Bunsenbwog: Everything is Illuminated

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When they’re not headbanging or falling for our anecdote baiting, Columbia faculty enjoy getting dirty in the lab. Bwog takes a moment to look back on this week in science. Headlines were compiled by pillow talk specialist Zach Kagan.

Just getting the creative joules flowing

A pair of Columbia graduates have designed a solar-powered pillow lamp for areas of the world where electricity is scarce. The LuminAID packs flat but can be inflated to provide 360 degree light for up to six hours. If you think that’s a bright idea, you can buy one for 25 bucks, or support their efforts to illuminate the developing world.

While Global warming might be a drag, ever so often there’s a silver lining. A new study by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that white spruce trees along the Alaskan tundra soak up sunlight and proliferate faster at higher temperatures. This is especially good news since trees absorb a third of our industrial CO2 emissions, though we must not forget that trees are still in trouble.

In case you are nostalgic for the Dust Bowl era, it may be your lucky day. Richard Seager of the Earth Observatory believes that is exactly what “will become the new climatology of the American Southwest.” After conducting 19 different climate simulations, his team concluded that such extreme droughts will be commonplace in the coming decades.

Antarctica produces more than just ice and cute penguin animations. The massive Gamburtsev Mountains, located just off the south pole, have a tumultuous history according to a new survey. Data from ice-penetrating radar, gravity meters and magnetometers reveal that the mountains were created by a tectonic collision a billion years ago and weathered over time, only to be renewed by a massive continental fissure. Columbia’s Robin Bell commented on the findings, “This work shows that very old mountains can rise again, like a Phoenix from the ashes.”

It seems if there’s one thing neuroscientists are good at, it’s fiddling with rodent brains. A group of Columbia researchers disabled ion channels in rat grid cells, observing that it prevents them from focusing on small visual details. The researchers believe these ion channels allow the brain to enhance images, zooming in and increasing overall resolution.

David Bowie as Tesla via Wikimedia

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