A UK woman has an extra cone cell in her eyes and can see more colors

A UK woman has an extra cone cell in her eyes and can see more colors

Most people are trichromats.

Most animals are dichromats.

In some rare cases some women might be a tetrachromats.

Okay, I see you have lost me. I’ll teach you what I myself have just learned.

We see color because of specialized nerve cells in the retina called cones, which function only in bright light. Most people are trichromats which means they have three of these cones to perceive color with. Each cone cell is capable of perceiving about 100 different colors, so the total number of colors a trichromatic person can perceive is 100ᶟ, or one million.

As you can probably guess, most animals are dichromats and have two cones. As do color-blind people who can only perceive 10,000 shades.

Tetrachromats, which include certain fish, birds, and insects, and some humans, have four different types of cone cells. This is a very rare condition and affords the person the ability to see an incredible 100 million colors.

Discover Magazine reported in 2012 that Newcastle University neuroscientist Gabriele Jordan and her colleagues had been searching for people with this super-vision and after more than 25 years finally found one.

A doctor living in northern England, referred to only as cDa29 in the literature, is the first tetrachromat known to science.

The idea that tetrachromats might exist was hinted at in 1948 when Dutch scientist HL de Vries, discovered something interesting about the eyes of color blind people. While color blind men only possess two normal cone cells and one mutant cone that’s less sensitive to either green or red light, De Vries showed that the mothers and daughters of color blind men had one mutant cone and three normal cones, in other word four cone cells. The possibility was that people who possessed an extra cone cell would be able to see a much greater range of colors than the rest of us.

It was only in the late 1980’s that John Mollon from Cambridge University started searching for women who might have four functioning cone cells. Assuming that color blind men pass this fourth cone cell onto their daughters, Mollon tested such women but couldn’t find anyone with unusual color perception.

Was tetrechomats just a figment of scientific imagination?

Then, in 2007, Jordan, who had formerly worked alongside Mollon, tried a different test. She found 25 women who had a fourth type of cone cell, and put them in a dark room. She presented the women with three flashing colored circles that they peered at through a lab device.

To a tetrachromat, though, one circle would stand out because it was not a pure color but a subtle mixture of red and green light randomly generated by a computer. Only a tetrachromat would be able to perceive the difference, thanks to the extra shades made visible by her fourth cone.

When one of the woman was able to distinguish the extra shades, Jordan was ecstatic.

“We now know tetrachromacy exists,” she told Greenwood. “But we don’t know what allows someone to become functionally tetrachromatic, when most four-coned women aren’t.”

How long you need to do cardio to reap the benefits for your body and brain

How long you need to do cardio to reap the benefits for your body and brain

Some years ago I was shocked when a colleague of mine complained about having to walk from her car to the office building. Since I knew where she parked her car, which was in the street right in front of the building, I asked, why?

“I hate walking,” she said.

Would you rather be stuck in a wheelchair, I wondered, but didn’t say it out loud. The street where we parked our cars was lined with old plane trees, such a pretty sight, year round. Such a lovely walk if you happened to be parked some distance from the office building.

That walk was a great opportunity for daily aerobic exercise.

I did myself some good by walking, according to the authors of an article in the Harvard Medical School blog: “Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”

These psychological rewards have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, that’s why it’s not your imagination if you feel great after a long hike.

But, there is more. There are important mental rewards as well. Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning, according to this Harvard Medical School blog post.

Experts agree that exercise offer many health benefits, but how long we should sweat and puff to get the optimal benefits from aerobic exercise is a question that has not been answered definitively yet.

An article in Business Insider refers to numerous studies that put the optimal time down to between 30 and 45 minutes for four days per week.

Common sense could be a good enough guideline here. Most people who live active lives and are not athletes who earn their living through sport, have limited time to devote to exercise. It makes sense to include activities like walking, cycling, gardening or housework – that are already part of a daily routine – as part of an informal exercise regime. Once or twice a week get off at an earlier bus stop or make it a habit not to park right in front of the nearest entrance to the mall.

It’s possible to get in enough exercise and reap the health benefits without having an official aerobics exercise schedule.

A new discovery is challenging Einstein’s theory of relativity

A new discovery is challenging Einstein’s theory of relativity

Earlier this year, physicists celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). These are ripples in spacetime curvature, and they were discovered at the site of a black hole merger, confirming part of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

However, it may be the case that this discovery suggests that the same theory breaks down at the edge of black holes.

Physicists who have studied in more depth LIGO’s data on the black hole merger claim that it reveals “echos” of gravitational waves which contradict what Einstein’s general theory of relativity say should appear.

It used to be that physicists thought Einstein’s theory broke down in extreme conditions like what we find at a black hole’s core. Now, they believe the recently discovered echos indicate that relativity fails around a black hole’s edges.

According to the standard model based on Einstein’s theory, there shouldn’t be anything at the edge of a black hole. This is in contrast with other theories such as quantum physics, which suggests the edge should have a ring of high-energy particles around it.

