Squids used to have shells. Here's how they lost them.

Squid ancestors were happy creatures with shells until about 400 million years ago, when the emergence of fish with jaws set off an evolutionary arms race between fish and cephalopods. Read the rest

Neurobollocks with Chinese characteristics: Chinese employers use "brain wave sensors" to tune workforces

Giant Chinese companies are outfitting millions of employees -- everyone from factory workers to military personnel to pilots and train drivers -- with special uniform hats containing an unspecified neurological sensor package claimed to be capable of detecting "depression, anxiety or rage" as well as "fatigue and attention loss with an accuracy of more than 90 per cent"; the practice is largely unregulated. Read the rest

What airplane cabin depressurization looks like

I was expecting to see an explosive worst-case scenario, a can-opener at 30,000 feet. But this simulation of a less explosive leak has a nightmare quality all of its own. Read the rest

The world's oldest known spider has died

This female trapdoor spider, named Number 16, was the world's oldest known spider. A lifelong resident of the Australian outback, she has just died at age 43. From Curtin University:

The research, published in the Pacific Conservation Biology Journal, suggests the 43-year-old Giaus Villosus trapdoor matriarch, who recently died during a long-term population study, had outlived the previous world record holder, a 28-year old tarantula found in Mexico.

Lead author PhD student Leanda Mason from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University said the ongoing research has led to new discoveries about the longevity of the trapdoor spider.

“To our knowledge this is the oldest spider ever recorded, and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider’s behaviour and population dynamics,” Ms Mason said.

“The research project was first initiated by Barbara York Main in 1974, who monitored the long-term spider population for over 42 years in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia.

“Through Barbara’s detailed research, we were able to determine that the extensive life span of the trapdoor spider is due to their life-history traits, including how they live in uncleared, native bushland, their sedentary nature and low metabolisms.”

Read the rest

1940s footage of man in 457mph wind tunnel

In this silent footage filmed in NASA Langley Research Center's 8ft wind tunnel, we see what happens when a human being is blasted with 457mph gusts. They were trying to find out how safe it was for pilots to stay in their planes after canopies were damaged or removed. Read the rest

Amazing video of cells moving within an organism

Scientists combined multiple imaging technologies to deliver an unprecedented 3D view inside the body of crawling cancer cells, spinal cord circuit development, and immune cells traveling within a zebrafish (above). Nobel laureate Eric Betzig and his colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute integrate a technology called lattice light sheet microscopy with adaptive optics resulting in a very expensive, 10-foot-long microscope. From HHMI:

“It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster right now,” says Betzig, who is moving to the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall. His team is working on a next-generation version that should fit on a small desk at a cost within the reach of individual labs. The first such instrument will go to Janelia’s Advanced Imaging Center, where scientists from around the world can apply to use it. Plans that scientists can use to create their own microscopes will also be made freely available. Ultimately, Betzig hopes that the adaptive optical version of the lattice microscope will be commercialized, as was the base lattice instrument before it. That could bring adaptive optics into the mainstream.

“If you really want to understand the cell in vivo, and image it with the quality possible in vitro, this is the price of admission,” he says.

More videos here.

Read the rest

Look at this comet's terrifically chaotic surface

Landru79 created this spectacular GIF from images captured in 2016 on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency lander Philae deployed by the Rosetta probe. The video is significantly sped up, compressing 25 minutes into a few seconds of intense action. But what exactly are we looking at in this pandemonium? From New Scientist:

Much of this apparent “snow” wouldn’t actually be visible if you were standing on 67P’s surface. It is made of cosmic rays – charged subatomic particles that flit across the universe. As they hit the camera’s sensors, they register as streaks of light.

Some of bright specks are actually snow – dust and ice particles floating above the comet’s surface. And many of them are stars behind the rocky cliffside on 67P’s surface.

Read the rest

The case for storing digital data in DNA

Using DNA to store digital data has been a classic forecast in infotech futurism for more than two decades. The basic concept is that you could synthesize strands of DNA encoded with digital information and then decode it with DNA sequencing techniques. While several amazing experiments have demonstrated that DNA data storage is possible, it's mostly been thought of as too expensive and impractical. But as researchers continue to make technical strides in the technology, and the price of synthesizing and sequencing DNA has dropped exponentially, systems for backing up to the double helix may actually be closer than you think. From IEEE Spectrum:

Even as our data storage needs surge, traditional mass-storage technologies are starting to approach their limits. With hard-disk drives, we’re encountering a limit of 1 terabyte—1,000 GB—per square inch. Past that point, temperature fluctuations can induce the magnetically charged material of the disk to flip, corrupting the data it holds. We could try to use a more heat-resistant material, but we would have to drastically alter the technology we use to read and write on hard-disk drives, which would require huge new investments. The storage industry needs to look elsewhere....

