Joseph Ali says onlookers thought he was drunk when he dove into the nighttime waters around a Southern California pier. But he came away with a monster of a lobster and the catch of a lifetime.
Ali tells the Orange County Register he was closing his father’s business, Zack’s Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, Monday when he saw the ocean was calm and decided to dive for dinner. He was down about 15 feet going after a smaller lobster when he saw the giant. He says it was too big to grab properly but it latched onto him and he wrestled it to shore.It weighed nearly 18 pounds — even a 5-pounder is considered trophy-sized — and was likely at least 30 years old.
Archive for the ‘Strange’ Category
Posted by Xeno on December 12, 2013
Posted by Xeno on December 10, 2013
Now I had an undamaged example I could study.
As I sealed the tick into a tube and put it in the freezer, I reflected on how it had come to stow itself away undetected. It must have been waiting in ambush on the forest floor as I passed, then made its way right up my body. Discovering it in my nose had been alarming enough, but thinking about it crawling across my face to get there was truly disturbing.
Once I got the genetics report back from the lab, though, my unease turned to excitement. The DNA sequence of the tick could not be matched with any existing database. At the very least, my specimen was a member of a species that had never been genetically tested before, but it could well be of a type previously unknown to science.
A colleague who’d been studying high-resolution photographs of the chimps I’d been researching found that many of them had ticks of the same type up their noses. No evidence of this phenomenon had been found before, and I now believe these particular ticks have evolved specifically to hide inside the nostril cavities of chimps, where they can feast in safety, away from their host’s habitual grooming regimes.
It could well be that the Ugandan nostril ticks have yet to spread beyond the particular park where we conducted our research. We now have to return and set traps to catch more, so we can do further study. It’s a tremendously exciting project for me, and could prove vitally important: we know my tick managed to latch on to me undetected, and we need to ensure others don’t stow away on international flights and establish colonies in other countries, where they could potentially spread exotic diseases.
A biologist can spend a whole career hoping to make such a breakthrough, and there’s a special kudos attached to being able to carry out a study on a subject of which you have personal experience. The discomfort and revulsion I went through is a very reasonable trade-off. I feel genuinely grateful to the tick for choosing me as its host.
Posted by Xeno on December 4, 2013
They floated down from the sky Sunday — 2,000 mice, wafting on tiny cardboard parachutes over Andersen Air Force Base in the U.S. territory of Guam.
But the rodent commandos didn’t know they were on a mission: to help eradicate the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has caused millions of dollars in wildlife and commercial losses since it arrived a few decades ago.
That’s because they were dead. And pumped full of painkillers.
The unlikely invasion was the fourth and biggest rodent air assault so far, part of an $8 million U.S. program approved in February to eradicate the snakes and save the exotic native birds that are their snack food.
“Every time there is a technique that is tested and shows promise, we jump on that bandwagon and promote it and help out and facilitate its implementation,” Tino Aguon, acting chief of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s wildlife resources office for Guam, told NBC station KUAM of Hagatna.
It’s not just birds the government is trying to protect. It’s also money.
Andersen, like other large industrial complexes on the Western Pacific island, is regularly bedeviled by power failures caused when the snakes wriggle their way into electric substations — an average of 80 a year, costing as much as $4 million in annual repair costs and lost productivity, the Interior Department estimated in 2005.
The U.S. has tried lots of ways to eliminate the snakes, which it says likely arrived in an inadequately inspected cargo shipment sometime in the 1950s.
Snake traps, snake-sniffing dogs and snake-hunting inspectors have all helped control the population, but the snakes have proved especially hardy and now infest the entire island. Guam is home to an estimated 2 million of the reptiles, which in some areas reach a density of 13,000 per square mile — more concentrated than even in the Amazonian rainforests, the government says.
But brown tree snakes have an Achilles’ heel: Tylenol.
For some reason, the snakes are almost uniquely sensitive to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in the ubiquitous over-the-counter painkiller. If you can get a tree snake to eat just 80 milligrams, you can kill it. That’s only about one-sixth of a standard pill — pigs, dogs and other similarly sized animals would have to eat about 500 of the baited mice to get a lethal dose.
