Sparkonit delivers information on latest discoveries and hottest trailblazing researches together with short, entertaining and inspiring science videos. Its mission is to spread scientific knowledge in an easy and extensive way that does not bore its readers and inspire them with what science can do.
Scientists from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago have performed the first-ever, 3D color X-ray on a human body using the MARS spectral X-ray scanner – a revolutionary colour medical scanner based on Medipix3.
Medipix3 is the most advanced chip available today for particle imaging and detection. It was originally developed for the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN physics lab. Medipix3 works like camera, and it can catch and count every single particle hitting the pixels when its shutter is open. Thus, it can produce high-resolution images, making it perfect for wide range of imaging applications, and more particularly in the medical field.
Medipix3 enables MARS spectral scanner to measure different energy levels of the X-ray photons to produce high-resolution colored images instead of black and white ones. It also allows the scanner to identify different components of body parts such as fat, water, calcium, and disease markers.
MARS Bioimaging Ltd is a company commercialising the 3D scanner. It has worked with more than 20 research institutes to form the third generation of the Medipix collaboration.
A study at the University of Zurich has shown that similar to the case with fingerprints, every individual has a unique brain anatomy. According to the researchers, the uniqueness is attributed to a combination of genetic factors, individual experiences and life circumstances.
Let’s say you’re a professional guitarist. You will have particular characteristics in the regions of your brain which you use the most for playing the guitar. However, if you happen to keep your hand still for two weeks, the anatomy of your brain will change. That is – the thickness of the brain’s cortex in the areas responsible for controlling the unused hand will get smaller.
“We suspected that those experiences having an effect on the brain interact with the genetic make-up so that over the course of years every person develops a completely individual brain anatomy,” explains Lutz Jäncke, UZH professor of neuropsychology in a news release.
For the study, the team accessed over 450 brain anatomical features of nearly 200 healthy adults using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Upon evaluating volume of the brain, cortex’s thickness and volumes of grey and white matter, they found a unique combination of specific brain anatomical characteristics in each of the individuals.
“With our study we were able to confirm that the structure of people’s brains is very individual,” says Lutz Jäncke. “The combination of genetic and non-genetic influences clearly affects not only the functioning of the brain, but also its anatomy.”
Replacing fingerprint sensors with MRI scans in the coming years is highly improbable, however. MRIs don’t come cheap and they are time-consuming as compared to taking fingerprints.
“Just 30 years ago we thought that the human brain had few or no individual characteristics. Personal identification through brain anatomical characteristics was unimaginable,” Jäncke says.
The study entitled “Identification of individual subjects on the basis of their brain anatomical features” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Do you know that vomit-inducing smell that comes from the expired food items? Well, you do, and you only have to smell it once to make sure it never happens again.
Today, many food items come with labels – “Sell By”, “Best By”, or “Use By” date – stamped on the packaging. Those are expiration dates. But what do they actually mean?
Consumers believe expiration dates on food items indicate if the food is safe for consumption. However, the labels are mainly for quality and flavour purposes, and have nothing to do with safety. Most foods are edible past what’s written on the label.
Also, it turns out that the FDA authorises manufacturers to sell almost any food past the expiry dates. The decision of whether to put dates on the foods lies entirely up to the manufacturers.
Study also shows that the labels have caused widespread misinterpretation among consumers, and contributed to millions of pounds of wasted food each year. Time reported that more than 90 percent of Americans discard their food prematurely, while 40 percent of the food supply is tossed unused every year because of confusion over what the labels actually mean.
While the dilemma of figuring out what we can eat and what needs to go in the trash is quite understandable, staying aware of what’s happening chemically when foods become unfit for eating, both before and after those dates pass, can help us out.
A product’s expiration date can be affected by factory sanitation or the temperature of our refrigerator, but majority of it depends on the type of food we are buying. This is what makes prediction of a product’s real expiration date a bit tricky.
For example, produce may become unfit for consumption an hour after you buy it, or even a week later. This is a huge variation most labels can’t explain. And this happens because of mold, and not because of those brown spots, which are harmless.
Mold targets dead and decaying materials, and you’ve probably seen it appearing on the food that’s going bad or about to go bad in your pantry or refrigerator. Mold can start to grow as soon as 24 hours, and it grows even faster in warm temperatures.
Also, mold is a great substitute for a certain type of cheese, but you do not ever want to eat mold because they can actually hurt you. Some molds produce harmful substances called mycotoxins that if ingested can cause mild to severe health problems which include skin infections, internal bleeding and even death.
Produce is a pretty easy target for molds because it’s rich in water and nutrients, and there are some produces that can’t even hold off the slightest mold penetration.
Well, extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables is easy. You just have to put them in the fridge.
Cold temperature slows down chemical reaction. While dropping the temperature is a great way to hamper mold growth and reproduction, it will grow eventually. So when this happens, it’s time to throw your produce in the trash.
Also, if you really want to ward off the expiration dates, you’d need to kill bacteria before they start reproducing. Well, this may not be easy with produce, but that’s how milk is treated.
Label says milk is best consumed within two weeks after you buy it, but it could really expire after a few days or even earlier depending on the type and how you treat it.
You are probably familiar with the term pasteurization, where food is exposed to high temperature to destroy harmful microorganisms and denature enzymes that spoils food.
Traditional milk goes through this process. And while it does a good job, it’s not perfect. Some bacteria can survive pasteurization, and eventually they convert sugars present in milk into lactic acid. This explains why spoiled milk has that horrible, sour smell.
The expiration date of pasteurized milk is usually four to six days after you buy it. And considering few days of processing and shipping ahead of reaching the retailers, the shelf life of milk after pasteurization should be around two weeks. However, if the milk gets exposed to warmer temperatures, it may spoil earlier than the Sell-By date.
Drinking spoiled milk won’t kill you but, it will probably give you some brutal food poisoning. And, because you’re smart – you’ll just give it a whiff and probably tossed it away if it bears that lactic acid smell.
Heat treatment processes are good ways for preserving milk, but for meat, you’ll need a different approach.
Meat is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria because it’s wet and laden with nutrients. So, although ‘Sell By,’ ‘Best Before’ And ‘Use By’ dates on it is for a week or so after purchase, and often safe past the labels, it can’t last that long. Also, for the first few days, the bacteria won’t cause any sort of trouble because only few of them are present. But over time, the number will increase. And that’s when the trouble starts.
Bacteria, like Psuedomonas or Lactobacilli, reigns the meat because of the presence of free-floating sugar molecules and light weight compounds on the surface. These bacteria can make you sick, but their presence is easily detectable because they leave behind some foul-smelling end products as they break down sugar and those compounds. These end products are volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and they smell like rotten meat.
VOCs are an indication that the meat has expired. Also, you can probably tell if the meat has gone bad based on how it looks. VOCs like hydrogen sulfide can make the meat appear green by transforming the muscle pigments.
Labels aren’t always accurate. So regardless of what it says on the labels, if the food stinks or appears unusual, it’s time to let it go.
The table below (courtesy of Mold Guide) tells us how long it takes for foods to go bad when put in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.
Foods are fresh, raw and whole
2-5 days (or until ripe)
5-7 days (once ripe)
4-7 days (or until ripe)
3-5 days (once ripe)
1-5 days (or until ripe)
2-3 days (once ripe)
Whole Wheat Bread
Tortilla Chips (Opened)
Ice Cream (Opened)
Freshly Brewed Coffee
Red and White Wine
3+ years (unopened – depends on vintage)
3-5 days (opened)
4-6 months (opened)
What Do Food Expiration Dates Actually Mean? - YouTube
References And Further Readings:
Monte Carlo simulation of the shelf life of pasteurized milk as affected by temperature and initial concentration of spoilage organisms [FAO]
Prevalence of dementia is a grave matter as it is a progressive disease that is on the rise. Around 50 million people were diagnosed with the syndrome in 2017, and the number is expected to double every five years.
