Science briefs: Finding the cure for jet lag

  • Updated: April 19, 2014 - 2:00 PM
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An undated handout photo of the Stradivarius violin, valued at $5 million, stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Frank Almond on Jan. 27, 2014. The violin appears to have been recovered, Almond said Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, but would have no further comment until he could verify that the police have the correct violin. Two men and a woman were arrested on Feb. 5 in connection with theft, in which Mr. Almond was assaulted with a stun gun. (Michael Darnton/Darton & Hersh via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED WIS-VIOLIN-THEFT BY YACCINO. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. ORG XMIT: XNYT27

Finding the cure for jet lag

Looking for a jet-lag cure?  A new mathematical model may help you overcome jet lag faster than anyone thought possible.

A research team from the University of Michigan and Yale University released a free iPhone app called Entrain that loads a complex model into your smartphone. You type in your location and destination as well as what kind of light you will have access to, and the app gives you a schedule of light exposure that should reset your internal clock.

For example, if you are traveling from New York to London, the app will tell you that upon arrival you should begin light at 7:58 a.m., and begin dark at 8:14 p.m. The following day, you expose yourself to light at 6:18 a.m. and avoid light at 7:53 p.m. On the third day, the app tells you to begin light at 6:01 a.m.

“Our schedule takes what could be 12 days of adjusting down to four,” said Olivia Walch, a doctoral student who designed the app.

Oldest cardiovascular system

Scientists have uncovered the oldest cardiovascular system they’ve ever found in a fossil, in the form of a shrimplike animal that once roamed the ancient seas. The finding, described in the journal Nature Communications, shows that the internal systems in the ancestors of modern crustaceans may have been much more complicated than scientists thought.

The 520-million-year-old, 3-inch fossil of an ancient arthropod (the group that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids) called Fuxianhuia protensa was discovered in southwest China. It would have lived in the early Cambrian Period, when life was diversifying into increasingly complex forms.

To find the system, the international team of researchers were able to trace the dark carbon trails left along all the blood vessel paths inside the body. They found long arteries leading out of the heart and several vessels leading to the brain, a system more complicated than those seen in some crustaceans today.

you get what you pay for?

It’s a foregone conclusion in the violin world: The best violins were made 300 years ago by Italian masters like Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù. There are excellent modern violins, but convention has it that a $50,000 modern one can’t compare to the magic of a Stradivarius worth millions.

Researchers beg to differ. They report that internationally accomplished violinists could not distinguish between old and new in a blind playoff and that many chose a new instrument as their favorite. “There’s this caricature that new violins are too loud, too ear-piercing,” said Claudia Fritz of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, who led the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “[T]here is no truth behind it.”

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