Google Duplex is one of the more impressive products Google has shown off in recent years. Just ask the Google Assistant to make a restaurant reservation at a certain time, and it will do it. By “do it,” I mean it will make a phone call to a business, speak to the business on your behalf with one of the most human-sounding computer-generated voices ever made, negotiate a reservation time, and get back to you.
David Nutt, psychiatrist and director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, has been working on a safe alternative to booze since he discovered an alcohol antidote as a PhD student in 1983. From an article in The Guardian, here’s the cool science-nerd part …
What Nutt now knows is that there are 15 different Gaba receptor subtypes in multiple brain regions, “and alcohol is very promiscuous. It will bind to them all.” Without giving away his trade secrets, he says he has found which Gaba and other receptors can be stimulated to induce tipsiness without adverse effects. “We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate and other ones, such as serotonin and dopamine. The effects of alcohol are complicated but … you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”
Handily, you can modify the way in which a molecule binds to a receptor to produce different effects. You can design a peak effect into it, so no matter how much Alcarelle you consume, you won’t get hammered. This is well-established science; in fact Nutt says a number of medicines, such as the smoking cessation drug varenicline (marketed as Champix), use a similar shut-off effect. You can create other effects, too, while still avoiding inebriation, so you could choose between a party drink or a business-lunch beverage.
Ultimately, the aim isn’t for Alcarelle to become a drinks company, but to supply companies in the drinks industry with the active ingredient, so that they can make and market their own products. You would expect that the alcohol industry would view Alcarelle as its nemesis, but Orren says that industry players “are approaching us as potential investing collaborators”. This doesn’t surprise Jonny Forsyth, a global drinks analyst at Mintel. “The industry is increasingly investing in alcohol alternatives,” he says. “We have seen a lot of investment in cannabis … They’re looking at nonalcoholic gins and soft drinks because they know people are drinking less [alcohol], and this is a trend that is going to carry on. If the science is right, and if it’s easy to mask the taste, I think it’s got a great chance.”
Any of you bastards ever see Moon? (AKA the tiny, old-school-sci-fi movie that David Bowie’s son directed.) Can’t believe it came out 10 years ago, but then, I can’t believe I’m 50. Go figure.
Moon is on Netflix at the moment, and well worth a look. It’s best to go in cold though, so don’t watch trailers or read spoilerish reviews. It’s so beloved that a book is coming out later this year to commemorate its 10-year anniversary. Check it out …
Titan Books and Liberty Films are delighted to announce the publication of Making Moon to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Moon’s initial release, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Director Duncan Jones’ feature film debut, Moon won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, along with numerous film critic and film festival awards. Moon was also nominated for the BAFTA for Best British Film and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 2009.
Directed by Duncan Jones, and written by Nathan Parker from a story by Jones, Moon is a 2009 science fiction drama following Sam Bell (Oscar®-winner Sam Rockwell), a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the moon. Independently financed and produced on a modest budget, Moon became an instant cult classic. It was well received by critics and audiences alike, and was particularly praised for its scientific plausibility and realism.
Set to publish on 3 September 2019, Making Moon will take an in-depth look back at the film’s production. It features interviews with the film’s key creatives and includes rare concept and behind-the-scenes images, as well as excerpts from the original shooting script.
Jaw-dropping deception. This podcast is especially recommended to the medically inclined among us.
Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as “the next Steve Jobs” find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to 20 years in jail? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize healthcare, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way? ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, along with producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson, take listeners on a journey that includes a three-year-long investigation. You’ll hear exclusive interviews with former employees, investors, and patients, and for the first-time, the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes, and those at the center of this story. New episodes post Wednesdays.
Check it out here. By the way, the title is a double entendre I just got.
My initial thought is that this will be a good thing, but I’m not really sure where else the story can go. I tried Better Call Saul, but I just couldn’t get into it. Vince Gilligan is running the show on this movie, so maybe I should just put my faith in him and let things happen.
Where do you think they would go with this story? Maybe Jesse goes back to school and becomes a high school chemistry teacher…
Look Around You is a British television comedy series devised and written by Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz, and narrated in the first series by Nigel Lambert. The first series of eight 10-minute shorts was shown in 2002, and the second series of six 30-minute episodes in 2005, both on BBC Two. The first series of Look Around You was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2003.
The humour is derived from a combination of patent nonsense and faithful references and homages. For instance, fictional items that have a passing resemblance to everyday objects are shown and discussed. Such items include the “boîte diabolique”, a box at the top of a piano scale which housed the “forbidden notes”; and “Garry gum”, a performance-enhancing chewing gum which has the unfortunate side-effect of inducing diarrhoea, necessitating the consumption of “anti-Garry gum”. Each episode begins with a “countdown clock”, similar to the one used on ITV Schools programmes from 1979 to 1987. The music that accompanies the countdown is in the same spirit as the original, but is played on a solo guitar, and at the beginning of the “Brain” module, the guitarist can be heard tuning.
The module subjects are distorted beyond recognition; for instance, germs are described as coming from Germany, and whisky is said to be made by combining water with nitrogen. The maths module features a distorted and inaccurate version of the ancient ‘seven cats’ puzzle by Ahmes. Additionally, subjects are mixed: for example, a chemistry experiment about eggs (In the episode Water) turns into a French language lesson. Each episode follows a general format, beginning with an introduction to the subject, followed by a series of silly experiments performed by the hapless (and normally mute) scientists, played by Popper, Serafinowicz and Edgar Wright, among others.
You bastards better keep flossing! According to NewScientist …
If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.
That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.
Multiple research teams have been investigating P. gingivalis, and have so far found that it invades and inflames brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s; that gum infections can worsen symptoms in mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s; and that it can cause Alzheimer’s-like brain inflammation, neural damage, and amyloid plaques in healthy mice.
“When science converges from multiple independent laboratories like this, it is very compelling,” says Casey Lynch of Cortexyme, a pharmaceutical firm in San Francisco, California.
In the new study, Cortexyme have now reported finding the toxic enzymes – called gingipains – that P. gingivalis uses to feed on human tissue in 96 per cent of the 54 Alzheimer’s brain samples they looked at, and found the bacteria themselves in all three Alzheimer’s brains whose DNA they examined.