Bartesian, a Home Cocktail Robot, is Now on Sale in U.S. Retailers

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re still looking for that holiday gift for the cocktail fanatic in your life who has everything, you might want to run down to Best Buy (or Dillards or Bed Bath & Beyond) and pick up a Bartesian.

That’s because over the past few months, the home cocktail robot has started to roll out across the U.S. at a number of different retailers. According to company CEO Ryan Close, the Bartesian is now available at over 250 retail locations across the nation, including Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Beth Bath and Beyond, and Dillards.

The Bartesian, which makes a variety of cocktails using a proprietary capsule system to add in bitters, fruit juice and other mixers to the user-provided spirits, started shipping online earlier this year. According to Close, retail has always been part of the plan.

“5 years (!) of talking about one day being on the shelves of #BedBathandBeyond …here it is,” wrote Close on Linkedin announcing the company’s latest retail rollout.

Close told me via Linkedin that while the company is launching its product in different locations across the U.S., they are primarily focused on higher-density markets like New York, Chicago and cities in California, to maximize awareness.

I’m curious to see how the Bartesian performs at retail. One potential sticking point for consumers is the need to buy capsules from Bartesian to make cocktails with the machine. The capsules, which include fresh ingredients such as fruit juice, are not cheap, selling in packs of six for $15. That’s about two and a half bucks per drink (before alcohol), which is certainly cheaper than a bar but pretty spendy for home cocktails.

However, while consumers have shown a reluctance to use proprietary pod systems outside of coffee, Bartesian isn’t the only company betting that home-based cocktails might be the next market to break open new capsule category. Drinkworks, the joint venture between Keurig Dr. Pepper and Anheuser-Busch, has rolled out to select markets in the U.S. Unlike the Bartesian, however, Drinkworks pods include alcohol.

The Bartesian, which launched over five years ago on Kickstarter, now faces a more crowded market than when it first launched. In addition to Drinkworks, Barsys has begun to ship its second generation bartender bot while newer upstarts like MyBar and SirMixaBot (best name ever) have started to make their way to market.

Source: The Spoon

German Plum Pastry (Zwetschgenkuchen)

Ingredients

2 (17-oz) cans plums
1 lb home-made or store-bought puff pastry
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten
sugar

Method

  1. Drain the plums. Cut into halves and remove pits.
  2. Roll out half the pastry to an 8 x 12-inch rectangle, working on marble or a floured board. Place on lightly floured baking sheet.
  3. Roll out remaining pastry on lightly floured board. Fold in half lengthwise. Cut through the folded edge in 3/4-inch strips to within 1 inch of the edge.
  4. Overlap plum halves on base rectangle to within 1/2 inch of the edges.
  5. Combine lemon rind, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the plums.
  6. Brush pastry edges with cold water. Place cut pastry over half the rectangle; unfold and fit over remaining rectangle. Pinch edges together securely. Brush top liberally with egg white and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  7. Bake in preheated 425ºF oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: The Creative Cooking Course

Candy Canals: Architects Craft Gingerbread Replica Of Venice

Sophia Alvarez Boyd wrote . . . . . . . . .

Imagine Venice, the city of canals, at Christmastime — twinkling with lights and dressed in garlands.

Now translate that into gingerbread and gumdrops.

That’s exactly what hundreds of architects, designers and engineers came together to do — build the Italian city made up of more than 100 small islands out of Snickers, Mars bars, Jellybeans, cereal, gummy bears and more. And, of course, sheets and sheets of gingerbread.

The air smells sugary and sweet as the competitors arrive. CannonDesign, a global design firm, is one of 52 teams checking into Gingertown, D.C. — a design-and-build competition created in 2006 by David M. Schwarz Architects here in the nation’s capital. And it has since expanded to other cities.

There’s a different theme every year. Daniel Olberding and Hunter Young of CannonDesign have competed several times. And this year’s theme feels well, topical.

“Now we’re dealing with global warming,” says Olberding.

“Yes, the global warming element to this, the fact that Venice is currently underwater, is a little troubling,” agrees Young.

Troubling, but still leaves room for thinking outside the box.

“So our strategy is to use our creative juices once we get here. We don’t really pre-emptively prepare for this, but being builders and architects, we just rise to the occasion when we get here and just wait till you see what we come up with,” Olberding says.

Many of the firms are recreating landmarks. “We’re trying to make a gingerbread version of Michelangelo’s studio out of all edible things,” says Lauren Famularo of ZDS Archictecture & Interiors.

Other teams are recreating Saint Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and, of course, the tangle of canals.

