About Chris Riley

I'm a middle school science teacher in New Jersey.

How can you look in your own lungs?

I mean, without using an X-Ray. Recently a person was able to do just that, though I expect it wasn’t pleasant. A 36 year old man went into an ICU with acute heart failure. Later that week, he coughed up a blood clot consisting of much of the right bronchial tree. In later examination, doctors saw a small amount of blood in his lung, so this clot was blood that had bled into the bronchial tubes, and clotted there.

Research shows that old people may end up believing their own lies

A new study shows that older people are more susceptible to believing their own lies as the truth within an hour of telling the lie. They had both young and old participants lie about doing an activity while their brainwaves were measured by an EEG. The older cohort was significantly more likely to believe the lie as truth.

The bottom line is that lying alters memory.

A plane with no moving parts

That is, no propeller, no turbines, no elevators, etc. Nada. Zilch.

OK. You and I have made airplanes like that: paper airplanes. But what about a plane that is self-powered, but still doesn’t have any moving parts? Well, MIT made such a thing, and it doesn’t even need black magic.

They use high voltage wires in front of and behind the wings to strip electrons off of nearby air molecules, and then pull those molecules to the rear. This “ionic wind” generates enough thrust to power the aircraft.

Granted, the plane itself only weighs 5 pounds, and didn’t fly far, but this is a pretty groundbreaking achievement.

Who talks about the past? Not just us.

Other than humans, there is only one animal that we know about that talks about events that have already happened (the past): Orangutans. Orangutans make a certain sound to signal that there is a predator nearby. Scientists have observed orangutans seeing a predator, quietly climbing to safety while carrying her infant, and waiting until it was safe to give the warning.

This delayed warning makes it safer for the infant, and indicates a greater intelligence than only communicating about events that are currently happening.

 “The mother saw the predator as most dangerous to her youngster and chose not to call until it was gone,” he says. Then, and only then, did she provide information, letting the infant learn about the danger that had passed, the team reports today in Science Advances.

Potential long-term treatment for type 2 diabetes

According to this article at The Guardian, the Dutch have done a trial with 50 subjects with type 2 diabetes underwent an hour-long procedure that involved destroying the mucus membranes of the small intestine (probably not the whole small intestine, most likely the jejunum). In 2 weeks the body replaces the missing mucus membrane. After 1 year, 90% of patients still have stable blood sugar levels. It’s unknown yet if this can be a permanent treatment, or if the procedure needs to be repeated regularly.

Helium is weird

Helium is a very strange beastie. With most elements, if you cool it down enough, it will turn into a solid. The molecules will slow down, and then lock into place. But helium does very strange things when you cool it down enough, including refusing to solidify as you approach absolute zero.

Of course, this is all the fault of quantum mechanics, which has the somewhat annoying property of being totally counterintuitive and also matching all experiments to see whether it’s true or not. At the atomic level, things are just weird.

Some of the weird things that helium does when you get it cold enough, cold enough to turn it into a superfluid, are: climb up walls, fit through microscopic cracks that it can’t fit through as a regular liquid, and make a superfluid fountain.

It turns out we’re teaching reading all wrong

Do you like to read? I love to. But many people don’t. It may just be that they weren’t taught properly how to read.

People are born wired to talk and communicate. But not to read.

Another big takeaway from decades of scientific research is that, while we use our eyes to read, the starting point for reading is sound. What a child must do to become a reader is to figure out how the words she hears and knows how to say connect to letters on the page. Writing is a code humans invented to represent speech sounds. Kids have to crack that code to become readers.

The best way to learn is to associate the sounds of words: phonics. When you know how to sound out a word, you can connect the written word to the word you already know. This makes it easier to read. But for a very long time, reading education was based on the belief that learning to read is natural. It’s not, and we have to change the way we teach kids how to read.

Which falls faster, feathers or a bowling ball?

Of course, here on Earth, it’s the bowling ball. But why?

The answer is air resistance. Those darn air particles slow down the low mass feathers. They try to slow down the high mass bowling ball, but have little effect. So the feathers take longer to fall.

But what if you could remove those pesky air particles? Well, they did this on one of the later Apollo missions, but you can also do this on Earth. If you have the right equipment. Fortunately, NASA does.