Viral Science: Cymbal At 1000 Frames Per Second

Viral Science: Cymbal At 1000 Frames Per Second

Science can produce some amazing sounds. But sometimes, the visuals behind the sounds are more impressive. In the above you can see the vibrations and waves travelling through a cymbal.

I chose to share this today as a bit of a sneak preview to a sound focussed post on the Inside Knowledge Blog we are currently  producing. Once it is up online I will share it here…so watch this space.

Viral Science: The “Most Beautiful” Science Experiment

Viral Science: The “Most Beautiful” Science Experiment

I often think that science doesn’t fully take advantage of what can be achieved with the viral video platform. However, this video by NatSciDemos has succeeded in going well and truly  viral and has achieved over 2.3 million views. Professor Richard Wiseman described it as one of “the most beautiful videos”. Check it out and prepare to be memorised:

What do you think, is there a more visually stunning experiment? If so drop me a comment below, would be cool to generate a bit of a list of beauty within science.

Check it out here

Neuroscience Cases: The Man Who Put His Head in a Particle Accelerator

Neuroscience Cases: The Man Who Put His Head in a Particle Accelerator

Images of his injury

“Have you been injured at work in an accident that wasn’t your fault?” The terrible adverts, for companies like ‘lawyers4u’,  characterise work injuries as falling off laders or slipping on a wet floor. Well for one man, his work related accident was a great deal more spectacular. Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski accidentally put his head in a particle accelerator.

He remains to this day the only person to have done so and, perhaps most shockingly, survived and is still around today. But, how does one go about accidentally putting your head in a particle accelerator? Well, on July 13, 1978, Bugorski was working on the U-70 synchrotron at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino. A small piece of equipment was malfunctioning and in the process of fixing it he leaned in too far and came into contact with the proton beam. When later asked to describe what it was like, he said he saw a flash of light that was “brighter than a thousand suns”. But, amazingly felt no pain.

Very quickly after the incident occurred the left side of his face swelled beyond all recognition. The beam entered his skull at the back of his head, with the exit wound close to his nose. After a few days the skin at the entry and exit points peeled away showing the path the beam took through the skin, skull and brain. His prognosis was extremely poor and was taken to a clinic in Moscow where they expected to observe him die over a period of two to three weeks.

The proton beam was about 200,000 rads. Previous data indicated that 1000 rads would be enough to kill a human (even the famously radioactively robust cockroach will die after 20,000). However, the specific effects of a proton beam travelling at the speed of light were not known.

After the initial incident the path of the beam began to burn through his brain. This continued for 2 years until the left-hand side of his face was completely paralysed. Apparently, this has had an almost botox like effect on his face. The left side of his face has been described as not having aged and being “frozen in time”, whilst the right side of his face has aged normally. Other than this, Anatoli has had surprisingly few neurological symptoms. Over the initial 12 years after the incident he had occasional petit mal seizures. More recently he has had an increased number grand mal seizures.

Anatoli continued his life after it became apparent he was not at risk of immediate death. He completed his PhD and worked as a researcher for many years  (Google Scholar lists some of his research). Not long ago he decided to make himself available to Western researchers, but he did not have the money to relocate from Protvino. He thinks he would make a brilliant research subject: “This is, in effect, an unintended test of proton warfare,” he claims. More to the point, he believes, “I am being tested. The human capacity for survival is being tested.”

Previous posts in this series:

The Man Who Could Not Forget

Musical Brain Surgery

Leborgne & Lelong

The Sound of Science: Results & Explanation

The Sound of Science: Results & Explanation

First of all a big thank you to everyone who took part in this little experiment. Secondly, sorry this post is a little later than I originally said it would be.

I was inspired to try this after listening to the sound and reading about what its effects should be. I was surprised to find that it’s effects worked on me, but I was curious as to whether that was the placebo effect because I knew what was supposed to happen. So that was the motivation for the experiment. The results were very interesting, 21 votes were recorded and were as follows:

What Effect Did the Sound Have On You?

