Tag Archives: thinkers

Scientists Find LSD Stays in Your Brain a Lot Longer Than Previously Thought

A molecule of LSD bound to a serotonin receptor. The “lid” which keeps LSD attached is the orange ribbon in the center. Source: Lab of Bryan Roth, UNC School of Medicine

Using a technique called x-ray crystallography, University of North Carolina School of Medicine scientists have for the first time captured images of LSD in action. In doing so, they have also learned the drug does not get removed from the brain of a user after just four hours as until just recently thought, but instead LSD gets “locked” inside the brain’s serotonin receptor cells until the body eventually identifies the receptor-LSD complexes as foreign, at which point it disassembles/degrades/recycles them.  The discovery represents “a major clue for why the psychoactive effects of LSD last so long.”  The LSD molecule gets locked into place because part of the receptor clamps over the drug molecule, similar to a lid.

“We think this lid is likely why the effects of LSD can last so long,” said Roth, who holds a joint appointment at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “LSD takes a long time to get onto the receptor, and then once it’s on, it doesn’t come off. And the reason is this lid.”

Eventually, though, an acid trip ends. Some LSD molecules pop off their receptors as the lid moves around. Also, brain cells eventually respond to this strange molecule by sucking the receptor into the cell, where it – along with the LSD—is degraded or disassembled for recycling.

The scientists hope to continue in their research to figure out a way to remove the side effects of LSD, not because they are proponents of its use a recreational drug but because LSD could have potential for medical use, such as in the form of a treatment for people with depression, anxiety, or even autism.

This is LSD attached to a brain cell serotonin receptor (Update) [via Phys.org]

Would Putting a Spike in the Steering Wheel Make Driving Safer – for Everyone?

Source: Imgur

This is half a joke and half a thought exercise.  Gordon Tullock (February 13, 1922 – November 3, 2014), an American economist, once posited that if governments were serious about ensuring people drive more safely, they would mandate that a sharp spike be installed in the center of each car’s steering wheel (instead of an air bag), to increase the probability that an accident would be fatal to the driver. The reasoning behind this is, if you increase the risk of negative consequences to the person with the most control, you will be more likely to get them to moderate their behavior than if you install safety systems that will only protect that person and not necessarily other motorists on the road.  Though no one would seriously consider the Tullock Spike, the rationale behind it is an interesting  concept in public choice that can be applied to a number of other situations and fields.

Internet and Electronic Communications – Should All Locks Have Keys?

Two interesting videos by educational YouTuber and podcaster CGP Grey making the argument that digital locks are in some ways, the backbone of our Internet/electronic age, and should remain completely secure. He argues that despite the interest of some Governments forcing companies to allow backdoors into their systems (iPhones, communications that use encryption such as WhatsApp, etc) for the Government/law enforcement to access, we are better off not going down this road. Full disclosure: This website doesn’t take a position on the issue, but CGP Grey’s arguments are interesting. Actually, if you haven’t done so yet, check out the rest of his excellent YouTube channel for videos on a broad range of topics including ncluding politics, geography, economics, and British culture.

How the Business Model for Kidnapping Insurance Works

An interesting article on how it’s possible for Lloyd’s of London to come up with a business model to offer insurance for kidnapping for ransom incidents.  Part of the model means not offering too much money as ransom for the hostage (otherwise incidents of kidnappings would explode, as they did in Somalia at one point).  It also explains why such insurance works for criminal kidnappings – where money is the only motive – and not for terrorist kidnappings, where there are political motivations and the hostage’s government is almost certain to be involved.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market. How it is organized is surprising [via The Washington Post]

Who was the Real Poirot?

Who-was-the-real-PoirotAn interesting article shows that the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s police detective sleuth Poirot may have been a relatively unknown Belgian cop named Jacques Hornais. Christie first introduced Poirot in her 1920 novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and went on to write 33 novels about his adventures. The renowned author never identified a specific person as the source of her inspiration, but an amateur researcher uncovered evidence Hornias could have been the real-life Poirot.
Real-life Poirot? Researchers reveal identity of policeman from Belgium who may have inspired Agatha Christie’s sleuth [via Daily Mail]

UK Police Chief Believes Crime Hasn’t Gone Down, But Just Moved Online

An interesting and frank admission was made by a police leader in the United Kingdom. Assistant Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is the national policing spokesman on surveillance, believes crime isn’t down, but instead had moved to the Internet, where it is difficult for law enforcement to detect or deter.

He said criminals were simply carrying out different offences that were not being combated by police forces. He also made a damning assessment of the police’s ability to tackle cyber-crime, such as internet card fraud and online scams.

Mr Boutcher said: ‘Everyone tells me crime is down and we are very good in the police at the moment.

‘I am convinced that crime isn’t down – it is just being done in a completely different way.’

The Hertfordshire officer added that the police force had been slow to formulate strategies to combat cyber-crime, with the College of Policing, the professional body for law enforcement, issuing guidelines only this year.

Official statistics show that overall crime has more than halved in the past 20 years – from 19million in 1995 to eight million offences in the year to September 2013. It is the lowest estimate since records began.

The assessment is interesting, as crime rates have gone down around the U.S. in the past decade as well. Could it simply be that the balance of criminal activity has moved to the Internet, where it is out of sight out of mind?

Police chief’s shock admission: Crime isn’t falling … it’s just moving to internet [via Daily Mail]

Mapping Gang Structure Using Phone Records

Log-Analysis-SoftwareSoftware called LogAnalysis could help law enforcement map the structure of a criminal gang by analyzing the mobile phone records of the gang’s members. This is not the first time software has been used to do so, as Orca has been used by major police departments to analyze arrest records to understand relationships between criminals. The LogAnalysis software was develped by Indiana University researchers led by Emilio Ferrara, and it uses call records and other data to map gang hierarchy using “social network theory.” As funny as it may sound, this theory can be neatly summarized by saying that those who make the most calls are likely at the bottom of the hierarchy, while those who make the least calls are at the top (apparently even the top leadership in a criminal gang is as aloof as in legitimate organizations). Apparently, at least some of the group’s researchers are from Sicily, leading to some reasonable assumptions regarding what criminal organization they have been using as a base for their work!
How to Detect Criminal Gangs Using Mobile Phone Data [via MIT Technology Review]

Volvo’s Inflatable Child Seat


Car manufacturer Volvo announced it is developing an inflatable child car seat concept that weighs under 11 pounds and which can inflate/deflate in 40 seconds at the push of the button with an electronic pump. Supposedly, the car seat is made out of a strong fabric that was originally developed for the military’s aborted attempt to make inflatable airplanes. You’ll have to wait to get your hands on one though, as there are no plans yet to bring the car seat to market.