In 1980, 16 shipwrecked Danish fishermen were hauled to safety after an hour and a half in the frigid North Sea. They then walked across the deck of the rescue ship, stepped below for a hot drink, and dropped dead, all 16 of them.
The whole piece is chock-full of thrilling goodness.
"The vice-president of an advertising agency is a bit of executive fungus that forms on a desk that has been exposed to conference."
Not gonna post the video directly ‘cause it could gross the F*** out of people, but here’s the link.
It’s a disgusting but highly interesting phenomenon; just make sure you’re not eating anything while watching.
"Like the platypus, the echidna both lays eggs and gives milk, making it one of the rare animals that can make it’s own custard."
Valonia ventricosa, also known as “bubble algae” and “sailors’ eyeballs”, is a species of algae found in oceans throughout the world in tropical and subtropical regions. It is one of the largest single-cell organisms.
So much life going on out there in the oceans.
Medical doctors during the mid-1950’s, concerned with high blood pressure in humans, conducted some physiological experiments on giraffe. The giraffe’s long neck piqued their interest. Changes in blood pressure, occurring when the giraffe leans down to drink, would create problems that had to have been solved by some physiological means. Unless there was some mechanism, lowering the head would increase the blood pressure to such an extent that rupture of blood vessels in the brain would be highly likely. The heart must pump blood up 2.5 meters to the brain when the giraffe is erect, and down 2.5 meters when the giraffe stoops to drink. The circulatory system must have some way of preventing the blood from rushing too quickly back to the heart from the brain when the animal is erect or down to the brain when the animal’s head is lowered. The giraffe raises and lowers it’s head quickly.
Tests showed that the blood pressure at the base of the brain was 200 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) when the giraffe is upright and, instead of being higher as expected, dropped to 175 mm Hg when the head was lowered. The viscosity of giraffe blood and its protein content was expected to be high - thicker things flowing more slowly. Instead, the viscosity was found to be the same as man, and the protein content, which might have caused high osmotic pressure, was found to be lower than that of man.
As in most ruminants, the blood reaches the brain from the heart by way of the common and external carotid arteries. The two external carotids divide, just before each reaches the brain, into many small vessels forming a tight network that is called the rete mirabile. The vessels of the giraffe rete have elastic walls which can accommodate excess blood when the head is lowered so that the brain is not flooded. As a further safeguard for the brain while the giraffe is in this position, a connection between the carotid artery and the vertebral artery drains off a portion of the blood even before it reaches this network. The walls of the rete mirabile vessels are also elastic enough to retain sufficient blood when the head is raised so that the brain’s supply is not depleted momentarily during the system’s pressure changes.
Conversely, the blood vessels in the lower legs are under great pressure (because of the weight of fluid pressing down on them). To solve this problem, the giraffe’s lower legs have a thick, tight layer of skin, which prevents too much blood from pouring into them.
Interesting, but even more interesting is their gigantic heart…
Its heart, which can weigh more than 25 lb (11 kg) and measures about 2 ft (61 cm) long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure(~300/200, the highest of any animal) required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain. Giraffes have usually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.
Now you know why Giraffes are such gentle giants — they have a large heart.
One more thing… if this is what Giraffes have had to do to live with their long necks, imagine what the Sauropods, with necks over five times longer than a Giraffe’s and bodies as large as whales, would have had to deal with. The scale is just Insane.
When it comes to messing with the backbone—the sugars and phosphates—it gets quite a bit harder to integrate things with actual biological systems. The enzymes that prepare and copy DNA, for example, are structured to work with sugars and phosphates. Having something that’s both chemically and structurally distinct doesn’t always work that well.
Rather than messing with the chemistry, the team behind the new paper decided to fix the enzymes. They started with a DNA copying enzyme, and introduced lots of random mutations, then checked for versions that would latch on to a chemical that was somewhat structurally related to the normal sugar used in DNA. After a couple rounds of this, they had an enzyme that could copy stretches of DNA into pieces of a nucleic acid that contained nothing but this sugar substitute, converting the DNA into an artificial chemical relative.