Dementia is a degenerative disease that attacks a person’s memory, behavior, and cognitive abilities. It depletes the patient’s identity and the entirety of their selves, leaving behind an empty husk in place of the person we once knew.
Genetics, the health of your heart, head injuries and the aging process all determine your likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia. Short-term memory loss is one of the earliest symptoms of dementia. Complications in communication and behavioral changes such as a consistent state of listlessness are other symptoms associated with the syndrome.
If you see such changes in any of your loved ones or if someone points these changes in you, it’s better to try the BrainTest review at home. Speak to your healthcare provider about the results and book an appointment.
Dementia is a disease that affects not only the patient but also their friends and family. It takes a lot of strength and emotional stability to handle a patient or to keep yourself together if you have been diagnosed with Dementia.
Considering how serious an issue this is, what if we told you that you could prevent the onslaught of dementia on you? What if eating the right foods could help you fight against the disease that is becoming a growing cause of death?
Since what we consume defines how we look on the outside, it is better to eat healthy in the first place. Investing a little in your diet will help you avoid the financial burden of healthcare in your later years.
Here is a list of seven foods that will help you fight against dementia.
Whole grains, beans, and legumes
Dementia degenerates the brain, but if you eat foods rich in minerals that strengthen brain function, you can defeat the disease before it grows.
Whole foods like quinoa and beans are rich in folate, magnesium, and potassium. Gluten-free oats and other healthier foods would not only help you prevent dementia but also assist in controlling your weight.
Berries and cherries
Berries contain anthocyanin which prevents brain damage. They are also good for your digestion because of the fiber they contain. They keep your memory sharp but also keeps the bones strong for postmenopausal women.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds
Consuming nuts has countless benefits. They are an excellent source of unsaturated fats, and Vitamin E. Walnuts contain DHA, a type of Omega 3 fatty acid that improves cognition and ameliorates the decline of cognitive skills in old age.
Almonds and hazelnuts carry vitamin E which directly reduces cognitive decline in older years. Other nuts like peanuts, cashews, and pecans have lesser evidence for their worth.
Pumpkin seeds may look tiny, but they are a true nutritional treasure. They are rich in antioxidants which only has positive effects on your health. These seeds contain Omega 3 which is known for its improvement in mental health and memory. It is advised to add pumpkin seeds to a child’s diet because of their support for brain development.
Zinc is another one of the benefits these seeds contain. Zinc is important for healthy functioning of the brain and is an aid to the immune system.
A few pumpkins seeds a day will surely benefit you for a lifetime.
Nearly all of us have shown reluctance when our parents advised us to consume green vegetables. It turns out, they were right.
Leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are said to be great for the brain. They are an amazing source of Vitamin B9 and folate, both of which are great for cognition. These vegetables are also said to help with depression.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and sprouts contain carotenoids which help with cognitive impairments. So the more greens you consume, the better your brain gets.
Good fats from olive oil and fish
The importance of good fats cannot be repeated enough. Unsaturated fats such as Omega 3 are ideal for nerve function and the health of your heart. Fish is a brilliant source of not only good fats but also other minerals like iron and iodine which are all great for your brain.
Olive oil, on the other hand, contains vitamin E and antioxidants, both of which are ideal for keeping your brain in top shape. Flax seeds are another great source of healthy fats.
Indulge in a little chocolate and coffee
Dark chocolate is ambrosia to your brain. It is a superfood full of antioxidants and the goodness named flavonoids which increase the flow of blood in the cerebral grey matter. Improved cognitive performance is also observed in people who consume dark chocolate regularly. The bitter chocolate is great at fighting free radicals in your body. It promotes the health of your heart and also helps with cholesterol issues.
Coffee is liquid gold when it comes to highly effective psychoactive drugs. Caffeine makes you feel alert because of its ability to stimulate your central nervous system. It boosts your short-term memory and mood. It makes you react quickly and helps you retain information.
