Plant Evolves to Become Less Visible to Humans in Areas With Excessive Harvesting

Fritillaria delavayi, a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, has apparently evolved to match its background and become more difficult to spot as a direct consequence of heavy harvesting.

Scientists had known that many plants evolved to use camouflage as a way of hiding from herbivores that may eat them, but a recent study suggests that one particular plant species has developed the same mechanism to hide from human harvesters. Researchers found that fritillaria delavayi plants, which grow on the rocky slopes of China’s Hengduan mountains, match their backgrounds most closely in areas where they are intensely harvested by humans.

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Snake Named After Knife Slices Into Victims to Feed on Their Innards

Small-banded kukri snakes, named after the curved Kukri knives used by Nepalese Gurkha soldiers, apparently use their sharp teeth to slice into certain victims and then proceed to eat them from the inside.

Scientists already knew that kukri snakes used their curved teeth to tear into eggs, but a recent study revealed that they sometimes used their knife-shaped fangs to slice the abdomens of poisonous toads, before sticking their heads in side them and feeding on their intestines. According to the research published in the Herpetezoa online journal, the victims are basically eaten alive from the inside, which the authors themselves found to be a macabre feeding strategy.

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Scientist Lets Thousands of Mosquitoes Bite His Arm in the Name of Science

An entomologist from the University of Melbourne lets thousands of mosquitoes bite his arm regularly in order to keep them fed for research on eradicating Dengue fever.

Dr Perran Stott-Ross has been involved in mosquito research at the University of Melbourne for many years now, trying to find effective ways of curbing the spread of the Dengue virus, passes between humans via mosquitoes. One of the most promising strategies has been infecting swarms of mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacteria that naturally blocks the transmission of dengue fever and is passed on over generations of mosquitoes. But in order to further this research, Dr. Stott-Ross has to monitor thousands of blood-sucking bugs, and as part of that monitoring he offers his own arm as an all-you-can-eat buffet…

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The Curious Case of a Man Who Cannot See Simple Digits From 2 to 9

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University recently reported the strange case of a man’s whose rare degenerative brain disease left him unable to distinguish basic numbers from 2 to 9.

After studying an engineering geologist diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease called corticobasal syndrome for eight years, researchers published a study which they claim suggests that a brain response to a picture or a word does not necessarily mean that person is aware of it. The protagonist of their research had suffered neurological damage to such an extent that he could not distinguish or reproduce numbers between 2 and 9, nor pictures or words with such digits embedded in them. And yet, electroencephalography (EEG) results showed that his brain was able to properly identify all pictures and words, even id he wasn’t aware of it.

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Concerning Number of Americans Drinking and Gurgling Bleach to Prevent Covid-19

The results of a recently-published survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that 39 percent of Americans are using bleach and other high-risk cleaners in improper ways in order to prevent getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

After noticing an unusual spike in calls to poison control center about harmful exposures to household cleaning agents like bleach back in April, CDC researchers assumed the phenomenon was linked to the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection. But in order to get a clearer picture of the situation, the agency conducted an online survey regarding household cleaning knowledge and practices, and got some pretty unexpected results. It turns out some people intentionally gurgle bleach or inhale disinfectant fumes in order to prevent Covid-19.

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London Lab Offers People $4,500 to Get Voluntarily Infected with Coronavirus

As part of a global effort to find a vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies are offering thousands of dollars to people willing to voluntarily get infected with a form of the virus and spend two weeks in isolation.

Being the first to come up with an effective vaccine for Covid-19 would undoubtedly prove very profitable for any pharmaceutical company, and many are spending big money to increase their chances of success. For example, several companies as well as public sector organizations have reportedly begun offering volunteers up to $4,500 to get infected with a form of the highly-contagious coronavirus to aid the search for a vaccine. It’s a tempting offer, especially for young, healthy and cash-strapped individuals, but there is a catch – they will be banned from contact with the outside world for at least two weeks.