Brown tree snakes also love mice. It’s easy to bait mice with acetaminophen, but how do you then deliver the mice to the snakes?
“The process is quite simple,” Dan Vice, the Agriculture Department’s assistant supervisory wildlife biologist for Guam, told KUAM.
Helicopters make low-altitude flights over the base’s forested areas, dropping their furry bundles on a timed sequence. Each mouse is laced with the deadly microdose of acetaminophen and strung up to two pieces of cardboard and green tissue paper.
“The cardboard is heavier than the tissue paper and opens up in an inverted horseshoe,” Vice said. “It then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest canopy. Once it’s hung in the forest canopy, snakes have an opportunity to consume the bait.”
Wildlife workers do have a way to chart how well the mice work. In addition to the acetaminophen and the parachutes, some of the poison pests also come equipped with tiny data-transmitting radios.
How long until the snakes wise up, remove the radio transmitters, collect them all in a big cave and then ambush and eat all humans who arrive? Ssssss.
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
A type of brain cell once thought to be little more than the neuron’s supportive sidekick may have a lead role in pruning the electrochemical connections that are crucial to brain development, learning, memory and cognition, a new study suggests.
Astrocytes, a type of glial cell, turn out to be veritable Pac-men, steadily gobbling up weak, extraneous and redundant synapses that are the vital link between neurons, according to a study published online Sunday in the journal Nature.
“Excess synapses are generated during development, and then they’re pruned back,” said Dr. Ben A. Barres, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Some synapses are selected, and survive, but a lot of synapses are just removed. But it wasn’t clear how that synapse elimination happened.”
That brain trimming has been made more clear, at least in a mouse visual circuit commonly used to study the human brain.
Barres has been focusing on glial cells – the name comes from the Latin word for glue – for three decades. “They’re very disrespected cells,” he said.
Over those years, Barres’ lab found found that without the star-shaped glial cells known as
astrocytes, synapses fail to send strong signals. That only qualified glial cells for best-supporting-cell nominee, at most. But then Barr reported, in 2001, that neurons weren’t as good at creating new synapses without the astrocytes.
A growing number of neuroscientists have added to these findings and are suggesting that glial cells perform lead-actor role in shaping the brain’s signal-relaying architecture.
While figuring out how astrocytes affect synapse formation, Barres found that the cells had some intriguing genes – ones that turn it into a synapse destroyer.
“One of the most surprising things that we found was the astrocytes were very highly expressing several complete phagocytic pathways – they’re the cells that eat,” Barres said.
Postdoctoral researcher Won-Suk Chung, lead author of the current study, created experiments to test how that genetic pathway worked to trim a rodent’s lower-level visual circuitry in early stages of brain development. Synapses in that circuit must be eliminated so that each neuron from the retina connects with just one in the thalamus, which relays those signals to higher visual processing centers.
Chung showed that astrocytes surrounded and ingested functioning synapses via a chemical pathway centered on a pair of proteins coded by its Pac-man genes. Something about these proteins appeared to help the cell find a weak target.
The pair then showed how this activity varied at different stages of development and continued into adulthood.
If the same pruning of synapses can be demonstrated in human astrocytes, it could carry important implications for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for psychiatric disorders, and for the nagging loss of memory that comes with aging.
“Everyone is always assuming if there’s something wrong, the problem is in the neuron,” Barres said. “If the astrocytes are in the driver’s seat in terms of controlling synapse formation and synapse function, maybe those processes go awry in human disease.” …
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
A rare and mysterious ice circle was discovered by retired engineer George Loegering, who spotted the ‘cool’ phenomena floating in the Sheyenne River in North Dakota this past weekend while vacationing with family. He estimates that the ice ring – rotating in the river “like a record turntable” – measured about 10 feet in diameter.
“I’m not sure how long it was there (spinning),” he told the Associated Press. “It had to be quite a long time. If you look at the picture, you can see growth rings on the disk,’ Loegering said. “That thing is rotating, as you can see.” He even described how concentric rings of ice near the ice circles’ edge made him think the ice circle was growing.
While a few similar disks have been reported – including in Canada, England and Sweden – scientists remain puzzled by the phenomena. As reported by the Associated Press, theories include:
Cold, dense air slowly froze the surface in bits and pieces, then got trapped in a river eddy.
