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Friday, February 18, 2011

World's first Anti-Laser

Check out the article at This describes the world's first anti-laser, that dissipates laser energy as heat.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Infants and language

Thanks to both Jeff and Gabi D. for this one:

Jeff: This is a TED talk about the linguistic capabilities of infants, how they adapt to the languages that they hear, and how that relates to why it is so hard for high school students and adults to learn a new language.

Gabi: This video discusses the process by which babies learn new languages. It specifically deals with babies in the period when their ability to learn language is highest and when their brains are most malleable. I found one part to be particularly intriguing, in that the result of the test, in terms of data, can imply many different things. The test where English-speaking babies were exposed to Mandarin for twelve sessions and then compared to babies who were exposed to Mandarin for ten months was fascinating. First of all, why would the human brain be so inefficient that nine months of extra Mandarin practice would not differentiate the skill level of a speaker? If we assume that the human brain isn't so inefficient, could that indicate that being able to tell sounds apart is just such a basic task that it takes almost no time to master, and thus studies should check more advanced linguistic functions when further examining this topic? Also, is the baby exposed to both languages actually learning two languages, or just becoming confused? It seems that the video indicated that the baby is storing two sets of language data, which means he is learning two languages. This seems possible because the brain of a baby is so flexible. Also, although babies have almost no use for learning two languages simultaneously, we know that grown humans can, and that ability must exist during infancy because our language skills decline sharply afterward. Overall, scientific evidence makes it clear that the baby's brain is a language-learning juggernaut.

The Singularity of technology and robotics

Thanks to Michael for this:

Here's the link:,8599,2048138,00.html

This article is very interesting because it talks about the Singularity, which is the point in the future when robots and artificial intelligence will surpass the combined intelligence of all humans on earth. The article makes an interesting point that because the speed of the processor that costs $1000 is increasing exponentially, until 2045 which is when the processing speed of all silicon will exceed human intelligence. At this point, speculators say, that humans may merge with their robot counterparts and potentially become immortal and ridiculously intelligent. or, the robots will go Terminator on the human race and try to wipe us out because they see us as a threat to the continuation of the earth's ecosystem.
Either way, the Singularity is becoming less of a theory and more of an inevitable reality.

Check out this experiment to do at home

Thanks to Zach S. for this:

Today we have a fun home experiment in which we will defy gravity while balancing forks. A fun home experiment that I encourage you try with your family and leave them in awe.

Everything you will need for this experiment can be found around the house:
-Glass Cup
-2 Forks
-Tooth Pick

1. Interlock your 2 forks
2. Stick the toothpick through the center tightly
3. Balance the forks and toothpick on the edge of the glass
4. Take a moment to be amazed at the forks balancing on a tiny toothpick
5. Take your lighter and lite the end of the toothpick until it burns all the way to the glass

So have fun and make sure you subscribe for more cool experiments! =)

How far will Robots go? The Future and Robotics

Thanks to Fiona for this:

I chose a video for my blog post that shows Ray Kurzweil officially introducing the new university for singularity. For people who don't know what singularity is (probably most of class) my understanding of it is that technology has been growing exponentially and Kurzweil thinks that in 2045, robots will surpass the "brainpower equivalent to that of all human brains combined," and this is called the point of singularity. After technology gets to this point, Kurzweil thinks they will take over their own development and basically, the sky is the limit. I think this is a very interesting topic because the whole "robots taking over the world" idea has generally been left to science fiction, but this is evidence that it might actually end up happening.

Possible HIV Vaccine

Thanks to Lucy for this:

This is a really interesting video about how we are starting to create vaccines that will eventually allow us to treat diseases like HIV. This is really important to the health of the world and is an important advancement that needs to be made.

Building a Toaster from Scratch

Thanks to Aaron:

Nuclear Program in U.S.

Thanks to Eleanor for this:

This is a short video that talks about a secret unit of photographers
and cinematographers that documented the government's nuclear bomb
tests in the United States. The videos are just now coming out, and
it's pretty interesting to see the magnitude and progression of
nuclear research in the US.

