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Study: Dreaming Helps Brain Forget Excess Memories

We are bombarded by a lot of information everyday. Much of this information that we receive turn into memories in our brains. Unfortunately, as with the words of Ronald Davis, a neurobiologist at the Scripps Research Institute, “we simply cannot deal with all of it.” And so, it is necessary that we forget some things.

In a study of mice, researchers led by Akihiro Yamanaka of Japan’s Nagoya University have pinpointed neurons which help the brain forget excess memories.

[As they] report in the journal Science, special cells called melanin-concentrating hormone, or M.C.H., neurons, release electrical signals during R.E.M. sleep—a sleep phase marked by rapid eye movement, heightened heart rate and intense dreams. This process, in turn, enables the brain to filter out unneeded information and create room for new memories.
According to Sheikh, Yamanaka and his colleagues realized M.C.H. neurons’ significance while studying sleep patterns in mice. Spurred by the realization that these cells interfere with the hippocampus, a brain region needed to consolidate memories, the team decided to conduct a series of tests.

Know more about this study over at

(Image Credit: Robert-Owen-Wahl/ Pixabay)


The Structure That Unites All Human Languages

As we breathe in, our lungs get filled with air which is carried through every part of our lungs through tubes, which are organized in a certain way. These tubes branch off, with one going to the left lung, and the other going to the right. By branching again and again into tinier and tinier tubes, our lungs are filled with air. Without this type of process, we would be dead, and this type of process depends on the principle called self-similarity.

Self-similarity is everywhere in nature. Look at a fern: Each fern leaf is composed of smaller replicas of itself, which are composed of yet smaller replicas. Or think of vast deltas, where huge rivers branch out into smaller and smaller streams and rivulets until they vanish into the earth or oceans. Each branching of a river is similar to a previous branching that created that river.

Why is this principle present everywhere? Because it is efficient. And when I say, everywhere, it really is present everywhere — even in language.

Human language is amazingly creative. If you make up a sentence of any complexity, and search for that exact sentence on the Internet, it’s almost never there. Virtually everything we say is novel. Yet at the heart of this capacity of ours lies an incredibly simple piece of mental technology: Merge. Merge takes two bits of language, say two words, and creates out of them another bit of language. It builds the hierarchical structures of language.
Merge was proposed by Noam Chomsky in the early 1990s. He argued that this single piece of mental technology, plus language specific constraints that children could learn from their linguistic experiences, was enough to capture the syntax of all human languages.

Know more about this principle over at Nautilus.

(Image Credit: geralt/ Pixabay)


The Sony-Disney Battle for Spider-Man

So we have all probably heard that Spider-Man will be taken out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the time being. There isn't really a clear reason as to why Disney and Sony wasn't able to come up with an agreement on the matter. Here are some details on it and what's going to happen now that Spidey's gone from the MCU.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Columbia Pictures/Pascal Pictures; IMDb)


The Vietnam Myth That Gave Us All Those Rambo Movies

The fifth film featuring Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam vet John Rambo, Rambo: Last Blood, opened this weekend. The most successful of the franchise so far is Rambo: First Blood Part Two, the 1985 film in which Rambo returns to Vietname to rescue American POWs that were secretly held after the US pulled out of the country. More than 40 years later, there is no evidence that any POWs remain in Vietnam, but that doesn't convince those who still believe. Where did that conspiracy theory begin? It began when support for the war faded among the American public.

As the many fictions necessary to sustain the war were exposed, Nixon and company needed a new approach — and a new lie. In a press conference on May 19, 1969, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announced the existence of around 1,300 American soldiers now deemed “missing in action,” around half of whom were believed to be prisoners of war. The unaccounted for would now publically be described as “POW/MIA,” implying that any serviceperson missing in Vietnam could also be a prisoner of war. This transformed the war from a political issue into a humanitarian one, trading public support for sympathy. It didn’t matter why we were there in the first place: our boys were there, and by God were we going to do anything to get our boys home.

Suddenly, the public image of Vietnam looked very different. The very real footage of brutalized Vietnamese bodies, wailing children, and napalmed villages was traded for a fantasy — all of the violence that had been done in Uncle Sam’s name was now being done to him. The POW issue soon became a cause celebre.

That continued after the war, as many people were convinced that there were more prisoners being held after hundreds were released by the new Vietnamese government. After all, more than a thousand US troops are still unaccounted for (compared to more than 72,000 still listed as "missing" from World War II). Former Green Beret and Special Forces operative James Gordon “Bo” Gritz emerged as the leading proponents of the idea that POWS were still being held in Vietnam. In 1982, he actually led a raid on Laos to free those prisoners. Gritz's adventure in Laos became the template for the second Rambo movie, Rambo: First Blood Part II, although the plot was changed to have a successful ending. Read about the POW/MIA myth and its consequences at the Outline. -via Digg


A Larger Than Life Version of the Game of Operation

Perhaps the classic Milton Bradley game of Operation is easier if you're not trying to remove body parts from a tiny person. Now Cavity Sam has grown to fully 8 feet tall! Engineers Benjamin Lehrer and Jonathan Roach of Spot Technology made this enormous version of Operation in which the player uses a CNC arm controlled from an arcade cabinet to rescue Sam from his ills.

