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Who needs males? : Parthenogenesis is a well-known phenomenon among biologists. Some turkeys are able to have 'virgin births' but many animals including reptiles and fish have the same ability.

What is Parthenogenesis? It is a form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization. In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell. This means reproduction without sex. It is most common among arthropods The word is defined from Greek and literally means 'virgin creation.'.

Mammalian Parthenogenesis? There has been no mammalian parthenogenesis reported. But a mouse has displayed parthenogenesis with some genetic tweaking. Who knows? This is an exciting field. Maybe one day men will be irrelevant in the creation process.

References and Links

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7122/full/4441021a.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis

http://aerg.canberra.edu.au/library/sex_general/1954_Olsen_Marsden_turkey_parthenogenesis.pdf

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ans-tparth/

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141219-spectacular-real-virgin-births

Pic courtesy: http://animalia-life.com/
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The Physics hiding in your Sandwich : In 1948, Hendrik Casimir was studying the properties of colloidal solutions. While studying paint and mayonnaise, his team realized that the Van der Waal's forces did not adequately explain the experimental results. Why was there an attractive force which could not be explained? The study by Casimir, Polder and Overbeek led to the understanding that this could only be explained if one thought of vacuum "not being empty." Since it was against what we knew at the time, they had to provide experimental proof of this effect. And the experimental evidence backed up their calculations! 

h/t to +Gita Jaisinghani for the title of this post!

Vacuum fluctuations : Although the Casimir force seems completely counterintuitive, it is actually well understood. In the old days of classical mechanics the idea of a vacuum was simple. The vacuum was what remained if you emptied a container of all its particles and lowered the temperature down to absolute zero. The arrival of quantum mechanics, however, completely changed our notion of a vacuum. All fields - in particular electromagnetic fields - have fluctuations. In other words at any given moment their actual value varies around a constant, mean value.

QED : Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) is a far-reaching and more accurate than any previous approximations and underpins almost everything we experience in the physical world – shapes, texture, color, and how everything interacts together. Here, empty space (a vacuum) buzzes with matter and activity. Here, energy is said to be borrowed from the future and is used in the creation of a particle and an antiparticle. These particles, in turn meet in a fraction of a second and annihilate each other. So energy is borrowed out of nowhere, turned into matter self-destruct and returns back into energy all in a fraction of a second. This is happening everywhere countless times a second.

Feynman and the QED effect : QED applies to all electromagnetic phenomena associated with charged fundamental particles such as electrons and positrons, and the associated phenomena such as pair production, electron-positron annihilation, Compton scattering, etc. It was used to precisely model some quantum phenomena which had no classical analogs, such as the Lamb shift and the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron. QED was the first successful quantum field theory, incorporating such ideas as particle creation and annihilation into a self-consistent framework. The development of the theory was the basis of the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics, awarded to Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Sin-itero Tomonaga.

References and Links

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/2002/sep/01/the-casimir-effect-a-force-from-nothing

http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=7337.php

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap100103.html

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/forces/qed.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect#Vacuum_energy

http://science.jrank.org/pages/5604/Quantum-Electrodynamics-QED.html


Pic credit: Wikicommons, Wikipedia.
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New state of matter? : Kind of a tall claim, but that's what researchers at Japan's Tohoku University are stating. They have created what's called a Jahn-Teller metal by inserting Rubidium into Buckyballs. What they have apparently done is by combining the two, the resultant complex crystalline structure seems to conduct, insulate, and magnetize while acting like a metal. Will have to see more papers before one is fully convinced of this...

Game changer for materials science : Superconducting lattices of fullerides – C60 plus three alkali-metal atoms – have been studied for more than two decades, and provide an interesting test bed. This is because the distance between fulleride molecules – and hence the electronic properties of the material – can be adjusted by applying pressure to the material or doping it with different kinds of atoms.

