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Categorized | Science

Lab Letters Issue #15: Dead Man Walking, Space Jewelry, and a Glowing Cockroach

Hello and welcome once again to Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post! This week we’ll be checking out the walking dead, an ancient bead, and new animals discovered in 2012.

Let’s go!

Interview with a dead man

Graham is suffering from Cotard’ delusion, a rare neurological condition that makes people believe that they have died or have lost their organs, and thus no longer need to eat and take care of themselves. The illness first manifests as depression and hypochondria, proceeding to delusions of negation (“my brain doesn’t exist anymore”) and severe depression.


Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’), van Gogh, 1890.

Patients are severely depressed and cannot be reasoned with: even when doctors pointed it out to Graham that he was having a conversation with them, he still thought his brain was fried or didn’t exist, and that it was pointless to seek treatment. (image source:

 A peek inside the activity in Graham’s brain revealed very low brain activity – similar to someone asleep or under anesthesia. And yet, he was wide awake and getting annoyed at his doctors who keep on insisting that he’s not dead. Neurologists think that understanding the illnesses of those specific brain regions – the frontal and parietal ones – would give them a better understanding of how consciousness arises in the mind.



The iron bead was found in Gerzeh cemetery and dated to be from 3350 to 3600 BCE. (image source: Open University/University of Manchester)

This bead is 5000 years old and made out of a meteorite

The tubular iron bead was discovered, among other artifacts, in 1911. It was found to have an unusually high nickel content, initially thought to be a smelting accident. Now it looks like it came from outer space. UK meteorite scientists used an electron microscope and an x-ray CT scanner to settle things, and yes – extraterrestrial origin confirmed! In addition to the high nickel content, the bead also showed Widmanstätten patterns, characteristics of a metal that cooled very slowly (several million years-type of slow)… much like a meteorite inside their parent asteroid.

Researchers said that they are keen on testing other Egyptian artifacts as well. Although, this isn’t the first time a relic was found to come from outer space. Folks, meet Iron Man.



And finally…

Here are the top 10 new species of 2012, as compiled by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. Taxonomy, the science for classifying living things, developed when Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus devised a two-name system of identification in his 1735 book Systema Naturae. The list was released to coincide with Carolus Linnaeus’s birthday on 23 May, 1707.



A glow in the dark cockroach! Pro: you’ll be able to see it in the dark. Con: you’ll be able to see it in the dark. (image source: Photograph: Peter Vrsansky & Dusan Chorvat/ASU)




A fabulous lyre sponge! Looks like a centerpiece, but is actually carnivorous. (image source: MBARI/ASU)




The social media lacewing! First posted to Flickr before it caught the eye of entomologists. #BugsOfInstagram anyone?


Full image gallery here.

And that is it! I will see you next week for another FF LL!


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