redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Here's something remarkable to start your day: Birds can maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes for longer than the best laboratory microsystems. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow, that's amazing, nature trumps human effort once again," or "Gee, I didn't realize we even had laboratory systems for creating quantum entanglement" or even, "wtf is quantum entanglement and why does it sound like what might happen if you get high and try to read a Neal Stephenson novel?" But then you'll go back and realize that what they're saying is that birds have quantum entanglement going all the time in their freaking eyeballs. Well, in theory, but apparently it's a compelling theory with some solid evidence behind it. So the theory is that birds actually navigate with a quantum "compass" -- they can see the earth's magnetic field.

I just blew my own mind merely by typing that sentence.

In other news, humans are really crappy neighbors, like the kind that party at 3am with their stereo turned up to eleven, and animals are finding ways to continue communicating despite the racket. But it'd still be nice if we'd tone it down or they might adapt by figuring out how to call the cops.

Here's an article about a survey that shows a ridiculous number of science teachers in America avoid the subject of evolution, and 13% of those surveyed actively advocated creationism. In related news, I just wept a little right then for the future of humanity.

At Harvard, scientists are working on perfecting mind control for worms. This is a totally slippery slope because I'm fairly certain this research was funded by a supervillain whose ultimately goal is to produce an army of mind-controlled zombie sharks. With lasers on their heads.

A British engineer saved his own life by designing his own heart valve implant, which just goes to show you that "keep calm and carry on" really would make a marvelous motto for the people of the UK.

For the first time ever (er, that we know of), Antarctic Minke whales and Northern Minke whales have interbred and produced hybrids, which will undoubtedly be known as "sort of in the middle minke whales." I'll bet a lot of more of this sort of unusual interbreeding -- not to mention the freaking polar bears making with the freaking grizzly bears to produce terrifying polar-grizzly-bear killing machines -- will become a lot more common as climate change prompts animals to expand their usual habitats and alter their usual behavioral patterns.

Robots are better at walking if they learn to crawl first, but I'm guessing this news story is just propaganda released by Skynet to make us think that we're safe from the Terminators.

China has finally stepped up to the proverbial plate and put new rules in place for Chinese zoos. What kind of rules could Chinese zoos possibly need, you ask?
"Firstly, the zoos will be forced to stop pulling the teeth of tiger cubs so that zoo visitors can hold them. Zoos will also have to put a halt to the selling of animal parts in their shops, and the zoo restaurants will have to refrain form serving dishes made using rare animals. On top of this, zoos will need to end the attractions in which live animals are sold to visitors and then thrown to the wild cats, allowing the visitors to watch the cats rip the defenseless animals to shreds."

Good lord, China.

In other news of parasites, this one turns its host red in order to protect itself. I would consider that to be a super-cool party trick, but the part where it liquifies the host's insides and gorges itself on them isn't as cool of it.

Also, slime molds! Man, are slime molds ever exciting. They can do something awesome that only human beings have been observed doing: They farm their own food.

I'm in love with blue sea slugs, and I will tell you why. Firstly, because they look incredibly awesome, like maybe they came here from another planet and want to be our alien super best-friends. Secondly, because they eat jellyfish. And thirdly, because when they eat the jellyfish, they are so bad-ass that they even eat the stingers. And then they store them in special pouches, so they can use them against their own enemies.

This awesome time-lapse video takes you inside a Russian Antarctic expedition, and it's pretty much epic.

And finally, because after some of those stories I feel it's necessary to restore your faith in humanity, science, and the awesomeness of life, you should know that a US company has developed a genetically engineered cyanobacterium (I don't know what that means, but it makes me sound smart) that can create fossil fuels on demand. And furthermore, it doesn't require massive amounts of inputs -- like all the corn that has to be grown for that complete waste of resources we call "ethanol" -- but instead requires just carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water -- even brackish or sea water. The only problem with this, of course, is that if fossil fuels become abundant again, breaking our dependence on them becomes that much harder.

Okay, I know I said "and finally" on that last one, but I didn't want to end it on a total downer note there. So here's a bionic dog.

(By the by, did you know I'm on Facebook, despite my many reservations about its soulless and evil approach to privacy? It's true! I also post these and a great many more interesting science links there on a regular basis, so if you also are a slave of the system and enthralled by the "like" button, you should friend me. I've always wanted to be your friend, anyway.)
redroanchronicles: (farmersmarket-corn)
Seriously, you learn something new every day. Like, apparently Charles Darwin terraformed a barren volcanic island and turned it into a thriving cloud forest ecosystem, which at least one scientist thinks is promising for the future of terraforming on places like Mars.

