Random science bits of interest to me

It’s interesting to think about what we’re interested in, and why. (Why AM I interested in why I am interested in the things I am interested in?) My favorite general career-searching book, What Color is Your Parachute, includes an activity of determining your favorite interests. Basically you list everything you’ve ever learned about in any context, and use the prioritizing grid to narrow the long list of subjects down to the top few interests, and you should look for a career that incorporates one or more of those. But interests can change. Dull or negative experiences can kill an interest, and new interests can spark up unpredictably. During my undergraduate years I found it fascinating to watch my own interests morph. Usually the interest was driven by an exceptional teacher. Sometimes it was sparked by a personal experience.

I’m on some LinkedIn list where I get an email listing 10 or so headlines from Science Daily. Based on the headline, I typically find 2 or 3 I’m interested enough to click on, and often I link those to facebook. The ones I find interesting enough to share are widely varied. This is a log of some of these interests, and when possible I’ll annotate with what drove that interest.

Novel Memory-Enhancing Mechanism in Brain ScienceDaily (2010-12-15) — Researchers have identified a novel mechanism in the brain that boosts memory. Scientists found that a small protein called neuropeptide S can strengthen and prolong memories of everything from negative events to simple objects. I’m interested in this one because of its link to PTSD.

NASA helps create a more silent night ScienceDaily (2010-12-15) — The holidays are here and the nation’s airports are busier than ever — thousands of airplanes taking off and landing. Passengers and people living around airports are reminded that the airplane is not the quietest mode of transportation; certainly not as quiet as a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. Harder to say why this one caught my eye. I like it when NASA research is applicable to life on earth.

‘Breathalyzers’ May Be Useful for Medical Diagnostics ScienceDaily (2010-12-29) — Researchers have overcome a fundamental obstacle in developing breath-analysis technology to rapidly diagnose patients by detecting chemical compounds called “biomarkers” in a person’s respiration in real time. I love hearing about non-invasive diagnostic and therapeutic tools. They will revolutionize medicine, and it’s so star-trekky!

Fueling the body on fat: Critical tuning dial for controlling energy found ScienceDaily (2011-01-04) — Researchers have found what appears to be a critical tuning dial for controlling whole body energy. When energy levels within cells drop, it sets off a series of events designed to increase the amount of calorie-rich dietary fat that the body will absorb. I’m fascinated by what our bodies are “supposed” to do, or “designed” to do, compared to the lifestyle we actually lead.

Motion sickness reality in virtual world, too ScienceDaily (2010-12-21) — Psychologists see motion sickness as potential fallout from high-end technology that once was limited to the commercial marketplace moving to consumer use in gaming devices. As someone who suffers mildly from motion sickness, this is mildly of interest to me, and I love it when technology helps us out. Instead of hurts us.

Strange new twist: Researchers discover Möbius symmetry in metamaterials ScienceDaily (2010-12-21) — Researchers have discovered Möbius symmetry in metamaterials — materials engineered from artificial “atoms” and “molecules.” This phenomenon, never observed in natural materials, could open new avenues for unique applications in quantum electronics and optics. A natural Mobius! We invent things like the perfect circle or the fibonacci sequence and then we find them in nature, over and over. The latent mathematician in me gets turned on by this stuff.

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