Why do we like what we do?

Thanks to George M. for this:

I have always wondered what makes us, as humans, like a certain food, or laugh at a joke. Why are things funny? Not sure if I buy all the points brought up in this video, but I thing it brings a larger question to mind and stabs at the answer. Also, I couldn't help but be reminded of Mr. Benson.

Energy System and Conservation

Thanks to Jeremy for this one:

Here's a cool article for the blog:

The article is about an office building in the Rocky Mountain Foothills that has a revolutionary air circulation system. It uses a computer that, when it senses that there is more sunlight outside, uses more energy than normal to cool down the building. However, at times where there are clouds or darkness, it wildly cuts back on its energy usage, saving massive amounts on money.

Robotic/Biomechanicsl Hand for Humans

Thanks to Lauren for this one:

This is a very interesting robotics video about a man who uses his mind to control a biomechanical hand connected to his nervous system. He lost his left hand and forearm in a car accident and is now working to use a biomechanical hand. It is the first time a patient has been able to make such complex movements in a biomechanical hand using only his mind. Researchers are now working to be able to succeed in this with entire limbs.

Linguistics of Babies

Thanks to Randy for this:

Genius babies! ITs amazing and cool!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Types of People Who Want to go to Mars

Thanks to Elias for this one:

As it is now known that a trip to Mars would most likely be one-way, it is interesting what types of people would volunteer. It's also a bridge between psychology and more physical sciences, as both would have to come together to make a successful trip to Mars.

New Sony PS Phone

Thanks to Eric R. for this one:

It is about the new sony play station phone. Revolutionary stuff.

Science in the U.S.

Thanks to Joe B for this:

Here are two articles about science in the United States. The first is an article from Nature about how Congress is planning on cutting government spending on science. The second is from The New York Times, and it is about how most high school biology teachers in the United States do not comply with National Research Council recommendations on the teaching of evolution, and how it is a symptom of declining science education in the United States. These two articles are important because they demonstrate a dangerous trend away from science in the U.S. We are a country that has long led the world in science, and we now take that for granted, but that won’t stay the same if we can’t make science a priority.

More on Watson, the Jeopardy computer

Thanks to Sam S:

This is an article about the kind of collaborative effort that went into
constructing the Watson computer, and talks a little bit about how the computer works. It shows the contributions from several major universities and that it was a much larger project than just IBM. The specific things that each university added shows what went into making the computer so powerful.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Inexpensive Refrigeration

Thanks to Julia C-F for this one:

This video is about an inexpensive new type of refrigeration that would be available to people who don't have electricity or stored fuels such as propane. It is important for people in developing countries to have some accessible form of refrigeration for the storage of vaccines and other medical supplies. The "sustainable fridge" utilizes thermodynamics and costs between $25 and $40. The refrigerator is about the size of a large thermos and weighs 8 pounds. It works by placing it on a fire for 30 mins and then letting it cool in the shade for 1 hour. The fridge then cools for 24 hours. I think it is interesting that we can apply something we learned in chemistry to help solve world problems. I also did not know that 1.6 billion people in the world don't have access to refrigeration or that it is so important to people's health. I hope to be able to use science to help the world someday too.

Life Looking for Life

Thanks to Alex W. for this one:

This video explores the possibility of life other places in the universe. For years, leading scientists have collected data suggesting life off of earth is extremely likely. In such an enormous galaxy, the thought that life only exists on one planet around our relatively tiny star seems absurd. However, alien life has never been discovered. There are some great scientists and thinkers who believe that contact with other life forms is imminent, and we should take measures to achieve this contact as soon as possible. Others, such as Dr. Stephen Hawking, believe that contact with alien life is something to be wary of, as he compares possible contact to Europeans encountering Native Americans for the first time. This video discusses not only the possibility of other life, but the debate over whether we should be looking for it or not.

