Month: September 2014

No huge Kleenex needed – Snot Bot gathers whale snot for scientists to study

Those crazy scientists over at Olin College of Engineering have developed a robot, affectionately named Snot Bot, that is designed to collect mucus (whale snot) from whales who refuse to blow their noses in huge, conveniently-placed Kleenexes. Unlike whale blubber (thankfully), they don’t want to use the whale snot to make soap, candle wax, or yuk, whale-snot cooking oil. They need the whale snot to tell if the whale is sick or not. Whale snot is pretty important stuff. Scientists can study the whale mucus from a whale’s blowhole and tell a lot about its health. [Editor note: Reeko said that under no circumstances were we to insert any blowhole jokes here or spout off about how funny “blowhole” sounds]. Until now, it was nearly impossible

European Space Agency’s Rosetta/Philae mission to land on a comet

It may sound like science fiction but alas, this is really about to happen. On November 11, 2014, the European Space Agency (ESA) will land a small robotic spaceship, known as Philae, on a comet. It will be the first comet landing in the history of mankind. Rosetta’s (and Philae’s) mission The mission to land on a comet began on March 2, 2004 when the solar-powered robotic space probe, Rosetta, was launched by the European Space Agency attached to an Ariane 5 rocket engine. Rosetta’s objective was simple – to study the comet 67P/C-G. To do so, Rosetta carried on board a small robotic lander, Philae (pronounced Fie-Lee), named after the Philae Island where an obelisk was found that was used along with the Rosetta Stone to decipher

New dinosaur king – Spinosaurus towered over Tyrannosaurus rex and ate pretty much anything that got in its way

Spending most of its time swimming in water, the newly discovered Spinosaurus gobbled up sharks and alligators whole. It had paddle-like feet, short, dense leg bones, sealable nostrils that allowed it to swim underwater, massive, backward-slanted cone-shaped teeth, and a huge 6-foot sail on its back that would have risen from the water like a shark’s fin (it somewhat resembled a giant alligator with a long neck). Oh, and it was about ten feet *bigger* than the previous dinosaur king - Tyrannosaurus rex. The first Spinosaurus was actually discovered in the Egyptian desert in 1912 but a bombing of Munich, Germany in World War II destroyed the bones before scientists could really study the huge meat-eating dinosaur. Then a new Spinosaurus specimen was discovered in the

What to do with all those dirty diapers? Grow mushrooms in them!

They’re smelly, icky, stinky, nasty, and gross – dirty baby diapers. And not only do they account for a significant volume of waste in our landfills, they are nearly indestructible and remain in the landfills for hundreds of years without degrading. Short of throwing out the baby with the waste water (a suggestion one of the lab rats put forth), what do we do with all those nasty diapers? Researchers think they may have an answer – grow mushrooms in them! Diapers are made from polyethylene, polypropylene, an absorbent gel made from sodium polyacrylate, and a plant-based material called cellulose. Luckily, disposable diapers contain a significant portion of cellulose, a substance that mushrooms love to consume. Researchers took the dirty diapers and sterilized them with high-pressure steam. They

Hot-air tornado spewing from Iceland’s erupting Bardarbunga volcano is very cool

Whether it’s the result of a natural rupture of the Earth’s crust or too much Chinese food, the Earth is belching volcanic debris all over the planet this week. As Hawaiians flee dangerous volcanic lava flowing towards their homes, Icelanders are on the lookout for a different kind of volcanic threat – hot-air tornadoes! The picture above, which features a 1-kilometer high tornado of gas, was captured by an infrared camera that was designed to let pilots see through volcanic ash clouds. The hot-air tornado was kicking up dust around Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano on September 3, 2014. Scientists believe the tornado funnel, a vertically-oriented rotating column of air caused by the updraft of heated air from the volcano, is most likely filled with sulphur dioxide, gas, and

Can a chopped-off snake head still bite you?

Once during a very dangerous experiment, Reeko was bitten by a poisonous snake. After five days of blinding-white visions, sweltering fever, icy chills, mind-numbing headaches, icky red swelling, and unbelievably excruciating pain – the snake died. A chef in China found himself in a similar situation in August 2014 while he was preparing a popular dish known as cobra soup. In addition to water, salt, and spices, cobra soup contains, you guessed it – cobra meat. The chef, who took great pride in the freshness of his ingredients, butchers the cobra during the preparation of the soup. The Chinese chef decapitated the cobra (cut off the snake’s head) and set the head to the side while he finished tossing tasty ingredients into the stew. Once finished, just

How weather conditions helped confirm Stonehenge was once a complete circle

For a long time, archaeologists have suspected that the huge Neolithic stones of Stonehenge once formed a complete circle. Now, due to an unusually hot and dry summer, the mystery of Stonehenge appears to have been solved. Although typically the site is kept watered, the dry summer of 2014, and a garden hose that wouldn't quite reach, revealed several ghostly outlines in the parched grass where the huge stone megaliths once lay. Archaeological remnants which have been buried in the ground for extended periods are known to affect the rate of grass that grows above them, even long after they've been removed. In the aerial photos above, you can clearly see the outlines in the grass where the stones once stood. Worker Tim Daw described how the

Amazing video – new method of ants working together – a daisy-chain!

An ant brain is tiny, about 1/40,000th the size of a human brain (ants have 250,000 brain cells vs. humans’ 10,000,000 brain cells) so it goes without saying, they’re not too bright. But an ant colony of 40,000 ants collectively has the same size brain as a human and working together as a group, they are capable of extraordinary feats. Together they may not be able to drive a car, work a computer, or send a text message but check out the amazing video below which shows a colony of ants forming a long daisy-chain in order to pull a dead millipede back to their nest. Ants form daisy-chain to pull millipede along Ants are what biologists call a “superorganism” – a social unit with an uncanny