Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Myths of Science.

Science is a particularly tricky subject, and as such there are many "Urban Legends" floating around. Here are just a few, which I found rather amazing, and proved what I had been told to be rather wrong.

Dogs sweat through their tongues.
Dogs mainly sweat through their paws, but they help to regulate their body temperature via panting. And via panting, their tongues are exposed.

That the blood in veins is blue.
Blood is always red due to the presence of haemoglobin. Veins carry deoxygenated blood which is infact a deep rich red. Veins actually look blue due to the fat under the skin only being able to absorb low-frequency light, this then only allows the highly energetic blue waves to pass through the dark red vein and be reflected back to us: which is why we see veins as blue.

That humans only have 5 senses.
We do have the 5 senses we are all taught about in primary school (sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing). But we also have several more; the senses of balance, acceleration, the position of our body in space, pain and temperature relative to external conditions.

After being in the bath for a long time, we get wrinkly due to osmosis.
This is actually an evolutionary advantage, as the wrinkles on our fingers and feet actually help us to grip slippery surfaces with ease. (Try this out in the bath tub!)

Holding a toad will give you a wart.
The knobbly bits on the toad, which were assumed to be warts are just their markings, and the virus which produces warts in humans is specific to humans. Meaning that you are unable to catch it from a toad or any other animal.

So are any urban science myths true?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The humans of the future.

Whilst doing some research, I came across a most surprising article, describing what humans were expected to look like in 102013. Firstly I wouldn't even know how to say this year out loud: ten twenty thirteen or a hundred and two and thirteen, either way it's a long long way from now.

The most surprising part of this article was the picture included. According to Nickolay Lamm we will have large, buy eyes with rather prominent foreheads with a pigmented skins tone. Lamm spoke to Dr Alan Kwan who guided his illustration. Kwan is an expert in computational genomics from the Washington University. 

Obviously to gain these features, one would have to assume that our environment would act as the main selection pressure in determining what changes happen to the human physique. Changes in the air and the light around us (becoming either brighter or dimmer) will affect our facial features, most probably our skin and eyes (size, colour and shape). Moreover it has also been predicted that the size of our head will continue to grow, and has been doing so since the Middle Ages, in order to accommodate our growing brain size. 

I guess this is an interesting topic really. To think about what we would look like in the future. I just hope humans don't  end up looking like Animé cartoon characters, although that would be rather interesting. But who knows what the future will hold, maybe we will all just morph into 1 uniform look or maybe we will turn into these weird bug-eye creatures.

All I know for sure is that I don't want to be there when this happens, it would be horrifyingly scary to witness!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Martian Four

Ever wanted to colonize a new land all by yourself (with some help from others)? Lay down the laws and decide how you and everyone around you should live?

If the answer is YES, maybe you should have applied for the one way trip to Mars.

The Mars One mission organizers in partnership with the entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp has set about trying to find a team of volunteers, who would be willing to be blasted into space in 2023 and leave everything they have grown to love behind. The trip to Mars, isn't really a trip, but more  a 1 way flight, as vehicles coming back from Mars haven't been developed yet. (which really raises queries as to what would happen in a case of emergency).

202,586 people have applied for this mission by explaining why they are perfect to go to the Red planet. However, I believe that the role of the team will not be purely for their own entertainment. They will more than likely be looking to extend our current understanding of the solar system and our universe whilst they live on the planet.

Out of the 202,586 applicants, it will be narrowed down to 24 Mars One astronauts, and finally an elite group of 4 will be chosen to be the first human inhabitants of Mars.

The total cost of this project is expected to reach £4 billion. The committee aim to gain back the money by launching a reality TV programme, following the 4 astronauts who touch-down on Mars. 

Personally, I don't think that this is such a great idea. Obviously, from having people actually living on the planet, we would be able to gain invaluable knowledge not only about Mars but also the rest of the solar system, but I feel that the astronauts haven't been considered as real people but more as humanoid versions of the Mars Rover; as contingency plans for emergencies seem rather underdeveloped.

It will be a historical first in colonising another planet, but what else other than scientific gain will be attained?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Another Branch!

I've decided to extend The Science Tree to another media site: TWITTER! Follow @thesciencetree for latest science news stories and #sciencethursdays.

The hashtag of #sciencethursdays will tell you when the latest blog post has been posted, and a link will be provided to the appropriate blog post on here.

Keep Exploring!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

'Ear 'Ear

Imagine being able to fit onto the nail of a thumb. Everything about you would be miniaturised. This is the case for the one of the world's smallest frog the Gardiner's frog.

This little amphibian can reach the size of 11mm (1.1cm) long once matured, but are born only 3mm in length. The males are slightly shorter than the females and grow to a maximum of 8mm. These miniature frogs are at a threatened level and are marked as vulnerable by conservationists.

The amazing thing about this frog is that it does not have an middle ear. The middle ear was thought to be crucial in hearing, as this is the part where the eardrum vibrates and previously the frog was thought to be deaf. This initial belief was dismissed via a new behavioural experiment.

The frogs produce a high pitched squeaking, which scientists recorded. They then played back the recording to the wild frogs and observed their behaviour. The wild frogs responded to the squeaks, which proved that they were able to hear.

Next was to find out how the ear less frog was able to hear a sound without the presence of an eardrum. The research team from the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles produced simulations in trying to predict how the frog's head responds to the sound waves. They played sounds at the same frequency as the frog's own calls, and found that the mouth of the frog resonated like an ear drum, amplifying the sound. Furthermore it was found that these frog's had thinner layers of tissues between their mouths and inner ear, which allowed sound waves to be passed much more easily between the 2.

Although this is an great discovery and it leads us to understand the anatomy of the Gardiner's frog some more; one would have thought that being in a colony, the frogs must have needed to communicate between each other, and consequently they would have been able to respond to the calls which they make and subsequently there would have been a premise for the development of a new technique of hearing without the presence of a middle ear.