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A man with a Rubik's cube for a head tries to fit in with other men with the same head, but they really aren't the same unless they are exactly the same. It's a super weird analogy for individuality and inclusiveness, but it eventually works. Cubed was Xue Enge's award-winning graduation film at Nanyang Technological University. -via Laughing Squid


Vacationing at the Edge of a Giant Hole in the Earth

That's a mighty big hole in the ground, judging by the buildings around it! This is the city of Mirny, in Siberia. It's a company town of 37,000 people, centered around the diamond mine that created the pit.  

The population is made up of workers who moved here from other Russian regions and former Soviet states, lured by the incentive of a higher than average wages. But with the higher wages comes the higher cost of living. The main access route to Mirny is via the airport and all the food to feed the town has to be flown in, hiking up the price. Whilst the wages may be attractive to some, if you’re not in the mining biz you won’t reap the one perk of life in Mirny. A school teacher here earns 19,000 rubles a month, that’s about $300.

For a small isolated town, Mirny has some intriguing features, such as a national park and a college, which mainly trains students in mining technology. Travel to Mirny is restricted by both logistics and the Russian government, but that may change. The town is trying to reposition itself as a tourist destination! Read about life in Mirny at Messy Nessy Chic.

(Image credit: Igor Dvurekov)


Beginning of the End (1957)

The 1950's was the decade of the Creature Feature and Hollywood turned out 'monster' films featuring just about every conceivable type of creature, including insects. This 1957 offering, Beginning of the End, was typical of such fare, but it stands out for a number of reasons. A review from the IMDb says it all:

The film that helped usher in Hollywood's giant bug craze. Special effects are pathetic even for the time, but the story is gripping enough and the acting first-rate. Peter Graves plays a scientist working on food growth via radiation. Grasshoppers get at these plants and grow to the size of a bus. They find humans much tastier than their usual fare. They invade Chicago after tearing up the countryside, and it's a race to the finish to see whether anything can be done to stop them before the Army nukes Chicago. Lots of fun. We never see the monsters actually come into contact with any of the humans they devour, but the closeup facial shots of various actors about to be eaten are priceless.

This film was another of the many low-budget B-Movies of that decade, and it stands out for the sheer hilarity of the special effects. Giant grasshoppers shown climbing skyscrapers are quite obviously normal grasshoppers walking across a picture of a skyscraper lying on a horizontal surface. But it's not all bad; we get to see one of the first cell phones in existence, owned and used by the intrepid lady reporter.

And what would a B-Movie be without a review by Embedded below is the 'breathless' trailer for the film, followed by MST3K's take on it. YouTube features the plain and unadorned film, but MST3K's treatment is a definite improvement. See for yourself.

The theatrical trailer for the 1957 film.

The MST3K treatment of the film.


Two Storms on Jupiter

In another stunning photo captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it passed by Jupiter's surface, we get to see two storms next to each other.

Accompanying the famous Great Red Spot storm in this image is a second storm nicknamed Oval BA. Unlike its larger russet companion, Oval BA formed under scientists' eyes, when three smaller storms collided in 2000.
The visible-light camera on board Juno, called JunoCam, has been able to watch Oval BA change over the course of the mission, with the storm becoming paler since a previous visit nearly a year ago, according to a statement from the Southwest Research Institute, which manages the mission.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran)


Tiny Robots for Drugs

Taking medication isn't really too taxing of a task, right? You just pop one in your mouth and wash it down with some water, and you're done. Although, they don't always take effect right away so you would still have to deal with your headache or allergies for some more time before getting relief.

But, what if the drugs we take have the capability to get to the problem right away and alleviate our condition in one or two minutes tops? That would be awesome. Actually, some scientists are doing research to do that through microrobots.

One day we may be able to ingest tiny robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue, thanks to research being carried out at EPFL and ETH Zurich.
The group of scientists – led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich – drew inspiration from bacteria to design smart, biocompatible microrobots that are highly flexible.
Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability.

