FaceTime for Apes: Orangutans Use iPads to Video Chat With Friends In Other Zoos
Orangutans living in captivity will soon start using iPads for primate play-dates, using Skype or FaceTime to interact with their brethren in other zoos, according to zookeepers. The great apes have been playing with iPads for about six months at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and they’ve been such a hit that other zoos plan to introduce them, too.
The “Apps for Apes” program started after a zookeeper commented online about getting some iPads for her gorilla charges. Someone donated a used iPad, and it turned out the gorillas didn’t care for it. But the orangutans loved it, as the LA Times says.
The apes don’t typically get to hold the pricey tablets, because they’re strong enough to break them in half, zookeepers said. Instead, a keeper will hold the iPads up to a primate cage and let the apes interact with them. The orangutans have been playing with apps like Doodle Buddy by sticking their fingers through their cages’ mesh. One orangutan, 31-year-old MJ, is apparently a huge fan of David Attenborough nature programs, the BBC reports.
A group called Orangutan Outreach, which is involved in the Apps for Apes effort, is waiting for the iPad 3 to come out so the original iPad will become obsolete and cheaper for zoos to obtain. The Houston Zoo has one iPad but hasn’t introduced it to the orangutans yet, while Zoo Atlanta, the Toronto Zoo and the Phoenix Zoo are waiting to get iPads. When they do, zookeepers across the institutions plan to set up play-dates when the apes can chat via Skype or FaceTime.
Seeing the primates with iPads has an effect on zoo visitors, according to Richard Zimmerman, who directs Orangutan Outreach: “They have this recognition that these are amazing, cognitive, curious creatures,” he told the Times.
Dolphins have been using iPads since their debut, so it’s really about time our primate cousins adopted the technology.
A Rethought Calendar Makes Each Year Identical to the One Before
As the calendar turns over to a new year, a couple of researchers over at Johns Hopkins University are rethinking the way we tick off the days during our annual trip around the sun. The duo has devised a new yearly calendar in which each 12-month period is identical to the one before--meaning if your birthday is on a Monday one year, it’s on a Monday every year--until the end of time.
The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar--named for Richard Conn Henry and Steve H. Hanke at JHU, the researchers behind the reformed calendar--isn’t just a realignment of the way we count days, but a simplification of the overall economic rhythm of the world. All the time and effort spent adjusting calendars and schedules every year to accommodate shifting days of the week could be saved, they argue. The man hours and money saved by a uniform year would be tremendous.
The calendar consists of the same12 months as the current Gregorian year, but the months have been adjusted subtly to make each quarter exactly 91 days long--two 30-day months and one 31-day month. That means September, June, March, and December would become the long months, while February would gain a couple of days.
Speaking of February, leap years would be dropped from the calendar completely. To make up for the remainder days (each Earth year is 365.2422 days long, and that remainder must be accounted for to keep the seasons from wandering out of sync with the months), Hanke and Henry propose adding a week to the end of December every five or six years to bring everything back into alignment.
In doing so, they wouldn’t disturb the carefully curated order that keeps days of the seven-day week aligned with the same dates each year. That’s key, they say, because most attempts to reform the calendar have failed because of objections to breaking up the seven-day week (it doesn’t matter what Sabbath you celebrate, you still have to keep it holy--therefore, you need that traditional seven-day week).
For all of its perceived benefits the Hanke-Henry calendar still doesn’t explain why the NCAA Football Championship always falls on a Monday night, but nobody’s perfect. There’s a lot more about the concept calendar here, including a proposed timetable for its adoption (the proposed date is Jan. 1, 2017) and an argument for switching to a universal clock that dispenses with time zones, daylight savings, and the like.
