There's something magnificently creepy about this tiny bot, just one millimeter wide, developed at Israel's Technion University. Maybe it's the resemblance to a twitching tick or flea, or the fact that it's so small there could be insectile bots all around you right now and you'd hardly notice. (The robot, called Virob, has no internal power source--it derives its power from external magnetic fields.
Or maybe it's that the bug is designed to infiltrate human veins, autonomously crawling around our circulatory systems, taking pictures and poking its feelers where no 'bot has gone before.
In its attempts to quash weapons of mass destruction, the Pentagon has been trying novel ways to track down dangerous materiel. For years, DARPA has been trying to train insects and bugs to sniff out toxic substances, providing more sensitive detection, as well as access that conventional sensors might not have.
Willy Wonka would have liked this, but I can't imagine a whole lot of human cooks worth their -- ahem -- salt, will have much interest: a company is selling a book of spices made from edible paper. Want some chili flavoring in a dish? Just rip out the perforated page and put in the pan.
In today's links: forcing people to smoke fails, why it's sometimes better to eat bland food, and more.
As a respite from the nonstop flu blogging, I decided it was time to have a little fun and show the lighter side of science.
First up is a story from the Wall Street Journal about the residents of Tuscarora, Nevada, driving off a swarm of insects by blasting Led Zeppelin.
Making babies requires a male and a female, a sperm and an egg, right? Well, the wild world of animals is often more creative than the lot of us humans when it comes to making whoopee. In fact, some animals don't have sex at all, thank you very much.
Just this month, bug biologists found the first all-female ant species, Mycocepurus smithii. The queen ant clones herself by making eggs that develop into adult females without fertilization. Some of those females will then become queens themselves. Apparently the species has been sexless for enough generations that the ants might not be able to mate even if they wanted to. Dissections showed that a key female sex part that normally interlocks with a male organ during mating had shrunken to a ghost of its former self.
Parasites may reduce their hosts' risk of developing immune dysfunctions
By Amber SassePosted 04.22.2009 at 11:10 am 4 Comments
The incidence of asthma and allergies are on the rise. In the United States alone, asthma rates have doubled since the 1980s. And, according to a recent article by the BBC, doctors once estimated 15 percent of the population had some type of allergy, but now believe the figure is closer to 40. More patients are also suffering from multiple allergies than ever before. The reason for this trend has been widely disputed, but a new study points the finger at a surprising culprit: lice.
Members of the Zosteropidae family are not birds of a feather. White-eyes, sparrow-like songbirds, are the fastest-evolving bird on record. According to a recent genetic analysis of several dozen subspecies by Chris Filardi, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 80 species have emerged in the past two million years. Among vertebrates, only the cichlid fish evolves faster, probably due to abrupt changes in its geographically confined habitat, a common catalyst for speciation. But white-eyes populate three continents, so Filardi suspects that sexual selection and social behavior drives the birds' speedy diversification, which includes changing plumage and songs.
The movie Blue Velvet was creepy and sexy and intriguing and uncomfortable, but it ain't got nothing on Isabella Rossellini's roles as various sorts of horny insects and other small creatures. In the bizarre Green Porno series, she explains their reproductive habits, complete with lurid close-ups, costumes, moans and first-person narratives. Here she is as a bee,snail, earthworm, spider and dragonfly.
Fans of the series will be overjoyed to hear that Green Porno 2 is on its way. According to Ms. Rossellini, upcoming episodes deal with sea creatures, so hopefully we'll get some more on the joys of squid sex. And think how pretty she'd be as a one of the newly found rainbow jellyfish! I have no idea how jellyfish reproduce, so I'd watch that episode. "The animals that live in the ocean are so different than us. In their sexual behavior, marine creatures are even more scandalous than bugs," she says.
Also in today's links: more animal sex, chimps seeking honey, and a science minister who tried to dodge the evolution question.
Remember those cows who seemed to align themselves with the magnetic poles while grazing? Turns out the earth might not be the only thing prompting the cows' positioning. The same researchers who studied Google map images to draw their earlier conclusion have found that power lines, too, seem to cause the bovines to stand facing particular directions.
Also in today's links: phantom pain in a phantom limb, a new player in Internet movies, and more.
Researchers have found that, for male seed beetles with "torture phalluses", the longer and spinier the better. The "pretty mean" genital is covered in spines along its entire length and causes internal injury to the female beetles, who -- not too surprisingly -- are built with thick padding to withstand mating. (To get these pics of the toothy, horny beetle genitalia, the scientists pumped them up with a vacuum pump -- just like Austin Powers!)
Also in today's links: many more oddities of the animal kingdom.