Strange behavior : The surprising thing about this metal–insulator transition is that it involves an intermediate state never seen before. The researchers have dubbed this a "Jahn–Teller metal" because when the material is studied using infrared spectroscopy, the fulleride molecules clearly show rugby-ball distortions, which were only known to occur in insulators. However, nuclear magnetic resonance measurements clearly show that electrons are able to "hop" from one molecule to the next – which is the signature of a conducting metal. "An interesting question is how the material can have both Jahn–Teller distortions and be a metal?" says Matthew Rosseinsky of the University of Liverpool, UK, who was involved in the research.

References and links

Paper link: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/3/e1500059

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2015/may/06/new-state-of-matter-found-in-crystal-made-from-buckyballs

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a15501/jahn-teller-metal-new-state-matter/

http://nanotechweb.org/cws/article/tech/61131

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Crack, Pop and Snap : When you crack your knuckles, what causes the crack? For a long time, we were told cracking our joints caused arthritis. So what is the real story here?

The Chemistry and Physics of Cracking knuckles : Inside the joint capsule of your knuckles is a lubricant, known as synovial fluid, which also serves as a source of nutrients for the cells that maintain the joint cartilage. In addition, the synovial fluid contains dissolved gases, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

If you take an x-ray of the joint after cracking, you can see a gas bubble inside the joint. This gas increases the joint volume by 15 to 20 percent; it consists mostly (about 80 percent) of carbon dioxide. The joint cannot be cracked again until the gases have dissolved back into the synovial fluid, which explains why you cannot crack the same knuckle repeatedly.

What about Arthiritis? : "It is a myth that cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis," Dr. Greg Tchejeyan, orthopedic surgeon at Los Robles Hospital told Live Science. "Cracking your knuckles will not cause arthritis. What actually happens is that dissolved gases in the joint fluid are rapidly released, causing the cracking sound."

Sources and References

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-makes-the-sound-when/

Related: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1130029

http://www.livescience.com/4125-knuckles-crack-joints-creak.html
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Coldest city on Earth : If you thought you had it bad, Oymyakon (which literally means 'unfrozen water') in Siberia, is a bone-chilling minus 71.2  C (minus 96.16 F) at its lowest temperature. The high of -40F in January is quite seasonable for this place. The closest city of Yakutsk is surprisingly wealthy with an abundance of natural resources (diamonds, oil and gas). Amos Chapelle gives us a view into life in this frigid environment - “I remember feeling like the cold was physically gripping my legs, the other surprise was that occasionally my saliva would freeze into needles that would prick my lips."

The coldest place on Earth? Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica. Read on....

Cool facts : Yakutsk is an economically vibrant place but it's extremely remote. There is a small airport but no railway, and the town boasts but one major road leading in and out of it. Known as the "Road of Bones," it was built by gulag inmates under Stalin's regime.

Schools don't close unless the temperatures fall below minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Farmers bring their cows to the village's watering hole—a "thermal" spring that stays a few degrees above freezing—then lead them back to their insulated stables.

Wearing glasses outdoors can cause them to stick to the wearer’s face. This is just one of the more menial problems of the extremely cold weather.

Bathrooms are mostly outdoors, because indoor plumbing presents a challenge due to frozen pipes. Residents have cars, but must leave them running outside, sometimes overnight, so the mechanics don't freeze up. Even so, sometimes more extreme measures are necessary. "A guy I was staying with left his car running all night, but even so, in the morning, the drive shaft was completely frozen. Without any ceremony, he pulled out a little flamethrower, went under the truck and started fanning the bottom of his truck with a flamethrower."

Expensive city : Emergency fuel shipments to Siberian cities cost Russia an estimated $500 million per year. According to Clifford Gaddy, it would be less expensive for the country to simply fly laborers into Siberia to extract the natural resources and then fly them out again instead of paying to keep Siberian cities functioning.

References and sources

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/photos-coldest-city-earth-180953888/?no-ist

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/amos-chapple-the-coldest-place-on-earth/#slide-id-1700585

http://www.weather.com/travel/news/breathtaking-photos-coldest-city-world-20140128

http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/01/31/yakutsk_siberia_surviving_winter_in_the_world_s_coldest_city.html

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/09dec_coldspot/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowest_temperature_recorded_on_Earth

Pic courtesy: Smithsonianmag

#cold #facts  
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Pink was for boys and blue was for girls : At least before the modern obsession of going the other way. It kind of proves that the color palette we expect for boys and girls is based on societal pressures. At least now we know better!

