Tag Archive: Odd


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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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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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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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!

The surreal treehoppers

Last week’s Nature highlighted the sculptures of Alfred Keller (1902-1955), and the example, a model of the Brazilian treehopper Bocydium globulare, struck me as one of the weirdest animals I’ve ever seen:

The first thing a biologist does on seeing a model like this is think, “This can’t be real,” and resorts to some Googling. Sure enough, it’s a real insect.

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Writing Messages With Water

Scientists have used nanotechnology to create “selectively wet” materials that can be used to write long-lasting messages with water.

The concept, called “hydroglyphics,” was exhibited by scientists at Harvard who recently teamed up with a group of Merrimack, N.H., high school students and faculty to make an educational demo.

The demo, appropriately entitled “Hydroglyphics,” helps people visualize the difference between water repelling and wetting surfaces. The main principle behind hydroglyphics (a combination of the words “hydro” and “hieroglyphics”) is that by changing the properties of a surface, you can make your own special prints using water. All you need is some foam stickers, a modified Tesla coil and a Petri dish.

Each audience member takes a Petri dish and chooses a favorite sticker, tacking it onto the bottom of the dish. The demo performer then puts each dish under the Tesla coil, and zaps them. A purple spark appears accompanied by a loud noise. Once the sticker is removed, water is added to the dish. The water fills up everywhere except on the area where the sticker had been, creating an “engraving.” The message can last about one month.

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A great bowerbird displaying to a female who has entered his bower.

These crow kin from Australia and New Guinea are known for constructing elaborate edifices to woo mates. But males of one species, the great bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis), go a step further: They use a trick of architectural perspective to boost their allure, and will stick to their own scheme even if it falls short with the females.

While most bowerbirds embellish their “love nests” with bright, shiny baubles, the great bowerbird’s decor is comparatively bland: an avenue of sticks leading to a pair of courts garnished with mostly gray-to-white objects like pebbles, shells, and bones.

But a lack of color doesn’t mean a lack of style for these birds. Biologists John Endler and Laura Kelley of Australia’s Deakin University have found that male great bowerbirds carefully arrange their courts’ decorations in a specific pattern, with bigger items farther away from the bower avenue (where the female stands), creating the illusion of an evenly textured stage.

This effect—called “forced perspective”—may be visually pleasing to the female, or it may simply make the male, who waves colored objects during his mating dance, easier to see. Whatever the reason, the males who build the most geometric patterns also have the most success in winning mates.

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At a time when the value of gold has reached an all-time high, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium’s ability to withstand incredible amounts of toxicity is key to creating 24-karat gold.

“Microbial alchemy is what we’re doing – transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable,” said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

He and Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, found the metal-tolerant bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride – or liquid gold, a toxic chemical compound found in nature.

In fact, the bacteria are at least 25 times stronger than previously reported among scientists, the researchers determined in their art installation, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover,” which uses a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to turn liquid gold into 24-karat gold. The artwork contains a portable laboratory made of 24-karat gold-plated hardware, a glass bioreactor and the bacteria, a combination that produces gold in front of an audience.

Brown and Kashefi fed the bacteria unprecedented amounts of gold chloride, mimicking the process they believe happens in nature. In about a week, the bacteria transformed the toxins and produced a gold nugget.

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Message in a bottle

A Scottish skipper has set a new world record after finding a message in a bottle 98 years after it was released.

Andrew Leaper’s discovery beat the previous record for the longest time a bottle has been adrift at sea by more than five years.

And he found the bottle while skippering the same fishing boat which had set the previous record, the Shetland-based vessel Copious.

Mr Leaper said: “It was an amazing coincidence.”

The find has been confirmed as a new record by Guinness World Records.

The drift bottle – containing a postcard which promised a reward of six pence to the finder – was released in June 1914 by Captain CH Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation.

It was in a batch of 1,890 scientific research bottles which were specially designed to sink to help map the currents of the seas around Scotland when they were returned. Only 315 of them have been found.

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Photo: Ant Hadleigh

It’s the stuff nightmares are made of — a giant spider slowly killing a snake snared in its web.

“The snake was probably a few feet long and the spider about the size of your hand,” Mr Hadleigh said.

Mr Hadleigh, who runs rainforest tours in Cape York and his own kitesurfing business Australian Kite Surfari, said he had witnessed some amazing things in the tropics but this took the cake.

“It’s definitely one of the most interesting things I’ve seen. I never would have thought that the web would have been strong enough to hold a snake that size,” he said.

The backyard battle lasted several hours before the snake finally succumbed to the spider’s deadly venom, he said.

