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This Newly Engineered Quantum Material Could Download Your Brain!

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This Newly Engineered Quantum Material Could Download Your Brain!
Photo Credit: ww.collective-evolution.com

Purdue University and Argonne National Laboratory researchers have engineered a new material that can “interpret” the brain’s language. In other words, the material is a portal between electronics and the brain. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The quantum material (a material that has electronic properties that both can’t be explained by classical physics, and that give it a unique edge over other materials used in electronics, such as silicon) is able to automatically receive hydrogen when placed beneath an animal’s brain slice. This ability makes the material extra sensitive and extra tunable to ionic currents.

Ionic currents help the brain perform a particular reaction – reactions needed for something as basic as sending a signal to breathe. As a bonus, detecting ions means also detecting the concentration of a molecule, which serves as an indicator of the brain’s health. Therefore, this material can help a brain detect its own disease.

Hai-Tian Zhang, a Gilbreth postdoctoral fellow at Purdue’s College of Engineering and first author on the paper, said:

“The goal is to bridge the gap between how electronics think, which is via electrons, and how the brain thinks, which is via ions. This material helped us find a potential bridge.”

The black rectangle beneath these gold rungs is a new quantum material capable of “listening” to the brain by grabbing atoms, which the brain naturally uses to communicate. Credit: Purdue University. Image: Hai-Tian Zhang
The black rectangle beneath these gold rungs is a new quantum material capable of “listening” to the brain by grabbing atoms, which the brain naturally uses to communicate. Credit: Purdue University. Image: Hai-Tian Zhang

The new quantum material is a “nickelate lattice” that the scientists say could directly translate the brain’s electrochemical signals into electrical activity, which could then be interpreted by a computer. The material may make it possible to download your brain someday.

Shriram Ramanathan, a Purdue professor of materials engineering whose lab specializes in developing brain-inspired technology, said:

“Imagine putting an electronic device in the brain, so that when natural brain functions start deteriorating, a person could still retrieve memories from that device. We can confidently say that this material is a potential pathway to building a computing device that would store and transfer memories.”

The research is nowhere near actually downloading thoughts but it does invoke ideas like uploading brains to the cloud or hooking people up to a computer to track deep health metrics. At the moment, the researchers are testing out the materials capabilities on a basic molecular level. They have tested the material on two molecules: Glucose, a sugar essential for energy production, and dopamine, a chemical messenger that regulates movement, emotional responses and memory.

The material was able to detect the activity of these neurotransmitters. “This quantum material is about nine times more sensitive to dopamine than methods that we use currently in animal models,” said Alexander Chubykin, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, based in Discovery Park.

Being able to detect dopamine levels early would mean sooner treatment of disease – for example, Parkinson’s since the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease have lower levels of dopamine. However, detecting this chemical has been notoriously difficult. The researchers hypothesized that if the tech progresses, it could be used to detect neurological diseases… or perhaps even store memories. “Imagine putting an electronic device in the brain, so that when natural brain functions start deteriorating, a person could still retrieve memories from that device,” Ramanathan said.

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Largest Study Of Its Kind Finds Cannabis Helps Prevent Alcohol-Related Liver Damage

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Photo Credit: Power of Possibility

John VibesGuest Writer

In a study published earlier this year by researchers at the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec, cannabis can actually help counteract the harmful effects of alcohol to some degree.

The study found that cannabis use significantly lowered the odds of liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, steatosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.  Researchers formed these conclusions based on the medical records of roughly 320,000 patients who had a history of alcoholism.

According to the study:

“Abusive alcohol use has well‐established health risks including causing liver disease (ALD) characterized by alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), fibrosis, cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Strikingly, a significant number of individuals who abuse alcohol also use Cannabis, which has seen increased legalization globally. While cannabis has demonstrated anti‐inflammatory properties, its combined use with alcohol and the development of liver disease remain unclear.”

Researchers have not determined why alcoholics who used cannabis had less of a chance of developing liver disease, but many suspect that it has something to do with the proven anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis.

These findings support the results of another study last year which concluded that cannabis helps with non-alcoholic liver disease as well.

According to last year’s study:

“It can be hypothesized that marijuana use may have potential beneficial effects on metabolic abnormalities such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Whether marijuana use plays a role in NAFLD pathogenesis via modification of shared risk factors, or by an independent pathway remains uncertain. In this population-based study, we assessed the association between marijuana use and NAFLD in the US.”

Despite the proven health benefits of cannabis and the fact that it becoming legal in new states every year, lawmakers and mainstream media pundits refuse to give up on the reefer madness hysteria that they built their careers on.

Just after these studies were published, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control banned the sale of cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages, totally ignoring the science that this actually makes the alcohol less harmful.

This attitude can be seen in the hysteria that was created when Elon Musk took a hit of cannabis on the Joe Rogan Podcast, after spending two hours drinking liquor. Of course, even though the herb is legal in the state where they recorded, and it is far less harmful than alcohol, people decided to focus on the cannabis use because of the stigma against it.

