Sir David Attenborough turns 90

_89632421_89632420

Tributes have been paid to renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who has turned 90.

CBBC wildlife star Steve Backshall said Sir David “completely transformed my view of the wild world”.

Sir David did that for me too, and much more. Growing up, it was Sir David’s journeys across the world and his science narratives that helped to keep that love of learning alive in me. Thanks aren’t enough. Happiest of birthdays to Sir David, and I hope he’s with us all a long time yet.

The BBC has a special page: Celebrating Attenborough at 90.

95 Million Year Old Octopus, Still Awesome!

Esther van Hulsen at work on an octopus drawing using 95 million-year-old ink. Photo by Stian Steinsli

Esther van Hulsen at work on an octopus drawing using 95 million-year-old ink. Photo by Stian Steinsli

Dutch wildlife artist Esther van Hulsen was recently given an assignment unlike her typical drawings of birds and mammals from life—a chance to draw a prehistoric octopus 95 million years after its death. Paleontologist Jørn Hurum supplied Hulsen with ink extracted from a fossil found in Lebanon in 2009, received as a gift from the PalVenn Museum in 2014. After several millennia Hulson was surprised to find that the color had remained so vibrant, preserved all of this time in the cephalopod’s ink sac. “Knowing that this animal has used this ink to survive is absolutely amazing,” said van Hulsen of the prehistoric ink.

More at Colossal Art.

Best Science Image Finalists

Thanks to Opus for the heads up on some amazing photos.  The 20 best science images of the year?

Wiring the human brain Alfred Anwander, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Wiring the human brain
Alfred Anwander, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

 

Black henna allergy Nicola Kelley, Cardiff and Vale University Hospital NHS Trust

Black henna allergy
Nicola Kelley, Cardiff and Vale University Hospital NHS Trust

 

Swallowtail butterfly Daniel Saftner, Macroscopic Solutions

Swallowtail butterfly
Daniel Saftner, Macroscopic Solutions

 

Maize leaves Fernan Federici, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and University of Cambridge

Maize leaves
Fernan Federici, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and University of Cambridge

More stunning images here.

Algae-Based Water Bottle Biodegrades When It’s Empty.

Very cool, this. More people need to work on the plastic problem. It seems as much as I try to eliminate plastic products from my life, I end up surrounded anyway.

Photo credit: Ari Jónsson

Photo credit: Ari Jónsson

Plastic bottles can lay around in landfill sites or the ocean for centuries. While our planet struggles to cope with our ever-increasing appetite for plastic, an Icelandic product design student was inspired to create a little something to address the issue.

Ari Jónsson, from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, has harnessed the properties of red algae to create a biodegradable bottle for drinking water. He unveiled his invention at Reykjavik design festival DesignMarch last month. The bottles are made out of agar powder, which derives from the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae. If this is added to water and allowed to cool, it will eventually set and mould into a jelly-like substance.

The bottle retains its shape when it’s full of fluid but will start to decompose as soon as it’s empty it.

Full Story at IFLSCIENCE!

Bullet go smash

 

Bulletproof technology has certainly come a long way since Marty McFly bluffed his way through that Wild West shootout, as evidenced by this incredible video of a bullet getting a taste of its own medicine courtesy of the next big thing in body armor.

Designed by Afsaneh Rabiei of North Carolina State University, the projectile-smashing material on show consists primarily of a super-strong yet ultra-light composite metal foam (CMF), made of hollow steel spheres – each measuring 2 millimeters in diameter – embedded in a stainless steel matrix. While you’d probably expect a bullet to make mincemeat of such a squishy substance, the foam actually absorbs the kinetic energy of the moving ammunition.

Full Story at IFLSCIENCE!

Fleur du jour

Aquilegia. Click for full size.

© C. Ford

© C. Ford

Columbines have been important in the study of evolution. It was found that Sierra Columbine (A. pubescens) and Crimson Columbine (A. formosa) each have adapted specifically to a pollinator. Bees and hummingbirds are the visitors to A. formosa, while hawkmoths would only visit A. pubescens when given a choice. Such a “pollination syndrome”, being due to flower color and orientation controlled by their genetics, ensures reproductive isolation and can be a cause of speciation.

