August 5, 2009

Kubrick’s monolith on Mars

Posted in Astronomy, Cosmology, Evolution, Mars Mission, Mystery, Nature, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Universe at 10:58 am by deadlikeme

Monolith-2001

Lunar Explorer Italia has recently published a photo of what seems to resemble a monolith on Mars. It was taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last July.

And according to Buzz Aldrin there is also a monolith on Mars’ moon Phobos.

Was there once intelligent life on Mars or are these monoliths just natural rocks and boulders, like the infamous human face photographed by the Viking 1 probe in 1976?

marsface

Read the Dailymail.co.uk article for more information.

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March 18, 2009

T-Rex of the ocean

Posted in Animals, Biology, Dinosaurs, Evolution, Nature, Oceanography, Paleontology, Science tagged at 1:52 pm by deadlikeme

predatorx2

“Predator X” is a 50ft sea creature that hunted the seas 150 million years ago.

An international team of paleontologists have found the partial skull of this new species of pliosaurs on the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. According to the researchers it had a bite force of 33,000 pounds. This is more than 10x that of any animal living today (and at least 2x that of a T-Rex).

A 2-hour documentary on the expedition will be shown on the History Channel on March 29.

New York Times

Museum of Natural History Oslo

December 18, 2007

Basic Math: Monkeys vs. College Students

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Biology, Evolution, Nature, Science at 10:33 am by deadlikeme

donkey.jpgTwo macaque monkeys were pitted against 14 college students from Duke University in a Math on the fly test.

Elizabeth Brannon and Jessica Cantlon just published their results in the journal PLoS Biology, that show that the two female monkeys Boxer and Feinstein aren’t too far behind college students when it comes to mental math.

The task was to mentally add two sets of dots that were flashed for only half a second (500 ms) on a computer screen. The monkeys and the college students were then asked to pick the correct answer from two choices on a different screen.

addition.jpg

Both, monkeys and students typically answered within 1 second. Watch a short video of the test here (Quicktime movie).

Even though the students did score better (95% vs. 75%) one can’t deny that the monkeys performance are significantly better than chance.

We humans start learning math in kindergarden, so it’s not surprising that we are better than monkeys, who where never taught math in school.

Language is very important in the evolution of math in humans. It not only allows us to do something as basic as counting, but also all the more advanced calculations necessary for today’s science and technology. Without language our mathematical skills would be similar to those of the monkeys.

PLos Biology Article

November 2, 2007

Super Mouse created in lab: Superhero or Supervillain?

Posted in Animals, Biology, Comics, Evolution, Genetics, Nature, Science, Science Fiction, Technology at 8:13 pm by deadlikeme

supermouse.jpgThese mice are super fast, super fit, super long living and super sexy. But they also seem to be super aggresive.

Richard Hanson and his team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland conducted a standard genetic modification to a single metabolism gene to study the biochemistry at play in metabolism. To their own surprise they created a breed of super mice.

They can run non-stop for five hours at a speed of 20 metres per minute. They are 10 times more active than ordinary mice. They do eat twice as much though, but without getting fat. They also live longer, have more sex and can breed well into old age. But one downside is, they are very aggressive.

The first super mouse was created four years ago by injecting a highly active form of a gene for an enzyme called Phosphonenolpyruvate Carboxykinase (PEPCK-C) into a mouse embryo. The results of the studies are puplished in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

By the way, the gene that got manipulated in the mice is also present in humans. Super athlets, super soldiers… super villains? Que sera sera, the future’s not ours to see.

Read more at The Independant

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. 

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.

April 13, 2007

Mmm, Tyrannosaurus Rex tastes like chicken

Posted in Biology, Dinosaurs, Education, Evolution, Paleontology, Science at 9:59 am by deadlikeme

trex.jpg 

Two years ago a team of scientists announced that they have found soft tissue remnants inside the fossilized femur of a 68 million year old Tyrannosaurus Rex. The skeleton had been found in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. Now a new study has been puplished in Science.

In Protein Sequences from Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus Rex Revealed by Mass Spectrometry, the scientists used mass spectrometry to obtain protein sequences from bones of a 160,000- to 600,000-year-old extinct mastodon (Mammut americanum) and the 68 million year old T. rex.

Looks like T. rex’s collagen (most common protein in animals) shares a 58% similarity with that of a chicken.

Remember how the scientists in Jurassic Park used frog DNA to complement the dinosaur DNA? Well, the examined T. rex’s collagen also shares a 51% similarity with that of frogs.

Science Article