Tardigrade ©Copyright Arielle Duhaime-Ross
Standing at a maximum of 0.059 inches (1.5 mm), tardigrades – also called moss piglets or water bears because they live in water and like to hang out in moss – can withstand intense radiation, boiling water and ridiculously cold temperatures just above absolute zero. Some even fare well in Space, making them the
cutest toughest animals ever.
Adult tardigrade through scanning electron microscope [credit: Goldstein Lab]
Tardigrades pull this off by undergoing cryptobiosis, a process in which they reversibly shut down their metabolism when a dangerous environmental condition arises. Once the condition subsides, they turn their metabolism ‘back on’ again and simply go about their plant and bacteria-eating business (although one species also eats rotifers, nematodes and other tardigrades).
Here’s a video that explains how the tardigrade got its street-cred.
And finally, here’s an awesome illustration that sums it up perfectly, courtesy of Beatrice the Biologist:
I haven’t been a very good blogger, recently. After writing weekly and bi-weekly blog posts for over a year, I started neglecting Salamander Hours. That neglect was due, in part, to starting an MA in science, health and environmental reporting at NYU, as well as an internship at Quartz (both tons of fun). I also got caught up in a number of side-projects, many of them art and design-related, like building an iPad app for Scienceline, taking photographs and making graphics.
But I miss this blog, so I’ve decided to give it a new purpose that will suit my recent bursts of creativity.
© Copyright Arielle Duhaime-Ross
That’s right — Salamander Hours is now a science art (SciArt) blog. And I gave it a whole new look to boot.
A new way to lift fingerprints left behind by sweat-laden paws.
[Image Credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
Despite what you may have seen on TV, it isn’t easy for forensic investigators to lift fingerprints from a crime scene. One of the major obstacles they continue to face is the varying chemical composition of human sweat, making it much harder to get consistent, high-contrast prints. But a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have accomplished something that would even impress special agent Seeley Booth: they lifted high-quality fingerprints off soaking-wet paper.
Salamander Hours is holding its very first Holiday giveaway, courtesy of Periodically Inspired™!
(Contest ends Dec. 2nd, 2012, so enter while you can)
Yep, you heard right, Salamander Hours, in partnership with Periodically Inspired™, is giving away free stuff, just in time for the Holidays!
I heard about Periodically Inspired™ for the first time back in September at the 2012 Maker Faire in Queens, NY. They make clothing and other swag inspired by the Periodic table of Elements – So nerdy and awesome, right?!
Anyway, Courtney Church, the Etsy shop’s founder, was nice enough to let me photograph her and her chemistry swag for an article written by Scienceline.org’s own Rachel Feltman. And I liked her stuff so much that I ended up buying one of her cheeky bumper stickers.
My Periodically Inspired “Wise Ass” Bumper Sticker
To be honest, I haven’t stuck it on anything yet, because I am having too much trouble deciding on whether it should go on my laptop or my graphic tablet – Woe is me, I know.
So for the Holiday Season, Periodically Inspired™ and Salamander Hours teamed up to bring you free nerdy goodies! We will be raffling off two prizes:
German students create a filter that removes estrogens from the water supply
Current water filtration systems don’t filter all the estrogens from animal and human waste [Image credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
In high school, I once had to sit through an entire class in which my well-intentioned teacher blamed the birth control pill for contaminating our water supplies and causing male fish to develop ovaries. Since then, I’ve heard, on numerous occasions, women talking about how they had weighed the environmental pros and cons of taking the Pill. Granted, I have my own misgivings about taking a pill full of hormones once a day, but environmental issues are not something I consider in my overall assessment of the Pill. Why? Because, as outlined by a 2011 editorial in Contraception Journal and a 2011 paper in Environmental Science and Technology, the Pill accounts for less than 1 percent of estrogens in water. So clearly, we have much bigger fish to fry when it comes to hormones in the water supply.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a group of 15 students from Bielefeld University, Germany, have come up with a synthetic biofilter – a filter made of enzymes – that can filter estrogens in water. Their achievement earned them a spot in the “sweet sixteen” top performers at the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), held annually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
FDA issues public warnings against three weight loss products for an undisclosed banned chemical.