It still may not match other data storage options for cost, but DNA has advantages that other options can’t match. Not only is it easily replicated, it also has an ultrahigh storage density—as much as 100 trillion (1012) GB per gram. While the data representing a human genome, base pair by base pair, can be stored digitally on a CD with room to spare, a cell nucleus stores that same amount of data in a space about 1/24,000 as large.

Read the rest

Why you might see flying boats

A Fata Morgana is a spectacular optical illusion in which you may see boats floating above the sea or city skylines in the clouds. (The term is named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay as her castle was said to hover above the coast of Sicily.) In the video below, Seeker explains the science behind the magic.

(via Daily Grail)

Read the rest

Watch how fog harvesters may help reduce water shortages

Scientists have been experimenting with "fog harps" in arid climates as an easy way to collect potable water from fog.

Via the paper:

Fog harvesting is a useful technique for obtaining fresh water in arid climates. The wire meshes currently utilized for fog harvesting suffer from dual constraints: coarse meshes cannot efficiently capture microscopic fog droplets, whereas fine meshes suffer from clogging issues. Here, we design and fabricate fog harvesters comprising an array of vertical wires, which we call “fog harps”. Under controlled laboratory conditions, the fog-harvesting rates for fog harps with three different wire diameters were compared to conventional meshes of equivalent dimensions. As expected for the mesh structures, the mid-sized wires exhibited the largest fog collection rate, with a drop-off in performance for the fine or coarse meshes. In contrast, the fog-harvesting rate continually increased with decreasing wire diameter for the fog harps due to efficient droplet shedding that prevented clogging. This resulted in a 3-fold enhancement in the fog-harvesting rate for the harp design compared to an equivalent mesh.

Harvesting water from fog with harps (YouTube / American Chemical Society) Read the rest

Why Indonesia's Bajau people can stay submerged under water longer than you or me

This is amazing. Read the rest

Koch-backed climate deniers are exploiting the reproducibility crisis to discredit climate science

The National Association of Scholars is a tiny, hydrocarbon-industry backed organization that is not to be confused with the National Academy of Sciences. Read the rest

Entertaining science for stoned people

These hand boilers are a hell of a lot of fun, even if you aren't stoned.

Not just fun, this is science! Use your body heat to teach a child about distillation! Every child needs to know how to create the water of life.

Honestly, I love my little hand boiler. I keep it next to an arm chair that friends seem to like to space out in.

Westminster Hand Boilers (Colors May Vary) via Amazon

Image via Amazon Read the rest

Paul Erdős really got going on speed

On Reddit, binary_bender charted the stimulant consumption of mathematician Paul Erdős against his professional output. The prolific professor wrote more than 1500 papers in his long, incredibly wired life: "Clearly Meth Coffee." [via r/dataisbeautiful]

For Erdős death was merely a cessation of input, it taking years for his momentum to subside. Read the rest

Launching today: NASA's new satellite seeking "alien" Earths

Today, SpaceX expects to launch a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) into orbit. Scientists expect TESS to find thousands of exoplanets by detecting when they pass in front of their host stars, briefly blocking the light of those suns.

“A few months after TESS launches, we will be able to point out the first ones of these familiar stars, which host planets that could be like ours,” says Cornell University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute.

From Nadia Drake's excellent FAQ on TESS in National Geographic:

The search for life beyond Earth is necessarily constrained by what we know. Life as we don’t know it could be anywhere, and it doesn’t care that we haven’t deigned to imagine it yet. To help focus the hunt, astronomers are starting by looking for something familiar. And we know that at least once, life evolved on a warm, rocky planet orbiting a relatively stable star.

That being said, many of the stars TESS will scrutinize will be smaller and dimmer than our own: the cool, reddish M dwarfs that are the most common types of stars in the Milky Way. Planets orbiting these stars at a distance that’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist are going to be snuggled in quite close—orbiting near enough to their stars for scientists to find them on months-long time scales.

In addition, the worlds TESS expects to find will be better situated for observations that could reveal whether alien metabolisms are churning away on their surfaces, beneath their seas, or in their clouds.

Read the rest

Self-powering camera: an image sensor that's also a photovoltaic cell

A team of University of Michigan electrical engineering/computer science researchers have published a paper (Sci-Hub mirror) detailing their work in creating a camera sensor (a device that converts light to electricity) that's also a solar power cell (also a device that converts light to electricity). Read the rest

Goldman Sachs report: "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?"

In Goldman Sachs's April 10 report, "The Genome Revolution," its analysts ponder the rise of biotech companies who believe they will develop "one-shot" cures for chronic illnesses; in a moment of rare public frankness, the report's authors ask, "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" Read the rest

More posts