All in all, indulging in some dark chocolate and black coffee would only do you good and help you improve your health.
Did you know?
Sage, cinnamon, and turmeric have the abilities to fight dementia? These everyday spice and flavorings are an outstanding source of anti-inflammatory material. These help you break up brain plaque that is related to dementia.
Turmeric blocks beta-amyloids which compromise brain function in the patients with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia.Curcumin in turmeric is claimed to be a promising aid against this. Adding cinnamon to your morning tea or in desserts would be a good start in developing a new taste. It’s a strong flavor and not something a lot of people are used to; it needs to be added to our diet.
Consuming these healthy foods every once in a bluemoon would not benefit you. You need to try and incorporate these healthy superfoods in your daily life. This change is a process and not an event. It will take time but its worth it.
Dementia is on the rise like an epidemic. A cure is yet to be found. Is it not better to prevent this disease rather than falling prey to it? Let’s all try to make these small changes and help others as well as ourselves.
*This post was written by a guest contributor.*
Ashley Rosa is a freelance writer and blogger. She loves to write articles related to the latest trends in technology and sometimes on health-tech as well. She is crazy about chocolates. You can find her at twitter: @ashrosa2.
The European Space Agency has released the final batch of images taken by Rosetta’s high resolution OSIRIS camera. In the mission’s final hour at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta scanned across an ancient pit as it moved closer to the surface, and sent back images showing what would become its final resting place.
Following the most precise test of gravity outside the Milky Way, an international team of astronomers has confirmed the validity of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in another galaxy.
Albert Einstein first proposed his general theory of relativity in 1915 to unravel the way gravity works. And although the theory has passed a series of high precision tests within the solar system, there have been no tests of relativity theory on galactic scales, that is – outside our solar system.
In 1929, Edwin Hubble proved that the universe is expanding. And in 1998, its accelerated expansion was discovered. This surprising discovery that the Universe is expanding faster now than it was in the past – can be explained only because our universe is filled entirely with a positive vacuum energy, called “dark energy“. However, this understanding is influenced by general theory of relativity being the definite theory of gravity on cosmic scales. According to researchers, evaluating the long distance properties of gravity is important to ensure the cosmological measurements.
For the study, Dr Thomas Collett of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth and his team incorporated data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope to prove gravity in this galaxy behaves as conjectured by general theory of relativity.
To begin with, a team of astronomers, led by Collett made a nearby act as gravitational lens. This helped them make a precise test of gravity on astronomical length scales.
“General Relativity predicts that massive objects deform space-time, this means that when light passes near another galaxy the light’s path is deflected,” Collett explained. “If two galaxies are aligned along our line of sight this can give rise to a phenomenon, called strong gravitational lensing, where we see multiple images of the background galaxy. If we know the mass of the foreground galaxy, then the amount of separation between the multiple images tells us if General Relativity is the correct theory of gravity on galactic scales.”
There are only a few strong gravitational lenses that we know of yet, and most are too distant to precisely measure their mass. So, they won’t be of any help to accurately test General Relativity theory. However, the galaxy ESO325-G004 is amongst the closest at 500 million light years from Earth, so the team used that to function as gravitational lens.
“We used data from the Very Large Telescope in Chile to measure how fast the stars were moving in E325 — this let us infer how much mass there must be in E325 to hold these stars in orbit,” Collett continued. “We then compared this mass to the strong lensing image separations that we observed with the Hubble Space telescope and the result was just what GR predicts with 9 per cent precision. This is the most precise extrasolar test of GR to date, from just one galaxy.”
“The Universe is an amazing place providing such lenses which we can then use as our laboratories,” said Professor Bob Nichol, Director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation. “It is so satisfying to use the best telescopes in the world to challenge Einstein, only to find out how right he was.”
The study titled “A precise extragalactic test of General Relativity” has been published in the journal Science.