How to Build a Toaster

This is from Sam S.

I was initially interested in the article because of the name (How I Built a Toaster – From Scratch). This title was very strange, and that is why I clicked on it. The video itself was very interesting because I like learning about technology so the part about reverse engineering a toaster was cool. Also the message of the video was interesting because it explained how hard impossible it is to make a common mechanical devise from scratch. It gives you insight into the genius of man for eventually figuring these things out, but it also reveals the common man’s ignorance these days. The speaker was pretty engaging as well.

Don't Build Your House, Grow It

Thanks to Dickson for this one:

I am passionate about architecture; there is no doubt that I am totally attracted to this video. Mr Joachim have proposed the idea of "growing" houses instead of "building" houses. Environmental problem is always ranked top in our list; hence developing this technology is imminent and beneficial to the planet. But how do we do it? Mr. Joachim stated that we have a technology called pleaching, which is grafting trees together and making a space called Fab Tree Hab. These houses will be in the suburbs and the "walls" may take carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Imagine after 10 years, the village will become environmental friendly because they are a part of the environment/ nature. There is no other buildings can be greener than the Fab Tree Hab. Here is what I found interesting: veggie houses actually do not have windows or doors; rather, they have those sphincter muscles to crack holes on the surface. I personally find these the outlook of the veggie houses not attractive at all; they look like a piece of meat or a worm (laughing). But I am sure they can really help reducing greenhouse gases.

Robotic Prosthetic Arms

Thanks to Margaret O. for this one:

I started out on Popular Science's website and found an article on this same topic, but the original article is from the LA Times, so that's the one I provided. I found this topic really fascinating and exciting. It's so cool to think that a robotic prosthetic arm like this could be available within the next five years! Often, it's hard to get medical innovations out in the market because it takes a long time for them to be tested by the FDA, so it's pretty exciting to see that this one is going to be fast tracked. I think it has the potential to help a lot of people in need, especially all of our wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see how they figure out how to make the brain chip efficient and safe for patients. I think that this is such a cool, futuristic idea, and it's exciting to think that soon it may not be merely a concept of science fiction! I will definitely be following their progress in the next few years.,0,3164096.story

Your Brain on Improv

Thanks to Julia B. for this one:

Most people think that music and science have nothing to do with each other. This TED talk shows that this is not true at all. Its really cool to see how something that people think is all about creativity is really something that has to do with science.

Robots Interacting with Humans

Thanks to Amanda for this one:

I thought it was really interesting how they can interact with humans and how they can be programmed to learn human behaviors and tendencies, and respond in the same way. Also, it is interesting that they are using the robots to study human behavior.

Studying Saturn and Its Moons

Thanks to Jack F. for this one:

The spacecraft Cassini was sent to Saturn to gather data about its
moons, specifically Titus and Enceladus. These voyages are groundbreaking because these moons have very active ground systems, some even with tectonic plates. For example, on Titus, there are lakes of what they believe to be methane in the -300 degree temperature. Possibly one of the most ground breaking achievements was the finding of great jets of ice on the southern pole of Enceladus. The
temperature is a lot warmer there, and they believe there might be
liquid water beneath the surface. This and the fact that there is organic material on the southern pole could mean that life could possibly be supported there. Which would be a tremendous breakthrough for mankind.

Humans Born to Run (and not the Springsteen video)

Thanks to John for this one:

I find this article interesting because as a soccer player I run alot. It's interesting to learn about how women physically cannot run as fast as men up to a certain distance of 25 miles, but as the distance for the race increases to 50 and 100 miles, women are able to keep up with men. It strange to think about why women can keep up with men only when the distance increases while the differences between the times of men and women for shorter distances are so large. It also astonished me that runners having a starting point for their endurance, and over the years will increase that endurance every year. But the weird thing is that the endurance of that person will actually decrease after reaching the peak of endurance several years after their starting point. Finally, it's interesting to hear about how humans are the best fit animals for running long distance because we can run and cool off by sweating at the same time.

