Japan Starts Selling World’s First Genome-Edited Tomato

Sicilian Rouge High GABA is a special type of tomato designed to contain high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to aid relaxation and help lower blood pressure.

Tokyo-based startup Sanatech Seed Co. teamed up with scientists at the University of Tsukuba to develop a new variety of tomatoes using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Named Sicilian Rouge High GABA, this new type of tomato contains five to six times the normal level of a type of amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. According to Japanese media, the company removed an inhibitory domain within the tomato’s genome to enable it to produce these high levels of GABA.

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Scientists Baffled by Man Who Can Change His Pupil Size on Command

A 23-year-old student in Germany can reportedly shrink and enlarge his pupils on command, a feat previously thought to be physically impossible.

The dilation and constriction of the pupil were believed to be completely automated processes triggered by various factors, like entering a bright or dark environment, but a recent case study suggests that isn’t always the case. A young student in Germany is believed to be able to voluntarily control the tiny muscles that adjust the size of the pupil, a feat once thought to be impossible. The authors point out that while some people can alter their pupil size via “indirect methods”, this person is instead able to directly control the sphincter muscle in his eyes to adjust the size of his pupils.

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Genetically-Modified Plants Glow When They Are Stressed

A team of researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has managed to genetically modify potato plants to glow under fluorescent cameras when stressed by various factors.

One of the biggest challenges of modern agriculture is reacting to stress factors before it’s too late. Plants don’t really have a way of conveying how they feel, and, more often than not, by the time visible symptoms appear, it’s already too late to do anything about it. But scientists are hoping to fix this big problem with the help of advanced genetic manipulation. A team of Israeli researchers led by Dr. Shilo Rosenwaser managed to genetically modify a potato plant so that it glows under fluorescent camera when affected by physical stress (lack of water, cold weather, lack of sunlight, strong light etc.).

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This Flower Smells Like Dead Insects to Attract Specific Pollinators

A one-of-a-kind flower endemic to Greece is believed to emit a scent similar to that of decomposing insects in order to attract one of its main pollinators, the coffin fly.

Flowers are usually associated with sweet, pleasant smells, but truth is that not all flowers smell nice. In fact, some smell like some of the grossest thing in the world, and that’s by design, because their pollinators are actually attracted to these disgusting scents. Take Aristolochia microstoma, a small flower endemic to Greece, which deceives its main pollinator, the coffin fly, by emitting a highly unusual mix of scents that includes a compound found in dead beetles. As their name suggests, coffin flies are attracted to carrion, to the scent lures them into the flower where they are trapped long enough to deposit any pollen they carry onto the female organs.

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Scientists Now Know Why These French Rabbits Do Handstands When Moving Fast

For over a century, animal experts have known that a certain variety of rabbits move exclusively on their front legs when trying to move fast, but they’ve only recently learned why that is.

The Sauteur d’Alfort, also known as the Alfort jumping rabbit have baffled scientists for more than a decade. Unlike other rabbit varieties, the sauteur d-Alfort have a uniquely acrobatic way of moving. Over short distances, when moving slowly, they walk on all four limbs, but their hind legs hit the floor one after another, rather than at the same time. But the truly remarkable thing happens when it needs to move faster. Rather than hopping, it quickly lifts its hind legs above its head and starts moving on its front legs alone. Experiments done decades ago showed that the sauteur was incapable of hopping, but thanks to modern technology, scientists know exactly why that is.

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This Rare Bird Could Go Extinct Because It Has Forgotten Its Mating Song

The regent honeyeater is already one of the world’s rarest birds, but experts are worried that it could soon go extinct, because they have forgotten how to sing.

Flocks of hundreds of regent honeyeaters could once be spotted all over south-eastern Australia on a regular basis, but today the species is critically endangered, with only 300 specimens believed to exist in the entire world. They were also known for the complexity of their mating songs, but as their numbers started dwindling, ornithologists started noticing this complexity diminishing, to the point where male regent honeyeaters didn’t even sound like their species anymore. Today, there is ample evidence that regent honeyeaters have forgotten how to sing, which could render the entire species extinct.

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This Shiny Sphere Is the World’s Roundest Object

Made out of a single, very expensive, crystal of silicon-28 atoms, and extensively analyzed for imperfections by both humans and computers, this “nearly perfect” sphere is the world’s roundest object.

The surface of the world’s roundest object is so smooth that if you were to blow it up to the size of our planet, the difference between the highest peak and the lowest valley would be between 3m and 4.5m (10 and 15 feet). It used to be around 15m back when scientists started making these amazing spheres, but technology has gotten better at smoothing out even the tiniest wrinkles. However, creating such a wonder isn’t cheap. The silicone crystal alone costs around $1 million, while the sphere itself, although often described as priceless, costs around $3.5 million.

