Jul 30, 2014

A Squeezable "Glass" Water Bottle That Won't Collect Tastes or Smells

A plastic water bottle can survive the rigors of an active lifestyle, but over time it will collect odd smells and flavors that eventually can't be scrubbed out. A glass bottle is a better option, naturally eschewing mold and odors, but one wrong move and suddenly it's a pile of shards. These Squeezable Glass bottles claim to offer the best of both worlds—but have a bit of a misleading claim to fame.

The bottles aren't actually made from some indestructible self-repairing glass material discovered in a secret lab a decade ago; they're plastic, which is why they can be squeezed without shattering. However, the insides of the bottles are coated with an incredibly thin layer of silicon dioxide—which is what glass is made from—that's just 20 nanometers thick. It acts as barrier preventing smells, flavors, mold, and other bad stuff from sticking to the plastic, but it remains completely flexible.

The Squeezable Glass bottles' inner layer will never rub off, but even if it were to, silicon dioxide is FDA-approved for direct food contact, and it naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables. That added layer of protection also means these bottles can be just tossed in the dishwasher for cleaning, and they start at just $15 with a seventeen-year warranty, which will have you wondering why anyone would ever consider a Nalgene or Camelbak ever again. More here.

Jul 26, 2014

The Pirate Bay Is Now Mobile-Optimized

The Pirate Bay, the infamous peer-to-peer file sharing website, has provided only the finest in illegal torrents for more than a decade, but it's never been known for handsome mobile design. The torrent team has finally come up with a "mobile-friendly" version of its notorious website, in case you've ever wanted to torrent on the go.

Called The Mobile Bay, this new mobile-conscious design provides the same legally dubious amenities, just in a more appealing package. No longer do you have to zoom in just to read the normal Pirate Bay site jammed into your handset. The iconic pirate ship logo is still there, front and center, only now sections are optimized for touching instead of clicking.
"The normal version of the site renders like crap on mobile devices," The Pirate Bay team told TorrentFreak, and they won't hear any arguments from us. The Mobile Bay is the first major design change to the website in its 10-year existence.

However, when it comes to torrenting from your smartphone, not all devices are created equal. Blackberry and Android users can find lots of clients, but if you have an iPhone, you'll need to jailbreak it first to enjoy The Mobile Bay's torrent benefits.

In my few minutes spent navigating The Mobile Bay, I was pushed to a pop-up ad that redirected me to the app store to buy a game called Jelly Splash. I'm not sure if mobile torrenting is my thing. More here.

Jul 22, 2014

This Simple Contraption Lets You Make 100 Water Balloons Every Minute

Like with nuclear war, a water balloon fight isn't about pinpoint accuracy. What's most important is raining down as much soakage on your opponent as quickly as possible. Which means that the Bunch O Balloons, which promises to let you make 100 throw-ready water balloons every minute, could be the most important addition to your summertime arsenal.

The Bunch O Balloons looks like a green 37-armed octopus with tiny empty balloons hanging off of every tentacle. The whole thing attaches to the end of a garden house and when the water's turned on the balloons all automatically fill at the same time. When full they're all easily dislodged with a simple shake, while small black elastics automatically seal them shut.

Bunch O Balloons' creator, Josh Malone, is attempting to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter to put his invention into production. With a pledge of just $15 you can get a single pack which includes three hose attachments and a total of 100 water balloons—just add water.

It's certainly more expensive than buying a bag of normal balloons, until you factor in the hours spent manually filling and tying 100 of them. Suddenly, $15 sounds like a reasonable investment if it keeps your kids occupied for an entire summer afternoon. More here.

Jul 21, 2014

Scientists Can Now Cut HIV Out of Human DNA

HIV is a sneaky virus. Its MO involves integrating its own genes into your DNA, so that even as antiretrovirals hold everything in check, HIV lurks quietly inside your cells. Now scientists have found a way to edit the virus straight out of the human genome—a potential cure for even latent infections.

Genome editing is powerful technique that has really come into its own lately, thanks to aremarkable DNA-cutting protein that easily and precisely cuts out a particular DNA sequence. In fact, genome editing been used to treat HIV before. Earlier this year, another group used genome editing to cut out the DNA sequence of a particular human protein the HIV virus latches onto.

The latest study, from Kamel Khalili at Temple University, uses a similar technique but to different ends. Rather than editing human genes, it goes straight for HIV. Khalili's team showed that the protein could excise copies of the HIV genome from immune cells such as microglia and T cells. It also seemed to prevent any new HIV infection.

The research is still very new, so of course there are challenges to getting something that worked in a petri dish to work in a human. On the whole, very few cells in the human body are latently infected by HIV; how to you make sure the genome editing gets to those cells? And how do you make sure the protein never goes excising where it shouldn't?

But if those challenges are solved, genome editing could be a big step toward an actual cure for HIV. Except for a couple cases involving bone marrow transplants, a cure has been notoriously elusive. HIV hides itself by basically editing your genome—it makes sense that a cure could involve editing your genome, too. More here.

Jul 19, 2014

After 150 Years, Scientists Finally Know How Barnacle Glue Works

Over a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin first described the remarkable adhesive capabilities of barnacles. He couldn't figure out how their natural superglue worked, though. And it took until now to finally unlock the barnacle glue's mysteries.

It's actually surprisingly simple. The key to the super sticky cement barnacles create is actually the tiny drop of oil that their larvae release before attaching to a surface. This droplet clears the water from the surface, enabling them to lay down a phosphoprotein adhesive. Previously, scientists thought that the two substances mixed together to create a bond, but now it's clear that the oil and the adhesive serve two very distinct roles.

"It's an incredibly clever natural solution to this problem of how to deal with a water barrier on a surface," said Dr. Nick Aldred, who authored a paper on the breakthrough that was published in Nature Communications this week. "It will change the way we think about developing bio-inspired adhesives that are safe and already optimized to work in conditions similar to those in the human body, as well as marine paints that stop barnacles from sticking."

Medical applications for nature's strongest superglue are exciting, but they're also a ways off. At the very least, the shipping industry can use the new knowledge to figure out how to get all those damned barnacles off the bottom of boats. The increased drag the arthropods createcosts an estimated $7.5 billion in wasted fuel every year. More here.

Jul 7, 2014

Scientists Have Located the Brain's On/Off Switch for Consciousness

Every one of us loses consciousness on a daily basis: it's called sleep. But scientists have never understood which part of the brain controls when you're conscious and when you're not. Now, researchers seem to have found it by coincidence while studying an epileptic patient—and used electronic brain stimulation to flip the switch on and off.

As New Scientist reports, researchers at George Washington University were using deep brain electrodes to monitor brain signals and try to pinpoint the area of a patient's brain that was causing her seizures. One of the electrodes was placed on the claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons running between major structures of the brain—and a region that's never been studied with deep brain electrodes before.

Unexpectedly, when the researchers sent high frequency electrical signals to the claustrum, the patient lost consciousness: unlike a seizure, where a person's activity immediately stops, the patient seemed to "slow down," speaking more quietly and moving more slowly until she was silent and still, unresponsive to voice or visual stimulation. She was, by definition, unconscious, regaining full consciousness with no memory of the event as soon as the electrical stimulation was turned off.

The discovery has huge potential implications for patients with epilepsy or in semi-conscious states, but this is a very early stage: so far, this on/off switch has only been tested in one patient. But pinpointing where consciousness is located in the brain will be crucial to deeper understanding of how the brain works, as researcher Christof Koch told New Scientist:
Ultimately, if we know how consciousness is created and which parts of the brain are involved then we can understand who has it and who doesn't. Do robots have it? Do fetuses? Does a cat or dog or worm? This study is incredibly intriguing but it is one brick in a large edifice of consciousness that we're trying to build.
Maybe someday, we'll fall asleep by flipping the OFF switch located deep within our brains. More here.