We already know that science is awesome, but life keeps proving it repeatedly. Just look at the Mars Science Laboratory's robotic space probe mission, which recently landed the rover Curiosity to study the planet's habitability, if you need recent proof. Science sometimes feels like the movies, as is the case with a study from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Two researchers have figured out how to implant "artificial short-term memories in isolated brain tissue." Translation: these geniuses are pulling some serious Total Recall
-style wizardry on a few mice. They basically stimulated the pathways in their tiny brains. Even though they're rodents, the idea is pretty damn amazing. Here's some geeky technical talk from Blastr
"The researchers also demonstrated that they could generate memories for specific contexts, such as whether a particular pathway was activated alone or as part of a sequence of stimuli to different inputs. Changes in ongoing activity of hippocampal neurons accurately distinguished between two temporal sequences, akin to humans recognizing the difference between two different song melodies."
One of the scientists believes this is the first step in understanding the complicated details of our short-term memories. Don't start channeling your inner Quaid yet — though we'd like you to summon your inner Kuato — because this could take eons to be perfected. Today, mice. Tomorrow, futuristic lobotomies for everyone! Who says we don't live like kings?
In other science news, Gizmodo informs us that NASA has already started work on a real-life version of Star Trek
's warp drive — aka, faster-than-the-speed-of-light realness. "Perhaps a Star Trek
experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility," Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, the advanced propulsion theme lead for the NASA engineering directorate, recently said. His team is looking for a loophole in our current propulsion technologies while respecting the "11th commandment," as the doc puts it: "Thou shall not exceed the speed of light." They believe that they've found a way around things, and have "initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble" using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer." Here's how the great doctor explains it:
"Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space-time -- a 'Chicago pile' moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development."
Yeah, what? Gizmodo breaks it down: "By creating one of these warp bubbles, the spaceship's engine will compress the space ahead and expand the space behind, moving it to another place without actually moving, and carrying none of the adverse effects of other travel methods." If all goes well, we would be able to travel to the star Alpha Centauri in two weeks — Earth and spaceship time, without "tidal forces inside the bubble, no undue issues, and the proper acceleration is zero. When you turn the field on, everybody doesn't go slamming against the bulkhead, which would be a very short and sad trip."
Find out what else Dr. White has to say on Gizmodo
(there's so much science it makes our brains explode — like, a four-year roundtrip to see a planet like Earth is apparently also a possibility), and prepare to travel in spaaaaaaaaaaace someday.