I will not post here as much anymore because my focus has changed…

In 2023 I’ll be focusing myself on other subjects than fitness and reading. However, for the sake of the bots that “read” this site, I’ll post about science.

Subvocal Tendencies

I have a hard time talking and often wish that I could could connect a computer to my brain so I can communicate more… easily. The information from my brain bottlenecks at my mouth and vocabulary becomes a desert. I just can’t say something sometimes, so I don’t. Most of all, I am extremely terrified of the telephone and calling a stranger gives me so much anxiety I want to vomit out of sheer terror. I can scale 700 feet up a mountain and be hesitant, but public speaking and speaking to strangers elicit a deep dread that I could never shake and renders me frozen. There’s so much more I can express in media but, vocally? Nope. Not a chance.

Which is why the technology below gives me hope that micro expressions can be used to communicate. I’m not sure if this would erase that fear, but if I can use it to “write” my thoughts or command a computer (to put together a piece of digital art, or music), or create visual representatios of ideas, the possibilities are endless.

The technology involves a system of sensors that detect the minuscule neuromuscular signals sent by the brain to the vocal cords and muscles of the throat and tongue. These signals are sent out whenever we speak to ourselves silently, even if we make no sounds. The device feeds the signals through an A.I., which “reads” them and turns them into words. The user hears the A.I.’s responses through a microphone that conducts sound through the bones of the skull and ear, making them silent to others.

“A lot of people with all sorts of speech pathologies are deprived of the ability to communicate with other people,” says Kapur, a PhD candidate at MIT. “This could restore the ability to speak for people who can’t.”

This Device Can Hear You Talking to Yourself

Spacetime from Entanglement

I thought this was cool.

Physicists have been suggesting for over a decade that gravity — and even space-time itself — may emerge from a strange quantum connection called entanglement.

By engineering highly entangled quantum systems in a tabletop experiment, Schleier-Smith hopes to produce something that looks and acts like the warped space-time predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

One Lab’s Quest to Build Space-Time Out of Quantum Particles
Adam Becker

While I was at the planetarium

I don’t know what makes me notice things. Every day some little detail catches my eye and I have to go exploring. So I went to the planetarium last month because the telescopes were open to the public to view Jupiter and Saturn. I’ve never seen any planets through a telescope, because I didn’t know anyone with a great telescope, so all the telescopes I’ve peered through have been $5 second-hand ones that didn’t work or weren’t operated correctly. I have seen a solar eclipse though. My high school let everyone outside, mid-day, to see the solar eclipse in the 90s. Anyway. The planetarium had two telescopes, and they were a lot more than $5. They were with the wait, and not only that, a giant falling star shot directly between the two planets (they looked like stars in the sky) while we (about 100 people) waited for our turns. Everyone went “Oooo” like a Gary Larsen cartoon. What brings people together: planets and meteors.

Afterwards, in the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of these weird, weird things on the parking lot ground. They looked like baseball-sized brains. If you stepped on them, they squished in a splotchy, uncomfortable way. One post to Reddit (although I could have just Googled but what the hell) later, I found out it’s the fruit of the Osage orange tree.

Biologists believe that the large fruits evolved to be eaten and dispersed by the large herbivores, such as mastodons, which lived on our continent only 20,000–30,000 years ago.

Missouri Department of Conservation

Although I’m not in Missouri.

Stuff I looked up in August & September

Lots of things these past 2 months! When I was in high school, someone (probably one of my high school teachers) told me that to earn your PhD you have to contribute to some field’s research with a new idea. At that time I thought, wow, that sounds really hard. I couldn’t imagine any new ideas. Then I got older and learned more. One thing I keep realizing is that the more you look things up and learn, the more you realize what you, or we as humans, don’t know. The hunt for answers only brings up more questions. Can we ever really know everything?

Moyamoya disease

Hyperproliferative lymphocytosis

Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia

Todd’s paralysis – Todd’s paralysis is a neurological condition experienced by individuals with epilepsy, in which a seizure is followed by a brief period of temporary paralysis. The paralysis may be partial or complete but usually occurs on just one side of the body. The paralysis can last from half an hour to 36 hours, with an average of 15 hours, at which point it resolves completely. Todd’s paralysis may also affect speech and vision. Scientists don’t know what causes Todd’s paralysis.

Li-Fraumeni Syndrome – Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is an inherited familial predisposition to a wide range of certain, often rare, cancers. This is due to a change (mutation) in a tumor suppressor gene known as TP53. The resulting p53 protein produced by the gene is damaged (or otherwise rendered malfunctioning) and is unable to help prevent malignant tumors from developing. Children and young adults are susceptible to developing several multiple cancers, most notably soft-tissue and bone sarcomas, breast cancer, brain tumors, adrenocortical carcinoma and acute leukemia.

Sclerosing mesenteritis – Sclerosing mesenteritis, also called mesenteric panniculitis, occurs when the tissue (mesentery) that holds the small intestines in place becomes inflamed and forms scar tissue. Sclerosing mesenteritis is rare, and it’s not clear what causes it.