“Frazil” ice — loose, needle-shaped particles of ice that can cluster together – forms as water cools and accumulates.
Ice circles form at bends in the river where the rushing water creates a force called “rotational shear.” This force can break off a piece of ice that rotates. As it spins, its edges become smooth as they grind against surrounding ice.
Posted by Xeno on December 2, 2013
A family Ohio were in for a nasty surprised after they returned from a visit out-of-town visit to a dying relative to find someone else had moved into their house.Their outrage has now turned into a court battle, pitting them against a man who says he has the court documents to prove the house is now his.
Robert Carr moved into the home that had been occupied for 21 years, changed the locks and emptied the house.
Robert Carr: He filed ‘quiet titles’ on these properties, saying he has a right to claim them because the families who previously occupied the homes have forfeited their rights of ownership because they abandoned the property
Under new owners: This is just one of the $130,000 homes that Robert Carr has possessed under his ‘sovereign’ rights and used a ‘quiet title’When the family confronted Carr, he showed them a document he filed with the the County Court.
It’s called a ‘quiet title’ and lays claim to the property because Carr says the family abandoned the house and gave up all their rights.
Great law, Ohio.
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
People living on a UK street fear house prices could suffer after Google Earth images showed their estate resembles a giant penis.
Locals on George Road, Edward Road, and Yeoman Cottages in Hoylake, Wirral, fear potential house-hunters wouldn’t want to buy a property in the phallic-shaped area.
When viewed from above, the red roofs on the homes – which have an average £200,000 price tag – make the cul-de-sac look like a penis.
Resident Carl Hodge, 45, said: “Since someone spotted this on Google Earth we have all become a laughing stock.
“You can’t argue because it really does look just like a man’s c*ck and balls.
“I haven’t heard of anyone moving out because of it but we are definitely worried it would put of potential buyers if we ever wanted to sell.
“Who would want to live in the cul-de-sac that everyone is taking the mick out of.
“They say Google Earth is fascinating and people spend hours on it but it has been a nightmare for us.
“I think Google should remove the street from the internet. It might be funny but it’s no laughing matter if you’re trying to sell your house.” …
What’s wrong with you people? It looks an antique country kitchen Big Bingo Egg Beater to me.
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
Just outside the village, children fished in a tranquil pond bobbing with green algae and lined with willow trees, as cattle grazed nearby.
Now, Rezak Motanic gazes in disbelief down a gigantic crater where the pond used to be. It’s like something from a science fiction movie: a sinkhole swallowed the water, the fish and even nearby trees.
“I sat here only a day before it happened, sipping plum brandy,” Cemal Hasan said. “And then, there was panic. Fish were jumping out, and a big plum tree was pulled down like someone yanked it with a hook.”
Residents of this remote north-western Bosnian village have been in shock since the pond vanished two weeks ago.
The pond was about 20 metres in diameter and about eight metres deep. Now, the “abyss”, as the villagers have dubbed the crater, is some 50 metres wide and 30 metres deep – and growing.
Scientists say it is not uncommon that ponds and small lakes suddenly disappear. They say it could be caused by drying underground water currents, or changes in soil drainage due to irrigation.
Sanica villagers, however, are having none of the scientific explanations.
“It could have been a giant cave that opened its doors,” offered Milanko Skrbic. “Or a volcano.”
Another popular theory – one that experts dismiss along with the others proposed by townsfolk – is that fish could have triggered the explosion of one of several world war two German bombs believed to have been thrown into the pond by an old woman after the war.
“She herself died when one of the bombs exploded in her arms,” Cemal Hasan said as he stood on the edge of the “abyss.”
Another spooky explanation: the owner of the pond took it with him when he died about a month ago.
“Only days before Hasan passed away he said: ‘I’ll take everything with me when I die.’ And that’s what he did,” Motanic said. “His daughter saw him walk on the lake the night he died.”
Husein Nanic said it could be a sign that the end is nigh. “All sort of miracles happen before the doomsday,” he said.
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
Many once thought that mushrooms spread by passively dropping their spores, after which the reproductive packets would hopefully get picked up by a gust of wind, and carried thither and yon.
