Today is the 135th birthday of Dr. Robert Ernest House, whom we should mention is no relation to Dr. Gregory House, that brilliant fictional misanthrope and medical detective who inevitably cures patients by uncovering their deepest, most embarrassing secrets. The real Dr. House didn’t need to break into people’s houses and go through their stuff, like the fictional one does. That’s because the real Dr. House, an obstetrician, noticed that an anesthetic, scopolamine hypobromide, put his women patients into a state in which they seemed to automatically answer any question he asked. It occurred to House that chemically-induced candor might be a useful thing in the court system. Eventually, he discovered even more potent truth serums, such as sodium pentothal. Dr. House also had a bit more faith in human nature than his TV counterpart. His real interest was in vindicating innocent people charged with crimes, rather than extracting confessions from guilty ones. As this post in the Retrospectacle neuroscience blog notes, the problem was that testimony given under the influence of truth serum turned out to pretty much unreliable. That leads us to conclude that ransacking a patient’s apartment may in fact be a better method of truth divining after all. And with that, here are the science stories of the day.
BP to try “static kill” Today. It’s the latest attempt to plug the blown-out deep sea pipeline that has caused the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
Monitoring brain waves may someday help authorities to catch terrorists before they strike. Northwestern University researchers say they were able to correlate
P300 waves in brains of mock terrorists with guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy.
Newly discovered material could stop your shoes from smelling funky. It’s called graphene oxide, and it also is incredibly strong and flexible.
Scientists develop Anti-Laser. Alas, it wouldn’t have kept Goldfinger and his henchmen from cutting open the vault at Fort Knox. But it might someday be used to create optical switches for superfast computers.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy unhappiness, study reveals. Researchers found that wealthier subjects were less able than poorer ones to savor, enhance and prolong positive emotions such as joy, awe, excitement, contentment, pride and gratitude. So Frank Capra was right: George Bailey really would have been happier than old man Potter.
Researchers able to predict stem cell differentiation from Day One. The newly-validated method could provide early indications of how the stem cells are differentiating and what cell types they are becoming under a new drug.