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Natural born alpha males. How do leaders emerge?

Among those in leadership positions, there are many carriers of a particular variation of the CHRNB3 gene, British researchers found. Apparently, it is somehow connected with the innate leadership qualities. However, there are works showing that heredity is not the main thing and completely different factors contribute to the high social status.

In 2013, researchers from University College London (UK) reported that they discovered a DNA site responsible for human leadership qualities. It was a variant of the gene for the acetylcholine receptor CHRNB3.

This is a receptor for neurotransmitters – substances that transmit a nerve signal to the brain. One of the varieties of CHRNB – rs4950 – is more common in the DNA of people in leadership positions. Scientists came to such conclusions by analyzing the genetic data of four thousand volunteers and information about their professional and personal lives. However, scientists estimate the contribution of the rs4950 variant to the formation of leadership qualities at 24 percent probability. The rest depends on other factors.

As suggested by Chinese neurophysiologists, there may be a special zone in the cerebral cortex, the stimulation of which can turn the most insecure person into a leader. So far, it has been found only in mice. Scientists pushed two adult males in a narrow aisle and watched their reaction. As a rule, such situations ended in conflict, and one animal replaced another. But it was not only his physical strength. Rodent behavior was influenced by past victories and defeats. So, the mice behaved more aggressively if they were lucky in the course of preliminary experiments, or they were overly cautious if they had previously lost in fights with alpha males.

The researchers hypothesized that information about these events is stored in the frontal cortex of animals. They infected mice with a retrovirus, which caused neurons to produce proteins, which, in turn, made nerve cells susceptible to light: when they were irradiated with a blue laser, they turned on or off. Modified in this way, the mice again began to push against each other. And it turned out that if you activate these neurons in the omega brain, then the animals begin to push even the strongest and obviously dangerous males for them. This increased the number of their victories and increased the social status of losers among the congeners.

But disabling a group of nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex of alpha males, on the contrary, made them too cautious. They retreated even in absolutely winning situations when rivals were much weaker. A similar area may be present in the human brain, the authors note. The study would help to better understand the causes of some mental illnesses. After all, it is known that men who consider themselves macho and often demonstrate their power over women are prone to mental disorders.

Unhappy alpha males

Health problems are common for alpha males in many animal populations. And it’s not just about the increased risk of injury. As Kenyan and American biologists have found, dominant males live in a state of constant intense stress. As a result, too many glucocorticoids accumulate in their blood – hormones that stimulate the body to work in minutes of danger. In a calm time, an increased concentration of these substances negatively affects the functioning of the immune system.

Scientists have observed for five years five flocks of baboons. They recorded the behavior of monkeys within communities and periodically measured the levels of testosterone and glucocorticoids in the excrement of males. It turned out that the concentration of stress hormones in the feces of leaders is on average several times higher than in the excrement of their deputies – the so-called beta males. These individuals support the leader and, as a result, enjoy the same benefits as he.

Moreover, the amount of glucocorticoids in the feces of the leaders was approximately the same as in the waste of the lowest-ranking males. It turned out that they experience the same level of stress, and in this sense, the position of the leader is not better than the status of “omega”. Earlier, it was shown that outsiders in primacy communities are weaker in immunity and more often suffer from heart problems and endocrine disruption. But with an increase in their position in the hierarchy, the monkeys begin to recover. As it turned out,  until they become leaders.

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Science & Technology

NTP nuclear rocket engine will take humans to Mars in just three months

Although the romance of the peaceful atom has subsided since the mid-1960s, the idea of ​​using nuclear reactors for “civilian” purposes is still regularly returned. The new nuclear rocket engine (NRM) will deliver a man to Mars much faster than is possible now.

The danger of cosmic radiation is much more serious than the risk of infection from an accident with such an engine. The most dangerous of all the constraining vectors for projects of sending people to other bodies in the solar system is cosmic radiation. Radiation from our star and galactic rays can seriously damage the health of the mission crew. Therefore, when planning flights to Mars, engineers and scientists try to reduce travel time as much as possible.

One promising way to get to the Red Planet in just three months could be a new NTP engine. Its concept was developed and submitted to NASA by Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies ( USNC-Tech ) from Seattle, USA. The name of the unit is simply deciphered – Nuclear Thermal Propulsion ( NTP ), that is, “thermal nuclear power plant”. The novelty differs from its previously created or invented counterparts in the most secure design.

