Category Archives: By Daniel Sternklar

Young Steve Martin Was a Turtle-Riding Drag Queen

Young Steve Martin Was a Turtle-Riding Drag Queen


Steve Martin has come a long way as a comedian. Before becoming a big screen star known all around the world, he started small (as most comedians do) and was known for smaller parts.

Luckily for us, his first TV special, Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy, is hilarious. Martin promises his lover that he will wear something from her as good luck. Unfortunately for him, it’s not just a “pin or something,” as he expected.

Watch the video above to see this classic and hilarious turtle-wrangling version of Steve Martin in one of his first comedy videos. Thanks to Official Comedy for sharing the throwback.

Cat Likes To Sit On Gamer’s Head

Cat Likes To Sit On Gamer’s Head

The Internet is riddled with cat videos, and yet people still crave more cute, cuddly kitties.  just posted this video of her two cats before the weekend, and it is already nearing one million hits. Her one cat, Malcom, is fine sitting to the side, but Sophie will only get comfy resting on Scott’s head. 


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The Gross Side of Space: What Happens to Dead Skin in Microgravity

Warning: If you are looking for a story about the romance of space travel — the adventure, the wonder, the transcendence of what we know in the name of exploring a great unknown — this is not that. Turn away now.

Still with me? Great. Then here’s something from the other side of space. The less romantic, and in fact vaguely disgusting, side. The side that involves drinking recycled urine and using bathrooms that involve vacuums and trimming moustaches with clippers that resemble medieval torture devices. This one involves skin. Skin which, as it naturally does, sheds.

On Earth, we barely notice that process: Our skin cells molt and and gravity pulls them away from our bodies, conveniently and invisibly. In space, however, there is no gravity to pull the dead cells (technically: the detritus) away. Which means that the detritus, left to its own devices, simply floats. Which, given the fact that multiple astronauts live on the Space Station at the same time, and the fact that even highly trained space travelers might get skeeved out by floating clouds of dead skin, is less than ideal.

In the video above, former ISS denizen Don Pettit describes what happens when, in particular, you take your socks off on the Station. “This cloud, this explosion of skin particles — detritus — floats out,” he says. “And you’re in this weightless environment, and the particles have nowhere to go but out.”

That’s even true of foot calluses — which, after a few months of weightlessness, tend to soften. I’ll leave the details to Pettit, but the bottom line is this: If you ever find yourself living on a space station, make sure the station’s ventilation system works really, really well. Because, as astronaut Mike Massimino warns in the video: “This sounds actually pretty disgusting.”

“Well, it is,” Pettit replies. “But it’s part of being a human.”

Image: NASA

This article originally published at The Atlantic

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Controversial Bill Could Ban Substances That Affect The Brain

Controversial Bill Could Ban Substances That Affect The Brain

Britains parliament is getting closer to passing a controversial bill banning all substances that affect the brain, with a further round of debating set to take place in the House of Commons this Wednesday, January 20. The so-called Psychoactive Substances Bill ostensibly aims to prevent the sale of legal highs, which are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs, although the bill has been accused of being overly political and anti-scientific by some experts.

Among the proposed legislations critics is Professor David Nutt, current chair of DrugScience (formerly the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs), and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at Imperial Colleges Division of Brain Sciences. Its going to have massive unintended consequences in terms of research, because anyone working with substances that affect the brain will have to presume that [their research] is illegal, he told IFLScience.

A number of psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, caffeineand nicotine, have been exempted from the bill, meaning they will remain legal. However, as Nutt explains, the default position for all new substances is that they are illegal until the government says they should be exempt. Consequently, he believes that research into new, safer alternatives to these recreational drugs will become impossible.

For instance, Nutt previously worked on the production of a drug called alcosynth, which provides the same subjective effects as alcohol but is non-toxic. Yet under the Psychoactive Substances Bill, he claims that people will be forced to use drugs like alcohol which could easily be replaced by safer alternatives if the law allows it. So it confines us now to a mindset where the only recreational drugs are ones we know to be very toxic.

Proponents of the bill, however, claim it will bring an end to the current cat-and-mouse situation whereby new psychoactive substances (NPSs) hit the market before they can be banned, hence their status as legal highs. Rather than having to retrospectively outlaw these drugs on an individual basis, the new law will automatically prohibit all such compounds before they are even invented.

