Category Archives: Science

Seeing what the brain sees.

Recently Berkley scientists used fMRI data to reconstruct images processed by the brain by using YouTube videos to build a computer vision model. Linked above are some of the reconstructions they’ve made using this process.

In 2008, the lab published that they’ve learned how to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to detect images being processed by the brain (2008 paper here)
But how do you turn raw neuronal activity signals into an actual image? In the case of Jack Gallant’s neuroscience lab they contructed a vision model on a computer using a library of YouTube videos. A subject would watch a video, their brain activity would be measured, and that data would be used as part of a dataset for correlating a certain type of brain activity to a certain type of video. Then when the subject watched a novel video that the computer hasn’t seen before, the computer would read the brain activity and superimpose the population of videos that correlate to the neuronal signals.

It’s quite striking how well their model works. With unlimited computing power and an even bigger video library such reconstruced visions could become incredibly detailed.

This isn’t the first time scientists have been able to metaphorically see through someone else’s eyes. Ten years ago experiements, also performed at Berkley, were done with cats (link 1, link 2) in which electrode arrays were placed in the thalamus of a live cat and the measured neuronal activity was processed into an image.
Below is a video showing some of the moving recontructed images obtained from a cat’s brain. Note that it may be grotesque so some people – it contains invasive electrophysiology in a live animal. It’s also creepy in how the cat’s thalamic visual processing interprets human faces at catman faces.

LEGO electrophoresis

Gel electrophoresis is a molecular biology technique that is often used to visualize, purify, or separate DNA based on the size of the DNA molecules inside a solution. It uses an electric current to force charged DNA molecules to migrate through a porous gel that restricts the DNA strand’s movement based on the size of the strand.

And now it’s in LEGO. These are images of an electrophoresis apparatus made out of LEGO blocks. Unlike Lt.Cmdr Data it’s not fully functional though – it would have to be modified to include electrodes. You’d have to drill a few holes into the LEGOs, but you could have your own electrophoresis apparatus for the price of a few plastic blocks.


Awhile ago on the show I mentioned a bit about bioelectrodes made from enzyme-coated nanotubes. Here’s the paper that was published on it:

What I found really cool was that it provided a way to tap into the metabolic energy of a cell and turn it into electricity. Normally in biotic systems metabolism has to cycle in coenzymes like NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and move protons and their bond electrons through a complex electron transport chain to get usable energy out of the breakdown of glucose. These bioelectrodes allow you to directly harvest electricity from a catabolic reation. It had a very good efficiency as well – the voltage measured across the electrodes was nearly identical to the redox potential of the enzyme. There is very little energy being lost by transducing energy using this method.

Journal of Visualized Experiments

This is a handy online science journal that I’ve been visiting quite a bit recently. I may have mentioned this site on a previous episode of the show when I was giving examples of how I use streaming media for scientific research. This website has a huge searchable catalog of experiments performed on camera to illustrate proper laboratory technique and to provide a visual example for how to do a certain experiment.

Not all of the videos are freely accessible, but a number of them are. But unlike other scholarly science publications *cough-cough-Nature-cough* JoVE isn’t currently triple dipping – it doesn’t simultaneously charge fees for contributors, user access, and advertising all at the same time – either you get an ad with your download or you get it through a subscription, but not both.

Nature Holds ‘Open Innovation Pavillion’ is opening its door to readers who can participate in Open Innovation Pavillion, a set of research challenges set by InnoCentive.

InnoCentive is premised on one of my favorite subjects of discussion: open science. As in, why have all of this publicly-funded research suddenly fall into private hands, locked behind steel doors and overcomplicated copyright legislation?

InnoCentive is currently seeking problem solvers who can assist in projects regularly posted under “Solving Problems That Matter.” Currently, there is a $25,000 award for research into Statistical Analysis of Genomic Variants: “searching for the best method of associating genetic variants and clinical variables with clinical outcomes.” Data provided, of course.

In the “Solvers” corner, an “Ascorbate Scavenger” is the task at hand, looking for a potential method that could isolate or react with ascorbate “without affecting other endogenous and exogenous components in a mixture of human blood.”

So if you’re looking for a project, now’s your chance.

HiSciFi – We Love Science!

we’re back and full of mad love! From Dinosaurs, mini-sized human livers to new wonders in DNA research, tune in for this week’s HiSciFi show 🙂
HiSciFi – We Love Science!

Hogan’s holometer: Testing the hypothesis of a holographic universe

In 2008, Fermilab particle astrophysicist Craig Hogan made waves with a mind-boggling proposition: The 3D universe in which we appear to live is no more than a hologram.

Now he is building the most precise clock of all time to directly measure whether our reality is an illusion.

Hogan’s holometer: Testing the hypothesis of a holographic universe @ Symmetry Magazine

Science undermined by politics: federal union

A union representing federal scientists has launched a campaign targeting what it calls the government’s “worrying trend away from evidence-based policy-making.”

“If the science isn’t supported … then you’re going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,” Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Monday as the union launched a website called

The site aims to highlight science done for the public good — much of it taxpayer-funded and carried out by government scientists — and to “mobilize” scientists and the public to pressure politicians to support it. It features interviews with federal scientists about their work, along with interviews with science policy experts.

Science undermined by politics: federal union

Public Science

Nobel Prize for Graphene

For over two decades, scientists have been looking into different forms of graphite, acknowledging that it has a vast potential, especially when reduced to nano-chains, that would transform everything from energy storage to appliances and personal use devices.

Now, two scientists have been identified by Nobel Prize in Physics as leaders in this technology – Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester have successfully isolated a single-atom chain of graphite that can be woven and manipulated – a substance they call “graphene.”

read more HERE.

Will Ferrel: The Future That Could Be

[graphic: The people, places, and things that were once the future—but vanished.] has its magazine feature dedicated to Will Ferrel and the Future. Let’s just say that the results are as depressing as they are hilarious.

What happened (or is happening) to concepts such as nanotechnology, singularity, pill shaped food, or birthday cake containing a burrito? Read HERE.