WHEW, we’re entering triple digits now, are we? Well, in any case, thank you for sticking along with the ride — whether you’ve been here the whole time, reading along since Weekly Newsletter #1, or whether this is your first time reading The Burgundy Zine. We appreciate you, bug buddies.
While mind-reading interfaces that convert thoughts to text sound like a dystopian sci-fi plot that could go horribly wrong disturbingly fast, the reality may not be so far away — or as fallible, either.
When you first hear “thought to text,” your knee-jerk response might be, “Uhh, no way. What if I have an intrusive thought that I don’t really mean to send? Or an impulse to text someone I know I shouldn’t?” But the most recent brain-computer face interface studies don’t rely on decoding your internal monologue or raw thoughts.
Rather, researchers have programmed a brain-computer interface that decodes “attempted handwriting movements” from motor cortex activity. This technology allows people who have been paralyzed for years to imagine handwriting and translate that into texting at speeds of 90 characters per minute with 94.1 percent accuracy, which is comparable to average smartphone typing speeds.
Furthermore, that accuracy climbs to 99 percent with general-purpose autocorrect.
Mushrooms: everybody’s favorite quirk of nature. From the psychedelic genus psilocybe and the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis that “mind control” ants, to the mushrooms that clean up oil spills and the mushrooms that may serve as planetary habitats, researchers have found yet another use for fungi: radiation protection.
“The greatest hazard for humans on deep-space exploration missions is radiation,” says a preliminary report in the bioRxiv journal. “Certain fungi thrive in high-radiation environments on Earth, such as the contamination radius of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant… These organisms appear to perform radiosynthesis, using pigments known as melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy. It is hypothesized that these organisms can be employed as a radiation shield to protect other lifeforms.”
Radiosynthesis runs parallel to photosynthesis — but instead of eating sunlight (UV radiation), these shrooms are eating gamma radiation. And it’s all possible through melanin, the same pigment that determines hair and skin color.
By now, we’ve all heard the age-old argument about whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled tomatoes were a vegetable for “tax purposes” in 1893, a botanist would tell you that vegetables aren’t real and that tomatoes are actually a berry.
While we’re at it, cucumbers, peppers, avocados, pumpkins, pomegranates, watermelons, oranges, lemons, limes, grapes, and bananas are all berries, too. Strawberries and raspberries, however, are not. They’re “accessory fruits.”
Happy Pi Day, bug buddies — or as we declared last year, happy ViHart day. And in case you were wondering, yes. The mathemusician YouTuber ViHart has already uploaded the 2021 installment of her infamous annual Pi Day series, which you can watch here.
Now that you’ve sampled a slice of pi, and you’re all cozied up at the screen, let’s start chowing down on some whacky science stories, virtual events, and Burgundy Zine community news.
Social distancing has stripped us of our face-to-face interactions and recreational forms of cultural enrichment. As we’re all adjusting to the new norm, we’ve had to find alternative sources to fill this void of extracurricular education.
In lieu of visiting a museum, you may be scrolling through photos of the last time you visited the Renwick Gallery or Philadelphia Museum of Art, wishing their were a more hands-on way to relive the experiences.
Consider your wish granted. Cuseum has recently announced the release of their augmented reality technology that allows users to engage with famous artwork and virtually display it in their own humble abode.