For this project you will need one cat toy on a string, a high-speed camera mounted on a moveable track, and also some cheetahs.
This behind-the-scenes video shows you how National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo captured amazing footage of big cats in motion. It's a complicated process and I wish they'd shown more of the animal-handling part of it. I certainly didn't realize that some zoo animals were so comfortable with humans that you could walk them around on a leash and let them off to run free around a dozen unfamiliar members of a camera crew. Still great to watch, though.
Via Laughing Squid, which has the 7-minute video showing the final footage of running cheetahs.
Imagine an apatosaurus with a long, elephant-like snout. Plenty of people have. That's because the nostril placement on sauropod dinosaurs is, in some ways, remarkably similar to that of trunked animals that live today. In both cases, the nostrils are large, and they're located up around what we'd call the forehead, kind of smack between the eyes.
On the one hand, this is one of those things that it's really hard to ever know for certain. We don't have preserved soft tissue, so when we make models of what dinosaurs might have looked like we're really going on clues from the bones and comparisons to living animals with similar bone structure. Because of that, it is somewhat reasonable to suggest that hey, maybe, sauropods really did look like grumpy diplodocus in the image above. It's fun to speculate.
But not all speculations are created equal. In a fascinating post at the Tetrapod Zoology blog, Darren Naish explains why a superficial similarity to trunked animals isn't enough to counteract the much-more prevalent evidence against sauropod trunks. One of the more interesting lines of evidence he points out is the fact that dinosaurs apparently lacked the facial which form the trunk in living animals. We know this partly because muscles leave their signature on bone, and Naish says there's no evidence sauropods had the right facial muscles. It's further bolstered by the fact that the animals most closely related to sauropods don't have those facial muscles, either.
Naish's piece reminds me of the last time we talked about sauropod biology here. That, too, dealt with the fact that superficial similarities aren't enough to infer that two animals must have identical biology. Only, in that case, we were talking about the differences between the long necks of giraffes and the long necks of sauropods.
Doktor A's beautiful immortality helmet was produced on commission and looks like a spectacular way to extend your lifespan:
1. Remove strap and leads from the storage drawer.
2. Place electrodes against forehead and tighten strap.
3. Attach bulldog clips to terminals in the jaw.
4. Set over-ride timer to desired duration.
5. Crank the main handle to build electrical charge.
6. Close the main switch to engage the electrical flow.
7. Increase the electrical voltage using dial.
8. Wait until your Asphyx manifests within the tube.
9. Shut off charge to electrodes using the main switch.
10. Transfer the Asphyx to a long term containment device.
11. Congratulations you have gained immortality.
Congratulations you have gained immortality.
(via Super Punch)
A Dutch artist called Caspar Berger is producing a "self-portrait" by 3D printing a replica of his own skull, then layering "flesh" atop it.
In this project, Self-portrait 21, the 3D copy of the skull represents the true image (vera icon). This image has formed the basis for a facial reconstruction by a forensic anthropologist, who received the skull anonymously accompanied only by the information that it belonged to a man in his mid-40s born in Western Europe. This facial reconstruction is based on the available scientific documentation of tissue structure, skin thickness and muscle groups. The clay reconstruction has been cast in bronze to be presented as Self-portrait 21, a self-portrait that has not been made by the artist.
Skeleton / Self-portrait 21
(via Beyond the Beyond)
A paper in a 1909 edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London described the dissection of Charles Babbage's brain. The whole article is on the Internet Archive, from which the Public Domain Review has plucked it.
Babbage himself decided that he wanted his brain to be donated to science upon his death. In a letter accompanying the donation, his son Henry wrote:
I have no objection…to the idea of preserving the brain…Please therefore do what you consider best…[T]he brain should be known as his, and disposed of in any manner which you consider most conducive to the advancement of human knowledge and the good of the human race.
Half of Babbage’s brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, the other half is on display in the Science Museum in London.
