Tag Archives: science

Internet Findings of the Week for September 25, 2015

This week I was confused about rhino hunting, in awe of a clever medical invention,  and overly entertained by lip-syncing celebrities.

Podcast of the Week

The Rhino Hunter

A Black Rhino. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The hunting of exotic wild animals is a very polarizing topic. When Cecil the lion was killed a few months ago, there was an outcry. Last year a hunting expert won an auction to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia, news which also faced public criticism. In this podcast, the RadioLab team interviews hunter Corey Knowlton about winning the auction for $350,000, and follows him on his recent rhino hunting trip to Namibia. Knowlton says he would never kill an endangered animal if he didn’t think there was a good reason for it. He says the hunt is justified because the auction money goes directly towards conservation in Namibia, and only very aggressive, old male rhinos who have killed other, younger rhinos are allowed to be hunted. Knowlton believes he is actually saving the rhinos as a species, by hunting one.

Science of the Week

Brooklyn Startup Uses Algae to Heal Wounds

Algae. Photo by Josef Reischig via Wikimedia commons

This Brooklyn-based lab has invented a way to stop bleeding that could completely change the way doctors deal with wounds. Vetigel is a gel made mainly of algae, which forms a mesh that clots blood and can stop bleeding in around 10 seconds, including arterial bleeding. So far it is only approved for use on internal bleeding in animals, but the inventor hopes it can be used for humans within two years.

Video of the Week

Lip Sync Battle With Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen De Generes chooses some hilarious songs to sing in her lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon. Fallon often outdoes his guests in these battles, but this battle was extremely evenly matched. Fallon first does a very true and passionate rendition of “Mr Brightside” by The Killers, and DeGeneres performs a bizarrely sweet enaction of Diana Ross’s Do You Know Where You’re Going To”. Then the competition seriously heats up and Fallon busts out current hipster dancefloor anthem “Watch Me (Whip/NaeNae)” by Silento, complete with true-to-viral-video dance moves. DeGeneres then blows everyone away with her fantastic gangster performance of Rihanna’s “B***h Better Have My Money”. Watch this right now.

Internet Findings of the Week for September 18, 2015

This week I was moved by the plight of refugees, I was shocked by revelations that Volkswagen may no longer be a trusted car manufacturer, and I learnt about the history of autism research.

Video of the week

Help Is Coming

This is a moving and compelling video about the struggles of the 19.5 million refugees around the world. It shows the real terror that those people are leaving behind, and really helps you understand why these people are absolutely desperate. The video starts with a very apt poem read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch which ends with the chilling line “no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”. Then you see clips of children talking about their lives as refugees, and see real footage of the war in Syria and other countries. The soundtrack to the video is a song called “Help Is Coming”; a hopeful message to both reassure those in need, and encourage others to provide that help.

Article of the Week

EPA Says Volkswagen Software Circumvented Car Emissions Testing

A 2011 VW Jetta. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

I was shocked to read the news that Volkswagen apparently installed software in their diesel cars to cheat emissions testing from 2009 to 2015. An independent clean-air testing group recently did some in-depth testing of two diesel VW cars, and found the nitrous oxide emissions were five to 35 times the standard allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. VW has been claiming for years that these diesel cars are “powerful, clean and efficient”, but now it seems like this could be a lie. My first car was a Volkswagen Golf, and my sister has a diesel Golf. I thought VW was a company with high moral standards which I could trust.

Podcast of the Week

The History and Myths of the Autism Spectrum

I had no idea that important autism research was stalled by the Nazis at the start of the second world war. This podcast starts in 1938 when an Austrian pediatric doctor named Hans Asperger was starting to realize the size of the autism spectrum and how people with autism often had unusual and interesting talents and abilities that should be valued in society. But his research was cut short when the Nazis targeted his clinic in Vienna, because the Nazis wanted to do horrifying testing on children with disabilities. Asperger’s vital research was lost for many years, at a time when autistic children around the world were often being shunned. The podcast then follows the progression of research in other countries, until Asperger’s research resurfaced in the 80s and helped form today’s understanding of autism.

