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Fish 05-27-2012 10:31 AM

Whales use rhymes in their long complex songs..


"When scientists talk about whales singing songs, they're not talking about mere noise. They're talking about intricate, stylized compositions - some longer than symphonic movements - performed in medleys that can last up to 22 hours. The songs of humpback whales can change dramatically from year to year, yet each whale in an oceanwide population always sings the same song as the others. How, with the form changing so fast, does everyone keep the verses straight? Biologists Linda Guinee and Katharine Payne have been looking into the matter, and they have come up with an intriguing possibility. It seems that humpbacks, like humans, use rhyme."

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) sing long, complex songs which continually change over time. In certain time periods the songs contain repeating patterns which structurally resemble human rhyming, and which, like human rhyming, tend to occur in highly rhythmical contexts. We speculate that humpback whales may use these repetitions as mnemonic devices, much as humans are thought to use rhymes. With this speculation in mind we examine 548 humpback whale songs from 7 years in the eastern North Pacific and 12 years in the western North Atlantic oceans. We find that rhyme-like structures are most likely to occur in songs containing the most material to be remembered.

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Fish 05-27-2012 10:57 AM

Dear Germaphobes.... You've already lost... The human body is now composed of more bacteria cells than human cells. We are legion....

Bacteria ‘R’ Us

Emerging research shows that bacteria have powers to engineer the environment, to communicate and to affect human well-being. They may even think.

Today’s revelation in the journal Science that researchers have found a bacterium in California’s Mono Lake that can thrive on arsenic — usually implicated in killing life, not sustaining it — is quickly revolutionizing our conception of what is life and where it might be found. To help in deciphering the direct contribution bacteria make to human life, we’re reposting this story which originally debuted on Oct. 18.

A few scientists noticed in the late 1960s that the marine bacteria Vibrio fischeri appeared to coordinate among themselves the production of chemicals that produced bioluminescence, waiting until a certain number of them were in the neighborhood before firing up their light-making machinery. This behavior was eventually dubbed “quorum sensing.” It was one of the first in what has turned out to be a long list of ways in which bacteria talk to each other and to other organisms.

Some populations of V. fischeri put this skill to a remarkable use: They live in the light-sensing organs of the bobtail squid. This squid, a charming nocturnal denizen of shallow Hawaiian waters, relies on V. fischeri to calculate the light shining from above and emit exactly the same amount of light downward, masking the squid from being seen by predators swimming beneath them.

For their lighting services, V. fischeri get a protected environment rich in essential nutrients. Each dawn, the squid evict all their V. fischeri to prevent overpopulation. During the day, the bacteria recolonize the light-sensing organ and detect a fresh quorum, once again ready to camouflage the squid by night.

This tale of bobtail squid would be just another mildly jaw-dropping story in a natural world full of marvels if it weren’t a portal into an unsuspected realm that has profound consequences for human beings. Regardless of the scale at which we explore the biosphere — whether we delve into the global ocean or the internal seas of individual organisms — bacteria are now known to be larger players than humans ever imagined.

Strictly by the numbers, the vast majority — estimated by many scientists at 90 percent — of the cells in what you think of as your body are actually bacteria, not human cells. The number of bacterial species in the human gut is estimated to be about 40,000, according to Daniel Frank and Norman Pace, writing in the January 2008 Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. The total number of individual bacterial cells in the gut is projected to be on the order of 100 trillion, according to Xing Yang and colleagues at the Shanghai Center for Bioinformation Technology, reporting in the June 2009 issue of PLoS One, a peer-reviewed online science journal. Xing calculated a ballpark figure for the number of unique bacterial genes in a human gut at about 9 million.
In fact, most of the life on the planet is probably composed of bacteria.
They have been found making a living in Cretaceous-era sediments below the bottom of the ocean and in ice-covered Antarctic lakes, inside volcanoes, miles high in the atmosphere, teeming in the oceans — and within every other life-form on Earth.

