July 27, 2012

Link Hive #4, or We Are Now Living in the Future

It's been a while, so no doubt you are eager for another...

How'dya like our new "Link Hive" logo?  It took us literally minutes to create. - ed.

You, dear reader, may have guessed that I run with the science and math crowd, and you'd be right to a certain extent.  Way back when I was just a meager grad student trying to establish myself as a legit "smart guy" I remember a fellow student giving a presentation of his proposed dissertation topic to a group of faculty, post-docs, and researchers.  (This is going to fly over many of your heads, so I apologize in advance.  But, don't worry it flew over my head the first time I heard it, too.)  His proposal: firing laser pulses lasting only a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second, that's 10(-15)seconds, or just a couple of wavelengths long) into a gas to interact with individual atoms, producing detectable scattering of the light due to the motion of electrons by a method known as Raman spectroscopy.  In effect this would allow him to "see" the quantum mechanical motion of electrons.  This student was a particularly brilliant lad, so naturally the faculty told him his idea would never work.  They were clearly threatened by his genius. (My proposal for monitoring epoxy curing in-situ by evanescent wave spectroscopy via embedded fiber-optics was politely encouraged.  Meaning it was so obvious an elementary that it was beneath them to ridicule my proposal.  Kind of like patting a four-year-old on the head for coloring inside the lines for the first time.)  Well, the joke's on them, because it has been done.  This article, Imaging the Quantum Motion of Electrons, that appears in the Physics arXiv1 Blog from Technology Review shows results from a similarly conducted experiment.  It may not occur to many of you how groundbreaking it is to actually be able to image quantum motion, but let me assure you that it a very big deal.  Almost Higgs boson big.

Speaking of doing awesome (in every sense of the word) things with light, I give you the relatively new field of optogenetics.  The headline of this story says it all: Scientist control monkeys' brains with light.
For the first time, scientists have been able to affect the behavior of a primate using optogenetics—a technique by which genetically modified neurons are made to fire with light. The study, published today in the journal Current Biology, sets the stage for using this powerful new tool to study how the brain enables complex primate cognition and, more distantly, for using the technique to treat disease.
We are living in the future, my friends.

If, however, you are more comfortable living in the past, here's an awesome video full of classic 80's fashions/hairstyles/orthodontia.  Thanks to the wonderful Make Blogthis blog, we are treated to this anti-porn seminar put on by your favorite evangelical gadfly, Dr. James Dobson, titled Pornography: A Winnable War.  This is the height of unintentional comedy and dramatic irony given what we know about the porn industry today, but that's not why it's so much fun: sweater vests, huge eyeglass frames, and mullets, lots of mullets.  The reaction shots are just precious.

1If you didn't immediately grok that arXive = archive, then breathe a sign of relief, because you are not a gigantic nerd.  Only a a scientist/engineer/mathematician to instantly get the pun: "X" is also the Greek letter "chi" (pronounced: ki').  We suppose you could be fluent in Greek, though.. - ed.

2Apparently this wasn't supposed to be posted to the Make Magazine RSS feed.  Mark Frauenfelder is a naughty, naughty boy.  The post was taken down quickly after posting, but thanks to the internet that mistake will live on forever.  Good thing we've never make a mistake...oh, wait. -ed.

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