A key component of USNC’s development is mid – grade uranium fuel “pellets”. They contain 5% to 20% of the highly reactive isotope U- 235 coated with zirconium carbide ceramics. This degree of enrichment lies roughly halfway between the “civilian” nuclear power plants and the military. The proprietary ceramic coating technology makes the tablets incredibly resistant to mechanical damage and extreme temperatures.

Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia |  Tokono
Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia | Tokono

The company promises that their fuel elements are significantly superior in these parameters to those currently used at nuclear power plants. As a result, the engine will have a higher specific impulse with a lower degree of uranium enrichment than in earlier versions of NRE. In addition to the flight to Mars, among the goals of the ambitious project are other missions within the solar system. The perspectives of the concept will soon be considered by specialists from NASA and the US Department of Defense ( DoD ). Perhaps departments will even allow its commercial use by private companies.

Theoretically, NRE based on modern technologies can have a specific impulse (SR) seven times higher than that of chemical jet engines. And this is one of the key performance parameters. At the same time, unlike electric and plasma ones, the ID of a nuclear rocket engine is combined with high thrust. One of the limiting factors in the use of NRE, in addition to safety issues, are extremely high temperatures in the reactor core.

The higher the temperature of the gases flowing out of the engine, the more energy they have. And accordingly, they create traction. However, mankind has not yet come up with relatively inexpensive and safe materials that can withstand more than three thousand degrees Celsius without destruction. The solution created by USNC will operate at the limit of modern materials science (3000 ° C) and have a specific impulse twice that of the best liquid-propellant engines.

Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA
Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA

The official press release does not specify which working body will be used in NTP . Usually, in all NRE projects, the reactor core heats hydrogen, less often ammonia. But, since we are talking about a long-term mission, the creators could have chosen some other gas. Keeping liquid hydrogen on board for three months is no easy task. But you still need to invent something for the way back.

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Scientist Peter Scott-Morgan is set to become “the world’s first complete cyborg”

Scientist and roboticist Peter Scott Morgan, who is using an advanced version of Stephen Hawking's communication system, built by Intel. INTEL

Two years ago scientist Peter Scott-Morgan was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and today he is still fighting for a new life, not just for survival.

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan is on track to become the world’s first full-fledged cyborg, potentially giving him more years of life.

The world’s first complete cyborg

It was in 2017 that Dr. Peter Scott-Morgan (a brilliant robotics writer, scientific writer, and talented speaker) was diagnosed with degenerative motor neuron disease that ultimately paralyzed his entire body except his eyes.

The diagnosis is understandably grim, especially considering that he has only two years to live, but he has not given up the fight.

Teaming up with world-class organizations with expertise in artificial intelligence, Dr. Scott-Morgan is transforming himself into what he calls “the world’s first fully fledged cyborg.”

“And when I say ‘Cyborg’, I mean not just that some kind of payment will be implanted in me, I mean that I will become the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created on Earth for 13.8 billion years. My body and brain will be irreversibly changed, ”says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

What does it mean to be human

According to Dr. Scott-Morgan, he will become part robot and part living organism. Moreover, the change will not be one-time, but with subsequent updates.

“I have more updates in the process than Microsoft ,” says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

AI-powered creative expression

The cyborg artist is a great example of the power of human-AI collaboration. AI uses the data that make up Peter’s digital portrait ( articles, videos, images, and social media ) and is trained to recognize key ideas, experiences, and images.

Peter will introduce a theme, AI will suggest composition, and Peter will apply images to suggest style and mood. Peter will direct the AI ​​to render a new digital image that none of them could create alone.

A unique blend of AI and human, reflects Peter’s creative and emotional self – a critical aspect of what it means to be human.

Peter 2.0

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan will undergo what he calls the latest procedure that will transform him into “Complete Cyborg”.

October 9 he tweeted a photo of himself, writing the following:

“This is my last post as Peter 1.0. Tomorrow I will trade my vote for potentially decades of life as we complete the last medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, in the month that I was told statistically I would be dead. I am not dying, I am transforming. ! Oh, how I LOVE science !!! “.

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Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

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