Ingredient lists don’t always tell the whole story [Image Credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
I love reading ingredient lists. Words like “gluten,” “guar gum,” and “soy lecithin” are as familiar to me as “peanuts” are to a child with a severe nut allergy. When I’m on the fence about which brand of yogurt to buy, I often turn to the label to help me make my decision. I trust that companies are telling me what’s really in the products I buy. So when I hear that a company has been purposefully omitting ingredients from a product’s label, as the Food and Drug Administration recently revealed about three weight loss products, I begin to worry.
On Nov. 8th, 2012, the FDA issued three public warnings against the use of Beautiful Slim Body diet pills, Japan Hokkaido Slimming Weight Loss Pills, and Best Share Green Coffee: Brazilian Slimming Coffee because these products contain an oral anorexiant – yep, same word family as anorexia – called sibutramine. The FDA banned sibutramine in 2010, because results of clinical studies indicated that the drug increases your chance of experiencing a serious heart event, such as a heart attack or a stroke, by 16 percent. And that is only one of its side effects.
If you’re one of those drivers that swears by opening a window and listening to music in order to stay awake – think again.
When I started the Investigate everything blog posts, I wanted to highlight the valiant efforts of scientists who investigate the banalities of everyday Western life. So, in my first Investigate Everything post, I wrote about the dangers of walking while texting. And today, I am writing about another strange habit that the human species has managed to pick up: driver sleepiness countermeasures.
You know what I’m talking about. There you are, on the open road, minding your own business, when Morpheus, the God of sleep, starts to beckon. Refusing to heed his call, you Google the closest coffee shop or motel, only to realize that the next town is an hour away. So what do you do? You turn up the stereo, crack open a window, and hope your eyes won’t get too dry from trying not to blink.
*Vos paupières sont lourdes… loouuuuuurdes!*
Does this technique actually work? A team of Swedish and French scientists from Stockholm University and the University of Bordeaux looked into it, and found that, despite what you may believe, opening the driver’s window and playing music won’t help you stay awake at the wheel.
500 restauranteurs, including celebrity chefs, sign a petition denouncing seafood fraud
Last year, I wrote about a new technique that allows scientists to identify the types of fish contained in processed foods, like crab sticks – those neon orange chunks of “imitation crab meat” sushi chefs put in California rolls.
Despite what many of the seafood labels claimed, the researchers found that a typical crab stick contained between three and seven different species of fish.
This is a big problem, because some people are allergic to certain types of fish, and rely heavily on labeling to avoid their fishy foes. In addition, the undeclared fish species in processed foods sometimes turn out to be subject to strict fishing regulations, putting entire ecosystems at risk, and making fishing practices hard to track.
In light of these types of findings, consumers and restauranteurs alike have been demanding stricter regulations. Until now, they have had little success. But, a National Geographic blog post written by celebrity chef Barton Seaver, who was recently tricked into buying mislabeled crab meat, and a letter penned by California Senator Barbara Boxer, demanding action from the FDA, has re-energized ichthyophiles and environmentalists everywhere.
On Saturday, I attended my first comic con, and I can tell you right now, it did not disappoint. Seeing so many attendees dress up as their favorite superheros was definitely impressive.
Of course, I was also able to get down with my own geekiness, as I am a huge Joss Whedon fan. The first thing I did once I arrived on the scene was get in line for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel discussion made up of some of the writers, one actor, and one comic book artist (yes, there is a Buffy comic – You should pick one up!), but I digress.
After the Buffy panel, I spent some time taking pictures of the costumed fans with the lovely Benjamin Plackett, a fellow NYU sherpie and Wired intern. Benjamin posted some of those pictures on the Wired.com blog Underwire on Sunday night, but I had a few leftover, so I decided to post them here.
Don’t these people look great?
It should go without saying, but…. Image credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross