Archive for August, 2010

Even Monkeys Are Baffled By Flying Squirrels

Monday, August 9th, 2010


Apparently some small monkeys are freaked the freak out by flying squirrels. Researches have noticed that the otherwise even-keeled creatures lose their s@#$ when they see one.

When Japanese giant flying squirrels glided over to a tree in the monkeys’ vicinity, adults and adolescent macaques started hollering at it threateningly, the researchers report. Young macaques screamed and mothers scooped up their infants, while adults and high-ranking males in particular went and physically harassed the offending squirrel.

Onishi said other researchers have observed macaques responding in a similarly aggressive manner to birds that prey on the monkeys, such as the golden eagle and mountain hawk eagle. These raptors glide and swoop much like the flying squirrels.

Even when the monkeys climb a tree to get a better look at these air-borne rodents they still start hootin’ and hollerin’. Can you blame them?

[Live Science]

The World’s Only Immortal Animal

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Marvel at the various life cycle of the fantastical Turritopsis nutricula, a jellyfish that is, for all practical purposes, immortal. This strange creature reaches adulthood, transforms itself back into a child, then lives through it’s life again. Think of it as Groundhog Day with a jellyfish.

While old age can’t kill it, the creature is still susceptible to disease and fatal injuries.  Read more about this fascinating forever-fish here.

Experimental Limb Regeneration That Won’t Turn You Into A Lizard

Friday, August 6th, 2010


Paging Dr. Connors… Dr. Curt Connors

Researchers at the Tufts Center for Regenerative & Developmental Biology at Tufts University are testing whether a replicated amniotic (womb fluid) environment can promote limb regeneration in adult mammals.

Trials in rats have now begun. No word yet if Empire State University has received their grant yet…

[Chemical & Engineering News via Kurzweil]

Shooting A Shark In The Head Whilst Pop Melodies Strum [Video]

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

And on Shark Week no less! In the interest of fair comment the YouTube description says that fatal shot was fired because the injured shark was going to be eaten anyhow, so this was a mercy killing.

Still… OMFG! This completely changes how I think about Jason Mraz

[YouTube via Deadspin]

Are We About To Create A Real-Life Captain America?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010


The FDA has given a biotech tech firm the A-OK to start embryonic stem cell therapy trails. First up? An Iraq war vet who was paralyzed from the chest down in 2005.

Yesterday it was announced that Iraq War veteran and Marine Matt Cole, paralyzed from the chest down since a 2005 insurgent attack in Iraq, has enrolled as the first patient in the first FDA clinical trial of adult stem cells used to treat spinal cord injuries.

The procedure involves removing a couple of thousand adult stem cells from Cole’s bone marrow, multiplying them in the lab and injecting them into his spinal cord. That should happen later this month. Nine other patients have also been enrolled for this phase of the trial, which is being undertaken by TCA Cellular Therapy in Covington, La.

Is that super serum enough for you? Me too.

Now who wants to send Matt a shield… just in case.

[Business Wire via Pop Sci]

Churchill UFO Cover-Up Declassified

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Newly declassified documents have revealed that former Prime Minister Winston Churchill demanded a cover-up of an encounter between a Royal Air Force plane and a UFO.

The revelation was found in a letter from the son of one of Churchill’s bodyguards who claimed to have witnessed Churchill viewing pictures of the incident and demanding it remain secret for at least 50 years because ‘it would create mass panic among the general population and destroy one’s belief in the Church’.

UFO experts aren’t surprised, however. Churchill is known as a big UFO buff, and even requested an update from the British government in the 50’s.


What To Get The Corpse Hunter Who Has Everything…

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Cadillac of dead body retrieval technology…

The system involves a small aluminum pipette that can detect trace amounts of a chemical called ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen, which collects in air pockets around a grave site. It’s the only known example of testing the chemical in its vapor phase, NIST says. As an added bonus, the system works at ambient temperatures instead of freezing cold, which could make it easy to transport.

Chemists Thomas J. Bruno and Tara M. Lovestead tested it on dead rats, burying some in 3 inches of soil and laying others on top of the soil. For comparison, they also tested boxes with no dead rats in them. The NRN compound was still detectable after nearly five months, the researchers say. A paper on their findings was published in the journal Forensic Science International.

Cross that one off your Christmas wish list.

[PhysOrg via Pop Sci]

Are We Seeing Evidence Of Distant “Flaws In Space-Time?”

