October 6, 2007

World’s first artificial life form?

Posted in Biology, Education, Evolution, Life, Nature, News, Science at 5:48 pm by deadlikeme

protolife.jpgInstead of merely manipulating existing DNA, Craig Venter and his team have built a DNA from scratch, a synthetic chromosome called Mycoplasma laboratorium.

Using lab-made chemicals, a team of 20 scientists (led by Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith) has stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

Once transplanted into a living bacterial cell it is expected to take control of the cell and in effect become a new life form.

Artificial DNA? Bio-ethicist Pat Mooney thinks Mr. Venter is creating a

chassis on which you could build almost anything. It could be a contribution to humanity such as new drugs or a huge threat to humanity such as bio-weapons

Visit The Guardian for more information. 


September 20, 2007

Toddler saves Mom by calling 911

Posted in Education, Family, Fun, Humor, Life, News, People at 7:03 am by deadlikeme

911-call.jpg2-year old Alana Miller from Oak Harbor, Washington, was smart enough to dial 911 when her mother collapsed.

Erika Miller and her daughter were playing in their home when Erika was struck by a painful migraine that made her pass out. Little Alana was resourceful enough to dial 911 to get help.

Operator: 911, where is your emergency?
Alana: Momma owie.
Operator: Momma owie?
Alana: Momma owie.
Operator: Is momma there?
Alana: Momma owie

The operator was able to trace the call and send help. 

Her mother has actually shown Alana how to dial 911 a few month earlier, in case “there is a big owie“.

ABC News

Will we soon be watching Are you smarter than a 2-year old? on FOX?

August 24, 2007

Hole in the Universe

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Education, Nature, News, Science, Universe at 8:40 am by deadlikeme

hole.jpgAstronomers of the University of Minnesota found a surprisingly big hole in the universe.

Holes or voids in the universe are not really news, but this one dwarfs them all. It measures nearly a billion light-years across (our galaxy, the Milky Way, is about 100,000 light-years in diameter).

Lawrence Rudnick, Shea Brown and Liliya Williams drew their conclusions by studying data from the NVSS (NRAO VLA Sky Survey). The region had previously been dubbed as the “WMAP cold spot”. WMAP is a satellite, launched by NASA in 2001 to measure the Cosmic Microwave Background. The cold spot was discovered in 2004.

Lawrence Rudnick:

Although our surprising results need independent confirmation, the slightly colder temperature of the CMB [cosmic microwave background] in this region appears to be caused by a huge hole devoid of nearly all matter roughly 6 to 10 billion light-years from Earth.

Visit the Physorg.com article for more,

or read Rudnick and Co’s Extragalactic Radio Sources and the WMAP Cold spot paper

July 31, 2007

237 reasons why people mate

Posted in Biology, Culture, Education, Fun, Humor, Life, Love, Psychology, Science, Sex, Society at 9:44 pm by deadlikeme

mate.jpgTwo researchers from Texas asked more than 2000 men and women for their reasons on why they have sex.

Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, have categorized 237 reasons and published them in the August 2007 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The answers ranged from “It feels good” to  “I wanted to punish myself”.

The four general categories are:

  • Physical Attraction

  • Goal Attainment

  • Emotional Reasons

  • Insecurity

Instead of listing the most common reasons, here are some more unusual reasons:

I wanted to get a job

I wanted to feel closer to God

it was a favor to someone

I felt sorry for the person

I wanted to get rid of a headache

I wanted to stop my partner’s nagging

I wanted to relieve “blue balls”

for more read the New York Times article or the Original Publication (PDF file).

July 5, 2007

Are you smarter than an Orang-Utan?

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Biology, Education, Evolution, Fun, Humor, Life, Nature, Science at 8:24 am by deadlikeme

orangutan.jpgIt has recently been shown that Orang-Utans are capable of using water as a tool to solve a “nutty” problem.

Five Orang-Utans were confronted with a vertical, transparent tube with a peanut floating deep down inside, well out of reach. The primates filled their mouth with water from a drink dispenser and spat it into the tube, thus raising the water level. It took them an average of nine minutes to come up with this idea.

Natascha Mendes and colleagues at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany were inpspired by a more than 2000 year old story (by the greek poet Aesop) about a crow throwing stones into a pitcher to raise the water level until it was high enough for drinking.

How long would it have taken you to solve the problem? More than nine minutes? Come on, be honest!

Try this experiment on friends or relatives. Put a peanut in a tall glas and tell them to get it out, of course without tilting or even touching the glass.

The New Scientist article has a short video of this experiment.

The original article was published in Biology Letters.