Roosevelt : Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble. Social convention of 1884, when FDR was photographed at 30 months, dictated that boys wore dresses until age 6 or 7, also the time of their first haircut. Franklin’s outfit was considered gender-neutral.

How conventions came to be : Why have young children’s clothing styles changed so dramatically? How did we end up with two “teams”—boys in blue and girls in pink? "It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.

Pink for boys - since it is a stronger color : a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

It all changed in 1985 : Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.) The pink fad spread from sleepers and crib sheets to big-ticket items such as strollers, car seats and riding toys. Affluent parents could conceivably decorate for baby No. 1, a girl, and start all over when the next child was a boy.

Gendered roles : “One of the ways women thought that girls were kind of lured into subservient roles as women is through clothing,” says Paoletti. “ ‘If we dress our girls more like boys and less like frilly little girls . . . they are going to have more options and feel freer to be active.’ ”

Article link: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/?no-ist=&preview=&page=1

Pink v/s Blue gender myth: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141117-the-pink-vs-blue-gender-myth

Related paper: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1128775?sid=21105563133553&uid=3738256&uid=4&uid=2

Reversing the trend: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/campaign-encourages-boys-feel-free-wear-pink-article-1.1878916

Gender stereotypes: http://www.babble.com/mom/is-it-okay-for-boys-to-wear-pink-kids-dads-discuss-the-color-gender-stereotypes-video/

Pic courtesy: http://klaw.com/pink-is-for-boys-and-blue-is-for-girls-new-study-shows-video/

#science #society #gender  
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The Walls can Talk : There was an earlier story about researchers at MIT who extracted audio from vibrations in a potato chip bag, but now scientists have been able to reconstruct audio from videos by using vibrations observed in lightweight objects. While there are more sophisticated methods available, the researchers used a image-matching technique to measure the vibrations. Read on to know more....

How it's done : The technique is based on the fact that sound waves are mechanical waves that cause air to vibrate when traveling. That vibration through air can cause vibration of objects located in its traveling path, especially if the objects are lightweight, thin, and flexible, such as a piece of paper. The vibrations, although usually with small amplitudes, can be detected and analyzed algorithmically, and audio reconstructed based on those calculations.

Applications : Because light can travel through air considerably farther than sound and can pass through glass, they anticipate that the technique may find applications such as the passive detection of conversations inside of a building from a far distance.

The Technology : The authors used a subset-based image-correlation approach to detect the motions of points on the surface of an object, capturing target images with a high-speed camera and applying the Gauss-Newton algorithm and a few other measures to achieve very fast and highly accurate image matching. Because the detected vibrations are directly related to sound waves, a simple model was used to reconstruct the original audio information of the sound waves.

References and Sources

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/the_walls_can_talk_new_technique_extracts_audio_from_video-150494

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141204141019.htm

Earlier story: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/algorithm-recovers-speech-from-vibrations-0804

Original Paper : Published in Optical Engineering. Source: SPIE--International Society for Optics and Photonics

http://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/turning-video-into-audio-065343/

Pic courtesy : newsnation

#science #technology #sound  
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Peanut butter diamonds : We all probably know that diamonds were formed by carbon under high temperatures and pressures. Since all organic materials have carbon, researchers are playing with such materials. Diamonds are often used in manufacturing and have many industrial applications.

Carbon : In his lab at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany, Dan Frost is trying to simulate conditions found in the Earth’s lower mantle. More than 1,800 miles below the surface, the lower mantle experiences temperatures nearing 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures that are 1.3 million times higher than the air we breathe. According to David Robson at BBC Future, in trying to simulate those scorching underground environments, Frost has stumbled upon some innovative ways to manufacture diamonds. Beneath their sparkles, diamonds are composed of simple carbon atoms arranged into a crystal.