MIT researchers have developed an ingestible sensor that can diagnose bleeding in the stomach or other gastrointestinal issues. The 1.5 inch long cylindrical device contains millions of genetically engineered bacteria, and is powered by 2.7-volt battery.
The device has been successfully tested in pigs. To demonstrate, the team inserted the sensor in pig with induced gastrointestinal bleeding. The sensor contains engineered probiotic strain of E. Coli that causes the bacteria to light up with they hit the heme – a molecule containing iron and responsible for the red colour of haemoglobin. The device also comes with phototransistor which measures the amount of light produced by the bacterial cells and passes that information to a microprocessor which sends the signal to a computer or smartphone.
The team plans to reduce the sensor to about third its current size for human trials. They also hope to develop sensors that can diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal conditions other than bleeding.
Blockages in the global air currents called the jet streams could explain why we experience strange and sometimes deadly weather pattern, according to new study by atmospheric scientists at University of Chicago.
The jet stream has a capacity, and when it’s exceeded it, blockages form that are similar to traffic jams can occur. The 2003 European heat wave, California’s 2014 drought and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 were caused by this same weather phenomenon known as “blocking.” The phenomenon is extremely difficult to predict, and there was no compelling explanation on why and when it forms.
In the study, researchers came up with a set of equations in order to analyze the phenomenon, one of which was to measure the jet stream’s meander. Upon checking the equation, the team realized that it was almost identical to the one created decades ago by transportation engineers to describe traffic jams.
They found that just as highway has traffic capacity, the jet stream has ‘weather traffic’ capacity, and on exceeding it, blocking manifests as congestion. Traffic slows down when multiple highways merge; the same can happen to the jet stream due to topography such as mountains or coasts.
“The result is a simple theory that not only reproduces blocking, but predicts it,” said the study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, who called making the cross-disciplinary connection “one of the most unexpected, but enlightening moments in my research career — truly a gift from God.”
Their findings may not efficiently forecast short-term weather patterns for now, but the team says it can certainly help predict long-term patterns, including the areas that may see more drought or floods. Climate change influences this blocking phenomenon by pushing the jets stream closer to its capacity, but there will be regional differences: the Pacific Ocean may experience a decrease in blocking over the decades, the researchers noted.
“It’s very difficult to forecast anything until you understand why it’s happening, so this mechanistic model should be extremely helpful,” Nakamura said.
And the model, unlike most modern climate science, is computationally simple: “This equation captures the essence with a much less complicated system,” said Clare S.Y. Huang, another researcher who was involved in the study.
Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s last theory about our universe which he worked on with Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven, is available at the peer-reviewed Journal of High Energy Physics. The theory is based on string theory and it suggests that the universe is finite and much simpler, as compared to many other current theories on the big bang.
Modern Big Bang Theories
The modern big bang theories predict that the existence of the universe was caused by a brief burst of inflation. However, it is believed that the moment inflation begins; there are those regions that it never stops. The quantum effects can keep the inflation to continue on forever in other regions of the universe, globally making inflation eternal. The end of the inflation leads to the formation of stars and galaxies which makes our universe a hospitable pocket.
Eternal Inflation Theory
During an interview last autumn, Hawking said that “the theory of eternal inflation predicts our universe to be like a fractal,” with a mosaic of different pocket of universes separated by an inflating ocean. And these different pockets of universes form a multiverse as the laws of physics and chemistry differ among the universes and the theory of external inflation cannot be tested if the scale of the different universes in the multiverse is large or infinite.
Hawking and Hertog, in the new paper, dismissed the theory of eternal inflation as one of the big bang theories. They highlighted the problem with eternal inflation, is that it makes an assumption that there is a background universe which already exists and evolves according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This does not take into account the quantum effects and treats them as just small fluctuations. However, Einstein’s theory breaks down in the eternal inflation theory as the dynamics in external inflation extinguishes the separation that exists between classical and quantum physics.