Understanding 10 Dimensions

Thanks to Kevin F. for this one:

I think that this is an interesting video because it take you on a
step-by-step process of understanding the tenth dimension. It talks about
what the dimension is and what it represents. I found the idea that you bend
dimensions in order to get to the next dimension very interesting. Its weird
to think of time, perception, and possibilities as dimensions, but I think
this video does a good job of making sense of this difficult topic.

Biotic Games

Thanks to Craig for this one:

I found an interesting video for a blog post about biotic games. At Stanford University they have found a way to be able to manipulate paramecium and other single celled organisms, and write a program that essentially builds a video game focused around manipulating their movements.

It has an organism on a plate with a camera looking down on it, and the controller has buttons on it that are connected to specific catalysts that influence
the movement of the paramecia. The UI for the game is basically placed over the camera screen and it is programmed to be affected by the movement of the
paramecia based on the objective of the game. I thought it was very interesting.
Here are the links: (original video)
and (article that I found the video on)

When is a Kilogram not a Kilogram?!

Thanks to Kate A. for this one:

Monsieur Kilogram, comment vous avez maigrit! The official kilogram housed in France is losing mass, and scientists around the world are very upset. This Wall Street Journal article focuses on speculation as to why Le Grand K is losing mass and the redefinition of metric quantities. In addition, the article hints at a number of careless actions scientists neglected in the past. They are only now realizing the full implications of their decisions. For example, many speculate cleaning might have caused the 50 microgram slim... Great job being responsible, internationally renounced scientists. These men should have realized that cleaning their precious kilogram may have changed its properties.
Nevertheless, I applaud the scientist of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures for attempting to find new methods of determining all metric units. Learning about the use of Planck's Constant proved especially interesting. Hopefully, there will come a time in the future where humans do not have to rely on physical entities for exact measurements. Until then, it is great that our scientific leaders are using modern technology to take responsibility for the future of all measurements.

Swinging Art!

Thanks to Lea for this one:

This video is about the work of Tom Shannon, an artist who directly integrates science into his paintings. Though he does a lot of science themed work, this video focuses on his work with a pendulum. He created a machine that emits multiple paints (at the same time) while moving in a pendulum. He can control, through a remote control, the amount of paint that is emitted. For example, if he had blue, red, and yellow in the machine, he could lesson the amount of blue or increase the amount of yellow. The paintings are colorful and vivid. They create interference patterns and sometimes even recognizable images. I thought this video was interesting because I'm not familiar with many artists who use science, and am interested in both art and science.

Alzheimer's Disease

Thanks to Ellie for this one:

Although this video is about 2 years old now, the issue of geriatric disease and Alzheimer's is very current. Petsko stresses the urgency of finding cures, or at least treatments to diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's because of the growing senior population. He provides a simplified way for people to understand some of the research and development on the subject. He also discusses some of the biggest risk factors for these diseases and ways to try and decrease one's risk for contracting them.

This issue is extremely important to me because my Grandpa has Alzheimer's. He does everything he can to stay sharp, but his memory is going fast, and there seems to be no hope in sight. But new ideas are sprouting up in the medical community about how to detect and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer's.
This article outlines a new marker for diagnosing Alzheimer's, a compound called AV-45 that can be detected in PET scans of the brain.

I hope that in the near future, more advances will be made in the prevention and treatment of the disease.

Economic Development Around the World

Thanks to Erik B. for this one:

In this TED Talk, Swedish doctor and statistician Hans Rosling presents a fascinating survey of a variety of statistics regarding economic development in the last century and a half. A number of interesting observations emerge: often, what we think of “developing” nations are far ahead of the “wealthy” nations when it comes to health, economic development has almost always come at the expense of the environment, and that a dichotomy between the “industrialized” and “developing” nations is false. He uses a really interesting new piece of statistical software called Dollar Street to show that poverty and development is really more of a continuum: rather than a defined break between sub-Saharan Africa and New York City, there exists a sliding scale, even within a desperately poor region like sub-Saharan Africa.

