Animals, Biology, News

Meet the first fully warm-blooded fish: the opah

Researchers Nick Wegner holding a opah. Image: National Geographic

Though it’s a deep ocean fish, the slender opah is actually fully warm blooded – the first of its kind discovered so far. This remarkable insight was made by accident after researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissected the fish and noticed its blue and red blood vessels were located inside the gills, rather than in the fish’s swimming muscles. Tuna or sharks, which both have the same vessels but not arranged in the same way, cool their blood once it reaches the gills for oxygen reloading. The opah’s vessels are interwoven inside the gill like a net, which means the the veins that carry warm blood away from the hot muscles are interwoven with the arteries that carry cold blood in from the gills. This makes all the difference. Running so close to each other, the warm blood from the heart heats the cold blood from the gills. This way the Opah is 5 degrees Celsius warmer than its surroundings waters!

News, Renewable Energy

Want to put solar panels on your roof? Consider these 6 points before you make a purchase

Figure 1: Ranking of 50 Largest Cities Based On Where Solar Offers Best Financial Value. Source: Going Solar in America (report)

Using solar energy to meet your power demands does not only make you more environmentally friendly, it may actually save you money. It’s a win-win situation, but only if you’re in for long-run. Of course, it all depends on where you live since how much energy your panels can harvest, and consequently save you money, depends on constantly changing factors such as time of day, season and weather, but also geographic traits such as climate and latitude. With this in mind, before you decide to grab solar panels to add to your home, look at these six pros and cons of solar energy.

Environment, Technology

Urban Algae Canopy Produces Huge Quantity of Oxygen

algae

It generates as much oxygen as 400,000 square feet of natural woodland, it looks nice, and it can produce lots of biomass – the Urban Algae Canopy is a concept we should probably pay more attention to. It combines biology, modern architecture and electronics, creating a structure that not only generates energy, but also adapts and responds to the environment it

Climate, Green Living, Renewable Energy

World’s first solar road works better than expected

solaroad

Only six months ago, a 230-foot strip of road was covered in solar panels in the Netherlands. Since then, some 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy were produced or enough to power one Dutch home for a whole year. These news came as a surprise even to the developers of SolaRoad, as the project has been dubbed.

Animals, News

Where are all the mummies? 2 out of 3 animal mummies don’t have an animal inside

A mummified cat in a wooden casing. This is considered a rare sight, considering only a third of all animal mummies actually contain the remains of an animal. Image: University of Manchester

The proportions of fake animals, the subject of long and heated debates in the scientific community, have been revealed by researchers at University of Manchester. The team used X-rays and CT scans to look inside 800 animal mummies, some of which were more than 3,000 years old. Only a third actually contained an animal skeleton. Another third contained only fractions of a complete skeleton, sometimes just a single bone. The rest were all mud casts, filled with twigs or other organic material, made to look like a real animal was inside. So, is this an exposed elaborate scam routine performed over the millenniums? Not quite – the researchers believe something more innocent is at play.

Climate, News

Scientists measure internal waves under the ocean from ‘cradle to grave'; largest tops 500 meters

inner waves

MIT researchers deployed intricate contraptions, including cables that run to the sea floor and an autonomous submarine, to measure internal weaves around the South China Sea. The researchers followed and measured these waves from their origin, until they dissipated, and in doing so have recorded the “largest waves documented in the global oceans.”

Animals, Chemistry, News

Spiders weave graphene-infused silk: the strongest of both worlds

spider silk

Graphene – the one atom thick sheet of carbon arranged in a hexagon lattice – is the strongest material known to man, and spider silk is one of the strongest found in nature, second only to limpet teeth. Heck, why not combine the two? Sounds silly, but it surprisingly worked when Nicola Pugno of the University of Trento, Italy sprayed spiders with both graphene particles and carbon nanotubes. The spiders weaved silk infused with the materials, and in some cases the silk was 3.5 times stronger than its natural counterpart. The resulting fiber is tougher than “synthetic polymeric high performance fibers (e.g. Kevlar49) and even the current toughest knotted fibers,” according to the paper published in Materials Science, which obviously entails a lot of real-life applications, industrial or otherwise.

Animals, Art, Feature Post

Double Exposure Portraits Show Beautiful Animals and Their Habitats

double-exposure-animal-portraits-by-andreas-lie-41

Norwegian artist Andreas Lie [shop here] blends animal imagery with landscape photography to create amazing series of double exposure animal portraits. His images highlight the animals superimposed on their habitats, in a photographic effect called double exposure. Here are more of his images:    

Animals, News

Dozens of endangered cockatoos trafficked in small plastic bottles

Cuckatoos are being smuggled in plastic water bottles. Image via CNN.

At least 21 cockatoos have been discovered and saved from illegal trafficking; they were recovered at an Indonesian port during an anti-smuggling operation, crammed in 1500 ml bottles. Unfortunately, seven of them didn’t survive.

Animals, News

The tooth-lined ‘penis worm’ now gets a dentist’s handbook

Above image: Two individuals of Harrimania planktophilus, a modern enteropneust (harrimaniid) worm. Photo: C.B. Cameron, Université de Montréal.

One of the perks of being a writer for ZME Science is that I frequently get to feature some really amazing, yet bizarre creatures. Take for instance Ottoia prolifica (priapulid) or the penis-worm as it’s also known, for obvious reasons. This phallic creature actually had a throat full of teeth which it used to munch its meaty prey, and the weirdness doesn’t stop here. It could its mouth inside-out and use those teeth for traction so it could easily move about. Talk about double standards. Now, a team has systematically studied these ancient Cambrian fossils (520 million years old) to compile a dentistry handbook to distinguish between other penis worm species. This proved to be wise, since in their compiling work the researchers at University of Cambridge have already reported what they believe to be new Ottoia species.