Saturday, 28 July 2012


So the Loch Ness monster is said to be a feared creature with terrible teeth and a long neck and just in general be pretty odd looking. Could this mythical creature be in fact based upon the swimming unicorn which is the Narwhal?

I call the Narwhal a swimming unicorn because it has a horn similar to that of a unicorn, projecting from the top of its head. However this "horn" is in fact a longer upper left canine, which hunters harvest for ivory.

Narwhals are found mainly in the Russian and Atlantic quarters of the Arctic ocean, where there is an estimated population of 75,000, thus making this species having a near threatened status. Male Narwhals show male prowess and dominance with their horns  via the action called tusking.

So the next time when you think about undersea creatures, think about the Narwhal and its quirky little tusk!

Explorer fact: Narwhals wait until their prey are close and then suck them into their mouth.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The 100 genome war is on!!!

The first company to sequence the genome of 100 centenarians will win a prize of $10 million. Though the "competition" was initially announced in 2006, it was only on this very Monday that the first company (Ion Torrent) signed up to compete. Obviously if it stays like this one horse race, then they will definitely win (as they aren't competing against anyone).

Due to the developments in genetic sequencing, the process is becoming cheaper and relatively more accurate than it was even in 2006, which still appears to us mere Explorers, as being a fairly modern year. The CEO of Ion Torrent has claimed that he has a machine which can sequence an ENTIRE genome in a day for a tidy sum of $1000.

So what does this mean for us? Well they could possibly uncover a genetic key which unlocks the question of how only a small minority of people live to celebrate their 100th birthday and beyond. I guess Explorers this could be seen as both positive and negative. Obviously it's positive as it is a development in genome sequencing and genetics, however there is also a negative side to this. Should we really know the nitty-gritty of why and how we age?

Well if the 100 year war was anything to go by perhaps this genome war will also be short lived.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Happy Birthday to you!!

Besides 20th July being the 201st day in the year and being pretty much the height of summer, some pretty cool science events also occurred on this very day. Some were on Earth, whilst others were not, and so Explorers, it is a happy birthday to these events and people today!

Happy 190th Birthday Gregor! Gregor Mendel is the father of modern day genetics, he discovered the laws of inheritance using pea plants, when he was living as a monk in a monastery. Thanks to Gregor's beady eyes in charting colour and height of the plants we now use his laws in constructing inheritance charts for dihybrid (9:3:3:1) and monohybrid (3:1) inheritance.

The American car company Ford begins to produce and ship its first ever cars. Though this small company would grow up into becoming the large corporate brand that we instantly recognise today, in its infancy it only produced a few cars a day. Which I guess, isn't that bad considering the machinery used was not as advanced as the technology we have at our fingertips today.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon successfully, with humans on board (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin). There was a third crew member Michael Collins, however he did not descend to the moon and remained in orbit, which is pretty sad, as most people hardly name him as being on board as he didn't take "a step for mankind". Having documented their journey and firmly planting an American flag on the moon, a haze of controversy still hangs like an asteroid belt about whether the pair were in fact on the moon or in some other secret area.

So close your eyes and make a birthday wish (on behalf of these events) !

Monday, 16 July 2012

Water, water, everywhere!

So as I sit in the tree, all I can see is water! Here is a post to share with all you intrepid explorers a fountain of knowledge.

Water has the chemical name H2O and so contains 2 molecules of hydrogen and 1 molecule of oxygen.

The overall shape the water molecule takes is a bent shape with an angle of 104.5

Water has many physical properties which make it so special. It has cohesive properties,  a high specific heat capacity, surface tension, it has the ability to move up a tube against theforce of gravity (capillary action), and it is also a solvent.

Though it is clear that when water is falling all around us, we really don't like it but it isimportant to remember the necessity of water for our own survival.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I can see a rainbow!

So its been a rather murky week here around the tree: the presence of permanent rain and fleeting sunshine, which makes it never quite warm enough to leave the tree in a t-shirt and an exploring vest. But the only highlight which I have witnessed amongst this pitiful summer are the rainbows.

The myth of finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I'm afraid is not true. The reason intrepid explorers, why we never reach the "end" of a rainbow, is because every time you move, the rainbow moves with you (so 2 people never see the same rainbow (we each have our own personal one!!)). Also rainbows are in fact circles so have no beginning or end.

Rainbows are caused by the refraction of light inside a water droplet and this separates the sunlight into the spectrum of colours which we see: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

If you really want, you could make your own rainbow, with powerful light bulbs (1000 watts) and a water hose. But where's the fun in that? I'd rather wait for the weather to provide a rainbow, and who knows we could even get multiple rainbows!

Explorer fact: primary rainbows occur at 42 degrees roughly from the sun and secondary rainbows are around 50-52 degrees from the sun. Whereas tertiary rainbows arise at 40 degrees and quaternary at 45 degrees.

Boy am I spoiling you today!
Here's another Explorer fact: secondary rainbows are a mirror image of the primary rainbows.

Monday, 9 July 2012

My! My! My! What flexibility you have!

How many of us wish that we were just that little bit more flexible?

It would certainly make scratching that itch which is always just out of our reach all the more easier. But for some people the concept of flexibility is in the extreme. These people are hypermobile.

Recently Hypermobility Syndrome has been deemed to be the same as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III.

The cause of this disorder can be any of the following: misaligned joints, bones which are not the right shape at joints, connective tissue defects or abnormal joint proprioception.

The disorder is diagnosed via the Brighton criteria and the Beighton score. These tests are scaled and test the flexibilty of joints.

Although this sounds like an extrememly useful syndrome to have, it is infact painful and many sufferers miss out on many sports in life or suffer great pain in doing things which we take for granted like walking.

Though flexibility can be a great gift for dancers and gynamasts; for some people it is a burden. A double-edged sword if you will.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Are fairytales real?

So the tale of the girl who kissed the frog prince, is a well known fairytale. But in reality we know that kissing a mere frog will not turn it into a prince; it would only leave your lips feeling slightly wet and cold. However this tale faces an interesting modern twist.

A new species of frog has been found in Ecuador, and is in fact named after none other than Prince Charles, due to his magnificent charity work in trying to maintain their rainforest habitat. The frogs' Latin name is Hyloscirtus princecharlesi or in English: The Prince Charles Stream Tree Frog.

So will kissing this particular species of frog give rise to some new Princes? I'm not saying to kiss it...but you never know.

Fairytales could come true!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Surely that's not real

How many times have you heard animal names which sound like they are literally plucked from thin air?  Believe it or not these animals actually exsist.

  1. Dzo = a yak and a domesticated bull or cow
  2. Beefalo = an American bison and a domestic cow
  3. Wholfin= a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin
  4. Toast of Botswana = goat and a sheep
  5. Liger= lion and tigeress
  1. Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides (it's a fly found in India)
  2. Aye-aye (small primate, it's quite unattractive as well)
  3. Dumbo octopus (named this due to the ear-like fins which protrude from its body)
  4. Narwhal (type of white whale)
  5. Yeti crab (it has hairy arms)