June 20, 2007

Mission To Mars: ESA calls for candidates

Posted in Education, Events, Life, Mars Mission, News, Psychology, Science, Technology at 8:00 am by deadlikeme


The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for candidates to participate in up to three isolation and confinement studies. The first study starts in May 2008.

Except for weightlessness and radiation, the simulation will be as close to a real Mars mission as possible. The candidates will be selected based on education, professional experience, medical fitness and social habits.

All in all the studies can take more than two years (Pilot study: 100 days, Mars Mission: 520 days, Follow-up studies: up to one year).

Some criterias for applicants:

– 25 to 50 years
– English and Russian (fluency in one and working knowledge of the other language)
– Non-smokers, no addicitons (alcohol, illicit drugs, etc.)
– Availability for the whole duration of the studies
– Candidates nationality is restricted to following ESA member states: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada)

For successful conpletion of the entire study, the respective volunteer will receive a fixed compensation (I hear it’s 120 Euros per day).

Submission deadline is September 30th, 2007.

For more information and the application form visit the ESA website.

May 30, 2007

Ranking: The 121 most peaceful countries

Posted in Education, Life, Media, News, Peace, Politics, Society at 11:25 pm by deadlikeme

global-peace.jpgThe Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released the Global Peace Index today.

121 countries around the world were ranked according to their peacefulness and the drivers that create and sustain their peace. The EIU measured the countries’ peacefulness based on 24 indicators.

Rank      Country           

    1          Norway        
    2     New Zealand         
    3         Denmark         
    4         Ireland         
    5           Japan         
    6         Finland         
    7          Sweden         
    8          Canada         
    9        Portugal         
    10        Austria

For the full list, including details on all peace indicators go here.

Countries like Afghanistan and North Korea were not included because reliable data for all 24 indicators was not available.

The United States ranked 96th.

Some conclusions of the Global Peace Index are:

– Peace is correlated to indicators such as income, schooling and the level of regional integration
– Peaceful countries often shared high levels of transparency of government and low corruption
– Small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs are most likely to get a higher ranking

May 23, 2007

Right turns more fuel efficient

Posted in Education, Fun, Humor, Life, Media, News, Travel, TV at 10:55 am by deadlikeme

rightturns.jpgWEWS-TV (an ABC network affiliate in Cleveland) learned that United Parcel Service (UPS) figured out a way to save millions of dollars in fuel savings by making only right turns.

Apparently UPS intructs their drivers to plan their routes so they rely on right turns as much as possible. And with 88.000 trucks on America’s road, this modification has made a difference worth millions per year.

The TV-Station conducted two tests of their own. They concluded:

– In real life, a right turn is a good guideline, but shouldn’t be a rule.

– If you can, plan ahead so that all the stops are approached from the right.

– If you can’t, go the shortest distance

So apparently it’s not an absolute rule, but still, you can safe fuel money by turning right when feasible.


May 8, 2007

Anti-terror beer yeast

Posted in Biology, Education, Life, Nature, Science, Technology at 10:34 am by deadlikeme

yeast.jpgSaccharomyces cerevisiae has been genetically altered to “sniff” for explosives.

Danny Dhanasekaran and his team (Temple University in Philadelphia) have engineered yeast cells to “express mammalian olfactory receptors and the related signaling pathway, such that cells turned green in response to an odorant“.

The genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as baker’s or brewer’s yeast, has been enhanced with a rat gene (olfactory receptor Olfr226) so that the yeast cells react to molecules of 2, 4 Dinitrotoluene (DNT). DNT is a residue from the making of the Trinitrotoluene (TNT). It is believed that dogs who are trained to sniff for explosives in fact respond to DNT molecules.

Maybe one day we can also use beer-yeast-biosensors to detect biological and chemical weapons, who knows?

Original article published in Nature Chemical Biology

May 5, 2007

The Loch Ness … Toad

Posted in Biology, Education, Life, Mystery, Nature, Science at 8:08 am by deadlikeme

lochnesstoad.jpgResearchers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who carried out a sonar survey of the infamous Loch Ness, found a common toad in a depth of 324ft (98m). It was alive and kicking.

The Common Toad (Bufo bufo) is widespread throughout Europe and can grow to the size of a human hand. One has to wonder why the toad was kicking mud so deep down below the surface? Sorry Mario, the princess is not here. Bowser must have hidden her somewhere else.

Bob Rines, a lecturer at MIT, will reveal more infos on the survey and the toad on Oceans 07, a conference about Marine Technology, Oceans Science and Oceanic Engineering. The conference will be held in June 2007 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Click the link below to see a picture of the toad.

BBC Article

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