specific type of powerful antibiotic called carbapenem, a drug used as a last resort in fighting especially drug-resistant infections. As of November, 2010, many other forms of bacteria including strains of E-coli have been found to possess the same resistance, and they've appeared in places around the world. As of this date, 8 cases have been reported in Toronto, Canada (a long way from India indeed). How exactly are these bacteria foiling our greatest weapons against them?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Are Text Messages Helping HIV Victims with Treatment?

Text messaging and its influence on HIV treatment.

Posted by Ari Morgenthau

Image Credit: Alton, wikipedia.org Creative Commons 3.0.
Author's Update:
A recent study by Dr. Frank Scott is currently under dispute because of its small sample size relative to its conclusions, therefore the first part of this article covering that research was removed until the conclusions of the study are resolved. It is felt that the conclusions made in the study, that individuals who hyper-text and hyper network (send more than 120 text/day or spend 3 or more hours social networking) are more likely to engage in risky behavior including sex, alcohol, fighting, and drugs. The study was conducted in the Cleveland area and may not be representative of the general population. For more on the study please watch the video bellow.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

When Is A Human Not A Human?

Another look into the Japanese robotics industry, but this time on the more human side of things.

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

Image Credit: Osaka University  Geminoid F developed by Osaka University and ATR
So once again we return to the mystical land of Japan, where robotics and intelligence research company Kokoro Co. Ltd and ATR have made a huge stride in human-robot interactions. Its newest product is a modification of the company's Actroid robot series which has been on the market for quite some time now. The new Actroid-F series is a more cost-effective, weight reducing, size limiting version of the previous design with even more life-like facial features. It has been voted as the world's first "true android avatar" by Guinness World Records. What does that mean exactly?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We'll All Drink Blood After the Impact.

Why survivors of asteroid impacts may end up looking and living more like Edward Cullen.

Posted By Ari Morgenthau

Our latest contributor, Mr. Ari Morgenthau asks us if we've ever thought about adopting the lifestyle of a vampire, and why it could one day happen anyway.

Along with the large number of Halloween specials that have been on TV this week there was a fair number of Halloween parties with lovely people dressing up in a sorts of lovely costumes. So how many people dressed up as a vampire? I know of at least five. As we all know from the ever present Twilight series, or for those of us who are too old for that book and would prefer our vampires don’t sparkle, Dracula; vampires can’t live in direct sun light, they’re nocturnal so to speak. This leaves me with a puzzling scientific question: Are we likely to ever adapt the vampiric life style and become nocturnal?

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Do Streetcars Have In Common With Beaches?

Posted by Alexandru Nicolae

I've been a train enthusiast for quite some time, so I thought I would write an article to inform everyone about a very obscure piece of science that you probably encounter everyday if you live in a big city and use streetcars frequently, yet you've probably never even noticed it. Streetcars are amazing pieces of technology that we take for granted everyday, but one of their oddest features has to do with the physics behind their movement. So to skip ahead and answer the question, what do streetcars and beaches have in common? The answer is sand.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nature is Totally Gay

The one, and only, Jonathan "Fox" Gray gives us a short story about a classy gentleman with a taste for fine drinks who boldly explains why nature is totally gay.

Posted by Jonathan Gray

Image Credit: Kabir Bakie at the Cincinnati Zoo May 2005
Our own contributing blogger Jonathan Gray gives his amazingly witty, informative and humorous introduction to the world of science, Enjoy:

It's just another Friday night, and you're in your usual place at the
local pub, the chaise-longue by the fireside, swirling a glass of '72
Janneau Armagnac and feeling the buzz of both it and the small crowd
your charm; magnetism attracts. They burst into frivolous giggles
when you finish arguing how most Shakespeare works could have been
solved by the availability of text messaging, and then all of a sudden,
there's a commotion at the bar! Some decibel-ignorant fellow is making
statement at great length and of greater vulgarity. This will not do.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I See You

Could new microchips implanted in the back of the eye restore sight to the blind?

Image Credit: Iris Health.com
Can you imagine not being able to see? If you're not blind, this can be much harder to imagine than you think. As humans, former tree swinging apes really, our eyesight developed to help locate the most colorful looking fruit for consumption, or to judge the distance between trees; fatal consequences arising if not done properly. Unfortunately, blindness in various forms afflicts millions worldwide and is by no means a homogeneous condition, impaired eyesight below a certain threshold can be considered functionally blind and can leave one severely handicapped, even if minimal vision remains. Now, a new study by the Royal Society of Biological Sciences shows that certain forms of blindness can be cured though...you guessed it, computer chips and implants!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unorthodox Engineering.

Software engineer Matthias Wandel has some extremely creative ideas.

I was stumbling around on the internet today during a study break when I found some of the absolutely amazing gadgets and contraptions of Matthias Wandel, a software engineer and by the looks of it an amazing inventor. They're absolutely amazing to watch in action and they're really intuitive. He's even made a reciprocating engine purely out of wood; in fact, to the best of my knowledge it looks like a steam engine that runs on the negative pressure created by a vacuum cleaner! The above video is of an automatic domino loader that sets up domino blocks for you, and it's made out of Lego! I highly recommend you check out his youtube channel and website if you're interested in random gadgets and machinery, you won't be disappointed. Once again, this is one of those posts where I believe I should let the videos do the majority of the talking. Enjoy!


His website can be found here: www.woodgears.ca

Saving a Life. A Simple CT Scan Away

How the NLST has found a breakthrough method to screen for lung cancer, and how it may save millions of lives. 

The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) was a study performed by the National Cancer Institute to evaluate the efficacy of using CT scanning in the prevention and detection of lung cancer. In other words, it was trying to determine if medical x-ray imaging could be used to find lung cancer before symptoms even arose in patients. On November 4, 2010, before the trail was even complete, they revealed to the public a resounding "it works!". Now, why on earth is this so important, and more importantly why should you care?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another Late Night....

How sleep deprivation is becoming all too common, and why you should be worried about it.

As I sit here writing this I noticed that I've been awake for a very long time. To properly estimate I don't think I got more than five hours of sleep last night, or the previous night for that matter. But have you ever wondered about how much you sleep? It's a necessity for proper functioning, but it seems that more and more people in today's society are not getting enough sleep, and it may seriously be impacting their health and performance.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple's Ipad has found a new use that nobody would have expected.

Image Credit: Apple Canada.
In keeping up with our current theme of technology assisting people, a recent article in the New York Times talked about something that I never expected would occur out of a fancy gadget that's primarily used to hold up other laptops or play games where you bombard houses with penguins. But it seems that Apple`s Ipad is useful as a device to assist the disabled! Who would've thought!

Glowing coral: Green fluroescent protein in action.

This cool video shows how underwater creatures express fluorescent proteins. When struck by ultraviolet light they emit green light back. Luckily we've managed to sequence the genomes of these proteins and express them in whatever we choose to make; like glowing mice. We've determined to a large extent how they function but why they exist in nature is anyone's guess. The video suggests that they may be a way of protecting against harmful UV light since the pigments absorb the radiation, thereby preventing harm to the creature that expresses the protein. Right now words will probably just take away from the beauty exhibited by these creatures, so enjoy the video!

Video credit: BBC Earth

Monday, November 1, 2010

Have you ever wanted to control things with your mind? Well now you can!

Imagine being unable to move. For many people with neurodegenerative diseases or who have become paralyzed, this is part of their day-to-day life. Simple tasks like turning on a computer or even eating became the most difficult of tasks; and up until now, there wasn`t much that could be done for those afflicted. Until now!