Identify this!

Guess what this is:

Squid Skin

Give up? It’s the skin of a deep sea squid, photographed by Australian researchers earlier this year. When I first saw this picture, I was taken aback at how beautiful it is, how it looks like some exquisite, hand-made fabric. And, come to find out, the squid’s skin is like that for a reason. As this nifty article points out, squid have the ability to change color to camouflage themselves from their enemies, and how it all works is pretty nifty. In fact, this article notes that squid might be able to send each other secret messages using this system which would be invisible to the naked eye. Cool!

The Mystery of Overtoun Bridge

Overtoun Bridge is a beautiful stone bridge near the village of Milton in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Peaceful and covered in ivy, the bridge looks like something off a postcard or tourist brochure:

Overtoun Bridge

But the bridge holds a dark secret. For you see, since the late 1950s or early 1960s, at least 600 have committed suicide by throwing themselves off the bridge. And although the fall kills most, many of those who survive the fall climb back up the bridge and jump again, sometimes immediately, other times several days later. It happens so often that the locals even have a nickname for them: “second timers”. On average, around one dies every month from jumping off the bridge. And while this would certainly be tragic if I were talking about humans, it’s also downright bizarre because I’m talking about dogs.

Yes, over 600 dogs have killed themselves by jumping off the Overtoun Bridge. And the obvious mystery is… why? All of the suicides seem to happen at the same spot, between the final two parapets on the same side of the bridge. Almost all the suicides happen on bright, sunny days. Further clouding the mystery is that, as far as anyone can tell, only long-nosed breeds like labradors, collies and retrievers have jumped; beagles and chihuahuas seem immune to the bridge’s siren song.

Continue reading “The Mystery of Overtoun Bridge”

Wednesday’s Off-The-Wall News

– DMV employees in New York state are now in deep trouble for selling fake IDs. The gang, which netted over $1 million from the scam, didn’t sell the otherwise legitimate IDs to teenagers wanting to buy beer or get into nightclubs. For $7,000 to $10,000 a pop, the officials were selling them to convicted felons and sex offenders! Read more about it here.

– Internet Explorer 6, long hated due to security holes and the various tricks web developers had to use to get it to work with other browsers – has died. Well, not really. But on March 1, 2010, Google will kill IE6 support on Google Docs and Google sites (other Google sites will discontinue support sometime shortly after that). And YouTube is killing IE 6 support on March 13, 2010. So a company in Denver, Colorado called the Aten Design Group will hold a “funeral” for the browser on March 1 at 7pm. If you’re in or near Denver and wish to attend, read more about it here.

– Researchers at Georgia Gwinnett College have found that looking at pictures of curvy women actually activates the same pleasure centers in the male brain that drugs and alcohol do. In the study, 14 men were shown “before” pictures of the naked asses of seven women. They were then shown “after” pictures of the same asses after they had undergone cosmetic surgery to move fat from their waists to the buttocks. While it might seem like frivolous research, researchers are hopeful that the information sheds light on pornography additions, infidelity, and erectile dysfunctions in the absence of pornography. I’d also like to point out that I’d never heard of “Georgia Gwinnett College” before reading this article. Apparently, after I moved to Charlotte, the Georgia legislature voted to create a new four-year college to replace Gwinnett University Center, a large complex where various universities (including the University [sic] of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State) offered various classes. Ya learn something new every day!

– Could dolphins hold the cure for diabetes? It seems that everyone’s favorite maritime mammal can turn the disease on and off, depending on how plentiful the food supply is.

– The Daily Mail has artist’s drawings of the new US embassy in London. It seems that the old embassy in Grosvenor Square is too small, too old, and too insecure. And personally, I think the old embassy has all the charm of heartless, 1950s Eastern European designs. The new embassy will be mostly glass and airy, and will be energy neutral, thanks to millions of solar cells placed on the exterior. I also like that the clever landscaping (terraced on one side; a pond on the other) negates the need for ugly security walls. What say you?

The Heart’s Memory (Revisited)

For centuries, Western doctors have assumed that all your memories reside only in your brain. However, in this article I talked about a curious bunch of people who, after receiving heart transplants, suddenly developed certain cravings and personality traits that could be linked to their donors.

A prim and proper librarian type, for example, received a heart transplant from a man who loved football, swore like a sailor, and loved chicken wings. Within weeks of her transplant, the woman began inexplicably eating wings while watching football and using words she hardly even knew before, much less actually used. Needless to say, the woman hadn’t shown any interest in football, wings, or swearing before the transplant.

