Blog Archives

Why animals would win every gold medal at the Olympics

The Olympic Games are a celebration of humans’ strength, speed, and stamina. London 2012 is currently upon us, in which the greatest athletes from across the globe compete to see who can run faster, jump higher, and leap longer than any other human in the world.

We like to think of ourselves as the most powerful creatures on the planet, but we are fooling ourselves. A tuna fish can swim ten times faster than Michael Phelps. A patas monkey would beat Usain Bolt by three seconds in the 100 metre sprint.

The two links below are a reminder that the animal kingdom has the most phenomenal athletes in this world. The power of evolution and the need for survival can create more incredible speed and strength than any gym or training field. And it also demonstrates that, if all animals could enter the Olympic Games, human beings would probably finish bottom of the medal table.

Slide show: The Nature Conservancy  http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newyork/placesweprotect/newyorkcity/natures-athletes-1.xml

Animal Olympics: BBC Nature http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18831388

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1960s music was original, modern music all sounds the same – the scientific proof

Painstaking research led by Spanish scientists has produced a set of results to support the argument that music from the 1960s was at its greatest, and modern music is repetitive and unoriginal. The scientists produced these results by analysing information from a database named the Million Song Dataset, which contained data of over a million songs recorded since 1955. 

Elements of the music such as tempo, volume, timbre, and pitch of notes yielded the above graph, which is a chart of “timbral variety” against time. In other words, it illustrates the diversity of sound in music, and clearly demonstrates that the 1960s was the peak of “timbral variety” in modern musical history. This suggests that music was at its most inventive, creative, and diverse during that era.

Since the 1970s, the originality and diversity of music has been on a downward slide – and continues to dip. These findings suggest that today’s music is simply becoming more and more homogeneous. Fans of 1960s music with a particular hatred for modern artists will revel in this discovery, and see it as undeniable proof that the likes of Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga simply cannot compete with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and so forth.

But, argues Sean Carroll of Discover Magazine: “On the other hand, one could … argue that this is because back then we didn’t know how to do it right, and there was a lot of experimental crap, whereas we’ve now figured it out.”

Full story: DISCOVER Magazine http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2012/07/28/music-was-better-in-the-sixties-man/

Women may be able to see more colours than men, say researchers

Humans have the ability to recognise and perceive more than one million different colours. Our eyes are organs that capture light bouncing off objects and project an (upside-down) image onto the retina. These images are then sent to the brain, which is then able to interpret objects, shapes, and colours.

The brain does all the hard work when it comes to seeing things, but the eyes themselves determine colours for us. The fact we can see any colour at all is due to cells in our retinas called cone cells. There are three different types of “cone” at the back of our eyeballs, each able to distinguish 100 shades. All we need to do is open our eyes, and the three types of cone automatically work together to form combinations of shades, deliver these messages to the brain via the optic nerve, and we see colours.

One million is an incredible amount of colours that the eyes can distinguish, purely by shade-detecting cells converting scattered light into electromagnetic impulses. However, neuroscientists at Newcastle University believe that there may be women living amonst us who naturally have “super-human” vision, able to see a hundred times more colours than men.

Why should this be? Well, colour blindness is a consequence of mutations in genes that determine cone cells. Since many of these genes occur in the X chromosome, it means that colour blindness is much more common among males than females. However, a side-effect of this could be that a small percentage of women may actually be born with four colour cones instead of three. This would give their eyes the potential to see one hundred million colours instead of just one millon.

Full story: IO9 Science http://io9.com/5919311/some-women-may-perceive-millions-more-colors-than-the-rest-of-us-are-you-one-of-them?tag=science

Test-tube hamburgers: coming soon to a restaurant near you?

Scientists have perfected the art of growing meat in the laboratory using stem cells and believe they will be able to replicate a real burger. If all goes to plan, the first ever “test-tube hamburger” will be sold in October this year.

The gloabl demand for meat is expected to double in the next 40 years, so the mass production of  beef, pork, chicken and lamb in test tubes may prove to be the ideal solution, as well as being able to dramatically reduce the environmental damage of farming.

Only one person has tried the lab-grown meat so far: a Russian journalist who snatched a sample of pork during a visit to the lab Maastricht University where it was being grown. He declared himself unimpressed.

Full story: Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9091628/Test-tube-hamburgers-to-be-served-this-year.html