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Could brief flashes of gamma explosions billions of light years away be the very seems of our cohesive universe?

According to theories of high-energy particle physics, the strings would have been created when matter in the very early universe went through what’s called phase changes, such as when liquid water freezes to become solid ice.

Cosmic strings, the theories state, are imperfections in space-time akin to the cracks that form as water freezes.

Although there is no observational evidence for cosmic strings, most theories predict that the strings should stretch through the universe to its horizon.

“You can picture a cosmic string as an extremely long conducting wire with the same length-scale of the universe,” Cheng said.

Most gamma explosions come from collapsing stars, but those last more much longer. These fireballs are different, shorter. Could they be the subtle imperfections in our universe?

[Nat Geo]

3-D Model Recreates Living Blob Which Used To Prowl The Oceans

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010


It meandered about the sea, a living blob named Drakozoon kalumon. Surviving by glomming on to other creatures and surviving on the tiniest morsels of food, this 1.7 millimeter creature was protected by a leathery outer skin bigger than it’s own body.

Until it was imprisoned in volcanic ash for 425 million years. But now, Drakozoon is back! Or at least a 3-D model of him is.

Its two coiled arms likely did the work of feeding. “If it worked like a brachiopod, and I suspect it did, it would have used fine setae (hairs) on the arms to generate currents, catch tiny pieces of food in the seawater, and pass them down the arms into the waiting mouth,” Sutton told LiveScience.

The preserved blob was attached to the fossilized shell of a type of spineless shellfish known as a brachiopod. Researchers made the discovery about six years ago in the Herefordshire Lagerstatte, one of England’s richest deposits of soft-bodied fossils.

Doesn’t Drakozoon kalumon just sound like it needs to be chanted by an evil mastermind trying to resurrect some Lovecraftian leviathan? Just asking.

[Live Science]

Severed Head Land [Weirdest Places]

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Everyday this week…Brett Rounsaville brings us the Weirdest Place to Visit in America.

Look, gang. I worked for Disney theme parks for a long time. I get the idea of creating brand value by preserving the magic of a given situation, I even get that one person’s magic is another person’s “please-god-don’t-make-me-do-that-again.”

However, I can’t think of a single time I remember wandering through Disneyland and seeing a field of severed heads all grinning eerily out from under a “magic tree.” I also have a hard time thinking of that as “cute.”

BUT, if that’s what you’re after then look no further than BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, home of the Cabbage Patch kids, where every hour on the hour, when the magic crystals begin to grow, a Cabbage Patch Nurse delivers a kid from Mother Cabbage. Of course, none of that would be possible without the use of Science’s new favorite drug, Imagicilin.

BabyLand General Hospital even has its own Intensive Care Unit for premature births. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you don’t want a premature cabbage patch kid…wouldn’t it be easier to just not make one?)

Forget for a moment the inherent creepiness of Cabbage Patch Kids and instead focus on the inherent creepiness of a 70,000 square foot fake hospital complete with superfans pushing around 25 year old dolls in strollers. I couldn’t help but get the shivers from watching a few BabyLand related videos on YouTube.

Chalk this one up the first Weird Place this week that doesn’t make my must see list.

What do you think? Creepy or cute? Did you ever have a Cabbage Patch Kid? (I remember making my transformers shoot the neighbor girl’s CPK…so I might be biased.) Scale of one to ten…how badly do you want to see this place?

Start Building Your Super-Hero Lair… Now!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Check out this awesome custom lock that detects a special knock to open the door. It’s programmable, which is good because “Shave and a haircut, two bits” is the knocking equivalent of having ‘password’ as your password.

Intelligently Created Dinosaurs [Weirdest Places]

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Everyday this week…Brett Rounsaville brings us the Weirdest Places to Visit in America.

What’s the weirdest movie you can think of from your childhood?

That’s right, Peewee’s Big Adventure.

Now what’s the weirdest scene you can recall from that movie?

Yep, Peewee talking about Simone’s “big but” while sitting inside a giant dinosaur. (Shut up about Large Marge already.)

That giant dinosaur is one of two built by, Claude Bell, a caricature artist at Knott’s Berry Farm who also owned the Inn across from them on I-10 near Cabazon, CA. It took him eleven years to finish the giant Apatosaurus and he died before he finished the Tyrannosaurus. (Their names are Dinny and Rex BTW.)

