Animals, Science, World Problems

Inevitable Invasion? The Coming of the Jellyfish

Japanese Fishing Net (Credit: Shin-ichi Uye, Hiroshima University)

Healthy wildlife populations aren’t always good news. Sweden’s largest nuclear power plant had to be shut down for three weeks in September after a mass of jellyfish clogged its cooling water inlet. A swarm of baby jellyfish essentially destroyed Northern Ireland’s farmed-salmon population in 2008 through stings and oxygen deprivation. A Japanese trawler capsized in 2009 trying to pull its fishing net from the water. The net was full of jellies. Global jellyfish populations are surging and marine scientists are sounding alarms – some of them dire. Biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin, author of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, states that jellyfish could displace Antarctic penguins, devastate…

Animals, Biology, Research

Reading a dog’s mood by studying its tail wag

dog_tail_wag

Any dog lover will tell you if you see a dog wagging its tail it’s a sign that the dog is happy. Apparently, there are subtle signals given off by variations in tail wagging and these are used to communicate with other dogs what their stance is. Researchers at University of Trento, Italy found that happy dogs wag their tails more to the right (from the dog’s point of view), while nervous dogs more to the left. Findings also show that dogs recognize and respond to these distinct patterns. Though structurally symmetric, the brain is asymmetrical in function  hence the right and left hemisphere of brain each with distinct functions (i.e. the…

Biology, Environment, Research

Hidden mathematical rules that govern leaf design uncovered

Transverse cross-section of a very thin sunflower leaf (Helianthus annuus) to a thick tea leaf (Camellia sasquana). Along with total leaf thickness and leaf area, the leaves differ dramatically in cell size and in the thickness of cell walls according to specific mathematical equations newly discovered by the UCLA research team. Credit: Lawren Sack, Grace John, Christine Scoffoni/UCLA Life Sciences

After performing an exhaustive quantitative research across numerous plant species, scientists at  UCLA’s College of Letters and Science  have found that leaf design is governed by a set of fundamental mathematical expressions, underling once again the elegance of nature. The basis of their research was  “allometric analysis”, that is to say the study of an object’s evolution in size by studying its constituting parts and how they vary in proportionality. While it is easy to observe major differences in leaf surface area among species, they said, differences in leaf thickness are less obvious but equally important. Leaf thickness is actually where the researchers struck gold. “Once you start rubbing leaves between your fingers, you can feel that…

Animals, Discoveries, Science

Saber-tooth-like cats ambushed and killed their own kind

Illustration of a cougar-like nimravid. (c) thorthebarbarian.com

Looking close at suspicious marks and cuts present in the skulls of saber-tooth like cats which roamed North America millions of years ago, paleontologist Clint Boyd of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology found what he believes are clear signs that the animals used to ambush and kill their own kind. Fierce predators native to North American that lived some 32-34 million years ago, Nimravids are a group of extinct saber-toothed felids also known as false saber-tooths. In 1936 a peculiar skull belonging to such a cat exhibited bite marks made by the same animal’s long canine teeth. Not too much attention was given to the fact, but in…

Green Living, Physics

Forget incandescent light bulbs, make way for quantum dot LEDs

The quantum dot device structure shown with a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of a cross-section of a real device.

Capable of illuminating in a wide array of pure colours and operating at high efficiency, quantum dot LEDs are set to become the future’s foremost illuminating medium. However, at this time, these fantastic quantum dot light emitting diodes are limited by a physical effect which triggers after a certain photon barrier is crossed, becoming highly inefficient there after. This has made them commercially nonviable, however recent work by the Nanotechnology and Advanced Spectroscopy team at Los Alamos National Laboratory could provide a working solution that might usher in a new age of lighting. Quantum dots are nano-sized semiconductor particles whose emission color can be tuned by simply changing their dimensions. They feature…

Animals, Geology

Dino impact also wiped bees

bees

A group of paleontologists believe that the same event that killed off the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago also caused a widespread extinction in bee populations. Currently, the widely accepted theory is that an asteroid or comet struck our planet 66 million years ago (the Cretaceous-Paleogene event, or K-Pg event), the impact and its effects basically wiping out dinosaur populations. This extinction however was selective – in that it affected some groups much more than it affected others. The main problem when studying bees is that they leave behind a smaller fossil record than dinosaurs, and therefore it’s very hard to trace patterns. The paleontologists used molecular phylogenetic analyses…

Environment, Green Living

Why you should build an eco-friendly garage

Green Garage Can Be Done

More and more people are becoming aware of the harmful effect that human activity is having on the environment, and are attempting to reduce the impact by making alterations to their lifestyle and homes. The concept of energy saving ‘eco garages’ is also becoming increasingly popular, not only do they conserve energy but also save money. You can build large concrete garages that will shelter your pride and joy cars but also get on the green band wagon. Concrete Can Be Cheap and Eco Some may already have concrete garages, which is a great start. Concrete is an incredibly cheap and sustainable material. Pervious concrete allows water to drain back…

Animals, Science, Technology

Dolphin-inspired radar system could aid in rescue operations

dolphin_radar

Miners trapped inside a mine following a collapsing tunnel or skiers covered in deadly snow after an avalanche might be found and rescued in the future by search teams using an improved form of radar device inspired by dolphin echolocation. The resulting radar can track things more accuracy and at a greater speed than conventional radar. Timothy Leighton of the University of Southampton’s engineering faculty grew curious as to how dolphins are able to see through the thick cloud of bubbles they blow to herd their prey into smaller groups for feeding.  “I was thinking to myself that dolphins should not be able to see fish with their sonar in these bubble clouds unless…

Animals, Biology, Research

Insect homosexuality just a case of mistaken identity

insect_homosexuality

Some of you might find it surprising to hear that a lot of animals engage in homosexual behavior.  Close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, have been observed engaging in such behavior and this is well documented for 500 of them. No one comes close to insects and spiders, though, which have a significantly larger homosexual/hetero ratio out of all animals. Biologists and animal behaviorists have attempted to explain this proposing various theories, but lack of evidence has failed to substantiate any of these. A recent study found insect homosexuality, though still the result of an adaptive trait, can be explained and supported though a very simple…

Environment

BioRemediation in Manila, Philippines

bioremediation2

I’ve received lots of questions about this picture which we posted on our Facebook a few days ago (we sometimes post things only there, so be sure to follow us for the full ZME experience). The picture describes the ‘Before and after’ stages of bioremediation in Manila, the capital of Philippines; in this article, I’ll try to run you through the ABC of bioremediation. What is bioremediation? To “remediate” is to fix (or at least improve) a problem – and therefore, to bioremediate is to fix a problem (usually environmental) through biological organisms. Typically, the problem is contaminated soil or water (including groundwater), and the solution usually involves microorganisms (microremediation),…