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Russell Foster: Why do we sleep?

Russell Foster: Why do we sleep?

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.

Russell Foster studies sleep and its role in our lives, examining how our perception of light influences our sleep-wake rhythms.

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM?

Much as your ear does double duty (balance plus hearing), Russell Foster posits that the eye has two jobs: creating vision, but also — as a completely separate function — managing our perception of light and dark, providing the clues that our circadian rhythms need to regulate sleep-wake cycles. He and his team at the University of Oxford are exploring a third kind of photoreceptor in the eye: not a rod or a cone but a photosensitive retinal ganglion cell (pRGC) that detects light/dark and feeds that information to the circadian system. As Foster explains: “Embedded within our genes, and almost all life on Earth, are the instructions for a biological clock that marks the passage of approximately 24 hours.” Light and dark help us synchronize this inner clock with the outside world.

The research on light perception hits home as we age — faced with fading vision, we also risk disrupted sleep cycles, which have very serious consequences, including lack of concentration, depression and cognitive decline. The more we learn about how our eyes and bodies create our sleep cycles, the more seriously we can begin to take sleep as a therapy.

 

How to manually change a memory: Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu

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Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu shoot laser beams into the brains of living mice to activate and manipulate their memories. In a funny and — perhaps — unnerving talk from TEDxBoston, they explain the fundamental principles behind their experiments and broach the big questions that future advancements in this line of research may force us to answer.

When we close our eyes and think back to our childhood, to our first kiss, or to this morning’s breakfast, our brains perform the remarkable task of mental time travel and thereby enrich our lives with memories. How does neural machinery give rise to something as seemingly ephemeral as memory? Recently, Hollywood inspired our imaginations by proposing that memories could be artificially triggered (think Total Recall), erased (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), or even implanted (think Inception). Now, neuroscience has plucked these ideas from the tree of science fiction and grounded them in experimental reality. The catch: our subjects are the movie stars of the laboratory setting–rodents. This talk will introduce how revolutionary techniques from our lab have made it possible to isolate and manipulate specific memories at the level of single brain cells with just flickers of light, as well as the societal ramifications of doing so.

Why All Good, and Some Bad, Research Is Improbable: Marc Abrahams

Why All Good, and Some Bad, Research Is Improbable: Marc Abrahams

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Marc Abrahams, MC of the infamous Ig Nobel Awards and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, focusses on research that makes you laugh, and then think! You’re never going to look at science research quite the same after his talk.

Two young scientists break down plastics with bacteria

Two young scientists break down plastics with bacteria

Once it’s created, plastic (almost) never dies. While in 12th grade Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao went in search of a new bacteria to biodegrade plastic — specifically by breaking down phthalates, a harmful plasticizer. They found an answer surprisingly close to home.

Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao have identified a new bacteria that breaks down nasty compounds called phthalates, common to flexible plastics and linked to health problems. And they’re still teenagers.

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THEM?

After a visit to a plastic-filled waste transfer station last year, students Miranda Wang andJeanny Yao learned that much of the plastic in trash may not degrade for 5,000 years. Synthesized into plastics are phthalates, compounds that make shower curtain liners, food wraps and other products bendable but may also adversely impact human reproductive development and health.  As plastics slowly break down, these phthalates would leach into the surrounding environment.

So, the two young scientists tackled the problem and ultimately discovered strains of bacteria that have the potential to naturally degrade phthalates. Their work earned a regional first place in British Columbia for the 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada, as well as a special award for the most commercial potential at the contest’s finals.

Sniffing out schizophrenia using nose cell samples

Sniffing out schizophrenia using nose cell samples

June 26 – The human nose may hold the key to diagnosing schizophrenia, according to a team of US-Israeli researchers. They say that biological markers for the disease exist in nerve cells from the upper nasal cavity near the brain, a discovery that could lead to biological diagnosis for schizophrenia and the development of drugs to treat it.

 

The interspecies internet? An idea in progress…

The interspecies internet? An idea in progress…

Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers — dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.

Peter Gabriel writes incredible songs but, as the co-founder of WITNESS and TheElders.org, is also a powerful human rights advocate. 

As Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, Neil Gershenfeld explores the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. 

Diana Reiss studies animal cognition, and has found that bottlenose dolphins (and Asian elephants) can recognize themselves in the mirror.

 

Stimulating economy from the bottom up: Zein Hussami

Stimulating economy from the bottom up: Zein Hussami

Zein G Hussami is an entrepreneur with over 20 years experience on an international level. Although initially coming from a hospital administration background, he jumped over to new verticals seeking pioneering achievements with a positively high impact on society. From leisure and entertainment to logistics and life support, and from nationwide IT implementations, Telecoms and corporate management consultancies, Zein has been intimately exposed to many industries and cultures in the region where his main legacies revolved around the success of the people around him. Zein has relinquished the ideas of linear education and profit without giving. A lover of people, animals and the environment, he has taken it upon himself to work within domains that change ecosystems for the better. He now spends his time designing, incubating, and partnering technologies with dire social needs as opposed to luxuries.

 

Toward a new understanding of mental illness – Thomas Insel

Toward a new understanding of mental illness – Thomas Insel

Today, thanks to better early detection, there are 63% fewer deaths from heart disease than there were just a few decades ago. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, wonders: Could we do the same for depression and schizophrenia? The first step in this new avenue of research, he says, is a crucial reframing.

 

Marketing Food to Children: Anna Lappe

Marketing Food to Children: Anna Lappe

Author and activist Anna Lappe takes on the billion-dollar business of marketing junk food, soda, and fast food to children and teens. With diet-related related illnesses alarmingly on the rise, pervasive marketing of junk food to kids is downright dangerous. The food industry says its up to parents to raise healthy kids. Lappe agrees, that’s why she says leave parenting to her–and the millions of moms and dads trying to raise healthy kids. Learn about the dubious marketing tactics of the junk food giants and the ways you can fight back to promote kids’ health.

Anna Lappe is a national bestselling author and a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund. Anna’s most recent book is Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, named by Booklist and Kirkus as one of the best environmental book’s of the year. She is the co-author of Hope’s Edge, which chronicles social movements fighting hunger around the world, and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, with seasonal menus by chef Bryant Terry. A popular educator about sustainable food and farming, Anna has participated in hundreds of events, from hosting community dinners to delivering university keynotes to emceeing a food-focused fundraiser at Sotheby’s. She is currently the director of the Real Food Media Project, a new series of myth-busting videos about the real story of our food.

 

Good Foods Taste Great: David McInerney

Good Foods Taste Great: David McInerney

Join FreshDirect’s co-founder David McInerney, as he champions changing the way people eat as a featured speaker at the 2013 TEDx Manhattan conference. McInerney travels the world meeting with hundreds of farmers, fisherman, and ranchers to source the healthiest, freshest, highest quality foods in existence for FreshDirect’s customers. During his travels, McInerney has become keenly aware that there is a fundamental flaw in our food system, which forces our farmers to grow food for transport rather than taste. What’s more, today fresh foods don’t taste like they should; people aren’t eating them, and processed foods are winning–and its crippling our country’s health. During TEDx Manhattan, McInerney calls on the retailer and the consumer to help change our broken food cycle and join in his taste crusade, to allow farmers to grow good foods that taste great, helping to change the way people eat, and change the world.

David McInerney has been on a “tastes-great” crusade for the past twenty years. A former French-trained chef, he is a co-founder of FreshDirect.com, the leading online grocer in the U.S.

In strategically setting the direction for food at FreshDirect, David helps educate and provide higher quality fresh food to millions in New York and Philadelphia. Every year, he spends the majority of his time visiting and building relationships with local and global farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, giving him a rare view across the entire sustainable food spectrum.
David started his food career while studying and working in Burgundy under renowned chef Bernard Loiseau at his Michelin 3-Star restaurant La Cote d’Or and later under legendary New York Chef David Bouley.

He is a sought after speaker and food educator. He has dedicated his life to changing the way consumers eat, and how the industry sources fresh, healthy, sustainable foods.