Alvin (DSV-2) is a manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The vehicle was built by General Mills’ Electronics Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Named to honor the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine, Alvin was commissioned on 5 June 1964. The submersible is launched from the deep submergence support vessel R/V Atlantis (AGOR-25), which is also owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI. The submersible has made over 4,400 dives, carrying two scientists and a pilot, to observe the lifeforms that must cope with super-pressures and move about in total darkness. Research conducted by Alvin has been featured in nearly 2,000 scientific papers.
There is a small chance I can go diving with Alvin for my graduate research on hydrothermal vents. Fingers crossed!
The Lost City hydrothermal vent field is located in the mid-Atlantic and is the only one of its kind found thus far. It offers scientists access to microorganisms living in vents that range in age from those newly formed to those tens of thousands of years old.
A bit-player among microbes found in scant numbers in younger, more active vents became the lead actor in a chimney more than 1,000 years old where venting had moderated and cooled, changing the ecosystem, according to Phillip Taylor of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.
This is the first evidence that microorganisms can remain rare for such a long time before completely turning the tables to become dominant when ecosystems change, says William Brazelton, a University of Washington (UW) postdoctoral researcher. It seems logical, but until recently, scientists weren’t able to detect microorganisms at such low abundance, he says.
A manta ray, Manta birostris, opens its mouth wide to engulf zooplankton and other tidbits in the water. The dark marks visible inside the mouth are its gill slits. Manta rays, which are filter feeders and have vestigial teeth, often appear to be curious about human divers. WHOI biologist Simon Thorrold photographed the ray while studying fish on and around coral reefs in the Red Sea in May, 2010, as part of WHOI’s research collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
The most cited paper in sexual selection is being reconsidered after biologists discovered flaws in the original protocol. Now, the paper is under severe scrutiny due to repeat attempts resulting in the original data proving inconclusive.
From Science Daily:
In 1948, English geneticist Angus John Bateman published a study showing that male fruit flies gain an evolutionary advantage from having multiple mates, while their female counterparts do not. Bateman’s conclusions have informed and influenced an entire sub-field of evolutionary biology for decades.
The piece on Science Daily not only speaks about the new experiments and their implications for the old data, but the history of the science behind sexual selection, too.
The Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is my current favorite, if only because I get to see plenty of them while I’m biking along the shoreline. It is supposedly the most abundant and best studied bird in North America. The photo above depicts a male of the species, while the females are a nondescript brown color. I just love the contrast between the jet black body and the fiery shoulders. I’ll have to start bringing a camera with me on my bike rides as I always see plenty of wildlife.
A double rainbow. When direct sunlight strikes falling rain, a rainbow is seen at a point directly opposite the sun. A double rainbow occurs when some of the light entering the raindrop is refracted into its component colors, reflected off the back interior wall of the drop, and then refracted again as it exits the drop. The dark area in between the two rainbows is called Alexander’s band.
What Is Homeopathy?
I believe that a lot of people subscribe to the misconception that homeopathy is the same thing as herbal remedies: There are natural substances grown from the earth which may or may not be medically beneficial. This is not so. Homeopathy is much more obvious in its… bullshittedness…
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine based on the principle that “like cures like”, a real hair of the dog form of of treatment. Most of us who have experienced the joys of a hangover are familiar with the idea that consuming more alcohol will rid the body of all ill effects. Well, it seems that this works! Unfortunately, all it’s really acting to do is to prolong the onset of the hangover. Homeopathy works in a similar way. Substances which are known to induce symptoms similar to certain diseases are diluted in a stock of water. That solution is then further diluted. Then diluted again. And again. And again. In the end, there is typically not even a trace of the original substance left, just pure water. Homeopathic practitioners argue that the substance will still cause the desired effects due to water memory, the notion that water molecules ‘remember’ the substances it has come in contact with. There is zero scientific evidence to back this up, and all attempts to use the serial dilution method in the lab to produce the supposed concoctions have failed miserably. It’s terrifying to think that we are being sold nothing but expensive bottles of water to cure inflictions ranging from stress and hangovers, to malaria and AIDS.
Ecology is, at least to me, an absolutely breathtaking field of study. It’s hidden levels of complexity serve to fascinate and improve our understanding of the world at large. Ok, enough of that.
A new study published in the journal Science looked at the intricate relationship between decomposers, predators, and prey. Under normal conditions grasshoppers prefer nitrogen rich grass as a source of food in order to stimulate growth and reproduction. When the grasshopper dies, microbes make quick work of the carcass, provided the soil with nitrogen rich fertilizer. Under the influence of predation, however, the grasshoppers switches to an energy rich carbohydrate based diet. With less nitrogen in the body, microbes have a more difficult time decomposing the dead insects, leading to a drastic change in plant composition. This slight change in the grasshoppers biochemistry greatly affects the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and has a significant impact on the global carbon cycle, much to the surprise of researchers.
New Study Gives Insights to Elephant Pregnancy
Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal, lasting a staggering 22 months. Most mammals have 1 corpus luteum, a temporary endocrine structure that serves to regulate hormone levels during pregnancy. Elephants, on the other hand, can have as many as 11. From Science Mag:
In most mammals, one corpus luteum forms from a single egg follicle in the ovary during each menstrual cycle. The temporary gland produces progesterone, which in turn promotes thickening of the endometrium and, if an egg is fertilized, maintains the correct balance of hormones throughout a pregnancy to ensure that a female’s body remains geared toward supporting her growing baby. If fertilization doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum dies, only to reform during the next reproductive cycle. From dissected animals, scientists have known for more than 50 years that elephant ovaries contain multiple corpora lutea. But they didn’t know how these structures formed or what roles they played in elephant pregnancies. And they’d never studied the corpus lutea in real-time during an elephant’s life or pregnancy.
Researchers have now discovered that these remarkable creatures form, on average, 5 corpora lutea per menstrual cycle: one derived from an egg generating follicle (as was expected) and the rest forming from separate follicles throughout the menstrual cycle. While pregnancy in elephants is still not fully understood, scientists now theorize that by increasing the number of corpus lutea during pregnancy helps maintain hormone levels, allowing for the complex brain of an elephant to fully form during gestation.
Needless Injection on the Way
Researchers at MIT are developing a device that can inject medication sans needle. It works by shooting a jet of liquid medication into the skin close to the speed of sound. While similar methods have been explored, MITs device allows healthcare professionals to change doses and expulsion pressure easily, allowing them to tailor shots for different diseases and age groups.