The rogue proteins behind variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, have revealed their benign side. Prions, it seems, lie at the heart of a newly discovered form of near-instant evolution that provides life with a third way to adapt to potentially lethal environments. Crucially, it involves neither genetic nor epigenetic changes to DNA.
The conventional view is that new traits can only evolve if DNA itself changes in some way. The classic way to do this is by mutating the genetic code itself. More recently, researchers have discovered that molecules can clamp onto DNA and prevent some parts of the sequence from being read, leading to genetic changes through a process that is known as epigenetics.
Scientists in Sweden film moving electron for the first time.
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
This occurs when a person, after having learned some (usually obscure) fact, word, phrase, or other item for the first time, encounters that item again, perhaps several times, shortly after having learned it.
There are several theories about the psychological explanation of the phenomenon, including a popular one that cites its primary cause as being the recency effect, in which the human brain has a bias that lends increased prominence to new or recently acquired information.
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is a form of synchronicity. A Jungian explanation is that the person learns the new phrase as part of a collective consciousness, which is also active in others. The concepts which float to the surface of the collective consciousness manifest themselves in different people at about the same time, leading to this effect.
A study has found that people who appear to be constantly distracted have more “working memory”, giving them the ability to hold a lot of information in their heads and manipulate it mentally.
Tardigrades (commonly known as waterbears or moss piglets) form the phylum Tardigrada, part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. They are small, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. Tardigrades were first described by Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773 (kleiner Wasserbär). The name Tardigrada means “slow walker” and was given by Lazzaro Spallanzani in 1777. The name water bear comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear’s gait. The biggest adults may reach a body length of 1.5 millimetres (0.059 in), the smallest below 0.1 mm. Freshly hatched larvae may be smaller than 0.05 mm.
Some 1,150 species of tardigrades have been described. Tardigrades occur over the entire world, from the high Himalayas (above 6,000 metres (20,000 ft)), to the deep sea (below 4,000 metres (13,000 ft)) and from the polar regions to the equator.
The most convenient place to find tardigrades is on lichens and mosses. Other environments are dunes, beaches, soil, and marine or freshwater sediments, where they may occur quite frequently (up to 25,000 animals per litre). Tardigrades often can be found by soaking a piece of moss in spring water.
Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of close to absolute zero (−273 °C (−459 °F)), temperatures as high as 151 °C (304 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, and almost a decade without water. Since 2007, tardigrades have also returned alive from studies in which they have been exposed to the vacuum of outer space for a few days in low earth orbit.
When science and art meet, awesome things are bound to happen. Such is the case with Luke Jerram’s incredible sculpture made by taking a 9 minute excerpt from the seismogram of the 2011 Tōhoku Japanese earthquake and tsunami and transforming it into a three-dimensional work of art.
“By using computer technology, Jerram rotated the seismogram to find a successful 3-D image. He then created the image with the use of a rapid prototyping machine. The piece is a little under 1 ft. x 8 in. and will be on exhibit in the Jerwood space in London, as part of the Terra exhibit which focuses on how data is read and represented.”
[via My Modern Metropolis]
Scientists now have evidence that Jupiter’s core has been dissolving, and the implications stretch far outside of our solar system.
“Capable of producing a beam of light so intense that it would be equivalent to the power received by the Earth from the sun focused onto a speck smaller than a tip of a pin, scientists claim it could allow them boil the very fabric of space – the vacuum.”