Internet Findings of the Week for September 11, 2015

This week I was intrigued by the CIA interacting with filmmakers, learning more about elements, hearing how ebola survivors are coping, and seeing a poignant reminder of 9/11.

Article of the Week

How the CIA Helped Produce ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Film

When I saw the film “Zero Dark Thirty” about the killing of Osama bin Laden at the cinema in early 2013, I found it immensely interesting and enlightening about how US forces operate in the Middle East. However I also questioned how much of it was true, and how much was artistic licence. Some of it seemed unlikely, and the torture scenes were very difficult to watch. It also came across as unusually detailed for a film about covert operations (although this could be hindsight). Before I saw the movie I had also read a Vanity Fair article about the killing of Bin Laden, which was told from the president’s perspective, rather than the agents on the ground. I was intrigued to find out that the CIA was actually involved in giving the filmmakers access to restricted information they needed for the movie, plus helping with the script. According to Vice News, one of the reasons the CIA helped the filmmakers, may have been so the film would portray torture as useful and effective.

Podcast of the Week

Elements

Picture by Armtuk via Wikimedia Commons

I enjoyed science at high school, and learning about the periodic table. But I never found it THIS enthralling or personalized. This podcast tells three very different stories about human interactions with elements. First, we hear about a woman who struggled with strange episodes where she wasn’t herself, and found a simple elemental salt could completely cure her. Second we hear about how elements are formed inside stars and during supernovas, told in a very dramatic way. Third we hear about how the dropping of atomic bombs has surprisingly helped scientists work out the age of individual cells in human bodies. But for a more comical take on the elements and how they interact, watch this hilarious video.

Video of the Week

Erison and the Ebola Survivors

We haven’t been hearing much about the ebola outbreak in recent months, but in Sierra Leone people are still suffering the consequences. There are are orphaned children and people who have lost their whole families. And though many people had ebola and made a full recovery, those people are now being shunned by society, as others are scared they could catch it from them. But it is heartwarming to hear in this NY TImes documentary that many of these ebola survivors are coming together to show everyone that they are normal and should be treated as such.

Photos of the Week

Rainbow Begins at World Trade Center Day Before 9/11

Living in New York, the lasting effects of September 11, 2001 are obviously more real and saddening than anywhere else. I’ve visited the memorial a number of times, and it is always very moving and intense being there and thinking of the death and destruction that happened there. So a beautiful natural phenomenon like a rainbow is just a lovely and perfect way to remember all the beautiful souls who perished that day, and to believe that the forces of nature are also paying tribute. Photos taken by Ben Sturner.

Internet Findings of the Week for August 21, 2015

This week I was captivated by art, history and science, and realized how much they are all actually interconnected.

Video of the Week

Dismaland: Inside Banksy’s Dystopian Playground

I am so intrigued by Banksy and his always unanticipated and startling artwork. I have never knowingly seen a Banksy artwork in the flesh, but I love hearing about his projects. Now he has created an astonishing “theme park” in the south of England, filled with his own and other artists’ imaginative installations. Annoyingly, I was just in London two weeks ago, too early for this exhibition which opens this weekend. Seeing images of this park totally struck a chord with me. I grew up with Disney movies, and loved the seemingly too-good-to-be-true storylines and overly-attractive characters. I’ve also been to Disneyland which I would describe as a dreamland, filled with fantasy, optimism and fun. Dismaland brings people back down to the unpleasant, dark realities of life. Cinderella’s crashed pumpkin carriage being photographed by paparazzi reminds us of what happened to a real princess – Princess Diana. The boats used in the remote controlled motorboats attraction are jam-packed with sculptures of refugees. A horsemeat-themed carousel appears to comment on the dichotomy between horse riding and horse eating. It may sound depressing, but all the points being made seem like important ones.

