agentotter: (waldo)
Joining me in the never-ending battle against jellyfish is this predatory coral reef. Yeah, that's right. It eats jellyfish. It eats them. Jesus Christ. I'm going to add that coral to my list of Reasons To Be Afraid Of The Ocean. (It is, for the record, already a really long list. The monster shark that bit this shark is currently at the top of that list.)

Speaking of sharks, one in an aquarium in New Zealand gave another shark a c-section. Thank you, Dr. McSharky. WELL DONE.

And in other underwater news, did you know that octopuses make use of tools? Specifically, they turn halved coconut shells into personal armor. Fucking bad-ass, octopuses. I expect you to sign on as an armored division in the Great War of Jellyfish Eradication.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, crows are my favorite bird. In fact, they rank as one of my favorite animals of all time, because they are, as David Quammen once pointed out, the over-intelligent hoodlums of the animal world. Sure, they're incredibly clever, but they also choose to use their powers for evil rather than good, which I admire about them. So I was delighted to see this experiment in tool use, in which the crow must make use of multiple tools in order to retrieve a hidden snack. He's provided with several tubes (a series of tooobs, if you will), but the only thing inside them that he can reach is a small hooked stick, and it's not long enough to reach the food. Instead, he uses the small hook to retrieve a medium hook, and then the medium hook to retrieve the long hook, with which he can reach the food. Fucking awesome, crow. I probably couldn't have figured that out.

Hey, orb spider. You are an amazing artist, and I applaud your ingenuity with creating your own stunt doubles. That's fucking awesome, orb spider. You're still a spider, so I still find you creepy and terrifying, but you're also amazing.

This is an interesting article about how easy it may be to change an individual organism's sex on a genetic level. Really interesting and obvious implications for the future of sex-change therapies for transgenders, but I'm not quite sure why the author of this article seems so shocked that it could be this "easy" to change an animal's sex... we've seen other animals, frogs particularly, change their sex more or less spontaneously in response to environmental factors. It's not like this re-writes the whole of human knowledge or anything, even though it is awesome.

In other news, I think it's official at this point that Monsanto is the seething black heart of corporate evil. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that they are SkyNet and Umbrella Corporation and every world-ending unfeeling mega-entity ever imagined. And I hope they die. In a fire.
agentotter: (end of the world)
Okay, so I don't understand exactly what it is she's making or what you do with them, but this woman? My new hero. She replaced a process that used $100,000 fabricating machines with.... Shrinky-Dinks. No, I am not shitting you. She's custom-manufacturing high-tech devices in a matter of minutes using shrinky-dinks and a toaster oven. This technology can be used in stem cell research, and she also sees applications for making solar cells more efficient. She's like MacGyver, only super-hot and probably like... a million times smarter. In fact, she and MacGyver should have little MacGyver-like children, who will inevitably RULE THE WORLD.

This picture of the core of the Milky Way is ridiculously beautiful. I want to wallpaper a room with it so when you step inside it's like you're at the center of the galaxy. That would be so freaking awesome. Almost as awesome as actually being in space. Almost.

Smalleye stingrays are actually quite large when it comes to their other body parts, and a BBC camera crew has for the first time captured one on film. It doesn't seem all that impressive until the diver starts swimming next to it and you're all, "OMG WTF GIANT STINGRAY!"

Apparently scientists have discovered the gene that causes age-related hearing loss in humans and have managed to prevent hearing loss in older mice by removing that gene. I'm taking this as yet another sign that the cyberpunk novels of my youth were on the right track with the future of medical technology.

I should note for the record that I do not like coffee. At all. But I do like the insane designs that the world's "baristas" make with said coffee. For instance, the universe in a cup or this super bad-ass dragon. This has nothing to do with science really (well, it does, but only in the way that all everyday things somehow have something to do with science), but I wanted to share.

