Honey bees used to sniff out disease.
Researchers in New Zealand have found a way to train bees to sniff out tuberculosis.
People infected with the disease have sweet floral smelling breath, which although humans are unable to detect, the bees can. “When we tested them with the tuberculosis odours we found the bees can still smell it down to parts per billion,” says one researcher.
The bees stick out their tongues when they identify tuberculosis, and are rewarded with a sweet treat when they correctly identify it.
“I think the key in resource poor settings is getting something that costs cents rather than tens of dollars - in some places the whole budget for health per person might just be a few dollars a year,” says infectious diseases specialist Dr Steve Chambers.
Dr Chambers believes the bees could feature inside a cheap, rapid and non-invasive home screening test which could indicate whether a person needs medical attention. “The key thing is can you identify people who have it and are infecting other people, you identify them early, cheaply, easily and quickly and move them onto treatment programmes that could make a dent in how it’s transmitted around the world,” he says.
A whole owl pellet (right) and the contents of a pellet (left), which reveals the owl’s diet.
Photo by Denis
I used to be a little jealous of Mashable. The site came out of nowhere in 2005 and instantly tapped into the social zeitgeist. It was constantly breaking stories about hot social properties like Twitter and Facebook and had a highly engaged and active readership. It had a sense of fun and a need to do good. It was, in essence, virtually unlike any other site or blog I knew on the Web.
Now, as Mashable makes some of its most significant changes and expands and reorganizes to cover social, tech, news, politics entertainment and more—all through the prism of social and digital—I won’t have to ask anymore how Mashable’s doing it. I’ll be inside, helping to make it happen.
When founder and CEO Pete Cashmore launched his own blog in 2005, he named it Mashable to represent the way you could mash together all kinds of digital/web services to make something new. Today, Mashable is one of the Web’s most popular web sites, attracting 15 million visitors a month and Cashmore’s choice of a name seems positively clairvoyant.
Sega Genesis presents The Great Gatsby
Full confession: it’s Yoko Ono’s birthday. In a Fluxus-inspired riff, we cribbed knowledge of the odd science that follows below first from the Atlantic and then from Drew Grant’s piece at Salon. Part of a much bigger trend (we use trend skeptically since this sort of thing—video games, the a-r-t remix—has been around at least since the early days of artist-hackers like Cory Arcangel and SF Moma’s 2001 exhibition “ArtCade: Exploring the Relationship Between Video Games and Art”), repurposing new technology (digital coding) in order to transform older technologies (Atari- and Nintendo-inspired video game cartridges) into faux cultural artifacts seems to be all the rage.
What got us excited? Old school video game adaptations of The Great Gatsby and Waiting for Godot, naturally. As one writer opined, it’s a particular type of nerd that feels elated at choosing between the Vladimir and Estragon avatars (was “avatar” part of the terminology from the Frogger years?). But there’s a certain euphoria (or better: eunoia) experienced in navigating a pint-sized Nick Carraway through Level 1: Gatsby’s Party, even if the adaptation only skims the surface scenery of the book. Why, we wonder, is this?
Edward Castronova pioneered the study of virtual gaming in Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Gaming (interview here), offering perspective on the social culture and synthetic world economics involved. But these games aren’t world-creating in the same way; they speak to fans of the literature (as do the game adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, and others) or those fascinated by the interstices of high-tech/low-tech digital arts. Seemingly driven in part by nostalgia for simplicity and in part by cultural capital, games like The Great Gatsby fall into one of the digital humanities’ new great new divides: art meet science meet a time machine.
Thomas Bartscherer and Roderick Coover’s new collection Switching Codes: Thinking through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts excavates this complex terrain. Contributors—including Bruno Latour, Charles Bernstein, Alain Liu, and Richard Powers—employ a variety of forms (among them: game design) to consider the precipitous growth of digital information over the past half century has transformed how we think and act in our increasingly mediated age. Switching Codes address the cognitive gap between IT specialists and scholars, both of them utilizing and making sense of technology, while using language and skill sets not necessarily complimentary to each other. In the face of all of this, new criteria emerges.
Just this past Wednesday, the Globe and Mail previewed the Smithsonian Museum of American Art’s forthcoming exhibition “The Art of Video Games,” noting:
[T]he museum wants to centre the exhibit “on visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.” We’re not being asked to elect our favourite games, but rather those that were most visually compelling and technologically innovative for their time (the selections have been divvied up into five eras). That means conscientiously selecting between a couple of games like Disney Epic Mickey, which delivered mediocre play but offered up some amazingly authentic interactive versions of 70 year-old cartoons, and Super Mario Galaxy 2, which had great play scenarios but didn’t advance the graphical bar much beyond its predecessor, isn’t as cut and dry as you might think.
Are video games inherently art? Is a forward-moving technology part of the criteria with which we should evaluate their appeal—and success? And what to make of an odd duck like The Great Gatsby game, with its out-of-date technology and literary underpinning? The Medium was Tedium, certainly. But in this case: maybe the Mediated was Appreciated?
Description. Turkish delight comes in two varieties: the type that may have contact with a card-carrying Turkish national at some point, and consists of a dense nougat studded with nuts and flavored with rosewater or honey; and the mass-produced powdered-sugar-donut-hole-meets-Gummi-cube type. The former is in fact a delight, suggesting luxury, seduction, warm evenings under a canopy of fruit trees.
The latter is baffling at best, and the Turkish consulate should do everything in its power to revoke the credentials of this insufficiently precious ambassador de cuisine. What need does it fill? What market does it serve? Who thought that an artificially colored gelid blob needed sugaring — with confectioner’s sugar, the substance most likely to cause an inadvertent fit of choking?
Needless to say, it is the latter that arrived at the B.A.R.F.’s loading bay, trailing a plume of sugar motes behind it into the lab…
Packaging/Branding. …thanks to the dense coating of powder that blanketed the entire rack of delight, and which the packaging failed entirely to contain. Waxed paper around the candy, nestled in a box, nestled in another box, wrapped in cellophane merely slowed the sugar’s progress throughout our facility; its presence lingered well into the afternoon in the form of ghostly fingerprints and the occasional sneeze of unknown origin.
Working at New Scientist means that every day, I learn something new and fascinating. I have been terribly lax about blogging these amazing discoveries, but here’s one I loved. I never gave much thought to metrology - the science of measurement - but it’s fascinating and really important. Anyway, NS ran a piece this week about how some scientists are lobbying for more precise measurements. I kind of wondered, “What’s the big deal? What’s wrong with our old measurements?” Turns out, A LOT.
“The first sign that the SI was flawed was noticed in 1949 in a check on a lump of metal kept inside a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris. By definition, it is the only object in existence with a mass of exactly 1 kilogram – one of the seven SI base units – so metrologists were unsettled to discover that this mass had changed.”
I’m sorry, what?! The kilogram is based on some lump of metal somewhere? How archaic. (Sidenote: doesn’t the Bureau of Weights and Measures sound like something from Harry Potter? I totally want to visit there. I picture it like a museum with cases of strange measurement objects.)
Anyway, go on over and read about the changes on the horizon for measurements.