Daily Orbit – If They Only Had A Brain

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,507
    10-10-12: On this episode of the Daily Orbit, scientists learn that slime mold is able to intelligently navigate without a brain, a new rover may be headed to the moon, and there may be a link between bitter tastes and respiratory infections.

    Emerald Robinson: No brain, no problem! Well, for "slime mold" anyway! What new gadget will give gamers more freedom? And why does an expiration date really matter?

    All that and more on the Daily Orbit!


    Hello, I'm Emerald Robinson. Welcome to the Daily Orbit! I've always said that it's possible to function without a brain. Slime mold has proven me right! This community of single-celled spores working together to seek and devour new bacteria and fungi for the good of the group is able to intelligently navigate and learn from their past without a brain or central nervous system. Researchers explain that the mold leaves behind a trail of extracelluar slime, which it avoids going over more than once, making it more efficient to find food. So, not having a brain is no longer an excuse!

    And there's a new Rover in town. This one, however, is a Lunar Rover and is the product of a privately funded space firm. Astrobotic Technology Inc.

    , a spin-off of Carnegie Melon University's Robotics Institute, unveiled a full size prototype of its Polaris Lunar Rover. Polaris will be seeking ice deposits that would provide a water source for future colonists and moon missions. It is scheduled to launch using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The Rover not only has its sight set on the moon, but also on the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize offered to the first privately funded team to successfully land a lunar robot on the moon's surface. Good luck Polaris! We at The Daily Orbit, we will be watching and rooting for ya!

    Researchers have discovered that a person's ability to taste certain bitter flavors has a direct relationship with their ability to fight off respiratory infections. They found that bitter taste receptors are found in both the upper and lower respiratory system. But 25% of the population cannot detect certain bitter flavors. Researchers believe the body detects bitter and sour tastes to warn against toxic and spoiled food, launching an immune system response. People who are more sensitive to these tastes respond earlier to the "offending molecules," while less sensitive tasters require up to 100 times more of the molecule to trigger an immune response. Therefore, scientists believe that the more sensitive you are to bitter taste, the quicker your immune system responds, and the less likely you are to get a respiratory infection.

    Do you have lots of expired prescription bottles sitting in your medicine cabinet that you keep thinking about throwing out? Well, new research says they're probably still good! The study looked at the potency of prescription drugs that were between 28 and 40 years expired. Almost all active ingredients maintained their potency, with the exception of amphetamine and aspirin. Most drug labels include an expiration date one to five year post-manufacture. But this is only the date the manufacturers are willing to guarantee the potency and efficacy, and doesn't really correlate with the actual shelf-life. I still might think twice before I down a 40 year old prescription. Just saying!

    And all you gamers out there may soon get a new fun gadget. Microsoft researchers are showing off their new gloveless 3D technology at the UIST 2012 symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The 3D sensor is worn on the wrist and can detect hand and finger movements to create a real-time 3D model to either control a game or program or to display gestures and signs. It combines an infrared camera with a laser line generator that creates an invisible grid along the hand to detect and measure any change in movement. It also has other devices to track even the smallest of hand movements. The user will be able to control their computer, tablet, television, or phone with a 3D sensor.

    That's it for today's show! See you right back here tomorrow for more cool science news!