Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

How Can We Feel When Someone Is Staring At Us?

November 14, 2015

You know that feeling you get when you’re being stared at? Out of the corner of your eye, even outside your field of vision, you can just tell someone is checking you out, sizing you up, or trying to make eye contact with you. Sometimes it almost feels like ESP, this ability to detect another person stare, because it often comes at the fringes of our awareness.


But far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted just to detecting where others are looking. This “gaze detection” system is especially sensitive to whether someone’s looking directly at you (for example, whether someone’s staring at you or at the clock just over your shoulder). Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).

This specialized machinery in the brain reveals just how important your gaze is when communicating with others. Where you look conveys how you feel and what your intentions are, what you like and what you don’t like, and directs attention to meaningful things in the environment. Further, making direct eye contact is the most frequent and perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we exchange with others; it’s central to intimacy, intimidation, and social influence. Learn more here.

A big step towards designer humans

October 25, 2015

Gattaca is a movie that presents a vision of a future society where children are conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the very best characteristics of their parents.

Recently scientists developed a technology called CRISPR-Cas9 that allows DNA strands to be edited.

CRISPR allows scientists to edit genomes with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility. The past few years have seen a flurry of “firsts” with CRISPR, from creating monkeys with targeted mutations to preventing HIV infection in human cells.

The following clips give a glimpse into the technology we may use in a future where we, for better or worse, begin to engineer ourselves …

Learn more here or here.

Don’t sleep and you’ll catch a cold

September 2, 2015

Mums and sleep researchers alike have stressed the importance of solid shuteye for years, especially when it comes to fighting off the common cold. Their stance is a sensible one—skimping on sleep weakens the body’s natural defense system, leaving it more vulnerable to viruses. But the connection relied largely on self-reported, subjective surveys—until now. For the first time, a team of scientists reports that they have locked down the link experimentally, showing that sleep-deprived individuals are more than four times more likely to catch a cold than those who are well-rested.

Sleep boosts immunity

Learn more here.

This is NOT a snake

June 23, 2015

Imagine that you’re a hungry predator foraging through the forest, hot on the trail of a juicy insect for your next meal. Deep in the forest, you pull back a leaf, and this creature starts wagging violently at you, sending you running for the hills:

Dynastor-darius pupa

The joke’s on you, because this frightening creature is most definitely NOT a snake. It’s actually a pupa (not a caterpillar, not yet a butterfly), ensconced in its chrysalis as it undergoes its remarkable transformation.

Dynastor darius is obviously a master of disguise, but it has more tricks up its sleeve besides its scary exterior … the pupa is still aware of the world outside of its chrysalis, and can shake from side to side (like a moving snake) to fend off the predator that wasn’t sufficiently spooked by its exterior. Learn more here.

Rabbit vs Snake

June 23, 2015

In the tradition of ‘Killer Whale vs Seal‘, ‘Lion vs Buffalo vs Crocodile‘, ‘Shark vs Octopus‘, ’Leopard vs Porcupine‘, ‘Hornets vs Honey bees‘, ’Salmon vs Grizzly Bear‘, ‘Hippopotamus vs Crocodile’, ‘Polar Bear vs Walrus Colony’, ‘Giraffe vs Giraffe‘, ‘Caterpillar vs Frog‘, ‘Frog vs Poison Newt’, ‘Rubber bands vs Water Melon’,  ‘Sarcastic fringehead vs Sarcastic fringehead’, ‘Jaguar vs Crocodile‘, ‘Snake vs Crocodile‘, ‘Centipede vs Snake‘, and ‘Moray Eel vs White Tip Reef Shark‘ here is ‘Rabbit vs Snake:

This mother bunny sees a snake trying to make a meal of her baby bunny, see what happens …

There’s a Fish Hidden in This Video

May 14, 2015

Camouflage is really cool. And this clip is no exception …

Worm Shoots Its Appendage over Man’s Hand

May 5, 2015

This is a marine ribbon worm. The weapon of the ribbon worm, or Nemertea, is a proboscis (elongated appendage) that the worm uses to snag and attach itself to its prey (sometimes with venom!). Basically, that proboscis is like a muscle inside of them that can dart out when the body contracts to attack prey.

Shape-Shifting Frog Discovered

March 29, 2015

Scientists have discovered a frog that changes its skin texture to match its surroundings.

Shape-Shifting Frog

The mutable rain frog can go from smooth (left) to spiny in minutes.

Pristimantis mutabilis, described in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, is believed to be the first amphibian known to have this shape-shifting capability.

The scientists believe the ability to change skin texture to reflect its surroundings may enable Pristimantis mutabilis to help camouflage itself from birds and other predators. Learn more here, here or here.

Moray Eel vs White Tip Reef Shark

March 2, 2015

In the tradition of ‘Killer Whale vs Seal‘, ‘Lion vs Buffalo vs Crocodile‘, ‘Shark vs Octopus‘, ’Leopard vs Porcupine‘, ‘Hornets vs Honey bees‘, ’Salmon vs Grizzly Bear‘, ‘Hippopotamus vs Crocodile’, ‘Polar Bear vs Walrus Colony’, ‘Giraffe vs Giraffe‘, ‘Caterpillar vs Frog‘, ‘Frog vs Poison Newt’, ‘Rubber bands vs Water Melon’,  ‘Sarcastic fringehead vs Sarcastic fringehead’, ‘Jaguar vs Crocodile‘, ‘Snake vs Crocodile‘, and ‘Centipede vs Snake‘ here is ‘Moray Eel vs White Tip Reef Shark’:

DNA may make the ultimate time capsule

February 16, 2015

If you must preserve messages for people in the far future to read, Blu-ray discs and USB sticks are no good. For real long-term storage, you want a DNA time capsule.

DNA time capsule

Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes – enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare. It’s also incredibly durable: DNA has been extracted and sequenced from 700,000-year-old horse bones. But conditions have to be right for it to last.

Research suggests that data in DNA form could last 2000 years if kept at a temperature of around 10 °C. The Global Seed Vault in the Arctic could preserve it for over 2 million years at a chilly -18 °C, offering truly long-term storage. Learn more here.


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