What do 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Planet Terror, and Resident Evil all have in common?: They are all zombie movies and may be farther from fiction than you think. In fact, spiders, cockroaches, worms, crabs, and even, cats have all been found to fall prey to parasites who take over their brain and turn them into zombies. Although these prey are not technically “the living dead”, as is the classical definition of zombie, their bodies become nothing more than a host for the control of the parasite. Scientists are still uncertain exactly how these creatures achieve mind control.
One example of a living zombie is the spider Plesiometa argyra. Although usually an expert builder of perfectly round webs, just one sting from a parasitic wasp is enough to strip it of this vocation. The wasp immediately deposits its larvae inside the spider’s body causing the Plesiometa argyra to spend the last night of its life constructing a silk cocoon, which becomes a home for the wasp. No longer of use, the larvae kill the spider upon the sack’s completion.
Pill bugs normally spend their entire lives under logs, hiding from predators. Upon ingesting a parasitic worm, however, the bug will behave erratically, crawling out into the open where a starling can claim it as a snack. This allows the worm to enter the bird’s stomach, an optimal environment for reproduction.
Even more shocking is the fate of the cockroach should it come into contact with a green jewel wasp. In this scenario, the latter will essentially perform brain surgery on the cockroach, injecting a venom that blocks octopamine, the neurotransmitter which allows alertness and movement. Only then is the wasp is able to plant its larvae inside the roach’s body, where they live for a week before eating the roach from the inside out.
Humans are not exempt from the potential dangers of parasites. Parasites are so alarming because they are able to quickly spread through vast populations and tend to be extremely resistant to antibiotics. Scientists claim that at least half of us carry the parasitic protozoa Toxoplasma gondii (usually due to raw meat consumption) which is carried for life once contracted. Toxoplasmosis, researchers have found, might make people more likely to be schizophrenic, and can change personality in subtle ways. Other parasites have also been proven to threaten human functioning. This has to leave one wondering what the possibilities of a viral parasite could mean for the future.
Celestial findings have always held a strange fascination for me; in a world that is rapidly shrinking in its exposure and proximity, where better for one to turn to when it comes to daydreaming of adventure and the great unknown. As a humble Star Trek fanatic, I’ve been meaning to do a post all semester about space exploration but nothing quite relevant nor worthy of the topic caught my eye until this past week.
US space entrepreneurs have just announced a venture to launch robotic prospectors in the hopes of bringing water and other precious minerals back to earth from certain asteroids. My initial reaction was one of overwhelming excitement, and I thought this would be plenty of inspiration for a post. The aftermath of this announcement however, turned out to be even more thought-provoking.
Frans von der Dunk, (quite the name) a professor of space-law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has publicly announced his opinion that the applicable legal-system, both in the US and internationally, must be further developed to catch up to this sort of technological innovation. Although there are certain treatises and pieces of legislative work that address the legalities of space-initiatives, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which says that outer space constitutes a “global commons”, it is a field that is far too underdeveloped for this kind of mission.
My initial, admittedly not mature reaction, was not a positive one. Who is this Frans von der Dunk to limit the genius of today’s space cowboys? Having given it some thought though, I realize that his words of caution may be in our best interest. It is so tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump into an idea, a new project, so overwhelmed are we by the thrill of seeing inspiration materialize through hard work. This often blinds us to the repercussions of our actions, and disasters that could have been prevented by more careful planning have a way of coming out of the woodwork. The space race has been an area of contention for decades, and its parameters remain vaguely undefined. In the article I read, the authors compared this sort of project to deep-sea mining- what jurisdiction is applicable in such an alien environment? Who is responsible for the projects that go on there and the products they send back home? Should this be part of the public or private sector? Who can determine ownership and rights in a place that is physically beyond the realm of human control?
I think that this is fascinating because it is one of the issues that our generation is going to have to contend with. Although I’ve accepted that I will probably never get to co-captain the USS Enterprise, I still value the importance of questions that bridge our life on Earth with the adventures and possibilities that outer space has to offer. What do you guys think? Where are our responsibilities in terms of this?
Here’s the link to the article to read more!http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426134927.htm
Any real fan of House will remember that episode when the protagonist induced a headache in a comatose patient in order to test a new medication. Later on, he did the same to himself, in the noblest of self-sacrifices for the sake of science.
In the same vein, this article from the Huffington Post that deals with brain freeze briefly discusses the ethics of inducing migraines in patients to test medications and to observe the affliction itself. Surely, though, our standards for how we treat ourselves–the members of our own species–should have some implications on how we treat other species. A rat, for example, stands to lose far more when injected with cancer cells than a human does when injected with nitroglycerin, no? What other argument is there except the antiquated Great Chain of Being one to justify practices in which our morals seem inconsistent? Unless we accept that God granted humans dominion over ever living thing, where do we look to justify the speciesism that dominates our worldview?