John Gribbin thinks that perhaps our origins weren't so different: he theorizes that our universe was created, but by something far more like us than like a god. It's an interesting theory. It's also the kind of article that makes my brain want to explode.

William Gibson writes about, of all things, Google and its impact on our world, and he can pretty much do whatever he wants because he's William Freaking Gibson, but it's actually an interesting article, too.

I just learned about the Ig Nobel Prize, the awards ceremony for which sounds like a hilarious good time for geeks. As a bonus, the article will also tell you about interesting things like the sexual proclivities of fruit bats (er, that might make it nsfw actually) and how to collect samples of whale snot. Just in case you needed to do that.

China has launched a moon mission, while NASA just recently laid off 1200 people, and those layoffs are expected to axe 7000-9000 people just this year. I guess declining empires don't need space programs. This sucks.

The journals of British naval surgeons from the 18th century onward are pretty much totally awesome, and I guess are also helping to advance the study of medicine or whatever. The British National Archives have just completed a major recataloging project that has made these records much easier to comb through. Does it make me a total geek to think that it would've been awesome fun to get to read all of these journals for the purposes of cataloguing? Yes? I'm okay with that.

Climate scientists are going on the offensive against climate change deniers, in response to the new Republican-majority Congress apparently deciding that make-believe about climate change is going to be a priority for the next session. ILU, climate scientists. Fight the good fight.

In other news, Canadian scientists have transformed human skin into blood, apparently ants didn't get the memo about emancipation, there may finally be a way for even me to be good at math, the world's largest rainforest is probably drying out, and you might enjoy this case of evolution via religious selection.
redroanchronicles: Lee Pace and his pointer, Carl (leepace-carl)
National Geographic has an incredible collection of insect egg images made with a scanning electron microscope that you should definitely check out. The structures are incredible... like something created by H.R. Giger, only less appealing because there are actual bugs involved. I'm sorry, I know bugs are amazing, but they still give the willies.

In other News of the Freaking Awesome, researchers at Ithaca College have developed a totally sweet robo-chair for disabled babies. It's built from a Pioneer 3 robot and a Wii Fit balance board, and it moves in whatever direction the baby is leaning. Before you know it, disabled children the world over will be running around in M.A.N.T.I.S. suits! (I would make a joke about all of you being too young to have seen M.A.N.T.I.S., but I bet you're not. I bet you were just smart enough not to watch it. It really was awful.)

What, you want more science of awesome? Alright. How about restoring human vision with biosynthetic corneas? Or using frog skin to find solutions to antibiotic-resistant super-bugs?

Not thrilling enough? Okay, try this one on for size. When these tobacco plants are attacked by hungry caterpillars, they send out a chemical signal which attracts "big-eyed bugs," which then attack the caterpillar. It's sort of like My Bodyguard, if Adam Baldwin's part had been played by an insect.

In energy news, apparently thorium is the next big thing and frankly, after reading up about it a bit, I don't really get why we haven't been using it forever. This article claims that with a bold new thorium initiative, the US could end its dependence on fossil fuels in three to five years. Holy shit. Not enough info on thorium for ya? Here's a Google Tech Talk to tell you all about it.

In a horrifying intersection of bureaucracy, idiocy, and global food security lurching toward failure, researchers in Russia are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, which preserves rare plants and food stocks and conducts research into parasite and fungus resistance, plants that are capable of surviving extreme temperatures and other cool stuff like that. The Vavilov Institute has a long and dramatic history -- during WWII, the researchers watching over the facility starved to death rather than consume their precious seed stock -- and now the Institute's Pavlovsk collection is under threat from that most terrible of modern-day institutions: real-estate development. Apparently the developers successfully made the case in court that, because the Institute's collection is priceless, it is therefore impossible to assign a price to it, and by extension it is worthless. No, people, I am not making this up.

In news of failures of camouflage, officials at a Thai airport snagged a smuggler when they x-rayed a suitcase full of stuffed tigers and discovered there were bones inside as well. They found a sedated tiger cub in the suitcase and secured a victory against wildlife trafficking. Screw you, wildlife traffickers. I hope you die in a fire.