The giant keyhole limpet’s hemolymph carries a protein that is the essential component of a new cancer vaccine. Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) carries oxygen in limpet blood. It is an unusually large protein—near virus size—and contains many epitopes, which trigger our body to produce antibodies. When doctors inject KLH into the human bloodstream, it provokes a powerful immune response. If markers for a certain cancer are attached to KLH, the immune system can be stimulated to attack them. Unlike some synthetic alternatives, KLH is nontoxic. Researchers use the protein in cancer vaccines to “break tolerance,” says Frank Oakes, the CEO of Stellar Biotechnologies, which grows limpets in a business park for aquaculture next to the Pacific Ocean in Port Hueneme, California. “Your body tolerates the cancer cell because the body believes it is a part of you,” he says.
Breaking tolerance can also be used to treat addiction. Down the coast from Stellar’s lot, in La Jolla, scientists at Scripps Research Institute used KLH to make a vaccine that cuts out the euphoric effects of a heroin high. In their experiment, researchers gave addicted rats a cocktail of heroin-like molecules attached to KLH. Like the cancer vaccine, the protein provoked an immune response to suppress the high. Later, given the option to self-administer heroin, most rats stopped using the drug. Human trials are under way for a similar KLH-based vaccine to treat addiction to nicotine and cocaine.
KLH is too big and complicated to synthesize, so giant keyhole limpets still offer the best, most stable supply of the protein. Before extraction, Stellar employees move the limpets to tanks indoors. Researchers use a syringe to extract the limpet’s blood and then isolate KLH using a centrifuge. It takes about 16 weeks before the mollusk has fully recuperated and is ready for its next extraction. Limpets can also be harvested in the wild, but they die during the extraction process. There aren’t enough limpets in the sea to keep up this method.
More than a dozen vaccines that use KLH are in clinical trials, and a treatment for bladder cancer is now approved for use in Europe and Asia. Stellar currently has the capacity to make between one and two kilograms of KLH a year. But if a KLH cancer vaccine is FDA-approved, Oakes says it “will increase demand by orders of magnitude.”
This site is pretty interesting to check out. It predicts future events and discoveries based on current events and research. It goes all the way until the end of our universe (2,000,000,000,000 AD and onward).
U.S. Navy Plans Autonomous Interplanetary Rovers Powered By Microbes
Next-generation Mars rovers might not need solar panels or plutonium packs for juice — they’ll bring microbes with them to use in fuel cells. The Naval Research Laboratory is working on potential fuel cell designs that will provide lasting power via the reproductive cycle of bacteria astronauts.
It would certainly be a departure from typical protocols that call for scrubbing all signs of life from any interplanetary gadgetry. But Navy officials say it could be more efficient and reliable than other power sources.
A microbial fuel cell could provide power in two ways: a continuous stream to maintain onboard control systems, and by charging a battery or capacitor that could be used to drive more power-hungry scientific instruments. A current prototype model would work with a bacteria called Geobacter sulfurreducens, an anaerobic organism that breaks down metals. The fuel cell would be ideal for long-duration missions, according to the Navy. Only one drawback: The Navy envisions a teeny rover weighing just 2 pounds, a far cry from the behemoth Curiosity rover or its predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity.
Fuel cells might not provide enough power to drive on wheels, but these tiny rovers could use the fuel cells’ power to jump-start a separate forward-motion mechanism, like perhaps tumbling it forward or hopping.
Gregory Scott, a space robotics scientist at NRL, just received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts research grant to investigate the initial phase of his concept. The Navy has plenty of experience in designing fuel cells — another microbial fuel cell unit we’ve seen harvests gas from bacterial metabolism to move an ocean sensor up and down in the water column.
Of course, a spacecraft using life forms for fuel would have to be very carefully designed to ensure no bacteria could escape and contaminate (or colonize) the surface of another world.
Curiosity on Mars: This artist's concept depicts the Curiosity rover using its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration. NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mae Jemison, Who Was the First Black Woman in Space, Will Now Lead 100-Year Starship Project
A project to pave the way for humanity’s journey to the stars will be helmed by a former astronaut, Mae Jemison, already a pioneer in her own right. She will lead DARPA’s 100-Year Starship project, the BBC says, citing DARPA documents.