A 2015 study, published in the journal, ‘Scientific Reports,’ suggests that smoking cannabis is roughly 114 times safer than drinking  alcohol. Ironically, out of all the drugs that were researched in the  study, alcohol was actually the most dangerous, and it was the only  legal drug on the list.

Just behind alcohol, heroin and cocaine were listed as the next most dangerous, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. The criteria that  these drugs were arranged by, was according to the likelihood of a  person dying from consuming a lethal dose.

 “The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been  overestimated in the past. At least for the endpoint of mortality, the (margin of exposure) for THC/cannabis in both individual and  population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100  for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol  may have been commonly underestimated,” the report states. “Currently, the MOE results point to risk management  prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.  The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a  strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition  approach,” the report continues.

While this is not the first study to rank marijuana very low in terms of danger, it comes at a time when the debate surrounding marijuana legalization is more heated than ever before, with more and more people agreeing that it is time to end prohibition.

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Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel

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Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel

Once tooth enamel breaks or wears away it’s over – it doesn’t grow back. That’s why dentists have to plug in the gaps with artificial fillings. But now, a team of scientists from China’s Zhejiang University and Jiujiang Research Institute says it has finally figured out how to regrow tooth enamel, a development that could totally upend dental care. The team developed a gel that has been found to help mouse teeth regrow enamel within 48 hours. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel
Photo Credit: Zhejiang University

What exactly is enamel and why can’t it regrow? It is a mineralized substance with a highly complicated structure that covers the surface of teeth. The structure is made up of enamel rods interwoven with inter-rods in a fish scale pattern which makes it the hardest tissue in the human body. It is initially formed biologically but once mature it becomes acellular, meaning it becomes devoid of the ability to self-repair. This is why cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in humans.

Electron microscope images of human tooth enamel that has been repaired for six, 12 and 48 hours. The blue area is the native enamel; the green is the repaired enamel. Photograph: Zhejiang University/Science Advances

Enamel is so complex that its structure has yet to be duplicated correctly artificially. Resins, ceramics and amalgam fillings can mend the problem but they are not a forever fix. The fact that they are made of foreign materials means they can’t achieve a permanent repair. The new gel made by the Chinese scientists is different because it is made of the same material as enamel. It is made by mixing calcium and phosphate ions – both minerals which are found in enamel – with the chemical called triethylamine in an alcohol solution.

Photo Credit: Zhejiang University

For now, the gel is only a promising sign that regenerative dentistry could someday heal tooth decay. There’s a long way to go before the gel can be used in human medicine because it is still too thin. Natural-grown enamel is 400 times thicker than that grown with assistance from the new gel. Until they can solve that piece of the puzzle, fillings will continue to be the more useful option for people with cavities for the foreseeable future.

The scientists are currently continuing the testing on mice and plan to eventually test the gel on people, tracking how the new enamel holds up as they go about their day, eating, drinking, and chewing.

This article (Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic

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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic
Photo Credit: BBC

Elias Marat, TMU

As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have looked for various ways to cut down on single-use plastics, with many cities and countries across the world seeking to put an end to plastic bags, straws, and other common products in favor of more sustainable, environmentally sound options.

And at the University of the Valley of Atemajac (UNIVA) which lies just outside of Guadalajara in Mexico’s Jalisco state, chemical engineering professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz has found a novel alternative to plastic—one based on nopal, or prickly pear cactus, which has long been a national symbol of Mexico and a crucial staple of the Mexican diet.

Pascoe and her students have devised a way to form a new biodegradable plastic using the juice from the edible cactus’ fruit, known as the tuna, to make the innovative new product.

Pascoe told the BBC:

“It’s a non-toxic product. All the materials we use can be ingested both by humans or animals. And they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

The cactus-based plastic is formed out of the juice of the nopal, which contains sugars, pectin, and organic acids that grant it a viscous consistency.

When the juice is blended with a mixture of glycerol, colorants, proteins, natural waxes and decanted to remove the fibre, the formula is then dried out on a hot plate to produce the plastic.

In a separate interview with EFE news agency last year, Pascoe explained how she collaborated with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to measure just how quickly and in which conditions the new biodegradable plastic would break down. Pascoe noted:

“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down.”

The invention could provide a crucial substitute for the commonly used petroleum-based plastics that are choking waterways and ocean life worldwide. Instead, this biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures rather than contributing to their demise.

For the time being, however, the production of the cactus-based plastic is limited to Pascoe’s lab, where she and her students spend time manufacturing the potentially revolutionary substitute.

Her former students have even experimented with using the formula to produce toys for their kids, according to KJZZ.

Michelle Mendoza, who has completed her industrial engineering degree but continues working with Pascoe, explained:

“My daughter loves to buy toys in the markets and then once she played with it one day, she didn’t want it anymore.”

