Hydrogen sulfide stinks, but you knew that already, didn't you. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable, but you probably knew that too (and I won't ask how). But did you know hydrogen sulfide lowers blood pressure? and might protect the body from injury?
Helene Meyer Tvinnereim and a team of Norwegian scientists are collecting milk teeth from 100,000 kids to create what may be the world's largest tooth bank. A dental biomaterials researcher at U Bergen in Norway, Tvinnereim seeks to find links between diseases and prenatal/childhood exposure to chemicals. The normally discarded teeth function as a 'black-box' recording of the chemicals children are exposed to, and have excellent shelf-life when dried and stored. Of course, this is a lot easier to do when you have a streamlined national health-care and record keeping system.
In the early 1940s, Esmond Emerson Snell (1914-2003) was trying to figure out why baby chicks who were fed raw egg whites (I know.. how cruel..) showed symptoms of biotin deficiency despite having plenty of it in the diet.
'Have you quantified that?' Answering 'no' to this question will usually trigger a collective humph from the crowd at a scientific meeting. We don't want to know that there's more or less of some biological activity unless you can say exactly how much different it is from normal.
During our show Who Am I? we got worried that spending so much time thinking about the 'self' would make us a little.. well.. self-centered. But what's wrong with that? Nothing really, but apparently we wouldn't do well on this puzzle.
Fluorescent microscopy can illuminate neurons genetically engineered to express fluorescent proteins. "Two-photon" microscopy is special because it lights up the fluorescent neurons only at the focal point allowing scientists to piece together multiple sections in order to obtain a 3D image.
So how does this "two-photon" technology produce fluorescence only at the focal point if the fluorescent laser beam is penetrating all of the surrounding tissue? The theory is that the chances of two low-energy photons hitting the fluorophore at the same time with enough energy to produce a fluorescent event are extremely slim.
Scientists communicate with pictures (graphs, images, flowcharts, etc) because it's often impossible to convey experimental results with just words. So a picture is truly worth a thousand words, right?
Over the course of human history, the methods used to determine if someone is telling the truth have ranged from horrific to downright silly. The legend of La Bocca della Verita holds that if someone fibs with their hand in the mouth, it gets bitten off.
Many of you probably remember last year's release of satellite images documenting human rights violations in Myanmar (Burma). Scientists have teamed together at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to use sophisticated technology to alert us of the atrocities against civilians in Darfur, North Korea, and Burma. How else can we apply the tools of science to enhance human rights work?
In our research on the show Laughter, we came across Dr. Helen Pilcher's formula for writing hit British comedy.
x = (fl + no ) / p
where funniness (f) of the punchline times length of build-up (l) is added to the amount someone falls down (n) times the physical pain or social embarrassment (o for 'ouch'). All this is divided by the pun (p), which reduces laughter and produces more of a groan.
As Radiolab explores some of the tangents from our show on Deception, we've interviewed neuroscientists attempting to detect lies using changes in brain activity. But how do we see brain activity and get such colorful pictures of it? You might think it's based on neural electric activity. This is true for EEG but not for fMRI, which is used in the majority of these brain function studies. As Wired.com's Steve Silberman explains, it all starts with hemoglobin. Yes, the tiny protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain or any other organ for that matter, is the basis for studying brain activity.
We interviewed Dan Langleben while researching for our show on Deception. He says he can see differences in brain activity when a lie is told about a playing card in your pocket. He identified a few regions in the brain that changed in metabolism during a lie. That is, it seemed as though it took more energy for the brain to lie.
In our show (So Called) Life, we interviewed undergrads at MIT giving bacteria genes to make them smell minty fresh. If you are at all disquieted that such young minds are given such profound tools, sorry, bioengineers are getting ever younger. As part of a program designed to help teachers in NYC schools run a DNA transformation lab, I've seen 5th graders engineer bacteria to glow like a certain species of jellyfish found off the coast of Washington State.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said 'Panta Rei', which means 'all things flow'. Rheology ('flow'-ology) is the study of viscoelastic materials like Jello that are a little bit liquid and a little bit solid. But even the most liquid of liquids have some solid character. And even the most solid of solids have some liquid character. Take those beautiful stained glass windows in gothic cathedrals. For a long time it was thought that these windows are thin at the top and thick at the bottom as a result of centuries of slow viscous flow. As it turns out, it would take much more than centuries for glass to flow (see comments below).
During the making of the show Deception, Radiolab explored the possibility of fMRI-based lie detectors. But what if we could detect lies remotely? What if we could know someone's lying without them knowing that we know they are... Well Britton Chance takes us one step closer to making science fiction a reality.