Archive for category Bio-bizarre

Are flying pigs next?


This is really something else, and not merely because it takes the starch out of a treasured metaphor or two.

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In tooth and claw: eagles vs…goats?

It happens. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but in this video, golden eagles are shown cajoling and even carrying kids (i.e., young goats) off mountainsides. Warning: Some of this content is disturbing.
Eagles are at the top of anyone’s concept of a food chain, but this one seems to involve some zig-zags. I’ve seen them knock other birds of prey out of a clean blue sky but had no idea they would go after quadrupeds. Note that the adult goats successfully chase off the eagles’ salvos, but that the eagles really don’t seem to care beyond basic safety concerns. I guess hunger creates some serious imperatives.

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In tooth and claw: eagles vs…goats?

It happens. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but in this video, golden eagles are shown cajoling and even carrying kids (i.e., young goats) off mountainsides. Warning: Some of this content is disturbing.
Eagles are at the top of anyone’s concept of a food chain, but this one seems to involve some zig-zags. I’ve seen them knock other birds of prey out of a clean blue sky but had no idea they would go after quadrupeds. Note that the adult goats successfully chase off the eagles’ salvos, but that the eagles really don’t seem to care beyond basic safety concerns. I guess hunger creates some serious imperatives.

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Why Breathe When You Can Swallow?

From a recent ad spotted in Running Times magazine, we discover a way to get oxygen into the bloodstream of athletes without using the lungs. Yes, it’s SportsOxy Shot from Scientific Solutions LLC. They’re selling “super oxygenated” water that’s supposed to drastically improve athletic performance. A “serving” is 10 milliliters and it contains 15 volumes percent O2. Hmmm, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals something interesting. Let’s say we have a decent (though not elite) runner with a VO2max of 60 ml O2 per kg per minute. Further, let’s say that they’re running at an easy pace and using maybe 2/3 rds of their maximal O2 uptake and they’re kinda small, maybe 50 kg. That’s a per minute O2 intake of 2 liters. Why do I get that impression that swallowing 10 milliliters of “highly oxygenated” water isn’t going to have much of an effect over the course of even a short race, such as 1500 meters?
Oh, and a 500 milliliter bottle is only $60, on special. Stop by and order yours today, and while you’re at it, check out some of their other great “products”.

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Realizing the potential in frozen testicles

Realizing the potential in frozen testicles (Bio-bizarre, Life Science)
If you live in northern climes and like to spend time outdoors, as I do, and complain of damned near freezing your nuts off, as I would if I were prone to bouts of profanity, fear not. Scientists in Japan have cloned four healthy calves from bull testicles frozen for over ten years.
Key to the viability of this enterprise was the fact that the bulls’ balls were frozen without the use of chemical cryoprotectants.

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Raspberry Cane Borer Infestation

The raspberry cane borer, Oberea bimaculata, is a particularly nasty garden pest and for some reason there seems to be an unusually large infestation of them this year. Our property contains all manner of cane berries including a large patch of local wild black raspberries (my favorite), wild blackberries, wild raspberries (usually too small to bother with) and various cultivars of red raspberry, yellow raspberry, and blackberry. Cane borer damage occurs pretty much every year but it tends to be isolated and infrequent. Several days ago I noticed that one or two of the red cultivars had wilting tips. As we had been a little shy on rain, I assumed that was the cause. Stupid me. Then I saw a few more and upon closer inspection of a black raspberry saw this:
CaneBorer1.jpg
That’s what I call “the “purple death”. If left unchecked, the cane will be dead the following year.

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Energy Equivalence

Two things that seem to be in the headlines of late: oil prices and overweight Americans. How do these things go together? Time for a fun “back of the envelope” calculation.
According to the CDC about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese (a BMI over 25 tags you as overweight while a BMI over 30 defines obese). Currently, nearly a third of US adults are obese. If we ignore the obese children for a moment (and that’s getting harder and harder to do), that means there’s somewhere around 165 million Americans who are at least overweight. Let’s be really generous (kind of like current trends in clothing), and assume that the average individual in this group is 15 pounds overweight. That’s about what you get for a person 5’10” tall with a BMI of 27. I suspect the average is far more, but this is good enough for our quick-and-dirty calculation. If we multiply the number of adults by the average excess poundage, and assuming that each pound is indeed fat with an energy content of about 3500 kcals per pound, and convert the total to kilojoules, we wind up with around 3.7E13 kjoules total excess energy stored in the bodies of American citizens.
Here’s the fun part. A barrel of crude oil contains about 6.1E6 kjoules. Further, we import about 1.5 million barrels of crude per day from Saudi Arabia (our second largest source, Canada being first at about 2 million). If you put these together and assuming we could transform all of the excess weight hanging from our collective bodies into a useful form, we’d have about four days worth of crude imports from the Saudis. The really fun part is that, depending on how you look at it, it shows not only how fat we are as a nation, but also, just how huge is our appetite for petroleum.

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So girth does matter!