None – 6 – 29%

Made me feel energised – 8 – 38%

Made me feel strange – 6 – 29%

Made me feel sleepy – 1 – 5%

But, what was the sound? Well, this experiment looked at the effects of binaural beats. An EEG detects different frequency waves in the brain during different mental states. The theory of binaural beats is that by listening to a particular frequency the brain enters the state of mind corresponding tp the EEG , as below:

> 40 Hz Gamma waves Higher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, fear, and consciousness
13–39 Hz Beta waves Active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration, arousal, cognition, and or paranoia
7–13 Hz Alpha waves Relaxation (while awake), pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness, REM sleep, Dreams
4–7 Hz Theta waves deep meditation/relaxation, NREM sleep
< 4 Hz Delta waves Deep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness

The sound in the experiment was a Theta wave. Therefore, should have created feelings of being tired  and sleepiness. The poll on my original post found very different results with feeling “energised” the most popular feeling due to the sound and feeling “sleepy” the least popular.

This is obviously not a 100% accurate study. I have no idea how long the people who voted listened for, what they listened with (supposedly headphones makes the effect much more pronounced) or what environment they were in. As a result, with a small sample size and these big unknowns the inverse of the expected results is, ironically, not unexpected!

There have been lots of suggested (and unproven) uses and effects of binaural beats including improving memory, sporting performance, stopping smoking, dieting help and tackling erectile dysfunction. Some have even referred to it as an “auditory alternative medicine”! Even more bizarrely some people are claiming that this technology can be used to create drug like effects known as “i-dosing”. The effects of these sounds are still being studied and their actual effects is hotly debated with some maintaining that it is all placebo.

To me, without being able to find sufficient research on the effects of the sounds, I find it hard to draw a conclusion about the effects. I am willing to accept that binaural sounds may have a real effect on alertness. However, the more outlandish claims are really just ridiculous, and should be ignored.

To see an alarmist US news report on “i-doping” watch this video (sorry about the poor syncing of the audio):

Viral Science: Golden Retrievers Explain Physics

Viral Science: Golden Retrievers Explain Physics

Ever thought there were too few pets in science classes at school? Well this video will set that straight. This was originally produced by NewScientist as an experiment in whether or not they could make a viral video about science, it was circulated for several months before they revealed they produced it.

Father Christmas’ Amazing Journey

I originally wrote this article for Biomed Central’s ‘The Word’:

Millions of children all across the world wait up on Christmas Eve hoping to hear the patter of hoof prints, a distant deep and rich laugh. However, what are the ‘scientific’ practicalities of Father Christmas’ annual road trip?

If he visits all 700,000,000 Christian children in the world it is estimated he would have to travel 212 million miles. Now whilst this might cause a pretty hefty devaluation of your car if it appeared on your milometer, it presents a different set of problems for ‘Jolly Ol’ St Nick’.

One such problem is the weight of his present stash. If every child was given a Transformers toy weighing 659g his total load would be about 460,000 metric tonnes. A typical reindeer is able to pull approximately 150kg. This means that he would require around 3 million friends for Rudolf! Given the typical reindeer will eat 2.1% of its body weight a day in the winter St Nick will need to produce almost 230 million carrots in his allotment to feed them for just the Christmas Eve journey.

Now the question that it is prudent to pose when considering this is the amount of energy these Reindeer will need to produce. The total weight of Santa’s entourage requires a lot of force to reach the 1,800 miles per second needed to deliver all his presents within the Christmas Eve window, 700 quintillion joules of energy to be precise. However, the problem with this is that it assumes that he is travelling outside of the earth’s atmosphere with zero air resistance or drag. The process of reentering the earth’s atmosphere is the most difficult stage in his long journey, as the most likely occurrence is that the reindeer, presents, sleigh and all would rapidly disintegrate due to the heat.

But then again maybe it’s just magic!

Some of the data in this article was from this article in the Telegraph:

For more Christmassy fun here is a Science Christmas poem some coursemates and I created: