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Showing posts with the label Bizzare Nature

An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have

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Like a brain, an ant colony operates without central control. Each is a set of interacting individuals, either neurons or ants, using simple chemical interactions that in the aggregate generate their behaviour. People use their brains to remember. Can ant colonies do that? This question leads to another question: what is memory? For people, memory is the capacity to recall something that happened in the past. We also ask computers to reproduce past actions – the blending of the idea of the computer as brain and brain as computer has led us to take ‘memory’ to mean something like the information stored on a hard drive. We know that our memory relies on changes in how much a set of linked neurons stimulate each other; that it is reinforced somehow during sleep; and that recent and long-term memory involve different circuits of connected neurons. But there is much we still don’t know about how those neural events come together, whether there are stored representations that we use to tal…

What makes mustard so tasty?

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Remember our last post about how plants can actually hear caterpillars munching on their leaves? Well, if you have not read it, you can quickly get the  gist by watching this video below. Unless you know the history, you will not enjoy the post. So, all new readers, do watch the video below and others can simply skip it and head straight to know what makes mustard is so tasty. 


Before we get to the story, let me me ask you a question. What do you do when an acquaintance clings on to you everywhere you go. Might be the office, the grocery store, probably even your coffee shop and starts eating into your space. You may be patient for a while but soon you decide to do something about it. While talking is always an option, it is not necessarily the first thing that we do. Rather, our first and probably sub conscious response is to do something or say something, that might irritate this person and push him away. Don't you agree? Apparently, our friends, the plants,  are not very differe…

Why viruses are not in our good books?

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For all their amazing abilities of being able to survive outside their host, replicate in large numbers and still not be called 'living', viruses have failed to get some positive reviews for themselves. This is likely to be because the term virus is associated with some of the most scariest diseases in human history. Influenza, AIDS, SARS and the recent spread of Ebola, all have their roots in the term 'virus'. Yet, today, we will not dwell on how bad viruses are or the havoc they can cause. This post is more about how intelligent can viruses be! 
Although most viruses are associated with harmful diseases that are caused as a result of infection, there is also a large family of viruses who have a friendly association with their hosts. Called Polydnaviruses, these viruses have long been known to exist, mutually, with their hosts, the parasitoid wasps (which rely on smaller insects such as worms for their reproduction). On gaining maturity, the parasitoid wasps lays its e…

Oh Mighty Chondria, who art thou?

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Mitochondria are organelles surrounded by membranes, distributed in the cytosol of most eukaryotic cells. Its main function is the conversion of potential energy of pyruvate molecules into ATP. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The term 'mitochondria' is not alien to many. School level science introduced us to it, where we were told that these thread-granules (literal translation from Greek) were the power houses of the cell. They make energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), something that the cells can use and that was all we ever needed to know. But these organelles have their own history and their own secrets that are so grave, that they would even put a Dan Brown novel to shame. Well, let us begin with some history.
Background (we have been outsourcing since the begining of time!!- it seems)
Although, we are very comfortable with the concept of mitochondria supplying power to the cell, many are surprised, when they get to know that the mitochondria were not originally a…

Immortality! - The story of Hydra

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Immortality - a phenomenon, we admire in characters of fictional books, - the impossible, crazy scientists hope to attain in their labs and the unfulfilled desire of all human kind. We could do a 100,000 things if we were immortal; take up more reading, switch to a better job or simply take more vacation time when needed. Yet the constraint of time pushes us to maximise what we have at hand, make most of resources available and fit in a myriad of things into our timelines to make our lives more 'meaningful'. But what if there was no time constraint. There was no pressure of perishing. There was always ample time to do what we wanted. Well, that's the life of Hydra, the microscopic fresh water creatures that lead an immortal life.

The Hydra are small fresh water animals that are just a few milllimetres long and have a radial symmetry. Although, we have known Hydra since the 18th century, a recent discovery has sparked tremendous interest in these organisms. The paper publis…