For this reason, government ministers including Mike Penning the minister of state for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims claim that the new legislation will help to protect the British public from the “exceptional risks” associated with legal highs, which many people consider to be safe simply because they are not illegal. According to Keith Vaz, chairman of the committe supporting the bill, “Britain uses more psychoactive substances than any other country in Europe and is at risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this problem.”

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is one of the drugs that the new bill will outlaw. Lenscap Photography/Shutterstock

However, Nutt claims that by focusing on NPSs, the government is over-representing the danger posed by these compounds, and could provoke greater risk-taking among the general public. For instance, while official figures point to a steady rise in deaths involving legal highs, Nutt says that most of these incidents were more likely produced by a combination of factors, such as mixing NPSs with other illegal drugs. As such, he claims that there were actually only five deaths caused by legal highs last year.

He therefore predicts that the bill might reduce the number of legal high deaths from five to nothing, but therell almost certainly be a big increase in cocaine deaths, because if all the safe alternatives are illegal anyway then people will just go for the strongest stuff.

Emphatically summarizing his opinion on the proposed bill, Nutt describes it as the worst piece of legislation relating to moral behaviour since Elizabeth I banned the Catholic Communion in 1558, adding that it could be the final nail in the coffin of neuroscience innovation in this country.

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We Could 3D Print Buildings Using Robots And Drones  Heres How

We Could 3D Print Buildings Using Robots And Drones Heres How

These days, 3D printing is never far from the public eye. Its vast and imaginative array of applications is constantly growing, from life-saving medical implants to life-ending firearms. Now, architects and structural engineers have started experimenting with the technology in an effort to, quite literally, change the world we live in.

Theres no denying that 3D printing holds great potential for larger-scale projects such as buildings and bridges. It could realise complex shapes that would be unachievable using standard building techniques. It could modify existing structures, for example by putting more insulation onto outer walls, or more strength into stairwells. Taken to the extreme, a building could be printed with all its plumbing, pipework and electrical wiring already in place.

It sounds exciting. But lets set the hype aside for a moment, to consider what 3D printing can actually achieve right now.

Waste Not

So far, the technology has two outstanding features: it can manipulate a range of materials, and it can help to reduce waste. While the cheaper, basic machines are limited to plastics, more complex 3D printers can fuse powdered raw materials such as gypsum (like chalk dust), metal powder (like steel) or polymers (nylon) into complete objects.

In much the same way that a 2D printer can produce a whole spectrum of colours by mixing different proportions of cyan, magenta and yellow ink, advanced 3D printers can combine two or more materials to alter the physical properties of printed objects: from colour, to strength, to electrical conductivity and even thermal insulation.

These advanced printers work by sprinkling powdered materials onto the print area layer by layer, fusing the particles of each layer together according to a given design. When the print is finished, excess powder can simply be shaken off and reused, leaving only the fused material in the desired shape. This is much more efficient than the standard practice of cutting away at a large block of material until you have the shape you want.

Were Gonna Need A Bigger Printer

But the technology does have its limitiations: for architects and engineers, the main stumbling block to date has been size. As a general rule, a printed object must be smaller than the machine that prints it. Not to be thwarted, architects and engineers have been coming up with inventive ways to solve this problem. Some of the latest and greatest ideas were on show at a major symposium, which I presented at last summer.

There were two fascinating presentations, for example, by engineering firm Arup. They created a 3D printing process which joins steel tubes together, using only a quarter of the material of the standard process.

Big thinking, big printing at the 3D Print Canal House. Paul Shepherd

Meanwhile, at the 3D Print Canal House project, technologists were tackling the size problem head on. They scaled up existing technology to create a 6m high 3D printer, capable of producing plastic wall panels with very complex shapes, which are then filled with concrete for structural strength. By contrast, Chinese firm WinSun developed a very large printer which uses liquid concrete to produce full-size, 3D-printed building panels that can be assembled into a finished structure.

Dutch firm MX3d have managed to get even closer to printing an entire structure in one piece: the team there have developed a 3D printing robotic arm, which extrudes molten steel that quickly cools and solidifies, in a similar manner to the fun, plastic 3D printing pen toys available on the market.

Since the robot can move around on rails, or even on the structure itself, it can 3D print in the open air. The firm hopes to print a steel pedestrian bridge over an Amsterdam canal, but they are yet to find a site.