(Image credit: EPFL/ETH Zurich)


Animals Keep Creating Mysteries by Sounding Weird

These two lynx are having some sort of spat. It could be territorial, or maybe a lover's quarrel, but if you heard that coming from your back yard in the night, you'd get no sleep. It's just one example of the ways animals surprise us when we hear the strange sounds coming from them. The most famous example is the "sonic attack" on American diplomats in Cuba a couple of years ago, which scientists now believe was the call of the the Indies short-tailed cricket. Ed Yong goes through more examples, like puffins that sound like chainsaws, humming fish, and tortoises having loud sex. Read about totally weird animal noises, with video evidence, at the Atlantic. -via Metafilter


Herd Immunity in Action

A new study shows that the vaccine against HPV has caused incidences of human papilloma virus to decline, even among women who don't get the vaccine. The vaccine protects against several strains of the virus, which are linked to various cancers. The study found that between 2006 and 2017, rates of vaccination among young women went from zero to 84%, and the prevalence of HPV in the vaccinated women went down from 35% to 6.7%.  

In other findings, the study showed that the prevalence of the four HPV types also dipped among patients who remained unvaccinated: At the outset, about one-third tested positive for those viral strains, and that figure dropped to 19.4 percent over time.

According to Kahn's team, it points to what's called "herd protection" -- where everyone benefits from having a large portion of the population vaccinated against a particular disease.

The finding is not surprising, Park pointed out: As the prevalence of an infection goes down, the overall risk of contracting it goes down.

However, she stressed, parents and young adults should not take that to mean it's safe to go unvaccinated.

The declining rates of HPV among unvaccinated women is an example of herd immunity, which means that a disease has more difficulty in spreading when a portion of the host population is immune. The higher percentage of population immunity, the more likely a disease will die out completely. But herd immunity doesn't assure protection for any particular individual. The best protection is vaccination. Read more about the study here. -via reddit

The vaccine has been recommended for girls since 2006. In 2009, the FDA recommended that boys also get the HPV vaccine, which not only protects men from some cancers, but also contributes to herd immunity. Last fall, the recommended upper age for the vaccine was raised from 27 to 45. Adults should check with their insurance company before getting the vaccine, which costs several hundred dollars.

(Image credit: Jan Christian)


MIB: Men In Blues

Men in Black is a treasure of science fiction comedy. The Blues Brothers is the ultimate in comedy plus cool. So what if Men in Black were recast with Jake and Elwood in the buddy cop roles? Master mashup artist Fabrice Mathieu (previously at Neatorama) has crafted a short film with best of both worlds: the cool vibe of The Blues Brothers and the aliens from not only Men in Black, but a variety of other movies you know and love. Oh yeah, you better believe there's a chase scene! -Thanks, Fabrice!     


Beware of Coyotes

The Parks and Recreation Department of Redwood City, California, has occasional coyotes in their parks, and erected this sign to warn park visitors. There are also tips on how to behave if you see a coyote. Don't miss the bottom part of the sign.

Call Animal Control if you see dangerous coyote activity such as:
Coyote carrying box marked "ACME"
Coyote detonating explosives/TNT
Coyote in possession of giant magnet
Coyote holding sign such as "detour" or "free bird seed"
Coyote in possession of a catapult
Coyote dropping anvil from hot air balloon

See, it pays to read the small print.  -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Stephen Zunes)


An Honest Trailer for The Predator (2018)

For some reason, they remade the 1987 movie Predator and put an article in front of it. The Predator was not well-received. Screen Junkies explains why in this Honest Trailer. It apparently lacks the mystery, charm, star power, and plausibility of the earlier film. What else is there? Special effects? Even if the special effects are better thirty years later, the original film used them ever-so-cleverly.


Before Black Lung, The Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster Killed Hundreds

Silica dust, which is released from sandstone, causes black lung among coal miners. But the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster wasn't a coal mine, it was a tunnel cut through Gauley Mountain in West Virginia in 1930. The project was expected to take four years, but 3,000 laborers completed the tunnel in 18 months. Hundreds of them died from silicosis, including teenager Dewey Flack.

"The local doctors really were not quite clear at first what they were seeing. We had young, healthy people breaking down in a very short period of time and there really isn't a lot of precedent for that," says Martin Cherniack, a University of Connecticut professor who wrote a 1986 book about the tunnel.

The count of how many workers died varies. According to congressional testimony at the time, as many as 300 people died from silicosis, caused by exposure to silica dust. Cherniack estimates the number to be at least 764 workers — including Flack.

"They would become sick, profoundly short of breath, have severe weight loss, basically be unable to move and function and exercise themselves," Cherniack says.

Flack died on May 20, 1931, two weeks after his last shift in the tunnel. His death certificate says he died of pneumonia, but according to Cherniack, company doctors often misdiagnosed worker deaths or attributed them to a disease they called "tunnelitis."  