These facts by themselves may trigger existential shock: People are partly made of pond scum. But beyond that psychic trauma, a new and astonishing vista unfolds. In a series of recent findings, researchers describe bacteria that communicate in sophisticated ways, take concerted action, influence human physiology, alter human thinking and work together to bioengineer the environment. These findings may foreshadow new medical procedures that encourage bacterial participation in human health. They clearly set out a new understanding of the way in which life has developed on Earth to date, and of the power microbes have to regulate both the global environment and the internal environment of the human beings they inhabit and influence so profoundly.

There’s such ferment afoot in microbiology today that even the classification of the primary domains of life and the relationships among those domains are subjects of disagreement. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the fundamental difference between two major types of life-forms: those that have a cell wall but few or no internal subdivisions, and those that possess cells containing a nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts and other smaller substructures, or organelles. The former life-forms — often termed prokaryotes — include bacteria and the most ancient of Earth’s life-forms, the archaea. (Until the 1970s, archaea and bacteria were classed together, but the chemistry of archaean cell walls and other features are quite different from bacteria, enabling them to live in extreme environments such as Yellowstone’s mud pots and hyperacidic mine tailings.) Everything but archaea and bacteria, from plants and animals to fungi and malaria parasites, is classified as a eukaryote.


Bacteria can live solitary lives, of course, but they prefer to aggregate in biofilms, also known as “slime cities.” Biofilms usually form on a surface, whether it’s the inner lining of the intestines or inside water pipes or on your teeth. In these close-knit colonies, bacteria coordinate group production of a slimy translucent coating and fibers called “curli” and “pili” that attach the colony to something else. Biofilms can harbor multiple types of bacteria as well as fungi and protists (microscopic eukaryotes). A complex vascular system for transporting nutrients and chemical signals through a biofilm may also develop. As Tim Friend described in his book The Third Domain, explorers diving to the wreck of the Titanic found these features in “rusticles” — draped colonies of microbes — feeding on the iron in the Titanic‘s hull and skeleton, more than 2 miles under the surface.

The abilities of bacteria are interesting to understand in their own right, and knowing how bacteria function in the biosphere may lead to new sources of energy or ways to degrade toxic chemicals, for example. But emerging evidence on the role of bacteria in human physiology brings the wonder and promise — and the hazards of misunderstanding them — up close and personal.

Because in a very real sense, bacteria are us.

In 2007, the National Institutes of Health began an ambitious program called the Human Microbiome Project, which aims to take a census of all the microorganisms that normally live in and on the human body. Most of these live in the digestive tract, but researchers have also discovered unique populations adapted to the inside of the elbow and the back of the knee. Even the left and right hands have their own distinct biota, and the microbiomes of men and women differ. The import of this distribution of microorganisms is unclear, but its existence reinforces the notion that humans should start thinking of themselves as ecosystems, rather than discrete individuals.
As of early 2010, the Human Microbiome Project had collected samples of microbial DNA from about 300 people and had sequenced or prepared to sequence the genomes of about 500 bacterial strains from these samples. Fifteen studies of microbial involvement in human disease have been funded. “These sorts of trials take time,” says Microbiome Project program director Susan Garges, so clinical treatments based on the research from the project could be years off unless, she says, “in the shorter term, specific microorganisms are associated with a disease state.” In that case, protocols for clinical diagnosis and treatment might be accelerated.

But the microbiome project is not just about disease-causing microbes such as E. coli and Staphylococcus strains. Many of the organisms it is identifying are responsible for regulating the digestive tract and keeping humans healthy in a variety of ways.

The human gut is filled with large numbers of a wide variety of bacteria; clearly those that cause disease must rank high on the priority list of those to be studied, but the picture emerging from new research is that pathogens and beneficial bacteria are not necessarily mutually exclusive organisms. A microbe’s effects on the human body can depend on conditions. And if you approach the human body as an ecosystem, some researchers are finding, it may be possible to tune that system and prevent many diseases — from acute infections to chronic debilitating conditions — and even to foster mental health, through bacteria.