Just like in the original game, you have avoid the edges. The surgical arm is magnetized to pick up the game pieces. You can see more photos here.

-via Hack-A-Day


Foolish Scientists Find Mysterious, Alien-Like Creature in Antarctic Ice, Bring It Home

As usual, scientists have been hard at work trying to kill us all. Most recently, a team of these reckless researchers traveled on board a New Zealand research vessel to Antarctica, where they found a previously-unknown form of life beneath two miles of ice. Rather than leave it there to slumber in peace, they brought it back to the ship!

Wilford Brimley, an actor who starred in the 1982 documentary The Thing, knows something about the dangers of reviving mysterious lifeforms in the Antarctic.

The Express, a British tabloid, says that the scientists are calling it a "sea cucumber," which is a pretty cute name for our new eldritch masters.

-via Aelfred the Great | Image: Tracks


A Man Will Drink the "Sourtoe Cocktail" That Contains His Own Amputated Toe

In the wild west town of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, there is a bar called the Sourdough Saloon. Since 1973, that bar has offered its famous "Sourtoe Cocktail." This is a shot of whiskey that contains a dehydrated amputated human toe. Drinking it enters you into the prestigious Sourtoe Cocktail Club, which entitles you to the respect of your fellow man wherever your travels may take you.

You aren't supposed to swallow the toe, but that hasn't stopped more enterprising drinkers from doing so. Occasionally toes are lost, so the Sourdough Saloon has a standing request soliciting people to donate their toes to the bar so that they can always have a supply for their customers.

Nick Griffiths, a Royal Marines veteran and extreme sports competitor, saw an ad from the saloon asking for toes, so he offered them three of his own. He is now planning on traveling to Dawson City so that he can drink the famous Sourtoe Cocktail with one of his own donated toes. KTVU News reports:

According to the Post, the inn was in desperate need of a quality big toe as the “titular toe” of the $5 Sourtoe Cocktail is is so sought-after that it frequently gets stolen.
“We have been without a big toe for some time, so his generous toe-nation will help ensure the tradition continues,” Downtown Hotel general manager Adam Gerle said in a news release.
On Monday night, Griffiths will be reunited with his lost digit for the first time since losing them in the ultramarathon. The Yukon tourism board will fly him out from Manchester to the hotel for the long-awaited drink. He will be the first person ever to drink the Sourtoe cocktail featuring his own detached big toe.
“I am excited to be returning to the Yukon and reuniting with my detached digit,” the man said, as per the Post. “Doing the Sourtoe Cocktail with my own big toe will be a memory I will take to the grave,” Griffiths says.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: Vancouver Courier


How to Make a Jellyfish Shot

The effect of a single drop of heavy cream is remarkable! It seems to swim through the vodka like a jellyfish in motion. Of course, I'd probably move like that, too, if I swam through vodka for a while.

Here's the complete recipe: 1 part blue curaçao, 2 parts vodka, 1 part sambuca, and 1 drop of cream.

-via Super Punch


Overwatch Fans Make Trailer Showing Link as a Playable Character

Since Overwatch will be coming to the Nintendo Switch next month, many fans are excited to see what's in store. However, some of them expected a little more from the game as it will be crossing over to Nintendo, like say, having Zelda's Link as a playable character.

Yesterday, a five-person team of animators and visual artists posted a video titled "[NOW PLAYABLE] Link Overwatch" on Vimeo. The 50 second clip is a meticulous recreation of Overwatch's Play of the Game highlight reel intros that features Link designed in the title's colorful and exaggerated art style.

(Image credit: Stephane Videlo; screencap)


Redefining the Hero's Journey in James Gray's "Ad Astra"

When we watch blockbuster movies, especially ones akin to an epic, the stories often focus on the journey as a whole instead of the little moments that would seem trivial in comparison to the significance of the characters' quest, especially that of the main protagonist, to go or do something.

But that's what James Gray's "Ad Astra" tries to redefine. Though it's an epic of astronomical proportions, he is still able to hone in on the smallest essence of the characters.

At a time when people are wondering if big-screen epics can still afford to tell personal stories, Gray has told a personal story that demanded to be a big-screen epic.
“Ad Astra” is nothing if not a movie about how difficult it can be for people — especially men — to recalibrate their ambitions and realize what’s truly meaningful in their lives. Kids are by no means a magic bullet.
Over the course of its grand and mesmeric trip through the cosmos, “Ad Astra” pushes to restore a certain perspective to the hero’s journey — to make people step back and see themselves with the same terrifying smallness that confronted NASA astronauts when they first looked at our planet from another world.

