Rants and Musings About Science

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Sorry if you would like to post from now on you must be a registered user. This is the reason why ...

:::Cue Spinning Red Light and Siren Noise::::::


Check out this page the relationship between a pearl fish and sea cucumber! Wild Stuff!

Essence of Ovary

I’m always amazed at the power of certain animals' senses, like a bat’s sonar , a cat’s night vision,elephant’s hearing or a dog’s sense of smell. It turns out that SPERM have a sense of smell, too!

Results published in this week’s Analytical Chemistry show that mouse sperm can detect even the faintest trace of an ovary’s scent. The phenomenon that allows cells to sense certain molecules in their environment is known as chemotaxis.

When mouse sperm are placed in a liquid environment they were observed to swim straight towards extracts of a female mouse’s ovary. The report details the biochemical processes that allow the sperm to pick up on the ovary’s odor.

This may explain how sperm find their way to the egg and may give scientists an understanding of reproduction problems in humans and aid in the development of fertility drugs and treatments.

"Defects in sperm chemotaxis may be a cause of infertility, and consequently, sperm chemotaxis could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool to determine sperm quality or as a therapeutic procedure in male infertility," said Stephen C. Jacobson an Indiana University Bloomington Associate Professor of Chemistry and author of the study in a press release.

Though the scientists did not find the specific molecule that the sperm can sniff-out, they did find that they swam right to the desired target even when the exact of a mouse ovary was diluted 100,000 times.

The study helps to confirm previous knowledge that odor receptor cells found on sperm serve a function.

Check out this video of the li’l buggers swimming right towards the ovary’s aroma!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Shocked By Monkey

I love monkeys – definitely one of my favorite animals. I've always dreamed of having one as a pet (my Dad had one in college named 'Kong') – so when I read this announcement I thought it was really cool.

A new species of monkey, originally discovered a year ago by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, has been found to be unique enough that it deserves to be categorized as a new genus. The discovery was published in this week’s journal Science, as is said to be the first new genus of monkey discovered in 83 years (the last being Allen’s Swamp Monkey in 1923).

When the scientists examined the DNA of the monkey they knew they found a unique primate different from any other genus.

The new genus is called Rungwecebus, (pronounced rung-way-CEE-bus), and refers to Mt. Rungwe , in Tanzania (not Tasmania) where the monkey was first observed.

The monkey is called a Kipunji monkey. It is brown with a sort of mohawk hair-do, has long cheek whiskers, an off-white tummy and tail and is around three feet tall.

While it’s always pretty neat to discover a new species, attention to this find should be given more practical consideration. The scientists of the study stress that the monkey is already endangered and risks being wiped out by logging of their habitat. They believe that only 500 remain in the wild.

"It would be the ultimate irony to lose a species this unique so soon after we have discovered it," said primatologist Dr. John G. Robinson director of WCS's International Programs in the press release. "This is a world treasure and as such, we urge the world community to protect it."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I know that some of the links below don't work ... I'll fix them later. For now, enjoy!

Stupid Horse! Me Crush!

Even our ancestors were assholes to the Earth! A new study shows that men may have hunted pre-historic horses until extinction.

The discovery was made by an international team of researchers, dispelling the original belief that climate change was the culprit. Nope! Good old mankind! Their results are published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This research is exciting because it throws open the debate as to whether climate change or over-hunting may have led to the extinction of pre-historic horses in North America," said Karen Robbirt of the University of East Anglia and co-author of the study, in a press release.

The caballoid horsies roamed Alaska during the Pleistocene period -- between 1.64 million and 10,000 years ago.

During this time, glaciers covered much of North America, and it was thought that a period of extreme cooling was the cause of the ancient horses’ demise.

The researchers realized that over-hunting is a possible cause of the extinction after reexamining the fossil record from that period using new statistical methods. They found that humans existed amongst the horses and that they did not die off during the period of extreme cold. That leaves one very obvious possibility – Us!

It is not a sure thing, but seeing how we are screwing up the planet with all we know today, it’s not so hard to believe that our less informed ancestors from ‘back in the day’ kept slaughtering equines without remorse or a thought like: “Hey, Mang , you think we kill too many horses there be no more horses?” Response from Mang: “NAH!”

Friday, May 05, 2006

Landscapers BEWARE! Tiny Grass!

Suburban kids and teens rejoice! Scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institutehave figured out how to make grass that rarely needs to be mowed and is evergreen.

The researchers have figured out how certain steroid hormones in many plants that control growth work. Their results are published in the May 4 issue of Nature.

"By manipulating the steroid pathway…we think we can regulate plant stature and yield," said Joanne Chory, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the senior author of the new report, in a press release from HHMI.

Brassinosteroids are a family of plant hormones that cause growth, and by blocking their activity scientists are able to make dwarf plants.

"Without them, plants are tiny dwarves, with reduced vasculature and roots, and are infertile," Chory explained in the press release. "They also regulate senescence or aging. Since brassinosteroids mainly regulate cell expansion, though, they are one of the most important hormones that regulate stature."

In other words, they can make tiny and resilient grass.

To do so, the scientists made sense of the complex pathway of hormones that turn off and on the activity of the brassinosteroids.

Think of a line-up of dominos. By hitting the first domino, the next falls, then the next and blah, blah blah, but if one is out of place the progression stops.

It’s way more complicated than that, so if you would like to learn a little more click here.

Humans have been messing with plants for thousands of years, but figuring out how this hormonal pathway works gives us sapiens the most influence over plant structure and growth.

Grass isn’t the only plant this new technique can be applied to. Almost every plant the researchers examined had these hormones.

Man, is there anything better than a grape-sized watermelon?


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Texas the Sequel: AUSTRALIA

Apparently Aussies love gettin’ fat just like us Americans. Way to go Australia!

Two-thirds of Australians are eating fast foods for lunch according to a new ACNeilsen Omnibus poll of 1400 Australians, boosting the population’s intake of saturated fats, sugars and salt.

These foods include hot chips (that’s ‘Freedom Fries’ for my fellow Americans), hamburgers, and meat pies (a pot pie filled with minced meat that could be likened to the hot dog phenomenon in the US – sold from street vendors and take-out joints).

Diets that are high in saturated fats are linked to heart disease, including high blood pressure or hypertension and arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries caused by the formation of plaques – a build-up of white blood cells, cholesterol and calcium within the blood vessels. These circulatory conditions may lead to a stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart failure, which can impair the ability of the heart to fill with or pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body.

Good to know that the Aussies are trying to balance out the weight on the East-Side of the planet. I was afraid that Houston, TX was going to throw off the rotation of the Earth.

I bet those Aussies would love some more of our delicious treats.

Maybe we should start sending over cheese-steaks from Philly or deep-dish pizza from Chicago, the fattest metropolis in the US (and I'm just gonna guess that its the fattest in the whole world). Houston, TX used to hold top honors for the past couple of years, but now has dropped down to fifth; however, Texas still has more fat cities than any other state.

Here's the whole list, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Oh wait, surprise! That is exactly what is happening.

Apparently, it is the fast food industry from the US that is probably to blame for getting them all fattened up

The press release warns against eating such US staples as Micky D’s (there are 730 McDonald’s restaurants in Australia), KFC and Subway, recommending salads over burgers and gigantic value meals from these popular establishments.

Another tip is to substitute white wheat flour baked goods with whole-wheat products.

Or, you can keep on eating that American poison and end up in an extra-wide sized coffin!