Category: Fun & Oddities


Friendly Reminder

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Friendly Reminder…

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The Underwater Room is a three-storey floating platform by Manta Resort. The bottommost part is submerged under water, whilst the upper roof functions as a place for stargazing and sunbathing.

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The AHA moment

The word in the garden is that basil is good to have around. Plants are known to communicate with each other via shade, aromatic chemicals, and physical touch, promoting processes such as growth and defense against disease, as well as attraction of bees and other pollinators.

In BMC Ecology, researchers report a new type of mechanism that some plants use to communicate. The team planted common chili pepper seeds (Capsicum annuum, pictured) near a basil plant, with barriers that prevented the basil from deploying its usual growth-promoting tricks.

Despite the separation, chili seeds germinated faster when basil was a neighbor, suggesting that a message was getting through. Because light, touch, and chemical “smell” were ruled out, the team proposes that the finding points to a new type of communication between plants, possibly involving nanoscale sound waves, traveling through the dirt to bring encouraging “words” to the growing seeds.

Understanding this novel communication could help growers boost crop yields and increase global food supplies. How neighborly.

OH NO!

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The moment you realize you have made a tactical error.

Lung Pattern = Spirals

Lung Pattern

A beautiful black-and-white image that looks like the pattern on a scarf isn’t the work of an upscale French designer. It’s the stuff that lines your lungs.

The snapshot is a microscopic image that used fluorescent dye to reveal the patterns made by lung surfactant, a soaplike material that covers the inside of the lungs. Without surfactant, the lungs would collapse.

“During the breathing cycle, as your lung is compressed, it will form this pattern,” said Prajna Dhar, the creator of the striking microscopic image. Dhar and her colleagues published the picture in January 2012 in Biophysical Journal. This March, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences featured the image in their monthly newsletter, Biomedical Beat.

The researchers took the patterned surfactant image as part of a study investigating how nanoparticles affect the body. Nanoparticles are particles so tiny they’re measured in billionths of a meter. They’re the subject of major scientific research right now, because engineering on a nano-scale allows scientists to literally build materials atom by atom, like this world map one-thousandth the size of a grain of salt. Nanotechnology is being used to develop everything from nano-scale solar cells to medicine delivery systems.

The explosion in technology has led to concern that nanoparticles might harm human health, Dhar told LiveScience. The question is whether the tiny particles are toxic or not.

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OMG Microscope Photos

Back in 2011, GE unveiled DeltaVision OMX Blaze, a state-of-the art microscope that uses a combination of optics and powerful computer algorithms. Using a technique called 3D structured illumination microscopy (SIM), OMX can see objects as small as 100 nanometers across and more than doubles the resolution in all three dimensions. Here are some of the most mind blowing super-resolution images taken by the microscope to date.

Metaphase epithelial cell in metaphase stained for microtubules (red), kinetochores (green) and DNA (blue). 

Cancer: Interphase human cervical cancer cell stained for microtubules (green), pericentrin centrosome protein (red) and DNA (blue).

Immunology and infection: CACO-2 intestinal epithelial cells stained to label the apical actin cytoskeleton.

Cancer: Mitotic spindle in a PTK1 cell stained for tubulin (green) and Ncd80 (red).

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Who knew sand could look so damn colourful and interesting? Gary Greenberg, that’s who, whose incredible microphotography reveals each grain of sand to be a kaleidoscope of colour and texture that defies its rather bland reputation.

Grains of sand magnified to 250 times real size

Grains of sands (2)

Grains of sands (3)

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Do you know that feeling?

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Death is never popular, even in social media: the poor guy behind @death on Twitter has zero followers.

You might think your online fans will lose interest when you kick the bucket, but an upcoming app says it will let you keep tweeting from beyond the grave.

LivesOn will host Twitter accounts that continue to post updates when users shed this mortal coil.

Developers claim the app’s artificial-intelligence engine will analyze your Twitter feed, learn your likes and syntax, and then post tweets in a similar vein when you’re gone.