You should know that this is how everything goes to hell during a zombie apocalypse. This is only marginally science-related, in that it shows us how science will be the doom of us aaaaaalllll.
agentotter: (one of those days)
For those of you who haven't read it, you should be aware that Douglas Adams (yes, that Douglas Adams) and Mark Carwardine wrote a book twenty years ago called Last Chance to See. In it, they embarked on a journey around the globe to find and observe rare creatures which were on the brink of extinction. (If I'm remembering correctly, at least one of the animals they discuss in the book -- the river dolphin in China -- is now considered extinct.) This book is a tour-de-force, as they say, not just because it's terribly interesting but because, being written by Adams, it's terribly funny. Their misadventures are legion. There's a lot of discussion about the human social factors that are causing species extinctions, which I think is the most important factor of what has to be changed, especially in the developing world. This book was given to me by two separate people who told me that I would love it (they were right), and it is a cherished volume in my life.

Which is why I'm so delighted that the BBC has created a television documentary version of same, with Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry. They went out into the world, found native animals... and were fucked by them. I can't help it, this video clip is reducing me to fits of hysterics. Oh, Mark Carwardine. The things you'll do for science.



And now, in other nature and science news...

You know, chimps really get the best of both worlds. I mean, they're animals, but they really and truly aren't that far off from human beings. (Poor things.) Case in point: this chimp shows us that animals are capable of premeditation. And by that I mean that they, like humans, can quietly make a plan, fashion and stockpile weapons, and then mess your shit up. It makes me sound kind of awful, but I think this story is awesome.

It's not the awesomest thing I've ever seen, though. I think that prize might go (for the moment, anyway, until I find some new awesomest thing ever) to this dolphin. It's official, you guys. Dolphins are the most bad-ass creatures ever.

In holy-shit-how-did-they-do-that news, some science types seem to have a cure for colorblindness. Holy shit, how did they do that?

In other news, oh my god you guys, I don't know how I'm still alive after watching these baby pandas playing on playground equipment.

Here's a cool new kind of solar panel that doesn't need direct sunlight. It's not like... groundbreaking or anything, and the efficiency still isn't what it should be for widespread use, but I think these kinds of things are a sign that we're getting there.

Alright, I can't resist it. Here's another clip from Last Chance to See, proving once again that Aye-Ayes are the most freaky-looking animals EVER:



I hope you all are having a nice stress-free Friday. I need a nap and some caffeine, but I can't have either, so I'm just sitting here staring at Aye-Ayes like an idiot. It's awesome.
agentotter: a raven against stormy skies (Default)
Welsh officials finally heed my warning, telling beach-goers to watch out for devious deadly jellyfish-things. Good on you, Wales, for listening to me before it's too late.

Speaking of which, in case you haven't seen them yet, you should check out these killer pictures of ice jellies from the deep Arctic oceans. What the articles about these findings don't say is that the deep Arctic oceans are probably home of the secret jellyfish base from which great jellyfish armies will eventually spread across the earth and KILL US ALL. So really, you should look at the pictures for know-thy-enemy sort of reasons.

Also, apparently crested pigeons create a whistling alarm sound with their wings when they take off, which alerts other pigeons to danger. It's not really jellyfish-related, but it is interesting.

Here's a pretty little animated short about evolution:

A Record Of Life from Owen Gatley on Vimeo.



In completely unrelated news, the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain will be sailing these local waters in the spring, and yours truly has booked a ticket. Unfortunately the Lady Washington won't be sailing with them as usual, but next year maybe they'll both be back and I can book a battle sail. I am excited like an excited thing, and keep telling myself that motion sickness is a mind disease. I CAN OVERCOME IT FOR A LIFE ON THE SEA, MATEYS. Or at least I can eat a lot of ginger and take a dramamine. Whatever. It's gonna be so awesome.
agentotter: a raven against stormy skies (Default)
You know, I tried to warn you about the jellyfish. And you all went, "Oh, Christ, here she goes about the jellyfish again," but you know what? When the giant fucking jellyfish take over the world, you can't say I didn't warn you.