Using similar procedures, the same enzyme could be adapted to a wide variety of chemicals related to sugars. The authors picked five in total, all with features that were distinct from the normal sugars, like a double bond between carbon atoms, a fluorine replacing an oxygen, and a double-ring structure. Collectively, they termed these DNA/RNA substitutes XNAs.
Animals came from DNAs, plants from RNAs, and now with XNAs, the question of when we’ll meet aliens is finally answered… we don’t have to look to skies, we are making them right here on Earth in our labs. Exciting.
Her eight arms boiled up, twisting, slippery, to meet mine. I plunged both my arms elbow deep into the fifty-seven-degree water. Athena’s melon-sized head bobbed to the surface. Her left eye (octopuses have one dominant eye like humans have a dominant hand) swiveled in its socket to meet mine. “She’s looking at you,” Dowd said.
Carl Zimmer has a mind-boggling post up on the Discover Magazine blog titled “The Human Lake”, talking about a unique “organ” that doesn’t show up in human anatomy diagrams - “The Microbiome”, an insanely vast collection of microbes that exist inside our body doing things that you couldn’t even have imagined yet have taken for granted so far.
Some excerpts from the post, on the Microbiome - the organ you can’t see:
Our collection of microbes–the microbiome–is like an extra organ of the human body. And while an organ like the heart has only one function, the microbiome has many.
When food comes into the gut, for example, microbes break some of them down using enzymes we lack. Sometimes the microbes and our own cells have an intimate volley, in which bacteria break down a molecule part way, our cells break it down some more, the bacteria break it down even more, and then finally we get something to eat.
Another thing that the microbiome does is manage the immune system. Certain species of resident bacteria, like Bacteroides fragilis, produce proteins that tamp down inflammation. When scientists rear mice that don’t have any germs at all, they have a very difficult time developing a normal immune system. The microbiome has to tutor the immune system in how to do its job properly. It also acts like an immune system of its own, fighting off invading microbes, and helping to heal wounds.
While the microbiome may be an important organ, it’s a peculiar one. It’s not one solid hunk of flesh. It’s an ecosystem, made up of thousands of interacting species.
The microbes in your body at this moment outnumber your cells by ten to one. And they come in a huge diversity of species—somewhere in the thousands, although no one has a precise count yet. By some estimates there are twenty million microbial genes in your body: about a thousand times more than the 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome. So the Human Genome Project was, at best, a nice start. If we really want to understand all the genes in the human body, we have a long way to go.
On the mind-boggling levels of diversity:
Here’s a microbial Venn diagram shows the diversity in three mouths. All told, they harbor 818 species, but only 387 were shared by all three, the rest were missing from some people and present in others.
Microbes that live on the surface of the skin can get lots of oxygen, but they also bear the brunt of sun, wind, and cold. Microbes in the intestines have next to no oxygen, but they have a much more stable habitat. Microbes have carved up the human body into far finer niches. The bugs on your fingers are different from the ones on your elbow. The two sides of a single tooth have a different diversity of microbes.
On the unbelievable levels of interdependence between vastly different species of microbes:
Such is the case for one microbe called Synergistetes that lives in the mouth. On its own up in a Petri dish (the top red dish to the right), it struggles to grow. But if you add a streak of Parvimonas micra, it can take off. It’s not clear what P. micra is doing for Synergistetes but it’s doing something really important. There are links like this between the hundreds of species in every mouth.
On how incredible an impact these teensy little things have on our bodies:
scientists have found, obese mice have a different microbial ecosystem than regular mice. And if you take the stool from one of these obese mice and transplant it into a mouse that has been raised germ-free, the recipient mouse will gain more weight than recipients of normal gut microbes. The microbes themselves are altering how obese mice are processing energy.
This is the ultimate example of unity in diversity. Amazing how so many things, so vastly different, can all just come together and work simply because the participants don’t have the concept of “the individual” built in. All the troubles we humans face today is a side-effect of “the individual”. I however, am positive there will come a time in our future when we’ll stop being “individuals” and become a single whole - a superorganism - The One Mind. On that day, our race will have evolved to the next level.