Why Penguins Are Afraid of the Dark

2:55:36 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011

"Like daily commuters, Adélie and emperor penguins are up at dawn, catching krill and fish in Antarctic waters, and back home to shore at dusk. Yet the food they prefer to dine on is easiest to catch after dark. Most researchers assumed that penguins had poor nighttime vision, which was why they stayed out of the water after dusk.

But in a new study, two marine ecologists argue that the penguins actually have no trouble seeing in the dark. Instead, they say, penguins head for shore at night because they cannot gauge the risk of being eaten by leopard seals or killer whales. Even their migration patterns, when they move from some of the Southern Ocean's most productive waters into those that are marginal, are likely shaped by the fear of predators. "They would rather be hungry" than dead, says the study's lead author, David Ainley, a marine ecologist at H. T. Harvey and Associates, an ecological consulting firm in Los Gatos, California.

To show that the penguins can see in the dark, Ainley and his colleague, Grant Ballard, a marine ecologist at PRBO Conservation Science, a conservation organization in Petaluma, California, outfitted 65 adult Adélie penguins with time-depth recorders. The devices, which register depth and light every second, were taped to the lower back, so that they caused the least amount of drag. Data collected on nearly 22,000 of the birds' foraging dives showed that most were hunting prey at 50 to 100 meters below the surface, where the water is quite dark—akin to early night. The birds also made a significant number of dives into deeper, darker waters, where they can forage successfully.

Although the two researchers did not collect similar data on emperor penguins, other scientists have shown that these birds dive even deeper, into waters more than 500 meters below the surface. "At that depth, it's absolutely black," Ainley says..."

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Is This the World's Smelliest Man? The Farm Worker Who Has Not Had a Wash in 37 years

2:43:21 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011

"It is not an achievement that can readily be savoured by his nearest and dearest.

But Kailash Singh has as good a claim as any to the accolade of world's smelliest man - after refusing to wash for more than 37 years.

Mr Singh, 65, has not bathed or cut his 6ft-long dreadlocks since 1974, shortly after he married.

Explaining his unconventional decision, Mr Singh claimed a priest guaranteed him a much-prized son and heir if he followed the advice.

Despite neighbours joking the sweaty farmer would be lucky persuade his wife to have any children at all, his religious guidance clearly failed - he has seven daughters.

Mr Singh spends his days tending cows in 47C heat, yet the only 'cleansing' he does allow himself is a 'fire bath' each evening, which involves smoking marijuana, praying to the Hindu Lord Shiva and dancing around a bonfire.

His long-suffering family admit they did once tried to force him into a stream..."

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Would You Pay $100,000 for a Razor?

1:22:03 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011

"$100,000 can buy many things: a brand new sports car, a boat, or a ridiculously luxurious vacation, just to name a few. But if you already have a new Audi in your driveway, a yacht at the marina, and just got back from a trip around the world, perhaps you'd rather drop your cold hard cash on a limited edition iridium razor. The pricey item is crafted by Zafirro, a company which seems to have just one product in its lineup, and just 99 of the "Zafirro Iridium" razors will be made.

The handle of the razor is made entirely of iridium, an extremely scarce and expensive metal that is so dense it could survive a drop into molten lava. Most iridium that appears on Earth is the result of crashed meteorites. The blades of the beast are made from artificially grown sapphire, making them hypoallergenic, not to mention many orders of magnitude sharper than your average Bic. The company boasts a 10-year blade life, and backs it up with free sharpening for a decade if the razor ever dulls.

The Zafirro Iridium, while promising "generations" of enjoyable use, is clearly made for the millionaire who already has everything. The company says the upgrade from a traditional razor to the $100,000 model is like changing from a CB radio to an iPhone, but unless your morning shave takes place at the mouth of a volcano, we're not sure it's worth it."

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Evolution to the Rescue: Species May Adapt Quickly to Rapid Environmental Change, Yeast Study Shows

1:50:33 PM, Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Evolution is usually thought to be a very slow process, something that happens over many generations, thanks to adaptive mutations. But environmental change due to things like climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc. is happening very fast. There are just two options for species of all kinds: either adapt to environmental change or become extinct.

So, according to McGill biology professor, Andrew Gonzalez, the question arises, "Can evolution happen quickly enough to help a species survive?" The answer, according to his most recent study, published in Science, is a resounding yes.