Article of the Week

Study of Holocaust Survivors Finds Trauma Passed onto Children’s Genes

Wikimedia Commons

I am fascinated by genetics, and recent findings on epigenetics are almost hard to believe. I find it bizarre and almost crazy to think that the genes of offspring could be affected by particular experiences their parents had. This study looked at holocaust survivors and their children, and found that their children had altered stress hormones compared with children whose parents were not affected by the holocaust. The scientists involved concluded that their study provided “potential insight into how severe psychological trauma can have intergenerational effects”. One of the lead scientists, Rachel Yehuda, posited that these changes were a mechanism to biologically prepare offspring to survive in the environment of their parents. If these findings are accurate, it opens up a whole lot of questions about how people’s lives, experiences, habits and behavior could affect their children’s biology.

Podcast of the Week

Nazi Summer Camp

Fort Polk POW camp, Louisiana. Photo by US Army via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Polk POW camp, Louisiana. Photo by US Army via Wikimedia Commons

This podcast shocked me. I had absolutely no idea there were huge prisoner of war camps for Nazi soldiers in the USA during World War II. This podcast tells the story of how more than 400,000 captured soldiers were shipped from Europe to the US to be held prisoner. But the US prison conditions sounded very different from the sorts of World War II POW camps I’d heard about in Europe and Asia, not to mention the death and torture at the concentration camps. The US was strictly following the 1929 Geneva Convention, and treating the Nazi soldiers the same way they would treat their own soldiers. Interviewers in this podcast talked to Nazi prisoners who described being given too much food, and having to hide it and bury it so they didn’t offend their hosts. The prisoners were allowed to take courses, play musical instruments and worked for pay at nearby farms. They also interacted with local Americans. One unbelievable part of the story was when Hitler allegedly donated thousands of dollars to the US Nazi camps so they could hold a festival. My main knowledge of POW camps comes from my great grandfather, who was held prisoner at a camp which was in now-Thailand, and was forced with thousands of others to build a railway and huge railway bridge. Around 13,000 POWs died building that railway.

Internet Findings of the Week for July 17, 2015

This has been a very entertaining week, both comedy-wise and science/technology-wise.

Web series of the week

One Year in Space

I’m intrigued by anything to do with the International Space Station (ISS), and now a new webseries on Time.com is following an astronaut who is spending a whole year on the ISS. I first became interested in the ISS because of astronaut Chris Hadfield. He took beautiful photos of the earth, and made awesome short videos about life in space. Now astronaut Scott Kelly is going to be the first person to spend a whole year in space. The documentary will follow his flight, plus his relationships with family on earth.

YouTube Channel of the Week

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

I absolutely love the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he is always hilarious and always has brilliant guests. But this past week it was better than ever! After two weeks off because he somehow severed his finger with his wedding ring, Jimmy came back with a roar and the best guests ever! I was almost falling off my chair with laughter watching his interview with Amy Schumer. She is usually funny, but paired with Jimmy, wow! But how could this get much better? Well then he has my other two favorite comedians on TOGETHER – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler! Comedy overload is an understatement. Then he has the wonderful Ian McKellen come on! He is one of my favorite actors. And there were plenty of other awesome guests this week including the cute, charismatic and enviably talented Cara Delevigne, and the always charming and comical Paul Rudd. Please subscribe to this channel and watch the above videos! (No I don’t work for NBC.)

Article of the week

A Robot Has Passed the Self-Awareness Test

Gif by MG via Wikimedia Commons

Reading this headline, you’re probably thinking, is this the beginning of the robo-apocalypse? I am so interested in artificial intelligence, partly because it’s exciting, and partly because I’m extremely worried that robots are going to take over. I saw the fantastic and chilling movie Ex Machina a few months ago and that got me thinking about how quickly artificial intelligence is developing. This article highlights how robots can now be aware of themselves, which is one of the first steps towards being artificially intelligent. But in a (most likely) illogical way after watching Ex Machina, I can’t help thinking that once robots are self-aware, they could become self-absorbed and selfish. I’m sure (and I hope that) in the onward development of AI, scientists will make sure they can safely guide AI so that it develops in a way favorable to human life.

Internet Findings of the Week for July 10, 2015

This week I’m celebrating communities coming together to help out others, historical technology, bridging the gender-pay gap and NYC subway trains!