Speaking of people who suck, Americans in general and judges specifically continue to be idiots about stem-cell research, and now the situation is more screwed up than ever. That's okay, America, it's not like we needed scientific advancement or anything.

And speaking of advancement, scientists in Australia are monitoring a population of skinks who appear to be a living example of evolution in progress: they're switching from egg-laying to live birth. Before you know it, they'll be hunting Sam Neill through an eerie island amusement park.
redroanchronicles: Lee Pace and his pointer, Carl (leepace-carl)
Any of you who didn’t believe me about the dangers of jellyfish may now apologize. (Repent, unbelievers!) This news story about a jellyfish stinging as many as 150 people on a New Hampshire beach should be evidence enough. One hundred and fifty people taken out by a single jellyfish. And you know what? It was a single dead jellyfish. When an invading army’s greatest weapon is the bodies of its own dead, you are so screwed.

In other news, scientists have discovered a second “henge" at Stonehenge. I guess. I didn’t really understand this article at all, because it’s archaeologists and frankly, I think half the time they’re just making it up. They’re all, “Here’s a hole in the ground, and from that we can infer that this used to be the site of a pre-stone-age library and discotheque!"

For the athletes in the crowd, here’s a really interesting article about why carbs kick in instantly and how you can use this to your advantage. Exercise is a science, man. I just want to run around in my glorious new bright red KSOs. Yes, that’s right... my feet are bright red right now.

Japan has successfully launched a spacecraft powered by solar sails. Not only do the solar sails provide direction and propulsion, but they’re also solar collectors, so they can help power the craft itself. If my amazement could be properly expressed by an emoticon, it would look something like this: o.O

This article claims that there wouldn’t be significant consequences if we were to somehow completely eradicate mosquitoes. I’m not sure we have a thorough enough understanding of any species to make a claim like that, but what the hell. I hate mosquitoes too.

Meanwhile, genetically-modified crops have escaped into the wild, which I sort of saw coming. Between this and the bees and monocultures and terrifyingly big agri-business, I’m pretty sure our food security future at this point can just be labeled “screwed."

But hey, no matter how bad things get in your life, at least you’re not a female water strider. (Or ARE YOU!?) Apparently the male water striders blackmail females into submitting to sex by threatening to attract predators. That’s low, male water striders. YOU ARE OFF MY CHRISTMAS CARD LIST.

In exciting news-from-the-future, scientists are now using a “bioprinter" to create artificial body parts. They’re only doing veins right now, but seriously wtf... they can take your cells and print out NEW PIECES OF YOU. They’re hoping to eventually be able to synthesize entire organs this way, from the patient’s own stem cells, but obviously that’s a long way off. Still, they’re creating new vascular tissue. Holy shit.

Speaking of holy shit, this fungus not only inhabits its hosts, it takes them over. It turns ants into zombies and then it like... sprouts from their heads. Kind of sounds like a few zombie-apocalypse movies I’ve seen and enjoyed, as well as a few I’ve not seen because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy them. (I know, how could I possibly not enjoy a zombie movie? But some of them just aren’t worth it. I just watch Shaun of the Dead again instead of subjecting myself to them.)

If you live in New Zealand, there’s really no way for you to keep your shit safe from kea parrots, because they are total bad-asses at breaking in and stealing your stuff. Even if you put locks on it. Even if you put three locks on it. Speaking of parrots, I will never get tired of this video of a kakapo shagging Mark Carwardine’s head. I’m sorry to laugh at your violation, Mark Carwardine, but it’s just funny. Stephen Fry clearly agrees with me. (Dear Last Chance to See: ILU. Call me.)
redroanchronicles: Lee Pace and his pointer, Carl (leepace-carl)
The headline for this story is Sharks Can Become Invisible. WTF, sharks. Not fair. I was already scared of the ocean, what with the jellyfish and everything, and you had to go and get your freaking invisibility cloaks on? No, screw you. We are FINISHED, sharks. I'm not talking to you anymore.

Last year we heard about a hunter shooting a bear which turned out to be a polar/grizzly hybrid; now there is proof that not only is this inter-breeding becoming more common, but the offspring are genetically viable and able to interbreed, as well.

In lifehack news, here's an interesting article about why sitting down all day is bad for you. I don't think it's a particular surprise to anyone, but it's nice to see an article addressing things like this. I'm constantly flabbergasted by how people make decisions about their own well-being based on decades-old marketing rather than science or even personal experience. But I'm not saying that at all because I wear frog shoes.

