Jurassic Park:The Prequel
In the film Jurassic Park, dinosaurs are revived from mosquitoes trapped in amber, eventually breaking free and causing massive destruction. Since the movie’s release, critics have been quick to point out that this could never happen in real life. Well, we may be on our way to a Jurassic situation as scientists have discovered bugs trapped in amber that drank dinosaur blood, which may very well lead to reviving dinosaurs that will escape and eat many people.
Trapped in amber for 99 million years, newly discovered ticks (which were named Deinocroton draculi by scientists) were discovered in part by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Interestingly, this is the very first discovery that dinosaurs had their blood sucked by ticks.
The discovery was even named a “paleontologist’s dream” by paleontologist Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente. However, if they begin following the path of Jurassic Park, a paleontologist’s dream could be humanity’s nightmare. Hey, that would be a great tagline for the movie poster.
LEGO My Brain-O
In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner came up with the idea of vaccinations in order to cure smallpox. In 1967, scientist Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the very first heart transplant. Finally, culminating centuries of scientific achievement, scientists have successfully transplanted a worm brain into a LEGO robot.
Using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, scientists successfully replicated the worm’s brain and transplanted it into a LEGO robot. Despite no instruction being input into the brain, it began acting normally and even moving around on its own. So now, instead of having to worry about our robot overlords, we have to worry about our future robo-worm overlords.
Now that we know these types of LEGO brain transplants are a reality, is it possible we’ll be able to input our own brain into the LEGO Mindstorm EV3? If not, these decades of innovation have meant nothing.
Miles Per Growler
When you’re low on beer, you’ll generally make your way to the liquor store. And when you’re low on fuel, you’ll generally find your way to the gas station. But what if we told you there was a way you only had to make one stop in your quest for beer and fuel? And we don’t mean selling beer in gas stations. That would just be silly.
Scientists from the University of Bristol School of Chemistry may have found the next wave of sustainable fuel: beer. Working for several years, the scientists have been developing tech that will have the ability to change ethanol (an essential part of your everyday beer) into butanol.
According to Professor Duncan Wass, “The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually an ethanol – exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement.” One can only imagine that, as the technology continues to develop, we’ll have our favorite brand names at the pump.
Prehistoric Portly Penguin
Fossils have long provided a lens into the ancient world and the fascinating animals that have been long gone. Recently, a newly discovered fossil in New Zealand has revealed the largest penguin known to man. The giant penguin was as big as an adult male. Coincidentally, it is nearly the same size and weight as Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby. This giant penguin was measured at about 178 centimeters tall, only two centimeters shorter than Crosby and nine kilograms heavier than the hockey star.
At the ripe age of about 56 to 60 million years old, the Kumimanu biceae, as it has now been named, looks to be the largest penguin species to date. The largest living species is the emperor penguin in Antarctica, which stands at about 120 centimeters tall. A possibly larger penguin is only known to scientists from a small piece of leg bone, making precise size estimates difficult. However, there has been no word yet on the giant penguin’s NHL debut.
It’s happened to all of us: you’re in the middle of a conversation, you open up your mouth to say something witty, and immediately regret it as your friend recoils upon contact with your rancid breath. Well, as it turns out, the blame doesn’t completely fall on that onion-and-garlic dip you had for lunch, as genetics may also be responsible. However, you probably shouldn’t have eaten that anyway.
According to a study published in Nature Genetics, your genes may be the reason you have to pop an unhealthy amount of Tic Tacs throughout the day. In fact, the international researchers that made the discovery linked the protein SELENBP1 to foul breath, a result of the parent gene mutating.
So, the next time someone accuses you of sour cream and anchovy breath, make sure to pull them in close and let them know that it’s SELENBP1 to blame.
Ready, Set, Pod Race
Sebulba and Anakin Skywalker better get to training because we may be seeing real-life Podracers soon. An Australian startup called Alauda announced their plan to host the world’s first flying car race in 2019. As this is written, the company hopes to begin testing their Alauda Mark 1 Airspeeder in 2018 and has turned to Kickstarter to raise the necessary funds. While other startups and major car companies are focusing on sustainability and practicality in flying cars, Alauda is pursuing speed and sport. In their own words, their goal is to build “the Ferrari of the sky.”
“Since there’s been cars, there’s been motorsport,” said Alauda CEO Matt Pearson in Alauda’s Kickstarter video. Alauda has been working stealthily for the past couple of years and is now ready to make their work more public. Alauda’s work is an exciting development in the automobile world, and one that may bring us a little closer to a galaxy far, far away.
Beetles and Catheters, Oh My!
Many of humanity’s greatest inventions have been inspired by the natural world. Now, nature is here again to help improve a medical device that does not spend too much time in the spotlight: the medical catheter. Companies that develop catheters have long struggled to perfect the device. Engineers have had difficulties developing a tube thin and flexible enough to snake into hard-to-reach places but sturdy enough to withstand insertion and crimping.
Enter the penis of the thistle tortoise beetle. Its relevance comes in its length and sturdiness, as well as its ability to contort and trace the coiled sexual organ of the female beetle. In a new study published in the journal of Science Advances, researchers study both the strength and flexibility of the beetle’s penis to see if a similar structure could be applied to improve modern catheters. And now you have something to discuss with your in-laws at your next dinner party.
Tiny Treadmills for Tiny Turtles
In the first 24 hours of hatching, a baby sea turtle must navigate its way to the ocean. In ideal situations, this journey should only take a few minutes, as the baby sea turtles use the light on the horizon to guide them towards the ocean. However, urban settings with artificial lighting add confusion to the mix. In these urban settings, newly-hatched turtles have only a 50 percent chance of making it to the ocean, and those that do arrive are exhausted due to disorientation extending their journey.
In order to understand hatchling stamina and disorientation, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science conducted the first study on the subject. Using enclosed (and very tiny) treadmills, researchers found that the hatchlings’ incredible physical prowess allowed them to crawl for hours without tiring themselves out, allowing them to swim efficiently afterward. It goes to show that a little cardio can go a long way.
An Elderly Embryo
After 24 years frozen solid, Emma Gibson was finally given life in November 2017. Conceived in 1992, Gibson’s embryo had been preserved in a clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee that specializes in embryo donation and adoption. Due to fertility clinic records being private, there is no official database of the ages of embryos when they are transferred to a woman’s uterus, making it difficult to establish if Gibson is in fact the oldest embryo yet. In the case of the Knoxville clinic, no older embryo was found in their records. So, while it’s hard to say if Gibson is in fact the oldest, it’s safe to say she is among the most elderly of embryos.
In fact, Emma Gibson’s embryo was so old that she and her mother were actually conceived around the same time. Her mother, Tina Gibson, was born only a year before Emma was frozen as an embryo. However, Emma Gibson is at a bit of a disadvantage, as she only has two more years to free-ride under her parents’ insurance.