Oberling has a basic plan in mind, though the details still need to be worked out. “We’re going to build a U-shaped building so we can have an inner courtyard. And we have not yet decided how we’re going to do the trees and the shrubbery in the courtyard. Or the roof,” he says. “We did think it was important on our lot to keep the front open so we could have some waterfront canal space.”

But Young is already contemplating details. “We have some green Twizzlers as vines.”

When the teams begin to assemble their buildings, the icing, which is key to construction, is never far from reach. Each team is given two kinds of icing — royal and buttercream.

“The royal one is basically like glue,” Young says. “So if you get it on your fingers, they’re sticky the rest of the night. The buttercream is more like decorative stuff.”

The teams have three hours to build and decorate their buildings before showing them to the judges. There are five awards based on the expression of theme, innovation and craftsmanship.

But for Olberding, precision is not a priority tonight. “The thing is, all day, every day, we have to be so precise about our work. The best thing about Gingertown is that … there are no consequences.”

With about an hour left, the candy supply is getting low and the pressure is kicking in.

To qualify, the teams have to pick up their gingerbread creations, transport them in an elevator down to a crowded lobby, and find their plot on a map of Venice.

As soon as CannonDesign’s team attempts their lift … the roof collapses. They quickly shore it up with graham crackers and more icing.

Finally, they make it to the lobby.

Alas, no prize for CannonDesign this year. But, Olberding says that doesn’t matter.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever had a collapse of any sort,” he says. “I’m OK with it because we improvised and used a lot of icing.”

Good holiday advice — and not just for architects.

Source: npr

Study: People Can Boost Attention by Manipulating Their Own Alpha Brain Waves

Anne Trafton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Having trouble paying attention? MIT neuroscientists may have a solution for you: Turn down your alpha brain waves. In a new study, the researchers found that people can enhance their attention by controlling their own alpha brain waves based on neurofeedback they receive as they perform a particular task.

The study found that when subjects learned to suppress alpha waves in one hemisphere of their parietal cortex, they were able to pay better attention to objects that appeared on the opposite side of their visual field. This is the first time that this cause-and-effect relationship has been seen, and it suggests that it may be possible for people to learn to improve their attention through neurofeedback.

“There’s a lot of interest in using neurofeedback to try to help people with various brain disorders and behavioral problems,” says Robert Desimone, director of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “It’s a completely noninvasive way of controlling and testing the role of different types of brain activity.”

It’s unknown how long these effects might last and whether this kind of control could be achieved with other types of brain waves, such as beta waves, which are linked to Parkinson’s disease. The researchers are now planning additional studies of whether this type of neurofeedback training might help people suffering from attentional or other neurological disorders.

Desimone is the senior author of the paper, which appears in Neuron on Dec. 4. McGovern Institute postdoc Yasaman Bagherzadeh is the lead author of the study. Daniel Baldauf, a former McGovern Institute research scientist, and Dimitrios Pantazis, a McGovern Institute principal research scientist, are also authors of the paper.

Alpha and attention

There are billions of neurons in the brain, and their combined electrical signals generate oscillations known as brain waves. Alpha waves, which oscillate in the frequency of 8 to 12 hertz, are believed to play a role in filtering out distracting sensory information.

Previous studies have shown a strong correlation between attention and alpha brain waves, particularly in the parietal cortex. In humans and in animal studies, a decrease in alpha waves has been linked to enhanced attention. However, it was unclear if alpha waves control attention or are just a byproduct of some other process that governs attention, Desimone says.

To test whether alpha waves actually regulate attention, the researchers designed an experiment in which people were given real-time feedback on their alpha waves as they performed a task. Subjects were asked to look at a grating pattern in the center of a screen, and told to use mental effort to increase the contrast of the pattern as they looked at it, making it more visible.

During the task, subjects were scanned using magnetoencephalography (MEG), which reveals brain activity with millisecond precision. The researchers measured alpha levels in both the left and right hemispheres of the parietal cortex and calculated the degree of asymmetry between the two levels. As the asymmetry between the two hemispheres grew, the grating pattern became more visible, offering the participants real-time feedback.

Although subjects were not told anything about what was happening, after about 20 trials (which took about 10 minutes), they were able to increase the contrast of the pattern. The MEG results indicated they had done so by controlling the asymmetry of their alpha waves.

“After the experiment, the subjects said they knew that they were controlling the contrast, but they didn’t know how they did it,” Bagherzadeh says. “We think the basis is conditional learning — whenever you do a behavior and you receive a reward, you’re reinforcing that behavior. People usually don’t have any feedback on their brain activity, but when we provide it to them and reward them, they learn by practicing.”