Recent research has shown that gut microbes control or influence nutrient supply to the human host, the development of mature intestinal cells and blood vessels, the stimulation and maturation of the immune system, and blood levels of lipids such as cholesterol. They are, therefore, intimately involved in the bodily functions that tend to be out of kilter in modern society: metabolism, cardiovascular processes and defense against disease. Many researchers are coming to view such diseases as manifestations of imbalance in the ecology of the microbes inhabiting the human body. If further evidence bears this out, medicine is about to undergo a profound paradigm shift, and medical treatment could regularly involve kindness to microbes.

Still, in practice, the medical notion of friendly microbes has yet to extend much past the idea that eating yogurt is good for you. For most doctors and medical microbiologists, microbes are enemies in a permanent war. Medicine certainly has good reason to view microbes as dangerous, since the germ theory of disease and the subsequent development of antibiotics are two of medical science’s greatest accomplishments.

But there’s a problem: The paradigm isn’t working very well anymore. Not only are bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant, but antibiotics are creating other problems. Approximately 25 percent of people treated with antibiotics for an infection develop diarrhea. Moreover, people who contract infections just by being hospitalized are at risk of developing chronic infections in the form of biofilms. These not only gum up the works of devices such as IV tubes, stents and catheters, but also protect their constituent microbes from antibiotics.

In addition to antibiotic-resistant E. coli and Salmonella that often spread through our food supply, common pathogens that make doctors’ blood run cold include Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Clostridium difficile. P. aeruginosa is responsible for about 40 percent of all fatalities from hospital-acquired infections. C. difficile is the culprit in at least a quarter of diarrhea cases caused by antibiotics. A 2007 study by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found that mortality rates from C. difficile infections in the United States quadrupled between 1999 and 2004. C. difficile will invade an antibiotic-cleansed colon and “poke holes in it,” says Vincent Young, a gastrointestinal infection specialist at the University of Michigan. Some people in this situation rush to the bathroom 20 times a day. “It’s not just an inconvenience,” Young says.

Continue reading:

Fish 05-30-2012 09:59 AM

Question: How will nanotechnology help us live longer?

Kurzweil: Nanotechnologies are broad concept, it’s simply refers to technology where the key features in measuring the small number of nanometers. A nanometer is the diameter 5 carbon atom so it’s very close to the molecular level and we already have new materials and devices that had been manufactured at the nanoscale. In fact, chips today, the key features are 50 or 60 nanometers so that is already nanotechnology.

The true promise of nanotechnology is that ultimately we’ll be able to create devices that are manufactured at the molecular level by putting together, molecular fragments in new combinations so, I can send you an information file and a desktop nanofactory will assemble molecules according to the definition in the file and create a physical objects so I can e-mail you a pair of trousers or a module to build housing or a solar panel and we’ll be able to create just about anything we need in the physical world from information files with very inexpensive input materials. You can… I mean, just a few years ago if I wanted to send you a movie or a book or a recorded album, I would send you a FedEx package, now I can e-mail you an attachment and you can create a movie or a book from that. On the future, I’ll be able to e-mail you a blouse or a meal. So, that’s the promise of nanotechnology.

Another promise is to be able to create devices that are size of blood cells and by the way biology is an example of nanotechnology, the key features of biology are at the molecular level. So, that’s actually the existence proof that nanotechnology is feasible but biology is based on limited side of materials. Everything is built out of proteins and that’s a limited class of substances. With nanotechnology we can create things that are far more durable and far more powerful.

One scientist designed a robotic red blood cell it’s a thousand times more powerful than the biological version so, if you were to replace a portion of your biological red blood cells with this respirocytes the robotic versions. You could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for 4 hours. If I were to say someday you’ll have millions or even billions of these nanobots, nano-robots , blood cell size devices going through your body and keeping you healthy from inside, I might think well, that sounds awfully futuristic. I’d point out this already in 50 experiments in animals of doing exactly that with the first generation of nano engineered blood cell size devices.