At the end of the video, he puts forward the thesis that “the seemingly impossible is possible”, in this context with respect to nations pulling themselves out of poverty. He urges people to disabuse themselves of the notion that there are only two types of countries, industrialized and developing, and claims that it is more than possible for Africa to climb out of poverty. He notes that the biggest strides in terms of development in the last 50 years have been made by African cities; in an insight that is perhaps applicable to the debate over No Child Left Behind, he says that when we look at a country, we can’t just look at their condition of the surface; we have to take into account where they’ve come from.

My personal problem with the video came from his suggestion that far and away the most important means of achieving positive development is economic growth. First, this is empirically false. Rosling states that human rights and culture must be the two primary goals of development, and yet the astronomical economic growth of China, for example, came at the cost of both in a devastating way. Second, “economic growth” with respect to developing nations has historically been synonymous with the Structural Adjustment Programs of the International Monetary Fund, which have had disastrous consequences both in Africa and other places like Latin America and the Middle East. Rather, I disagree with him and think that human rights can be a key tool to develop nations. Things like granting universal suffrage are powerful in bringing a nation up to speed with the rest of the world.

Nonetheless, I think this video is very important because it is a step away from the Manichaean view of development that permeates Western academia, and because it shows the amazing power of statistics, with a bunch of really cool graphs and animations. Plus it has an old guy swallowing a sword.

Physics of Roller Coasters

Thanks to Margaret P. for this one:

This is an interesting video about the physics of a roller coaster, explained in an easy way.

Are Teens Sleeping Enough? What do you think?!

Thanks to Nathan for this one:

The above article is what I am submitting for my blog post. I find this to be a very current issue regarding many peers that go to our school. The article is extremely thought provoking in that it mentions some of side effects that sleep deprivation can have on teenagers. Only about 7.9% of American teens get the required 8-9 hours of sleep. The rest of the student population does not. This puts these children and an increased chance of disease by weakening their immune system, and it even can lead to obesity. The issue is often due to pressures such as performance in school. When our teenager's health is at risk, it the country's job to pay attention and curb the issue.

Use of small Nuclear Reactors for Energy Budget of U.S.

Thanks to Matt S. for this one:

This is a really cool idea. The fact that we can make small nuclear reactors that can be transported around the country and built for less than a fifth the cost of a current nuclear reactor. This is also a great step towards reducing our countries emissions and making the world a better place to live.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Searching for those Crazy Neutrinos DIscussed in Class! A Cool Topic!

Thanks to Emma for this one!

I like this article because the concept of using a giant piece of ice as a telescope was really pretty cool (no pun intended ;D). The article is about a neutrino detector called IceCube which is made up of a bunch of detectors underneath the ice of the south pole. It uses the earth as a giant filter to detect the direction that neutrinos are coming from so that researchers can trace back to where they were emitted. The hope is that by finding "hot spots" of where neutrinos are coming from will also help find sources of cosmic rays.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The 'Green School' in Bali - developing eco-friendly students

Thanks to Charlotte for this:

John Hardy talks about the school, called 'Green School', in Bali,
Indonesia. The school is built solely out of bamboo, a natural
resource. The school is environmentally stable. The school is 'one
with nature'. It contains no walls. They believe that without walls,
they build stronger relationships to one another. They are located
next to a jungle and the Ayung River. Their location helps students
effectively connect to nature, but it is still safe and secure. With
pollution and global warming becoming increasingly more detrimental to
the future, Green School's goal is to help their students become
environmentally conscious and make a difference. In addition to
connecting with nature they also have a structured curriculum like
most schools.