My colleagues at the University of Bath are involved in an even more ambitious project alongside others to develop automated, flying, 3D printing drones. These will be able to 3D print buildings, without the constraint of being anchored to the ground.

Not There Yet

Despite all these developments, a few obstacles remain. Constructing buildings and 3D printing both require materials with particular properties and these requirements dont always overlap.

For example, concrete seems like an obvious choice for 3D-printed architecture, since it can be transported as a liquid and sets very hard. But while concrete is strong in resisting compression (being squashed), it does not work well when in tension (being pulled). Concrete floors generally have steel reinforcement bars in their lower face, to resist the tension thats caused by bending. So 3D printing with concrete will not be effective, unless we can find a way to improve its resistance to tension.

Bent floor stretches the bottom face and squashes the top face. The Conversation, CC BY-ND

At the moment, research in this field is focused on introducing small fibres into liquid concrete, to provide some tensile strength without compromising its ability to flow through 3D printing machinery. Others are looking at ways to automatically print the reinforcing bars within the concrete.

Testing, Testing

Whats more, theres still a lot we dont know about the structural strength of the 3D printed objects in particular, the effect of building up a solid object from fine layers. This information is critical if were to have confidence in the ability of 3D-printed buildings to withstand both everyday use, and extreme conditions such as earthquakes or storms.

I have just started work on a project which aims to do just that, with a view to building a mathematical model of how different layering, direction and speed of printing affects the final strength of the object. This will allow structural engineers to understand and adapt their designs to suit the specifications of 3D-printed buildings, when they do eventually come along.

But its important to ensure that 3D printing doesnt just become a solution looking for a problem. It doesnt take an ornate, steel-welding robot to build an environmentally sustainable bridge, when it could be constructed with simple wooden planks. While 3D printing will no doubt become a valuable tool in the architects arsenal, we need to wield it carefully.

Paul Shepherd, Lecturer in Digital Architectonics, University of Bath

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Boy Band Parody Mocks You For Still Acting Like a Teenage Girl

Boy Band Parody Mocks You For Still Acting Like a Teenage Girl


A new parody of boy band One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” pokes fun at adults who fawn over things that teenagers often love.

“I know it feels pretty weird to discreetly listen to a teenage boy band at 33,” the One Direction look-alikes sing in the video. “We know it’s meant for little girls, but we can’t agree it’s OK (oh-oh), it’s OK to like this song.”

The spoof from comedy site Jest goes on to mock the video’s main character for liking Glee, Degrassi, Dreamworks and Pixar movies, Selena Gomez, Hunger Games, iCarly, Twilight and other pop culture guilty pleasures (and for trashing her bedroom after Javier won The Voice).

| ‘I’m in Love With Halo’ Spoofs One Direction

But the question remains: Are you a grown-up teenage girl? If so, are you OK with that? Because I am.

Cat And Dog Stand Off

Cat And Dog Stand Off

Somewhere in the depths of Russia, a cat and dog held a stand off. For a long minute, the two creates of the wild stared into each other’s eyes, waiting for that one moment to pounce. Finally, the dog strikes first, but the cat isn’t having any of it, and soon the dog is running from the cat. In Soviet Russia dog run from cat. The video is featured on StuffIStole


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Why We Still Dont Have Personalised Medicine, 15 Years After Sequencing The Human Genome

Why We Still Dont Have Personalised Medicine, 15 Years After Sequencing The Human Genome

The completion of the first draft of the human genome sequence was announced to rapturous applause in June 2000 to an audience of journalists gathered in the White House and Downing Street. Craig Venter, who led one of the two teams of scientists that achieved this remarkable feat, said that having access to this information held the potential to reduce the number of cancer deaths to zero during our lifetimes. And President Bill Clinton claimed that it is now conceivable that our childrens children will know the term cancer as only a constellation of stars.

Fifteen years later, you dont need to be a scientist to realise that this isnt quite what has happened. So what went wrong? Are the huge promises made by Venter and others more rhetoric than reality, or is there still hope for personalised medicine?

Your genetic code is unique to you, unless you are an identical twin. It specifies exactly why each part of your body is the way it is. But as well as controlling why your hair is brown and not black, variations to your genetic code also determine the risk you have of developing certain diseases, and why you might respond well to some drugs and not others.