One scientist cured type 1 diabetes in rats with the blood cell size device. Seven nanometer pores let’s insulin out in the controlled fashion. At MIT, there’s a blood cell size device that can detect and destroy cancer cells in the bloodstream. These are early experiments but keep in mind that because of the exponential progression of this technology, these technologies will be a billion time more powerful in 25 years and you get some idea what will be feasible.

Fish 05-30-2012 10:10 AM

This is really bad ass... Bees are so fascinating.... Hive mind capabilities that allow them to collectively burn alive intruders that they can't kill using their stingers. **** that.....

"Bee-balling," the act of Japanese honeybees surrounding an enemy wasp and then all vibrating their flight muscles to raise the internal temperature of the ball high enough to cook their enemy, has been known about for some time. And now researchers at the University of Tokyo believe that the bees may actually be using their brains to act collectively to take down the threat.

Set off if bees posted as "guards" at the entrance to the colony detect an intruder, the move evolved because the bee's stingers aren't strong enough to penetrate the hornet's tough exoskeleton, researchers said.

The research team, whose latest research on the phenomenon appeared in the scientific journal PLoS ONE in mid-March, was astounded by the fact that the collective heat generated by the group, while fatal for the hornet, leaves the bees unaffected.

"When an outsider enters, the honeybees are immediately on their guard. Then, all at once, they gather to attack," he said.

"So, it isn't one commanding all the rest, we believe in this moment of emergency they're acting collectively."

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Fish 05-30-2012 01:30 PM

Rain Man 05-30-2012 02:21 PM

This is a cool thread.

Fish 05-30-2012 02:28 PM

Honey. Seems inconspicuous enough right? Until you realize that it's nothing but bug vomit.

Sweet delicious bug vomit...

The bees collect the nectar from flowers and store it in their "honey stomachs," separate from their true stomachs. On their way back to the hive they secrete enzymes into it that begin converting the stuff into honey. Once in the hive they puke up the nectar and either turn it over to other workers for further processing or else dump it directly into the honeycomb. The bees then beat their tiny wings to fan air through the hive to evaporate excess water from the honey. Last they cover the honeycomb cell with wax, figuring hey, we worked like dogs, but at least now we'll be able to get a snack whenever we want. Suckers. The humans steal the honey, pack it in bottles, and there you go--direct from the bees' guts to yours.

Fish 05-31-2012 01:50 PM

A Profusion of Pressurized Penguin Poo

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What variables do you need to consider when you are contemplating penguin poo pressure? First, you need to consider how WIDE the opening of your "gun" is. using "a few 'spot-on' photographs", taken during the event, they estimated the diameter of the cloaca during at about 8mm when the penguin pinches a loaf. You then need to work out height. As the penguin moves up to the edge of its nest to do its business, the cloaca is going to be a bit higher than normal, around 20cm. And then you need to determine the viscosity of your poo, whether its more liquidy or more solid. Once you have all of these and the distance the poo travels, you can calculate the velocity of the dump using this model:

Once you have an idea of velocity, you can start working out pressure for fluids of different viscosities. The authors started out with the "ideal" viscosity of something near water. While they got a pressure of around 34mmHg (not too bad), the low viscosity, and the constant pressure, would result in the poo taking on a parabola. This would be great if the penguin could REALLY get its butt in the air, but since it stands upright and can' may be implausible.

However, a higher viscosity works better. If you use a viscosity of say...below glycerine, but above glycol (they tried to take poo samples and measure the viscosity directly, but things like bits of shrimp and fish bones and scales kept getting in the way. The things people will do for science), and you assume that you're working with only initial pressure (to propel the mass away from the nest, but relax immediately after), you get a pressure between 77 and 450 mmHg. This number takes into account friction in the intestintal tract.

That's a lot of pressure. Really. Humans usually poop at around 55mmHg (100 if you're feeling stopped up). So up to 450mmHg is pretty substantial. And it'd be interesting to look at the muscles and see how they do it (also the authors refer to "non-Newtonian mechanisms of mucus participation", which, whatever it is, is probably both awesome and kind of gross).