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There’s Stench, And Then There Is Thioacetone, the World’s Stinkiest Chemical

You’ve probably experienced foul smells before, but as bad as you remember them stinking, scientists say it’s nothing compared to the stench of thioacetone, the world’s smelliest chemical compound.

Trash left in the can too long on a summer day, sewage, or the smell of public toilets uncleaned for multiple days, we can all agree that they stink, but their stench is not classified as dangerous to human life. However the foul aroma of the rare chemical known as thioacetone, is. This simple molecule is somewhat tricky to produce, as at temperatures above -20°C it will clump together to form a solid called trithioacetone, but on the rare occasions that humanity did create it, thioacetone managed to make its presence felt, quite literally.

The most famous story about the stench of thioacetone dates back to1889, when workers at a factory in the German city of Freiberg attempted to produce the simple yet potent chemical, and accidentally created panic among the city’s residents. Their success led to “an offensive smell spreading rapidly over a great area of the town, causing fainting, vomiting and a panic evacuation”.

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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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Earth’s Heartbeat – The Mysterious Sound Generated Every 26 Seconds

Ever since the 1960s, seismologists on multiple continents have detected a mysterious pulse generated like clockwork, every 26 seconds. But in the last 60 years no one has been able to figure out what this sound actually is.

The “heartbeat of the Earth” was first documented in 1962, by John Oliver, a researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, Columbia University. He figured out that it was coming from somewhere in the southern or equatorial Atlantic Ocean, and that it was more intense during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months. Then, in 1980, Gary Holcomb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, also discovered the mysterious pulse, noting that it was stronger during storms. But for some reason, the two researchers’ discoveries remained virtually unknown for over two decades, until a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, once again detected the “heartbeat” and decided to look into it.

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Engineers Develop “White Cooling Paint” That Could Reduce Use of Air Conditioning

The idea that a simple paint could could compete with modern air-conditioning sounds crazy, but researchers at Purdue University say it could become a reality thanks to a cool new “radiative cooling paint” they developed.

Engineers at Purdue University recently unveiled a revolutionary white paint that they claim can keep surfaces up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius) cooler than their ambient temperature, by absorbing almost no solar energy and actually sending heat away from the surface it is covering. Think of it as a way of turning basically any space into a refrigerator, only without the energy cost.

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Wall of Wind – World’s Most Powerful Fan System Can Reproduce a Category 5 Hurricane

The Wall of Wind is the world’s largest wind simulator, an impressive contraption capable of generating winds of up to 157 miles per hour (70m/s), comparable to those registered during category 5 hurricanes.

In order to better protect against the devastating force of hurricanes, you first have to study them and test various materials against the powerful winds they generate. With this idea in mind, engineers at the International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) and College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) at Florida State University spent 15 years building and perfecting the Wall of Wind, an impressive installation capable of replicating hurricane-force winds.

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This Beetle Can Survive Being Run Over by a Car

The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle is one of the most resilient beings on the planet. Its protective shell can withstand forces that would pulverize most other living things.

In 2015, when entomologists told Jesus Rivera that a beetle found primarily on the west coast of North America had this “superpower” that allowed it to survive being run over by a car, he didn’t believe them. So he staged a rudimentary experiment, laying this nondescript black beetle on a a pillow of dirt in a parking lot and had a friend run it over with a Toyota Camry, twice. The bug played dead afterwards, but as he was poking it, Rivera realized it was very much alive. The bug scientists were right, this beetle could easily survive being run over by cars. Jesus ended up spending his doctoral career studying the beetle’s superpower to find out what made it so strong.

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Cow Dung Chip Reduces Cellphone Radiation, Indian Government Official Claims

Vallabhbhai Kathiria, the chairman of a federal body on animal husbandry in India, recently sparked controversy among his countrymen by promoting cow dung ‘chips’ that can allegedly reduce mobile phone radiation and shield users from disease.

Named ‘Gausatva Kavach’, the cow dung chip is said to be manufactured by Rajkot-based Shrijee Gaushala (cow shelter) as part of an initiative to promote cow dung products. The aim is to have 500 gaushalas produce the anti-radiation dung chips, which cost between Rs. 50 ($0.70) and Rs. 100 ($1.40). Through Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayoghe (RKA), the federal body on animal husbandry, the Indian Government wants to popularize cow dung chips in India, but also sell its products abroad, including in the United States.

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Researchers Find Extremely Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Bird Specimen

Researchers at the Powdermill Nature Reserve in Pennsylvania recently came across a “once in a lifetime discovery” – a half-male, half-female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Annie Lindsay and her colleagues at Powdermill Nature Reserve were catching and banding birds with identification tags on September 24, when a fellow researcher called her over via walkie-talkie to supposedly see something extraordinary. The moment she saw her colleague’s find, Annie knew what she was looking at, an extremely rare half-male, half-female creature known as a gynandromorph. The rose-breasted grosbeak exhibited male-characteristic plumage on one half of its body, and female coloration on the other.

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