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This Week in Science (January 24, 2014)

Yes, boys and girls, geeks and nerdlings… scientists the world over have come up with some pretty neato stuff this week!

jan-26-2014

Excellent stuff, for sure!

Read more at the links below!

Black holes: http://bit.ly/M1dPva
Mantis shrimps: http://bit.ly/1n2GT3N
Cancer genome: http://bit.ly/1ggGtGv
Dolphin: http://bit.ly/1e7ZB6l
Cosmic web: http://bit.ly/M1eeh9
Supernova: http://bit.ly/M1e610
Shark extinction: http://bit.ly/1cj0TLp
Ceres: http://bit.ly/1fghjF4

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This summer is really hopping in terms of scientific research and discovery!!

From lab-grown burgers (talk about Frankenfood!) to lab-grown teeth to lab-grown ears… so far, this summer is tough to beat when it comes to uncovering scientific secrets! And it’s just the beginning of August!

july-aug-in-science(A tip of the yarmulke to Hashem AL-ghaili!)

Stem cells are front and centre. And a 33 brand new ant species join the League of Extraordinary Insects!

And a happy first anniversary to the Mars Curiosity Rover!

Well done, geeks and nerdlings!!

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This world map pretty much confirms what we in the west already suspect.

Web

Room for improvement in much of the world.

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A March 10 – 11 survey by Public Policy Polling reveals that a majority of Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi – states with primary elections last night Tuesday March 13 – believe the President of the United States is a Muslim. Forty-five percent of Republican voters in Alabama think Obama is a Muslim, while 41 percent are “unsure.” Only 14 percent believe he is Christian. In Mississippi, belief in the president’s supposed Muslim faith is even stronger. Fifty-two percent of Republicans there think Obama is Muslim, while 36 percent are unsure and only 12 percent believe he is Christian.

Yes, boy and girls… It’s that time again! With the political world returning its attention to the voting action in Dixie, the bulk of the nation is indulging once more in that most satisfying of political pastimes: jeering at what a pack of racist, ass-backward idjits they think populate the Deep South.

Don’t get me wrong. Believe you me,  I love pokin’ fun at The South as much as the next guy. Maybe even more so. But I need to state plainly and clearly that, for me, it’s done out of love. For all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, I love The South. I sincerely do.

So when I see these kinds of survey results being broadcast, I get a bit shirty and more than a bit suspicious. And here’s why…

You don’t see these kinds of survey questions asked in Vermont or Oregon or Michigan. Why does The South get the dubious benefit of being asked questions that deliberately expose certain facets of the culture?

So an average of one in four respondents still think inter-racial marriage shouldn’t be legal. A whole lot of Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama can’t get with that whole ebony-and-ivory thing. Racist? Ayuh, I’d say so. But can someone please explain to me what this has to do with the current Republican presidential race? Discussions of gay marriage I understand. But interracial marriage – since when is this a relevant topic in American politics?

Similarly, why do we need to know respondents’ views on evolution? Last time I checked, not even Santorum was waving the creationism (or intelligent design) banner in this race.

You don’t see Arizona or Colorado Republicans asked about how they feel about Hispanics and if they should all be rounded up and sent back to Mexico. I don’t recall any polls conducted in certain sections of New Jersey society as to what the people there think about blacks.

Every state has its not-so-admirable biases. I don’t see what it adds to the public discourse in asking Republicans in the Deep South – and evidently only these states – about these particular issues.

At least with comedians, you know it’s supposed to be a joke. You may not laugh or you may not even appreciate the humour but at last you know that’s the point of the exercise.

Not so when a polling company puts out such facts.

It’s a cheap shot. Under the mask of political research, it’s just cultural profiling for laughs, and easy ones at that.

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In support of Wikipedia (and other free-content providers) and against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act.

We will return Friday January 20, 2012.

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As if Honeybee Hive Collapse Disorder alone wasn’t enough.

Now we have to contend with…

ZOMBIE HONEY BEES!!

(OK… OK… maybe they don’t actually literally say “Brains!”)

A fly parasite that latches onto honeybees causing them to abandon their hives and die after a bout of disoriented zombie-like behaviour could be a potential threat to honeybee colonies across North America, according to researchers at San Francisco State University.

John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, collected some dead bees from the ground underneath lights around the University’s biology building. “But being an absent-minded professor,” he noted in a prepared statement, “I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them.” He soon got a shock. “The next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees,” he said. A fly (Apocephalus borealis) had inserted its eggs into the bees, using their bodies as a home for its developing larvae. And the invaders had somehow led the bees from their hives to their deaths.

In other words, the fly deposits its eggs into a bee’s abdomen. After being parasitized by the fly, the bees abandon their hives, often at night, to congregate near lights.  Bees that left the hives at night were more likely to have the parasite than those that foraged during the day.

“When we observed the bees for some time — the ones that were alive — we found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction… they kept stretching [their legs] out and then falling over,” said Andrew Core, biology graduate student at San Francisco State University and co-author of the study.  “It really painted a picture of something like a zombie.”

(Eeeww, gross! Apocephalus borealis fly larva emerges from a host honey bee)

After about seven days, fly larvae push their way out from between the bee’s head and thorax. Kinda like that scene in Alien! Usually bees just sit in one place, sometimes curling up before they die.

Researchers aren’t sure how to prevent the parasitization because it’s not clear where the flies are latching onto the bees. It’s likely that it’s happening when the bees are foraging because flies aren’t hanging around the beehives, said Hafernik.

OK… it’s gross for the bees but so what. There are tons of examples of insects planting their tiny tots-to-be inside other insects.

Well… I am so glad you asked!

Genetic testing of parasitized hives showed that both bees and flies were often infected with a deformed wing virus and a fungus called Nosema ceranae. Some researchers have pointed to the fungus and virus as the potential catalysts in colony collapse disorder. Hive abandonment is the primary characteristic of the disorder.

Aha!! I knew it. Zombies are behind Colony Collapse Syndrome. Similar to a real life zombie apocalypse which brings about a societal collapse and causes non-infected humans to flee cities, so too a zombie infestation in a bee hive causes its own society collapse resulting in abandonment of the hive. Or at least, that is one possible theory.

All the more reason to be prepared, people, for The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse!

So far, the fly parasite Apocephalus borealis has only been found in honeybee hives in California and South Dakota.

But this is no reason to become complacent.

Get a kit. Make a plan. Be prepared!

What you don’t know… can eat you!

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Last week, vandals went into a Jewish cemetery on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Swastikas were scrawled on gravestones in Victoria’s historic Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery.

The vandalism was reported Saturday night (Dec. 31/11) and occurred the same day because a caretaker had been there a day before.

Rabbi Harry Brechner wrote an open letter calling on the vandals to confess and to “come clean the gravesites, and when you are through take a tour with me around the cemetery and meet some of the people who lived through Nazism.”

Both the cemetery and the Emanu-El synagogue date back to the 1860s, and the cemetery is the oldest Jewish burial ground in western Canada. The synagogue is Canada’s oldest Jewish house of worship in continuous use, according to the Victoria newspaper, the Time-Colonist.

The images speak for themselves. Sadly, the Jewish souls buried there cannot.

To those family members still alive, allow me to say…

“Hamakom y’nachem etchem b’toch sh’ar aveylei Tziyon viYirusholayim”

(May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem)

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