Foosballs and Fermions

I am in most senses a geek. My greatest loves are Physics, Mathematics, Molecular Biology, and the structure and functioning of nature in general.

magictransistor:

The skull of a two-year-old Neanderthal child: ‘Dederiyeh 2’ (Syria); between 70,000 and 50,000 years old. Smithsonian Institution.

magictransistor:

The skull of a two-year-old Neanderthal child: ‘Dederiyeh 2’ (Syria); between 70,000 and 50,000 years old. Smithsonian Institution.

(via callipygianology)

rorschachx:

The rare earless monitor lizard (Lanthanotus borneensis) has remained obscure since the last research was conducted on it in the 1960s. It lives underground and has adaptations such as a lack of external openings for its ears and small eyes and limbs. The animals are officially protected in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia,the countries that make up Borneo. But in the last 2 years, private collectors have begun selling specimens from the wild. TRAFFIC,a wildlife trade monitoring network that is a partnership of conservation organizations,found the animals being offered for sale online in Europe. The organization says many of the lizards are being collected from the wild and smuggled out of Borneo and that the trade should be made illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. All other species of monitor lizard are protected by the convention.
via Sciencemag.org

rorschachx:

The rare earless monitor lizard (Lanthanotus borneensis) has remained obscure since the last research was conducted on it in the 1960s. It lives underground and has adaptations such as a lack of external openings for its ears and small eyes and limbs. The animals are officially protected in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia,the countries that make up Borneo. But in the last 2 years, private collectors have begun selling specimens from the wild. TRAFFIC,a wildlife trade monitoring network that is a partnership of conservation organizations,found the animals being offered for sale online in Europe. The organization says many of the lizards are being collected from the wild and smuggled out of Borneo and that the trade should be made illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. All other species of monitor lizard are protected by the convention.

via Sciencemag.org

neurosciencestuff:

Mouse Model Sheds Light Mitochondria’s Role in Neurodegenerative Diseases
A new study by researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine sheds light on a longstanding question about the role of mitochondria in debilitating and fatal motor neuron diseases and resulted in a new mouse model to study such illnesses.
Researchers led by Janet Shaw, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, found that when healthy, functioning mitochondria was prevented from moving along axons – nerve fibers that conduct electricity away from neurons – mice developed symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases. In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Shaw and her research colleagues said their findings indicate that motor neuron diseases might result from poor distribution of mitochondria along the spinal cord and axons. First author Tammy T. Nguyen, is a student in the U medical school’s M.D./Ph.D. program, which aims to produce physicians with outstanding clinical skills and rigorous scientific training to bridge the worlds of clinical medicine and basic research to improve health care.
“We’ve known for a long time of the link between mitochondrial function and distribution and neural disease,” Shaw says. “But we haven’t been able to tell if the defect occurs because mitochondria aren’t getting to the right place or because they’re not functioning correctly.”
Mitochondria are organelles – compartments contained inside cells – that serve several functions, including making ATP, a nucleotide that cells convert into chemical energy to stay alive. For this reason mitochondria often are called “cellular power plants.” They also play a critical role in preventing too much calcium from building up in cells, which can cause apoptosis, or cell death.
For mitochondria to perform its functions, it must be distributed to cells throughout the body, which is accomplished with the help of small protein “motors” that transport the organelles along axons. For the motors to transport mitochondria, enzymes known as Mitochondrial Rho (Miro1) GTPases act to attach mitochondria to the motors. To study how the movement of mitochondria is related to motor neuron disease, Nguyen developed two mouse models in which the gene that makes Miro1 was knocked out. In one model, mice lacked Miro1 during the embryonic stage. A second model lacked the enzyme in the cerebral cortex, spinal cord and hippocampus.
The researchers observed that mice lacking Miro1 during the embryonic stage had motor neuron defects that prevented them from taking a single breath once born. After examining the mice, Nguyen, Shaw and their colleagues discovered that neurons required for breathing after birth were missing from the upper half of the mice’s brain stems. The phrenic nerve, also important for breathing, was not fully developed, either.
“We believe the physical difficulties in the mice indicated there were motor neuron defects,” Shaw says.
Conversely, the mice without Miro1 in their brain and spinal cord were fine at birth but soon developed signs of neurological problems, such as hunched spines, difficulty moving and clasping their hind paws together, and died around 35 days after birth. Those symptoms appeared similar to motor neuron disease, according to Shaw.
“The mitochondrial function in the cells appeared to be fine, and calcium levels were normal,” she says. “This shows for the first time that restricting mitochondrial movement and distribution could cause neuronal disease.”
Stefan M. Pulst, M.D., Dr. med, professor and chair of the University’s neurology department and a co-author on the study, says the mitochondrial transport process is important not just for motor neurons but other neurons as well. “The Miro1 proteins and the respective animal models represent a breakthrough for studying ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and other neurodegenerative diseases.”
Although much more research must be done, the study opens the possibility of developing new drugs to partially correct the mitochondrial distribution defects to slow the progression of motor neuron diseases. First, Shaw wants to generate a model to knock out the Miro1 gene in adult mice to see if the results mimic neurological diseases.

neurosciencestuff:

Mouse Model Sheds Light Mitochondria’s Role in Neurodegenerative Diseases

A new study by researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine sheds light on a longstanding question about the role of mitochondria in debilitating and fatal motor neuron diseases and resulted in a new mouse model to study such illnesses.

Researchers led by Janet Shaw, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, found that when healthy, functioning mitochondria was prevented from moving along axons – nerve fibers that conduct electricity away from neurons – mice developed symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases. In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Shaw and her research colleagues said their findings indicate that motor neuron diseases might result from poor distribution of mitochondria along the spinal cord and axons. First author Tammy T. Nguyen, is a student in the U medical school’s M.D./Ph.D. program, which aims to produce physicians with outstanding clinical skills and rigorous scientific training to bridge the worlds of clinical medicine and basic research to improve health care.

“We’ve known for a long time of the link between mitochondrial function and distribution and neural disease,” Shaw says. “But we haven’t been able to tell if the defect occurs because mitochondria aren’t getting to the right place or because they’re not functioning correctly.”

Mitochondria are organelles – compartments contained inside cells – that serve several functions, including making ATP, a nucleotide that cells convert into chemical energy to stay alive. For this reason mitochondria often are called “cellular power plants.” They also play a critical role in preventing too much calcium from building up in cells, which can cause apoptosis, or cell death.

For mitochondria to perform its functions, it must be distributed to cells throughout the body, which is accomplished with the help of small protein “motors” that transport the organelles along axons. For the motors to transport mitochondria, enzymes known as Mitochondrial Rho (Miro1) GTPases act to attach mitochondria to the motors. To study how the movement of mitochondria is related to motor neuron disease, Nguyen developed two mouse models in which the gene that makes Miro1 was knocked out. In one model, mice lacked Miro1 during the embryonic stage. A second model lacked the enzyme in the cerebral cortex, spinal cord and hippocampus.

The researchers observed that mice lacking Miro1 during the embryonic stage had motor neuron defects that prevented them from taking a single breath once born. After examining the mice, Nguyen, Shaw and their colleagues discovered that neurons required for breathing after birth were missing from the upper half of the mice’s brain stems. The phrenic nerve, also important for breathing, was not fully developed, either.

“We believe the physical difficulties in the mice indicated there were motor neuron defects,” Shaw says.

Conversely, the mice without Miro1 in their brain and spinal cord were fine at birth but soon developed signs of neurological problems, such as hunched spines, difficulty moving and clasping their hind paws together, and died around 35 days after birth. Those symptoms appeared similar to motor neuron disease, according to Shaw.

“The mitochondrial function in the cells appeared to be fine, and calcium levels were normal,” she says. “This shows for the first time that restricting mitochondrial movement and distribution could cause neuronal disease.”

Stefan M. Pulst, M.D., Dr. med, professor and chair of the University’s neurology department and a co-author on the study, says the mitochondrial transport process is important not just for motor neurons but other neurons as well. “The Miro1 proteins and the respective animal models represent a breakthrough for studying ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Although much more research must be done, the study opens the possibility of developing new drugs to partially correct the mitochondrial distribution defects to slow the progression of motor neuron diseases. First, Shaw wants to generate a model to knock out the Miro1 gene in adult mice to see if the results mimic neurological diseases.

