This intense slow-motion video, depicting an electric eel jumping from a tank to zap a faux alligator head, accompanies a new scientific paper by Vanderbilt University biologist Kenneth Catania. From Nature:
Catania first spotted the behaviour during earlier laboratory experiments with electric eels (Electrophorus electricus), when they would leap upwards to attack a metal-rimmed net as he was trying to fish them out of their tanks. He analysed it by presenting the eels with carbon rods and aluminium plates at which they struck; the video’s plastic alligator, with its flashing light-emitting diodes that are powered by the eel’s electrocution, is his dramatic demonstration of the effect...
The behaviour allows eels to directly shock their opponents, rather than having their voltage dissipated by water.
It is the first time that this has been recorded in a research paper, Catania says — although he argues that his discovery supports a widely disbelieved observation made more than 200 years ago by the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. In a paper published in 1807, von Humboldt recounted that he had seen South American native fishermen herding horses into a pool of electric eels; the eels would discharge themselves against the horses and could be fished safely when they were exhausted.
According to Catania, there are other mysteries of the electric eels left to be solved, like how it can electrocute another creature without zapping itself in the process.
Laser cutters are machines that cut and engrave flat material – such as plywood, acrylic, chocolate, leather, cardboard, seashells, glass, even sheets of dried seaweed. Today, Glowforge introduced a low-price laser cutter that blows away the competition at a much lower price.
Glowforge is a game changer in many ways, and I haven't been this excited by a technology in a long time. The things you can make with one (see images below) are orders of magnitude better looking than things you can make with a 3D printer of the same price, and the Glowforge is much easier to learn how to use than a 3D printer.
Dan Shapiro, the founder of Glowforge (he's the creator of the Robot Turtles game), gave me a Skype video demo of the machine in action earlier this week. He showed me how to make a votive candle holder out of two different materials. He placed one sheet of thin walnut and another sheet of frosted acrylic on the Glowforge's cutting bed (which has a 12-inch x 20-inch working area). He opened his iPad, which had a live image of the cutting bed displayed on it (the Glowforge has a camera and is conected to Wi-Fi). Dan then dragged the cutting patterns for the pieces of the candle holder onto the video image of the walnut and acrylic pieces. This neat software solution for aligning material was developed by Dean Putney, who was a contractor for many years at Boing Boing, and now works for Dan in Seattle. Read the rest
It's more complicated than it seems: the functional elements of a 3D print can't be copyrighted, but they may be blended with decorative elements that can be; what's more, if we err on the side of caution by "open licensing" stuff that isn't even copyrighted, the effort to open up copyright ends up normalizing the application of copyright to new subjects. Read the rest
She's approximately 12,000 years old now, but when she died in the Yucatan Peninsula she was only a teen. Read the rest
Vanderbilt University biologists studied how electric eels can zap their prey with 600 volts from even a few meters away. Turns out, the fish are like living TASERs. Professor Kenneth Catania and his colleagues published their work in the journal Science.
"Electric eels zap other fish via 'remote control'" Read the rest
To conduct the new study, Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, recorded electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) attacks on smaller fish, such as koi, in a large tank with a high-speed video camera, capturing 1000 frames per second. At the same time, he recorded the pulses emitted by the eel and the muscle contractions of the fish. When an eel senses the movements of a nearby fish, he showed, the eel releases a high-voltage volley of electric pulses that not only shock the fish as it’s trying to swim by, but also cause a massive, involuntary contraction of the animal’s muscles, freezing it in place. If Catania injected the fish with a drug that blocks communication between nerves and muscles, however, its muscles weren’t frozen. That experiment showed that the eel’s shock immobilizes its prey’s muscles by stimulating the fish’s motor neurons. It’s the first time a fish’s electricity has been shown to have such a specific biological effect in prey. “The eel is a swimming Taser,” Catania says. “The mechanism is the same.”
Above are before and after images of Chichen Itza's El Castillo step-pyramid in the Yucatán that the Daily Grail's Greg Taylor shared in a brief post about "How Far Should We Go in 'Restoring' Ancient Monuments?." Below, Stonehenge in the 19th century and now. Read the rest
One year ago today Struggle for Catan: cutthroat card game for family fun/fights: Similar to the Settlers of Catan, except there's no board, and no pieces to accidentally knock around (which is my 9-year-old daughter's special skill).
Five years ago today Another London photographer arrested for "terrorism" (i.e. "taking a picture of a public building"): A photographer who spent his whole life photographing and painting around his home neighbourhood of Elephant and Castle in London was arrested under anti-terror laws and jailed, his DNA and fingerprints taken.
One year ago today Introducing Elfquest at Boing Boing! It's my great pleasure to welcome Wendy and Richard Pini to Boing Boing, where they'll be publishing the next chapter of their long-running fantasy epic Elfquest—online-first for the first time!
Five years ago today Update on CIA drug plane owned by “Donna Blue Aircraft, Inc”: Here's an update on the strange story of the Gulfstream II jet filled with 3.7 tons of cocaine that crashed in the Yucatan last year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal reports that European Parliament was investigating the circumstances surrounding the plane, which had previously been used by the CIA for "extraordinary rendition" flights.