Fish 05-31-2012 01:50 PM

Easy 6 05-31-2012 04:39 PM

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Thig Lyfe 05-31-2012 04:51 PM

Did you know that boners don't actually have bones in them?

Discuss Thrower 05-31-2012 04:52 PM

If the whole bacteria plays a part in human health, then it's like we've swung from natural/holistic treatments (apothecaries) to "technological" synthetic treatments back to natural in balance. Maybe it'll swing back to technological in nanomedicine.

Fish 05-31-2012 05:08 PM


Originally Posted by Thig Lyfe (Post 8650582)
Did you know that boners don't actually have bones in them?

Actually... some animals do have actual "bone" boners...

For example... this is a raccoon penis bone..

Here it is in "action"... if you care to gander at an erect raccoon penis...

loochy 05-31-2012 05:15 PM

Warp drive and other faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion technologies were the lynch pin of an interstellar civilization, making trade and exploration across vast interstellar distances viable. Without these technologies, these distances could not be crossed in any reasonable period of time, making interstellar civilization usually limited to a single sector. (TNG: "A Matter of Time") To put this in perspective, planets that were years away with impulse speeds could be reached in days with ships equipped with warp drive. (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before")

Cultures in the galaxy discovered warp drive at their own pace and rate of development, as most of the cultures had to do. The Vulcans were an interstellar civilization by 9th century BC. (ENT: "The Andorian Incident") They invented warp drive some time after 1947 and had reached the level of warp 7 by 2151. (ENT: "Fallen Hero"; DS9: "Little Green Men") Klingons had interstellar travel capability around the time of Kahless in the 9th century. They also invented warp drive some time after 1947 and had achieved the capability of warp 6 by 2151. (TNG: "Rightful Heir"; DS9: "Little Green Men"; VOY: "Day of Honor"; ENT: "Judgment") Romulans were once considered a group of thugs and warp drive was regarded as the key technology that allowed the founding of their Star Empire. (Star Trek: Insurrection) The Vissians developed warp drive around the 12th century. (ENT: "Cogenitor") The Borg in the Delta Quadrant began to establish their interstellar collective by the 15th century. (VOY: "Dragon's Teeth") However, it was the rapid progress of Humanity which led to the wide-scale exploration of the galaxy and the formation of the United Federation of Planets.

Fish 05-31-2012 05:19 PM

And speaking of painful penis....

Of all the disturbing things about bedbugs, their mating habits may be the worst. Cimex lectularius have evolved a breeding technique called "traumatic insemination," and it's even more horrible than it sounds.

A male bedbug's penis is literally a weapon—a sharp, brown hypodermic hook that forgot about the female reproductive canal long ago. Here's how he uses it: The male pounces on the female, holds her firmly while she struggles, and gouges his hook through her exoskeleton, squirting his sperm directly into her body cavity. The sperm swims through her hemolymph (a bug's version of blood) and, if the mating wound doesn't develop a serious infection and kill her, eventually swims to her ovaries.

Biologists used to believe males and females of a given species evolved together for sexual fitness, the Darwinian version of romance. But bedbugs, scientists have found, have engaged in a millennia-long struggle of "sexually antagonistic coevolution" in which individual males damage individual females for overall reproductive advantage. Female bedbugs have counterevolved "spermalege," a special sperm-receptacle organ in the abdomen that helps absorb the trauma—if the hypodermic penis hits it. Bedbugs aren't exactly careful maters. Male bugs sometimes traumatically inseminate each other, though scientists aren't sure whether this is a function of sexual competition or just carelessness. Regardless, sex is bad for female bedbugs. A 2003 study for the Royal Society of London found that the more sex a female bedbug has, the shorter her life will be.

A bed infested with bedbugs isn't just a party for bloodsuckers that will make you itch—it's also a Verdun of buggy sexual warfare.

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