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

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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.

Technology, World Problems

The NSA is gathering so much data, it’s become swamped and ironically ineffective at preventing terrorism

NSA spying

One of the most famous NSA whistleblowers (or the ‘original NSA whistleblower’),  William Binney, said the agency is collecting stupendous amounts of data – so much that it’s actually hampering intelligence operations.

Environment, News, Physics

Pollen may actually influence weather

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Spring – for some people it’s the most beautiful time of the year, when the snows melt, the sun shines brighter and hotter and everything turns green, while for others, it’s hell on Earth. For people with allergies, especially pollen allergies, spring is sneeze season. But as some researchers found, pollen does more than trigger a nasty allergy – it can actually influence the weather.

Climate, Geology, News

Fjords are good at fighting global warming, study finds

Fjords are effective at storing carbon, helping regulate global climate. Image via Wiki Commons.

While fjords are admired worldwide for their unique beauty, a new study has found that these natural ecosystems also act as carbon sinks, playing an important role in regulating our planet’s climate.

Animals, Biology, News

Tiny hairs on bats’ wings act like airflow sensors – is this why they’re such great flyers?

Birds are great flyers, but few can rival the tenacious bat which hunts the tiniest prays: insects. Image: PIXGOOD

Apart from echolocation, bats have another ace up their sleeve that makes them formidable flying animals: tiny hairs that sense airflow and transmit this information to key areas of the brain. Here the info is decoded and used to steer the bats’ flight for pinpoint accuracy. In combination with echolocation, this makes bats awesome hunters even in pitch black darkness.

Animals, Environment, News, Pollution

25,000 Mexican Fisherman Sue BP Over Environmental Disaster

Image via BNet.

Five years after the British Petroleum catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Mexican fishermen have still not received any compensation, so they’ve decided to sue the oil giant.

Animals, News

60% of large herbivores on the verge of extinction, bleak study finds

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The 74 largest terrestrial herbivores are on the verge of extinction, a new worrying study has found. All in all, over half of all large terrestrial herbivores are on the verge of extinction – and we’re to blame.