Technology: The Wellbutrin of the Masses

Anyone in need of a moment's release from our collective recession depression should check out of this piece in today's Telegraph, which previews some revolutionary new consumer technologies on the horizon.

The piece summarizes the recent predictions of British 'futurologist' Ian Pearson who envisions, within the next decade, contact lenses equipped with full multimedia capabilities (think, an iPod for the eye).  Further, Pearson foresees a new area of deep, emotional interactivity with our media forms, as new digital receptors implanted in the brain allow us to receive emotional stimuli from movies, tv shows and other media, allowing us to feel the rush of a James Bond car choice or the elation of a Pittsburgh SuperBowl as if we were 007 himself, or Ben Roethlisberger.

I always find a measure of comfort in these visionary stories of technological newfangledness.  It's not so much that any given idea will lead directly to a great leap forward for society (emoting with your TV would seem to contribute to less not more productivity).  Rather, the mere fact that there is still a steady of supplies of these ideas suggests that big thinking is still alive and well and that, with the bad ideas, will too come the good and even great.  The great ideas, of course, make all the difference.

Not to wrap this post up on too cheerful or tidy a note, it's also worth considering how these visions of the future might help us better understand where we've fallen short.  No less a visionary than VC wunderkind, hedge fund titan and Big Think investor, Peter Thiel, suggested that we might use our past visions of the future, yet unrealized, as a measure of missed opportuntities driven by misguided policies and behaviors.  In this clip from Big Think's economic forum "Beyond the Crisis", Thiel paints the biggest of pictures, drawing lines between technological dreams deferred and the meltdown of the global economy.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less