Tag Archives: Mind

How minerals and rocks reflect rainbows, glow in the dark, and otherwise blow your mind

Minerals are the non-living building blocks of the natural world. They form rocks, strengthen our bones and teeth, and even allow our blood to carry oxygen. But even when minerals aren’t assembled into a majestic mountain range or keeping the human body running, they’re still pretty neat.

There are thousands of recognized minerals out there (5,703 to be exact) with many more yet to be discovered. And they come in more hues than you can imagine. “All the colors of the rainbow occur in minerals,” and more, says George Rossman, a mineralogist researching mineral spectroscopy at the California Institute of Technology.

Beyond the striking displays that we see by daylight, many minerals glow with hidden colors under ultraviolet rays. And the coolest part is, their shining colors and otherworldly fluorescence are all thanks to a few small tweaks and imperfections.

What even is a mineral?

Minerals are “considered to be naturally occurring, inorganic solid substances,” Rossman explains. But he says even that definition can sometimes get “fuzzy.” “If a tree decays and leaves some crystalline material behind. Is that mineral or is it a biological material?” he asks. 

Nonetheless, most mineralogists agree that their study objects are solid compounds formed by natural processes and characterized by a single chemical composition and crystal structure. Rocks are made up of many different minerals mixed together, and gemstones are particularly structurally perfect pieces of mineral crystals.    

Although minerals are classified based on their ideal “pure” composition and form, “we’ve got to recognize that nature has 80 some different elements to play with,” Rossman says. “There are little bits of all sorts of minor components. You rarely get something absolutely chemically pure in nature.” Mineral formation is a chemical reaction. The impurities that end up in a mineral and the atomic structure both come from the environment and circumstances it crystalizes in.

[Related: Why can’t we see more colors?]

Further, the classification of a mineral not only depends on its chemical makeup, but also its internal atomic arrangements. “Kyanite, andalusite, and sillimanite are three minerals we find in metamorphic rocks that have exactly the same chemical formula, but different structures,” says Rossman. He also points to one of Earth’s most common minerals, olivine, as an example. Olivine is found at relatively shallow depths in the planet’s mantle, he explains, “but as we go to higher and higher pressures, deeper in the Earth, it transforms into other structural arrangements that are given other names.”

What causes minerals’ wide variety of colors?

The way a material absorbs and reflects different wavelengths of light determines its color. For instance, leaves on a tree are green because chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light, reflecting green and yellow wavelengths back to your eye. 

Knowing how minerals are classified can help us understand why they display so many different colors. Both chemical impurities and atomic structure play a role in color because of how they change a mineral’s light-absorption spectrum.

The mineral collection at the American Museum of Natural History represents almost any color imaginable. From left to right in rows: cuprite, vanadinite, wulfenite (1), wulfenite (2), smithsonite (1), pyromorphite, smithsonite (2), malachite, chrysocolla, malachite with azurite, azurite with malachite, smithsonite (3). Photos: D. Finnin/©AMNH

For instance, a ruby gets its brilliant red color by swapping a little bit of chromium for aluminum in its formula. But if you take the same formula and add titanium or iron instead for chromium, you get a sapphire, says George Harlow, a mineralogist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Both of the gems are impure versions of the transparent mineral corundrum.

[Related: How humans created colors for thousands of years]

The same chromium (Cr 3+) that makes rubies red can also lead to the formation of bright green emeralds, due to differences in molecular structure, Rossman explains. In rubies, the chromium atoms are positioned close oxygen atoms. In emeralds, the oxygen and chromium sit farther apart, shifting how the molecules absorb light. 

Why do some rocks glow?

If color is the way a mineral interacts with light, fluorescence is an extension of that.

Light is a form of energy. With non-fluorescent colors, what we see is the result of minerals selectively reflecting wavelengths of light from an outside source back to our eyes. But with fluorescent colors, what happens is a mineral takes in energy from a light source and then produces its own new wavelengths of light.

Some minerals are so fluorescent that you can experience the effect in full sun. Others require higher-energy ultraviolet rays to trigger wavelengths strong enough for human eyes to detect. That’s why when you look at a neon highlighter or a white shirt under a black light, they seem to glow. Both highlighters and white clothing often rely on UV-reactive dyes to look extra-bright in daylight, so they’re fluoresce a little bit in the sun. Under the targeted, high energy rays from the black light, though, their fluorescence is even more obvious.

About 600 minerals are confirmed to glow in the dark, says Glen Waychunas, a mineralogist who studies fluorescence and spectroscopy at the California Institute of Technology. He adds that it’s common in certain places where geological places, like Franklin, New Jersey, where the famed Sterling Hill Mine sits.