(Image credit: Ad Astra/Francois Duhamel/20th Century Fox; IMDb)


Found: A Pork Vending Machine in a Laundromat

When I heard about the bacon vending machine in Ohio, I was happy. I thought, "Yeah! America still has what it takes!"

Meanwhile, Japan yawns. Granted, vending machines are a high art form in that nation. But Sora News 24 mentions in an off-hand manner that its reporters found a pork products vending machine in a laundromat in Fukuoka City.

It's located in an office building that contains the headquarters for a pork company. From this vending machine, the company sells defective products that weren't quite up to spec. Think of it as a little scratch-and-dent store, but for ham.

In addition to ham, it sells pork sausages and bacon. So it's like a full-service grocery store inside a laundromat.


Bullying And The Shaping of The Adolescent Brain

There has been a continuously increasing volume of data which has demonstrated that victimization, the clinical term for bullying, affects hundreds of millions of children and adolescents which can sometimes last for years and even decades. This is seen as a global health challenge by the World Health Organization and the United Nations. However, researchers maintain there is still a limited understanding of how this act can affect the developing brain physically.

Most of the research into the neurobiological processes that might contribute to these negative health outcomes has occurred in the past decade, much of it focused on bullying’s impact on the body’s stress response system. A paper published last December in the journal Molecular Psychiatry sheds some light on a different area: brain architecture. The trauma stemming from chronic bullying can affect the structure of the brain, according to longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data collected by an international team based at King’s College London. The findings echo previous research, which has demonstrated similar changes in children and adults who experienced what’s known as “child maltreatment” — neglect or abuse by adult caregivers.
Long-term changes to the brain’s structure and chemistry are an indicator “of how sinister bullying is” says Tracy Vaillancourt, a developmental psychologist at the University of Ottawa. Along with others in the field, she is hopeful that studies like the one from King’s College will be a catalyst for further research which could ultimately be used to inform policy decisions and support anti-bullying interventions.

Find out more details about this study over at Undark.

(Image Credit: ElisaRiva/ Pixabay)


An Author and Activist States That We Are "Sleepwalking Toward Apocalypse"

Naomi Klein, an author and activist, in her book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, states that we are all "sleepwalking toward apocalypse." Her new book, which is a collection of reports, public talks, and essays, demands that a radical action be made in order to save our dying planet.

If we don’t end carbon emissions quickly, the future of our planet is in serious jeopardy. According to the Green New Deal, which Klein co-authored, America has ten years to do it. A burgeoning youth movement recognizes the dire situation. On September 20, 2019, youth around the world organized climate strikes, demanding change. And while its leader Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish environmental activist whose autistic condition––she sees the climate situation in black and white––has illuminated the dissonance between the rise in global temperatures and the lack of political action, many of us simply turn our heads and look the other way.

Klein states that denying climate change is not actually about disputing science. Rather, it is about the fear of “the radical redistribution of power and wealth necessary to heal the planet.” She also argues that major issues like gender, race, economic inequality, climate change, and corporate overreach should not be seen in a compartmentalized manner. She believes that since these issues are inextricably interwoven, “only a holistic approach to equalizing society will suffice”.

Hope Reese of JSTOR Daily spoke to Klein regarding this matter. See the interview over at the site.

(Image Credit: TheDigitalArtist/ Pixabay)


ESA Releases A Breathtaking Mosaic of the Mars Surface

This mosaic of the Red Planet released by the European Space Agency (ESA) is made up of many images taken by the agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. These images were then stitched together, resulting in this highly detailed mosaic.

It indeed is a magnificent image.

(Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)


A Strange Museum Dedicated To Historic Buildings

This is the Weald and Downland Living Museum, spread over 40 acres in the village of Singleton, in West Sussex. This museum is dedicated to real historic buildings. It showcases over 50 buildings which date from the 10th to the 19th century. The aforementioned buildings were rescued from demolition.

Each building has been carefully dismantled, transported from its original site, and painstakingly reconstructed here. There are homes, farmhouses, workers’ cottages, shops, barns, schools, churches and more. They come from all over South East England.

In other words, what you see here are not merely reproductions; they are the authentic ones.

The buildings are furnished just as they would have been in the past, so exploring the houses is like walking through almost a thousand years of rural English life. You can climb the stairs of a 17th-century craftsman’s cottage to lie on the straw bed, grind flour in the 17th-century watermill, or even taste some beef with prune pottage and walnuts in a 1540’s Tudor kitchen.

See the photos over at the Amusing Planet.

(Image Credit: Adrian Cable/ Wikimedia Commons)

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