Our brains always plan one step ahead of our bodies when we walk
Keep your head up. Today, navigating the urban jungle can be challenging, with uneven sidewalks and errant kerbs presenting obstacles to easy walking. So why do we rarely trip up even though we hardly ever give walking our full attention? It seems that all we need is a brief glimpse of what’s coming next on the road in front of us, just one step ahead of time, to keep up upright.
Humans have a unique kind of locomotion – we’re bipedal, meaning we move around on two legs rather than four. Scientists are still struggling to unravel the mystery behind our shift to two legs – for instance, some suggest it freed up our hands to carry food.
Old Scientist: Our best jokes ever (laughter not guaranteed)
SCIENTISTS are often derided for having a poor sense of humour. In our 20 March 1958 issue, we hit back with evidence of the “fun” side of science: an extract from the memoirs of physicist Edward da Costa Andrade. He recounted the top-class banter that ensued when a colleague ordered hare soup in Andrade’s college refectory and the dish arrived with a beetle in it. “Waiter, waiter,” he called, “I ordered beetle soup and there’s a hair in it!” A fellow diner took him at his word and advised him to “bring it up before the next refectory committee”, provoking the inevitable quip. Laugh? It’s not reported if they did.
Police warned of drug so powerful it can kill in one breath
IN A bid to thwart the opioid epidemic, the US Food and Drug Administration has asked Endo Pharmaceuticals to withdraw its opioid pain medication – Opana ER – over concerns that the drug is too easily abused, the first time the agency has made such a move.
In a statement, the drug-maker said it is “reviewing the request and is evaluating the full range of potential options”.
Buyer beware: Should genomic firms resell your data?
IF YOU’RE not paying for it, you’re the product, as the saying goes. Use a “free” online service and you are paying with personal data. But when it comes to genomics, you both pay and are the product. Firms charge people who want to understand their genetics – sometimes on the basis of dubious science – but also the biotech companies that buy aggregated genetic data to shape their products (“DNA testing firms are cashing in our genes. Should we get a cut?“).
Shouldn’t donors get a cut? The firms argue there’s no value in a single DNA sequence, but that research using the aggregated data could benefit everyone, and the tests incentivise donation. So we should let them get on with it.
Deviate attempts to alter the way we perceive the world
“THE doubt-driven ride this book will take you on is going to physically change your brain,” claims Beau Lotto early in Deviate. He wants to change our brains by making us reassess the reality we perceive.
The book draws on his research at University College London, where he studies perception, and his work at the Lab of Misfits at London’s Science Museum – an exhibition creating experiences designed to alter how and what our brains perceive.
Crumb-free bread will mean ISS astronauts can now bake in space
Astronauts could soon be waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread. A new dough mixture and oven specially designed for use on the International Space Station will be tested during a mission next year.
Ready-made space meals have improved over the years, but for long missions – especially ones far from home – it is impractical for astronauts to take all their food with them. So efforts are underway to produce a range of fresh food in space, including using bacteria to make sugars and growing vegetables.
Florida suffers coast-to-coast battering by Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma has pummelled Florida, packing winds up to 130mph, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.
The 644-kilometre-wide storm blew ashore in the mostly cleared-out Florida Keys, then marched up its western coast, its punishing winds extending clear across to Miami and West Palm Beach on the Atlantic side.
A brain scan can reveal which people you’re friends with
HAVE you noticed how similar you are to your friends? It may be because your brains are in tune.
I can control a computer with my mind – from inside a dream
Lucid dreams are a unique state of mind when you are asleep and dreaming, but also alert and able to control your actions (see “Heal yourself from inside your dreams”). When Remington Mallett at the University of Missouri-St Louis learned that people who had lost the use of their limbs can control robotic arms with their thoughts, he wondered if people having lucid dreams could similarly control a computer. A lucid dreamer himself, he decided to give it a go.