From: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_teeth#mediaviewer/File:Cyst_-_wisdom_tooth.jpg

1 Mouth—232 Teeth?

If you’re like me then you absolutely hate going to the dentist. In my mind, dentists are all evil people out to get the world (no offense to any dentists out there). I can’t remember a single time I had a pleasant trip to the dentist’s office. Oh, my gums are bleeding? Well maybe it’s because you just poked my gums with your little pointy dental instrument (I believe that is what they’re called). Half the time, I can’t tell if my teeth are being cleaned by an electric toothbrush or a bone saw. And for some reason, every dentist assumes I can initiate conversation with them even though they’re prodding around my mouth. Although, as much as I hate going to the dentist, I don’t think I’ve ever had a trip quite as bad as Ashik Gavai did. Continue reading

From: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8055/8080029032_2a80a856be_z.jpg

Modern Day Alchemy: the Art of 3D Printing

Scientifically speaking, alchemy is the science of ‘transforming’ simple matter into a different form of matter. Quite confusing, I know. It is sorta like magic: bippity boppity boo! Turning a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses are all forms of alchemy! Although I regret to inform you that we cannot transform your pet into a fire breathing dragon (at least not yet), scientists have created a seemingly magical printer that is very much similar to real life alchemy. Consider it the 21st century’s take on alchemy—modern day alchemy.   Continue reading

Street Smart Squirrels

 

10772783386 efcb68c5a1 o 300x199 Street Smart Squirrels
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7362/10772783386_efcb68c5a1_o.jpg

In a world of increasing urbanization, grey squirrels are adapting, switching from leafy foliage to concrete jungles. Cities provide a steady supply of food year-round and parks serve as particularly bountiful feeding grounds. Despite being out of their "natural habitat," these creatures enjoy lives comparable to or even better than those of their counterparts in the woods.With much fewer predators, squirrels not only survive, but thrive.

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Why do we have taste preferences?

healthy+tongue2 Why do we have taste preferences?
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-PrAJaOwxNI4/T6_RvD3aJZI/AAAAAAAAAVM/CsTwLDeObgI/s640/healthy+tongue2.jpg

When you get hungry and want to eat a snack, I am 99% sure that you would prefer to grab a bag of potato chips rather than a head of raw broccoli. But why? Because potato chips taste a lot better than raw broccoli. But why? Why do potato chips taste so “good”? Because they’re salty. What makes salt taste “good”? The reason that human beings as well as many other species of organisms tend to prefer flavors such as salty, sweet, and savory is because of one simple goal: survival.

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/WMAP_2008.png

Can you ‘see’ the Big Bang?

When you ask most people how they think the universe came about, they will almost universally bring up the Big Bang. The Big Bang is famous for being most distinguished scientific theory for the creation of the universe. Scientists estimate that around 15 billion years ago, a massive explosion started the universe, expanding all energy and matter from just a single point to filling up the space around it – and the universe is still expanding, even today. From the Big Bang came millions of galaxies, each continuing to grow distant from each other, and venturing into new depths in space.

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Its a bird! Its a plane! No, its a Microraptorine!

Everyone’s heard of a Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor. But what about a Changyuraptor yangi? This 125-million-year-old feathered dinosaur was covered from head to tail in feathers, but what really sets this dino apart are its second set of wings and extraordinarily long tail. This dinosaur, discovered in Liaoning province China, was about 4 feet long, and weighed in at around 9 pounds, making it the largest four winged dinosaur species ever discovered.

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How Hot is Too Hot?

So those of you who are reading this, how many of you love feeling the heat? When I mean heat, I mean that firing, tingling sensation from your taste buds after you take a bite into those jalapeño cheesy nachos or that fiery hot sauce. Who doesn’t like taking the challenge of eating spicy foods? Even when the sweltering heat is blazing through the summer days, I’m a sucker for spicy foods rather than a nice ice cream cone or snow cones. I love adding hot sauce to add a kick into my entrées, and though I may hurt my mouth, I just want more! It’s pretty addicting!  However, after many years of intense heat, I’ve come to realize that eating all these spicy foods must be really bad for you….right? How hot is too hot?

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Bazillian Wandering Spider

Attack of the Big Scary Spiders!!

Bazillian Wandering Spider 300x211 Attack of the Big Scary Spiders!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_wandering_spider

We have all been in this situation, a battle royale between you and a spider. The spider armed with venomous fangs, you are armed with a meager shoe. I doubt that too many of us have lost in this situation, but if you were bitten by a truly venomous spider, the following is what would happen and why.

 

First let’s look at the venomous spider you were likely bitten by in this hypothetical situation. In the US the two most common venomous spiders are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. For the most venomous spiders outside the US, we turn to the poisonous animal capitol of the world, Australia (If you don’t believe me, look at some of their venomous animals, it’s horrifying). Australia’s most common, dangerous spider, aside from the black widow, is the Redback Spider.