Aquilegia petals show an enormous range of petal spur length diversity ranging from a centimeter to the 15 cm spurs of Aquilegia longissima. Selection from pollinator shifts is suggested to have driven these changes in nectar spur length. Interestingly, it was shown that this amazing spur length diversity is achieved solely through changing cell shape, not cell number or cell size. This suggests that a simple microscopic change can result in a dramatic evolutionarily relevant morphological change. Source.

Sunday Facepalm

Rice Broocks, author of God's Not Dead.

Rice Broocks, author of God’s Not Dead.

The God’s Not Dead author, Rice Broocks:

MRT: Could you describe your relationship with science?

Broocks: I actually travel with a physicist who speaks with me at universities, and he likes the theology [Broocks has a master’s degree in theology] more and I like  science more. For 20 years I’ve been seeking the evidence because I want to know. If people from science say that science points away from God, you have to explain that. Everybody has a philosophy and a worldview. Everyone has a different interpretation and you shouldn’t be afraid of the explanation of those same facts. I know there are a lot of people that are sincere and might be afraid of science, but the common grounds we all have are the facts of it.

My, my. I read that twice, just to make sure, but there isn’t one damn thing in that paragraph of nothing about his personal relationship with science. I think it might be safe to assume that in Mr. Broock’s world, science means anything I want it to mean. And he travels with a physicist. He makes it sound like the physicist is his pet. I find that very odd, to say the least.

MRT: Your research on both fronts must be quite extensive.

Broocks: I just read all the time. For 30 years my target audience has been university students, so you had to stay caught up. When I go and speak, I encounter “gotcha” questions so you have to stay caught up. I wouldn’t say the first book [“God’s Not Dead”] is scientific, but I want to make the science I use understandable. I’m constantly speaking in a way that is understandable, I’m sort of a middle man for the people who are really, really smart and the people who just don’t know. My quest is always to try and talk to the 15-35-year old who thinks that these ideas have been disproven, and let them know that we believe evidence points toward God, not away from.

What do you know, I read all the time too! It’s not research. It’s reading. Those aren’t the same thing. I’m a bit…gobsmacked over the smug happiness in wallowing in ignorance that is on display. (I know, I shouldn’t be, but I am.)

Oh, and those of you in Italy and Iceland? Beware:

Broocks: I’m going around and doing these events in different countries. I”m going to Italy soon, and I’ll be doing an outreach program in Iceland.

The rest of the mess is here.

Science says…

Superman should be black.

Black superman (Shutterstock)

Black superman (Shutterstock)

Superman derives his powers from the sun, which scientific research suggests he should be black, and not white — as he’s depicted in comic books, TV shows and movies.

The biologist JV Chamary lays out his case for a dark-skinned superhero in a lengthy post at Forbes Science, which he bases on a wide variety of research.

Superman’s biological father, Joe-El, explains in the movie “Man of Steel” that he’s more powerful than humans because his cells have absorbed radiation from Earth’s sun, which is younger and brighter than his home planet Krypton’s — strengthening his muscles, skin and senses.

Other movies demonstrate that Superman is indeed powered by solar radiation, which Chamary argues would be a similar process to photosynthesis.

Full Story Here.

Face Time Works

Teenager Taylor Alesana in a video about Transgender Day Of Remembrance (YouTube)

Teenager Taylor Alesana in a video about Transgender Day Of Remembrance (YouTube)

Transgender people are at 25 times greater risk of abuse, assault and suicide than the general population, the study authors note. And as transgender rights come increasingly into the public eye, advocates fear that this could prompt a backlash against an already marginalized community.

During the south Florida effort, Broockman and Kalla set up an experiment in which 56 canvassers went door-to-door and encouraged active perspective-taking with 501 voters. They were asked to think of a time when they had felt mistreated for being different. The scientists also canvassed a control group of respondents about recycling. The researchers followed up with online surveys at three days, three weeks, six weeks and three months.