Jemison, the first black woman in space, was one of scores of people to submit proposals for DARPA’s ambitious project. It doesn’t seek to build an actual starship per se but rather a program that can last 100 years, and might one day result in one. As DARPA told us last summer, it’s more of a thought experiment than a construction project. The idea itself sparked some other pretty audacious proposals, including one by J. Craig Venter to send human genomes toward the stars and reconstruct them upon arrival.
Jemison apparently won a contract for her proposal titled “An Inclusive Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth & Beyond,” BBC said. Her organization, the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, is already a partner on the project with a non-profit called Icarus Interstellar and a group called the Foundation for Enterprise Development.
The details of her proposal are still unavailable, but it was apparently selected after a conference in Orlando last fall that launched a formal government request-for-proposals. The contract, worth $500,000, is designed to seed some type of entity that will take over the next 100 years’ worth of project planning. It’s also unclear yet whether this would be a non-profit or for-profit venture.
Jemison, who is also a physician and engineer, left NASA in 1993 after a six-year stint in which she served as science mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour, becoming the first black woman to fly in space. Since leaving the space agency, she has been involved in education and outreach efforts and technology development. Rounding out her resume, Jemison also served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia, is a professionally trained dancer, and speaks Russian, Swahili and Japanese along with English.
A die-hard “Star Trek” fan — Jemison has said she drew inspiration from Lt. Uhura — she appeared in a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode in 1993, the first real astronaut to make a cameo in the show. Sounds like the perfect resume to helm something called the 100-Year Starship.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati performed an experiment on a type of the widespread and unnerving wolf spider that shows that these invertebrates may be much more complex than we give them credit for. The spiders were capable of observing, remembering, and mimicking mating dances, just like cast members on Jersey Shore.
The spiders, Linnaean name Schizocosa ocreata, were placed in an enclosed environment with multiple tiny spider-sized screens. Those screens showed videos of other males of that species performing their mating dance, which consists mostly of leg tapping (much like my own). Interestingly, the spiders were able to see which techniques were successful, and managed to remember and mimic them, behavior which has only previously been seen in animals thought to be more complex, like mammals, birds, and fish.
Invertebrates have never been known to have this kind of abilities to learn, remember, and imitate behaviors, so the study is definitely breaking some ground. Check out video of the spider's dance moves below.
There are a lot of good articles on the first page of Popsci right now, you guys should check them out. http://www.popsci.com/
I don't want to post any more right now.. the 3D hologram one is especially neat imo.
This one is the last I'll post today because it is especially close to my heart because it plays on my love of Whiskey!!
How Scottish Scientists Re-Created a Hundred-Year-Old Whisky
In 1907, Ernest Shackleton and crew set out on the ship Nimrod to visit Antarctica and, they hoped, the South Pole. The good news was, the entire party survived the trip, thanks in part to the Rare Old Highland Whisky they brought to the frozen continent. But the expedition was forced to evacuate in 1909, some 100 miles short of the Pole they sought. And, as winter ice encroached and the men hurried home, they left behind three cases of the choice whisky.
In 2007, just about a century later, the whisky was found, intact, at the expedition's hut at Cape Royds in Antarctica.
The stuff was made by Mackinlay & Co at the Glen Mhor distillery in 1896 or thereabouts. Mackinlay hasn't been an active brand for a while now, but the current owner of the Mackinlay name, Whyte and Mackay, obtained a few of the precious bottles and set out to do what any right-thinking Scot would do: first, taste the whisky; and second, attempt to analyze and re-create it. The result, a product called Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky, is, as of this writing, buyable in stores.