Although the subjects were not consciously aware of how they were manipulating their brain waves, they were able to do it, and this success translated into enhanced attention on the opposite side of the visual field. As the subjects looked at the pattern in the center of the screen, the researchers flashed dots of light on either side of the screen. The participants had been told to ignore these flashes, but the researchers measured how their visual cortex responded to them.

One group of participants was trained to suppress alpha waves in the left side of the brain, while the other was trained to suppress the right side. In those who had reduced alpha on the left side, their visual cortex showed a larger response to flashes of light on the right side of the screen, while those with reduced alpha on the right side responded more to flashes seen on the left side.

“Alpha manipulation really was controlling people’s attention, even though they didn’t have any clear understanding of how they were doing it,” Desimone says.

Persistent effect

After the neurofeedback training session ended, the researchers asked subjects to perform two additional tasks that involve attention, and found that the enhanced attention persisted. In one experiment, subjects were asked to watch for a grating pattern, similar to what they had seen during the neurofeedback task, to appear. In some of the trials, they were told in advance to pay attention to one side of the visual field, but in others, they were not given any direction.

When the subjects were told to pay attention to one side, that instruction was the dominant factor in where they looked. But if they were not given any cue in advance, they tended to pay more attention to the side that had been favored during their neurofeedback training.

In another task, participants were asked to look at an image such as a natural outdoor scene, urban scene, or computer-generated fractal shape. By tracking subjects’ eye movements, the researchers found that people spent more time looking at the side that their alpha waves had trained them to pay attention to.

“It is promising that the effects did seem to persist afterwards,” says Desimone, though more study is needed to determine how long these effects might last.

“It would be interesting to understand how long-lasting these effects are, and whether you can use them therapeutically, because there’s some evidence that alpha oscillations are different in people who have attention deficits and hyperactivity disorders,” says Sabine Kastner, a professor of psychology at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, who was not involved in the research. “If that is the case, then at least in principle, one might use this neurofeedback method to enhance their attention.”

Source: MIT News

Diabetes Drug Metformin Has Unexpected, Broad Implications for Healthy Aging

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed type 2 diabetes drug, yet scientists still do not fully know how it works to control blood sugar levels. In a collaborative effort, researchers from the Salk Institute, The Scripps Research Institute and Weill Cornell Medical College have used a novel technology to investigate why it functions so well. The findings, which identified a surprising number of biochemical “switches” for various cellular processes, could also explain why metformin has been shown to extend health span and life span in recent studies. The work was published in Cell Reports on December 3, 2019.

“These results provide us with new avenues to explore in order to understand how metformin works as a diabetes drug, along with its health-span-extending effects,” says Professor Reuben Shaw, co-corresponding author of the paper and the director of Salk’s NCI-designated Cancer Center. “These are pathways that neither we, nor anyone else, would have imagined.”

Previously, the only biochemical pathway that was known to be activated by metformin was the AMPK pathway, which Shaw discovered stalls cell growth and changes metabolism when nutrients are scarce, as can occur in cancer. But the scientists believed more pathways than AMPK might be involved.

The scientists developed a novel screening platform to examine kinases, the proteins that transfer phosphate groups, which are critical on/off switches in cells and can be rapidly flipped by metformin. Using this technology, the researchers were able to decode hundreds of regulatory “switch-flipping” events that could affect healthy aging.

“Being mentored by John Yates, one of the top mass spectrometry investigators in the world, and Reuben Shaw, an expert in the field of metabolism, enabled me to both develop and apply a novel technology to a critical biological question: What pathways are regulated by metformin in the liver?” says Ben Stein, first author and postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The results revealed that metformin turns on unexpected kinases and pathways, many independent of AMPK. Two of the activated kinases are called Protein Kinase D and MAPKAPK2. These kinases are poorly understood, but are known to have some relation to cellular stress, which could connect them to the health-span- and life-span-extending effects observed in other studies. In fact, metformin is currently being tested in multiple large-scale clinical trials as a health-span- and life-span-extending drug, but the mechanism for how metformin could affect health and aging has not been clear. The current study indicates that Protein Kinase D and MAPKAPK2 may be two players in providing these therapeutic effects, and identifies new targets and cellular processes regulated by AMPK that may also be critical to metformin’s beneficial effects.

“We never imagined these two kinases would have anything to do with metformin,” says Shaw, holder of the William R. Brody Chair. “The results broaden our understanding of how metformin induces a mild stress that triggers sensors to restore metabolic balance, explaining some of the benefits previously reported such as extended healthy aging in model organisms taking metformin. The big questions now are what targets of metformin can benefit the health of all individuals, not just type 2 diabetics.”

Next, the researchers plan to examine the new signaling pathways they discovered in more detail to better understand the beneficial effects of metformin.

Source: Salk


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