The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine


All I want for Christmas is a mind-controlled racing set

Just when you thought it couldn’t get much weirder — sure enough, it does.  Just before Christmas this past year, a team of researchers from the UK’s University of Warwick announced it had  refined the technology used to control electronic devices using thought alone. “Whilst brain-computer interfaces already exist – there are already a few gaming headsets on the market – their functionality has been quite limited,” said Professor Christopher James, Director of Warwick Engineering in Biomedicine at the School of Engineering.

His team’s research is helping these  headsets function more efficiently by obtaining cleaner and stronger signals than ever before. “This means stronger links to the toy, game or action thus making it a very immersive experience,” he adds. “The exciting bit is what comes next –how long before we start unlocking the front door or answering the phone through brain-computer interfaces?”

Working “transporter” beams photons miles away

transporterScotty, have you been drinking again?

No, it’s true. Scientists have succeeded in sending entangled photons to different locations miles apart and then reuniting them.  “So what?” you might say. Well, this apparently is a small step towards being able to communicate information very quickly, using the quantum states of subatomic particles as “messengers.” It seems to also be one of the first times that actual particles — photons in this case – have been “teleported” over a distance. Confused yet?  Wikipedia to the rescue:

Quantum teleportation is a process by which quantum information (e.g. the exact state of an atom or photon) can be transmitted (exactly, in principle) from one location to another, with the help of classical communication and previously shared quantum entanglement between the sending and receiving location. Because it depends on classical communication, which can proceed no faster than the speed of light, it cannot be used for faster-than-light transport or communication of classical bits. While it has proven possible to teleport one or more qubits of information between two (entangled) atoms,[1][2][3] this has not yet been achieved between molecules or anything larger.

Although the name is inspired by the teleportation commonly used in fiction, there is no relationship outside the name, because quantum teleportation concerns only the transfer of information. Quantum teleportation is not a form of transportation, but of communication; it provides a way of transporting a qubit from one location to another, without having to move a physical particle along with it. However, quantum teleportation of particles has been theorized to also be possible, and to perhaps be an explanation for the teleportation-like effects seen in superconductivity and superfluidity.[4]

Although this experiment may (or may not) have moved the possibility of quantum teleportation slightly closer, it will likely be a very long time before we are beaming ourselves to parties, concerts or other planets. For the foreseeable future, we are stuck with planes, trains and automobiles.  And of course, spaceships. (Go Elon!)

Photo source: Working Transporter Beams Photons Under Four Miles Away | Digital Trends

The mystery of the GIANT SEA SPIDERS emerging in Antarctica baffle scientists

In the dark, cold depths of the polar oceans lurk the creatures of your nightmares. Huge ‘sea spiders’ in the Arctic and Southern Oceans grow bigger in these regions than anywhere else.

Well, they are ugly devils to be sure, and we can all be happy they live deep in the Arctic Ocean rather than under the bed. However, their disturbing size may not be as much of a mystery as the newspaper headline suggests. According to the Daily Mail article, these critters have slow metabolisms and live in oxygen-rich waters  — facts which probably help explain why they are so seriously bulked up. Much as it would be fun to discover that the spiders owed their stature to, let’s say, radiation from a wrecked flying saucer or a fiendish experiment by a local mad scientist, the explanation may be much more mundane — a superabundance of good old O2 and a sluggish, cold-water constitution.

Source: The mystery of the GIANT SEA SPIDERS emerging in Antarctica baffle scientists | Daily Mail Online

Tylenol can ease existential uncertainty, fear of death (really!)

tylenol2-300x225And you thought Tylenol was just for headaches! A very weird but apparently valid study has found that good old Tylenol can actually (somehow) make the idea of death more acceptable, by dulling the “pain” that usually accompanies thoughts of one’s own demise.

Interesting question department — if someone  had a hangover so bad that she/he wanted to die, what effect would taking a Tylenol have? By removing the hangover pain, it would bias the person away from death, but by removing the fear of death, it would presumably move the needle in favor of self-slaughter.  Something to try out next January 1 perhaps

Waxed to extinction (and nobody cares!)

"Crabs" -- one species whose passing few people will regret.

“Crabs” — one species whose passing few people will regret.

We’re pretty well used to reports of species walking the gangplank towards extinction as humans destroy their natural habitats.  In most cases, the loss is tragic — but this story of environmental disaster has a comical sort of twist.

The creatures in question are  pubic lice (also known as “crabs”). The threat to their environment is known variously as Brazilian waxing or bikini waxing, a practice so common that  the little crablike vermin are threatened with extinction. Although exact numbers are (for obvious reasons) hard to come by, sexual health clinics report dramatic drops in crab infestations, presumably thanks to this new grooming trend.

In the grand scheme of things, no doubt crab lice are as much a miracle of nature as, say, leopards or dolphins. But it will be hard for most people to shed a tear at the passing of these little beasties, should they be waxed into oblivion.