Stories tagged hi

Unlike US air travelers, sequestration doesn't seem to be causing any problems for buzzing honey bees. Check out this cool Bee in ultra slow motion video from Joris Schaap on Vimeo.The ultra slow-motion clip came to my attention via EarhSky.org. Here's what the site had to say about it:

Scientists say that the secret of honeybee flight is a combination of short, choppy wing strokes, a rapid rotation of the wing as it flops over and reverses direction, and a very fast wing-beat frequency. Wing-beat frequency normally increases as body size decreases, but as the bee’s wing beat covers such a small arc, it flaps approximately 230 times per second, faster than a fruitfly (200 times per second) which is 80 times smaller.

The video was shot at 3000 frames per second (!) and is part of something called Flightartist Project, which you can take part in if you're so inclined. Check out the project site for further information (you'll need to speak Dutch or somehow translate it).

Just in time for Super Bowl week, Sports Illustrated shares some pretty wild news about top-line pro and college football players using some dubious products with hopes of helping their on-field performance. Care to spritz a little deer antler mist under your tongue anyone? You can read the full report here. Check out the video in the story, as an SI reporter tests out the validity of stickers that supposedly deflect energy-draining cellphone waves from the football players who wear them.

Feb
18
2009

Oh, that?: It's just a regular centipede. But it keeps giving your trachea hungry-eyes.
Oh, that?: It's just a regular centipede. But it keeps giving your trachea hungry-eyes.Courtesy sankax
Can you believe that?

The plural of “trachea” has an “s” at the end? What. Ever.

Oh, also, some scientists think that a good place to start looking for alien life is here on Earth.

“Alien,” in this context means “different” more than it means “from another planet.” But it might also mean “from another planet.”

Does this organization makes sense to y’all? Ahh, ok, let’s go back to the beginning.

See, like, about 3.8 billion years ago the planet was a really hot, smelly, wet place. You would have hated it. Nonetheless, some self-replicating molecules ended up evolving themselves into simple little cells. The cells probably hated it there too, but lacked the capacity to do anything about it, other than continue evolving. So they did that, and evolved into more complex cells that could deal with the environment a little better. And those things evolved into multi-cellular organisms, and those things evolved… and so forth, and so forth, until the planet had scorpions, and kelp, and people, and electric eels, and streptococcus, and a bunch of other stuff. Ta-da! And we thought that if there’s anything else alive and different in the universe, it must be on a different planet somewhere, because we’ve got tabs on pretty much everything here.

Not so, says physicist Paul Davies, not so.

If life could evolve independently under very different conditions from ours on another planet… why couldn’t it evolve independently under very different conditions here on Earth? There are areas of Earth that are extremely inhospitable to “life as we know it,” but could have hosted the evolution of a different kind of life, a “second genesis.”

Davies presents the example of lakes that have extremely high levels of arsenic. There are organisms that live in those lakes, and use the arsenic for energy, but they don’t incorporate it into themselves. It’s not inconceivable, however, that a different form of life could exist there—something that uses arsenic in the same way life (as we know it) uses phosphorus.

It’s possible that “alien” life could exist in the very same environment as us, but we have never noticed it because we don’t even know what to look for. As Davies puts it, “All our microscopes are customized for life as we know it —so it's no surprise that we haven't found microbes with different biochemistry.”

Is your mind blown? Or are you still reeling from “tracheas”?

If, then, there is a different kind of life here on Earth that we could eventually observe, the question becomes, “Where did it come from?” Rocks occasionally get knocked off Mars to fall on Earth—some microscopic life could have hitched a ride. Or did it evolve here on Earth? And, if so, would it be related at all to the rest of life? Or did it evolve completely independently from us (everything else)? Ooooh, it makes you wonder.

Scientists propose a “Mission to Earth” (er… check) to explore for new life. This either has to be a meticulous examination of “the world's most inhospitable environments—deserts, salt lakes, and areas of high pressure, temperature or UV radiation,” or we have to start looking in areas we’ve already studied by painstakingly removing everything we already know about (and only those things), a process that has been used to discover new organisms in sea water.

It’s a pretty cool new way of thinking about the search for alien life (I think the word “paradigm” is hiding around here somewhere). Bummer that it doesn’t involve space ships, but I guess we can deal with that.

Um, also, just so we’re all clear, the part about aliens laying eggs in our trachea is really unlikely. It would sort of defeat the point—that’s more of a “life as we know it” sort of thing to do.

Feb
13
2006

Snowy owl: The snowy owl's white feathers make it less visible to its prey.
Snowy owl: The snowy owl's white feathers make it less visible to its prey.

In the Winter 2006 "Change in the Weather" post, museum biologist Dick Oehlenschlager said that, if you were lucky, you might see a snowy owl or two out near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.

Last weekend, I saw what HAD to be a snowy owl in the wildlife reserve off I-494 near the airport.

Oehlenschlager says that snowy owls are here in larger numbers than usual this winter. Normally, they nest in the Arctic tundra in northern Canada and Alaska, and come south some winters to hunt voles, mice, and other small mammals. Some scientists think their visits to Minnesota are periodic, coinciding with the population lows of Arctic lemmings—a favorite prey.

Pretty cool.