Alexander Graham Bell and the Garfield Assassination

Some people ask me “Why bother to collect old newspapers? If I want to read dry, boring history, I can just get a history book.” My answer to this is that even the best of history books leave out some mighty interesting aspects of historical events. The only way they can be re-discovered, is through reading original newspapers published during the time of the event. The assassination of president James Garfield in 1881 is a prime example of this.

Read the rest at HistoryBuff.com

Zoning Out Is A “Crucial” Mental State, Studies Say

Phew, I thought I had ADD or something!

Discover Magazine references several studies on the importance of zoning out, including a University of Santa Barbara case that asked participating students to read from—what else—War and Peace and to tap on a computer key when they weren’t thinking about the book. On average, the students reported wandering off topic 5.4 times in 45 minutes. Depending on the experiment, we may spend even more time—up to 50 percent to be exact—not thinking about the task-at-hand.

All of which, the article says, is a good thing.

via Lifehacker

Satellites Collide Over Siberia

Two big communications satellites collided in the first-ever crash of two intact spacecraft in orbit, shooting out a pair of massive debris clouds and posing a slight risk to the international space station.

NASA said it will take weeks to determine the full magnitude of the crash, which occurred nearly 500 miles over Siberia on Tuesday.

“We knew this was going to happen eventually,” said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA believes any risk to the space station and its three astronauts is low. It orbits about 270 miles below the collision course. There also should be no danger to the space shuttle set to launch with seven astronauts on Feb. 22, officials said, but that will be re-evaluated in the coming days.

The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 and believed to be nonfunctioning. The Russian satellite was out of control, Matney said.

The Iridium craft weighed 1,235 pounds, and the Russian craft nearly a ton.

via Yahoo! News

The Science of Romance

In humans, there are four tiny areas of the brain that some researchers say form a circuit of love. [Dr. Bianca] Acevedo, who works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is part of a team that has isolated those regions with the unromantic names of ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus.

The hot spot is the teardrop-shaped VTA. When people newly in love were put in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and shown pictures of their beloved, the VTA lit up. Same for people still madly in love after 20 years.

The VTA is part of a key reward system in the brain.

“These are cells that make dopamine and send it to different brain regions,” said Helen Fisher, a researcher and professor at Rutgers University. “This part of the system becomes activated because you’re trying to win life’s greatest prize – a mating partner.”

via azcentral

New Technology Could Display Your Dreams on Screen

A research team at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan has successfully displayed simple images produced in the human brain on a computer screen. Dream recorder anyone? In a nutshell, the device converts electrical signals sent to the visual cortex into images that can be viewed on a computer screen. In their experiment, they showed test subjects the six letters in the word neuron and succeeded in reconstructing the word on screen by measuring their brain activity. As the technology progresses, it could be possible to “see” what people are thinking, what they dream about and record it for posterity.

Personally, I’d be curious to see my own dreams, if they could be recorded (I don’t often remember my dreams unless they’re really significant or vivid); but the concept of others watching/recording thoughts or dreams is kind of creepy.

via Gizmodo

Black hole confirmed in Milky Way

I’m immediately reminded of that line from Red Dwarf:

Well, the thing about a black hole – its main distinguishing feature – is it’s black. And the thing about space, the colour of space, your basic space colour, is black. So how are you supposed to see them?

But, more to the point, this from the article:

There is a giant black hole at the centre of our galaxy, a 16-year study by German astronomers has confirmed.

They tracked the movement of 28 stars circling the centre of the Milky Way, using two telescopes in Chile.

The black hole, said to be 27,000 light years from Earth, is four million times bigger than the Sun, according to the paper in The Astrophysical Journal.

Black holes are objects whose gravity is so great that nothing – including light – can escape them.

According to Dr Robert Massey, of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the results suggest that galaxies form around giant black holes in the way that a pearl forms around grit.

via BBC NEWS

Since when do Squid have elbows?

I’d say it’d be since Shell (the oil company) found this one (click for video!). Apparently scientists have known about this kind of squid before, just they’d never captured one on film. Sure sure, they’re hiding it from us. Before you know it, we’ll be attacked by giant walking squid that can shoot laser beams from their beaks, raining destruction down upon our defenseless cities!

A mile and a half (two and a half kilometers) underwater, a remote control submersible’s camera has captured an eerie surprise: an alien-like, long-armed, and—strangest of all—”elbowed” Magnapinna squid.