Archive for the ‘science’ Category

UPMC, wounds and possible zombies

UPMC made it onto Nerdist News this week.  Jessica Chobot discusses the healthcare giant’s research into trauma treatment, specifically technology to help save a patient after a gunshot or stabbing wound:


In case the video doesn’t show above, the link will take you there.

The show displays a nice view of the Steel Tower, and they did mention what first jumped to my mind: the beginning of the zombie outbreak.  I mean, this is Pittsburgh after all.

PATransit Tuesday: Meeting new friends

Slog reports on a study from Science Daily about sitting on a bus:

If one of two seats is occupied, you look for two seats that are free. Only when you can’t find two empty seats do you take a free seat next to a person. This is “the greatest unspoken rule of bus travel.” Here’s where the problem begins: When seats must be shared, the “seated passengers initiate a performance to strategically avoid anyone sitting next to them.”

The first part is certainly true, but very rarely do I see riders on PAT buses trying to block out other riders.  Sure, I do see it every now and then, but most often, people are more than welcome to share the seats.

And besides, that’s how you can find new friends (or sometimes in my case, people who just want to hear themselves talk).  But of course, I guess I would have to be awake to meet new friends.

Who Are You Going to Call?

We all feel safer now thanks to the war on the constitution, I mean the war on terror. But, who is protecting us from the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man? That’s the job of the G.G.P.S.

Mount Oliver

Overview: The tenant of this apartment contacted us because of numerous anomalies reported in her home. It was once a full house that has been renovated into separate apartments with hers being on the bottom floor.

The tenant reported cold spots, sleep paralysis symptoms, sightings out of the corner of her eye, and a feeling of being watched late at night. Over 460 pictures, 4 hours of audio/video were taken at this location with no anomalies to report.


When we went out for an investigation, we are proud to say we were able to put the residents at ease. Upon testing sounds, both heard exactly what the noise was; and we confirmed it to be loose shingles on the chimney.

This was a wonderful case as we were able to put the homeowners mind at ease. They are happy they could sleep comfortably now, knowing that there was no paranormal relation to the sound that they continuously heard late at night.


Overview: The owner of this home contacted us due to suspicious activity in her home. Cold spots, sightings of an apparition, and symptoms of sleep paralysis led her to us.

This home is on old farmland, with a new building in place. Through the interview we learned that the activity seemed to be increasing since our telephone conversation.

OK, This Is Cool

Thanks to Arts Blog for this one.

“What’s yellow, round, and can dance independently to music? Keepon (pronounced, “key-pong”) is a Carnegie Mellon robotics project turned internet sensation. CMU student Marek Michalowski and Hideki Kozima of Japan’s National Institute of Communications Technology featured the adorable Keepon robot in a music video for Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”, which has now been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube.

The bot uses a gimbal-based system to move through about as full a range of motions as two spheres are capable of, and is able to react to both music and visual stimulation. According to the designers, “Keepon is designed to perform emotional and attention exchange with human interactants (especially children) in the simplest and most comprehensive way.”

My Erdie Number

This past Sunday was the last house concert of the season at Jim and Llouise Altes’. You probably know what a house concert is, a chance for musicians to play in a quiet, friendly, and attentive environment. All the proceeds go to the musician, and there’s usually a potluck afterwards. The handful of Pittsburgh house concert venues usually host acts from a five-hundred mile radius. So you get some of the best performers from places like Nashville, New York, and D.C.

On Sunday, though, it only took a short walk up the block to see a local, Jack Erdie, exhibit some of the best that is said, played, or sung. A native of Fairmont, West Virginia, Jack’s been in Pittsburgh for a number of years. Jack puts his characters through the paces, or should I say, a press — love and benevolence in the face of a cold world and self-destruction. He’s a musical scholar who doesn’t let his scholarship get in the way of enthusiasm. He can write and sing and pick and tell stories with the best of them. I know most of Jack’s songs, but he still surprised me, and sent me down a few paths I hadn’t been before.

Following Jack’s two sets, we filled our plates and some of us made it to the porch to talk about Albert Einstein (It’s not always about politics, justice, and labor struggles for us folkies.).

Perhaps it was Jack’s song “Speed of Darkness” that got people talking about Einstein.

Please help me, Einstein
I’m stuck on a time line
My space is caving in
The speed of darkness
Has outrun my carcass again

Or, maybe it was Walter Isaacson’s recent Einstein biography. Anyway, we talked about who Einstein was, what made him such an intriguing figure, and how physicists become pop stars. In addition, Jack did a great imitation of Stephen Hawking’s answering machine message. The personalities of physicists, though, can actually be a distraction from their constructions of the physical world.