How was the re-creation carried out? Dr. James Pryde, chief chemist at Whyte and Mackay, subjected the samples to a comprehensive chemical analysis, in conjunction with a rigorous sensory analysis (that is, sniffing and tasting). Firstly, it was established that the alcoholic strength of the whisky was high enough that it very likely never froze over the years it spent interred in Antarctica. In winter, the hut reached a minimum temperature of -32.5°C, but, at 47 percent alcohol, the whisky remained liquid down to a couple of degrees cooler than that extreme. This eliminated what had been a significant source of concern about the quality of the sample, that decades of freezing and thawing had altered or ruined it. Carbon dating verified that the whisky did indeed date from the Shackleton era.
Phenol and related phenolic compounds show up in Scotch whiskies, giving them the unmistakable character that's referred to "peaty," because the flavor is introduced when the grain is exposed to peat smoke during the malting process. Chemical analysis revealed not only the quantity of phenolics in the Mackinlay -- surprisingly low, given that era's reputation for heavily peated malts -- but also the particular balance of compounds, which enabled the experts to pinpoint what region the peat used had likely come from. The answer? Orkney.
Similarly, analysis of the compounds that result from barrel-aging was able to finger the barrels in which the whisky was aged as ones made from American oak and probably used once before to age wine or sherry. Gas chromatograph olfactometry, in which the spirit is broken down into its volatile components and each of these smelled individually by experts, gave clues as to details of the fermentation and distilling process. The analysts write:
Other aromas detected by olfactometry and related to lactic acid bacterial growth were a stale solvent aroma of ethyl 2-butenoate, and sweet/ peaches, sweet/peaches/coriander leaf aroma at retention times of 15.4, 38.71 and 39.41 min respectively; the latter retention indices and descriptors agreeing with those published for γ- and δ-dodecalactones.
Armed with all this detail, Whyte and Mackay's master distiller, Richard Paterson, was able to delve into the wealth of warehoused casks and, with the help of his prodigious nose, blend a number of whiskies in exact proportions to replicate the Shackleton spirit. The re-creation, which is given a stint in sherry casks before bottling, includes some of the remaining whisky from the Glen Mhor distillery, which was demolished in 1986, supplemented with comparable liquor from nearby Dalmore. Benriach, Glenfarclas, and other Speyside whiskies lend their character, along with Balblair, Pulteney, and Jura.
The resulting blend was subjected to the same battery of chemical analysis as the original, and found to stack up quite comparably, their phenolics and esters finely matched.
Finally, minus the milliliters of whisky that had been carefully syringed out through their corks, the original bottles were returned from Scotland to the Shackleton expedition's hut, where they have been re-situated as part of the preserved environ by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
For the complete details of the analysis of the Mackinlay whisky, a copy of the paper published by Dr. Pryde et al in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing is available here.
Now you see it, now you don't: Cornell scientists create time cloak
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s one thing to make an object invisible, like Harry Potter’s mythical cloak. But scientists have made an entire event impossible to see. They have invented a time masker.
Think of it as an art heist that takes place before your eyes and surveillance cameras. You don’t see the thief strolling into the museum, taking the painting down or walking away, but he did. It’s not just that the thief is invisible — his whole activity is.
What scientists at Cornell University did was on a much smaller scale, both in terms of events and time. It happened so quickly that it’s not even a blink of an eye. Their time cloak lasts an incredibly tiny fraction of a fraction of a second. They hid an event for 40 trillionths of a second, according to a study appearing in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes.
Research shows that people who had an out of body experience have a poor sense of their own body.
Many individuals report having an out-of-body experience at some point in their life, and now scientists are homing in on the cause. A study published in Cortex in July hints that these strange perceptual illusions may arise from a less cohesive sense of one’s own body. The researchers surveyed a group of psychologically healthy people and found that one in four had had an out-of-body experience. Then the subjects were asked to imitate the body position of a mannequin and figure out on which hand the dummy was wearing a distinctive piece of jewelry. Those who had reported an out-of-body experience were worse at the task, which suggests they had a harder time integrating sensory information and perceiving their body’s position. This weaker internal link to the body, the researchers suggest, may make it easier to perceive the body as if from an outside perspective.