But new research shows mushrooms take a more active role in spreading their seed: They “make wind” to carry their spores about, said UCLA researcher Marcus Roper.
Mushrooms create air flow by allowing their moisture to evaporate. “A mushroom is essentially doing less than nothing to protect its water from evaporating off,” Roper told LiveScience.
This evaporation allows them to cool off, as the phase change from liquid water to vapor uses up heat energy. Cold air is more dense than warm air, and has a tendency to flow and spread out, he added. The evaporation also creates water vapor, which is less dense than air. The two forces help carry spores out of the mushroom, and give them a little lift, he said. The lift can carry spores up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) horizontally and vertically, he said.
Mushrooms often live on the forest floor, under logs or in very tight quarters where wind wouldn’t be expected to reach, Roper said. The ability to “create wind” helps give spores a better chance at finding a new, moist location to land and begin growing, he added.
Roper and colleague Emilie Dressaire, a professor of experimental fluid mechanics at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., visualized the spread of spores from mushrooms with laser light and a high-speed camera. They combined the imagery with calculations of water loss and temperature readings of mushrooms to show how the fungi create their own air flow, Roper said. They created images of spores issuing forth from a variety of species, including Amanita muscaria mushrooms, a type of hallucinogenic mushroom. [Tales of Magic Mushrooms & Other Hallucinogens]
The study, presented today (Nov. 25) at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Pittsburgh, suggests all mushroom-producing fungi may have the ability to spread their spores in this way, Roper said.
Recent work by Anne Pringle, a mycologist at Harvard University, has found that fungi actively spread their spores in other ways, for example by shooting them out at high speeds in rapid succession.
This study by Roper and Dressaire presents another example of how “fungi are actively manipulating their environment,” said Pringle, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Even though we perceive them to be passive, they are quite active in moving themselves around.” …
Posted by Xeno on November 27, 2013
Once viewed as an “outlandish morally objectionable” concept with science-fiction overtones, face transplantation is now accepted as a “feasible and necessary treatment” for severely disfigured patients. The evolving ethical debate over face transplantation is analyzed in a special topic paper in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Harriet Kiwanuka and colleagues of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, analyzed published articles on the ethics of face transplantation, focusing how the ethical debate has changed over time. Their review shows that initial concerns over the impact on patients’ identity have faded, as experience shows the benefits of facial transplants in helping patients with severe facial disfigurement return to a more-normal life.
Ethics of Facial Transplant—From Concerns about ‘Identity Issues’…
In a review of the medical literature, Kiwanuka and coauthors identified 110 articles discussing the ethics of face transplantation. Published from 2002 to 2012, nearly half of the papers appeared in the year before and after the first facial transplant—performed by a French team in 2005. Since then, the number of ethical discussions on face transplantation has gradually decreased.
The papers showed a “time-related trend” in ethical positions. All of the articles published in 2002 concluded that face transplantation was not ethically justified. By 2008, all published papers acknowledged the ethical concerns, but concluded that they were outweighed by the benefits of successful facial transplant.
The researchers identified a core group of 15 topics that recurred through the years. The most common issues were related to “identity change/psychological effects,” the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted face, and the risks versus benefits of face transplantation.
Many of the early concerns over identity focused on the idea of “wearing someone else’s face”—perhaps reflecting the influence of the 1997 science fiction movie Face Off, in which an FBI agent and a criminal switch faces. But these concerns faded, as experience showed that facial transplant recipients gain a new appearance that is “neither identical to the recipient’s nor the donor’s [face],” write the researchers, who were led by senior author Bohdan Pomahac, MD.
…To Practical Issues Informed by Experience
To date, 25 facial transplants have been performed worldwide, and the procedure is expected to be more common in the years ahead. In more recent ethical discussions, some new issues have become prominent, such as patient selection for face transplantation, the inability of severely disfigured patients to lead normal lives, and the high costs of face transplantation.
Many recent papers focus on characteristics of the “ideal recipient” for facial transplant. One report cites the “Catch-22″ of face transplantation: the patients who are most capable of coping with face transplantation may be those who need it least, because they are coping well with their disfigurement.
Would you be okay with someone using your face after you are done with it?