WATCH: Super satisfying magnet action

These magnetic balls look fun as heck. Keep them out of the way of small kids and pets, please. Read the rest

This is one of the world's tallest trees; and this is the arborist who climbed it

Scientists have identified what is likely one of the world's tallest trees, a 330.7-foot (100.8 meter) yellow meranti tree in the rainforest on the island of Borneo. They spotted the tree growing in the Malaysian state of Sabah during an aerial laser scan of the forest. The rainforest is protected yet Yellow meranti trees are are highly endangered because they're relentlessly chopped down in other parts of Borneo for construction use. To accurately measure the tree, arborist Unding Jami of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership climbed it with a tape measure in hand. From National Geographic:

What was it like to climb?

I knew it would feel very exposed [to climb], like you are just hanging in the air. There were really strong winds and a Colugo (flying lemur) nest! It was flying all around as we were trying to shoot the line up into the tree.

It took me 15 attempts to shoot that line 86 meters (282 feet) up to the lowermost branches. Honestly, I almost gave up. We were so lucky to be able to finally shoot the rope over the lower branch.

Once we had the rope up I took nearly an hour to climb up to 86 meters. And then another two hours from there to get to the top to take the final measurement. That last two hours the wind was very strong, and it rained, which slowed me down...

It’s not easy work to do. I climb up slowly, checking the trunk every meter for centipedes, snakes, and things.

Read the rest

Skrillex song messes up mosquitos' attacks and mating according to scientific study

A new study reveals that the Skrillex track "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" reduces mosquitos' success in foraging, host attack, and sexual activities of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro, and other nasty diseases. According to the researchers from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and their colleagues, it's all about that bass. From their scientific paper published in the journal Acta Tropica:

Sound and its reception are crucial for reproduction, survival, and population maintenance of many animals. In insects, low-frequency vibrations facilitate sexual interactions, whereas noise disrupts the perception of signals from conspecifics and hosts. Despite evidence that mosquitoes respond to sound frequencies beyond fundamental ranges, including songs, and that males and females need to struggle to harmonize their flight tones, the behavioral impacts of music as control targets remain unexplored. In this study, we examined the effects of electronic music (Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex) on foraging, host attack, and sexual activities of the dengue vector Aedes aegypti. Adults were presented with two sound environments (music-off or music-on). Discrepancies in visitation, blood feeding, and copulation patterns were compared between environments with and without music. Ae. aegypti females maintained in the music-off environment initiated host visits earlier than those in the music-on environment. They visited the host significantly less often in the music-on than the music-off condition. Females exposed to music attacked hosts much later than their non-exposed peers. The occurrence of blood feeding activity was lower when music was being played. Adults exposed to music copulated far less often than their counterparts kept in an environment where there was no music.

Read the rest

Look at this majestic school of hammerhead sharks ready to mate

An astonishing school of hammerhead sharks surprises divers at Darwin's Arch in the Galápagos Islands in this majestic video from the BBC's Mission Galápagos series. In an article at Wanderlust, Mission Galápagos host and animal biologist Liz Bonnin lists this adventure as one of her "most amazing wildlife experiences":

The hammerheads come from all different directions and gather, swim around each other in big circles in a wonderful sort of balletic association. At the very centre of this big mass of hammerheads are the oldest, most mature females. The younger sharks swim around them. When the males come in to mate, they’ve got to weave and wind their way through this mass of hammerheads, so only the strongest, fittest males will get to mate with the females in the centre.

We are only just beginning to understand the purpose of this mass congregation, so the more scientists dive down there, the more they’re understanding its importance. It’s a very special place, and a very important behaviour, that needs to be protected. The Galapagos is one of the last jewels of this blue planet of ours. It really needs extra protection of ours oceans to make sure that that doesn’t disappear for ever. It was extraordinary.

(via The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

Volunteers spend 60 days in bed... for space science!

Yesterday, 12 adults in Cologne, Germany climbed into special beds where they will remain for 60 days to help scientists better understand the impact of longterm space flights on the human body. Read the rest

GoFundMe says anti-vaccine fundraising campaigns violate terms of service, will be taken down

“We are conducting a thorough review and will remove any campaigns currently on the platform.” — GoFundMe

Gooey, melty, sizzling, steamy fun with lava and dry ice

I've had quite a few fun afternoons playing with dry ice from making spooky fog in the kitchen to exploding plastic bottles in the yard. But I've never had the opportunity to pour hot lava over dry ice. In this video, the lava is 1400 °C and the dry ice is -78C°. So cool! And hot!

