Tag Archives | Science

Fecal Transplants Let Packrats Eat Poison

Neotoma_cinerea_(bushy_tailed_woodrat)

Bushy tailed North American woodrat.

Eating shit could literally save your life!*

Via ScienceDaily:

Woodrats lost their ability to eat toxic creosote bushes after antibiotics killed their gut microbes. Woodrats that never ate the plants were able to do so after receiving fecal transplants with microbes from creosote-eaters, University of Utah biologists found.

The new study confirms what biologists long have suspected: bacteria in the gut — and not just liver enzymes — are “crucial in allowing herbivores to feed on toxic plants,” says biologist Kevin Kohl, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the paper published online today in the journal Ecology Letters.

The study of woodrats, also known as packrats, raises two concerns, according to Kohl and the study’s senior author, Denise Dearing, a professor and chair of biology:

  1. Endangered species may lose diversity of their gut microbes when they are bred in captivity. When they are released to the wild, does that leave them unable to consume toxic plants that once were on their menu?
Read the rest
Continue Reading

Epigenetic Tie to Neuropsychiatric Disorders Found

2D structure of neurotransmitter dopamine. Created with BKChem and Extensible SVG Optimiser

2D structure of neurotransmitter dopamine. Created with BKChem and Extensible SVG Optimiser

Could this discovery lead to the end of “treating” mental illness through the endless prescribing of psychiatric drugs?

Via ScienceDaily:

Dysfunction in dopamine signaling profoundly changes the activity level of about 2,000 genes in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and may be an underlying cause of certain complex neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, according to UC Irvine scientists.

This epigenetic alteration of gene activity in brain cells that receive this neurotransmitter showed for the first time that dopamine deficiencies can affect a variety of behavioral and physiological functions regulated in the prefrontal cortex.

The study, led by Emiliana Borrelli, a UCI professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, appears online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“Our work presents new leads to understanding neuropsychiatric disorders,” Borrelli said. “Genes previously linked to schizophrenia seem to be dependent on the controlled release of dopamine at specific locations in the brain.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Stop Giving Airtime to Crackpots

Here in America, there’s whole political ideologies consisting of crackpots and media pundits whose bread and butter is wingnuttery.

via Slate

English: "The removal of the cracked melt...

“The removal of the cracked melting pot” (1884), painting by Constantin Meunier (1831-1905) Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (CC)

In very welcome news, BBC journalists have been told to stop inviting crackpots on news shows in the name of balance.

Oh, I do so love this. It’s precisely the right thing to do, sorely needed and sorely overdue. In this specific case, back in 2012 the BBC was criticized for news shows inviting on people with fringe views, especially when the science being discussed was solidly understood.

Obviously, the topic most abused in this way was the reality of global warming. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention at all.

But more broadly, most TV news shows do this, especially when they are done with a talk show format.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Early Predator Brain Was Simpler Than the Brain of Its Prey

Laggania cambria, Anomalocarididae; Model in life size (about 60 cm) based on fossils from Burgess Shale (middle Cambrian), Canada; Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany.

Laggania cambria, Anomalocarididae; Model in life size (about 60 cm) based on fossils from Burgess Shale (middle Cambrian), Canada; Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany.

Methinks there are contemporary cases of this being true.

Via ScienceDaily:

An international team of paleontologists has identified the exquisitely preserved brain in the fossil of one of the world’s first known predators that lived in the Lower Cambrian, about 520 million years ago. The discovery revealed a brain that is surprisingly simple and less complex than those known from fossils of some of the animal’s prey.

The find for the first time identifies the fossilized brain of what are considered the top predators of their time, a group of animals known as anomalocaridids, which translates to “abnormal shrimp.” Long extinct, these fierce-looking arthropods were first discovered as fossils in the late 19th century but not properly identified until the early 1980s. They still have scientists arguing over where they belong in the tree of life.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

NASA Will Find Extraterrestrial Life Within the Next 20 Years

On Monday, a panel of NASA scientists gathered to talk about their search for extraterrestrial life. They claim that they will find evidence within the next 20 years–and that’s a conservative estimate.

via The Week:

NASA outlined its plan to search for alien life and said it would launch the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The agency predicts that as many as 100 million worlds in the Milky Way galaxy may be home to alien life.