By using a long-armed robot working 24/7 over a period of several of months, McGill Professors Graham Bell and Gonzalez were able to track the fate of over 2000 populations of baker's yeast for many generations. Yeast was chosen for the experiment because a lot is known about the genetic makeup of this model organism and because it can reproduce in a matter of hours. Bell and Gonzalez used the robot to submit different yeast populations to varying degrees of environmental stress in the form of salt and so study evolutionary rescue, which is the ability of a population to adapt rapidly through evolution, in real time.

What they observed was that the likelihood of evolutionary rescue depended on the severity and rate of change of the environment and the degree of prior exposure of populations to the environmental stressor (salt). The degree of isolation from neighboring populations also affected the capacity of the yeast populations to adapt through the accumulation of beneficial mutations..."

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World Naked Bike Ride L.A. (NSFW)

1:28:11 PM, Thursday, June 23, 2011

-- "The L.A. participants in the World Naked Bike Ride flashed Echo Park, Silver Lake, Downtown and more on Saturday, June 12. The nude and semi-nude cyclists met up before hand to decorate their bodies and bikes, had a run-in with the police along their route, and partied to live music after the ride at a secret location near Echo Park Lake. All photos by Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss."

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Jaws vs. Little Mermaid Swimsuit

3:53:21 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

-- Although Black Milk (blackmilkclothing.com)has discontinued production of this Jaws and The Little Mermaid swimsuit mash-up it's still to awesome/hilarious not to share.

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The Bearded Pigs

3:26:47 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

"One of the most remarkable pigs has to be the Bornean bearded pig Sus barbatus, one of two currently recognised bearded pig species. The other is the much smaller, shorter-faced Palawan bearded pig S. ahoenobarbus of the Philippines: genetic work suggests that S. ahoenobarbus is not a close relative of S. barbatus, but actually closer to the Celebes warty pig S. celebensis and other Philippines pigs (Lucchini et al. 2005). S. barbatus occurs on Sumatra, Bangka, the Riau archipelago and the Malay Peninsula as well as Borneo. There are two subspecies: S. b. barbatus has long cheek beards while S. b. oi has more wiry-looking snout hair. Molecular work confuses the distinction between these two forms, since Sumatran populations supposed to belong to S. b. oi are actually closer to the nominate Bornean population that to Malaysian populations of S. b. oi (Lucchini et al. 2005, p. 33).

One hypothesis for the evolution of Sus proposes that the bearded pigs and the Java warty pig S. verrucosus are the sister-group to a clade that includes the Wild boar S. scrofa and Celebes warty pig S. celebensis. Supposedly, members of the bearded pig lineage can be distinguished from members of the wild boar lineage by their especially elongate snout and 'saw-edged' fronto-nasal suture (Groves 1983, 1997). Conspicuous differences in size between the bearded pig populations of Sumatra, Borneo and elsewhere meant that particularly big individuals collected on Borneo were initially thought to represent an additional species; S. gargantua Miller, 1906.

Comparatively little is known about the ecology and behaviour of bearded pigs. They're reportedly migratory across part of their range, moving back and forth between areas during the year, and sometimes gathering in huge herds of hundreds of animals (Groves 1981). I'd like to know more about what they do with all that crazy snout hair, but this subject doesn't seem to have been much explored in the literature. It seems to be sexually dimorphic, with males having hairier snouts and cheeks.

These photos were taken at Berlin Zoo by Markus Bühler. Berlin Zoo includes quite a few neat bits of signage and artwork: the sign below does a nice job of illustrating some of the diversity present in the wild pigs of south-east Asia. As you can see, this diversity is pretty impressive. The taxonomy of these pigs has been much discussed and debated and how many of the various forms are regarded as 'subspecies' or 'species' remains the topic of disagreement (see Groves 1997, 2001). It's an important issue, since many of these pigs are threatened and of great conservation interest..."

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Diving Into Water Covered With Ash from Puyehue Volcano

3:10:06 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

-- Volcanic ash spewing from the Puyehue Volcano in Chile.

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What Children’s Skulls Look Like as They Prepare to Lose Their Baby Teeth

11:29:26 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

-- Child's skull with baby teeth and adult teeth, Hunterian Museum, London. Photo by Stefan Schäfer.

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New Little Ice Age in Store?

10:40:36 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"The Earth could enter a new 'Little Ice Age' in the coming years due to low solar activity, astronomers believe.

Sunspot activity, which follows an 11-year cycle, is due to peak in 2013 after which it will start to wane slightly.

But astronomers think the next upswing will be less intensive than normal, or could fail to happen at all.

That could affect weather on Earth because low solar activity has been linked to low global temperatures in the past.

Between 1645 and 1715 almost no sunspots were observed, a solar period which came to be called the Maunder Minimum.

