Category: Science

These animals can survive until the end of the Earth

These animals can survive until the end of the Earth

The Washington Post
By Ben Guarino

Tardigrades have a reputation as the toughest animals on the planet. Some of these microscopic invertebrates shrug off temperatures of minus 272 Celsius, one degree warmer than absolute zero. Other species can endure powerful radiation and the vacuum of space. In 2007, the European Space Agency sent 3,000 animals into low Earth orbit, where the tardigrades survived for 12 days on the outside of the capsule.

To a group of theoretical physicists, tardigrades were the perfect specimens to test life’s tenacity. “Life is pretty fragile if all your estimates are based on humans or dinosaurs,” said David Sloan, a theoretical cosmologist at Oxford University in Britain.

The tardigrade lineage is ancient. “Tardigrade microfossils are reported from the Early Cambrian to the Early Cretaceous, 520 million to 100 million years ago,” said Ralph O. Schill, an expert on tardigrades at the University of Stuttgart in Germany who was not involved with this research. “They have seen the dinosaurs come and go.”

 

Arthritis surgery sounded like a breeze. So why was she in more pain?

Arthritis surgery sounded like a breeze. So why was she in more pain?

The Washington Post — Written by Sandra G. Boodman — Image courtesy of Cameron Cottrill /For The Washington Post

To Beth Jersey, it sounded like a no-brainer.

The pain from the deteriorated joint at the base of her thumb caused by osteoarthritis was worsening, making her favorite hobby — gardening — increasingly difficult.

So in February 2014, the 58-year-old payroll manager who lives in northern California decided to have the outpatient operation recommended by her hand surgeon to repair the joint. Two of her friends had undergone the same procedure and “were really happy with the results,” she said. “They had no complications. It sounded really simple.”

But as Jersey discovered almost immediately, her case was anything but.

No, NASA is not hiding kidnapped children on Mars

No, NASA is not hiding kidnapped children on Mars

The Washington Post — Written by Peter Holley — Image courtesy of NASA

The situation for human beings on Mars is dire, and not just because the red planet’s atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and the average temperature is -81 degrees.

There’s also the issue of the child-trafficking ring operating in secret on the planet 33.9 million miles from earth, according to a guest on the Alex Jones Show.

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride,” Robert David Steele said Thursday during a winding, conspiratorial dialogue with Jones about child victims of sex crimes. “So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.”

NASA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Dormouse-Fattening Jars of Ancient Rome

From Atlas Obscura — Written by Carly Silver — Image courtesy of Heather Kelley/Perfect Plum

A glirarium on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Chiusi.

The ancient Romans consumed some strange foods, ranging from sow’s womb to dormice, which were known as glires in Latin. Astute Italians got their rodents mouth-ready by sticking them in a special container called a glirarium or vivarium in doliis (enclosed animal habitats in jars); it was designed to be a temporary home—a rodent Airbnb—where the animal could pig out. Humans would then cook up the dormouse once they judged it to be at prime plumpness.

Just a note: Romans didn’t eat the kind of mice that gnaw your wires. Instead, they chowed down on “edible dormice,” which were a lot bigger and substantive than their modern house-mouse counterparts. These were long considered extravagances; in 115 BC, consul Marcus Aemilius Scaurus passed a law that prohibited serving exotic avians, mollusks, and dormice, according to Pliny the Elder. But it’s likely that nobody listened to Scaurus’ legislation—the rodents were too tasty.

On their country estates, prominent Romans reared some animals just for consumption. In his On Agriculture, Roman scholar Varro noted that country gentlemen raised tiny critters like snails to eat, bees for honey, and dormice inside their villas. Ancient gourmand Fluvius Hirpinus (whose name was probably a misspelling) popularized eating snails and started the practice of fattening dormice for the table in the mid-first century BC.

How climate change and air pollution can affect your health

From ABC News — Written by Gillian Mohney

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate agreement could have far reaching consequences on climate and fossil fuel emissions in the future.

While climate change and pollution are often discussed in terms of environmental damage, they can also greatly impact public health.

Under the Paris agreement, the U.S. said it would cut carbon emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and parties agree to try to hold global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above temperatures in the late 1800s.

Jeffrey Shaman, director of the Climate and Health Program at the Mailman School of Public Health, pointed out that a changing climate may mean fundamental changes to human health.

Acquiring and using fossil fuels “has led to the disruption of the [climate] system that we have come to rely on,” said Shaman pointing out civilization developed during the 11,000 year period of climate stability. “That disruption is a fundamental stressor on our system.”

Without that climate stability, Shaman and other public health officials have found that there are risks to public health from multiple factors including extreme weather, spreading populations of insects and irritating airborne pollutants.

Cicada horror stories

From The Washington Post — Written by Kevin Ambrose — Image courtesy of Kevin Ambrose

The screams were heard by everyone in the Fair Lakes parking lot. A woman, bent over at the waist, was thrashing her torso back and forth while slapping at the back of her head and shoulders, screaming and gasping for air at the same time.

Two men rushed to help. One man quickly noticed what was terrifying the woman — a cicada had become tangled in her hair and was flipping and bouncing against the back of her neck. The bug was making quite a commotion, beating its wings rapidly while emitting a loud, buzzing noise with its tymbals.

The man carefully pulled the large insect out of the woman’s hair and held it out to show her. “Look, it’s only a cicada,” he said. The woman reeled back with horror and exclaimed, “How can you touch that thing?!” Then she quickly walked to her car, muttering, “I’m never going outside again.”