Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good Times

With the recent passing of Robin Williams I really wanted to take a moment and remember all the moments he made us laugh! So what are some of your favorite movies or moments?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dragon's Blood Tree

The dragon's blood tree (Dracaena draco) has a thick, red resin that makes the plant appear to be bleeding when it is cut. These subtropical plants form huge umbrella-like canopies and can grow for hundreds of years, but they are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUNC due to the trademark resin being used in traditional medicine, violin staining, and even for embalming the dead.

How incredibly interesting. 

Do We Really Only Use 10% Of Our Brain?

I still need to go see this movie! 
As the new film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is set to be released in the cinemas this week, I feel I should attempt to dispel the unfounded premise of the film – that we only use 10% of our brains. Let me state that there is no scientific evidence that supports this statement, it is simply a myth.
The concept behind the film is that through the administration of a new cognitive enhancing drug, our female lead character, Lucy, becomes able to harness powerful mental capabilities and enhanced physical abilities. These include telekinesis, mental time travel and being able to absorb information instantaneously. Viewed as such, the human brain should be essentially capable of these feats, we just fail to push our capacity. So if we can unlock the “unused” 90% of the brain we too could be geniuses with super powers?

The beginnings of the myth
The 10% myth may have begun in the early 1900’s when the neurosurgeon Karl Lashley removed portions of the brains of rats who were trained to navigate around a maze. He found that he could damage areas of the cerebral cortex and the rats were still able to perform the task correctly, as well as behave normally. The greater the area of damage, the more impaired the rats were at the task. However, these deficits could be recovered through additional maze training and time.
Lashley proposed the principle of “equipotentiality”, meaning that different areas of the brain can carry out the same functions. He added to this the principle of “mass action” – in which the brain acts as a whole in many types of learning.
Function and dysfunction of the brain
But we know now that the brain is not a uniform structure. A small stroke can be devastating. Depending on the area damaged, different brain functions are disrupted. For instance injury to the motor cortex can lead to paralysis on one side of the body, damage to a small region of the frontal lobe known as Broca’s area results in being unable to speak. Although there is some recovery of certain functions over time due to plasticity, where alternative areas of the brain can compensate for the damaged regions, recovery is rarely complete.
Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease target distinct brain regions. Memory deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease are due to deterioration of the hippocampus, and motor dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease by loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra. There is no recovery of function in these diseases, as the damage spreads no compensatory mechanisms step in.
We understand now that different brain areas function both separately and together to allow us to coordinate complex tasks. So at any moment we could be using 10% or 100% of our brain, depending on what we are doing.
To carry out actions as mundane as buying a coffee we have to use higher cognitive or executive functions to decide what we want, speech to communicate our choice, advanced cognitive processes to calculate the cost and fine motor skills to hand over the money. So many separate brain areas must work together to co-ordinate behavior. Damage to a small region can cause massive disruption to the functional networks required.
The hungry brain
Our brains are much more complex than Lashley’s lab rats. The average human brain comprises of only 2% of our body mass, but uses 20% of our energy, much more than expected for our relative brain size. The cerebrum performs cognitive functions, the cerebellum controls motor coordination and the brainstem maintains essential unconscious functions such as breathing. Our brains are relatively large when compared to other animals, we wouldn’t have evolved such an energy hungry and large brain unless we required it.
The majority of the energy consumed by the brain powers millions of neurons communicating with each other through electrical nerve impulses. This forms a control network that connects functionally distinct regions. If we did really only use 10% of our brain it wouldn’t make sense to have such a large amount of energy powering an idle 90%.
We probably understand less than 10% of how the brain functions
Neuroscientists are still trying to understand how the brain functions. Currently, a major focus of research is into the role of different types of cells in the brain. In the brain only 10% of the cells are neurons; the other 90% are glial cells or astrocytes. These cells appear to be important in connecting neurons together, but recent research indicates they may be even more functionally important, particularly in forming memories.
Scientists are still trying to unlock the secrets of the brain. We do not yet understand what parts of the brain interact together to generate consciousness, or how our brain functions as a whole to control complex behaviors.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Used Cigarette Butts Could Be Used To Store Energy

Around the world, as many as 5.6 trillion cigarette butts are thrown into the environment every year -- that’s 766,571 metric tons of waste. Now researchers are putting that waste to good use: They've converted cigarette butts into a material they hope to use as a coating for the electrodes of super-capacitors -- electrochemical components for storing huge amounts of energy. 
If successfully integrated, the material could help power machines ranging from phones and computers to EVs and wind turbines. The work was published in Nanotechnology this week. 
Super-capacitors store energy via electrical charges rather than chemical reactions, the way batteries do, Gizmodo explains, which means they can charge and discharge much faster. But they’re huge, which prevents them from being used in small gadgets. Scientists are always looking for ways to make better super-capacitors, and they like to work with carbon because of its low cost, high electrical conductivity, and long-term stability. 
“Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one-step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society,” Jongheop Yi from Seoul National University says in a news release. 
Cigarette filters are made of synthetic cellulose acetate fibers. After collecting filters from Marlboro Light Gold, Bohem Cigar Mojito, and the One Orange cigarettes, Yi and colleagues transformed the toxic and non-biodegradable fibers into a carbon-based material using a one-step burning technique called pyrolysis. Burning the fibers in the presence of nitrogen results in a carbon-based material filled with tiny pores. These pores make it a better super-capacitive material by increasing the surface area. A combination of different pore sizes further ensures that the material can have high energy densities.
The team attached the carbon-based material to an electrode and tested it in a three-electrode system to see how well the material could adsorb electrons (charge) and then release them (discharge). The material, they found, stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon, grapheme, and carbon nanotubes. 
Image: Ken Hawkins via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why People Are Hatin On Your Blog Posts

We thought this blog was intriguing because it really points out what people hate most from bloggers. Especially business blogs. If you're a business that doesn't blog, you're missing out. Hubspot recently told us that businesses who blog receive 55% more website visitors and 126% higher lead growth compared to those who don't.

What you should and should NOT be doing on a daily basis with your blog posts. Here's the highlights:

  • Do not post blogs with huge chunks of plain text. People WILL bounce off.
  • No images?! Every blog post should have an image.
  • Link to your references. You don't know it all...
  • Annoying content ads - get rid of them.
  • Don't post too much... but don't post too little. An even balance that your followers are used to...
  • Relevant articles. You have followers for a reason, don't stray.
  • There's no such thing as a too short or too long blog post. Everyone has different styles. Just make sure it appeals to your ideal audience.
  • Keep politics out of it
  • Write compelling headlines that people will click!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weird Al Yankovic really is a genius...and in more ways than just video parody's.  He has been able to market himself and stay relevant since 1979.  Marketing genius?  Definately.  And he was able to do most of this without the use of social media.  Now that he has social media available he's taken that over too.  His 14th album released on July 15th. To promote it, Weird Al launched an #8videos8days project, releasing one music video per day for eight days straight, each on a different content partner’s website. <<<  There's the genius.