The publication of the human genome sequence at the turn of the century heralded a new era of medicine, where therapies would be tailored to each persons unique genetic code, making indiscriminate and damaging treatments like chemotherapy a thing of the past.

So, if the technology is available to sequence everyones genome, why dont doctors now ask for a DNA sample as part of a routine diagnosis?

J Craig Venter Sam Hodgson/Reuters

Not All Junk DNA Is Rubbish

Its because, over a decade after the first draft of the human genome was published, we still really dont have any idea of what most of it actually does.

One of the most surprising outcomes of the completion of the first draft of the sequence was that there are far fewer genes than anyone anticipated. In fact, genes make up only 2% of the human genome, with the remaining 98% often dismissed as junk DNA.

The next surprise came when, after sequencing the genomes of thousands of patients suffering from a variety of genetic disorders, scientists discovered that 88% of changes to the genetic code that correlated with the disease were found in the junk DNA.

So now we scientists have a major problem. We can sequence a patients genome efficiently and economically, we can process the data rapidly, and we can identify changes to the DNA that are associated with the disease in question. But, in most cases, we have no idea how those changes cause the symptoms of the disease.

Absolutely no idea

Cracking The Code

There is now a major drive among researchers in the genomics field to develop tools to address this issue. It is known that one thing harboured in this junk DNA are switches that tell certain genes when and where in the body to turn on (this is why you only have one nose, and dont start sprouting eyes on your elbow).

It is also known that many disease-causing changes to your DNA are found within these switches, so that a given gene doesnt turn on or off at the right time, or turns on at the wrong time somewhere in the body where it shouldnt be active. If the gene in question controls how cells grow, the result of the broken switch can be cancer.

However, identifying these switches and linking them to the genes they affect is not a trivial task. It requires enormously complex experiments with rare and precious tissue samples donated by patients, and then a vast amount of computing power to sequence, analyse and interpret the results.

The Wellcome Trust has just awarded a 3m grant to the institute where I work, the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford, to process samples of DNA from patients known to have a given genetic disease, identify the changes to the DNA which underlie the condition in question, and try and link these changes to genes which may cause the diseases themselves.

With this strategy, we hope to add functionality to the DNA sequence information, and try to work out what that 98% of junk DNA actually does and how it contributes to disease progression.

Personalised medicine remains an achievable goal, but this is why the promises made by Venter, when the draft sequence was first published over a decade ago, have yet to be fulfilled. Yes, we can read the human genetic code, but we are a long way from understanding what it means.

Bryony Graham, Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Molecular Genetics, University of Oxford

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This Stunning Image Of Saturn's Rings Contains A Surprise

This Stunning Image Of Saturn’s Rings Contains A Surprise

If youre confused by this image, we dont blame you. What youre seeing here are the rings of Saturn and the gas giant itself. But the planets rings are, well, rings. Why do they appear to be criss-crossing each other here?

The answer is a pretty awesome illusion, snapped by the Cassini spacecraft thats currently in orbit around Saturn. The bulk of the image is the rings itself, while in the background is the planet Saturn. The lines going the other direction to the rings are actually the shadow of the rings on the planet, visible because the rings are semi-transparent.

Thats not the only surprising thing about this image, though. Take a look just below the middle, and youll spot a gap in one of the rings with a white dot in it. This gap is known as the Encke gap, and the white dot is the moon Pan (28 kilometers/17 miles across). Moons like this form gaps by cleaning out debris from the rings.

Now you see it… NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini took this image from a distance of 1.9 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Pan on February 11, 2016, with a scale of 10 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Saturn in 2004, and since then it has provided uswith incredible views and data from Saturn and its various moons, including Enceladus and Titan.

But, sadly, all good things must come to an end. On September 15 next year, the spacecraft will be sent to its death in the atmosphere of Saturn. This is because, as it runs out of fuel, NASA wants to ensure it wont accidentally hit one of the potentially life-harboring moons and contaminate it with material from Earth.

Dont despair too much, though, because this final death plunge will see Cassini return some groundbreaking science to Earth. Itll be sending back data constantly until its final moments, so well get incredible data from within Saturns rings and from its upper atmosphere as well something weve never gotten before.

Until then, bask in the glory of images like these. With no other spacecraft to Saturn currently in the works, we really shouldn’t take Cassini for granted.

Here’s the full image in all its glory.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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