Courtesy of the Retro Sci-fi Image Repository of Greater Boston on Facebook, here are some great old sci-fi and retro space images.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Comic Book Resources has run a series of 100 articles on mainly Silver Age comics with mind-bending and gender-bending themes. These comics (see the full list here) reflected how society was changing at the time. In March 2013, CBR focused on Mystery in Space #8 by John Broome, Bob Oksner and Bernard Sach, first published in the summer of 1952. In this issue, gender roles are reversed, and then reversed again - and only space exploration makes it all possible.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Image Source: Kim Zetty.
In yesterday's post, I mentioned a reader's mysterious radical discrepancy in memory from the memories of those around him. Today, a natural but disturbing possible explanation for his experience comes from the field of medical research, where scientists are performing experiments on the effect magnets have on the brain.
Magnetic fields, when applied to the brain, can improve memory and video game play. But they can also change your moral compass. In other words, 'moral compass' is not just a figure of speech. It reflects a real relationship between human morality and magnetic fields.
A reporter's ability to speak is temporarily interrupted due to exposure to magnetic fields. Video Source: Mercola.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Many people, at some point in their lives, enter a realm bounded by mystery. This is a famous theme in noir and horror movies. David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) explored what would happen if two 'normal,' 'everyday,' 'rational' people veered off into mystery.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Title card to the opening of Episode 1 of the BBC series, Civilisation (1969). Image Source: BBC via Wiki.
Over the past generation, the word, 'civilization,' especially as it relates to 'Western Civilization,' (in capital letters) has become a contested subject. A politicized view in academic circles inverted the concept once taken for granted in the 1950s and 1960s. Scholars have challenged the idea of civilization as a source of racism, blind arrogance and violent imperial domination of other societies. Sometimes the critique looks at the Christian religion as a source of benighted oppression. Sometimes the fatal flaws of 'civilization' are colonialism, discrimination and power imbalances around race, class or gender. This post describes that Western/post-Western debate. It also considers how that debate has distracted from, and obscured, the evolution of new institutions and social conditions which constitute an emerging new establishment.
Image Source: Tribe.
More news from back at the lab: the mythological chimera is coming alive in Millennial medical and genetic experiments. In the Greek myths, the original chimera we know dated from around 350 BCE; it was a female creature with the combined anatomy of a lion, snake and goat (see it here). 'Chimera' used in the modern cultural sense (as here, in a recent post at Ghost Hunting Theories) has come to mean any multi-part monster or hybridized fantastic creature. Often, these creatures' liminal nature and extraordinary anatomy and abilities saw them associated in ancient times with spirits, religions, deities or divine power.
The growing scientific capacity of our society so disturbs the popular imagination that some Millennial conspiracy theorists speculate that the chimeras in Greek mythology were in fact genetic chimeras created by ancient alien scientists. In this way, they reenforce an imaginative continuity with the cultural context of the deep past; and they do this at the very point where today's findings are placing that connection with the past under its greatest moment of stress.
Recent mentions of chimeras or quasi-chimeras include:
- 1997: The Vacanti Earmouse
- August 2003: Rabbit-human fusion - "Researchers at the Shanghai Second Medical University in China reported that they had successfully fused human skin cells and dead rabbit eggs to create the first human chimeric embryos."
- January 2004: Pigs with human blood - pig-human chimera cells surprise researchers: "Pigs grown from fetuses into which human stem cells were injected have surprised scientists by having cells in which the DNA from the two species is mixed at the most intimate level. It is the first time such fused cells have been seen in living creatures. ... The adult pigs that had received human stem cells as fetuses were found to have pig cells, human cells and the hybrid cells in their blood and organs."
- April 2005: Cat-human hybrid proteins - "Allergic to cats? Then you’ll appreciate this experiment. The feline Fel d 1 protein found in cat saliva contains an allergen that affects humans. When cats lick themselves, the saliva on their fur dries and turns into dust. In April 2005, scientists at the University of California created a human-cat hybrid when they fused the Fel d 1 protein with a human protein known to suppress allergic reactions. The feline protein would bind to immune cells that would cause the reaction and the human protein would tell the immune cells to calm down. When tested in mice, the chimeric protein stifled the allergy, and researchers hope they can be used in the future to treat allergy sufferers."
- 2005-present: Mouse-human brain - "Irving Weissman, Stanford University professor and cofounder of the biotech company StemCells Inc., was granted permission by Stanford to create a mouse-human hybrid in 2005. Weissman and his team transplanted human-brain stem cells into the brains of mice with the intention to study neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. In his initial experiment, the human cells only made up less than 1 percent of the mouse brain. ... In 2010, Stanford researchers announced they transformed mouse skin cells into fully functional neurons in a laboratory dish for the first time. They also announced in May  that they successfully used mouse stem cells to develop sensory hair cells, which could combat human hearing loss."
