Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

The Incredible Physics of Ants

December 30, 2013

Are ants solid, or a fluid?

To flow, they moved around, rearranging themselves in the group, acting like a thick fluid. When the aggregation struggled to keep its shape, the ants clung to each other, acting like an elastic solid — rubber for example.

Scientists find way to reverse ageing – in mice

December 20, 2013

Imagine if we could turn back time. A team that has identified a new way in which cells age has also reversed the process in old mice whose bodies appear younger in several ways. The discovery has implications for understanding age-related diseases including cancers, neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes.

The research team discovered a key mechanism that keeps the body’s cells communicating. In youth, communication inside individual cells – between the cell’s “battery” known as the mitochondrion and the nucleus – is fast and frequent. But over time, this slows and ageing accelerates.

To improve communication inside cells, researchers gave mice injections containing the naturally occurring compound NMN, which raises the levels of a molecule called NAD. This molecule repairs the cells’ communication network.

The treatment effectively transformed a 60-year-old mouse into a 20-year-old on some measures, including the degree of muscle wastage, insulin resistance and inflammation.

This illustrates that you can turn back your biological age, or at least the scientists think they have found a way to do it. Scientists hope to start human trials next year. Learn more here or here.

How to sequence the human genome

December 13, 2013

Your genome, every human’s genome, consists of a unique DNA sequence of A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s that tell your cells how to operate. Thanks to technological advances, scientists are now able to know the sequence of letters that makes up an individual genome relatively quickly and inexpensively.

“Unclassified” Life Found in Pre-Historic Lake Vostok

November 6, 2013

After 20 years of drilling (20 years! Now that’s dedication!), a team of researchers have reached Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, which has been trapped beneath more than 2 miles of ice for the last 14 million years. And they’ve found something.


A preliminary examination of water samples from the ancient subglacial Lake Vostok near the South Pole indicated that its inhabitants are not to be found anywhere else on Earth, a member of the research team said.

The species of bacteria, whose traces were found in probes of water from Lake Vostok, do not belong to any of the 40-plus known subkingdoms of bacteria! As yet ‘unclassified’ life! Learn more here.

Universal law of urination found in mammals

October 30, 2013

Elephants, cows, goats and dogs all take roughly 21 seconds to empty their bladders. A “law of urination” now explains the physics behind what happens when you just gotta go.

Scientists filmed rats, dogs, goats, cows and elephants urinating and gathered footage from YouTube of others relieving themselves. Combining this with data on mass, bladder pressure and urethra size, they were able to create a mathematical model of urinary systems to show why mammals take the same time to empty their bladder, despite the difference in bladder size.


And very weird scientific research, learn more here if you really want.

Nature is Awesome

October 19, 2013


What’s The Biggest Living Thing On Earth?

October 13, 2013

Dinosaurs! No. Blue whales! No? Pandas? Ha. It really depends on what you consider a thing and what’s not a thing. And what’s actually living and what’s not traditionally considered living but is. And what’s on Earth and what’s inside Earth.

Because if we’re counting any sort of organisms, it could very well be mushrooms and trees that take the world’s biggest title.

The most extraordinary human brain ever seen?

October 7, 2013

Once you know what it is, this apparently innocuous picture of a blob assumes a terrible gravity. It is an adult human brain that is entirely smooth – free of the ridges and folds so characteristic of our species’ most complex organ.

Lissencephaly brain

We can only imagine what life was like for this person. He or she was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility, and died there in 1970, but that’s all we know. While the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records has been lost.

The label on the jar states that the patient had agyria – a lack of gyri and sulci, the ridges and folds formed by the normally wrinkled cerebral cortex. This rare condition, also known as lissencephaly, often leads to death before the age of 10. It can cause muscle spasms, seizures and, as it vastly reduces the surface area of this key part of the brain, a range of learning difficulties. Learn more here.

Whales record major life events in their earwax

October 5, 2013

Wax inside a whale’s ear stores all sorts of useful information on the animal’s exposure to pollutants and stress levels throughout life, researchers have found.

Decimated by historic whaling practices, blue whales number just 5,000–12,000 individuals worldwide, and they are threatened by entanglement in fishing nets, environmental noise and pollution. Scientists have long used whale blubber as a record of the chemicals that these enormous creatures absorb as they traverse the ocean. But analysis of blubber does not indicate when chemical contamination occurred, or how long it lasted.

Whale ear plug

Whale ear plug

Whale earwax is a fat-rich deposit that stores the same chemical data as blubber. But it also records time — similarly to the rings of a tree, the wax is laid down in light and dark bands, with each band correlating roughly to a six-month period. In baleen, or filter-feeding, whales, earwax forms a solid plug that may be tens of centimetres long and remains intact even after its death. Learn more here or here.

Jaguar vs Crocodile

September 29, 2013

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’ and ‘Sarcastic fringehead vs Sarcastic fringehead’, here is Jaguar vs Crocodile:


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