Tuesday, 30 September, 2014
The Poison Garden, located in Alnwick, in the north of England, is just that… it contains all manner of plants that pose some sort of hazard to people and other living creatures:
Because of the plants’ dangerous qualities, visitors to the Poison Garden are prohibited from smelling, touching or tasting any of them. Still, even with guidelines in place, visitors can fall victim to the plants. This past summer, seven people reportedly fainted from inhaling toxic fumes while walking through the garden. “People think we’re being overdramatic when we talk about [not smelling the plants], but I’ve seen the health and safety reports,” the duchess says.
biology, nature, plants
Wednesday, 27 August, 2014
There’s bound to be a logical explanation, bound to… a study of external surfaces of the International Space Station (ISS) has revealed, among other things, the presence of sea plankton.
So how does plankton even reach the ISS? Via evaporation in over-drive? And once it… arrives there, what are the chances of survival? Pretty good actually, it would seem:
Some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.
biology, ISS, space exploration
Friday, 1 August, 2014
A single tree that can bear forty different types of stone fruit? The notion sounds incredible, but thanks to some complicated grafting techniques, branches from various fruit trees were attached to one, bringing forth the “Tree of 40 Fruit”.
Working with a pool of over 250 varieties of stone fruit, Van Aken developed a timeline of when each of them blossom in relationship to each other and started grafting a few onto a working tree’s root structure. Once the working tree was about two years old, Van Aken used a technique called chip grafting to add more varieties on as separate branches. This technique involves taking a sliver off a fruit tree that includes the bud, and inserting that into an incision in the working tree. It’s then taped into place, and left to sit and heal over winter. If all goes well, the branch will be pruned back to encourage it to grow as a normal branch on the working tree.
art, biology, science
Thursday, 26 June, 2014
If life was all but wiped out on Earth, but was able to start over again from minute organism level, would the lifeforms that currently populate the planet eventually return? Opinion is divided, but seemingly it is possible.
Both scholars recognized that convergence and contingency exist in evolution. Their debate instead revolved around how repeatable or unique key adaptations, like human intelligence, are. Meanwhile, other biologists have taken up the puzzle, and shown how convergence and contingency interact. Understanding the interplay of these two forces could reveal whether every living thing is the result of a several-billion-year-long chain of lucky chances, or whether we all – salamanders and humans alike – are as inevitable as death and taxes.
biology, life, science
Friday, 14 March, 2014
By tapping into the workings of the immune systems of certain types of bacteria, it may be possible to makes changes to, or edit, human DNA. The implications here are both positive and negative, but interesting nonetheless.
The sequences, it turns out, are part of a sophisticated immune system that bacteria use to fight viruses. And that system, whose very existence was unknown until about seven years ago, may provide scientists with unprecedented power to rewrite the code of life. In the past year or so, researchers have discovered that the bacterial system can be harnessed to make precise changes to the DNA of humans, as well as other animals and plants.
bacteria, biology, health, science
Friday, 13 December, 2013
Your liberal arts education continues. How is it that a bird can sleep while perched on a branch, yet not fall off the limb? It comes down to the mechanics of their talons, or claws:
The avian talon works through a “pulley system of tendons,” according to the animal morphology blog Ars Anatomica, and it can lock into place. “The bird’s foot closes and grasps automatically as the ankle and knee joints are bent,” we read. “This grasp cannot be released until the limb is straightened again.” So, instead of expending precious energy holding the muscles tight – as you would if you were hanging onto a branch with your fists/arms – the system simply physically locks in place.
biology, birds, nature
Monday, 18 November, 2013
You’re not only what you eat, read, or watch on TV, you are very much a product of the environment around you. Your blood, fingernails, the curls in your hair, together with your teeth, all take at least a little of their composition from the elements and chemicals swirling about us:
When you smile, the gleam of your teeth obscures a slight glow from radioactive waste. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, atmospheric testing of thermonuclear weapons scattered so much radioactive carbon-14 into the atmosphere that it contaminated virtually every ecosystem and human.
biology, chemistry, science
Thursday, 14 November, 2013
If someone studied pigeons for ten years, as London based biologist Luke Taylor has, I guess they’d be able to tell one or two stories about them. Actually there’s quite a lot to be learnt here. Pigeons may not be the fondly looked upon of birds, but if you’re pressed for a babysitter you may want to rethink your attitude towards them…
A baby pigeon was nursed by a kind family who went on a two week holiday. When the family came back from the holiday the pigeon remembered who they were and followed them around whilst cooing cheerfully.
biology, London, nature, pigeons
Friday, 26 July, 2013
A recently discovered virus that is much larger than most other known pathogens of the same ilk, sounds to me like it could be big trouble…
In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers say that the Pandoravirus is so unique, it deserves its own classification. For one, the virus is twice as big as the second-largest known virus, and dwarfs the size of most others – it’s volume is 1,000 times that of the common flu. What’s more, of its 2,556 genes, just seven percent match genes already identified by science. That, they say, suggests the virus grew out of a completely separate gene lineage from its peers.
biology, disease, science
Monday, 17 June, 2013
US artist and illustrator Nickolay Lamm has created a series of images depicting how our heads and faces may look in the distant future as they evolve, and are possibly even engineered, to suit the conditions we may find ourselves in, such as colonies on planets further out from Earth, for example.
Kwan says that 60,000 years from now, our ability to control the human genome will also make the effect of evolution on our facial features moot. As genetic engineering becomes the norm, “the fate of the human face will be increasingly determined by human tastes,” he says in a research document. Eyes will meanwhile get larger, as attempts to colonize Earth’s solar system and beyond see people living in the dimmer environments of colonies further away from the Sun than Earth. Similarly, skin will become more pigmented to lessen the damage from harmful UV radiation outside of the Earth’s protective ozone. Kwan expects people to have thicker eyelids and a more pronounced superciliary arch (the smooth, frontal bone of the skull under the brow), to deal with the effects of low gravity.
There’s nothing to say this is what will actually happen, but Lamm’s work is certainly thought provoking.
art, biology, evolution, illustration, technology