Biology, News, Oceanography

Ocean trek reveals reveals massive diversity of the oceanic plankton [with photos]


In what’s perhaps one of the most amazing marine science study, a team of researchers scoured the world’s oceans fishing for microbes, viruses and other tiny life during a three and a half year trip aboard a schooner. The trip was long and arduous for sure, but ultimately it paid out – big time! The team collected 35,000 samples at 210 stations over the voyage, and found 35,000 species of bacteria, 5,000 new viruses and 150,000 single-celled plants and creatures. Most of these are new to science. Only a small fraction of the newly discovered and known species alike had been genetically sequenced, but results so far show just how interconnected and symbiotic marine life is. It also means it’s also vulnerable in the face of environmental changes, particularly climate change.

News, Space

China wants to be the first to land on the Dark Side of the Moon

Chang'e-3 lunar probe. Image: ECNS

According to the Chinese Central Television, China wants to land rover on the far side of the moon, also know as the dark side of the moon, by 2020. This would make it the first nation to land a spacecraft of any sort there. First, the rover will orbit the moon piggy-bagged by the Chang’e 4 spacecraft then later deployed to a launch site. The rover will carry out some scientific missions, but the main goal really is to test China’s space launching capabilities, but also as a show of force. Flex those muscles, sort to speak. Some analysts, however, speak out that there might be more to it, namely a bid for the moon’s resources.

Health & Medicine, News

You can’t get lower than this: four charities scammed $187m in donations meant for children with cancer

Leaders of the scam charities. Image: YouTube

Four cancer charities operated by the same family under a scamming scheme were sued by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The group allegedly scammed consumers out of more than $187 million, who in good faith wanted to contribute to a good cause. In some cases, the charities asked people for money that would eventually help children with cancer, one the most vulnerable groups. Instead, only 3% of the money the group raised actually went to charitable causes. The rest was pocketed.

Biology, News

More than meets the eye: Octopus can perceive light directly through its skin

Image: Square Space

Biologists have long suspected that cephalopods like the squid and cuttlefish have specialized proteins embedded in their skin, very similar to those found in the eye, which they can use to perceive light, and maybe even colour. Where previously attempts failed, a team at University of California at Santa Barbara now offers conclusive evidence that octopuses can ‘see’ with their skin. Namely, they can definitely perceive light characteristics like wavelengths, brightness and such, but not edges or contrast. So, you might as well add full body vision to the list of awesome octopus features: master of disguise, elegance in chaos, survival in sub-freezing Antarctic temperatures or special untangling switches. But hey, who’s counting anymore. As much as octopuses are weird, they’re just as fascinating!

News, Space

A crime in the sky: galaxies die by strangulation

Artist’s impression of one of the possible galaxy strangulation mechanisms: star-forming galaxies (fed by gas inflows) are accreted into a massive hot halo, which ‘strangles’ them and leads to their death. Image: Cambridge University

There are two types of galaxies: ‘alive’ and ‘dead’ ones. Those galaxies that are still alive are called so because they still produce stars inside, while the dead ones are stripped and devoid of their stellar nurseries. In a case of forensic astronomy of the utmost importance, a team at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Observatory Edinburgh has revealed the leading cause of death for most deceased galaxies of average size: death by strangulation. What remains now is to identify the killer, the researchers say.

News, Technology

The first mind-controlled leg prosthesis is amazing!


A freak accident from his childhood in Iceland caused Gudmundur Olafsson’s right ankle to collapse. After 28 years of living in pain and more than 50 surgical operations he decided to amputate his lower leg entirely. For years, he wore the Proprio Foot – a prosthetic motorized ankle developed by an Icelandic company called Ossur which can automatically adjust the angle of the foot using its built-in sensors. Now, Olafsson prosthesis got a major upgrade: his new Proprio is controlled subconsciously by electrical signals sent from his brain to special sensors directly embedded in his muscles, all via the nerves in the muscle itself. Then a decoded signal is sent to a control unit which directs all the fine moving parts that make up his new, robotic leg. All his intentions are translated seamlessly by the sensors and Olafsson, now 48, can walk almost entirely like a normal person. “The first time, to be honest, I started to cry,” said Olafsson.

News, Physics

LIGO upgrade signals the hunt for elusive gravitational waves

A part of the four kilometer L-shaped vacuum tube of LIGO.

A dedication ceremony was held today at the Advanced Laser Gravitational Wave Observatories (Advanced LIGO), a lab tasked with detecting gravitational waves. The two LIGO observatories located in the US’ northwest – one at Hanford, the other at the LIGO observatory in Livingston, La – have received significant upgrades meant to increase their sensitivity, part of a huge international endeavor which took eight years and $200 million to complete. The discovery of gravitational waves is heralded as a milestone breakthrough in physics and astronomy, one that might teach us a lot about the Universe. This includes supernovae and colliding black holes, that generate the waves.

Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News

Some foods taste better (or less atrocious) while flying

The loud noise that usually airline passengers have to deal with in mid-flight can significantly alter how food tastes. According to researchers at Cornell University sweet flavors are inhibited, while savory flavors are enhanced. This might serve to explain why, for instance, tomato juice is such a popular beverage served on flights. German airline, Lufthansa, reports its passengers consumed 1.8 million liters of tomato juice in a single year or just as much as beer. Quite a lot, considering few people actually buy tomato juice back on land.

News, Technology

Teledildonics is here: sex toys linked to virtual reality

virtual reality porn

Don’t make that face. It’s not like you didn’t see it coming, after all with each technological step forward porn has always shared the ride. Among the oldest surviving examples of erotic depictions are Paleolithic cave paintings and carvings. Prints became very popular in Europe from the middle of the fifteenth century, and because of their compact nature, were very suitable for erotic depictions that did not need to be permanently on display. An earthier eroticism is seen in a printing plate of 1475-1500 for an Allegory of Copulation where a young couple are having sex, with the woman’s legs high in the air, at one end of a bench, while at the other end a huge penis, with legs and wings and a bell tied around the bottom of the glans, is climbing onto the bench. The oldest surviving permanent photograph of the image formed in a camera was created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826, porn likely soon followed there after. Imagine what happened once film came along. Nevermind the internet. Though the Oculus Rift is still in beta, and only a handful of developers own one, virtual reality is certain to change how people enjoy porn.

Health & Medicine, Technology

Watch this robotic surgical system stitch a grape

da vinci surgery

With grace and steady robotic clippers, this high-end remote controlled surgical system was used to stitch a piece of skin back over the exposed flesh of a grape. Like a pro, the Da Vinci Surgical System – named after the famous renaissance genius who first inspired working robots – can be seen in this amazing video putting the final touch, tying a knot, then using its scissor-hand to cut the loose thread. Job done!