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French Researchers Build Creepy Phone Case That Mimics Human Skin

A team of French and English researchers recently showcased a prototype phone case called Skin-On, which not only mimics the look and feel of human skin, but also enables interaction communication through gestures like pinching or tickling.

Developed by researchers at the University of Bristol in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University, Skin-On consists of a layer of stretchable copper wire in between two different forms of silicone layers. The materials are mass-produced, and the creators of Skin-On claim that the cost of a commercial version of the case would be around $6.5. While anyone could build it, project leader Marc Teyssier admitted that finding the right balance to create what is essentially artificial skin was challenging, considering the case was also supposed to detect touch. But why bother making a smartphone case that everyone generally agrees is “decidedly creepy”. Dr Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction, explains:

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Cockroach Milk Could One Day Become the Ultimate Superfood

Consuming a fluid secreted by cockroaches may not be everyone’s idea of a balanced meal, but scientists believe that the “cockroach milk” produced by a certain species of cockroaches is one of the most nutritious substances on the planet, and could one day become the ultimate superfood.

Unlike most other insects, the Pacific beetle cockroach is viviparous, meaning the female give birth live babies that have developed within their body, instead of laying eggs. But a few years ago, while studying these fascinating insects, scientists discovered something even more remarkable – as the embryos grow inside the female cockroach’s body, she feeds them a pale, yellow liquid “milk” from her brood sack. Research has shown that this “cockroach milk” has three times the energy content of buffalo milk, making it one of the most nutritious substances on Earth.

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Scientists Develop Eye-Drops That Could Repair Eye Damage, Make Glasses Unnecessary

Scientists at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, in Tel Aviv, Israel, claim to have created some truly revolutionary eye-drops that can heal damaged corneas and improve vision.

Described as “a new concept for correcting refractory problems”, the nanodrops developed by ophthalmologist  Dr. David Smadja and a team of scientists from Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University have so far been tested on pigs with damaged corneas. During a recent presentation, Smadja said that the eye-drops repaired the pigs’ corneas, producing improvements in both short-sightedness and long-sightedness.

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Australia’s “Firehawks” Deliberately Start Wildfires to Flush Out Prey

According to a research paper published recently in the Journal of Ethnobiology, several Australian birds of prey have the habit of starting wildfires for the soul purpose of flushing out prey from the blazing grasslands. Interestingly, aboriginals have known about this for over 40,000 years and even have a name for the fire-wielding birds – “firehawks”.

Australia’s dry climate makes it prone to wildfires. Lightnings and human activities are considered the main causes, but according to a recently-published research paper, birds may sometimes have a part to play as well. Raptors like the black kite (Milvus migrans), whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and the brown falcon (Falco berigora) can allegedly start fires in the continent’s 730,000 square miles of savanna by dropping burning sticks in the dry grass to flush out prey like insects, reptiles and small mammals. What’s even more remarkable is that they seem to be doing it on purpose.

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MIT Scientists Develop Method to Make Plants Glow in the Dark

MIT researchers have made an important breakthrough in their quest to make plants that glow in the dark a reality. In what they call Plant Nanobionics, the engineers embedded nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant that caused the plants to give off a dim glow for three and a half hours.

Their next goal is to create plants bright enough to illuminate a workspace, but, if successful, the technology could also be used to transform trees into self-powered streetlights, the scientists claim. The team’s ultimate goal is to engineer plants to replace many of the functions currently performed by electrical devices and appliances.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” said Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of a recently released study on plant nanobionics.

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New Cancer Drugs Turn Patients’ Gray Hair Dark Again

Cancer therapy is known to cause patients’ hair to fall off, but a few new cancer drugs apparently have a completely different side effect – they restore pigment in older people’s gray hair.

Spanish researchers testing three new cancer drugs – Keytruda, Opdivo and Tecentriq – for negative side-effects in cancer patients made a very surprising discovery. After using the drugs, 14 of the 52 patients involved in the study saw their gray hair go brown or black again. The findings were recently reported in a paper published in the JAMA medical journal.

