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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Ahhh... Sleep - that peaceful, restful, bliss. I don't have to tell you how nice sleep feels. You do it yourself. Just about everybody does. Not only humans, but also pretty much all animals sleep. Something resembling sleep has been documented in almost all animals, from birds to bees. If you are, a wannabe scientist like us, you may have asked what should have been the dumbest question of them all, "Why do we sleep?" We have a few plausible theories, which have been lightly examined by a previous article written by Will Stowers.
We will be looking a little deeper into a few of those theories, but first, let's look around us for a bit.
In Heroes (a TV series by NBC) there was a deaf character with the ability to see sounds. She joyously 'watched' music, with bursts of color streaming down and around the players; to her, the sight of a skilled cellist was nothing short of magnificent, she was even able to play cello herself without any prior experience, just by watching the colors of her tones floating by.
Believe it or not, this woman's condition is not a figment of the author's imagination Continue reading →
With the Brazil 2014 World Cup over, many people are already looking forward to the Russia 2018 World Cup. However, for those of us who don’t follow soccer religiously, the four-year gap between the world cups is rather uneventful. Thankfully, for those of us into science, there is still plenty to be interested in.
Many mammals, such as bears, hibernate during winter to store body fat and prevent the loss of energy, since it becomes difficult to find food in such cold weather. Other mammals experience estivation and hibernate even during the summer. However, one type of mammal, the human species, does not hibernate at all. The main reason mammals hibernate is to adjust to the changing temperatures. Humans have the mental faculties to put on a jacket or drink cold water to respond to the different seasons. Continue reading →
It seems everything these days is plastic. Cold, shiny, hard plastic. The brightly patterned case on your iPhone, the limited edition Barbie in your younger sibling’s hands, Regina George. But what happens when Apple releases a new phone? When the Barbie’s head comes off with a satisfying pop? When Cady Heron pushes Regina George in front of a bus? Where does all that plastic go?
It’s an extremely hot day-you know, the day that makes you question what validity global warming skeptics could possibly have. Yeah, that type of day. Now, in the desire and necessity to stay hydrated, you have two options: a cold iced tea, or a fresh brew of coffee. What do you choose? Better yet, what should you choose, according to the laws of science? Continue reading →
No, there’s no radioactive Cronus constellation spotted yet (we’ll keep looking). But, recently a study funded by NASA and the European Space agency (ESA) produced strong evidence suggesting that nitrogen on one of Saturn’s moons, Titan, emerged from super cold conditions similar to comet nurseries in the Oort cloud (breeding grounds for really old comets). Contrary to what scientists believed just two weeks ago, this study suggests that Titan didn’t originate from “the warm disk of material thought to have surrounded the infant planet Saturn” (JPL) in the early years of the solar system. Continue reading →