Duncan's blog

ENCODE - New insight into Human DNA

The first wave of papers on a massive research project delving deeper into Human DNA were released on September 5th. The project, started in 2003 and entitled ENCODE, involved 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the globe.

When the Human Genome Project completed its mapping in 2001, scientists thought that only 2% of Human DNA was used, the rest thought to be evolutionary leftovers. Based on the preliminary reports just released, it appears that 80% or more is active. Most of what had been previously discovered were the genes directly responsible for encoding proteins. The new mappings reveal a much larger set of gene 'switches' used to control the protein encoding genes.

The revelation of gene switches allows for entirely new approaches in research around cancer, genetic disorders and a host of other areas.

An explorer for the papers published is at ENCODE on the Nature site.

An iPad app is also available Nature ENCODE

( via The New York Times )

Brains from the BBC

3 BBC News items on brains

Is this what thoughts sound like?

University of California psychology and neuroscience professor Bob Knight explains how computers are being used to decode imagined speech.

World premiere of brain orchestra

Brain waves from thoughts of sounds used to move cursor

Moving a computer cursor by thinking about a series of vowels.

Archaeoacoustics around the world

The Landscape & Perception project of Jon Wozencroft & Paul Devereux is conducting ongoing research in "Archaeoacoustics."

Previously mentioned here by Gordon, ancient sites with acoustic "ringing rocks" have been discovered all over the globe. Of note is research conducted by the L&P team with ICRL fellows ( lead by Robert Jahn, formerly of PEAR ) whose paper "Ancient Architectural Acoustic Resonance Patterns and Regional Brain Activity" appeared in Time and Mind, March 2008.

Percussionist Z'ev has played on lithophones in Carn Menyn, Wales ( see the bottom of the sidebar here for photos and a sampling of the sound ).

The Sound Machine

Roald Dahl's "The Sound Machine", first published in the September 17, 1949 issue of The New Yorker, proposes a device that can pick up high frequency sounds and convert them into the range audible by humans. The inventor of the machine first hears shrieks of roses being cut by a neighbor. Taking an axe to a beech tree the next day, he is surprised to hear "a harsh, noteless, enormous noise, a growling, low-pitched, screaming sound..."

A radio dramatization of the story is on archive.org in MP3 format.

Several short films have been inspired by the short story. Two on YouTube are embedded below.

Scans of the original issue of The New Yorker are available via one-time payment or subscription at their site.

Singing Mice

Featured in the May 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine is an article about the vocalizations of different species of mice. Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, biologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, is a behavioral ecologist with expertise in how animals use sound. While working a California field site in 2004, she used an ultrasonic recorder ( analogous to Gordon's Bat Box ) to capture nighttime sounds, some of which she suspected to be those of mice she was studying.

Bringing the recordings into the computer, Matina's team noticed a fairly loud four-note song that turned out to be from a deer mouse. A slowed down recording of the mouse song sounds eerily akin to whale song. Have a listen.