Just like with color, fluorescence in minerals is often the product of impurities, called activators. These elements react with UV light to produce fluorescent colors, working in tandem with the minerals they’re in. Some may exhibit different colors with the same activators, and others may not glow at all. In addition, there are impurities called “quenchers” that can stop an activator from working, even if all other conditions are right. And if there’s too much of a single activator, it can “quench” itself, preventing fluorescence. It’s a complex interplay between different atoms.

Structure is also important for understanding fluorescence. Mineral defects, which are like typos or misprints in the structural scaffolding, can leave a little extra space in the matrix—providing a gap for excited electrons to move around in. The particles then absorb energy and dance it out as colorful wavelengths of fluorescent light, even when no activating compounds are present.

Where can I see glowing and rainbow-colored rocks?

This summer, take advantage of the mild weather and explore the geological formations around your home. You might just catch some fluorescence in action. For the best odds, Waychunas recommends minerals hunting at night with a UV flashlight. “Go to an [old] quarry or go to a place with just an outcrop of rocks,” he says. “People will be surprised at what they might find.” Even in areas where fluorescent rocks are less common (this website can tell you what’s good in your neighborhood), the infill at construction sites or landscaping gravel brought in from elsewhere can offer a secret treasure trove of glow. “It’s just another interesting viewpoint of nature to see this phenomenon everywhere,” Waychunas says.

If you strike out searching on your own, you can probably find fascinating examples of fluorescence at your local natural history museum. In New York City, the American Museum of Natural History has a brand new mineral and gem exhibit, where you can see all of the pictured minerals above in person.

Author: Lauren Leffer
This post originally appeared on Science – Popular Science

Study: Want to Have a Baby? Mind Your Alcohol

Most women know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can endanger the fetus before they know they’re pregnant and that there’s no established safe amount while pregnant.

What women may not know is that drinking even moderately in the middle and the latter half of the menstrual cycle may reduce the odds of successful conception.

According to a new study of drinking patterns and hormone levels at different monthly stages, moderate intake of alcohol (3-6 drinks a week) and heavy intake (more than 6 per week) during the post-ovulation phase of a woman’s cycle can disturb the delicate hormonal sequence needed to conceive. The researchers also found that heavy drinking earlier in a woman’s cycle, during ovulation, could also disrupt conception.

The message? If you want a baby, don’t wait until that much-anticipated missed period to cut back on drinking.

“The take-home message from our study is that if you want to get pregnant, don’t have more than one drink a day at any time during your menstrual cycle, and have less than half a drink during ovulation and after ovulation in the implantation period,” says lead author Kira C. Taylor, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

“Alcohol’s impact on [the likelihood of conception] has been suspected since the 1990s but has not been well-studied,” says Nishath A. Ali, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Moderate and heavy drinkers generally take longer to conceive and are at higher risk of needing an infertility evaluation,” she says.

Already, women who are having fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization are advised to cut back on drinking.

Published June 9 in the journal Human Reproduction, the study, begun in 2017, looked at alcohol and fecundability — that is, the chance of becoming pregnant in a single menstrual cycle. It analyzed data from 413 women, ages 19 to 41, who completed daily diaries on alcohol intake, including the number of drinks and type (beer, wine, or liquor) for a maximum of 19 months of follow-up. Participants were mainly white, non-Hispanic, and married with some college education.

The women submitted monthly urine samples to assess pregnancy status, and their monthly cycle phases were calculated using a calendar-based method and compared between drinkers and nondrinkers.

During the study, 133 women became pregnant, and outcomes showed an effect of alcohol — the more alcohol a woman drank, the less chance she had of conceiving. “Among heavy drinkers, the probability of conceiving was 27.2%, rising to 41.3% in nondrinkers. Light and moderate drinkers both had about a 32% chance of conceiving,” Taylor says.

When the researchers looked at the effect of drinking alcohol during different phases of the menstrual cycle, they found that moderate and heavy drinking in the post-ovulation phase reduced the odds of conception by nearly half (44% and 49%, respectively), compared with nondrinkers. There was also some suggestion that heavy drinking before ovulation was also tied to reduced likelihood of conception.

How about binge drinking? Notably, each extra day of excessive intake over a short period was associated with a 19% reduction in conception around the time of ovulation and between ovulation and menstruation. But it didn’t seem to have an effect early in the cycle, before ovulation.

The researchers also found that the type of alcoholic beverage didn’t change the results.

“In addition, the study showed that the menstrual cycle lengths were the same for women in every drinking category, suggesting that drinking did not affect the hormones that regulate the length of the cycle,” says Christine Metz, PhD, a professor at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY.

