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Showing posts with the label Nature

Six extinctions in Six Minutes

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The word 'extinction' is quite synonymous with dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, sabretooth (pretty much everything Ice Age has taught us so far). But, paleontologists believe that 99.99% of species that have dwelled on the planet Earth have faced extinction. Its not that humans are that rare 0.01% that have survived, it's probably just a matter of time, before we, too, become part of someone else's history books. But before we head there, here is an episode of Shelf Life , a web series from American Museum of Natural History,  titled Six Extinctions in Six Minutes , where you get to see the what has gone extinct from the planet and what has managed to resurrect itself. Don't worry, it's n ot something we should be afraid of but there is also something thought provoking. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Hummingbirds : Now a model for micropumps too!

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For many years now, scientists have been studying the hummingbird for its flying abilities. Their acrobatic flight is a great model for aeronautical engineers to develop air-crafts for the the future. While everybody concentrated on the wing action, dynamics of the air flow below and over them and the structural differences between humming birds and other fliers to figure out what makes these birds such special fliers, there was something that we had wrongly presumed many years ago, waiting to be discovered about these wonderful birds.  Since the year 1833, we have been assuming that humming birds feed themselves using capillary action . This means, that bird dips its beak into the flower nectar and waits for nectar to slow rise along its longish beak, much like what happens when you sip a cola with a straw, except that you are actually using your mouth to sip in the cola but the humming bird simply waits for the nectar to reach its mouth.  There are two issues with thi

How many trees does the Earth have?

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We have always been told about the importance of forestation, the need for trees and how deforestation is causing climate change. Many of us are willing to and also actively participating to revert climate change. Keep your world clean and green.  Save trees,Save the environment!!  Cl ean city,Green city!!  To have a good scenery, there should be little greenery!  are everywhere and we are all eager to see a greener Earth. But like any other goal that we chase, shouldn't we know where we are starting and what are we aiming at? How many trees does the Earth have and is there a tree census done every decade. Recently, New York City took up the initiative to map and catalogue every tree on every street of the city. Called, TreesCount!2015 , it is a crowd sourced program, looking for the task to be completed through voluntreers . If you would like to be one, you can sign up here . But other than a few instances where cities or organizations such as Terracon or

Its official then! Mosquitoes do like biting some people over others

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English: A mosquito biting the photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) Are you the target for mosquitoes on a hiking trip? Does your family disagree with you when you say that you are being targeted by these buzzing creatures? Thanks to the paper published by G. Mandela Fernandez-Grandon and colleagues in PLoS One, you now have scientific evidence to tell everybody that you were always right about biting preferences of mosquitoes.  Three questions immediately spring to mind, a when you read something like this. One, how do you prove something as bizarre as this? Second, do scientists really spend time studying something like this? What else do we know about the biting behaviour of mosquitoes? Let’s dwell into them one by one. How do you prove something like this? First of all, to prove this you need a bunch of trained mosquitoes at your disposal. Well, mosquitoes are not like chimps who can be trained, so you need a mechanism to let them fly and pick their subjects and t

Nature by Numbers [Video]

For all those who hate mathematics, here is a a simple video showing us nature in numbers! Signature of God or the principle of nature, we do not really know and sometimes it is okay to not be the Know-it-alls.

Can you hear a caterpillar munching on leaves? Well, plants can!

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Image source: Wikimedia How often have we seen a caterpillar silently eat away an entire leaf of a plant to feed its hungry stomach. What if we told you that every time you thought the plant was helpless against the over-eating caterpillar, you were wrong? A recently published study in the journal Oecologia  tells us that plants can actually hear the tiny vibrations that the caterpillar emits whilst feeding and prepare themselves for a similar event if it occurs in the future. Sounds interesting? Read on!!!  We have all heard of tales where listening to soothing music (acoustic energy or sound) has helped plants grow. But researchers, Heidi Appel and Reginald Cocroft at the University of Missouri, set out to investigate how plants responded to sounds that were relevant to their survival. To test this, the researchers allowed caterpillars to feed on Arabidopsis plant, while they recorded the vibrations of the leaf during the process of feeding with the help of a laser. 

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 wer

Beetle Beauty!!

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050 Namib Ground Beetle_1 (Photo credit: tok tokkie ) Ever seen a water bottle the size of a beetle? What if, we told you that the bottle fills itself? Sounds like a miracle, doesn't it? The Namib beetle belonging to the Stenocara genus is here to demonstrate this miracle. Found in the world’s oldest desert, the Namib desert, this beetle demonstrates an indigenous method of obtaining water from the arid surroundings.

Are you in sync with your microbes?

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Bacteria, fungi and viruses are better known for the harm they cause and are usually associated with the words such as infections, fever and at times, even cancer.  The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars every year in attempts to develop new antibiotics, new methods of treatment for ailments caused by infections of these micro-organisms while health care providers spend resources to prevent such infections from occurring in first place.  But what if, the microbes are not meant to be kept away? What if we are looking at the problem the wrong way? What if the microbes are not the problem at all? Confused? Let us explain! Why micro-organisms? Although we first became aware of micro organisms in the year 1675, microbes are estimated to have occupied Earth almost 4 billion years ago. Not only are they the earliest inhabitants, they are also the most versatile and the most ubiquitous of all life forms. The total number of micro organisms on our Earth is estimated to be

Survival of the smallest!

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In a billion years from now, the Earth will be inhabited just by microbes. Not animals, not cockroaches but microbes. This conclusion is a result of a computer model used by researchers to predict the status of life on Earth after a few billion years. As years pass by, the augmenting luminosity of the Sun will create an unfavourable rather intolerable environment for humans, plants and animals alike on our planet. The increased temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius  will lead to the evaporation of oceans which in turn will lead to increased salinity of large water bodies, high atmospheric pressure and a drastic reduction in oxygen and carbon dioxide content. The poisonous, high pressure, high salinity and zero-oxygen condition will only be withstood by organisms that already survive under such extreme conditions and are called “extremophiles”. Desert ants sprinting on scorching sand, spiders in snowy areas and beetles with antifreeze blood are some of the creatures identif

Is the Earth's gravity same everywhere?

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Earth's gravity measured by NASA's GRACE mission, showing deviations from the theoretical gravity of an idealized smooth Earth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) When you drop something, it falls downwards towards the ground. Why does it fall down? Why not up? All such questions were answered with a 7 lettered word-GRAVITY. Gravity is an attractive force and is stronger on Earth as compared to our Moon due to larger mass. When you drop an object it falls towards the ground and when it is dropped from a greater height it falls towards the ground with greater speed and impact. The greater impact and speed is attributed to acceleration (the rate of change of speed) which is higher due to gravity. The force of gravity is inversely proportional to the radius of the Earth , that's what our textbooks said in school. But a recent press release from the European Space Agency , showed that the shape of the Earth is not a perfect sphere but a geoid or ellipsoid, bulging slightly

Strange laws of attraction in birds!!!

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Free or not to be free!

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Scientific Research is publicly funded. Image credit: Global Genes Like any other task funded by the government, scientific research, too, is conducted from the tax payers money. Similar to actors who look forward to working with the big banners of the production fraternity, scientists too are attracted by the big banners of the publication fraternity and often submit their work for publication with these journals. Once this work is accepted for publication, all information is locked behind high security doors on web servers and opens up, if and only if, you agree to the pay to view this information. Although, a common man does not come across such gateways in their day-to-day lives, many students of science often do and the more or less standard price to view one research paper for 24 hours is $ 40.  The obvious question that arises is, if I am fueling the research, why should I have to pay to view it? The answer is very simple. It is because the publication houses saw an op