 

Balck Widow 300x225 Attack of the Big Scary Spiders!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latrodectus_mactans

If you were bitten by a Black Widow, it would be a small pinprick that would slowly turn into a painful red swelling, but it is more interesting to look at what happens inside the area around the bite. Your body uses ACH (acetylcholine) to control the contracting of your muscles. Black Widow venom paralyzes the surrounding area by releasing all of the ACH in the area around the bite. It has actually been found that black widow venom can counteract the effects of Botulinum Toxin (Botox) since Botox also causes paralysis, but does so by restricting ACH release rather than causing it.

 

If you were bitten by an Australian Redback Spider, that is truly unfortunate, because it sounds very painful. Within an hour of the bite, the local area will be in significant pain, sweating, and covered in goosebumps.  The Redback Spider, being closely related to the Black widow has a very similar effect on ACH release. In fact, Redback Spider Antivenom has been proven to counteract the effect of Black Widow venom.

 

Finally we have the Brown Recluse bite. You may have seen pictures of these bites, and if you have not, I strongly advise not looking them up. They are usually pictures of the accompanying necrosis, which is worse than it sounds. Necrosis is where surrounding tissue simply dies and falls away leading to horrifying, large, open wounds. The active protein in the venom performs a very simple task. It attacks the cell membrane and destroys the phospholipids that it is made up of. This causes the cells to simply fall apart causing necrosis.

 

The next time you find yourself head-to-head with a spider, the stakes may be much higher. Do not underestimate your little eight-legged nemesis, because they could be very dangerous.

 

Sources

http://www.burkemuseum.org/spidermyth/myths/downunder.html

http://www.termite.com/spider-identification.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/spider_bites_black_widow_and_brown_recluse/article.htm

Salty Ocean Wave

Why Is the Ocean So Salty?

Salty Ocean Wave 300x199 Why Is the Ocean So Salty?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2c/Image-Pacific-Ocean_-4.jpg/800px-Image-Pacific-Ocean_-4.jpg

So, as most of you probably know, most of our world is covered in water—in fact, 70 percent of it is! However, only 3 percent of that water is freshwater, meaning it does not have salt and is usable for human consumption. The rest of the water is full of salt. This salt is dissolved and is in the form of ions, mostly sodium and chloride ions, which make up the majority of the ions that are in saltwater.

But why are the oceans so salty?

Well, simply, they come from rocks. But, wait, how do rocks become salt? See, the rain from the occasional or frequent rain storm is actually not fully fresh, but has some dissolved carbon dioxide from the air. This makes the water a bit acidic since dissolved carbon dioxide is carbonic acid. Thus, the rain erodes rocks and carries salts and minerals from those rocks to rivers travelling to the ocean. Some of the ions in the water are used by the beings that live there, but the excess ions build up over time, which has created the salty oceans. In just one cubic mile of seawater, the weight of salt would be 120 million tons, as it is as 35 parts per thousand (35 ppt), meaning 3.5% of seawater is actually salt. If we took all the salt from the ocean and spread it over Earth, it would be 500 feet high—as high as a 40 story office building!

White Smoker 300x225 Why Is the Ocean So Salty?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Champagne_vent_white_smokers.jpg

Hydrothermal vents, which are on the ocean floor, also contribute to the saltiness of the ocean. When these vents expel hot water, they let out a lot of dissolved minerals as well, causing the ocean rocks to break up to form salt ions as well in addition to their minerals. Finally, submarine volcanoes, when they explode, also contribute to adding more salt to the ocean, as the hot rock creates more salt for the ocean.

 

Sources

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/whysalty.html

http://water.usgs.gov/edu/whyoceansalty.html

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Scansoriopteryx.png

Birds, the Ancestors of Dinosaurs?

Archaeopteryx lithographica Berlin specimen 221x300 Birds, the Ancestors of Dinosaurs?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/Archaeopteryx_lithographica_(Berlin_specimen).jpg

If you hop over to the Natural History Museum’s website, the truth seems blatantly obvious, if just by the confidence of their tone. The bones and eggs of birds are similar to those of a group of small, carnivorous, dinosaurs called maniraptorans, fact. Many of these dinosaurs had feathers, fact. But, birds are evolved from dinosaurs, fact? In the world of science, little is in fact, fact.

 

While we can only access brief glimpses of the past through fossil records, they seem to indicate a clear avian evolution from long, bony tails to short ones as well as changes in wings and ribcages. One theory is that natural selection favored maniraptorans with longer wings and shorter legs because they ran faster, a distinct advantage when you’re small. Perhaps this led to gliding over small obstacles and then even flying, eventually resulting in the charming creatures who so generously provide music at 5 in the morning.

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We're not just basic.