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Categorized | Science

Lab Letters Issue #11: Clear Blood, Inception, and the Elephant Bird Egg Affair

Hello, here we go again with Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post! Let’s begin.


A pair of ocellated icefish that were brought to the park by krill fishermen have recently spawned, which would enable scientists to study the specimens more carefully. (source: NOAA Fisheries Service)

Clear blood, full heart, can’t lose

The ocellated icefish (Chionodraco rastrospinosus), denizen of the chilly Antarctic ocean, has been found to have clear blood. The fish lacks hemoglobin, a protein that shuttles oxygen around in the body and also gives blood its characteristic red color. Specialists at the Tokyo Sea Life Park speculate that the fish makes up for this by using blood plasma pumped by its huge heart instead. And the weirdness doesn’t end there. The fish also doesn’t have scales – it’s thought to just absorb oxygen directly through its skin. It seems this icefish is bent on redefining what it means to be a fish – heck, even a vertebrate.


The learning algorithm generates videos like this that shows images from the internet and the 20 most common things the subjects dream about. Bigger words = more likely that it’s what the subject is currently dreaming. (credit: Horikawa, Tamaki, Miyawaki, & Kamitani)

 The BRRRRRMMMM sounds are optional

The fun continues in Japan as researchers in Kyoto have successfully developed an algorithm that learns how to predict what human test subjects are dreaming about, with 60% accuracy. To do this, test subjects would get woken up right after they’ve fallen asleep (just as they’re about to start dreaming), and they report what they were dreaming about. The descriptions would be correlated with fMRI readings – basically, pointing out which parts of the brain are active at a specific time (ex. when dreaming about cake).

This process was repeated 200 more times each person; then the (awake) subjects were shown the most common pictures of their dreams. If the fMRI readings matches the ones while they were asleep, then yay – they were able to backtrack and confirm that yes subject 001 was indeed dreaming about cake. Feed all this data into a learning algorithm, and it can actually tell which of the most common 20 dream items the subjects were dreaming about – it got it right 60% of the time!


And finally…

This is a pre-17th century sub-fossilized Elephant Bird egg. It will go on auction in London on April 24 and is expected to sell for $30,000 to $45,000. Elephant birds lived on Madagascar and became inexplicably extinct during the 17th or 18th century.



So, was today as good for you as it was for me? It does not matter. I shall see you again next week!


DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.

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