Geek Girl: Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak Is Real!
The adventures of Betty’s Geek Girl continue in this week’s exciting installment of science, si-fi, and other nerd-worthy news. And yes, there’s an invisibility cloak.
-Lucia Peters and PJ Gach
Geek Girl gets her science on this week with an exploration of memory, how sex works (or doesn’t work) in space, and an actual invisibility cloak. She’s also letting her sci-fi freak flag fly, though, with zombies, Darth Vader, and Edgar Allen Poe at her side. Curiosity piqued yet? Read on to find out more!
Small Child Learns the True Identity of Darth Vader:
(Warning: SPOILERS, in the event that you have been living under a rock since 1977.)
As a young nerdling growing up in a thoroughly nerdy house, my nerd education began quite early. So early, in fact, that I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t know that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. It was simply part of the natural order of things, the same way that the sky is blue and bananas are delicious. (Unless you don’t think bananas are delicious. How is that possible? Stop screwing with my understanding of the natural order of things!) But sometimes, I wish I could unlearn pieces of information just so I could experience them all over again. Like this kid, who has been making the Internet rounds this week:
This is what happens when someone who has never seen Star Wars before discovers who Darth Vader is. Specifically, it is what happens when a four-year-old who has never seen Star Wars before discovers who Darth Vader is. And his reaction is PRICELESS. This is what makes me long for the days when I didn’t know that Darth Vader was Luke’s pater. Kids experience the world in such a remarkable way, don’t you think?
Of Memory and Molecules:
Speaking of memories, check this out: Did you know that memories can be affected by certain molecules? Because they can. In recent years, here’s what we’ve discovered about how memories and molecules affect each other:
Cortisol is a steroid. It’s naturally present in the human body; when you’re stressed, it’s what gets released by your adrenal gland. However, extra injections of it, along with a little boost of adrenaline, have been shown to increase the short term memory retention. Taking things a steo further, the molecule P7C3 may even aid in restoring memories: It helps neurons branch out and protects them from degradation, making it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s. Finally, studies have shown that when amounts of the large molecule CaMKII are spiked in the brains of mice, the mice are less able to recall short term memories associated with fear. So right there, we’ve got a) something that helps you remember things better, b) something that restores lost memories, and c) something that blocks out harmful fear-based memories. Neat-o!
Of course, there’s still a ton we don’t know about memory. We don’t know how or why P7C3 works, for instance; also, while a little bit of cortisol can be a good thing, too much of it can actually impair short term memory. Furthermore, hefty amounts of CaMKII can erase new and fear-induced memories, but oddly enough, it can do it without harming other memories—and do we know why? Nope. But hey, the more we study, the more we learn. So maybe one day, I actually WILL be able to go back and re-experience Darth Vader’s big reveal all over again!
Invisibility Cloak IRL!:
See this? Watch it:
Cool, right? Now let me tell you about what you just saw. That, my friends, is a real, honest-to-goodness invisibility cloak. No, it’s not quite as elegant as Harry Potter’s, but science can be a little clunky sometimes, so cut it some slack. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have essentially created a man-made desert mirage: Changes in temperature—e.g., extreme heat—cause the device to bend the angle of light, with the upshot being that the viewer’s brain fills in the gaps in the image with something that isn’t there. When the light is bent away from the object, it therefore appears invisible. Crazy!
This mirage device doesn’t require the heat of the desert sun to work, though; it gets its power from carbon nanotubes, which also allows for easy on-off action. I want one for my living room—just think what a great conversation piece it would be!
Capsule Review: Married With Zombies (Living with the Dead, Book 1) by Jesse Peterson ($7.99, amazon.com):
Okay, your marriage is in trouble so you go to a counselor. If said counselor is eating the previous appointment, there just may be other issues going on.
Married with Zombies is a hilarious take on relationship issues-with the living and the dead. Looking for urban fantasy with a kick? Want a heroine who isn’t an annoying Mary Sue? Dystopia that makes you laugh? A book that’s as easy to read as eating a chocolate bar, but healthier? Then this book is for you. Horror mixed with laughter and a soupcon of relationship advice. This book will make you laugh out loud (really. I did a lot.) and cringe at the same time.
Warning- it’s the first in the series. If the rest of the series holds up to the first book, this is going to be one of those series where you get pissed because you have to wait for the next book to come out.
Sex in Space? You’re Gonna Need Help with Liftoff:
Richard Branson may be pioneering getting citizens in space, but if you want to get it on during interstellar travel, you may have another think coming. At the 100 Year Starship Symposium held in Orlando, FL on September 30th, among other topics, scientists debated about the possibility of doing the wild thing in zero gravity.
During the discussion, biologist Athena Andreadis of the University of Massachusetts Medical School mentioned how sex could be a real challenge. “Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls. Think about it: you have no friction, you have no resistance.”
This conjures up images of the worst date ever. On the bright side, it proves that scientists aren’t as dull as you thought they were.
First Look: The Raven:
This is a great combo! John Cusack (pant, pant, pant), Luke Evans (pant, pant, pant- Clash of the Titans) and Edgar Allen Poe. The Raven is about the last days of EAP as he hunts down a serial killer. Um, talk about alternative history. Then again, who cares if you get to see hot men acting well and looking good in tight pants. We’re going to have to wait until March 9, 2012, for this sexy thriller to hit the multiplex.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.
PJ Gach is Senior Editor: Style + Beauty at BettyConfidential.