I chose this video because I think that if we all have
the same mindset as John Hardy, our world would be a much better
place. I think it's extremely effective to start educating students
about what they can do to omit this problem because our environment is
on a very bad road. There are so many other concerns that this aspect
of our world is minimized. By beginning this education in school, it
could be very effective for the future because I think that changing
our environment is just a mindset, and when students gain this
mindset, it will change the future. To learn more about the school,
you can go to

Some Deep Questions to Think About

This is from Patrick:

Well I actually had a question to pose rather than a video link.

My question is: do ideas and emotions follow the first law of thermodynamics? I mean, obviously they are not made of anything tangible (maybe they could be argued to be energy), but do they follow a rule similar? For those unknowing of the first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in forms. So I ask if emotions and ideas have remained the same. Are emotions and ideas composed of some "stuff" that was present along with a singularity at the big bang? or were they maybe even two separate "things" that were present, ideas and emotions. If so then what was the first idea? And what has it become in the minds of humans and how has it been changed? It brings up many questions regarding humans' sentience. Are we only sentient because we can ponder and reflect upon this universal "idea?" yet we do not know what it is?
If ideas and emotions do not follow such a law, then what governs the transfer of ideas and emotions, and why do we naturally prefer some over the other? This is closely related to Darwin's theory of Evolution i.e. we retain the emotions/ideas that promote survival. But I'm not asking why this works, I'm asking if ideas and emotions are not conserved, why does one promote survival over the other? Why does love feel the way it does and spread through groups of people the same way fear does? It is obvious every day that the source of every good and every evil in society is (by definition) because of emotion, so why did we develop them to begin with? As little proterozoic creatures?
It's very interesting to apply the ideas we do mathematics so comfortably with - to concepts that have only been touched by philosophers and sociologists.

Coffee and Headaches?

Thanks to Sarah S for this:

Here is the web address of the article I chose to put on the blog:
Its about the link between coffee and headaches. Although it doesn't really explain why this correlation may exist, it gives evidence proving that the link is valid. I was interested in it because a couple of years ago my mom tried to stop drinking coffee every morning and she would get headaches when she didn't have it. Eventually, after restricting herself from coffee long enough, the headaches went away. But now, whenever she drinks an occasional cup of coffee, the headaches come back. I found this article interesting because it reminded me of the curious link between coffee and headaches.

Some Good Links, Including Warp Drive and Unsolved Questions

Thanks to Maya for this:

Cool stuff about warp drive

Top Ten Unsolved Problems in Physics

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Great Site with Lots of Physics Videos

Many thanks to Damir, who found this:

This site has really great physics videos;
The videos are short lessons on a variety of topics.

Watson - But Can It Play Jeopardy?

This comes from Josh:

Here is a video I found interesting about the IBM computer "Watson" that has been competing and succeeding in Jeopardy recently. I really liked this video, and the topic because it deals with computer programming, something that I am interested in and am taking next year. The video shows a brief summary of Watson's creation, which went through a lot of obstacles in order to make a competent computer that could deal with the complex, clever jeopardy questions at a quick enough rate to compete with legitimate Jeopardy contestants.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making Math a Visual Study

We have this one thanks to Zach L:

Mathematics is a very abstract field, but I vouch that it is still a science. Based solely upon logical rules, mathematicians everywhere develop their own theories. It is up to them to determine how correct those theories are through their own research; it’s just that mathematical research takes place solely on the theoretical plane.

I first heard about this video and others in the channel (they’re all phenomenal) in my topology seminar. These videos make math fun, and touch on a whole series of cool mathematical topics in a short time. In between, the breathless author of the video makes all sorts of delightful pop culture references and math one-offs. She’s very talented at drawing, too.

If you want to be exposed to some cool visual math through the pretense of making doodles in class, watch these videos. If you don’t, watch them and you might reconsider.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is Reality?

Here is a BBC report on the quest to figure out what is meant by REALITY. When mixed in the context of modern physics, this is not a well-defined, clear-cut concept. Now, this is about one hour long, but really interesting. Even if you only watch a few minutes, you can get a sense of what some areas of modern physics are looking at. Many thanks to (former ETHS student) John M. for providing the link for this video.