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Showing posts from 2012

Animals that live on Sunlight!

We have long since known that plants and algae are capable of using sunlight to synthesize their own energy. They essentially create their own food, and that was, by far, the clear distinction that separated plants and animals. However, nature just blurred that distinction further! Scientists have found that there are some pretty incredible animals that have been doing what we thought was a skill exclusively gifted to plants - photosynthesis.
These unique animals dubbed, ‘photobionts’ are capable of surviving only with light and air. One such animal is the solar powered, sacoglossan mollusc or the sea slug. Now one would imagine that this must be some sort of symbiotic relationship being maintained between a photosynthetic plant and the slug. On the contrary, the sea slug steals the photosynthetic apparatus from the plant/algae it engulfs. It doesn’t just stop at that, it also retains the photosynthetic genes from its meal! And like all animals, the sea slug is not selfish, it also thi…

How quickly can you spot a leader?

We all have our 'I-told-you-so' moments with our friends and most of predictions come true. But, how good are our predictions when it comes to guessing about strangers? How quickly can we gauge people and draw conclusions about them?
Less than two minutes is all it takes for us to pass judgments about people and identify them from a crowd. A study conducted by University of British Columbia, revealed that it takes lesser than 120 seconds for people to recognize a leader from a bunch of strangers. So, on what basis do we identify these individuals from the rest? Well, according to the study, there are only two factors that we take into consideration. One, the skills of the person and second, his/her dominance. So, we are likely to see an aggressive person as our leader.
Very likely, your next question is How did they find this? 
An initial group of 200 participants was first asked carry our certain activities in groups. After the activity, the participants were asked to rate the d…

The amazing underwater!

This is a must watch! Truly breathtaking....

Earth from the ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most collaborative of human projects ever undertaken. It involves spaces agencies of five nations and serves astronauts from 15 different countries.

Here is just a glimpse of our own planet from the ISS.  We know you will like it, but don't forget to share it with others!

Bread that won't go bad!

Mold on bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Imagine a future where the packet of bread that you bought yesterday stays mould-free for months to come!
Rhizopus stolonifer, the most common form of fungus known to man, is the cause of moulds that grow on packed bread. The fungus is so common that all you need to grow it on a slice of bread is some moisture from the air.  So, how do you save the opened packet of bread from the an attack of this proliferative fungus. A common method, followed in most households is storing bread in the refrigerator.

While this might slow down fungal growth for the bread you bought, shelf life of packed bread is quite short (usually 5 days). As much as 25% of all bread produced is discarded after 5 days leading to a large amount of food wastage globally. Bakeries tend to add more preservatives such as sodium benzoate, calcium proprionate, potassium sorbate etc. to increase shelf life.  Increasing these concentrations not only affects flavour and texture of bread,…

Mind controlling parasites

Nature is filled with some of the most fascinating and bizarre things. From mind controlling parasites to zombie-d animals and insects, one close look at nature and it feels like something out of sci-fi.

Image courtesy
The Cordyceps fungus is probably nature’s way of keeping a check on the populations of insects. There are thousands of different types of Cordeceps fungi, with each being very specific to a particular insect species. The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, for example, infects ants in particular. When into the ant’s system, it alters the behaviour of the ant to ensure it spreads its spores in the environment. Ants that are infected, referred to as zombie ants, wonder alone and perch themselves on branches, or leaves ensuring the viability of the fungus. Experts have witnessed that the ants generally chose a spot that is high in humidity, and have temperatures between 20-30 degrees making sure that the fungus survives. One can generall…

A Solar powered island

A small island in the South Pacific Ocean recently shot to fame by becoming the first territory on our planet to derive its energy needs from the Sun. Covering a small area of 10 square kilometers, Tokelau is a part of New Zealand and lies to the North of Samoan islands.

Funded by the government of New  Zealand, Tokelau spent about $7 million to put in place three solar grids that will now enable its 1500 residents to harness and utilize solar energy for their daily needs. Why spend $7 million for a power plant in the middle of nowhere you might ask!

