The Science of Four Sigmatic

Four Sigmatic has made a bit of a splash in 2020, especially after it was endorsed by Tim Ferris and a lot of different Instagram influencers. But are most of their claims just nonsense marketing speak? That’s the question we’d like an answer to, and as of this date, it’s hard to say how effective Four Sigmatic actually is. I mean, is “mushroom coffee” actually turn you into a superhero? It seems doubtful.

Based on our research so far, we do not believe there is that much scientific evidence that Four Sigmatic products are as effective as they claim.

This is probably the best article on the scientific credibility of Four Sigmatic (scroll down a little bit), as it lists all the credible papers that may support Four Sigmatic’s claims. But that’s not conclusive evidence by itself. Have a read through it and let us know what you think!

More heat and more predatory insects: a double problem for plants

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the State University of Michigan, among the various consequences the current climate change will bring to the planet is that relating to herbivorous insects and parasites. These forms of life, in fact, will create different damage to agricultural crops. According to the study, the loss of cultivated fields due to insects and pests will increase by 10 to 25 percent for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.

According to the researchers, as temperatures increase, insects’ metabolism accelerates and therefore they have to eat more. In addition, the same increase in temperature exponentially increases the possible habitats for insects. There is, however, another factor that many previous studies have not taken into account, according to the researchers: how will plants react to ever greater heat and ever greater attack by insects and pests?

Usually when it gets warmer, plants lift their leaves further away from the soil that gives off the most heat. They also tend to “sweat” by opening the stomata, similar to the way we do by opening the skin pores.

However, researcher Nathan Havko, performing a laboratory experiment on tomato plants, found that with the warmer temperatures the caterpillars became much larger and swept the plants away almost completely: “When temperatures are higher, a wounded tomato plant produces even more jasmonates (plant hormones that regulate different processes in plants, Editor’s note), leading to a stronger defense response,” Havko reports. “Somehow, that doesn’t discourage caterpillars. In addition, we have found that jasmonates block the plant’s ability to cool, it can no longer lift the leaves or sweat.”

According to the researchers, maybe the plants close their pores to stop losing water from where they have been “injured” but in any case, the consequences seem to be lethal because photosynthesis is severely compromised. This means that activating responses to defend against predators means that plants are even more susceptible to heat and we still do not know how lethal this type of reaction can be global.

The study was published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

The oldest meteor impact crater on Earth has been dated at 2.2 billion years old

It has already been defined as the oldest meteoric impact crater ever identified on Earth, the one dated in Western Australia, which, according to geologists and researchers, was formed by an impact that occurred over 2.2 billion years ago. The study for the first time performs a precise dating of the Yarrabubba crater estimating the date in 2.229 billion years, 200 million years more than other old impact craters identified on our planet.

Dating with this precision impact craters so ancient is not at all easy: the Earth is a planet more than alive and, even just considering the tectonic events, including earthquakes themselves, one would expect that after 2.2 billion years a crater remains no longer perceptible as it is progressively erased by the geological action of the planet.

In this case, the researchers have made a noteworthy effort and, in their study published in Nature Communications, they explain how they managed to date such a crater.

First of all, they looked for special minerals present in the site, minerals that were the result of the alteration of the structure of various materials following the impact, including zircon and monazite.

Using special high-tech scanning processes, including ion microprobes, the researchers found and identified the uranium present in microscopic granules and were able to calculate a precise date. Among other things, at that time the Earth was in a deep freeze phase called “Snowball Earth.”

This means that at the moment of impact not only a crater was created (about 70 km wide) but several tons of ice vaporized into the atmosphere (up to half a trillion tons according to the researchers). Water vapor, in itself, is an excellent greenhouse gas. At this point the suspicion arises: did this impact event contribute to the melting of the ice that followed the snowball Earth?

At the moment there is no evidence to prove such a thing and it is only speculation. Further studies will be needed to determine whether such an impact can really cause far-reaching climate change in a completely frozen world like the Snowball Earth.

Strong decrease of caterpillars and their parasites recorded in Costa Rica

An unusual decline of caterpillars and their parasites has been recorded in the area of Selva in Costa Rica from a study in Scientific Reports conducted by researchers at the University of Nevada. Using 22-year-old data, the researchers found a very marked decline in the diversity and density of caterpillars and their parasitoids.

Both animals provide, according to the researchers themselves who published a statement on the university’s own website, an “important ecosystem service, focusing in particular on “biocontrol of herbivores.” The Selva area is located in Costa Rica and is basically a dense forest, relatively isolated, surrounded by cultivated fields, mainly banana, pineapple and palm fields that provide an important economic contribution to the region.

This area, as well as other nearby isolated areas, provides important parasitoid populations which in turn control the pest populations in the surrounding plantations. Reducing these caterpillar pests also means increasing plant parasitoids and this compromises the health of the forest ecosystem as well as the cultivated fields.

According to the researchers, more than 40% of the 64 kinds of caterpillars found in this area have disappeared. Along with the caterpillars, these parasites have also disappeared. According to the researchers, these significant decreases are due to the increased variability of precipitation and shifts in average, maximum and minimum temperatures, mainly due to ongoing climate change.

“Caterpillar-pesticide interactions are intimately linked and depend on narrow windows for synchronous development. Subtle shifts in host and parasitoid population cycles due to variable delay effects can have important consequences for these highly specialized and synchronized interactions,” says Danielle Salcido, lead author of the study.

Microplastics increase mortality and decrease the reproductivity of sand crabs

Microplastics pollution in the sea and on beaches can be a big problem for sand crabs (Emerita analogous), small crustaceans that can be found in the sand of beaches especially in North and South America.