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Man Has Spent the Last 40 Years Living Alone in Colorado Ghost Town Recording All Kinds of Useful Data

For the past four decades, billy barr – he insists his name be written with lower case letters only – has been living by himself in Gothic, Colorado, a ghost town deserted since the 1920s, passing the time by recording all sorts of data, from daily snowfalls, temperatures, snow melting, animal sightings, etc.. He never imagined that the results of his 40-year hobby would one day help scientists better understand global warming and earn him a cool superhero name – The Snow Guardian.

billy bar first came to Gothic in 1972 as a Rutgers University environmental science student doing water chemistry research. He liked the quiet life here so much that he completed his semester to get his degree and became a permanent resident of the mountainous ghost town. He had grown up in New Jersey, but never really liked being surrounded by so many people, so moving to this secluded ghost town was a chance to get away from social pressure. “I grew up in the city. It was too much for me,” he says.

barr began the winter of 1974 camping in a tent, which is not exactly ideal in a place where snow reaches twenty-five feet a year. Luckily, the owner of an abandoned mining shack was kind enough to let billy move in, to keep him from freezing to death. It became his home for the next eight years, and also the place where he started his impressive database on snow. The modern-day hermit claims that the sole goal behind his epic journal was to fight boredom. There’s not a lot to do in a ghost town in winter time, so he just started monitoring things like daily snowfalls, snow density, temperature, and anything else he could measure. “I didn’t have anything else to do. It was simple curiosity,” billy says.

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Scientists Draw Eyes on the Butts of Cows to Protect Them from Lions

It might sound like a silly idea, but it turns out that drawing eyes on the rumps of cattle might deter lions from attacking and prevent human retaliation against the mighty predators.

It sounds like a strategy to protect the poor cattle, but the idea is actually to protect endangered African lions from human retaliation. The majestic felines are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with numbers currently in the range of 23,000 to 39,000 and rapidly declining. “As protected conservation areas become smaller, lions are increasingly coming into contact with human populations, which are expanding to the boundaries of these protected areas,” says Dr Neil Jordan, a conservation biologist from UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science. The lions attack livestock, and with no non-lethal way of protecting their livelihood farmers often shoot or poison the predators in retaliation.

To help humans and their cattle coexist with lions, Jordan has come up with a low-cost strategy that he hopes will prevent attacks and retaliatory violence. The idea behind painting a pair of intimidating eyes on the rumps of cows is that they will trick the lions into thinking they’ve been spotted, causing them to abandon the hunt. Scientists know that being seen can deter some species from attacking their prey. For example, Indian woodcutters have long been wearing worn masks on the back of their heads to trick man-eating tigers that they’ve been spotted, and butterflies with eye-patterns on their wings ward off predatory birds.

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Scientist Creates Possible Cure to All Viruses, Needs It to Go Viral

When MIT-trained engineer Todd Rider revealed his revolutionary idea for killing virtually any virus, everyone from fellow scientists to The White House praised him for his results, with some going as far as to call his discovery the most important medical breakthrough since antibiotics. Yet four years later, Rider is struggling to find funds for his research and has to turn to online crowdfunding for something that could save the lives of millions.

The story of Todd Rider’s quest to rid the world of viruses began over 15 years ago, when, while in the shower, he came up with a radical idea in his head – what if there was some way to kill viruses by flipping their biologic suicide switches leaving the patient healthy and infection free? For the next decade, he and his colleagues worked on the concept of Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics, which proposed a whole new approach to tackling viruses. Instead of containing and preventing viral infections, their method actually killed virus-infected cells, without harming normal cells.

In early tests, this new weapon dubbed Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO), eliminated 15 pathogens, from the common cold to H1N1 influenza to hemorrhagic fevers like the dengue virus. It proved effective across 11 human cell types, including heart, kidneys and liver, and mice infected with lethal doses of influenza virus were cured with DRACO treatments.

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