Saudi Arabia Executes Royal Family Member for Murder

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Saudi Arabia Executes Royal Family Member for Murder

Scientists Accidentally Found a Great New Way to Convert CO2 into Ethanol

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CO2 to ethanol

Scientists in Tennessee have accidentally discovered a method to convert carbon dioxide, one of the most serious causes of climate change, into ethanol for use as a fuel for internal-combustion motors. This newfound ability to recycle the greenhouse gas could potentially help slow global warming.

“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, an author on the research group’s study journal, in a press release. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that by putting copper and carbon together to create nanospikes on silicon, exposing the matter to carbon dioxide dissolved in water, and electrifying it, the solution was transformed into a surprisingly-highly-concentrated blend of ethanol.

“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” Rondinone said.

As Popular Mechanics notes, unlike other CO2-to-fuel converting processes, this method puts more common materials—carbon and copper—to use. Also, the final product is ethanol, which is already a relatively commonly-used fuel that has plenty of engines capable of burning it.

Currently, the research behind this new process is still in the early stages. The scientists are continuing to study the method to make it even more efficient and to learn more about how it could be put to use in a large-scale operation.

Corn flakes, the microwave, the Slinky…and now, a new way to make fuel that might not destroy the world we live in? The long list of happy accidents may have just been expanded.

Surviving Boko Haram: Kidnapped girls tell their stories

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Surviving Boko Haram: Kidnapped girls tell their stories

 BY LARISA EPATKO  October 19, 2016 at 9:39 AM EDT
Photo of former captive and her baby by Fati Abubakar for International Alert

Photo of former captive and her baby by Fati Abubakar for International Alert

Aisha (not her real name), 17, was living with her mother in Nigeria when Boko Haram took over the town.

“They went from house to house. When they arrived at our house, they wanted to marry me, and I refused. I told them I wouldn’t marry anyone without my father’s consent. So they left. But they came back again at night and kidnapped me,” she said, according to a testimonial from the London-based International Alert.

Aisha was forced to “marry” a fighter, and she became pregnant. “I hated the baby,” she said, but a woman she didn’t know showed her kindness and taught her to love her son. “She preached to me about his innocence.”

When a Nigerian military offensive freed the town, Aisha got help from the nonprofit coalition, the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria.

Another teenager, whose town was captured by Boko Haram, was forced to become a servant before she was able to escape. Once back at home, she learned that the militants had demanded a ransom for her, but her parents couldn’t pay. So they killed her little brother in retaliation.

Her family fled to a displacement camp in Maiduguri in the northeast. Others shared similar stories of being beaten and abused.

The Islamic militants, who are trying to establish territory in the northeast under strict sharia law, force the women and girls to be cooks, fighters and sex slaves. Boys are kidnapped as well and turned into child soldiers. Sometimes they’re released after the government has bombed an area, so they’ve had to survive twice.

Some of the 21 released Chibok schoolgirls met with Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, on Oct. 13. Photo by Sunday Aghaeze/Special Assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari/Handout via Reuters

Some of the 21 released Chibok schoolgirls met with Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, on Oct. 13. Photo by Sunday Aghaeze/Special Assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari/Handout via Reuters

In April 2014, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok. The abductions received international attention and launched a #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign. In mid-October, 21 of the Chibok girls were released and reunited with their families.

But their trauma doesn’t end when they escape. “They’re not trusted” by the community, said Kimairis Toogood, senior peacebuilding adviser at International Alert in Nigeria. The townspeople think the former captives are still under the influence of Boko Haram and could attack them at any time. “When people are afraid, they lash out,” she said.

“There’s a lot of fear and hatred toward Boko Haram,” and it ends up being directed at those who lived with them, even unwillingly, and they become the targets of hate. People call the girls “Boko Haram wife” and sometimes harass and beat them.

“It annoys me a lot that people here in the community view me as a Boko Haram abductee. I hate it,” said one of the freed teenagers. And along with everything else, she’s terrified that Boko Haram will come back to get her.

International Alert, UNICEF Nigeria and other local groups are working to make the communities more accepting of the returnees. They coach the local religious leaders to help the women and girls form support groups. They provide a safe space where the former captives can talk about what they went through.

“You can drink tea, bring your baby, and you just talk and listen” at the workshops, said Toogood. The religious leaders will tell the girls “you’re not to blame and you’re not alone.”

Photo of displacement camp in northeastern Nigeria by Carol Allen Storey for International Alert

Photo of displacement camp in northeastern Nigeria by Carol Allen Storey for International Alert

The aid groups also try to pinpoint the source of the stigmatization and contempt. In order to move on and rebuild, the community must find ways to coexist and forgive, she said. To spread that message, the group facilitates radio programs where hosts interview those involved in the community-building.

Listeners can call in, and responses have ranged from acceptance to more hardline attitudes, showing more convincing is needed.

So far, the girls themselves have been too distraught to tell their stories on the radio. “The things they survived are still very real and raw,” said Toogood.

But they’re resilient, she continued. She told the story of a woman who found a child wandering around a camp — his parents killed — and adopted him as her own. She described the women who refused to abort their children who were born from rape. And the families who won’t give up until their girls are found.