“Just imagine the moment when we find potential signatures of life,” Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said at the announcement. “Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe.”

NASA astronomer Kevin Hand seconded Mountain’s opinion, saying that within the next 20 years, “we will find out we are not alone in the universe,” suggesting that extraterrestrial life may exist on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

New Robotic Milkers Allow Cows to Choose When to Be Milked

Keith Weller/USDA

Keith Weller/USDA

New robotic milkers allow cows to choose when they want to be milked.

via The New York Times:

Something strange is happening at farms in upstate New York. The cows are milking themselves.

Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations across the state are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

The cows seem to like it, too.

Robots allow the cows to set their own hours, lining up for automated milking five or six times a day — turning the predawn and late-afternoon sessions around which dairy farmers long built their lives into a thing of the past.

With transponders around their necks, the cows get individualized service. Lasers scan and map their underbellies, and a computer charts each animal’s “milking speed,” a critical factor in a 24-hour-a-day operation.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

How Much Does a Cloud Weigh?

Photo by Michael Jastremski

Photo by Michael Jastremski

How much does a cloud weigh?

via Mental Floss:

First, figure out how dense the cloud is. Scientists have measured the water density of a typical cumulus cloud (the white, fluffy ones you see on a nice day) as 1/2 gram per cubic meter—about a small marble’s worth of water in a space you and a friend could comfortably sit in. The density will be greater for different types of clouds.

Next, figure out how big the cloud is. By measuring a cloud’s shadow when the sun is directly above it, you can get an idea of its width. LeMone does this by watching her odometer as she drives under a cloud. A typical cumulus, she says, is about a kilometer across, and usually roughly cubical—so a kilometer long and a kilometer tall, too. This gives you a cloud that’s one billion cubic meters in volume.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Mathematically Correct Way to Debate Climate Change

A recent Disinfo article about climate change denial by Camron Wiltshire has caused quite the controversy among many Disinfonauts. A lot of you have written to us to express your concern and outrage. To present somewhat of a light-hearted counter argument, I give to you John Oliver and the correct way to debate climate change:

As a general reminder, Disinfo doesn’t necessarily endorse all ideas presented by columnists on our blog. With films like Greedy Lying Bastards, we actually side with those 97% of scientists.

Carry on.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Everything is Sound and Light, Plus Sigil Generation Technology

universalconstantsSome might recall that last year I wrote a piece about 3rd, 4th, and 5th dimensional timespace perception based on various visionary experiences I’ve had throughout the years. All consciousness is part of a continuum and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have had these sorts of experiences without the writings of people like Robert Monroe, Terrence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, and Grant Morrison forever stretching the parameters of my linguistic operating system. And that’s the main reason I put this sort of fringe weirdness on the internets – to directly influence the psychic hive mind grid of humanity and potentially create exotic experience in the reader. Anyway, apparently it works because I got a message on Facebook (friend me) from a dude named Andrew Cary linking me to this rather brilliant piece he wrote, partially inspired by my theories on dimensional perception. What I love about this is whereas what I do is essentially translating mystical concepts for a generation of kids raised on crap like VICE and stoner comedy, he takes a vastly more scientific approach.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

You Probably Think You Know What Organic Means

Because I'm the editor, that's why.

Because I’m the editor, that’s why.

Annalee Newitz has a run-down of ten scientific concepts that you’re probably misusing, including “organic”. I mean, rabies and rattlesnakes are organic…

10. Organic

Entomologist Gwen Pearson says that there’s a constellation of terms that “travel together” with the word “organic,” such as “chemical-free,” and “natural.” And she’s tired of seeing how profoundly people misunderstand them:

I’m less upset about the way that they are technically incorrect [though of course all] food is all organic, because it contains carbon,etc. [My concern is] the way they are used to dismiss and minimize real differences in food and product production.

Things can be natural and “organic”, but still quite dangerous.

Things can be “synthetic” and manufactured, but safe. And sometimes better choices. If you are taking insulin, odds are it’s from GMO bacteria. And it’s saving lives.

via 10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing.… Read the rest

Continue Reading