While the small island generates a small sum of $ 500,000 every year by selling agricultural produce, it spends over $2.8 million, most of which is spent of food and fuel. While its 1500 residents have energy needs like us, Tokelau's new means of earning is selling Internet domain names (like .com,, .au etc. ) with a .tk extension. With a booming internet business, electrical energy had become a primary need.

Besides, Tokelau h…

Eating - from casual to compulsive

In a world where we are battling addiction of some sort or the other, food is another item that has made the list. With the rising number of obese people around, scientists are looking for answer to questions that come up with eating, and one question that has made it to the fore is; when does the habit of eating move from being casual to compulsive. 
To answer this question scientists had to dig deeper and look at the relationship that food has with not only our body, but also with our brain. What they found was nothing short of astonishing. Eating, it seems, is not very different from addiction to drugs. Our brain has opioid receptors that are receptive to opiates (substances such as heroin, morphine etc.) These molecules play an important role in motivation, emotional attachment, satisfaction etc. Our body produces similar proteins as well, which are known as endorphins or endogenous morphine. These neurotransmitters are produced during excitement, love, orgasm, exercise and surpr…

You are what you eat

I’m sure all of us must have, at some time or the other, been drilled to eat our veggies, because they were undoubtedly the healthiest anything could get. But recent scientific studies say that this belief may not be entirely true. Although veggies help in improving eyesight, providing nutrition, etc. the genomes of these plants are believed to have a negative impact on human health.

A study done by a Chinese team indicated that micro RNAs present in vegetables enter the human bloodstream after consumption. Genomes of plants were observed to have health consequences, and some bio molecules were observed to be active even after digestion!

The team tested hundreds of volunteers for a study and, nearly 50 types of plant micro RNAs were found present in the blood samples of the volunteers. In the study it was also observed that the molecule MIR168a commonly found in rice, paired with human RNA led to removal of unwanted LDL cholesterol present in the bloodstream.

So, all is not bad after all…

Salt intake and Kidney Stones

There are several medical mysteries that are yet to be solved but here is one mystery which was solved recently.
A study conducted by University of Alberta researchers indicated the link between high salt intake leading to kidney stones and osteoporosis. The human body has a molecule which plays a dual role of regulating the levels of calcium as well as absorption of sodium. Sodium is expelled from the body when the intake is high and along with sodium, even calcium is expelled in the urine. On one hand high calcium level in urine leads to formation of kidney stones and the inadequacy of calcium can lead to osteoporosis which is a condition where the bone density is reduced. Statistics in the United States show that 10% of adults are likely to suffer from kidney stones at least once in their lifetime and about 10 million people suffer from osteoporosis. High sodium intake in the daily diet can lead to these medical consequences and hence a low sodium diet should be adapted.
It is observ…

No more monkeying!

Optogenetics is a method of probing neural circuits with the help of a combination of genetics and optics. In this method light-sensitive genes from microbial organisms are used along with light in order to receive a response from neurons. This is a very amusing method which is proving to be very helpful and a recent study has added a whole new dimension to this method of altering neural activities.
The study used optogenetics and showed that the behaviour of monkeys can be altered using pulses of blue light which is known to activate specific brain cells. This result has provided the inspiration to develop a similar therapy for human beings. Previously this type of study was done on rodents and invertebrates but the result derived from the reaction in the brain of monkeys proved more helpful. The validation of the result was done with the use of an MRI and tests focussing on neurons responsible for specific eye movements. Both brain activity and subtle alteration in the eye movements …

How safe is your fridge bottle?

RECYCLING STEEL! totally rocks

Steel is created when iron is mixed with carbon and a few other compounds. It is one of the most versatile, man-made alloys, being used. We use steel for almost everything, from automobiles, ships and bridges to utensils, cutlery and jewellery. But, did you know that steel is one of the most environment friendly components, being almost 100% recyclable. According to a statistic from 2009 about 66.8% of the steel in the world was recycled that year.