“”The Great Wall of China’s attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier.”
So says Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, whose surname translates to English as “Berlin Wall.”
The Telegraph resurrected Frau Berliner-Mauer’s fascinating case of objectum-sexual in a news of the weird article: Woman “married” to Berlin Wall for 29 years. Overall, this is an article worthy of The Onion, but apparently the Wall’s spouse widow occasionally makes the rounds discussing her fetish.
Having recently polished off Mary Roach’s Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (I’ll review this marvelous book soon – I promise!), my scientific-spidey sense was set off by this article and the condition known as objectophilia.
Insatiably curious bonobo that I am, I brachiated around a bit in Google and found this thread (WARNING – no graphic photos but proceed with caution) I am OBJECTUM-SEXUAL with the very first post originating from Frau Berliner-Mauer who also provides a link to her home page. She thus exposes this psychological condition to the harsh prurient light of day. Another woman has come out and discussed her relationship with the Eiffel Tower, which is the subject of a documentary to be broadcast in the UK tomorrow (June 4).
Human sexuality is — to the least — complex, but one wonders what sort of neural-behavioral crosstalk has been affected so that someone is sexually aroused by an object? Those with objectophilia believe in animism, that is, inanimate objects have feelings and are able to communicate. I am reminded here of Paul Bloom’s hypothesis that belief in the supernatural — and possibly by extension, animism — is an accident of cognitive function (see Is God an Accident?). Is such a cognitive accident responsible for lusting after a kitchen appliance or an imposing architectural feature?
Shoe festishists are pretty mundane compared to some of those who are classified as having objectum-sexual. Although the veracity of the aforementioned thread’s content is up for grabs, objectum-sexual is a real condition. The love objects mentioned in the thread are rather varied: hockey sticks, a laminated wood floor, a piccolo, and a toaster (maybe) among them.
Maybe my Bosch dishwasher really is flirting with me!
**A pant-hoot to Ms. Myxomycetes for calling the Telegraph article to my attention.

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The vexing curiosities of sled dogs’ metabolisms

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about the biochemical anomalies of dogs who compete in the Iditarod, an 1,161-mile, eight- to fifteen-day sledding race across Alaska which is something of a companion event to the Tour de France in that it for a week or two it commands the interest of Americans in a sport they are generally content to ignore.
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Long-distance runners have two chief concerns. One is aerobic fitness. Competitors in events ranging from the 800 meters (which is considered roughly half-aerobic and half-anaerobic based on the relative contribution of different fueling pathways and fuel sources) all the way up to the multi-day events favored by the lovable nutjobs in the ultramarathon community have to be trained not only to transport more oxygen to the working muscles, which is accomplished chiefly by adaptations in cardiac muscle and increases in the number of red blood cells, but also to more efficiently utilize the oxygen that arrives at those muscles, which occurs through increases in mitochondrial density in muscle cells and other changes.
Second, true endurance athletes face an additional concern that 5K and 10K racers do not. Roughly speaking, even well-trained athletes — whose bodies are better at storing glycogen, the polymer form of glucose and the primary fuel in aerobic exercise any more intense than walking, than those of sedentary people — can only stock up on about 500 grams of glycogen (about 100 in liver and the rest in muscle). This is enough for about 20 miles of perambulation, give or take and varying as a function of individual athletes’ efficiency. So while you don’t have to be especially diligent about “carbo-loading” before a race lasting under an hour and a half or so, you cannot expect to perform at your best in a marathon without taking in some kind of carbohydrate, usually in drink or gel form for ease of digestibility, along the way.
As you might expect, humans’ metabolic rates soar while they are taking part in exercise, and especially intense bouts lead to an elevated basal metabolic rate (BMR) for hours after the body comes to rest. I can recall numerous nights in which I lay in bed having raced a marathon twelve or more hours earlier, sweating and listening to my heart hammer along at 120 beats a minute, about three times as fast is it normally is when I’m lying around.
But the metabolisms of sled dogs who participate in the Iditarod pose a genuine and intriguing mystery. Notes Michael S. Davis, an associate professor of veterinary physiology at Oklahoma State University and an animal exercise researcher:

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Mouse With a Human Brain or Wicked Fast Running

Are you pondering what I’m pondering?
brain.jpg

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Sex: A Monotreme’s Four-Headed Monster

This latest news item courtesy of New Scientist a.k.a. the London tabloid of science journalism (1), is worthy of Bora’s (Blog Around the Clock) Friday Weird Sex Blogging but what the heck – there’s nothing more uplifting that a four-headed phallus on a Monday afternoon.

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The Dance of the Jumping Spider

This deserves to be highlighted. Hat tip to Lorri Talley (see comments in Orb Weaver entry).
I give you…
The Mating Dance of the Jumping Spider!
“I have the best pedipalps of them all! The very best. With my little dance, I will hypnotize you into wanting them. Yes, my darling, wanting them!”

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Move Over Willard! Mickey’s in Town

When one thinks of a house mouse, a meek cheese-nibbling furry little critter is most often visualized Don’t be fooled. These are nasty beasts. Just ask the chicks of the stormy petrel, Tristan albatross and Atlantic petrel.
nasty_house_mouse_02.jpg

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Move Over Willard! Mickey’s in Town

When one thinks of a house mouse, a meek cheese-nibbling furry little critter is most often visualized Don’t be fooled. These are nasty beasts. Just ask the chicks of the stormy petrel, Tristan albatross and Atlantic petrel.
nasty_house_mouse_02.jpg

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LetsNotWash.com

There is a darkly humorous thread at letsrun.com, a very popular site for runners, which may be of interest.
The upshot is that a surprising number of people are saying that they do not wash their hands after using restrooms and arguing that they are better off because of it. I don’t think there is anything unique about the running population with regards to this topic except for the fact that runners seem willing to openly discuss anything that has to do with their bodies. All I can say is that it makes me happy that I seldom dine out.

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