PMS2-related Lynch syndrome – In humans, the importance of MMR is underscored by the discovery that a single mutation in any one of four genes within the MMR pathway (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and PMS2) results in Lynch syndrome (LS). LS is an autosomal dominant condition that predisposes individuals to a higher incidence of many malignancies including colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and gastric cancers.

Mevalonate kinase deficiency – Mevalonate kinase deficiency (MKD) is a rare genetic autoinflammatory disorder. Autoinflammatory syndromes are a group of disorders characterized by seemingly random or unprovoked episodes of inflammation generally due to an abnormality of the innate immune system. They are not the same as autoimmune disorders, in which the adaptive immune system malfunctions and mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

Muckle Wells syndrome – Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS) is one of the cryopyrin associated periodic syndromes (CAPS) caused by mutations in the CIAS1/NLRP3 gene. These syndromes are characterized by fever, rash and joint pain.

Adult onset Still’s disease – Adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) is a rare inflammatory disorder that can affect the entire body (systemic disease). The cause of the disorder is unknown (idiopathic). Affected individuals may develop episodes of high, spiking fevers, a pink or salmon colored rash, joint pain, muscle pain, a sore throat and other symptoms associated with systemic inflammatory disease.

Creatine in seniors

Sarcopenia is associated with reduced bone mass and bone strength and may be a contributing factor for the increased risks of falls and fractures often observed in aging adults. It is well established that resistance training is an effective lifestyle intervention for improving aging muscle mass, strength and bone accretion. Accumulating evidence indicates that creatine supplementation, with and without resistance training, has possible anti-sarcopenic and anti-dynapenic effects. Specifically, creatine supplementation increases aging muscle mass and strength (upper- and lower-body), possibly by influencing high-energy phosphate metabolism, muscle protein kinetics and growth factors. Creatine supplementation has shown potential to enhance bone mineral in some but not all studies, and seems to affect the activation of cells involved in both bone formation and resorption. Creatine has the potential to decrease the risk of falls experienced by aging adults which would subsequently reduce the risk of fracture. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that creatine may have anti-inflammatory effects during times of elevated metabolic stress, such as during extended/intense aerobic exercise. 

Effectiveness of Creatine Supplementation on Aging Muscle and Bone: Focus on Falls Prevention and Inflammation

I have this giant bottle of Naked Creatine (I got it from Amazon) and I feel that it helps me retain and build muscle just a bit better, as long as I don’t forget to put it in my smoothies. Starting last week, I started to put ~5 grams of creatine into my mom’s protein smoothie, because there seems to be a generally positive effect of creatine use in adults. There’s some research into this topic.

NASA is a busy place

I’m reading NASA’s launch schedules and it is fascinating!

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

… the DART spacecraft will slam into the asteroid Dimorphos at roughly 4 miles per second, attempting to slightly change the asteroid’s motion in a way that can be accurately measured using ground-based telescopes. The world’s first full-scale mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards…

The first flight of NASA’s X-57, a small, experimental airplane powered by electricity…

All of these can be found on the Upcoming Mission Events page.

What was there before the big bang?

The James Webb Space Telescope came out with images lately. One image of, mind-blowingly, the past – 13 billion years ago.

Light from these galaxies took billions of years to reach us. We are looking back in time to within a billion years after the big bang when viewing the youngest galaxies in this field. The light was stretched by the expansion of the universe to infrared wavelengths that Webb was designed to observe. Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions.

NASA

I got into a conversation about time, then about the start of the universe, and the Big Bang. Some people have a more conspiracy oriented view on the Big Bang and how life began, but neither could imagine what was around before the Big Bang. So I looked it up. It was an interesting trip.

The fading of that last star will only be the beginning of an infinitely long, dark epoch. All matter will eventually be consumed by monstrous black holes, which in their turn will evaporate away into the dimmest glimmers of light. Space will expand ever outwards until even that dim light becomes too spread out to interact. Activity will cease.

Or will it? Strangely enough, some cosmologists believe a previous, cold dark empty universe like the one which lies in our far future could have been the source of our very own Big Bang.

-BBC

Currently, our experiments can simulate conditions that happened when the universe was roughly one trillionth of a second old. That seems like a ridiculously small number for us, but for a photon — a particle of light — it’s a long time, allowing it to travel the diameter of a proton a trillion times. When talking about the early universe, we must let go of our human standards and intuitions of time.

What happened before the Big Bang?

Even if we’re not going to be alive, why does the death of the universe and how it dies disturb people?