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Acoustic meta-material: a shape that reflects sound but passes light and air

A Boston University team have developed an acoustic, 3D-printed metamaterial whose topology is such that it reflects 94% of human-audible sound; the researchers' demonstration involves inserting a ring of this stuff in a PVC pipe and blasting a speaker down one end: light and air emerges from the other end, but sound does not. Read the rest

Sleep is a brain-repair mechanism, new study proves

Scientists Lior Appelbaum and David Zada in Israel publish new proof that sleep serves to help our brains repair damage. Read the rest

Improbably great: a site that reduces complex technical news to a few bullet points

Bullets.tech takes important technical news stories and reduces them to a few salient bullet points that provide a really (really!) good overview of the story; it's very similar to what I try to do here on Boing Boing: extract the salient points from a study or news story, summarize them and add context from other stories I'm following, and then provide a link to the full report for people who have read the summary and want to dig deeper. I just subscribed to their RSS. (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

"Catching up" on lost sleep may actually do more harm than good

Sleeping late on weekends not only won't help much when it comes to your sleep debt from the week, it can also lead to weight gain, insulin sensitivity, and nighttime hunger. University of Colorado Boulder sleep physiologist Christopher Depner ran a study involving young adults who were assigned different sleep regimens over a two week period, including a group of "weekend recovery sleepers." They report their results in the scientific journal Current Biology. From Science News:

Lack of sleep disrupts appetite-controlling hormones such as leptin, Depner says. And shifts in the weekend sleepers’ natural biological clocks to later hours caused them to get hungry later. During the workweeks, both groups consumed roughly 400 to 650 Calories in late-night snacks, such as pretzels, yogurt and potato chips. By the end of the experiment, people in both groups had gained on average around 1.5 kilograms.

But when it came to insulin sensitivity, the two groups diverged. Sensitivity across all body tissues in the weekend recovery group dropped around 27 percent, compared with their baseline sensitivity measured at the start of the experiment. That was substantially worse than the 13 percent decline in those who consistently had little sleep. And the weekend sleepers were the only ones to have significant declines in liver and muscle cells — both important for food digestion — after a weekend of trying to catch up on sleep....

Peter Liu, a sleep endocrinologist at UCLA, questions whether these results are broadly applicable, especially in people who are chronically sleep deprived.

Read the rest

Massive study finds strong correlation between "early affluence" and "faster cognitive drop" in old age

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reports on new analysis of the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which tracks outcomes for 24,066 people aged 50-96 with a good balance of genders (56% female), and reports a strong correlation between "early affluence" and "faster cognitive drop" in "verbal fluency" (measured with an animal naming challenge). SHARE is the largest study of its kind, with more than double the subjects of similar projects. Read the rest

Elon Musk's SpaceX plans NASA test launch Saturday

NASA and SpaceX have completed thousands of hours of tests to prepare for this unmanned test flight to the International Space Station.

Nanoparticle injections give mice "night vision" superpower

Chinese nanotechnologists injected tiny particles into the eyes of mice resulting in the rodents demonstrating "infrared 'night vision'" that lasted for months. According to nanoscientist Tian Xue and colleagues the University of Science and Technology of China, the technology could eventually help those with certain kinds of color blindness and "provide the potential for close integration within the human body to extend the visual spectrum." From New Scientist:

Like humans, mice cannot perceive light with a wavelength longer than 700 nanometres, which is at the red end of the visible spectrum. But the nanoparticles absorb light with longer – infrared – wavelengths and convert it into shorter wave light that retinal cells can detect. This converted light peaks at a wavelength of 535 nanometres, so the mice see infrared light as green...

Some mice did develop cloudy corneas after the injection, but this disappeared within a fortnight and occurred at similar rates to those in the control group. The team found no other evidence of damage to the mice’s eyes two months after the experiment.

The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal Cell: "Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae" Read the rest

More promising news about phages, the parasites that prey on parasites

For many years, we've been following the research on phages, viruses that kill bacteria, once a staple of Soviet medicine and now touted as a possible answer to the worrying rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Read the rest

Death metal attracts sharks as it mimics "struggling fish"

TIL: Sharks are attracted to the sound of death metal. Apparently, the "dense tones" of it mimics the "low frequencies of struggling fish." (Damn.)

In 2015, a Discovery Channel crew -- hoping to attract a large great white named "Joan of Shark" -- dropped a speaker underwater and played some.

Independent:

Desperate to feature the 16-foot, 1.6 tonne shark in their documentary, they submerged a speaker to see if the shark would react. Unfortunately they didn't manage to attract Joan, but did catch the attention of two others, one of which was 12 feet long.

Sharks 'hear' by picking up vibrations from receptors on their bodies, meaning they can be attracted to the low-frequency vibrations of heavy music, which apparently sounds like struggling fish.

(Soap Plant Wacko) Read the rest

Scientists finally explain why microwaved grapes emit glorious bursts of plasma

The mystery of the glorious fireball emitted by microwaved grapes (featured in my novel Little Brother) has been resolved, thanks to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which Trent University researchers Hamza Khattak and Aaron Slepkov explain how they destroyed a dozen microwaves before figuring out that the grapes were just the right size and had enough humidity to set up standing waves that amplify the microwaves -- and anything roughly grape-sized will do the same. Read the rest

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