During those decades Europe suffered frequent unusually harsh winters, and the time was later termed the Little Ice Age.

Although there is no conclusive evidence that one caused the other, many scientists believe it did.

Sunspots are darker patches on the sun's surface, caused by small areas of strong magnetic activity which disrupt the normal flow of intensely heated gases.

Paradoxically when there are most sunspots, overall solar output - called total solar irradiance (TSI) - is also at a high..."

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Children as Young as 10 Vomit to Lose Weight, With Highest Rates in Boys

10:25:02 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Children as young as ten are making themselves vomit in order to lose weight and the problem is more common in boys than girls, according to a study of nearly 16,000 school pupils published online early, ahead of print publication, by the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

The findings have prompted researchers to issue a warning that self-induced vomiting is an early sign that children could develop eating disorders and serious psychological problems, such as binge eating and anorexia.

They also believe that self-induced vomiting can be tackled by making sure that children get enough sleep, eat breakfast every day, eat less fried food and night-time snacks and spend less time in front of a computer.

Thirteen per cent of the 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys who took part in the research admitted they made themselves sick to lose weight. But the figures were much higher in younger children, with 16% of 10-12 year-olds and 15% of 13-15 year-olds vomiting. The figures fell to 8% in 16-18 year-olds.

The study of 120 schools, carried out for Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, also found that 16% of the boys made themselves sick, compared with 10% of the girls..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Molecular Cloud Barnard 163

7:14:49 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

-- "It may look to some like a duck, but it lays stars instead of eggs. In the center of the above image lies Barnard 163, a nebula of molecular gas and dust so thick that visible light can't shine through it. With a wing span measured in light years, Barnard 163's insides are surely colder than its exterior, allowing conditions where gas can clump and eventually form stars. Barnard 163 lies about 3,000 light years from Earth toward the constellation of Cepheus the King. The red glow in the background results from IC 1396, a large emission nebula that houses the Elephant's Trunk Nebula. Finding Barnard 163 in an image of its greater emission nebula IC 1396 can be a challenge, but it's possible. "

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Jewish Court Sentences Dog to Death by Stoning

10:08:51 AM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"A Jerusalem rabbinical court condemned to death by stoning a dog it suspects is the reincarnation of a secular lawyer who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago, Ynet website reported on Friday.

According to Ynet, the large dog made its way into the Monetary Affairs Court in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, frightening judges and plaintiffs.

Despite attempts to drive the dog out of the court, the hound refused to leave the premises.

One of the sitting judges then recalled a curse the court had passed down upon a secular lawyer who had insulted the judges two decades previously.

Their preferred divine retribution was for the lawyer's spirit to move into the body of a dog, an animal considered impure by traditional Judaism.

Clearly still offended, one of the judges sentenced the animal to death by stoning by local children.

The canine target, however, managed to escape.

"Let the Animals Live", an animal-welfare organisation filed a complaint with the police against the head of the court, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, who denied that the judges had called for the dog's stoning, Ynet reported.

One of the court's managers, however, confirmed the report of the lapidation sentence to Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot..."

-- ... Speechless...

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Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

1:11:51 PM, Friday, June 17, 2011

-- Meanwhile Buddhists, a supposedly a peaceful religion, merrily killing Hindus in Sri Lanka.

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Some Chicken May Contain Arsenic, FDA Says

4:40:15 PM, Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Scientists using the world's largest atom smasher have made some of the hottest and densest matter ever achieved on Earth.

"The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that some chicken meat may contain small amounts of arsenic, though the agency is stressing that the amount is too tiny to be dangerous to people who eat it.

The FDA said Wednesday that a new study developed by the agency shows that an ingredient in chicken feed that contains arsenic, called Roxarsone, may make its way into parts of the bird that are eaten. Previous studies have indicated that the arsenic was eliminated with chicken waste.

Pfizer Inc., which makes the feed ingredient, said Wednesday that it will pull it off the market in the United States. Had the company not stopped sales, the FDA could have eventually banned the product since it contains a known carcinogen.

Many poultry producers have already stopped feeding their birds the ingredient, which has been used since the 1940s to kill parasites and promote growth.

The FDA said that people should not stop eating chicken that may have been fed the drug. Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said the study raised "concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen."

Pfizer said in a statement that a subsidiary, Alpharma LLC, is suspending sales next month in response to the FDA findings. The company said it is waiting a month so producers have time to transition their birds off the drug. The ingredient will also be pulled off the market for swine and turkeys, though the FDA only studied chickens..."

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