The scientists found that those who were asked to do analogic perspective-taking were significantly more likely to exhibit a higher tolerance toward transgender people than those who were in the control group. The effect, the researchers said, represented an even greater attitude change than the shift in American attitudes between 1998 and 2012 toward gays and lesbians.

“They’ve made their entire process enormously transparent,” Paluck said in an interview, “so that’s one reason to trust in the results. They’re part of a growing number of social scientists who have been responding to concerns about psychology, social science and economics and how untransparent their results are.”

Full Story Here. The Advocate has also covered this story. I don’t find this surprising in the least. The governor of South Dakota ended up vetoing their transgender hate legislation after meeting with transgender representatives and allies. I expect most people have a nebulous, fearsome image in their heads which is based on absolute ignorance. Being faced with regular people is probably enough of a shock to get people thinking.

Unfortunately, bigotry is still going like a world on fire, and Kansas, Tennessee, and SC are all jumping on board.

[Read more…]

Cool Stuff Friday

wasp-3

Photo © Mattia Menchetti

When Given Colored Construction Paper, Wasps Build Rainbow Colored Nests.

It’s unnerving to discover a wasp’s nest dangling outside your house, but perhaps it would be a tad less so with the help of biology student Mattia Menchetti who cleverly realized he could give colored construction paper to a colony of European paper wasps. By gradually providing different paper shades, the wasps turned their homes into a functional rainbow of different colors.

peacock-10

© Waldo Nell

The Extraordinary Iridescent Details of Peacock Feathers Captured Under a Microscope.

In this series of photographs featuring the delicate details of peacock feathers, photographer Waldo Nell relied on an Olympus BX 53 microscope to take hundreds of individual shots that were combined to create each image seen here. The process, called photo stacking, blends dozens or even hundreds of photos taken at different focal points and then stitches them together to extend the depth of field. At this level of detail the feathers look more like ornate jewelry, thick braids of iridescent necklaces or bracelets, rather than something that grows organically from the wings of a bird.

By day Nell is a software engineer in Port Moody, BC, Canada, but is fascinated by technology, science, and nature, all of which he merges in his photography practice. You can see more of his work on Flickr.

Sunday Facepalm

Doctor with a syringe (Shutterstock)

Doctor with a syringe (Shutterstock)

This is not remotely amusing, it’s fucking infuriating. As a pain patient myself, I know the lengths people will go to in order to live something resembling a pain-free life. Pain can consume you, it becomes your whole damn landscape, internally and externally. For this…disgrace of a person to be allowed to carry on with this should be a crime, and he should not be allowed to practice in any way.

A man known as “Dr. Mike” in Edmond, Oklahoma is being questioned by the community about the ingredients of what he calls a “Jesus shot.”

The full name of “Dr. Mike” is John Michael Lonergan, and in 2005 he had his license to practice medicine revoked in Ohio after he was convicted of eight felony counts of tax evasion, mail fraud and health care fraud. After he was released from prison, “Dr. Mike” moved to Oklahoma, which granted him a license to practice medicine on a provisional, supervised basis.

According to News 9, “Dr. Mike” has been injecting local residents with something he calls the “Jesus shot,” which allegedly cures all pain for life. At his clinic, he has been charging people $300 per “miracle injection.” […]

Last month, one Oklahoma resident curious about “Dr. Mike” posted about him in a forum devoted to “outing people who falsely claim military service.”

“Nobody knows anything about this guy,” she wrote, “but he claims that he is a Former Special Forces Doctor and him and another Special Forces Doctor developed a serum for the military called Jesus Juice and it has been used in the military for years and it cures any ailment.” […]

The Oklahoma Medical Board terminated its supervisory agreement with “Dr. Mike” in March of last year, News 9 reports, but the terms of that agreement allowed him to continue to practice medicine, unsupervised, for another 12 months.

The rest of the Raw Story article is here.

A later report, from National Pain Report has this to add:

It can’t be substantiated but a Dr. Schrick told reporters that it is a mixture of Kenalog, Vitamin B12 and dexamethasone. Oh, and it had another less exciting name: inflammation protocol.