Holography Concept Of The String Theory
Hawking and Hertog predict that our universe is not a fractal structure but reasonably smooth and globally finite on its larger scales. The eternal inflation theory forwarded by Hawking and Hertog is derived from the string theory which is a theoretical physics branch which tries to reconcile gravity and the general relativity with the quantum physics through describing the fundamental constituents that make up the structure of the universe as being tiny strings which vibrate. Their method puts to use the theory of the string holography concept, which presupposes that the universe is a hologram which is complex and large. The realities that are physical in some of the 3D spaces are able to be reduced mathematically to 2D projections on the surface.
A variation of the holography concept of the string theory was developed by Hawking and Hertog in order to pin point the eternal inflation in time dimension. This made it possible for them to describe the external inflation without necessarily relying on the general relativity theory by Einstein. The new theory reduced the eternal inflation to a timeless state defined on a spatial surface at the beginning of time.
Taming The Multiverse Theory
Hawking’s no boundary theory predicted that when you move back in time up to the universe beginning, the universe tends to shrink and later closes in a sphere manner, but the new theory does represent a huge step away from the work that was earlier conducted. He also added that in a simpler way to say, that there is a boundary to everyone’s past.
Hertog said that when we look at our universe evolution back in time, we tend to arrive at the external inflation threshold where the time notion becomes meaningless. Hertog and Hawking used their new theory to come up with more accurate predictions that can be relied upon regarding the universe’s global structure. They predicted that unlike in the old theory of the eternal inflation which predicted the universe as being an infinite fractal, the universe that emerges from eternal inflation on the past boundary is finite and much simpler.
Their theory is predictive and testable because their findings show a significant reduction of the multiverse to a smaller range of possible universes which if proven by further work, will have far-reaching implications of the multiverse paradigm.
Hertog believes that primordial gravitational waves ripples in spacetime generated at the exit of eternal inflation is the evidence needed to test this model. Such gravitational waves would have very long wavelengths that are outside the range of the available LIGO detectors due to the expansion of our universe. However, they might be seen in future experiments measuring the cosmic microwave background or heard by LISA which is the planned European gravitational wave observatory based in space. Hertog plans to study the implications of this theory on smaller scales visible through space telescopes.
The sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, can transform into plant like and survive just on photosynthesis. The undertaking is highly unusual for an animal but the mollusk somehow manages to steal millions of green-colored plastids, which are like tiny solar panels, from the non-toxic brown alga, store them in their gut lining, and become photosynthetic, or solar-powered.
“It’s a remarkable feat because it’s highly unusual for an animal to behave like a plant and survive solely on photosynthesis,” said Debashish Bhattacharya, senior author of the study in a news release.
“The broader implication is in the field of artificial photosynthesis. That is, if we can figure out how the slug maintains stolen, isolated plastids to fix carbon without the plant nucleus, then maybe we can also harness isolated plastids for eternity as green machines to create bioproducts or energy. The existing paradigm is that to make green energy, we need the plant or alga to run the photosynthetic organelle, but the slug shows us that this does not have to be the case.”
The brown alga, Vaucheria litore, is an ideal food source for the sea slug. The lack of walls between adjoining cells in its body make it easy for the slug to destroy its outer cell wall and channel through its interior and suck out the cell contents and gather all of the algal nuclei and plastids at once. Some scientists argue that Elysia chlorotica steal and store plastids as food to be used later, much like camels store fat in their humps. But the findings showed that’s not the case.
“It has this remarkable ability to steal these algal plastids, stop feeding and survive off the photosynthesis from the algae for the next six to eight months,” Bhattacharya said.
The team had the slug’s RNA sequenced (gene expression) and tested their solar energy supply hypothesis. The data showed the slug reacted to protect the stolen plastids from digestion and turned on animal genes to “utilize the algal photosynthetic products.”
It is also found that while Elysia chlorotica stores plastids, the algal nuclei that are also sucked in do not survive. The team is yet to find out how the slug maintains the plastids and photosynthesis for months in absence of the nuclei, which are required to control their function.
Elysia chlorotica - photosynthetic sea slug movie 2 - YouTube