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Weird Science in the News – March

March 26, 2010

It’s time for the weird! This month, I’m providing background music that brings back the oddities of the ’80s:

The definition of weird is subjective, and I do my best to incorporate different perceptions while keeping the number of articles small. That last part was difficult for this post, because this has been a busy month for science journalists. 

Don’t you love reminders that we’re on a ball floating in space? Well, this month started out with one: “Chile Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth”.

Fortunately, the change to our planet’s days is too small to percieve as we go about our daily business. Which is really good, because some of us already deal with distorted perception from changes in our brains. Am I complaining about my migraines? No, certainly not. Pain, black floaters, and the rare sensation of my consciousness trying to escape out of the back of my neck is nothing on what some people deal with: “When the world looks like a real-life Wonderland”.

Movie monster

The Predator, master of cloaking tech

Scientists have been attempting to make an invisibility cloak for longer than I can remember. A cloak that allows its wearer to move unseen is a tempting concept, one used in fiction for centuries, and won’t be dropped until someone makes it a reality. Each experiment does seem to bring scientists closer to their goal. The latest approach seems to be a German experiment with tiny crystals. A member of the team was quoted as saying large-scale cloaking “could become a reality in 10 years.” Hm, I haven’t heard that before.

Just like no one has ever talked about finding the secret of immortality. Well, wait a minute–I’ve learned of a way! Reincarnate into an immortal jellyfish, avoid predators and toxins, and pray for someone to rescue you when your habitat dies. All right, I’m being snarky. However, the animal called the immortal jellyfish does exist, and it possesses an unusual ability to prolong its life. You can read more from “The world’s only immortal animal” on a Yahoo blog  or from Discover’s older blog post, “The Curious Case of the Immortal Jellyfish“.

Here’s one of my favorite discoveries of the month. A NASA probe captured the first evidence of recognizable multi-cellular life under Antarctic ice, encouraging more daydreams of higher life off-planet. Something that might have been a jellyfish offered up a tentacle for scientific study, but more interesting is the brightly-colored, shrimp-like creature that showed off on video.

More news that didn’t surprise as much as delight me involved microbes. A recent study by the University of Colorado shows that Hand Bacteria Left On Surfaces Could be Forensic Tool and provides good material for science fantasy and crime fiction.

And finally, Johns Hopkins scientists have determined that the drug, minocycline, prevents HIV breakouts. This antibiotic, which may become a part of the drug cocktail used to treat AIDS, has been used since the 1970s as a treatment for acne.

You may now return to your normal programming.

10 comments

  1. What a great post! Thanks for keeping in the loop with the scientific underworld. I love this line: “Something that might have been a jellyfish offered up a tentacle for scientific study….”

    And, I love the 80’s! The music always makes me laugh – in a good way – about those years when I came of age :)

    Lordy.


    • Thank you for reading, Christi! I like having another excuse to dig through scientific articles.

      Artists of the ’80s used a great deal of creative energy to blend frivolity and fear. I hope that I took in just enough of that energy when I was little. ‘Cause, you know, one could have too much!


  2. Sorry about your migraines, not fun. Thanks for all the “weird” news. I think the idea of making the invisibility cloak a reality is awesome! I so want that. I also want a time turner and a flying broom. :) I don’t know if I’m quite ready to become a jellyfish in the name of immortality yet, though, but ask me again in fifty years. :)


    • Too bad the groups most likely to use invisibility cloaks will be militaries and criminals. A flying broom, though? We should all have one.


  3. If I wrote fantasy, I would incorporate that transdifferentiation thing.

    The Alice in Wonderland Syndrome reminds me of this feeling I used to get right before falling asleep. The only way I can describe it is that I felt as if I became an orb. Happened a lot when I was a child, but it’s been a long time now.


    • Linda, that’s interesting. From the comments on the article, it looks like the the syndrome’s prevalence has been underestimated.


      • You know, Ann, another thing that struck me about this syndrome is that it seemed many of the kids didn’t really freak out about it, just accepted it. I think this is an interesting trait of children. It’s not just horrific things like child abuse that they keep to themselves. They keep wondrous things secret too. I know I did, and sometimes I think it was because I didn’t want a mundane adult explanation. I wanted to believe in a magical realm.


  4. did you see the movie weird science? Thinking of it now, I wonder what was so weird in it? Ah well…it’s just the whole 80s weirdness perhaps.
    Thanks for the post – it is fun!


    • I saw the movie when I was a kid. The weird “science” was the creation of a living woman by using computers.



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