MySci Round-Up, August 4: The First Transatlantic Fax

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Today is the 89th anniversary of the first wireless facsimile transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, and we know what you’re thinking: So? In the era of text-messaging and email attachments, the notion of converting a written message on a piece of paper into an electronic signal, transmitting it, and then reproducing it on another piece of paper seems, well, adorably quaint. But rest assured that in 1921, when the idea of sending an image through the air to a distant recipient still seemed like something out of Jules Verne, this seemed like a big deal. An article in the New York Times, in fact, hailed the transmission as an “epoch-making achievement,” though that hyperbole may have had something to do with the fact that it was C.V. Van Anda, the Times’ managing editor, who authored the handwritten missive transmitted from Annapolis, MD to Malmaison, France. The facsimile was sent via a device called the Belinograph, after its inventor, French scientist Edouard Belin, which rolled the document onto a cylinder and exposed it to a beam of light, when then triggered a photoelectric cell that converted the reflected energy (or in dark areas, the relative lack of it) into transmittable electrical impulses. The Times article didn’t disclose the contents of the message, but we suspect it had something to do with amazing discounts on three-day vacation packages to Orlando. And with that, here are the MySci stories of the day:

Triceratops and Taurosaurus actually were the same animal, scientists say. We know it’s a disappointment to dinosaur fanciers. But remember, you did eventually get over the revelation that the two “identical cousins” on the Patty Duke Show were actually both played by Patty Duke.

Sun throws a big cloud of magnetically-charged particles at Earth.  Fortunately, nobody’s eye is going to get put out by it, but it may disrupt some satellite transmissions. We may also see some aurorae. Cool.

Silicon can be made to melt in reverse. MIT researchers have discovered that at extremely low temperatures, the material used in computer chips will turn from a solid into a slushy solid-liquid mixture. Kind of weird, isn’t it?

U.S. Army plans to shoot troops with “gene gun” filled with DNA-based vaccines. They also want to use an electrical charge to create pores in cell membranes for the vaccines to get in. Theoretically, the result would be super-fast, super-potent immunity. Whether this is possible with existing technology, though, is unclear.

Pancreatic tumors can utilize fructose, abundant in Western diet, to fuel growth.  The researcher warns us to reduce our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient these days in just about everything.

Industry-funded drug trials more likely to report positive results.   No, this wasn’t published in the Journal of Incredibly Obvious Findings. But it is worrisome, because this survey shows a striking disparity between the percentage of positive results in industry-funded research on antidepressants, cholesterol and blood-pressure medication, compared to trials supported by government or non-profit organizations.