The authors think that part of the alcohol-conception connection may be disruptive changes in steroid hormones, particularly a surge in estradiol, a form of estrogen

“The increase in estrogen can result in irregular cycles, delayed ovulation, or anovulation. So couples could be trying to get pregnant at the wrong time in terms of ovulation,” Taylor says. “An increase in estrogen can also impact the timing of the window of opportunity in the lining of the uterus for implantation after fertilization.”

Experts are not exactly sure how a badly timed spike in estradiol might affect the odds of conception. While this is not clearly understood, it seems that the timing of heavy drinking may not only suppress ovulation, but may also suppress the ability to sustain an early pregnancy, notes Ali.

And men aren’t off the hook either — their testicles can also be affected by drinking. “Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with abnormalities in gonadal function in men, including a reduction in serum testosterone and decreased sperm counts,” Ali says.

One caution about the new data, the authors say, is that only 20% to 25% of women across the study’s groups were actually trying for a pregnancy, while ideally such a study should include only women intending to conceive.

Also, the study didn’t look at the influence of male partners’ drinking, and the data relied on self-reporting by participants, which depends on accurate recollection. Still, the study points to one more compelling reason to cut back on alcohol before you start trying to conceive.

The bottom line, says Ali: “Lifestyle interventions are important for both members of a couple planning a pregnancy.”

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

Video: Meet The Hori Flex, A Nintendo Switch Controller Built With Accessibility In Mind

UK distribution for the HORI Flex — the Japanese accessories manufacturer’s accessibility-focused controller — finally began last week and we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a sample of this rather remarkable new device.

This little controller (well, quite sizeable, actually) has been available in Japan since last year, and features a frankly baffling array of options and inputs which enable you to attach a variety of buttons, sensors, sticks and more via 3.5mm jacks to create a totally unique control set-up.

As you’ll see in the video above featuring the lovely Alex-from-Nintendo-Life (full name), this could be as simple as attaching a single button for a specific input, or creating a bespoke control environment tailored to your personal comfort and physical ability. Suddenly, playing one-handed or with your head or feet or any other method you so wish becomes viable, and the world of Switch gaming becomes much more inclusive. Check out the video above for a small sample of the potential this controller opens up for gamers of all abilities.

Alex looks at how the controller can be used for a variety of games, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Sonic Mania and several more. And if all that wasn’t enticing enough, the video also features Alex’s rather lovely kitchen (we haven’t been this jealous of an island since dreaming in Animal Crossing), plus shots of prime British feet.

What more could you possibly want of an evening? Grab yourself a beverage and enjoy.

Hori Flex Nintendo Switch Controller© Nintendo Life

This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

Naga Munchetty hits back as BBC viewer slams her ‘appalling behaviour’ 'The mind boggles!'

A third fan commented: “Naga I enjoyed your appearance on Saturday kitchen, I thought it was fun. Sad that some people have no sense of humour.”

A fourth agreed: “How was this not just some BBC colleagues having fun?? ‘Appalling Behaviour’ for goodness’ sake …lighten up…I bet even Matts mum thought it was funny!”(sic)

A fifth replied: “Drink!!! Nah it’s a normal person having a good time, keep entertaining us Naga, it’s what keeps us going in this crazy world.”

“Never change Naga! We love you just the way you are! 🙂 xx #Cheers,” a sixth person responded.

BBC Breakfast airs daily from 6am on BBC One.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Celebrity News Feed

Gardening tips: FIVE laws of gardening gardeners must keep in mind

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Life and Style Feed

Overhanging branches

In the same vein, overhanging branches also belong to neighbours.

Offending trees can be trimmed back, but only to the outer boundary of the property line.

Gardeners will have to steer clear of leaning over the fence, as this may constitute trespass, and they can’t touch anything protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

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Weight on her mind: MMA pin-up Tracy Cortez ‘could have peed out’ half-pound weight miss before being stopped by UFC officials

Author RT
This post originally appeared on RT Sport News

Unbeaten UFC fighter Tracy Cortez has been left to frustratedly reflect on coming in just half a pound over the limit for her latest victory, when she says doctors refused her the chance to take an hour to cut the extra weight.

Flyweight newcomer and social media sensation Cortez was narrowly over the limit ahead of her decision win over St. Petersburg-born veteran Justine Kish in Las Vegas, earning a points victory while losing 20 per cent of her purse because of the hitch.

Cortez thought she would have the additional time following the initial weigh-in the day before the fight, only to be denied the opportunity to continue her cut ahead of her third UFC win.

“They normally give us an hour to cut the weight, but they didn’t clear me,” Cortez said, hitting 126.5lb on the scales. “The doctor didn’t let me cut the half a pound.

“He checked me out and he wasn’t OK with me cutting the rest of the weight. I could have cut it: I could have peed it but he didn’t let me.