(via shychemist)

dendroica:

Bird-pollinated flower with a rather ingenious twist

When researchers studying several bird-pollinated species of Impatiens flowers in the mountains of western Cameroon noticed one with an odd, upwardly curving nectar spur, they couldn’t imagine how any sunbird could ever sip from it. After recording visitors to the flower continuously for a period of days, they had their answer, which they report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on September 8.
When sunbirds insert their beaks into those funny-shaped spurs, the flowers do a little twist. That apparently small modification significantly affects how pollen is placed on the birds’ bodies, increasing the likelihood that the pollen will successfully land on the stigma of another member of the same flower species to produce the next generation of Impatiens frithii.
The observation offers the first evidence of a pollination system in which plants have overcome floral architecture constraints on pollen placement by twisting their nectar spurs, according to the researchers. It is also an example of how evolution sometimes comes up with elegant and unexpected solutions, they say.

(via ScienceDaily)

dendroica:

Bird-pollinated flower with a rather ingenious twist

When researchers studying several bird-pollinated species of Impatiens flowers in the mountains of western Cameroon noticed one with an odd, upwardly curving nectar spur, they couldn’t imagine how any sunbird could ever sip from it. After recording visitors to the flower continuously for a period of days, they had their answer, which they report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on September 8.

When sunbirds insert their beaks into those funny-shaped spurs, the flowers do a little twist. That apparently small modification significantly affects how pollen is placed on the birds’ bodies, increasing the likelihood that the pollen will successfully land on the stigma of another member of the same flower species to produce the next generation of Impatiens frithii.

The observation offers the first evidence of a pollination system in which plants have overcome floral architecture constraints on pollen placement by twisting their nectar spurs, according to the researchers. It is also an example of how evolution sometimes comes up with elegant and unexpected solutions, they say.

(via ScienceDaily)

(via libutron)

sagansense:

amnhnyc:

New Research: Fossils of New Squirrel-like Species Support Earlier Origin of Mammals

A research team led by paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described three new small squirrel-like species that place a poorly understood Mesozoic group of animals firmly in the mammal family tree. The study, published today in the journal Nature, supports the idea that mammals originated at least 208 million years ago in the late Triassic, much earlier than some previous research suggests.

The three new species—Shenshou lui, Xianshou linglong, and Xianshou songae—are described from six nearly complete 160-million-year-old fossils found in China. The animals, which researchers have placed in a new group, or clade, called Euharamiyida, likely looked similar to small squirrels. They weighed between 1 and 10 ounces and had tails and feet that indicate that they were tree dwellers.

Based on the age of the Euharamiyida species and their kin, the divergence of mammals from reptiles had to have happened much earlier than some research has estimated. Instead of originating in the middle Jurassic (between 176 and 161 million years ago), mammals likely first appeared in the late Triassic (between 235 and 201 million years ago).

Read the full story. 

Wow. We were adorable.

(via hyggehaven)

s-c-i-guy:

600 Million Years and Counting…

I was pretty bored so I decided to make some GIFs of the last 600 million years of our planet’s plate tectonics.

The first GIF is a global mollewide projection. The second one is of the Colorado Plateau and the North American Southwest. The next GIF is of the entire formation of the North American Continent. The fourth GIF is of geologic and tectonic evolution of Europe. And finally the last one is the same as the first except in rectangular format.

I obtained the images from Global Paleogeography and them compiled them one by one into Photoshop with the end result being the above GIFs.