White-hot steel pours like water from a 35-ton electric furnace, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., Brackenridge, Pa.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recycling of steel is not a new phenomenon. It was put into action years ago, and because it was more economical than mining iron ore and making fresh steel from it, recycling steel gained popularity over the years. More importantly, steel, on recycling, does not lose its inherent strength. So if you think of it, your fork and spoon may have someday been a part of the world war tanker, a sword that foug…

Music and the Brain

Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
If you thought music was just a means of entertainment, you are in for a surprise. Recent studies show that there is in fact a lot to music than what meets the “ear”.
In recent years many acoustic experts and researchers have carried out experiments to show a correlation between brain function, cognition and music. One such experiment studied and compared the brain responses and sound recognition of pre-school children who were being trained in music to those who were not. It was observed that children who received musical training not only had better sound recognition but their auditory cortex appeared modified in comparison to the other group. The children also demonstrated enhancement in memory and attention level in comparison to the non-musical group.
Musical training is also observed to have a remarkable impact on children suffering from dyslexia. Training in music is believed to act …

Sleep, to stay Alert!

Its official, a good night sleep is not just an important element in your beauty regime, it is also essential to keep you active and alert. A study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital indicated that lack of sleep not only leads to lethargy, but also affects complex visual search tasks adversely! Activities like power plant monitoring, air-traffic control and baggage screening, which are safety-sensitive, are often affected by lack of sleep. These activities demand a process of repeated retrieval of visual information and quick memory encoding along with a good amount of decision making related to the acquired information.
In this study, 12 participants were scheduled to sleep for about 10 hours every night in the beginning and then for about 5 hours, with sleep times in a 28-hour cycle, similar to someone suffering of acute jet lag. It was thus recorded that the time taken by the participants to perform visual search computer tasks was more when there was a lack of sleep. Along with th…

Eat spinach and keep Cancer at bay!

Yes you heard it right, scientist believe that eating spinach can actually reduce the risk of getting colon tumours from 58% to 32%.
For all those from the old school of genetics may say that this may not be true, as variations at the genetic level can actually make a person prone to cancer, and offset the occurrence of it as well. But the world of oncogenetics just got more complicated. Scientists believe that though this may be true, there are other factors involved in the development of cancer and tumours. There has been, over the recent years, a keen interest in the role of epigenetics (factors out of genetics), such as diet, environmental toxins, lifestyle etc. which may be playing a role in diseases.
One such key epigenetic factor, which has baffled scientists are micro RNA. No one till date has put a finger on what role these tiny fragments of RNA have, except for expressing and silencing genetic codes. The best part, they do so without manipulating them genetically.  So hence th…

6 fun facts about food you should know before you eat your next meal!

We have long known that food and nutrition is a science in itself, and like every science, eating food and the assimilation of nutrients also has a formula to it, if not done right and with the right coupling agent, can be useless, and render absolutely nothing.

This may come as a revelation for you, but scientists have been working on right combos, for a while now. There have been a number of studies done and experiments carried out on both mice and human, that have led to various discoveries about nutrition and food about the importance of eating not only the right food, but eating it the right way.

Here are some fun facts that’ll get you thinking

The consumption of coffee or tea during a meal reduces the body’s uptake of iron from food in comparison to a glass of orange juice that actually doubles the uptake. (J.M. Bourre, Vol 10. Number 5 Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, 2006)
Animal protein (milk, cheese, curd, meat etc.) increases the uptake of iron from food, than protein fro…

Exception to the thumb rule! True story of Ringo, a dog who escaped Duchenne Muscular Dsytrophy

By definition, a genetic disorder is one caused due to defects arising in genes. If you have inherited the defective gene or genes, then you are bound to be affected by the disorder.

A common example is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, caused in humans by a defective copy of the Dystrophin gene (DMD) that encodes the dystrohin protein. DMD gene is located on the X chromosome. Since, females in humans have two X chromosomes, one defective copy of the X chromosome makes the person a carrier for the disorder. Muscular Dystrophy usually does not affect females, unless she is the progeny of an affected father and carrier mother. However, males, who inherit only one X chromosome from their mother, have a 50% chance of getting the defective copy of the gene from a carrier mother and therefore are at 50% risk of being affected by muscular dystrophy. That's the thumb rule.

Meet Ringo, a male Golden Retriever, the exception!  

Golden Retrievers are also susceptible to muscular dystrophy, called th…