The Head that Wouldn't Die

I caught this story while listening to on public radio a couple of weeks back about a recent discovery to come out of Rice University's Dept. of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. A faculty professor there, Janet Braam, found that some produce, which in her experiments included cabbage, responded to light and dark cycles, known as circadian rhythms, days after being harvested. Cruciferous veggies such as cabbage use these cycles to produce cancer-fighting compounds. For nutritionists, grocers, and food distributors, this finding will likely have a significant effect on the way fruits and vegetables are handled. By regulating the light and dark cycles to mimic nature, they'll be able to coax the maximum health benefits out of their produce.

More info on Prof. Braam and her colleagues' ongoing research can be found here.

A new "Cosmos"

Before cable's TV's specialization, science programming on television was a rarity, so when PBS originally aired the 13-hour series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage in 1980, it was an immediate hit and remains the most widely viewed PBS series ever worldwide. One of the primary reasons for Cosmos' popularity was its creator and host, Carl Sagan, who came across as a kindly, wise teacher gently leading viewers through the wonders of the universe.

I, like many others, first became acquainted with Carl Sagan during the initial run of Cosmos and attribute my layman's interest in science to his contagious sense of wonder. One of the first books I ever bought was his exploration of evolution and how it relates to religious mythology in The Dragons of Eden. And if there's one book that I believe should be (but alas never will be) mandatory reading for every high school freshman, it's The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Darkness, his very readable primer on the scientific method and maintaining a healthy skepticism, or what Sagan calls 'baloney detection'.

In 2014, a new incarnation of Cosmos will find its home, surprisingly enough, on the Fox network. In another unlikely twist, the series' producer is Family Guy creator and Academy Awards host, Seth MacFarlane, who has long been interested in bringing the series back to TV. With Cosmos' originator and host no longer around to MC the proceedings, his duties are being assumed by esteemed astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who succeeds his hero and mentor Carl Sagan as the nation's most popular 'popularizer' of science. During his early academic career, Sagan tried to lure the young Mr. Tyson to study at Cornell University, where he taught, to no avail (Tyson instead chose Harvard for his undergraduate studies.). Nevertheless, they remained close friends and colleagues in the years to follow. With the involvement of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan (Dr. Sagan's widow and a highly respected author and producer in her own right), I'm hopeful that this new Cosmos will soar to the heavenly heights of the original.

Google Glasses for the Masses

If the oracles at Google are to be trusted, it's poised to be the next big thing. And before continuing, yes, I know it's called Google Glass, not Google GlassES, however I opted to take some creative liberties to make for a catchier meme.

So what does it (they) do? According to Glass evangelists , its power is limited only by software developers' vision. In this initial release, Glass will primarily be a means of interfacing with the internet and all its glory in a more intuitive, hands-free way. But whether it will be a hit with the general public is an open question, especially when it's already been the subject of ridicule on Saturday Night Live and received scathing pre-release reviews like this and this.

New high tech gadgets, especially one involving wearable fashion statements like eyewear, will have to be doubly desirable in terms of functionality to overcome the glaring "dork factor". If the Segway couldn't catch on, despite all it's pre-release buzz and luminaries including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to gush that "cities will be built around this device", it's not too surprising that the public is a bit more skeptical of pre-release hype nowadays.

Google plans to release the first version of Google Glass to consumers in early 2014 at a cost of just under $1,500. Lines are forming now.

Kim Jong Un: North Korea's Risky Business

As of this writing, North Korea's mad boy king has yet to launch the missiles he has aimed at neighboring Japan and South Korea, but that could change at any moment. When Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il as Supreme Leader of North Korea in Late December of last year, some were hopeful that his youth and western education would give him the a more measured approach to global relations. Alas, that seems not to be the case. The latest speculation is that to mark the April 15th birthday of his granddad, Kim Il Sung, in lieu of (or in addition to) ice cream & cake, Kim Jong Un may celebrate by launching his missiles. If there's any good to come from all this posturing on the part of North Korea, it could be that the US and China will find common ground, if even temporarily, in wanting to avoid all out war, and that a unified coalition may be able to get North Korea to rethink its aggressive behavior before it's too late. Let's hope.