Saturday, October 8, 2011

Science Saturday 1.3: Quadruple Rainbow, Nobel Prizes, Monkey Mind Control & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Volume 1 Issue 3

This week, the Nobel Prize winners were announced.  The selected Nobel Laureates in the sciences discovered some of the founding principles of scientific study today.
  • Physiology/MedicineBruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity and Ralph M. Steinman for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity
  • PhysicsSaul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae
  • ChemistryDan Shechtman for the discovery of quasicrystals
Laureates receive a gold medal, a diploma, and a cash award.  An interesting piece of history is that in 1940, it was illegal for any gold to leave Nazi Germany.  However, two Jewish Nobel Laureates (Max von Laue and James Franck) sent their gold medals to physicist Niels Bohr (also a Nobel Laureate) in Denmark, hoping he would hide them.  Knowing that the Nazis were aware of his laboratory's affiliation with Jewish scientists, Bohr was afraid of the medals being discovered.  So he and chemist Georgy de Hevensy dissolved the Nobel Prizes in "aqua regia", a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.  The beaker of orange liquid rested on a shelf, and the Nazis overlooked it as a common laboratory chemical.  The gold was later isolated and sent back to the Nobel Foundation who recast the medals and returned them to the Laureates.

The SOlar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured an amazing video for NASA.  A comet fell into the sun, and while it destroyed, a coronal mass ejection (a burst of solar wind) occurred on the opposite side, creating a strikingly beautiful image.

Scientists at Duke University have outfitted monkeys with a "“brain-machine-brain interface” or BMBI, which allows them to control a virtual arm with only their minds to interact with virtual objects.  Electrodes connected to the monkey's motor cortex decipher the monkey's thoughts and allow the neurons in the somatosensory cortex to control sense of touch.  The monkey's think and feel that they are moving the virtual arm.  Future trials will lead to an actual physical robotic arm before human testing.  This proves to benefit amputees and patients with paralysis who could be able to control artificial limbs or wheelchairs.

A picture of the first fourth-order rainbow was reported in Germany.  While only two of the bows are visible in the picture, the other two bows are actually behind the photographer, as he is facing the sun.  Rainbows are formed when light is reflected from inside raindrops, thus a primary rainbow is formed on the opposite side of the sky from the sun.  A second reflection can occur on the same side of the raindrops, and third and fourth-order reflections make their way around the droplet, causing a faint bows to appear on the same side of sky as the sun.

Featured microbe: Bacillus anthracis

Commonly known by the disease Anthrax, this bacteria produces spores which allow it to survive harsh conditions.  While common in animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats, anthrax can be transmitted to humans.  Anthrax infection can occur cutaneously (on the skin), by inhalation, or in the gastrointestinal tract.  Bacillus anthracis caused a scare in 2001 when spores were used in bioterrorist attacks through the mail.


  1. I truly love you Science Saturday posts!

    Congratulations to the Nobel winners.

    Regarding the monkey-mind control experiment, can you say "Minority Report" (mind reading, stopping crime before it happens, dystopian movie with Tom Cruise). Scary thought (every pun intended.

    The solar image is nothing short of amazing!! And I wish that the camera could have caught the fourth-order rainbow.

    I distinctly remember the Anthrax attacks and the fear that ensued.

    Again, I love these posts!

  2. I listened to the guys who won in physics; so smart but yet so dumb! they are fascinated with what they call the mysterious "dark energy" that's changing things even expanding the universe which they already believe is endless!
    They just don't want to bow down to God! They really think they can figure it out THEMSELVES; I pray they realize the truth before they die!

    check out: