Using Optogenetics to Fight Obesity

October 3rd, 2013 | Brain


Joshua Jennings and Garret Stuber of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently developed an experiment to “turn off” hunger in a genetically-modified mouse. The process utilizes a technique known as optogenetics (discussed before here). This technology essentially means that you can use a laser to control certain cells in the brain, and afterwards, observe what happens to the behavior of the animal. In this case, the researchers successfully manipulated neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), which have been known to regulate hunger through their actions on the lateral hypothalamus.

Limbic System

As you can see in the video above, when the laser activates, the mouse immediately begins to eat, and when the laser inactivates, the mouse stops eating. It’s really quite amazing!

Of course, it would a long time before anything like this could work in humans.  A key factor in this sort of experiment is that the mouse has genetically-engineered cells which respond to light, but this research does represent a first step in understanding how to manipulate neurons to control complex urges such as hunger.

If this sparked your interest, you can read more about the Stuber Lab and its research here, and if you’d like to read the article for yourself (with subscription), head here.


“Box” – A Projection-Mapping Project from Bot & Dolly

September 24th, 2013 | Robot

Box from Bot and Dolly

Bot & Dolly is a self-described “small company with big robots.” Specifically, they’re an engineering and design firm that is attempting to use their “big robots” to revolutionize filmmaking. This recent project, known simply as “Box,” implements the 3D projection-mapping process to create a truly magical demonstration.

Projection Mapping is a rather old concept (dating back to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland in the late 1960’s), but it has recently come into prominence with the development of specialized hardware and software. Almost any surface can be used to display the 3-dimensional images, so this technology has wide-ranging applications.

It will be exciting to see what this design firm produces next. Find more robotics at Bot & Dolly’s site.


Alien Installations from Katharina Grosse

September 20th, 2013 | Space

Katharina Grosse 1

Katharina Grosse 2

Katharina Grosse 3

Katharina Grosse 4

Katharina Grosse 5

Katharina Grosse is an artist from Berlin, Germany who merges installation art with sculpture and painting to create expansive alien environments. Viewers are invited to explore and interact with the strange world from multiple vantage points. In the artist’s own words: “I simply love to see how painting can change when it appears in different spots spatially. It can be on or next to a canvas, it can be compressed or expanded, and so on. I never decided to leave the canvas and go somewhere else. All possibilities are available at the same time.”

Grosse uses a spray gun to color the soil and incorporates a variety of unexpected objects including balloons, canvases, and clothing in the work. The result is an imaginative, unearthly space that really excites the mind’s eye.

Find more at Grosse’s site.


Space Teriyaki – A Collection of Japanese Illustration from 50 Watts

September 18th, 2013 | Robot, Space

Space Teriyaki 1

Noriyoshi Orai, late 70s

Space Teriyaki 2

“Blood maintaining life by conveying various substances,” illustration by Kazuho Itoh for “Newton,” 80s

Space Teriyaki 3

“Falling motion,” illustration by Kazuho Itoh for “Newton,” mid-80s

Space Teriyaki 4

Shusei Nagaoka, from Androla in Labyrinth, 1984

Space Teriyaki 5

Masao Minami, early 70s

Space Teriyaki 6

Shusei Nagaoka, from Androla in Labyrinth, 1984

Space Teriyaki 7

Natsuo Noma, late 80s

Space Teriyaki 9

Takashi Yamazaki cyber cycle 1985

Space Teriyaki 8

Atsushi Yoshioka

50 Watts is one of the best vintage design & illustration blogs on the web. Space Teriyaki, a collection of books and catalogs on Japanese illustration and design from the 70’s and 80’s, embodies the brand of intriguing and rare content that Will Schofield has gathered.

I’ve always enjoyed Japanese illustration and have featured the likes of Kazumasa Nagai and Yusaku Kamekura before. The pieces from this era tend to share a boldness in both color and form.

If you’ve enjoyed these, you can find more at 50 Watts.


Ground Control to Major Frog

September 12th, 2013 | Space

ground control to major frog

This leaping frog was captured by NASA’s remote cameras set up for the launch last week on September 6, 2013 from the Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The Minotaur V rocket was launching the LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft.

The spaceport is located in a 3,000 acre wildlife refuge, so it’s not surprising to find frogs and other animals in the area.  NASA writes:

“But how is it possible for wildlife to peacefully coexist with space operations and what effects do rocket launches have on wildlife? NASA’s launch facilities, roads, and facilities take up a small percentage of the area. The rest of the area remains undeveloped and provides excellent habitat for wildlife. During launches, short term disturbance occurs in the immediate vicinity of the launch pads, but the disturbance is short-lived allowing space launches and a wildlife habitat to coexist.”

Really incredible timing… Read more at Universe Today


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