The Brain of Charles Babbage (1909)
These toothy ladies' shoes (origin unknown) are a nice complement for the tooth-soled Apex Predator shoes we wrote about last month.
Brian Andrews has spent many years producing his striking "Hominid" images, described as "photo composites made from human and veterinary images creating hominid creatures." Now, these images have been animated, and the result is beautiful and haunting and profoundly, wonderfully disturbing.
Hominid is an animated teaser based on the Hominid series of photo composites by Brian Andrews. The series has been exhibited internationally, including at SIGGRAPH, in the Hong Kong Exhibition Center, and at numerous galleries. This animated teaser was produced at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts. Be on the lookout for future Hominid animations.
Hayden sez, "A good one for Halloween - this skull-shaped memento mori clock is historically important and even a little spooky today.
The Art of Mourning site is all about death and love in jewelry and art, so there are many examples of the symbols of death throughout history."
Watches and clocks with the memento mori motifs were not uncommon, dating from the mid 17th Century to the 1930s. This early Verge silver skull pivots at the top of the cranium, whereas others pivot from the jaw. There are others created that fold open at the top of the head with enamel and diamonds, but pieces like these are extremely rare and command a high price. Examples exist from Switzerland, France, Germany and England. As written by the Taft Museum:
“The skull and watch are part of the standard subject matter of 17th-century vanitas still lifes. Vanitas is from the Latin for “emptiness” or “untruth,” from which comes the English word “vanity.” Such pictures depict objects that have an underlying moral message—usually about the fleeting nature of physical reality. Therefore, it is not surprising that the skull and watch, two reminders of the passage of time, should merge in a single object. The use of the skeleton hand, however, is unusual.1“
Thomas White Memento Mori Watch, c.1780
This is kind of neat. Scientists conducted several psychological and neuro-imaging tests on Temple Grandin — the woman who has used her own autism as a model for designing better livestock control systems. What they found is that Grandin's brain looks different, structurally, from that of a neuro-typical person.
Grandin’s brain volume is significantly larger than that of three neurotypical controls matched on age, sex and handedness. Grandin’s lateral ventricles, the chambers that hold cerebrospinal fluid, are skewed in size so that the left one is much larger than the right. “It’s quite striking,” Cooperrider says. On both sides of her brain, Grandin has an abnormally large amygdala, a deep brain region that processes emotion. Her brain also shows differences in white matter, the bundles of nerve fibers that connect one region to another. The volume of white matter on the left side of her brain is higher than that in controls, the study found.
Grandin isn't the only person with autism to have had their brain scanned. But the differences that have been found aren't always consistent from one study to another. That, of course, makes some sense, given the fact that the word "autism" encompasses a whole spectrum of differences and disabilities which may or may not represent one single thing. But there have been several studies that did find differences similar to the ones found in Temple Grandin.
And here's the really interesting thing. Some scientists think that the common differences we do keep seeing — especially the bit about the larger brain volume — might be a clue that what eventually becomes autism actually begins in the womb. Here's a quick excerpt from a story that Carl Zimmer wrote about this stuff last spring:
When autistic children are born, Courchesne’s research suggests, they have an abundance of neurons jammed into an average-size brain. Over the first few years, the neurons get bigger and sprout thousands of branches to join other neurons. The extra neurons in the autistic brain probably send out a vast number of extra connections to other neurons. This overwiring may interfere with normal development of language and social behavior in young children. It would also explain the excess brain size seen in the MRI scans.
Read the story about Temple Grandin's brain
Read Carl Zimmer's story on structural differences in brains of people with autism
Special thanks to GrrlScientist!
Image: Photograph by Jonathunder for Wikipedia, used under CC license.
Last week, Mark told you about a giant eyeball that washed up on the beach in Florida. Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released their preliminary analysis of who that eyeball once belonged to and how it likely ended up becoming the temporary toast of the Internet.
The Deep Sea News blog called it last week, but the official word from the experts is that this was the eye of a swordfish. The distinction is based on the size, the color, and the fact that there are bits of bone present around the edges (something you wouldn't see attached to a giant squid eye).
How do you get a swordfish eye without a swordfish attached? Simple: It's swordfish season. In the press release, Joan Herrera, curator of collections at the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said that,
"Based on straight-line cuts visible around the eye, we believe it was removed by a fisherman and discarded."
But before we pack this mystery away, I think you should take one more close look at the giant eyeball, because it offers a great view a really interesting feature of fish eye anatomy. Fish eyes are similar to those of land-dwelling vertebrates. But there are some key differences. In particular, the shape of the lens...
Read the rest
Conjurer’s Kitchen created this anatomical wax-model cake for the mad bakers at Eat Your Heart Out. Delicious and educational!
Anatomical Wax Model Cake
From London's Fantich and Young: Apex Predator shoes, whose soles have been covered with denture teeth:
Apex predators are predators with no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain.
Materials: Savile Row Oxford Shoes, Size UK15, 1050 teeth dentures. Apex predators are predators with no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain.
Apex Predator Shoes. 2010
(via Crazy Abalone)
A woman whose exterior ear was removed during her fight with cancer has grown a replacement ear made from starter-tissue harvested from her rib, which was cultured and scaffolded on her arm. Once the ear was ripe, it was removed from her arm and affixed to the side of her head.
“I thought of this exact strategy many years before and really was looking for the right patient to try it on,” said renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Patrick Byrne.
Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.
..Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.
Hopkins Doctors Grow New Ear On Woman’s Arm
(Image: Johns Hopkins)
We think of giraffes as long-necked creatures, but compared to ancient sauropod dinosaurs (a family that includes the brachiosaurus and apatosaurus) even the longest-necked giraffe may as well be nicknamed "Stumpy". In a paper published online at arXiv site, two paleontologists analyzed the biology of sauropods in an attempt to figure out which features allowed the dinosaurs to grow necks six times longer than giraffes.
Turns out, there are some distinct differences — especially in the anatomical architecture of the vertebra closest to both animals' skulls — that really stand out. As this helpful slide shows, a sauropod with the vertebra of a giraffe would be in very bad shape, indeed.
This paper, by the authors' own account, began life "as a late-night discussion over a couple of beers", which means it's basically the paleontology equivalent of "Who would win in a fight: Darth Vader or Superman?" Which is awesome. Better yet, the paper is quite easy to read and the information is organized in a way that will probably make more sense to you than the typical scientific research paper. So dig in! It's worth it! Here's one short excerpt taken from a part discussing some of those differences in the cervical vertebra (the aforementioned vertebra closest to the skull):
Many groups of animals seem to be constrained as to the number of cervical vertebrae they can evolve. With the exceptions of sloths and sirenians, mammals are all limited to exactly seven cervicals; azdarchids are variously reported as having seven to nine cervical vertebrae, but never more; non-avian theropods do not seem to have exceeded the 13 or perhaps 14 cervicals of Neimongosaurus, with eleven or fewer being more typical.
By contrast, sauropods repeatedly increased the number of their cervical vertebrae, attaining as many as 19 in Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis. Modern swans
have up to 25 cervical vertebrae, and as noted above the marine reptile Albertonectes had 76 cervical vertebrae. Multiplication of cervical vertebrae obviously contributes to neck elongation.
Read the full study at arXiv
Read a blog post about the study by one of the authors
Via Bora Zivkovic
Bruce Mahalski, an artist in New Zealand, created a set of sculptural "dueling pistols" out of bone. Bidding opens at NZD1500.
Two bone dueling pistols (with spare bullets) mounted in a custom altered case which has been counter-sunk into a specially made rimu table. All of the bones have been found locally by the artist. The head on the bottom gun is from a ferret and the top one is from a black-backed gull. Both have barrels made from cat’s vertebrae. This archival quality work by Wellington artist, Bruce Mahalski (with assistance from local jeweler, Vaune Mason) has not yet been exhibited and this is the first time it is being offered for sale.
Bone Pistol Set #1 Brand new item