Video of the week

3D Printed Arms Changing Kids’ Lives

I love it when technology, ingenuity and generosity come together to help people. A global community is making awesome 3D-printed prosthetic hands for a fraction of the price of traditional prosthetics, and distributing them to children around the world. Anyone who has a 3D printer can get involved by visiting e-Nable and signing up to become a hand builder. And anyone who needs a hand can apply to get one custom made. The hands come in cool colors and kind of look like Lego!

Photos of the week

An Abandoned Soviet Space Shuttle

A Russian space shuttle. Photo by Dave Casey via Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to believe that such high-tech, and historical machinery like a space shuttle could be left to decay for 20 years, instead of being preserved or put into a museum. An inquisitive photographer found exactly that in an abandoned hangar at a Russian space launch base in Kazakhstan. He took some amazing photos of this state-of-the-art facility, and even got inside the old space shuttle to find that much of the expensive equipment is still there. (Disclaimer: I have no way of verifying how or when these photos were taken, but they are interesting nonetheless.)

Initiative of the week

NY Bar Tackles Gender Pay Gap

This Brooklyn bar (not far from our place) had an awesome idea to help make it up to women for the gender pay inequality. Since women on average make only 77% of what men make, the owners of this bar decided that on July 7 (7/7) women only had to pay 77% of the drinks prices. I’ve heard this place also has good live music so I’m definitely going to check it out soon!

 

App of the week

Subway Cars Field Guide

I use the subway almost every day and often notice subtle differences between the trains. They have different seating layouts, different carriage/car widths, and different color schemes. But I had no idea about the different ages of all the subway trains. Who knew some of them are more than 50 years old! And that’s why some of them are more likely to have the heating or AC break down. Try this awesome guide from WNYC for yourself to find out how old your usual subway trains are.

Internet Findings of the Week for July 3, 2015

This week I was surprised to be convinced by a new anti-aging serum, I became concerned about the treatment of transgender people in our society, and I enjoyed reading a comedian’s autobiography.

Article of the Week

Kiwi-developed “breakthrough” anti-ageing serum

Copper peptides structure via Wikimedia Commons.

I always hear about the latest “anti-wrinkle” or “anti-aging” creams and ointments that are out there. I usually ignore them and think they must be some sort of placebo effect, or just very luxurious moisturizers. But this anti-ageing product was researched and produced over four years by scientists at the University of Auckland’s School of Pharmacy (the university I went to). And it’s not just for anti-aging, they also hope to use the same technology as a new way to deliver vaccinations without needles. The product uses nanotechnology to deliver drugs (copper peptides) through the skin, into the body’s cells. So for the first time I’m wondering if it could actually be the real thing. I (hope I) don’t need anti-wrinkle cream just yet, but it is pretty convincing to hear a rigorous study of this product in Germany “found that in wrinkle volume reduction the serum performed at levels 31.6 percent above Strivectin, a recognised market leader in the anti-ageing skincare category in the United States”.

Videos of the week

John Oliver on Transgender Rights

This is a very topical subject, as marriage equality became legal across the whole USA last week. I went to the fantastic NYC Pride Parade last Sunday, and felt the excitement the LGBTQ community is feeling about finally being accepted in society. But John Oliver points out that the way society treats transgender people is still not acceptable. I agree with him that it is inappropriate to ask someone you don’t know very well (he shows the example of TV interviewers and interviewees) about what their genitals look like. He also highlights the issue of transgender people being restricted from using the public bathroom they feel most comfortable using. It is also interesting, and sort of sad, to hear about a transgender person who feels more comfortable and accepted as a man with his army deployment in Afghanistan, than he does back home with his family and friends.

Rebirth of a Transgender Teen

Keeping with the theme, this is a New York Times Documentary about a teenager who recently had gender-reassignment surgery. For anyone who wants to better understand how transgender people feel about being the wrong gender, this is a great video to watch. Kat explains how paralysing it felt being a boy, and how liberated she feels now she is a girl.