Rejuvenation of naturally aged tissues

The expression of the pluripotency factors OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and MYC (OSKM) can convert somatic differentiated cells into pluripotent stem cells in a process known as reprogramming. Notably, partial and reversible reprogramming does not change cell identity but can reverse markers of aging in cells, improve the capacity of aged mice to repair tissue injuries, and extend longevity in progeroid mice. However, little is known about the mechanisms involved. Here, we have studied changes in the DNA methylome, transcriptome, and metabolome in naturally aged mice subject to a single period of transient OSKM expression. We found that this is sufficient to reverse DNA methylation changes that occur upon aging in the pancreas, liver, spleen, and blood. Similarly, we observed reversion of transcriptional changes, especially regarding biological processes known to change during aging. Finally, some serum metabolites and biomarkers altered with aging were also restored to young levels upon transient reprogramming. These observations indicate that a single period of OSKM expression can drive epigenetic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic changes toward a younger configuration in multiple tissues and in the serum.

Multi‐omic rejuvenation of naturally aged tissues by a single cycle of transient reprogramming

Happy Holidays

Sorry for the long gaps in posting here. I’ve had a birthday, then Thanksgiving, and was preparing for the holidays (2 days left!). Also, work seems to be ramping up a little bit due to everyone doing things at the very last minute.

Here are a few things I looked up this week:

The pharmacokinetics and the pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids. (for work. seriously!)

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Tezepelumab.

The College Board: 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers. This list is a bit outdated in parts, and it does not include a lot of current (21st century) literature. This list is also not very diverse in terms of culture.

The 21st Century’s Greatest Books (according to the BBC). I’m so glad White Teeth made it on there; I read it when it first came out and thought it was awesome, but it seemed like no one else read it or heard of it. I read Wolf Hall when it first came out, loved it, and everyone liked it as well. Strange how these things are.

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookies. It calls for a lot of cream of tartar, and I recommend to put that whole amount started in the recipe in. I didn’t because we barely had enough of it, and upon baking, my cookies spread out too much. I probably didn’t put all that flour in as well because flour is messy and I got some of it on the counter and on myself.

How to Make Peanut Sauce (as with recipe blogs, the recipe is at the bottom of the post). I don’t like ginger so I didn’t put that in. I also didn’t have limes, so I substituted for lemon juice. Sometimes people add some sort of spice in this. I don’t like spicy, so I didn’t put any chili flakes or sriracha sauce in. (I think I might be part supertaster because I can taste every ingredient in this after I made it). The result was pretty good still. Maybe it’s one of those recipes that you only put in things that you like after the soy sauce and honey.

NYT’s Royal Icing recipe. I had to add some water to this recipe because the amount of wet materials in the recipe wasn’t enough to make the whole thing manageable.

The Best Books Since 2000.

OMG, Omicron

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.

Wernher von Braun

For the past year and a half, if anyone wanted, they could look to see how science is being done just by looking up research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If pandemics were a reality show… Now season 3 is upon us, cursing us with another variant. Like the beginning of finding out about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and finding out about the Delta variant, science is trying to figure this one out. I know that it’s frustrating that no one knows the answer right away, but one thing people miss about science is that it isn’t about knowing everything, but it’s about finding things out. And in order to find things out, we need time. However, in a pandemic, time is an enemy. What some people get wrong is that this is confused with “science is the enemy” or “those other people are the enemy” or “this country is the enemy”. Let’s skip the philosophical part and say that basically, we’re afraid of the unknown, especially if the unknown can maim/kill us.

Although science is more about questions than answers, it can and does generate light that we can shine on the unknown. For example, every Mars rover. Because of my science background (where I spent an extremely long time trying to figure out which science field I wanted to be in, while taking every science class there was), I can go through research articles and figure out what’s what. Here’s a controversial idea: every person should take a class on how to look up scholarly articles on any topic in high school. (While we’re here, let’s open up a school and call it “School of Hard Knocks”, in which every class is directly applicable to real life, such as How to Do Your Taxes, or 50 Cheap, Simple, and Healthy Meals). Anyway, for an average person without a science background (which I also once was, in the early 2000s), what sources are there for just plain facts and neutral ground?

So far, here is the general answer:

I’m happy to see that BBC is in the center, because a long time ago, someone told me that if I wanted to find something neutral, a good point of view to consider would be from people outside of the country. I mean, how good are we at being objective about the aquariums we’re swimming in? And I’m also happy to see Reuters next to BBC. What was interesting was that I had thought The Economist was more right leaning than it was. Finally, it’s nice to know others I haven’t thought of, like Associated Press, to add to my bookmarks.

So what about Omicron? Do we need a booster shot for that? How bad is it, compared to what’s happened already? The answer is, We don’t know… yet.

Now, once again, the world is watching as researchers work nights and weekends to learn what a new variant has in store for humanity. Is Omicron more infectious? More deadly? Is it better at reinfecting recovered people? How well does it evade vaccine-induced immunity? And where did it come from? Finding out will take time, warns Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust: “I’m afraid patience is crucial.”

‘Patience is crucial’: Why we won’t know for weeks how dangerous Omicron is

Talking about sources wasn’t random. I liked this article for its readability, its short length, its international tidbits, and that it shares knowledge (PCR, GISAID database, structural biology mapping) without sensationalizing or politicizing anything. In this day and age, it’s like gold.