Posts from the ‘science’ category

The Neuroscience Of “Harry Potter” or, What Happens to Your Brain When You’re Lost in a Book

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Let’s do a casual experiment. Here’s a brief passage from the first book in some obscure fiction series called Harry Potter:

A bush on the edge of the clearing quivered. … Then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast. Harry, Malfoy, and Fang stood transfixed. The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side, and began to drink its blood.

And here’s another passage from the final book of the series:

He got up off the floor, stretched and moved across to his desk. Hedwig made no movement as he began to flick through the newspapers, throwing them on to the rubbish pile one by one; the owl was asleep, or else faking; she was angry with Harry about the limited amount of time she was allowed out of her cage at the moment.

Which passage did you find more engaging? Chances are it was the first. While the second passage might advance the plot, the first passage has drama, tension, and irresistible vampire-like behavior stuffed into a matter of four lines. It’s the type of action that helps readers get lost in a book. And it’s precisely this ability to immerse readers that helps sell hundreds of millions of copies.

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Fade to ‘Vantablack’: Scientists Invent a Material So Black Your Eyes Can’t See It

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Black leather jacket, Eerie black, Outer space, Licorice, Onyx and plain old Black. These are the names of Crayola’s blackest of black crayons. Sure, they’re all jet black, but none of them have anything on “Vantablack,” an extraordinary new nanofiber believed to be the darkest black on Earth, even darker than NASA’s “super-black.”

Not to beat this unusually dark horse dead, but Vantablack is actually so deeply black that your eyes can’t really see it at all, only the area surrounding it. And we’re not kidding when we say looking at this “strange, alien” stuff is like gazing into a black hole. Not a deep, dark cave kind of hole. Think darker. The kind of black hole found in outer space. Continue reading…

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Earth in True Perspective

Everything is relative. You don’t need to be Einstein to understand that. A human is as big to an ant as a building may be to him. However, the world always seems such a huge place; so many countries, cities, forests, oceans, lakes, icebergs. So many animals and species. So much history. But ever since we developed the ability to look beyond our atmosphere, it became more and more apparent that our blue marble is tiny. Too tiny to even comprehend, when compared to other planets, stars, galaxies and the universe itself. So just to give you an idea of how tiny we really are here on planet earth, here are some visual aids.
size of earth
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Disney rendered its new animated film on a 55,000-core supercomputer

Disney’s upcoming animated film Big Hero 6, about a boy and his soft robot (and a gang of super-powered friends), is perhaps the largest big-budget mash-up you’ll ever see. Every aspect of the film’s production represents a virtual collision of worlds. The story, something co-director Don Hall calls “one of the more obscure titles in the Marvel universe,” has been completely re-imagined for parent company Disney. Then, there’s the city of San Fransokyo it’s set in — an obvious marriage of two of the most tech-centric cities in the world. And, of course, there’s the real-world technology that not only takes center stage as the basis for characters in the film, but also powered the onscreen visuals. It’s undoubtedly a herculean effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and one that’s likely to go unnoticed by audiences. Continue reading…

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San Diego Scientist Illuminates Link Between Light And Health

Evening Edition

Above: We all know that proper diet, exercise, and sleep can improve our health. But emerging research suggests we might want to consider something else, too. Something so ubiquitous, few of us ever stop to reflect on it. That something is light. KPBS science reporter David Wagner profiled one San Diego researcher who’s illuminating the importance of getting light in the right amount at the right time.

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Beautiful Chemistry

“Beautiful Chemistry is a project collaboration between the Institute of Advanced Technology at the University of Science and Technology of China and Tsinghua University Press. The goal of this project is to bring the beauty of chemistry to the general public through digital media and technology. Continue reading…

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Movie Theaters Hope To Add Another Dimension To Their Profits

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.

Some experimental features have been popping up in movie theaters lately. One of them is a so-called 4-D experience. It’s hard to describe in words exactly what a 4-D movie experience feels like, but here’s one attempt: it is intense. Continue reading…

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Clouds crashing in the sky

Definitely to be seen as large as possible – Alex Schueth captured a timelapse of a rare cloud formation called a undulatus asperatus during a storm over Lincoln, Nebraska. Holy Guacamole!

There’s an incredible 16-second sequence in this video of clouds, starting at around 10 seconds in. It looks as though the sky is a roiling ocean wave about to crash on the beach. I’ve watched it approximately 90 times so far today.

It’s worth making the video fullscreen and pumping it up to the max quality (2160p!) to see it properly. Continue reading…

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Scientists Recover Audio by Analyzing Tiny Vibrations in a Bag of Chips

Sheer crazy coolness.

Using a high-speed camera, scientists at MIT have been able to passively recover audio by analyzing minute vibrations, effectively turning everyday objects into ‘Visual Microphones’. You can read more about this fascinating work by Abe Davis, Michael Rubinstein, Neal Wadhwa, Gautham J. Mysore, Fredo Durand and William T. Freeman at the MIT project page. Continue reading…

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Slow Life

Daniel Stoupin shot 150,000 photos in order to put together this less-than-four-minute video, with every frame consisting of between three and 12 shots. Definitely to be seen full screen in HD – the bigger the better.

Well, I don’t even have the words to describe what this is; you just have to watch it. Preferably in fullscreen at full resolution. Takes about 30 seconds to get going but once it does………dang. Breathtaking is not a word I throw around after every TED Talk or Milky Way time lapse, but I will throw it here.

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How to heal our smartphone-addled, overworked brains

The biggest casualty of everyone being so connected is productivity. No one is getting much done at the office. A few ways you can maintain a healthy brain at work.

FORTUNE — When cars first became popular 100 years ago, there were no road rules or speed limits to begin with. Inspired by the freedom of their speedy new toys, drivers zoomed around as fast as they could. Crashes were a constant.

Today’s speedy new toys, the smartphone and tablet, help people work when, where, and how they want. Excited by their newfound freedom, people are staying connected 24/7, working as fast as they can. The crashes this time are less obvious but still producing pain.

A creative team that used to debrief with their client by video once a week from the office is now on video daily from their tablets. A software project that took six people a few months to complete is now broken into hundreds of parts for micro developers to finish in a week. While these ideas may sound enticing, there are implications to moving this fast, as HP HPQ -0.87% discovered with tablets and Apple aapl 0.10% with maps. Continue reading…

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