Ebook of the Week

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

www.amysaysyesplease.com

This is the autobiography of comedian and actress Amy Poehler, which I’m 72% through on my iPad. I wanted to read it because I recently did an improv class, and she started the improv theater UCB in NYC. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and very inspiring to hear about her slightly disorganised and hurdled path to success. She has been on Saturday Night Live (which I love) and Parks and Recreation (which I badly want to watch), so it’s intriguing to hear an insider’s behind-the-scenes account of what it’s like to work in that world. But she also candidly and refreshingly discusses her personal life, such as her divorce, and having children. And there are photos! I love it when autobiographies have photos!

Internet Findings of the Week for June 26, 2015

I found an interesting mix of things this week, including film news, cultural discussions and scientific breakthroughs.

Video of the week

My Hijab has nothing to do with Oppression. It’s a feminist statement.

Twenty-two-year-old muslim student Hannah Yusuf wants the world to know why she wears a hijab or head-scarf. She says she chooses to wear it, and it is not a sign of oppression. She finds it liberating in that she is not judged by her looks and doesn’t have to conform to society’s requirements for women to look a certain way. She says it’s true that many women are forced to cover up and wear hijabs, but people shouldn’t assume that all women are forced to wear it. Many choose to wear it as a form of empowerment.

Excitement of the week

First Photos from New Ghostbusters Movie Set

The original Ghostbusters HQ in NYC. Photo by Rob Young via Wikimedia Commons

I only just found out this movie is being made here in NYC! And starring three amazing female comedians! The original Ghostbusters movie starred three male comedians, Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis, and was awesome. I think this is a fantastic idea to remake it with women leads. I have been a big fan of Kristen Wiig for a while. She is a brilliant actress, a hilarious comedian, and talented writer (she wrote and produced the film “Bridesmaids”). I discovered the versatile Kate McKinnon watching Saturday Night Live – she is equally convincing playing both Justin Bieber and Hillary Clinton. And the third comedian Melissa McCarthy is one of those comical people who shows up in all sorts of interesting TV shows and films (like Gilmore Girls and The Hangover Part III). I am so excited to see the new Ghostbusters film!

Podcast of the week

Antibodies Part 1: CRISPR

E Coli bacteria. Photo by Mattosaurus via Wikimedia Commons

A type of common bacteria called E Coli has shown scientists that it is possible to easily edit DNA. This easy-to-understand and often funny podcast explains how it is now technically possible for scientists to add in or exchange genes in an organism’s DNA and easily change the characteristics of that organism. They can pinpoint the exact gene they want to edit, and replace it. I find it fascinating that this is possible. And scientists say it will have amazing implications for genetic medicine and curing cancer. But it could also be dangerous and negatively affect evolution if done incorrectly. This method of editing DNA is called CRISPR. I like the name as it sounds like my last name.

Worry of the week

Exposure to mixture of common chemicals may trigger cancer

This is scary because scientists are saying that chemicals humans are exposed to can mix together inside the body and cause diseases like cancer. But the scariest thing is that they don’t seem to know yet which chemicals are mixing and how we can avoid them. Scientists plan to start testing combinations of common chemicals soon.

 

Internet Findings of the Week for June 19, 2015

This week my findings, although varied, are all quite serious or thought-provoking issues.

Article of the week

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Programmed to Kill You?

Google_self-driving_car_in_Mountain_View

Photo by Mark Doliner via Wikimedia Commons

Google, Mercedes, Audi, Daimler and others are currently developing computer-driven cars. Now an ethical debate has arisen over how to program self-driving cars to react when a collision is unavoidable. What happens if the car has to decide between swerving into a bus of people or hitting a pedestrian? Will it use utilitarian ethics to cause the least harm to the most people, or will it be programmed to choose randomly in these situations to reduce any blame on the programmers? For me as a philosophy and ethics major, it is an interesting issue and one I am keen to follow to see what happens. Although apparently, driver error causes 94% of all crashes, so if all cars on the road at any time are computer driven then the collision rate should be statistically lower.