In this article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120425093938.htm research supported by the National Science Foundation has presented evidence that runs contrary to establish economic theory. In this study researchers studied the difference between when someone makes a decision in a foreign language as opposed to their mother tongue. As it turns out people have a better chance of making more advantageous if they consider their options in a foreign language. This is due to the fact that when someone thinks in a foreign language their brain functions in a more deliberate manner which makes way for better decision making.
Do you eve feel paranoid or anxious when you don’t have your cell phone around you?
Then you might have nomophobia, a fear of being without a cellphone.
The word nomophobia was first used to describe the symptoms of certain people. People felt anxious and nervous without having their cell phone. Now I thought this was too silly to believe. However, my term of communication seems to be very different with kids these days. One, there are multiple communication method other than phone and face to face interaction.
Now there are facebook, skype, and other communication tool. And slowly, each communication tool is being specialized in our daily life. I have also seen the commercial with this woman with a buisness suits saying in a commercial that she never leaves her phone away from her.
I was able to live for 3 days without a phone because I had facebook and other tools to talk to. I actually dont see the need of phone.
What do you think?
The other day I read this article on the current standings of global warming http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html. It was a pretty interesting read for me, as my final project has to do with science communications relating to global warming. This article reiterates the fact that a mounting body of scientific research shows that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as a result of human activity. Study of these greenhouse gasses has allowed an indication to be made of a trend in their emissions and at this point scientists fear that it will be extremely difficult to preempt tremendous climate change in the future. With that being said the United States is spearheading an entirely new international effort aimed at reducing these greenhouse emissions.
In this article, they explain why it may feel like you are ‘addicted’ to music. It turns out that listening to music releases dopamine, which is the chemical released in our brain that makes us want to repeat things that we have previously done. It s also why drugs are also something that people get addicted to. While listening to music that you enjoy, your brain is stimulated by what it is listening to, creating a body response like chills.
Not only does this explain why some people say that they can’t live without music, but it also explains why music has been around for ages, according to the article.
I thought that the biological explanation was fascinating, since I am one of those people that can’t live without music in my life.
For as long as I can remember my family has always had a dog living with us in the house. Arriving at this realization got me to start to think about why we as human beings generally accept having a different species live amongst us in our homes. As it turns out the earliest archaeological evidence of the domestication of dogs dates all the way back to China in 7000BC. Scientists have also determined by comparing the proportions of grey wolf haplotypes to modern dogs that the Middle East is the most probable location of the origins of initial domestication of dogs. This early form of domestication probably begun with the domestication of orphaned wolf cubs that studies have shown is possible to be done before a cub is twenty one days old. Over time the DNA of wolves and dogs split giving humans the opportunity to domesticate and cross breed dogs to use as guard animals and beasts of burden. This cross breeding based upon favorable attributes yielded dogs with increasingly juvenile characteristics that prompt cross species protective behavior in most adult mammals, including humans.
Working for the Smithsonian Natural History Museum this semester, I’ve met a lot of scientists at the top of their fields. They all have one thing in common: they’re slightly insane. Whether only insane people choose to work for the museum or working for the museum slowly makes you crazy is still unclear to me. One thing is certain though–nearly everyone I’ve met there is more eccentric than your average non-scientist. A few of their eccentricities include making a hobby out of macerating road kill to clean their skeletons (so as not to waste a good specimen) and enjoying memorizing Latin binomial nomenclature to a ridiculous degree. Not to mention a generally odd sense of humor which is at times morbid.
I find it interesting that this personality type is often correlated with a career in science. I wonder what it is is about science that attracts these weirdos (which I say completely affectionately and knowing I probably am or am on my way to becoming just as eccentric).
I am going to deviate from our blogs standard of operation and ask a question not related to a science article. My question is regarding the final project we have been working on for the past 3-4 weeks. I would, by no stretch of the imagination, call myself a scholarly writer. Putting words to paper has always been a weakness of mine. However, this project has attempted, whether successful or not, to help break some of my bad habits. Thanks to my project group members I have been able to see, understand, and incorporate several different types of writing. I feel this will have a beneficial influence on me in the rest of my academic career. My question is what other people think of the processes involved with this final project, do you think they have helped you in the long run? I ask because I’m not sure if everything we did as a group had a helpful benefit to it. My group met a lot and on some occasions spent upwards to 11 or 15 hours with each other hammering out parts of the paper. Other times we would meet when we could, whether it was for 1 or 3 hours. I’m curious to know if other groups had the same experience and whether they thought more or less time focusing on the subject is beneficial. I know we will write about all of this in our reflective writing, but I was just curious about what other people thought of the project.