From thin air : Frost's research started with a hypothesis that in ancient times, rocks could have pulled carbon dioxide from the oceans. Then, as the rocks were drawn down into the mantle, high pressures force the CO2 to leave the rocks. Once the CO2 was free, iron in the mantle stripped it of its oxygen. That left just the naked carbon, which was squished into diamond by the high heat and temperatures. That was the hypothesis anyway, "[a]nd that is exactly what Frost found when he recreated the process using his presses – essentially forging a diamond from thin air," writes Robson.

Peanut butter diamonds are slow : Because all foodstuffs (and for that matter, all living things) contain carbon, the researchers have successfully made diamonds out of everyone's favorite sandwich ingredient: peanut butter. However, the hydrogen that’s bonded to the carbon in peanut butter apparently does make the process messier. And even under the best circumstances, the transformation is slow. “If we wanted a two-or-three-millimetre diamond, we would need to leave it for weeks,” Frost told BBC Future.

Article link and pic on left: http://www.popsci.com/article/science/geophysicists-are-turning-peanut-butter-diamond-gemstones?dom=PSC&loc=recent&lnk=6&con=geophysicists-are-turning-peanut-butter-into-diamond-gemstones

Graphite in diamonds: http://www.gizmag.com/graphite-synthetic-diamond-platinum-stanford/31496/

BBC Future article: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141106-the-man-who-makes-diamonds

Is it raining diamonds on Uranus: http://www.spacedaily.com/news/carbon-99d.html

Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_diamond

Courtesy pic on right: http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/animated_diamond2.gif

#science #diamond  
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Amazing Colour Changing Card Trick : The topic is not news or even new. I just found this interesting video about the card trick in question. If you have seen this before, please do not give it away in the comments.

The main post follows  after a few lines (for obvious reasons to avoid spoilers to people who are watching the trick for the first time). Again request you to not comment and give away the trick....











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Change Blindness : a surprising perceptual phenomenon that occurs when a change in a visual stimulus is introduced and the observer does not notice it. For example, observers often fail to notice major differences introduced into an image while it flickers off and on again. People's poor ability to detect changes has been argued to reflect fundamental limitations of human attention. Change blindness has become a highly researched topic and some have argued that it may have important practical implications in areas such as eyewitness testimony and distractions while driving.

h/t to +Gita Jaisinghani for making we watch this while doing a course in social psychology.

From Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_blindness

Another example: http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/cb.html

Reference : http://www.yale.edu/perception/Brian/demos/CBB.html

Can we trust our eyes? http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2009/06/24/were-shockingly-bad-at-noticin/

#cardtrick  
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Why do we sneeze? : Historically sneezing has been associated with everything from breath to life to omens.... but we know that sneezing works to clear the nasal passages from foreign material..or do we? There is more to the story. Read on...

Article Extract: Everybody sneezes. And that's a good thing, because it's actually one of the body's natural defenses, designed to help get rid of foreign invaders that sneak into your nose and threaten your lungs and other body parts. The medical term for sneezing is sternutation, a rather complex process that includes your brain, nerves, and muscles all over your body. http://goo.gl/WhzNqN

Rebooting the system Scientists now know exactly why we sneeze, what sneezing should accomplish, and what happens when sneezing does not work properly. Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a "reboot" when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so "bad" particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities. http://goo.gl/hEorNj

Chain of events : A sneeze seems fairly straightforward, but it’s the result of an impressive chain of events. Your abdominal muscles, chest muscles, and even eyelid muscles (think about how your eyes automatically close when you sneeze) are all in play, in concert with your lungs, which initiate the forceful air that is sent up through your windpipe, throat, and nasal passages. http://goo.gl/4FEOLx

Photic Sneeze reflex : About one in four people sneeze in sunlight, a reaction called a photic sneeze reflex. Scientists don't entirely understand why this happens, but expect that the message the brain receives to shrink the pupils in the presence of bright light may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze. http://goo.gl/3o0aVo

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneeze#Common_verbal_responses_to_a_sneeze

Paper from FASEB : http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/27/1_MeetingAbstracts/lb880

Do all animals sneeze? : http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=3071

Additional source article : http://www.livescience.com/44362-why-do-we-sneeze.html

Counterpoint : http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/PIIS030698771200028X/abstract

Pic courtesy : Wikipedia article mentioned above.

#sneeze #biology #science  
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