Secret treasure: Historic banknote found inside ancient Chinese sculpture

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Secret treasure: Historic banknote found inside ancient Chinese sculpture

Scientists Can Make People Hallucinate Using Flickering Image

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Scientists Can Make People Hallucinate Using Flickering Image
Hallucinations can range from simple geometric shapes, such as blobs, lines and hexagons, to seeing animals, people or insects.

Credit: VAlex /

How can we measure the mind? When you ask someone what they’re thinking about, what they tell you is not necessarily the truth. This doesn’t mean they’re lying. It means many environmental, social and personal influences can change what someone tells us.

If I put on a white lab coat, suit or t-shirt and ask you a bunch of questions, what I wear will change what you say. This was demonstrated in the famous Milgrim experiments in the 1960s, which showed the power of perceived authority to control others’ behaviours. People want to be liked, or give a certain impression. This is commonly referred to as impression management and is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in scientific research.

Neuroscientists have made notable advances in measuring the anatomy of the brain and its regions at different scales. But they’ve made few big advances in measuring the mind, which is what people think, feel and experience. The mind is notoriously difficult to measure; but it needs to be done as it will aid development of new treatments for mental and neurological disorders.

Out-of-control mental imagery and hallucinations are good examples of mental health symptoms that are difficult to measure accurately in science and medicine. Our study published this week shows a new method to induce and measure visual hallucinations in anyone at any time.

These findings open the door to a new avenue of research. We can now study visual hallucinations in the lab using anyone as a subject.

Hallucinations are commonly associated with disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. But healthy people can also have visual hallucinations after taking drugs, being sleep deprived or suffering migraines, just to name a few conditions.

Generally, hallucinations are defined as an involuntary perception-like experience in the absence of an appropriate direct stimulus. To put it more simply, seeing or hearing something that isn’t there. Hallucinations can range from simple geometric shapes, such as blobs, lines and hexagons, to seeing animals, people or insects.

These involuntary experiences are thought to come about when spontaneous changes in the brain temporarily hijack vision and attention, but the exact causes and underlying mechanisms aren’t fully understood. The best way to understand these things, is to induce a hallucination and observe it in a laboratory.

We have known for more than 200 years that flickering light at particular frequencies can cause almost anyone to experience hallucinations. But the unpredictability, complexity and personal nature of these make them difficult to measure scientifically without having to rely on verbal descriptions. Their changing content, including colours and changing shapes, add to the difficulty.

The simple breakthrough in our research was to reduce hallucinations from flickering lights to a solitary dimension: grey blobs. To do this, rather than flashing random lights or a full computer or TV screen on and off, we flickered a doughnut ring shape instead.

To our surprise, when we did this, we no longer saw lots of different shapes and colours but just grey blobs. By reliably stabilising the hallucination in this way, we could start to objectively investigate its underlying mechanisms.

Under the right viewing conditions, you may experience light grey blobs (that are not physically presented in the movie) appearing around the flickering annulus.

Under the right viewing conditions, you may experience light grey blobs (that are not physically presented in the movie) appearing around the flickering annulus.

Credit: eLife,

Our study’s participant volunteers were university students with no history of migraines or psychiatric disorders. They watched the image of a plain white ring flicker on and off around ten times per second against a black background. All of them reported seeing pale grey blobs appear in the ring and rotate around it, first in one direction and then the other.

To measure the hallucinations, we placed a second ring marked with permanent perceptual grey blobs (not hallucinated) inside the white ring and then flickered this ring again. This allowed people to simultaneously look at hallucinated and perceptual blobs and make a simple comparison.

We showed a range of blobs of different perceptual strengths. The participants then stated whether the hallucinated blobs were lighter or darker than the real blobs. Their answers helped us calculate the equivalent point in strength or contrast between perception and hallucinations.

We used behavioural science techniques to demonstrate that the hallucinations were arising inside the visual cortex. We did this by showing volunteers two flickering rings – one for each eye, displayed out of synchrony. So when one ring was presented, the other was removed, so they alternated between the two eyes.

These lights were flashing about 2.5 times per second — a relatively slow rate, which normally doesn’t induce strong hallucinations. But the volunteers were experiencing hallucinations consistent with lights flashing about five times per second. The signals from the two eyes were being combined in the brain to create a stronger and faster hallucination.

This combination of the signals from the two eyes really only happens in the visual cortex, not in the eye, or other early processing areas of the brain that receive visual input before it gets to the cortex.

Further reading: Some people can’t see, but still think they can: here’s how the brain controls our vision.

Currently, we are testing this new method for inducing and measuring hallucinations in people with neurological disorders to reveal more about how clinical hallucinations are experienced and processed in the brain.

If we can discover the underlying mechanisms of visual hallucinations, this will give us targets to focus treatments on. We hope this new technique will open the doors to new avenues of research, not only shedding light on the foundations of human consciousness, but also helping to develop innovative new treatments for those suffering from hallucinations.

Joel Pearson giving a talk on creating tools to measure the mindJoel Pearson, Associate professor, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Twins Conjoined at Head Now Separated: What Causes Rare Condition?

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Twins Conjoined at Head Now Separated: What Causes Rare Condition?

Does Your ‘Self’ Have a Soul?

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Does Your ‘Self’ Have a Soul?