Podcast of the week

As Global Population Grows, Is The Earth Reaching The ‘End Of Plenty’?

Photo by Alosh Bennett via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Alosh Bennett via Wikimedia Commons

This is a worrying topic – that food production can’t keep up with the pace of population growth. This podcast is about journalist Joel Bourne’s book “The End of Plenty” about exactly that. He talks about how growing animals for meat is not sustainable, because you have to grow the grain to feed them as well. Inefficient use of water is also a problem, especially in areas with droughts or water shortages. He also talks about new, possibly more efficient, ideas for producing protein such as deep-sea fish farms. But what he doesn’t talk about is the huge amount of food that is wasted every day. This is an issue that is very current right now, with a new documentary coming out called Just Eat It which claims that 50% of edible food is wasted every day. A new supermarket also opened recently which sells food that other supermarkets were going to throw out.

Issue of the week

Frozen Human Eggs

More and more women seem to be freezing their eggs for one reason or another. Some freeze them because they have an illness which could damage their ovaries and they want to be able to conceive after they get better. Others want to delay motherhood and focus on their careers, so they freeze their eggs while they are young to try and increase the likelihood of having a healthy baby at a less-than-optimum age for conceiving. There are new issues with these practices every day. A woman in the UK died of cancer, leaving behind unused frozen eggs, then this week her bereft mother tried unsuccessfully to get permission to use those eggs to give birth to her own grandchild. In May this year “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara and her ex-boyfriend had a dispute about whether to destroy fertilized eggs they had frozen before they broke up. But there are other issues as well about how reproduction is now going to be explained to children, when there is more than one way to conceive a child. Musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates give a very crude (and negative) but funny suggestion of what a parent might have to tell their clinically-conceived child:

Internet Findings of the Week for June 12, 2015

Here is a rather eclectic mix of things I’ve been watching/reading/clicking on this past week.

Videos of the week

Seth brings Jon Snow to a dinner party


For anyone who watches Game of Thrones and is becoming wearied of all the blood, gore and unjust death, this is the video to cheer you up. Late-night talk show host Seth Meyers some how managed to get the real Jon Snow to transcend time and reality to come to a dinner party in America. Unfortunately Jon’s knowledge of 21st-century small talk is non-existent and it makes for a hilarious and awkward situation.

NikkieTutorials – The power of makeup


I don’t usually watch makeup tutorials. I’m not the biggest fan of makeup because I hate taking it off at night, and if I wear it too much I get pimples/zits. I also think women shouldn’t be expected to wear makeup all the time, and society’s perception of what makes a woman pretty needs to change. But this video is very interesting because it shows how jaw-droppingly different you can look with and without makeup. When impressionable young people see celebrities looking flawless, and they feel unhappy because they themselves don’t look like that, I have two responses:

  1. These celebrities usually have amazing makeup artists who make them look that good. So people shouldn’t compare their natural-looking selves (or their peers) to these extremely made-up people, and realise that these people do not wake up looking like this.

  2. People should know that it is possible for anyone to get that “flawless celebrity look” if they have the right tools, makeup, tutorials and time to spend getting that look.

#Hashtag of the week

#distractinglysexy

This is a brilliant hashtag that female scientists are using to get back at Nobel prize winner Sir Tim Hunt for the sexist comments he made. He reportedly said: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.” Now hundreds of female scientists around the world are posting pictures of themselves working hard in labs to mock Hunt’s warped perception of working with women.

Article of the week

How corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates

This article caught my eye because I saw many of my brightest and most interesting peers head into corporate jobs like accounting, finance and corporate law. Many of them displayed great creativity in the arts, or great scientific minds while at high school, but for some reason they felt their talents would be best used for corporate jobs and that’s how they chose what to study at university. Many of them were given scholarships to study accounting, finance or law, usually financed by a company that wanted to employ them. There seems to be a perception that these are the most prestigious jobs that anyone can have. But are they satisfying or fulfilling? The world needs more scientists, innovators and creative-thinkers. But it seems the monetary reward of these finance jobs are just too hard for people to resist.