It seems that a new case has come to light. Australian David Waters was given a heart transplant due to a “stiffening of the heart ventricles”. His donor was an 18 year-old man named Kaden Delaney, who was left brain dead after an automobile accident.

Kaden’s favorite snack was something called “Burger Rings” (think “burger-flavored Funyuns”). He was well-known for loving the snack, and was frequently seen eating them by friends and family. After the transplant, Waters developed an overwhelming urge for the snack, something he hadn’t had before. According to Waters, Burger Rings were “all I seemed to want to eat after my surgery”.

Of course, mainstream doctors dismiss Water’s claim as coincidence, but the phenomenon (if it exists) is known as cellular memory, and it’s pretty fascinating.

The Mystery of the Desert Stones

For years, scientists have wondered why massive stones – some as heavy as 250 pounds (113 kg) – seem to move themselves across the floor of California’s Death Valley:


They think that they now have an answer: that the stones move because of the sheer flatness of the area combined with thin layers of ice which form at night, the unique soft clay in the area, and 90mph winds.

The stones – which can move up to 350 yards (320m) a year – have been a mystery for decades.

Read more here.

Science Roundup

This is a picture of “earthquake lights”:


As early as 373 BC, people have claimed to see similar aurora-like lights in the sky during (and sometimes before) earthquakes. Scientists are at a loss for what those lights might be. Some think that they’re electrically charged gasses released into the atmosphere by fissures in the earth’s crust. Others think that stress on the tectonic plates from the earthquake somehow messes with the earth’s magnetic field and causes the lights. Since the lights are often seen in China, some geologists guess that the lights might be caused by sparks from compressed quartz in the ground. At the end of the day, no one really knows, so your guess is almost as good as someone with a PhD from MIT… which is kind of cool.

And what the hell is this:

New Montauk Monster

According to this article in the Daily Mail, it’s a photograph of some as yet unidentified creature snapped by teenagers in Panama. The creature is drawing comparisons with the Montauk Monster, an unidentified creature found on Long Island, New York in July 2008. However, there were several immediate candidates for what the Montauk Monster might have been: a raccoon, an unusually large opossum, a dog, or perhaps a rodent (whatever it was, it has spent a considerable amount of time in the water, which altered its appearance and made identification difficult). No such guessing is possible for this strange creature, although many are calling it an outright prank or a “lost film prop” (the teenagers claimed to beat it to death with sticks, so if that’s true, then “film prop” is right out).

And finally, there are new pictures from Hubble and the first pictures from the Planck telescope to feast your eyes on.

A molecule, photographed

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, pictured for the first time ever, the “detailed chemical structure of a single molecule”:


Apparently, some IBM researchers in Zurich used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to create the image shown above. Their version is like a tuning fork: the fork is vibrated, and one of the tines is placed near a molecule. The amount of vibration recorded on the other tine is then recorded, and by carefully repeating the process, an image of the molecule is formed. While carbon nanotubes have been photographed before, this is the first time that the actual chemical bonds have been photographed.

Learn more here.

Space Stuff

Here are a couple of groovy new things from the astronomy geeks:

Soap Bubble Nebula

Pictured above is the “Soap Bubble Nebula”. Originally discovered by amateurs, this rare nebula shows the moment when a star explodes and expands out to form a gas ring. Read more about it here. You can find a high-res version of the above image here.

Flying Saucer Cloud

Pictured above is a cloud that looks remarkably like a flying saucer. The picture was taken by scientists aboard the International Space Station. Read more about it here.

Freaky in Raleigh!

So… a “new life form” was discovered in the sewers of Raleigh, North Carolina recently:

Freaky lookin’, no? Although it looks like something out of the Alien films, they are actually run of the mill worms.

According to Dr. Timothy S. Wood, they’re really just “clumps of annelid worms, almost certainly tubificids”. He further states that they “[normally] occur in soil and sediment, especially at the bottom and edges of polluted streams. In the photo [sic] they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other. The contractions you see are the result of a single worm contracting and then stimulating all the others to do the same almost simultaneously, so it looks like a single big muscle contracting”.

Much thanks to this site for the tip.

Cool Video: SRB Separation

I’m just fascinated by this video of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) separating from the space shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-115. Not only do you see the entire separation all the way to splashdown, someone at NASA thought to include a microphone with the camera, so you can hear the rockets moaning and groaning as they tumble through the upper atmosphere. It’s really cool… check it out: