Me, Myself and Microbes: the relationship between microbes, brains and behaviors

Leon Hong writes, "I made this science-y animation for my wife Elaine Hsiao's research — with the hopes that people will learn something new about how all the microbes that live in and on us affect our brains and behavior." Read the rest

Mice given an experimental gene therapy don't get fat, regardless of caloric intake

Researchers at Flinders University knocked out a gene known as RCAN1 in mice, hypothesizing that this would increase "non-shivering thermogenesis," which "expends calories as heat rather than storing them as fat" -- the mice were fed a high-calorie diet and did not gain weight. Read the rest

Watch Carl Sagan's classic lecture series for kids and adults

In 1977, just a few months after Voyager 1 and 2 began their grand tour of the solar system, Carl Sagan gave the esteemed Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. You can watch them below via YouTube or at the Read the rest

New 3D printed corneas could save millions of people's vision

Researchers have spent decades exploring methods to 3D print organs for transplant but progress is slow due to the complex structure of, say, a kidney or pancreas. Precise Bio, a startup founded by scientists from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, claim that the first real success will come from 3D-printed corneas. They've already conducted animal studies and are building a roadmap toward human trials. From IEEE Spectrum:

Corneas could be the first mainstream application of bioprinting, (Precise Bio CEO Aryeh) Batt says, in part because they have a layered structure that’s a good match for the technology. Each layer consists of different types of cells and fibers, which the printer could lay down in sequence, and these layers don’t contain blood vessels or nerves. What’s more, putting a new kind of transplant in the eye is inherently safer than implanting one deep in the body, since physicians could easily check for signs of trouble and could remove the tissue if anything seemed wrong.

There’s certainly a need for more corneas in the world, says Kevin Corcoran, president and CEO of the Eye Bank Association of America. In 2017, his members supplied nearly 51,000 transplantable corneas to patients in the United States, and also sent more than 26,000 abroad. Internationally, “there is a tremendous amount of unmet demand,” he says. “It’s estimated that 10 million people suffer from corneal blindness globally, primarily because they lack access to effective and affordable treatment.”

Part of Precise Bio’s proprietary approach is its printer, which uses a technique called laser-induced forward transfer to propel droplets of bioinks onto a surface.

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Fantastic time-lapse of house plants "falling asleep"

Darryl Cheng posted this fantastic video below on his Instagram account @houseplantjournal. The entrancing time-lapse video shows the light- and temperature-induced Nyctinastic movement ("sleep" movement) of his oxalis and maranta plants.

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I'm pleased to bring you this collab between HPJ and @angusandceleste - showing two of my favourite daily movers: oxalis and maranta. - The oxalis is wearing the latest from @angusandceleste - a Hand-thrown Boulder Pot, complete with matching wire stand. - I've teamed with Angus & Celeste to give you $10 off when you use the code: HOUSEPLANTJOURNAL at checkout ($50 minimum purchase) ~ ~ #angusandceleste #styleathome #oxalis #oxalistriangularis #plantdaddy #containerplants #plantsarefriends #plantdaddy #timelapse #livingwithplants #plantaddict #plantobsession #plantsathome #instaplant #planttherapy #houseplants #indoorplants #oddlysatisfying

A post shared by Darryl Cheng (@houseplantjournal) on Oct 27, 2018 at 7:57am PDT

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Video: cuttlefish, owls, and tarsiers all have remarkable night vision

What animals have night vision and how the hell can they see in the dark anyway? (Nat Geo WILD via The Kid Should See This)

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Dolphins forced to simplify calls due to human noise pollution in the oceans

As a result of noisy ship engines and the racket of ocean mining, bottlenose dolphins have slowly reducing the complexity and changing the frequency of their calls. According to new research from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and published in the journal Biology Letters, "the noise-induced simplification of dolphin whistles may reduce the information content in these acoustic signals and decrease effective communication, parent–offspring proximity or group cohesion." From YaleEnvironment360:

“It’s kind of like trying to answer a question in a noisy bar and after repeated attempts to be heard, you just give the shortest answer possible,” Bailey said. “Dolphins simplified their calls to counter the masking effects of vessel noise.”

Dolphins are highly social animals and use their calls to stay together as a group, talk as they feed, and call out their names when they meet new members of their species. Each animal has a distinctive whistle, which typically uses complex sound patterns with variations in pitch and frequency.

photo: US Navy Read the rest

Using science to fine-tune your fake blood recipe

Blood is complicated: it changes texture, color and thickness depending on where it's flowing from and how fast. Though you can make a convincing fake blood with water, food coloring, flour and corn syrup, getting the proportions right depends on a scientific understanding of the context in which your fake blood is appearing. Read the rest

Liverworts contain psychoactive cannabinoid

A new molecular study shows that a compound called perrotetinene in certain species of liverworts is actually a psychoactive cannabanoid. From Science News:

A group of Japanese scientists in 1994 discovered perrotetinene in liverworts, but the new study is the strongest evidence yet that the compound is a psychoactive cannabinoid. Previously, cannabis was the only plant known to produce such cannabinoids....

After mapping perrotetinene’s molecular structure, the researchers created a synthetic version and tested it on mice. The team tracked the animals’ pain response, body temperature and movement — measures of the compound’s psychoactivity. The results suggested that perrotetinene may be slightly less psychoactive than THC, says study coauthor Jürg Gertsch, a biochemist at the University of Bern in Switzerland. The liverwort compound may also have fewer negative side effects such as memory loss and loss of coordination, he says.

"Uncovering the psychoactivity of a cannabinoid from liverworts associated with a legal high" (Science Advances)

illustration: "Hepaticae" from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur, 1904 Read the rest

How to cook and eat a gourmet meal in Antarctica

Very quickly. Before it, and you, freeze.

On Cyprien Verseux's Twitter account, wonderful snapshots of fun with food on the bleak, frozen ice sheets of Antarctica. Read the rest

A CRISPR-based hack could eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes

A research team from Imperial College London have published promising results of an experiment in which Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes -- responsible for the spread of malaria -- were genetically modified with a stable, gene-drive-based CRISPR modification that caused them to go extinct in the lab. Read the rest

DNA ancestry tests are bullshit

Adam Rutherford's amazing book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived is on shelves in the USA now; debunking the absurd claims made by genetics testing companies -- claims about your distant relationship to ancient kings or the percentage of your genes that came from Vikings. Read the rest

Nature's greatest con-artists: the parasitic beetles that trick ants into barfing into their mouths

Myrmecophiles are parasitic beetles that use chemical cues to fool ants into bringing them into their nests and regurgitating food into their mouths, diverting the colony's bounty of semi-digested ant-chow from the queen and her babies to their own hungry guts. Ant Lab shows us how a Xenodusa beetle can con Camponotus ants into a lifetime of free meals and cuddles. For further reading, check out Behavior and exocrine glands in the myrmecophilous beetle Lomechusoides strumosus (Fabricius, 1775) (formerly called Lomechusa strumosa) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) in PLOS One. (Thanks, Adrian!) Read the rest

Save The Elephants: How DNA revealed the 3 cartels behind most of Africa’s ivory smuggling

Science writer Ed Yong has an amazing whodunit at The Atlantic on how genetic science can help stop elephant poaching. Read the rest

Use VR to travel through a duck's amazing vagina

The internet is perpetually amused and fascinated by the crazy, corkscrewing duck penis, but commonsense dictates that if fella ducks have crazy willies, then lady ducks will have equally amazing hoo-hahs. Read the rest

How do trees talk to each other?

Trees "talk" to each other in forests. They are part of underground networks based on symbiotic relationships, known as mycorrhiza, with fungi. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the mushroom. (National Geographic)

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Watch this cuttlefish hypnotize a crab (and maybe you, too)

This broadclub cuttlefish like to prowl the Indonesian reefs for crabs, which it then hypnotizes with its remarkable skin before grabbing and eating. Read the rest

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