When you watch astronauts floating around in zero gravity, do you ever wish you could try it? Soon, you might be able to.
A new roller coaster design from BRC Imagination Arts in California would send you up a steep slope at speeds over 100 miles per hour in a closed capsule. At the top, the ride would slow slightly, and you’d experience eight seconds of weightlessness. Actually building this remarkable ride would cost about $50 million.
The idea for the coaster came from NASA’s KC-135A aircraft, nicknamed the “vomit comet.” Astronauts in training take a wild ride in this plane in order to prepare for outer space.
Most roller coasters have open seats, and thrill riders with high speeds and steep drops. But this roller coaster, if it gets built, will look more like a spaceship. When you ride it, you won’t be able to see outside, meaning that you won’t realize when the car is speeding up the track or falling down the other side. But you’ll definitely notice at the top of the ride, when you float out of your seat! “The sensation is a bit like being in an enclosed room while someone fiddles with the gravity switch, turning it back and forth,” Bob Rogers of BRC told Popular Science. In order to do this, the ride will have to adjust its speeds based on the weight of the passengers. And yes, the ride will include barf bags, just in case.
Your turn! Would you ride the vomit comet? If you could take anything on board to see what happens to it in zero gravity, what would you bring?
Send your response to email@example.com or: VOMIT COMET, ODYSSEY, 30 Grove Street, Suite C, Peterborough, NH 03458.
Who Wins This Visual Motion-Tracking Brain Test?
A group of yellow spheres move around on a screen. Four of the spheres flash red, then change back to yellow and mix with the other spheres for eight seconds. Can you keep track of all of the ones that turned red?
If you’re a pro athlete, chances are you’ll ace this test while non-athletes may run into trouble. Researchers gave the test to 102 professional hockey, soccer, and rugby players, 173 college athletes, and 33 college students who don’t play sports. Pro athletes outperformed both other groups from the start and also improved much more with practice. The college students all got similar scores on the first try, but the students who played sports learned faster and performed better with practice than the non-athletes.
“[The pro athletes] appear to be able to hyper-focus for short periods of time, resulting in extraordinary learning functions,” wrote study author Jocelyn Faubert of the University of Montreal in Canada. So is this ability something athletes are born with, or are they good at it because of years of practice keeping track of flying pucks, bouncing balls, and zigzagging opponents? Faubert suspects that the answer involves a little bit of both.
No matter how athletes got their super focus, the fact is that it takes more than speed and strength to make it to the top in sports—a nimble and focused brain makes a big difference!
How many different sports do you play? Do you play in competitive, organized games, or just for fun? If you answered “lots of sports” and “mostly for fun,” then you may be less likely to injure yourself. Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University is a sports medicine expert who specializes in treating tennis players. His team asked a group of young athletes, mostly tennis players, questions about how much time each week they spent playing organized or recreational games. Athletes who had suffered a sports injury reported that they spent five times more time in competitive sports than recreational. Uninjured athletes spent just 2.6 times more time in competitive sports, but on the whole, spent the same amount of time exercising as the injured players.
“Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players,” said Jayanthi.
It makes sense that playing different kinds of sports would make you a more well-rounded and overall fit athlete. Maybe it could help keep you safe, too!
Your turn! Do you play a sport? Interview your teammates about how much time they spend in organized games and in free play. Then note down anyone who experienced a sport injury in the past year. Do you notice any patterns? Send your research to firstname.lastname@example.org or: PLAY FOR FUN, ODYSSEY, 30 Grove Street, Suite C, Peterborough, NH 03458.
When you imagine a playground, you probably think of a brightly painted wood, metal, and plastic structure with a slide, monkey bars, and platforms to climb on. These traditional playgrounds are great fun, but new research shows that incorporating natural elements like logs and flowers can inspire even more play.
Dawn Coe of the University of Tennessee (UT) took notes while children played at a traditional playground at UT’s Early Learning Center. She counted how often the kids used the slide or other areas of the playground, and how much time they spent resting in the shade. Then, the center totally renovated the playground, adding a creek, logs, tree stumps, plants, and slides built into a natural hill.
After the changes, kids spent twice as much time playing, and less time resting. “Natural playgrounds have been popping up around the country,” said Coe. “But there was nothing conclusive on if they work. Now, we know.”
For the first time ever, scientists have captured thought on video in real time!
Watch the video: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/01/video-see-a-thought-move-through-a-living-fishs-brain/ It looks like a pink and purple grain of rice zipping around a large purple blob. Really, that grain of rice is a thought moving around in the brain of a zebra fish.
Researchers at the National Institute of Genetics in Japan picked the zebrafish for this study because it has a see-through body. By altering the genes of zebrafish larvae, scientists can make certain parts of the fish glow with fluorescence. Since neurons in the brain use calcium to fire, the Saitama University researchers linked a protein to the fish’s genes that glows in the presence of calcium. When neurons fire in the fish’s brain, the protein lights up, and we can see it with the help of a fluorescent microscope. “We can make the invisible visible; that’s what is most important,” said researcher Koichi Kawakami.
Once you’ve got a fish with a glowing brain, how do you know what it’s thinking about? Before recording the thought, the scientists figured out which neurons in the fish’s brain responded to movement. Then, they released a paramecium, a tiny single-celled creature that the fish love to eat. As the paramecium moved, neurons in the fish’s brain lit up in a pattern that matched the fish’s motion.
So what does a fish think about? That’s easy—food!
Fluorescence — Giving off light when exposed to ultraviolet or other wavelengths of light
Hang out at base camp or zoom up to the tops of mountain peaks with just a click of your mouse. Photographer David Breashears created a gigapan photo of Mount Everest, or an image made up of many regular photographs stitched together into an image with over a billion pixels. You can zoom in on the image and explore different parts of the mountain without the picture getting blurry: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/20/167621313/a-billion-pixel-tour-of-mount-everest.
This photo of Everest is fun to explore, but the project is about more than just the beauty of the mountain. Breashears is comparing his images to photos of Everest from the 1950s or 1920s, and it’s easy to see that there’s less ice and snow. “We’re trying to show something that’s happening in extreme slow motion,” Breashears told NPR. “[When] you’re looking at glaciers, you can sit there and stare at them for a long time and nothing happens. They don’t talk to you; their stories are ones that you understand through science.” His non-profit organization GlacierWorks aims to document how climate change has affected the Himalayan glaciers. Take a look for yourself at http://www.glacierworks.org.