A patch of Posidonia oceanica, a species of seagrass native to the Mediterranean, has just gotten its DNA sequenced and its age determined--and as it turns out, some parts of this particular patch are up to 200,000 years old. That easily destroys the previous world record of the oldest living organism, a Tasmanian plant believed to be around 43,000 years old. Ha! A youngun!
Every year we’re enthralled by the smallest things among us, as scientists capture stunningly beautiful and bizarre images under the microscope. For the first time, the people who bring us the annual Small World Microphotography Competition have caught the world of the tiny on tape.
Scientists trekking through the Suriname rainforest, one of the last road-free wilderness areas in the world, turned up a host of animals that conservation biologists believe are new to science. This little guy was just one of them.
A newly designed metallic soap reacts to a magnetic field, a first in soap research that could lead to better control of cleanup chemicals in situations like aquatic oil spills. A magnet can overcome both gravity and the surface tension between water and oil to draw the soap away, ensuring it can be recovered after it’s used.
This little guy is officially the smallest vertebrate on the planet, averaging 7.7 millimeters in size, less than one-third of an inch. Named Paedophryne amauensis, the new species of frog was discovered in Papua New Guinea, where it lives in leaf detritus on the rainforest floor.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati performed an experiment on a type of the widespread and unnerving wolf spider that shows that these invertebrates may be much more complex than we give them credit for. The spiders were capable of observing, remembering, and mimicking mating dances, just like cast members on Jersey Shore.
Even when it starts out in a nosedive, a leaping lizard uses its tail to right itself, flinging the appendage to alter its own angular momentum and ensure it lands safely on its feet. Robots can do this, too, using controlled robotails that will guarantee a safe landing, a new study says.
Orangutans living in captivity will soon start using iPads for primate play-dates, using Skype or FaceTime to interact with their brethren in other zoos, according to zookeepers. The great apes have been playing with iPads for about six months at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and they’ve been such a hit that other zoos plan to introduce them, too.
With enormous sets of instruments and giga-amounts of data, it’s easy to have too much information in science these days, requiring the careful sifting of signals to reach a target. But researchers can just as easily share their surpluses, and they probably should — time and again, one scientist’s discarded data is another researcher’s treasure.
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 12.23.2011 at 11:01 am 1 Comment
No. The charm has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the charmer waving a pungi, a reed instrument carved out of a gourd, in the snake’s face. Snakes don’t have external ears and can perceive little more than low-frequency rumbles. But when they see something threatening, they rise up in a defensive pose. “The movement of the snake is completely keyed in on the guy playing the toodley thing,” says Robert Drewes, chairman of the department of herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles) at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
Given a choice between eating chocolate alone and rescuing their pals, rats will apparently save their pals and then share the chocolate with them. Trapping a rat in a cage sparks its cagemate into action, as it figures out how to open the cage and liberate its jailed friend. This is an unusual example of rats expressing empathy, a trait thought to be reserved to us higher mammals, the primates.
Here’s something you probably don’t hear very often: A nuclear power plant that lights up thousands of homes in Florida has become a major refuge for a once-endangered species. Canals designed to divert power plant water provide a safe haven for crocodiles, a supremely cold-sensitive species that once numbered fewer than 300 in this country.
This amazing/disturbing picture is of a giant weta, the world's biggest insect at a whopping 71 grams in weight. Wetas are cricket- or grasshopper-like insects native to the smaller islands of New Zealand, having been eradicated from the larger islands due to recently-introduced rats and other mammals. It's been officially named as the heaviest adult insect in the world (though some insects, like the Goliath beetle, attain higher weights in their larval stages).
Here at PopSci we frequently talk about genetic modification, the process of interrupting or editing gene sequences to introduce new traits that nature by itself does not. Far less often do we talk about the other option — let’s call it morphologic modification, for the process of unnaturally selecting and breeding for those desired traits. Take, for example, the dog.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.