Thursday, 19 February, 2015
Might some dinosaurs have ingested hallucinogenic fungi? Might this have caused them to perceive their reality differently for a time? It seems that plenty of other animals, and humans, have at one point or another, so the notion seems quite plausible.
But scientifically speaking, Poinar and his colleagues aren’t jumping to any conclusions. “Whether dinosaurs would have gotten dizzy, nauseous, or were otherwise affected is difficult to say,” he told me. He did, however, note that the closest living relatives of dinosaurs are deeply affected by ergot ingestion. “Reptiles that ingest ergot can have severe vascular spasms leading to the necrosis of their extremities,” he said. “In chickens, ergot can atrophy and disfigure the comb, wattles, face, legs, toes, and eyelids.”
biology, dinosaurs, nature
Tuesday, 17 February, 2015
If New York City is the centre of the Pizza Belt, in that there is a greater than fifty percent chance of obtaining a good slice of pizza from a randomly chosen pizzeria, it should come as no surprise to hear that researchers recently discovered the city’s subway system contains the microscopic remnants of all manner of pizza ingredients:
The team also found that, on a microscopic level, the subway is littered with leftovers – evidence of what New Yorkers like to eat. Cucumber particles were the most commonly found food item, along with traces of kimchi, sauerkraut, and chickpeas. Bacteria associated with mozzarella cheese coated 151 stations. And other traces of pizza ingredients such as sausages and Italian cheese were everywhere.
biology, New York, pizza, public transport
Wednesday, 5 November, 2014
If you’ve ever felt that your stomach is somehow trying to communicate with you, that may be exactly what is happening. It seems our digestive system is host to our enteric nervous system (ENS), and its function is not solely restricted to matters of digestion:
Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.
biology, health, neuroscience
Tuesday, 14 October, 2014
With animal populations in decline, some scientists are concerned the world is in the throes of a mass extinction event, something they say has resulted in the loss of some fifty percent of wildlife species in the last forty years.
Pixable meantime have compiled a list of animal species that have become extinct in the last one hundred years… needless to say it isn’t the shortest of lists either.
biology, nature, science
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