“I would have cut it, 100 per cent. I would not have jumped on the scale to miss weight with point five off.

“I would have never done that. I’ve never missed weight in my life and my career, so I was really frustrated.

“My coach fought them. He said, ‘If she goes to the restroom again, can we just wait?

“They said, ‘If she goes again, that’s the final weigh.’ We said, ‘can we just check one more time?'”

The 27-year-old has no intention of moving up to bantamweight. “I’ll see how I feel, how I recover,” she said, praising her team.

“I want to be active, stay in the flyweight division and make a name for myself here.”
Also on rt.com ‘He was the muscle’: Ex-UFC fighter cops huge prison term for moving $ 41MN of drugs as part of a crew caught with 410lb of cocaine

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Review: FEZ – A Mind And World-Bending Puzzle Platformer That Deserves A Second Look

FEZ Review - Screenshot 1 of 3
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

One of the original indie darlings in the eyes of many, FEZ is a game steeped in a whole bucket’s worth of history and intrigue. Nine years after its initial release and no sign of a sequel (as promised by its creator before getting abruptly cancelled), can FEZ still dazzle the new generation of Switch owners? The answer is yes, but let’s pretend you didn’t already know that.

FEZ begins with you playing the role of Gomez, a spritely little chap who says a little bit less than naff-all. After responding to a request to meet the aged adventurer of Gomez’s two-dimensional village, our mute hero is gifted a small fez which allows him to warp his 2D world with 3D impudence. Sadly this has the slightly irritating side effect of tearing reality apart at the seams, which we’re sure you’ll agree is a right old nuisance.

Gomez has to shuffle off to find all 32 cubes that make up the almighty Hexahedron, a doohickey that somehow keeps the world from collapsing, in order to prevent just such an occurrence. These are often found split up into further cubes, eight of which count towards one of the 32 (keeping up?). In order to reach these cubes you’ll have to platform throughout the world, changing the perspective in order to reach otherwise unreachable areas.
FEZ Review - Screenshot 2 of 3
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

You see, each time you pivot the world 90 degrees you’re presented with another entirely 2D perspective that Gomez can traverse with zero depth. This means otherwise distant platforms can be forced to line up granting you access to higher structures, as well as doors that were just flat-out not visible in any way from any other angle.

This is where quite literally the entire game lies; you might play the game for an hour and find a challenge that seems entirely impossible and assume you’ll get a double-jump or something at some point. Nope! You’re stuck with what you’ve got matey-person, you just haven’t figured it out yet. It’s this simplicity that results in a countless number of those ‘a-ha!’ moments that are so important in puzzle games, and what makes FEZ such a joy to play.

Puzzles vary in difficulty fairly significantly, but most of the greater challenge comes from a second version of the collectable cubes you so desire called anti-cubes. That’s right, as well as the 32 standard cubes which are often split up into eight mini-cubes, you’ll have 32 anti-cubes to find as well should you wish. As previously hinted, these anti-cubes are generally much harder to work out, or even find, but are totally optional. There are even some frankly insanely challenging red cubes you can find as well — but again, you’d never need to — which require skills such as an understanding of binary code. No, we’re not exaggerating.

FEZ Review - Screenshot 3 of 3
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The reality-bending nature of the game is still wildly impressive even nine years down the line, and the variety of ways in which FEZ uses it singular core mechanic is nothing short of masterful; much like Nintendo’s own philosophy towards gameplay, there’s one idea here explored to the nth degree, and without it ever growing stale. There’s even a good chunk of replay value should you want to go through again, but we don’t want to spoil exactly why for those that haven’t played it.

Visually FEZ is also super charming; bright colours, dappled lighting and even a Game-Boy inspired aesthetic in the sewers make it just lovely to look at, if a little simple at times. Performance is also a perfect 60fps which isn’t particularly surprising given the game’s vintage, but we did notice a few visual glitches here and there, as well as one or two instances where objects didn’t behave as they were meant to. These were rare and never impacted our enjoyment of the game or ability to complete puzzles, but they were noticeable. Earhole-wise Disasterpiece’s soundtrack is an absolute treat, and is something that we’ve even enjoyed outside of the game on long drives.


FEZ is a fun, challenging puzzle platformer fit to burst with original ideas and unique gameplay wrinkles. Its puzzles bend reality and even leech into our own world on occasion, but aside from a few select mega-challenges never stray into the category of too obtuse or unfair. A few visual and mechanical quirks stop this from being a perfectly polished experience, but these are outweighed by its charm and other wonderful qualities ninefold. It’s another one of those ‘games you have to play’ on Switch, and it couldn’t be more at home.

This article originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews