We are all made of trillions of tiny electrochemical machines

Thursday, 16 July, 2015

In short, another way to look at ourselves, courtesy of New Jersey based biological oceanographer Paul Falkowski:

We are used to thinking of ourselves as composed of billions of cells, but Falkowski points out that we also consist of trillions of electrochemical machines that somehow coordinate their intricate activities in ways that allow our bodies and minds to function with the required reliability and precision. As we contemplate the evolution and maintenance of this complexity, wonder grows to near incredulity.

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When plants multiply, seeds may fly…

Wednesday, 1 July, 2015

It seems to me there are certain plants you may want to avoid when they seek to proliferate… otherwise you may be hit by a stray high speed flying seed. The phenomenon makes for quite a show though.

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It looks like we might all have our hands full of bacteria

Tuesday, 16 June, 2015

Photo by Tasha Sturm

I hope you’re not eating right now, but as we all know, there is more bacteria lurking on computer keyboards, and smartphones, than there is the average toilet seat. Delightful.

However, there appears to be a fair few microbes on the hand of a child who has been playing outside for an hour or two, as Tasha Sturm, Californian lab technician, discovered recently. This photo is the result of a handprint her eight year son made on a petri dish, after being left to incubate for a few days.

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Did dinosaurs also partake of mind altering hallucinogens?

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.”

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Riding the pizza line in the pizza belt

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.

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Gut instinct? It’s more like a second central nervous system actually

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.

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Many animal species have been lost, is this a mass extinction event?

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.

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The Garden of Eden this poison garden is not

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.

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Sea plankton on the International Space Station’s starboard bow?

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.

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A tree that threatens to make orchards much smaller

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.

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