In case you were wondering, as I know you do, "Why is it that there are never any stories about bad-ass newts?" your time has finally come. This newt uses its own ribs as deadly weapons. No, I am not shitting you. Oh, and did I mention that it also makes itself poisonous? Yeah. Because it's just that awesome.

Glowing bomber worms. That's all I'm going to say. You're intrigued now, aren't you? Admit it. It's just like that time on Firefly, with the crybaby. Or something. Awesome.

Researchers in France have apparently found a landing strip for pterosaurs. From which I am forced to conclude that Myfanwy has a summer home in France.

In Six Million Dollar Man news, a Japanese inventor has created exoskeletons for people with disabilities. Their example case is a guy whose left leg was withered by polio, and there's even a photo of people using them. They're also about to ship a set of exoskeletons to Denmark for use by nurses who care for the elderly; the exoskeletons will enable them to lift and carry people easier. For added scifi coolness, the company distributing these devices is called Cyberdyne and the device itself is called "HAL." Which means this will probably all end in tears. And possibly an invasion of Terminator-Cybermen. But in the meantime, it's one of the coolest fucking things I've ever seen.

And finally, I would like you to know that I have finally joined this century and figured out how to subscribe to feeds. (I am, quite possibly, the last person in the world to use feeds.) I am deliriously happy with this development. Just FYI.
agentotter: a raven against stormy skies (Default)
Here now for your entertainment is a much more enjoyable form of the linkspam: bioblogging! w000000t!

Science has proved Aesop's fable, "The Crow and the Pitcher." Researchers offer crows a juicy worm in a pitcher of water, crows drop pebbles into the pitcher until the water level rises enough for them to snatch the worm. I fucking love crows, man. They're smart little fuckers.

Here's a cool bit of bio news: orangutans use leaves to fashion "musical instruments." Apparently the point of it is that using the leaves lowers the pitch of their call, making them sound like bigger orangutans than they actually are, and in theory making predators think twice about coming to eat them.

This one I have to link not so much for the information -- which is interesting, but I'm not really a botany enthusiast, so it's not interesting enough on its own -- as for the hilarity. The Fruit Is A Lie, a post about what is and is not technically a "fruit."

And while we're on the subject of plants, here are some fucking massive ones that eat meat. It's a pitcher plant so big it catches rats, you guys. Coming next week on the "SyFy" channel: Pitcher Plant vs. Venus Fly Trap II: Ultramegadeath Showdown! And for an added dose of cool? They named it after David Attenborough.

Something else to add to the list of cool: this venomous sea snake uses its tail to fake out predators. While it's got the business end of its venomy head down in a crevasse looking for noms, it holds its tail in a manner that makes the tail look like a head. You're fucking awesome, venomous sea snake. I mean, assuming you're not in league with the jellyfish.

By the way, if you didn't check out Fuck You, Penguin from the last time I linked it, you definitely should now. Not that anything significant has changed or anything, just that you really don't want to miss this. At all.
agentotter: a raven against stormy skies (Default)
Before I get to the Serious Bizniss of Science, I have to share this one: Historical STD posters. LOVE. I'm nuts about propaganda-type posters anyway, but these are made out of solid gold. "VD is not Victory!" LOVE IT. I will warn you that the last two images are really um... super-squicky. Even for me. And especially if you fear spiders and/or scorpions.

Here's a battery that powers itself with air. HOW FUCKING AWESOME IS THAT? Awesome, is the answer.

Speaking of awesome, here's a brilliant idea: instead of asking consumers to foot the bill for their own renewable energy, utilities are "renting" rooftops for solar power.

Also to be added to the list of cool "green" products: a styrofoam-like material that is biodegradable... it's made of mushrooms.

Owls and kestrels used as pest control in Israel are replacing pesticides. All farmers have to do is put up nest boxes to encourage the birds to roost.