Geology rocks

(via en-thalpy)

cool-critters:

Green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta)

The green vine snake is a slender green tree snake found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is diurnal and mildly venomous. The reptile normally feeds on frogs and lizards using its binocular vision to hunt. They are slow moving, relying on camouflaging as a vine in foliage. The snake expands its body when disturbed to show a black and white scale marking. Also, they may open their mouth in threat display and point their head in the direction of the perceived threat.

photo credits: rivughorai, wiki, Suhaas Premkumar for National Geographic

brains-and-bodies:

From Natural Selection







"While these organised structures might look like the work of an artist, they’re actually just the remnants left behind where a sand bubbler crab’s been snacking. During low tide they exit their burrows (as seen in the top pic) to scour the sand for tiny bits of organic debris in a radial motion. While eating, the crabs ball the excess sand on their heads, then discard it when it gets too big for them to see over, leaving behind a remarkable-looking reminder which helps them keep from searching for food in the same sand twice.Each time High Tide returns, the small structures crumble and are washed away, all while leaving behind more food particles to fuel the tiny crab’s next accidentally artistic pursuits.”Source: http://tinyurl.com/7vpzwj8Video of the Sand bubbler crab in action:http://vimeo.com/6449515

brains-and-bodies:

From Natural Selection

"While these organised structures might look like the work of an artist, they’re actually just the remnants left behind where a sand bubbler crab’s been snacking. 

During low tide they exit their burrows (as seen in the top pic) to scour the sand for tiny bits of organic debris in a radial motion. While eating, the crabs ball the excess sand on their heads, then discard it when it gets too big for them to see over, leaving behind a remarkable-looking reminder which helps them keep from searching for food in the same sand twice.

Each time High Tide returns, the small structures crumble and are washed away, all while leaving behind more food particles to fuel the tiny crab’s next accidentally artistic pursuits.”

Source: http://tinyurl.com/7vpzwj8
Video of the Sand bubbler crab in action:http://vimeo.com/6449515

(via invertebrate-science)

omgplants:

gardenandtable:

Ginkgo biloba

Ah yes, the Ginkgo. Isn’t it an angiosperm because of its broad leaves? Wrong! It’s a gymnosperm. It’s also a monotypic plant, which is just a fancy word for saying that it is the only one in its taxon. The leaves can be bisected or not and the yellow fall color is unparalleled.

The ginkgo has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, often being associated with good memory. On top of this, the plant has no known diseases or pests! That’s great!

"But what’s the downside?"

Well you see, the Ginkgo is also dioecious, meaning that trees are separate-sexed. The male tree is great! The female tree is too….except for the small fact that it’s fruit stink to high heaven. Seriously. I have had people tell me that the smell has nearly knocked them down before. Overall, however, it’s a very wonderful plant!

Yaaaaas!

(via botanicalendeavors)

wildlife-pirate:

Wildlife corridors

Habitat fragmentation is a major contributor to human-wildlife conflict. Small “islands” of habitat often don’t have the carrying capacity for the animals that are forced to depend on it, which leads them to wander out into human settlements in search of food. Also, in the case of migratory species, when their migration routes are broken up by man-made structures the species will often continue on these routes, and in doing so, come in contact with humans, cars, homes, and farms.

What’s the solution? The real solution is to account for habitat connectivity when planning on where to put villages, farms, roads, and whatever else. But, this future planning can’t help the places where fragmentation is already a problem. For habitat that is already fragmented, one method is to “unfragment” it. Enter wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors connect patches of habitat. They can be overpasses, underpasses, swaths of land, backyards etc. In most papers their main purpose is stated as aiding in dispersal and genetic exchange between populations. However, an added perk is that increasing habitat connectivity decreases the need for animals to leave their habitat in the first place, thusly decreasing conflict. Designing these corridors is no small feat though. Their design takes careful planning and a thorough understanding of the target species and their movement patterns. Luckily, there are people out there who devote their time to making these corridors happen: 

A Maasai group ranch recently leased some of their land to be designated as a corridor for elephants in Kenya; Panthera has their huge Jaguar Corridor Initiative where they are trying to connect jaguar ranges throughout South America; and a corridor is being planned in California across route 101. And of course there are the hugely successful corridors that have already been trod upon by many paws and hooves. Banff National Park has an overpass and underpass, both shown above (2nd and 3rd pics). In Kenya, a highway underpass as reunited two herds of elephants (bottom picture). There is also the China-Russia Tiger Corridor, established in 2012 for the highly endangered Amur Tiger! 

Image sources HERE, HERE, and HERE.

(via callipygianology)