Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Science’

Today is the vernal equinox

March 21, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

Photo from NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Or as our druid calls it, New Year’s Day.

These infinity loop thingies are analemmas. An analemma is the pattern made by the sun’s movement across the sky.

It’s the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. Here it feels like summer already.

The BICEP-2 experiment redefines the cosmos. Quantum gravity, here we come.

March 19, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Science 2 Comments →

BICEP2 B-mode signal

We get back from vacation and immediately the brain must go from basic sentience to cosmic cramming, because the BICEP-2 experiment at the South Pole has just found something amazing. Essentially it has detected a signal from the very beginning of the universe, at the moment of inflation.

This discovery will rearrange our understanding of everything. It is probably bigger than the first contact with extraterrestrials.

We’ve been waiting for it since we saw this movie.

Read the Nature special on gravitational waves and cosmic inflation.

Albert Einstein predicted this. Read his paper outlining the basics of relativity, via io9.

The Big Bang happened. Cosmic inflation is real. Gravitational waves are real. Next: Gravitons. Next: Quantum gravity. Next: Multiverses. Next: Time Lord as a viable career.

A feline star is born in the new Coen Brothers movie

December 06, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Movies, Music, Psychology, Science No Comments →

Inside Llewyn Davis stars a ginger tom cat named Ulysses, who is actually several cats because cats are divas and don’t like doing retakes. Cute cat, and his human co-star’s not bad, either. Ulysses has received plaudits for his performance, particularly for that scene in the subway where he watches the signs whooshing by (and he is apparently a running theme haha). We are wary of movies featuring animal performers because we were traumatized by Old Yeller, and we especially hate movies where the animal characters are killed off just so the audience will feel something. We don’t think the Coen Brothers will torment Ulysses, but they do enjoy torturing their human characters (wood chippers, bolt guns, etc) so we can’t be sure. Nothing bad better happen to that cat. (This being a Coens movie, we’re assuming Llewyn Davis doesn’t live happily ever after.)

Here are Saffy and Mat’s horror movie auditions.

Saffy on the door
The horror!

Read Do Cats Control My Mind? in The Atlantic.

Think of the Philippines as a climate laboratory

November 16, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Science 1 Comment →

Mt Pinatubo eruption. Photo from the US Geological Survey

The heavy industrial activity of the previous hundred years had caused the earth’s climate to warm by roughly three-quarters of a degree Celsius, helping to make the twentieth century the hottest in at least a thousand years. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, however, reduced global temperatures by nearly that much in a single year. It also disrupted patterns of precipitation throughout the planet. It is believed to have influenced events as varied as floods along the Mississippi River in 1993 and, later that year, the drought that devastated the African Sahel. Most people considered the eruption a calamity.

For geophysical scientists, though, Mt. Pinatubo provided the best model in at least a century to help us understand what might happen if humans attempted to ameliorate global warming by deliberately altering the climate of the earth.

Is there a technological solution to global warming? Read The Climate Fixers by Michael Specter in the New Yorker.

In the podcast: Dr. Cuanang answers your questions on migraines, memory, madness, and how to take care of your brain

October 08, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Podcast, Science 5 Comments →

brain chair
Brain chair at Dr. Cuanang’s Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo.

We had a delightful conversation about brains with neurologist Dr. Joven Cuanang. The noted art collector and chief medical officer of St. Luke’s answered our questions about migraines, their causes and treatments; anti-depressants and psychiatry after Freud; memory and how to keep it sharp; and the assorted voices in our heads.

Wanna ace an exam? Listen to Doc’s study tips.

Listen to or download the podcast, A Journey Around Your Skull with Dr. Joven Cuanang.

* * * * *

saffy and brain
Saffy: This is my toy brain. I play football with it.

saffy and mat and brain
Saffy: Mat, I think your brain fell out.
Mat: Haha, I know that trick. Try it on Drogon.

drogon and brain
Drogon: Is it food? Is it delicious? Can I eat it?

Got a question about your brain? Ask our guest neurologist, Dr. Cuanang

September 30, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Podcast, Science 20 Comments →

dr cuanang
Dr. Joven Cuanang at his Cafe Scientifique talk on the brain and art at the Mind Museum.

Do you give a lot of thought to your brain? We do, but then we fractured our skull when we were 8 and had to have electroencephalography, which in the 70s involved sticking 32 needles into the nerve endings on our skull. A formative experience, no? Since then we’ve been wondering what’s in there, how it works, and whether we can cause people’s brains to explode like in Scanners.

On Friday we’re doing a podcast with our favorite neurologist and art lover, St. Luke’s Medical Director Dr. Joven Cuanang. We’re going to ask the expert the questions we’ve been hoarding over the years, like:

Does free will exist?
What causes migraines? What’s the best way to treat them?
You mentioned that the brain needs glucose and sleep. What other food is good for your brain?
Are we our brains? Are we our memories?
What happens when we sleep? Are we correct in assuming that writing gets done during sleep? (Our excuse for sleeping 8 or 9 hours a night.)
In Mike Alcazaren’s Puti, the protagonist loses the ability to perceive color. Can that really happen?
We read somewhere that humans use only a small percentage of their brain power during their lifetimes. How do we maximize the use of our brains?
Can a brain overheat and blow up like an overloaded electrical transformer?
What causes zombies? Can they be saved?
Do you believe in psychic powers? If clairvoyance is possible, where in the brain does it happen? Could Charles Xavier exist outside of comic books?
Our overenthusiastic parents had us take every IQ test in existence. How do you feel about IQ tests? Is it possible that a high IQ only means you’re good at taking tests?
We love Oliver Sacks’s essays about people who mistake their wives for hats or relive the same year over and over again or have phantom limbs. What are some of the strange neurological disorders you have encountered?
What part of the brain governs smiling, and is it bigger in Pinoys?
How can people prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

From reader and former student of Dr. Cuanang, Dr. Feelgood:
Did you really work with Dr. Adams, who wrote neurology’s bible, at Harvard?
Any hilarious/horrible stories from your internship and residency?
What current developments in Neuroscience research are you most hopeful about?

Post your questions in Comments and we’ll cover them in our podcast.