Taipei reduces its volume of trash by 60%, using measures like turning residents' kitchen waste into pig feed, encouraging private companies to start up composting and recycling sites, and making residents pay for trash pickup by the bag.

Yet another news item proving how cool ants are: they have their own magnetic GPS. OMG, ants, how are you so awesome?

Meanwhile, here's an article about moth sperm and incest. I know: two great things that go great together.

With every "supersoldiers of the future" article that is published, supersoldiers increasingly look like Stormtroopers.

I could totally get behind this kind of bomb. I mean, I don't know if realistically speaking it would work, but it sure looks cool.

This sonic alarm could keep marine mammals from being struck by boats, which would be awesome for manatees who are always getting hit by boats. Poor unsuspecting manatees.

And on a completely different but awesome subject: did you ever wonder where that phrase "mad as a hatter" came from? I have. Here is the answer. Quoth the website: "Mercury used to be used in the making of hats. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane." Huh. Apparently there's only circumstantial evidence that that's the origin of the phrase, but I still think it's awesome.
agentotter: a raven against stormy skies (Default)
Since I've been traumatizing you all with the constant end-times in the news, I thought I'd go for something a little different today with some science and tech news.

Are crows the smartest animals in the world? Well, yes. I mean, aside from humans, and even that's a near thing. Crows are fucking awesome, you guys. I don't need SCIENCE to tell me that. I can ask my GUT.

Here's a really cool video of an ocean wave from underneath, and while we're talking ocean, an awesome invention to generate energy from the movement of the ocean. I know there are other technologies to do that, but this one sounds tremendously simple and pretty promising.

I don't remember whether I linked this story when I read it before or not, but I'm pretty much in love with the story of a man and his solar oven. Solar ovens have been around for a long time and are seeing a bit of a revival now as people are getting more and more interested in sustainable living, but I really like this guy's concept just because it's so incredibly simple and cheap. The coolest thing about it, from my perspective, is that it could make drinking water safer for so many people who otherwise would have to waste their firewood or pay an exorbitant privatized-water rate to get clean drinking water. (But the water crisis is a whole other blog, I reckon. ;))

Of all the things we could build with nanotechnology, water-repelling swimsuits would not have been at the top of my list. How about bandages that magically heal the wound underneath with nanotechnology? How about THAT? Or how about Replicators that can assemble themselves in any shape they want and then try to overrun the earth, thus allowing us to be saved again by Richard Dean Anderson? How about THAT? But no. You give me swimsuits. I'm disappointed in you, technology.

If you watch Lie To Me (or The Mentalist or any of the other shows founded on a basic principle of White Guys Being Much More Clever Than Everyone Else Around Them -- and let's not even get into how absolutely abysmal that last episode of The Mentalist was), you probably have some idea about the ineffectiveness of the lie detector. Most people could probably produce off the top of their heads at least one method for beating the basic lie-detector, just from watching television, and most of us have some idea that the things aren't exactly foolproof. Now a study by linguistic and phonetic scientists concludes that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that lie detectors actually work. The punchline is, of course, that an Israeli company which produces lie-detector machines is threatening legal action if these scientists ever publish on this idea again.

Birds Can Dance, Expert (and Zany Videos) Reveal This particular news item has proved the old saying about assuming: I kind of always assumed everyone knew that animals can have rhythm and can "dance." I mean, there are how many species of birds that do mating dances? But I think the point here is that these birds are dancing to music and adjusting to changing tempos. Personally, I'm a little more impressed when they're just dancing to the music in their heads. Also, "[experts] reviewed thousands of YouTube videos" isn't really something I ever want to see written for methodology in a scientific report. For srs.

Also, one of these things is not like the others, but I'd just like to point out that Lt. Choi, who is a Arabic linguist, officer in the Army Reserve and West Point graduate, is being discharged because he admitted to being a homosexual, which counts as "homosexual conduct" under the deeply and profoundly ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Oh, Obama. You have so many things to change. I hope that this is one of them.

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