“The snake kept on trying to reach up and attack the spider and every time the spider would just run up to the top of the web.”

“You could see the spider just chewing into the snake and the part the spider was eating had gone all black. It was pretty disgusting.”

genetically engineered cabbage

Scientists have recently taken the gene that programs poison in scorpion tails and looked for ways to combine it with cabbage. Why would they want to create venomous cabbage? To limit pesticide use while still preventing caterpillars from damaging cabbage crops. These genetically modified cabbages would produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves — but the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans.

Steady advancements in chemistry, light and optics culminated in 1826 with the creation of the first photograph. Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce pondered the possibility of using light-sensitive compounds to reproduce imagery as early as 1793, but it wasn’t until a summer’s day in 1827 that Niépce managed to permanently fix the first photograph. He coated a pewter plate with bitumen of Judaea and placed this sheet inside a camera obscura, then focused it on the scene outside his window—the courtyard and outbuildings of his family’s country home. The place was exposed to sunlight for eight hours, during which the bitumen subject to brightness became hardened and bleached. Niépce later washed the plate in lavender oil and white petroleum, dissolving the bitumen that wasn’t exposed and leaving only the hardened parts behind. The result was a lasting impression of the garden: a direct positive, because the dark parts are the metal plate and the light parts are the bleached bitumen. Basically, every image we have today—on TV and video games and the internet—all evolved from bitumen and lavender oil on a metal plate.

Orchid Mantis, or Hymenopus coronatus, is a beautiful pink and white mantis with lobes on its legs that look like flower pentals. Although this species does not live on orchids, it does look remarkably well like a flower or orchid. In the wild Hymenopus Coronatus is found in Malaysia.

More than 100 “vampire” corpses have been dug out from graves across Bulgaria during historic excavations, according to the country’s archaeologists.

Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, said on Tuesday that Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed two skeletons from the Middle Ages pierced through the chest with iron rods to keep them from turning into the undead.

Dimitrov said that the two “vampire” remains were found last weekend near the Black Sea town of Sozopol.

The tradition of hammering an iron rod through the chest bones and heart of ‘evil’ people to prevent them from returning after death to feast on the blood of the living was performed up until the beginning of the last century, according to experts.

“These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century,” Dimitrov said.

“The stake was left on their bodies to prevent them rising as vampires after they’d been buried,” he added.

Not only were these people stabbed in the chest with an iron or wooden rod before being buried, their bodies were also pinned down into their graves to stop them from leaving at the struck of midnight and terrorizing the living.

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Dirty Job

Zhang Bangsheng, a very dedicated Chinese zoo keeper, had to lick a constipated monkey’s bottom for over an hour after the three-month-old Francois Leaf monkey swallowed a peanut whole. The monkey showed signs of stomach problems and was unable to defecate. It was too young to be given laxatives so the only way to encourage it was by licking its behind (Zhang used warm water to clean the area before he began). His efforts were rewarded an hour later when the monkey defecated a single peanut.

Next time you think, “oh, working at a zoo must be so much fun and so easy” remember this image, burn it into your retina, think of the self-sacrifice, and show zoo-keepers the respect they deserve!

Also, where are the interns for stuff like that?

Mao Sugiyama 550x411 SHOCKING: Tokyo Illustrator Has Genitals Removed, Cooks and Serves Them at Public Banquet

This chef’s got balls.

Mao Sugiyama, a self-described “asexual” from Tokyo, cooked up, seasoned and served his own genitalia to five diners at a swanky banquet in Japan last month,Calorie Lab reported.

In most cases, “asexual” is a word used to describe a person who is non-sexual. Sugiyama, however, embraces it as a way to show that he does not affiliate with either gender.

Sugiyama sparked a firestorm of interest on April 8 with one tweet:

“[Please retweet] I am offering my male genitals (full penis, testes, scrotum) as a meal for 100,000 yen …Will prepare and cook as the buyer requests, at his chosen location.”

Just days after Sugiyama’s 22nd birthday, the artist underwent elective genital-removal surgery, divvied up the severed penis shaft, testicles, and scrotal skin between five people, and garnished it with button mushrooms and Italian parsley.

On April 13, five of six diners who signed up for the $250-a-plate feast, sat down to dinner. The sixth person was a no-show.

The next day, an organizer posted a blog — subsequently deleted — containing pictures of the event. Images showed dozens of people who attended the event just to catch a glimpse of the rare treat.

The extra diners were served crocodile-based dishes while Sugiyama cooked up the exclusive meal.

The story went viral in Japan. Some showed even more interest, while others complained. But Calorie Lab called Japanese authorities, who deemed the banquet legal because there is no law against cannibalism in the country.

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