You’ll become an AI construct, a proverbial ghost in the machine.

The app will launch in March, according to Guardian News. People who sign up will be asked to appoint an executor who will have control of the account.

Similar postmortem Twitter apps, such as DeadSocial, have only used prepared tweets, not updates created by an AI.

“It offends some, and delights others,” Dave Bedwood, a partner at the ad agency behind LivesOn, was quoted as saying in the Guardian report.

“Imagine if people started to see it as a legitimate but small way to live on. Cryogenics costs a fortune; this is free and I’d bet it will work better than a frozen head.”

Briton finds 500-year-old arrest warrant for Machiavelli

Prof Stephen Milner from Manchester University discovered the historic document by accident while researching town criers and the proclamations they read out in archives in Florence.

The 1513 proclamation, which called for the arrest of Machiavelli, eventually led to his downfall and death.

“When I saw it I knew exactly what it was and it was pretty exciting,” said Prof Milner.

“When you realise this document marked the fall from grace of one the world’s most influential political writers, it’s quite a feeling.

The Prince is a seminal work, with a lasting influence on political thought and culture. The term ‘Machiavellian’ and the naming of the Devil as ‘Old Nick’ all derive from this single work, but the circumstances of its composition have often been overlooked.”

When the Medici family returned to power in Florence in 1512, Machiavelli was removed from his post in the city’s chancery because of his association with the head of a rival faction.

His name was then linked with a conspiracy to overthrow the Medici. They issued the proclamation found by Prof Milner for his arrest.

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Weekend Homework

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Researchers have discovered that dung beetles can navigate in straight lines using nothing more than the soft glow from our home galaxy.

That’s kind of awesome, but it’s worth asking, at this point, just why the heck dung beetles have any need to navigate. They find poo. They make poo into balls. They roll the balls off somewhere, and then lay their eggs in them and bury them. Seems straightforward, right? But that’s the amazing thing: it’s absolutely straightforward. Once a dung beetle has created a ball of poo, it heads away from the pile as fast as it can go in a dead nuts straight line. It goes around whatever obstacles are in its way, but continues going straight, which is quite remarkable considering that it’s often traveling backwards and partially upside-down.

So why do they care about straight lines? The answer seems to be that the beetles with poo balls are just trying to get away from all the other beetles in ’round the pile as fast as they possibly can.

Making a ball of excrement that’s larger than you are is a lot of work, and once you put one together, other beetles will try and steal it. The quickest and most efficient route of escape from a poo pile is a straight line, so that’s what the beetles do. They’re quite clever about it, too, able to sense when they’ve veered off course and using light from the sun to reorient themselves. That’s all well and good during the day, when the sun’s out, but what happens at night?

Research (performed by outfitting the beetles with little hats to block their view) has shown that the bugs’ compound eyes are sensitive enough to detect light from the Moon, the stars, and most impressively, the Milky Way itself. Apparenty, all a dung beetle needs is one fixed pattern in the sky that it can recognize, and then it’s able to use that pattern to make sure that it’s always moving in a straight line. Along with its giant ball of poo. Thank you, science!

Sailing Stone

Mother Nature does a lot of cool things, some of which continue to elude even modern science.

Every year big rocks, known as sailing stones, appear to move across the flat desert in Death Valley, California, without any help from humans or animals.

The mysterious moving rocks, which can weigh up to 700 pounds, leave behind trails that can extend for several hundred feet and may not necessarily move in a straight line.

No one is exactly sure what causes these rocks to scuttle across the 3-mile-long swath of sun-baked terrain known as Racetrack Playa. The phenomenon has not been observed anywhere else. But most scientists think that the rocks are pushed by strong winds after a rain storm.

The rocks tumble down onto the pancake-flat ground from surrounding mountains. A thin layer of ice or mud creates a slick surface that may help the rocks glide.

Of course, we can’t be certain how this all works until someone sees the event in person. For now, we just have some very cool pictures to admire.

Sailing Stones

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