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New TV Alert: Science Channel & Popular Science Team Up for "Future Of..."

Starting tonight at 9pm (ET/PT) and on Mondays hereafter, a new science show hits The Science Channel -- it's called Popular Science's Future Of.... I've seen the first few episodes, and think it's worth watching. The premise is simple: the host -- blogger/comedian Baratunde Thurston -- visits scientists who are working on prototypes of new inventions, then tries them out. In the first episode, Superhuman, Baratunde tries out a series of inventions related to human performance and body enhancement (including several from my favorite Nerdvana, the MIT Media Lab) to see how they really work. Below is a roundup of some of the key stuff covered in the first episode.

Cooling Glove

Stanford biologists are making a cooling device that you wear on your hand; by sticking your hand into this thing, you can quickly and safely reduce your core temperature -- thus reducing sweating and potentially avoiding overheating during a workout. (Pictured above: Baratunde trying it out.) Why a glove? Well, the hand acts like a radiator for the body, and lots of blood flows through that area -- by cooling the hand, blood throughout the body can be cooled quickly. This invention already works, it's just a bit bulky at the moment. I'm hoping for a Michael Jackson-style sparkly glove that I can rock at the gym.

Limb Regeneration Powder

You've probably heard the story of the guy who grew about a half-inch of his fingertip back (including fingernail) at the ripe of age of 72, using an experimental powder derived from pigs' bladders. (If you haven't heard this, read a quick summary at Wikipedia. Basically, an older man accidentally cut off a segment of his finger, and his brother, a University of Pittsburgh scientist, tried an experimental regenerative powder on him. It worked.) While some scientists disagree about whether any regeneration actually happened here (some say it's just normal healing), this powder certainly seems like interesting stuff -- could it, or a regenerative substance like it, someday lead to regeneration of dying organs (thus doing away with transplants), or missing limbs? Baratunde explains...though he doesn't lose any fingers trying it out.

Wearable "Sixth Sense" Projector/Camera/PDA/Phone/Everything Device

An MIT Media Lab project, the Sixth Sense device is a wearable computer that hangs around your neck (Snow Crash gargoyles, anyone?) and instead of a screen, uses a micro-projector that projects its contents onto the nearest wall, car, whatever. It also includes a camera, so you can use your hands to interact with the picture in mid-air, implementing a sort of "touchscreen" without the touching. While it's still in the research phase (it's bulky, the picture it projects is a little unsteady, and so on), this gizmo is at least academically interesting -- and who knows, perhaps it's what we'll all be using in the not-too-distant future.

And Much, Much More...

The first episode also covers super-muscled mice (and Bully Whippets, those creepy hulk-style dogs), bionic Terminator-style contact lenses, and prosthetic limbs for athletes (that last one is the closest to a practical application, as its primary researcher is a double amputee and uses his own research samples every day). It's compelling stuff, presented in a clear and unaffected manner. Most of the time, I find these "pop science" shows to be way too dumb or hyper to hold my interest -- I want more science, less wackiness. This show finds the right balance, with an intelligent (and fun) host, compelling subject matter, and a healthy dose of actual science content. Having blogged about science and tech for several years, I recognized many of the projects in the upcoming episodes (for example, the Siftables "smart blocks") -- this is the real deal.

So tune in tonight (Monday, August 10) at 9pm (ET/PT) on The Science Channel to catch the first episode. There'll be many more, coming each Monday night, for your science-loving enjoyment. For more information: official website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and I'm sure you can find the rest from there.

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A Step-by-Step Journey Through Your Body's Digestive System
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We at Mental Floss write a lot about poop, but not as often about how our bodies produce the stuff in the first place. Humans eat between two and six pounds of food per day—and as TED-Ed’s latest video explains, this grub passes through an elaborate network of channels, organs, tissues, and nerves that’s commonly known as the human digestive system.

The digestive system is the unsung hero of our torso. Its 10 organs—which include the esophagus, liver, intestines, and stomach—contain over 20 specialized cell types, and the gastrointestinal track alone has an internal surface area of between 320 and 430 square feet. But the digestive process doesn’t begin and end with the esophagus—it starts in our mouths.

The body produces just over six cups of saliva per day, a process that begins when we start salivating over a tasty morsel. This clear substance contains starch-busting enzymes, which break the food we eat into a moist lump (a bolus) that will eventually become the stuff that comes out our other ends. In all, this journey lasts between 30 and 40 hours—and you can follow it step by step by watching TED-Ed’s video below.

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Today's Wine Glasses Are Almost Seven Times Larger Than They Were in 1700
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Holiday party season (a.k.a. hangover season) is in full swing. While you likely have no one to blame but yourself for drinking that second (or third) pour at the office soiree, your glassware isn't doing you any favors—especially if you live in the UK. Vino vessels in England are nearly seven times larger today than they were in 1700, according to a new study spotted by Live Science. These findings were recently published in the English medical journal The BMJ.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge measured more than 400 wineglasses from the past three centuries to gauge whether glass size affects how much we drink. They dug deep into the history of parties past, perusing both the collections of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford and the Royal Household's assemblage of glassware (a new set is commissioned for each monarch). They also scoured a vintage catalog, a modern department store, and eBay for examples.

After measuring these cups, researchers concluded that the average wineglass in 1700 held just 2.2 fluid ounces. For comparison's sake, that's the size of a double shot at a bar. Glasses today hold an average of 15.2 fluid ounces, even though a standard single serving size of wine is just 5 ounces.

BMJ infographic detailing increases in wine glass size from 1700 to 2017
BMJ Publishing group Ltd.

Advances in technology and manufacturing are partly to blame for this increase, as is the wine industry. Marketing campaigns promoted the beverage as it increasingly became more affordable and available for purchase, which in turn prompted aficionados to opt for larger pours. Perhaps not surprisingly, this bigger-is-better mindset was also compounded by American drinking habits: Extra-large wineglasses became popular in the U.S. in the 1990s, prompting overseas manufacturers to follow suit.

Wine consumption in both England and America has risen dramatically since the 1960s [PDF]. Cambridge researchers noted that their study doesn't necessarily prove that the rise of super-sized glassware has led to this increase. But their findings do fit a larger trend: previous studies have found that larger plate size can increase food consumption. This might be because they skew our sense of perception, making us think we're consuming less than we actually are. And in the case of wine, in particular, oversized glasses could also heighten our sensory enjoyment, as they might release more of the drink's aroma.

“We cannot infer that the increase in glass size and the rise in wine consumption in England are causally linked,” the study's authors wrote. “Nor can we infer that reducing glass size would cut drinking. Our observation of increasing size does, however, draw attention to wine glass size as an area to investigate further in the context of population health.”

[h/t Live Science]

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