This crab has adapted well to living in the sand. Its own body shape, an elongated dome shape, is designed to dig quickly into the sand and even the antennae are long enough to protrude over the surface of the sand itself. It feeds on plankton that it assimilates by filtering the water itself on the shoreline. According to researchers at Portland State University, these animals suffer higher mortality and less reproductive success when exposed to microplastics.

So-called “microplastics” are plastic microfibers that result from pollution caused by this material. Sand crabs assimilate these microscopic fibers by filtering out water particles. Since sand crabs are very important for the ecosystems to which they belong, this can be a big problem. For example, sand crabs are a favorite prey of coastal birds, fish living around the coast and various marine mammals.

By assimilating more microplastics fibers in their bodies, these crabs have to suffer a higher mortality rate and the number of days that females can keep their eggs alive or viable also decreases, which also greatly affects breeding rates.

Furthermore, the same microplastics, as researchers have discovered, can also lower the embryonic development rates of these crustaceans.

The way we dance is unique, and artificial intelligence can recognise us

A team of researchers from the Center for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland has discovered, through analysis using motion capture, that people dance in a unique, distinctive way, so distinctive that an artificial intelligence can recognize it and thus link it to an identity.

It was accidental, as Emily Carlson, the first author of the study, explains. Initially the researchers wanted to study something different, i.e. they wanted to understand if it is possible to use the technique of automatic learning, a well-known artificial intelligence algorithm, to identify what kind of music a dancing subject is listening to. Based on the movements, according to the researchers, perhaps it could be possible to understand the musical genre for which the subject is following the rhythm.

The experiments were conducted on 73 participants using the motion capture technique. The participants were played various pieces of music from different genres. The participants themselves had to move and dance, trying to follow the rhythm as naturally as possible.

By analyzing the participants’ movements using the machine learning technique, the algorithm was only able to identify the correct musical genre in 30% of cases.

However, the researchers themselves discovered something that is perhaps even more important: the computer could identify which of the 73 subjects was dancing 94% of the time.

“It seems that a person’s dance movements are a kind of fingerprint,” says Pasi Saari, one of the authors of the study. “Each person has a unique movement signature that remains unchanged, regardless of the type of music they are playing.”

For some genres, however, the computer was more precise than others.

It is still too early to say whether a dance recognition software can be used in the same way as a “trivial” facial recognition software, but the researchers themselves already state at this point that they are little interested in any applications in the context of surveillance or trivial recognition.

New carnivorous allosaurus discovered from remains found in Utah

A new species of carnivorous dinosaur has been discovered following the analysis of some fossils preserved in the Natural History Museum of Utah. The skeleton remains were found during the early 1990s in northeastern Utah. According to researchers, it was a large carnivorous dinosaur that lived in a habitat made up of floodplains and intricate systems of waterways, lakes and mudflats in western North America between 157 and 152 million years ago (late Jurassic).

It was a species of allosaurus and was named Allosaurus jimmadseni by researchers (the second term refers to the paleontologist James H. Madsen Jr.). The species is described in a new study appeared on PeerJ. Among the unique features of this species the short and narrow skull with relatively small facial crests from the horns to the eyes.

The species resembled a much better known younger cousin, the Allosaurus fragilis, from which, however, it seems to differ in a smaller field of vision and a lighter and more contained skull.

The jimmadsenisi was between 8 and 9 meters long and weighed about 1.8 tons. It was wanted before the fragilis, at least 5 million years before, and was one of the most ravenous predators of its habitat with its long legs and arms equipped with three powerful sharp claws.

This is an important discovery because it shows that in North America there were not only one species of allosaurus but at least two, as Mark Loewen, professor of the Department of Geology and Geophysics of the University of Utah, who conducted the study, explains.

New coating for electronics dissipates heat “sweating”

To counteract heat and regulate body temperature we sweat and thus dissipate heat in the form of water vapor. So why not do the same with a thermal coating for electronic components, which are known to be subject to the heat problem? That’s what some researchers who published a study in the journal Joule thought.

In the research, scientists describe a new coating for electronic components capable of releasing water vapor so that the same components dissipate heat while in operation. It would be a solution for the thermal management of today’s microelectronics that has developed more and more by amassing components close to each other that tend to become increasingly hot. This is also the case with our smartphones, which without adequate heat dissipation systems would soon start to fail.

Usually, phase change materials (PCM) are used to dissipate heat in our electronic devices. However, PCMs are not always very efficient: they can absorb heat but the amount of total energy exchanged is relatively low. The new coating, on the other hand, is based on the liquid-steam transition of water, a transition that can reach an energy exchange 10 times higher than that of these materials.

It is a mechanism based on moisture absorption and inspired by mammalian sweating, as specified by Ruzhu Wang, a researcher at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai and senior author of the study. In this regard, scientists have used porous materials that can absorb moisture from the air to release water vapor once heated.

In particular, they selected a type of metal-organic framework (MOF), metal-organic structures, called MIL-101(Cr). With this material, they coated three 16 cm² aluminum sheets by heating them on a plate. The coating was able to delay the temperature rise and the more sheets they placed on top of each other, the greater the contrast effect to heating.

They then created a heat sink coated with this material to test it on an electronic device and again the coating reduced the temperature of the chips by up to 7°, proving to be very efficient. Now the researchers intend to install such a coating on smartphones as well, but at the moment the biggest obstacle is the cost of MOF, still too high to think of such an application on a large scale.