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Talking back

Talking back

A science blog, sans blague


3-D Printing: The Great American Tchotchke Machine

I saw an article in Time magazine a few weeks ago about a low-cost 3D printer. The machine receives instructions from a digital computer file that instructs it to build things by depositing and fusing layers of a heated plastic.In 1983, I remember a Time magazine "Machine of the Year" cover that proclaimed: "The Computer Moves In" your home.The editors back then chose that cover story well...

STAFFNovember 7, 2012 — Gary Stix

Remember It Well: A New Type of On-Switch for Memory

Nicotine enhances the ability to focus and remember. The alkaloid acts in a similar manner to the brain's own signaling molecule, acetylcholine. It interacts with eponymous receptors on the surface of nerve cells to regulate signaling in the brain.The role of the nicotinic-acetylcholine receptors throughout the central nervous system is so wide-ranging that new discoveries about the molecule continue apace...

STAFFNovember 2, 2012 — Gary Stix

Civilization s Thin Veneer: The Evacuation of Bellevue

The nation’s oldest public hospital—and the premier emergency institution in New York City—is the go-to place in the aftermath of a plane or train wreck, an all-out gunfight or a commercial airliner slicing through a skyscraper...

STAFFNovember 1, 2012 — Gary Stix

When the Cuddle Hormone Is a Home Wrecker

First off, this study on a molecule tied to social interaction was conducted in animals. So I’m supposed to turn on the siren and the flashing red light here to let you know that the headline you just read might not apply in humans...

STAFFOctober 16, 2012 — Gary Stix

Can Wall Street Financial "Wizardry" Foster Drug Innovation?

Most articles in the journal Nature Biotechnology have titles like "Selective Enrichment of Newly Synthesized Proteins for Quantitative Secretome Analysis." They don't usually contain sentences like this:"The special-purpose vehicle's capital structure, priority of payments and various coverage tests and credit enhancements are collectively known as the 'cash flow waterfall'—a reference to the manner in which cash flow from the special purpose vehicle's assets spills over from senior to junior tranches..."Nothing to be found in that sentence or the rest of the article about the minutiae of monoclonal antibodies, RNA interference or the Nobel-winning biology of induced pluripotent stem cells.The article in the October issue of Nature Biotech arrives replete with esoterica about cash flow waterfalls and junior tranches, and includes that sentence penned by Andrew Lo, a prominent MIT professor of finance, and colleagues, Jose-Maria Fernandez and Roger M...

STAFFOctober 9, 2012 — Gary Stix

A Neurodegenerative Disease Improves Facets of Cognition

Huntington's disease, which killed folk singer Woody Guthrie, seems to put into overdrive the main chemical that turns on brain cells, ultimately leading to their death.The normal function of the neurotransmitter glutamate, the chemical overproduced in Huntington's, is also intimately involved with learning.Researchers from Ruhr University and the University of Dortmund in Germany have been intrigued by the question of whether the neurodegeneration initiated by glutamate in this genetic disorder is all bad...

STAFFSeptember 28, 2012 — Gary Stix

Best Evidence for Brain Training Falls Short

Market researcher SharpBrains has predicted that the brain fitness industry will range anywhere from $2 billion to $8 billion in revenues by 2015.That's a wide swath, but the companies that sell brain-tuning software could conceivably hit at least the low end of their sales target by then.The question that persists is whether any of these games and exercises actually enhance the way your brain works, whether it be memory, problem solving or the speed with which you execute a mental task...

STAFFSeptember 25, 2012 — Gary Stix

The Grand Challenge of Schizophrenia Drugs

A milestone for Big Neuroscience came Wednesday with the publication in Nature of a study on the way genes switch on across the whole human brain.Whole brain is all the vogue.Neuroscientists have devoted inordinate energy in recent years to publicize the need for, not only gene maps, but for a full wiring diagram of all brain circuits...

STAFFSeptember 21, 2012 — Gary Stix

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