According to some scientists, King Tut died because of sickle-cell anemia. One day when scientists excavate my body, they're going to be faced with the mystery of the ages in figuring out how a person in a land-locked area died of jellyfish stings. Let it be known that my death will be possible because the jellyfish will stop at nothing to silence me. The truth must be heard! The jellyfish are planning to overthrow the world! Tell your friends.

Meanwhile, NASA continues to be amazing with the OMEGA project, which uses an algae filtration system to turn wastewater into both clean water and biofuel. Good lord, NASA. Stop showing off so much. No wait, don't. I love you and your exceedingly large craniums.

Here's some cool research about treating cancer with engineered viruses. Also, there's now an oral treatment for Multiple Sclerosis based on ancient Chinese medicine. I guess all that spam I've been getting about enlarging body parts using ancient Chinese methods might be legit after all!

Scientists simulate the sound of the Higgs boson. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out what the Higgs boson actually is. Me and molecular whatsits do not mix. I prefer big biological organisms that I can look at with my eyeballs. However, even I can admit that the large hadron collider is some awesome shit.

In stories of science run amok, apparently it's totally hip now for nerds to create homemade nuclear reactors. I was surprised to find that the nerd mentioned in this article was not named Rodney McKay. Actually what the guy is trying for is nuclear fusion, which would be safe and clean energy unlike our current nuclear programs, but still. It all starts with a homemade reactor, and it ends with giant spiders destroying Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, there are thriving communities of organisms that survive on "cold seep" petroleum. The oil gusher might or might not be good for them, but it's definitely not good for the rest of us. Speaking of the Gulf Cluster*&#$, Nigerians are wondering why everybody's so alarmed about the Gulf of Mexico, and nobody gives a shit about the Niger Delta. They've had the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill there every year for 50 years.

If like me you go straight from lily white skin to lobster red skin when exposed to sun, you may be interested in the answers provided by science. It won't actually tell you how to tan rather than burn, though. It'll just tell you that you're biologically capable of tanning, which means that you're just a failure on a personal level.

In other news, the chimp army marches to war (perhaps I should recruit them in my fight against the jellyfish?), seventh-graders discovered a mysterious cave on Mars, a flood carved a brand-new canyon in Texas in just three days, and we'd better all prepare for a Postman-like future because solar flares are probably going to screw up all our awesome technology. My advice to you: Ignore Kevin Costner, acquire horse.
redroanchronicles: Lee Pace and his pointer, Carl (leepace-carl)
Links! I have links, for you! And they are about nature and science! Hooray!

Blue whales are now singing at progressively lower frequencies, which is kind of mysterious and strange. The various theories presented are interesting, too, though nobody really knows why this is happening or what it means.

Here's a photograph of nanobots killing cancer. YES, THAT IS WHAT I SAID. What's next, you may wonder? Well, it turns out that Repo Men is in fact a documentary.

Behold the super-ape: Bili chimps are elusive, huge, and oh did I mention, they have been known to eat big cats.

In other news, here's something fascinating about fig trees. I know, you never thought you'd actually read that sentence anywhere. The article is actually about the relationship between fig trees and fig wasps, and how when the fig wasps fail to hold up their end, the fig trees will kill their babies. That's right. Fig trees are baby-killers. See? Another sentence you never thought you'd read. Aren't you glad you're experiencing the life-altering thrills involved in reading this blog?

Speaking of thrills, in Brazil they're now using tracking dogs to help collect data on threatened and endangered species. It's an idea so good, I'm not quite sure why everybody isn't doing it.

To be added to the very short list of upsides to climate change: No more international squabbles over ownership of tiny islands! To be added to the list of downsides: Well, there's an island that isn't there anymore. That's a downside, I'd think. Luckily, we won't have to worry about a loss of unique island biodiversity either, because rare animals are being eaten to extinction anyway. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

This article about a tree-climbing otter fails to mention the idea that she is refining her techniques for ninja-style stealth attacks on her enemies.

And finally, in webcomic news, this xkcd made me want to cry. Thanks, xkcd. I've never been driven to weep for the fate of our mechanical overlords Martin rover before. I want to give Spirit a hug, and Spirit is no Wall-E.
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
When Gashaw Tahir returned to his native Ethopia and found it horribly deforested, he didn't just cry into his Cheerios. he hired 450 young people, mobilized the local community, and planted a million trees. And yeah, just typing that made me tear up a little. I'M NOT ASHAMED.

Here's some interesting research on using sound pollution to produce hydrogen fuels. I still don't understand the "we'll make fuel from water!" thing though, honestly. Surely everyone realizes by now that major water crisis is looming in our near futures.

Poachers are now hunting rhinoceros by helicopter. Also, caviar hunters are pushing sturgeon to extinction.

Apparently, octopuses are totally into the new HD thing when it comes to televisions. I'm so glad you did that research, science.

Okay, kids. We're about to get real, by which I mean real sexy. Well, not sexy, actually. But we're going to talk about sex. Among pipefish and ducks. BRACE YOURSELVES.

Here's a factoid about male pregnancy, which only occurs (as far as we know) in seahorses, pipefish and seadragons. Apparently male pipefish can selectively abort eggs that come from females they have dubbed sub-standard. (Here's some more on male pregnancy and pipefish at Discover's "The Loom" blog with Carl Zimmer.) That is so fucking cool, you guys. I've heard of lizards that can do that, and some birds can eject semen that they weren't real interested in keeping, but it's just insane some of the adaptations that species have developed to allow them greater control over reproduction.

For instance, most sex among ducks is forcible. It doesn't seem pleasant at all. So faced with multiple breedings by males she has not selected, the female duck has developed an amazing defense: her vagina is a crazy corkscrewed house of mirrors. She can guide an undesirable male's ejaculation into blind alleys and empty chambers (if she could lure the male in and knife him in the back, she probably would. That'd be awesome.) So of course the male has adapted to this, as well. In addition to his iron-clad instinct to mate with other ducks -- including other male ducks, dead ducks, and things that sort of looked like ducks but the next morning he has to admit to himself were actually chickens -- he also has an explosive corkscrew penis.

I know, you're thinking, "WTF, how does anybody even know that?" Well, there's science. Somebody out there is actually studying duck penises. With video.

You can watch it here. And YOU'RE WELCOME.

It's actually quite interesting. As the article notes: Of course, drakes don’t mate with the air. Having made this video, Brennan still needed a way to see how a duck penis actually performs its appointed task. Unable to film duck penises in a real female oviduct, she built a fake oviduct out of silcone. She then managed to get a drake to mate with it. But the overwhelming force of the explosive penis broke the fake oviduct.

Nice. NICE, ducks. You are real gentlemen. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Today in Amazing And Incredible Science News!

Secret Antarctic Jellyfish Base Discovered At Last. From there they will inevitably launch their bid for world domination. Sure, the news story is actually about the discovery of shrimp-but-not-actually-shrimp and jellyfish in an area 600 feet beneath an ice sheet where scientists expected to find nothing more advanced than microbes. (Their next unexpected discovery will no doubt involved the Spanish Inquisition.) Interesting how the media always downplays the sinister signs of jellyfish imperialism. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?!

In other news from Antarctica, these "blood falls" kind of blew my mind. You realize what happens next, right? Zombies. Zombies and/or ancient alien worms which cause Antarctic scientists to turn on one another in a frenzy of blood and ice picks.

Or that could've just been that episode of The X-Files that one time. Sometimes I get these things confused. Oh and by the way, the delicious iron-y water flowing out of that glacier? Populated by 1.5 million-year-old microbes. Which are probably from another planet. Hell yeah.

Meanwhile, in horrifying news from the farmed wildlife front, I guess I should've seen this one coming. In China, tigers are mass-farmed so that their bones can be used to make expensive wine. WTF, China. The article is in-depth enough to make you want to weep.

Also, Audubon Magazine has a very enlightening article about the ethics of wildlife photographers using captive animals as subjects, and how the lack of disclosure about whether animals photographed are captive or wild. It raises a huge number of points that I wouldn't have even thought of, and ought to be required reading for wildlife lovers and photographers alike. While a photographer was recently in the news for being disqualified from a major wildlife photography competition when it was discovered that his subject was actually a captive wolf, I hadn't realized quite to what extent farmed animals are used in wildlife photography, and the impact that that has on public perception, conservation and the well-being of captive animals.

In other news entirely:

Birds in North America may be adapting to climate change by becoming smaller.

This zebra is now moonlighting as a hippo dentist.

A California sushi chef and his restaurant have been charged for serving whale meat. Insert expletive here.

Did you know that some chickens are born literally half male and half female? Neither did I. It's awesome, though, and now science has all sorts of science-y explanations.

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