Now, here’s the weird part. (Because it’s not weird that a caricature artist spent a quarter of his life building a 150-foot long concrete dinosaur on a lark. Or that it has found its way into popular culture via a faux children’s entertainment film directed by a crazy haired genius. No. The weird part is…)

After the guy that sunk his entire life into two dinosaurs (complete with frescos explaining evolution in their bellies) died, the two guys that bought the property, Benjamin S. Carson, M.D. and Dr. Michael Egnor, turned it into…wait for it…a creationist museum!

(Because nothing says intelligent design like two giant lizards that were apparently so poorly designed that they couldn’t survive the 6000 years since the world has been created.)

You can now pay five dollars to visit the creationist museum in Dinny’s belly and purchase toy dinosaurs with labels that say, “Don’t swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution.”


Want to discuss creationism versus evolution? Roadside attractions vs theme parks?  How about Peewee’s Big Adventure versus Big Top Peewee? Well then, that’s why god invented the comments section!

The Laser Is Saved! Lucasfilm Backs Away From Wicked Laser Lawsuit

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

In a letter to CNN Lucasfilm indicates that Wicked Lasers has provided sufficient evidence that they are not intentionally marketing their new (awesome) laser as a light saber. That means Lucasfilm Legal is powering down their Death Star and will allow the fledging beam mongers to go about selling their wares.



Non-Wackjob Sees Voices In The Stars

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Australian  scientist Ragbir Bhathal believes he has detected extra-terrestrial signals by monitoring light from the stars. Many scientists attempt to detect alien life by monitoring radio signals, but Bhathal’s method has made even Arthur C. Clarke stand up and take notice.

His findings this past September are exactly what he’s been looking for since he started the OZSETI project. Unlike most people making claims of finding alien communications he is encouraging physicists to analyze his findings and find flaws with them. Barring peer review, it’s possible this bearded man from Oz may make history by detecting the first actual signs of alien life.

[VBS Blog]

Earth, Meet Your Ambasador [Weirdest Places in America]

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Everyday this week…Brett Rounsaville brings us the Weirdest Places to Visit in America.

I’ve been getting ready for a big trip to Bryce Canyon later this week, which subsequently led me to thinking about my former life as America’s favorite vagrant, which in turn practically forced me to choose this week’s topic…Weirdest Places in America!

Today, we’re starting things off the only way Weird Things knows how…with crazy people and aliens.

If you’re wandering down Homestead Road in  Bowman, South Carolina you may just find yourself walking past a corrugated metal fence with a message scrawled in black spray paint. The message?

“UFO WELCOME CENTER” (I can only assume the message is intended to be seen from space.)

The UFO Welcome Center is a labor of love for Jody Pendarvis who built the (*ahem*) Center in his back yard. Behind his trailer. Next to his rusted old pickup truck. (Yeah, he’s that guy.)

The welcome center mostly consists of two plywood and metal saucers stacked on top of each other. The bottom one, and bigger of the two, is built “to be a place where aliens could be comfortable meeting people from Earth.” (Apparently aliens prefer environments that have racked up double-digit building code violations.)

The second saucer balances on the first for easy removal when the alien visitors decide to take Jody aboard with them. It has also become Jody’s de facto “summer home.” It’s mostly filled with extension cords and an airbed…

All that said, the dude clearly loves his pet project and there’s no denying that, talented craftsman or not, he put a TON of work into this place.

What do you guys think? I REALLY want to see this place in person! Has anyone out there visited? What’s your impression?

Most importantly, what’s the Weirdest Place in America YOU’VE seen?!

You Will Believe A Squid Can Fly…

Monday, August 2nd, 2010


Want to hear something awesome? Squids can squirt their way out of the water engaging in what many marine biologists classify as flight. The phenomenon was so random that little photographic evidence existed of the practice. New proof seems to confirm the notion that squids fire themselves above out of the water and use some combination of their fins and tentacles to stabilize and increase distance.

The 2004 paper’s authors argue that “gliding” is too passive a term to describe what squid do when they leave the ocean for the air: “flight” is more fitting.

“From our observations it seemed like squid engage in behaviors to prolong their flight,” Maciá says. “One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight. We felt that ‘flight’ is more appropriate because it implies something active.”

This article also contains my favorite first five words of a paragraph ever: “On a LISTSERV dedicated to mollusks…”

[Scientific American]