Cosmologist Niayesh Afshordi of the University of Waterloo in Candada created models of these black hole mergers, assuming they do have something at their edges. The model suggests that black holes do have some kind of structure and not a whole lot of nothingness as suggested by Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“The LIGO detections, and the prospect of many more, offer an exciting opportunity to investigate a new physical regime,” said black-hole researcher Steve Giddings from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

It’s no surprise that we’re finding evidence that confirms one theory and then breaks it the next.

World renowned adviser reveals a new plan to make sure robots are our friends

World renowned adviser reveals a new plan to make sure robots are our friends

The coming participation of robots in every aspect of our lives is a confusing prospect: it’s at once exciting and threatening.

Above all, it’s inevitable and there is not a job that is not threatened. And what do you to earn an income if you have to give up your job to a robot but don’t have enough money to retire?

This is a burning question, almost an existential question for millions of us.

Yet someone has now come up with a novel idea: why not hire a robot to do your job for you?

It’s crazy and it’s brilliant.

Writing for Forbes, founder and Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, Joseph Coughlin, suggests that in addition to investing in robotics and artificial intelligence firms to ensure retirement income, “robotics might open up an entirely new retirement investment class for producing income in older age, in the form of what I call robotics-for-hire. Retire and hire a robot to become your cyber-self working through, and paying for, your retirement.”

Take the man seriously: he features on Next Avenue’s list of 50 Most Influential People in Aging – thought leaders, innovators, writers, advocates, experts and others that are changing how we age and think about aging.

Coughlin paints three different scenarios.

“First, imagine hiring a robot to make it possible for you to work in retirement – forever,” he writes.

Coughlin foresees the emergence of companies that would rent robots out to people. “New firms might serve individuals (many who may be retirees) who would like to purchase a robot or invest in shares of a robotic workforce to provide a source of steady income. Investing in a robotic workforce might make it possible for retirees to work by ‘bot and earn income throughout their retirement years.”

As example, he mentions Nashville-based Hirebotics which is a robot rental company.

Coughlin might be coining a new phrase when he writes about the “Robo-Gig Economy”. The gig economy, also known as the sharing economy, already provides many opportunities for people to earn income in retirement, writes Coughlin, referring to Airbnb or driving for Uber or Lyft.

The robo-gig economy refers to humans renting out their own robots for short-term jobs. Coughlin foresees that robots will become affordable for most people and skillful at a wide range of tasks.

“Future retirees might apply for temporary jobs for their own robots to perform. These short-term gigs might include tasks such as mowing the lawn, housekeeping, or consider managing a bionic bartender to tend bar at a beach getaway during the tourist high season.”

Then there are opportunities to become a franchisee of standalone kiosks run by robotics. As an example Coughlin mentions Fresh Healthy Vending International (OTCQB: VEND), which launched a novel franchise concept last year called Reis and Irvy’s Froyo Kiosk.

“How many other robotized businesses might emerge requiring no staffing and relatively scant labor on the part of the human owner? For people with an entrepreneurial spirit, there might be many similar opportunities in the future,” he muses.

A company is implanting microchips in its employees says it’s no big deal

A company is implanting microchips in its employees says it’s no big deal

It starts innocuously enough.

An implanted chip to buy snacks.

No GPS capability, the company assures us.

No big deal.

Nonetheless, employees around the world are walking around with implanted microchips, offered to them by their employers.

The latest is Three Square Market (32M) based in River Falls, Wisconsin. 32M claims to be the first company in the U.S. to implant employees with an RFID chip. They’ve done this so they can shop at the company’s micro market during break without having to use cash or credit cards. The implants will also allow employees to open doors, login to computers and use the copy machine without the need for passwords.

The company provides self-service “micro markets” – a sophisticated version of a vending machine where employees can buy food and beverages during their break – to businesses around the world.

RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification uses electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored information – it’s also used to track packages in transit. The chip implant uses near-field communications (NFC), the same technology that allows you to pay with your phone by holding it up to a device.

A chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted between the thumb and forefinger underneath the skin at the company’s cost.

Todd Westby, 32M CEO, noted in a press release that the technology will eventually become standardized allowing it to be used in place of a passport, for public transit and shopping.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” Westby noted.

32M is partnering with BioHax International and Jowan Osterland, CEO, based out of Sweden. The company decided to chip their employees when they saw the concept in operation in Sweden.

32M is not the only company to tag employees.

In April this year LA Times reported that the Swedish startup hub Epicenter offered to implant workers and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards to open doors, operate printer or buy snacks.  Mail Online reported in February that the Belgium digital marketing and tech firm NewFusion, was going to implant identity chips in employees. The chips contain personal information and provide access to the company’s IT systems and headquarters, replacing existing ID cards.

So, being tagged is on the cards so to speak. In the case or 32M the company gives the insurance that employees won’t be tracked, but what about the future, and this practice becomes so common that we don’t even question it anymore? What say will people have on what those innocuous chips are imbedded with?

For now the procedure is quick and free and convenient if it’s too much trouble to remember to take a key, a credit card or a smartphone with you.

For now.