Although there were congressional hearings, Union Carbide maintained that the deaths were not caused by silicosis. Read the story of the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster at NPR.  -via Digg

(Image courtesy of Elkem Metals Collection, West Virginia State Archives)


DNA "Magic Box" Can Help Police Analyze DNA Evidence in 90 Minutes But Is It a Misuse of Forensic Science?

In the world of prime time TV, where a complex whodunit is solved in an hour (less commercial time), DNA evidence is analyzed in just a few seconds - usually with the haggard detective hovering right outside the state-of-the-art police lab.

In real life, on the other hand, where crime labs are often understaffed and perpetually backlogged, analyzing DNA samples can take weeks if not months.

But now, in a twist where real life mimics police tv shows, there's a new machine that can analyze DNA samples very quickly.

From The New York Times:

They call it the “magic box.” Its trick is speedy, nearly automated processing of DNA.
... in early 2017, the police booking station in Bensalem became the first in the country to install a Rapid DNA machine, which provides results in 90 minutes, and which police can operate themselves. [...]
The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived.

But not everyone's excited. Critics, including legal experts and scientists, pointed out that the system can lead to trouble:

As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases. ...
“It’s a lot harder to resist the temptation just to run some people’s DNA, just to see if there’s anything useful that you get out of it,” said Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University and author of “Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA.” That approach challenges the “fundamental way we’ve structured liberty in our constitutional order.”

What do you think? Is the DNA "Magic Box" a boon or a ultimately pitfall to society?

Image source: ThermoFisher Scientific


Remember The Trackball Mouse?

You should try using a trackball mouse. No, really. Sure, they were ugly and annoying to use back in the day but have you heard of the modern trackball mice that's beginning to make a comeback?

Most peripheral manufacturers gave up on making trackball mice a long time ago, but Logitech is still plugging away at it. Their flagship MX Ergo is one of the best around—and the one I use regularly—but they also make cheaper models. Kensington is the only other major name in the trackball space, but they tend to make more traditional style trackballs.
At this point you might ask yourself, “Why in the world would I use a trackball when they died off years ago?” It’s a fair question. For starters, they can be easier on your wrists and forearms. With a typical mouse, you need to bend your wrists and slide your arms across your desk repeatedly. A trackball mouse like the MX Ergo sits in one place, and only your thumb needs to move.

So, how about it? Well, you can still use the optical mice we have nowadays but I would definitely try using these modern-style retro mice.

(Image credit: Eric Ravenscraft/The Inventory)


The Solution to Global Warming: Antacid for Planet Earth?

If worrying over global warming is giving you indigestion, you'd reach out for a bottle of antacids. But what if antacid itself - in the form of calcium carbonate powder - is actually the prescription to tackle the planet's global warming woes?

Harvard researcher Zhen Dai thought that it might:

In powdered form, calcium carbonate—often used to relieve upset stomachs—can reflect light; by peppering the sky with the shiny white particles, the Harvard researcher [Zhen Dai] thinks it might be possible to block just enough sunlight to achieve some temperature control here on Earth.

Read the rest over at Wired.

Image credit: Tony Luong/Wired


Why Fecal Transplant From "Super Poopers" Are Far More Effective

In fecal microbiota transplant, doctors take stool - and all the microbes it contains - from a donor with a healthy gut and transplant it to a patient in order to help "reset" the recipient's digestive system.

But apprently not all donor poop are created equal.

Dr. Justin O'Sullivan and and colleagues at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, as well as MIT and Harvard discovered that the success rate of fecal transplantation depends a lot on the donor. Turns out, stool samples from select "super pooper" donors often have a greater diversity of microbes that make them much more effective.

In one study the remission rate for ulcerative colitis was twice as high among recipients whose transplant included stool from one particular donor. Such results have fuelled the emergence of an unlikely sounding hero: the super-donor.
Looking at previously published studies in the field, O’Sullivan and colleagues say a stool from a super-donor often has a greater diversity of microbes. However, they add for some conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, specific components are important such as whether the stool is richer in particular bacteria – such as those which produce certain chemicals.In other studies, it has been suggested the presence of viruses in the stool might play a role in resolving certain conditions. “We think the super-donors differ depending on the condition you are trying to treat,” said O’Sullivan.

Read the rest of the story on why number two from these super donors is really number one when it comes to fecal transplant, over at The Guardian.

(Image: Unicorn Poop by louisros)

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