- 2007: Sheep with human livers - "scientists at the University of Nevada School of Medicine created a sheep whose blood contained 15% human cells and 85% sheep cells." From Discovery News: " In 2007, scientists at the University of Nevada-Reno announced they could grow livers made up of 20 percent human cells in sheep. Dr. Esmail Zanjani injected either human adult stem cells derived from bone marrow, or human embryonic stem cells, into growing sheep fetuses. Zanjani said he uses sheep because the circulation systems of sheep and humans are similar."
- 2008: Cow eggs with human cells - "British researchers were given approval to conduct human-animal hybrid research in 2008 ... . The nucleus of the cow egg ... was removed, and replaced with the nucleus of a human cell such as a skin cell. Once the egg was allowed to develop and multiply it would become a early-stage cloned embryo called a blastocyst. Scientists could then extract the stem cells from this blastocyst to use in disease treatments."
- February 2010: Mouse-human liver - "Using a mouse that was having liver problems of its own, the researchers replaced its liver with one that was made up of 95 percent human cells to study treatments for Hepatitis. Shown here is a cluster of mouse liver cells that have been replaced with human cells (shown in green). Typically, small animals can't be infected with Hepatitis, only humans and chimps can, but this "humanized" mouse not only became infected, it successfully responded to drug treatments."
- 19 June 2011: Pigs could grow human organs in stem cell breakthrough.
"Is it OK to inject human cells into other animals like laboratory mice and create hybrids? A few weeks ago [in July 2011], scientists announced they had mixed human DNA into cows in order to make them produce human breast milk. (One justification for this was that it would help children in underdeveloped countries.)" Image Source: Zoe.
In research published in 2013, scientists reveal they have implanted human brain cells in mice in order to investigate brain cell functions to treat certain diseases (Hat tip: Evo Terra; George Dvorsky).
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Artificial jellyfish life made from rat cells on silicone. Image Source: Discovery.
From the Frankenfuture Files:
Will humans, whose organs will be repaired and implanted in this manner, still be fully human? You can see a film of the Franken-jelly-rat thing swimming around below the jump.A team of scientists has taken the heart cells of a rat, arranged them on a piece of rubbery silicon[e], added a jolt of electricity, and created a “Franken-jelly.” Just like a real jellyfish, the artificial jelly swims around by pumping water in and out of its bell-shaped body. Researchers hope the advance can someday help engineers design better artificial hearts and other muscular organs. ...
Bioengineers John Dabiri from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and Kevin Kit Parker from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University adopted a motto: Copy nature, but not too much. “Some engineers build things out of concrete, copper and steel—we build things out of cells,” says Parker.
The duo and their colleagues stenciled out the ideal jellyfish shape on silicon[e], a material that would be sturdy but flexible, much like the jellyfish itself. They then coached rat muscle cells to grow in parallel bands on the silicon[e] and encased the cells with a stretchy material called elastomer. To get their artificial jellyfish, or medusoid, swimming, the researchers submerged it in a salty solution and ran an electric current through the water, jump-starting the rat cells. The mimic propelled itself rapidly in the water, swimming as effectively as a real jellyfish, the researchers report online today in Nature Biotechnology.
One commenter at the foot of the Wired article said: "wow, way to try to drum up a story. Shocker: when you stimulate muscle cells, they contract. Glad to see that great taxpayer money going towards this pointless research."
To this, someone responded: "Yep, slam down the whole thing to zapping cells, just like that frog in the lab you never got into cause your creationist parents didint want you to. Never mind that the issue here is isolated cell growth artificially arranged to perform a function outside its original specs. Gee, what would happen if we learnt how to make heart muscle cells grow around damaged tissue in an orderly way to re enable proper heart functions? God forbid we find out."
Another wrote: "As far as I can tell, this research was funded privately ... Seed funding for the Harvard Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering was provided by the university. In 2009, Harvard received the largest philanthropic gift in its history - $125 million - from Hansjörg Wyss for the above mentioned institute. As far as this research being useless, these quotes from the article might give you a clue as to how this particular project could be useful: 'Researchers hope the advance can someday help engineers design better artificial hearts and other muscular organs." "By studying how jellyfish manipulate liquids with their body, Parker says, scientists may be able to come up with more accurate ways to fix or even replace damaged heart valves.' My wife had to have her aortic valve replaced with an artificial valve due to a birth defect - research of this type is VERY meaningful to some people. Try to do two minutes of research before you write off important work with your politicized BS."
Yet another commenter wrote: "I, for one, welcome our new jelly-rat overlords."