So later that night, I was still thinking about Einstein’s thought experiment, the one where you’re rolling along on a light wave. I wanted to know more, so I googled “Einstein Thought Experiment.” The top ranked article was written by John Norton, Pitt professor, noted Einstein historian, and a former Friendship resident. He’s also a great writer and expositor. Like a patient uncle trying to impart life lessons, John’s always willing to discuss the history of science and quantum physics, even if he knows you aren’t getting it right there and then. You can tell that in this article, a concise and rigorous trip on a light wave. Because it contains a few words such as electrostatics and differential it might — just like a Jack Erdie song — take me a while to get it.

Through metaphysics and verse, through simple harmonies to discourses on the nature of light, from deviled eggs to Greek-style green beans, you might find the keys to the universe in one place. Maybe you won’t find everything on a Friendship porch, but I will say that I’m happy to live in the same town as Jack Erdie, John Norton, and Jim and Llouise Altes.

Science Belt?

Burgh Diaspora clued me in on an emerging project to link Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas.

“Cleveland and Pittsburgh are joining forces to promote both cities as one biotechnology corridor.

BioEnterprise Corp. of Cleveland and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse plan to seek investments together and establish connections between biotech companies and organizations in each region.

The leaders of both biotechnology organizations said promoting Cleveland and Pittsburgh together will help biotech companies gain investments, influence and resources.”


Nikola Tesla, one of America’s greatest scientists and technologists, dreamed of broadcast power. That is, the ability to feed electrical power to a device via the air, rather than via wires. He sort of accomplished that (radio waves are a kind of broadcast power in themselves), but not to the level he believed possible.

Well, a local company, Powercast, is taking the technology a few steps closer to that dream. They were the darlings of CES, and many technology news outlets are talking about their closely-guarded secrets.

Rather than try to squeeze their technique through my muddled grasp of electrical engineering, I’ll quote the CNET article linked above instead:

It works like this: a transmitter can be placed anywhere–in a lamp, for example, that is plugged into the wall and sits on a table. The transmitter in the lamp sends out a continuous, low RF signal. Anything with either AA or AAA batteries set within its range–and equipped with a Powercast receiver, which is the size of your fingernail–will be continuously charged.

Technology similar to this has been in use for years, but Powercast is getting a great deal of attention. With powerhouses like Phillips contracted to use Powercast’s technology, it won’t be long before we’ll have this stuff in our homes.

Although the US now lags behind countries like Norway in the long, fast march toward the singularity, companies like Powercast and institutions like CMU’s world-renowned robotics and artificial intelligence endeavors give me hope that our area might have a future beyond the decline of the steel industry.

Pittsburgh as the next Silicon Valley? It might not be as far away as we think.

Deadly Medicine @ The Warhol

Sorry for the slow week — I’m doing newborn nursery duty down at Magee, which has some early AM hours that are seriously eating into my blogging time. (On the bright side, I changed a diaper for the first time.) I did get time last night, though, to see the Deadly Medicine traveling exhibition at the Warhol. If you’re not familiar, it traces the eugenics movement from well-intentioned beginnings to the wartime atrocities of the Nazis, and was created by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum; original HMM page here.
The curator was kind enough to come up from DC to present a special guided tour for Pittsburgh medical students, an important population given how central doctors were to eugenic programs.

Anyway, it only takes about an hour to go through, and is well worth it. They don’t beat you over the head with this, but you will see an amazing correlation between the 1920s-1940s desire to spread “superior genes” and the modern obsession with being healthy and having perfect children, as well as holding up medical science as the savior of all humanity. (Not that this author is ever slightly concerned by the actions of a local nonprofit health care entity or its marketing campaigns, or its giant new research facilities, or anything like that.)

Friends of Klaatu

robothalloffame.jpgWhat do AIBO the robot dog, the Mars rover and C-3PO have in common? They’re all in the Robot Hall of Fame. It’s online, not in a building someplace, so visiting is free.

The Robot Hall of Fame, a project of Carnegie Mellon, honors “landmark achievements in robotics technology and the increasing contributions of robots to human endeavors.” Both real and fictional robots are eligible, which is how Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still made the cut. The question for 2007: are the Cylons from Battlestar Gallactica too evil to be inducted?

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