So Mendoza made strawberry-shaped plastics that excited her daughter for a bit, but then met the same fate as the rest of her toys and were discarded after a day in “the same way,” she laughingly said, noting that at least the nopal-based toys can be dissolved in water after three weeks unlike plastic toys.

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz remains hopeful that one day, her biodegradable plastic can be used commercially, although she doesn’t have plans to turn a huge profit and become some sort of bio-plastic tycoon.

Instead, she hopes to simply continue her work as a researcher and reduce the impact of solid waste in Mexico and around the world.

“Maybe I’m too much of an idealist.”

This article (Mexican Scientist Discovers a Way to Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic) was originally published at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted here with permission.

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Spiders Can Use Electricity To Fly Hundreds Of Miles

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Photo Credit: www.mentalfloss.com

Sometimes, on a rainy day, when a predator is at bay, or if they want to migrate away, spiders whip out their silk, and balloon away. “Ballooning” has been a mystery for over a century already and now scientists are finally beginning to understand it.

Charles Darwin started being curious about how these wingless spiders can fly so far when he found thousands of them on the deck of the HMS Beagle ship on October 31, 1832. The ship was 60 miles offshore, which means the spiders must have floated over from the Argentinian mainland. These tiny red spiders, each a millimetre wide, were spotted all over the ship. “All the ropes were coated and fringed with gossamer web,” wrote Darwin.

What Is Ballooning?

Even though spiders have no wings they can still take to the air and fly away. Spiders have even been found two and a half miles up in the air and 1,000 miles out to sea. How do they do this? By ballooning. Ballooning is the behavior in which a spider climbs to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away.

It was believed that ballooning worked because the silk catches wind, dragging the spider with it. Although since spiders only balloon during light winds, that doesn’t make much sense. Some spiders are quite large, therefore it seems unlikely that such a light breeze could be strong enough to carry them aloft, or to generate the high accelerations of arachnid takeoff. Darwin found the speed of the spiders’ travel to be “quite unaccountable” and its cause to be “inexplicable.”

How Does Ballooning Work?

A duo from the University of Bristol, Erica Morley and Daniel Robert, have figured out the mystery of how ballooning really works. They discovered that spiders can actually sense the Earth’s electric field, and use it to launch themselves into the air. What’s impressive, is that the electric fields can even provide them with a lift without the slightest breeze.

Where Does The Electricity Come From?

The Earth’s atmosphere is basically a giant electrical circuit due to the 40,000 thunderstorms that crackle around the world every single day. These thunderstorms act like a giant battery for the atmosphere, charging up and maintaining the electric fields. Even on sunny, cloudless days, the air still carries around 100 volts for every meter above the ground. On stormy, foggy days, that number rises to tens of thousands of volts per meter. The highest reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere (ionosphere) have a positive charge while the planet’s surface has a negative one.

Photo Credit: www.superiorwallpapers.com

The ballooning spiders operate within this planetary electric field. The moment their silk leaves their bodies, it picks up a negative charge. The similar negative charges are repelled on the surfaces on which the spiders sit, generating enough force to lift them into the air. Spiders can increase those forces by crawling onto leaves, twigs or even grass. How do they increase those forces by just crawling on plants? Plants have the same negative charge as the ground, but they protrude into the positively charged air causing substantial electric fields between the air around them and the tips of their leaves and branches.

Testing The Spiders

The idea of ballooning behavior caused by electrostatic repulsion was first proposed in the 1800s but was dismissed without being tested. Then in 2013 the idea was brought back to life by a physicist, Peter Gorham, who showed that it was mathematically plausible. Now most recently, Morley and Robert were interested to see if the spiders actually responded to the electric fields and their fluctuations, so they tested it with actual spiders.

In order to show that the spiders can detect electric fields they put them on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling. They generated similar strengths of electricity to what the spiders would naturally experience outdoors. The fields caused tiny sensory hairs on the spiders’ feet to ruffle up. These sensory hairs are called trichobothria, which the researchers believe is what the spiders use to detect electricity. “It’s like when you rub a balloon and hold it up to your hairs,” Morley said.

Once the spiders’ trichobothria were ruffled they performed a set of movements called tiptoeing. Tiptoeing is when the spider stands on the end of their legs and stick their abdomens in the air, which is a behavior only ever seen when ballooning. Despite being in closed boxes with no airflow, many of the spiders managed to take off. But once Morley turned off the electric fields within the boxes, the spiders dropped.

Conclusion

The same hairs that allow spiders to sense electric fields also help them to detect wind speed or direction, so it’s possible that air currents might also play a role in ballooning. Nonetheless, Morley and Robert’s study reveals that electrostatic forces are, on their own, enough to propel spiders into the air.

The researchers published this study in Current Biology.

This article (Spiders Can Use Electricity To Fly Hundreds Of Miles) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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