Sunday, October 25, 2009

Michael’s moonwalk imitated for mates

Michael Jackson has been a legendary entertainer in our lifetime. We thrived off his songs, his clothing style, and the amazing moonwalk my mother's generation attempted to imitate. Although the gheri-curl, leather jacket, silver glove and those sparkly tube socks have attracted millions of girls, one little birdie has an outfit of his own and moves to attract the ladies.

The Red-capped manakin, Pepra Mentalis, is a short bird with a short tail with a family of about 50 other manakin species. They can be found in South American Tropical forest, at only about 3-6.5 inches long, and one ounce. Like most species, the males stick out with bright colors to attract females for mating. In this particular species, the Red-Capped manakin has a red head, a black belly and yellow thighs. The females and reproductively immature males are not as bright, but are green and or brown. While courting females, the male manakin does a charming moonwalk perhaps MJ inspired. He flaps his wings to his sides, hops a little bit, and then slides backwards on his porch. The amazing footwork and divine outfit are a great combination for attracting the female manakins. Often the males will perform a dance together but only the best dancing manakin will get to mate. This is the alpha male, who has the privilege of mating until he dies, and the beta male takes his place.

I found this little bird to be extremely cute and quite the entertainer. The Red-Capped Manakin has gained quite the popularity on video sharing site YouTube for its smooth moonwalk. I've witnessed many artist such as Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx, sister Janet Jackson, and plenty of inspired dancers attempt to imitate his forever-remembered dance; but this bird has the moves down pack. Perhaps Michael's "mating dance" inspired the stories behind Billy Jean and Dirty Diana, provoking women everywhere to fall in love with him. Nature tells us that us humans aren't very different when it comes to impressing the opposite sex!

Here is the cute video of the moonwalking expert (The manakin, not the man).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Cant Want It!

So that day old garbage that wasn't dumped smacks you in the face upon entering the room... "GROSS!" immediately leaves your lips and your hands are tying GLAD bags closed faster than you can spell Northern Sanitation, or maybe not. But factually, the nose has a predisposition to the smell of collected waste as it does similarly to spoiled food, rotten milk, etc.

Our olfactory sensors began to develop a preference for scents based on an association past experience has taught us. The smell of hospital, for example, is associated with being in pain or sick, thus it is not a preferred one. Similarly, the aroma of certain foods will be pleasant, reminding us of the agreeable experience our taste buds and stomachs felt. Association of scents also works a different way. When one scent that is preferred is present and a following scent that is impartial to the nose, the second scent will become preferred in its association to the first pleasant scent.

This is why we prefer the scent of a rose, over say.. that of a skunk. Skunk sprayed tomato baths are probably not preferable memories for anyone!

For more information, click here

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stephen Hawking

In the Discover Article "Stephen Hawkings is Making His Comeback" I was confused about where the lede ended. It was capturing at first introducing the talk on "why we should go to space", but I also felt it was rather wordy. I would give this lede a 17 out of 20 for setting up a vivid image of what took place and keeping the reader's attention in an engaging and creative way. I would have appreciate the lede being less wordy and more organized instead of an ongoing paragraph. I felt the transitioning flowed quite well while telling a compelling and vivid story of Stephen Hawking. For content, I would give this article an 18/20.It explained the comeback, why he "left" and why it was so incredible that he was coming back. Explaining his adversity from health problems and how they helped him mold a better perspective was only a number of ways the reader becomes compelled to read more. I felt this was a GREAT job done! Although the quality of writing was good in style and originality, I did began to lose interest around the third page. At first I felt engaged by the writer's tone, and vivid pictures. It was like I was given a ticket to see Stephen Hawking myself; However, the continuous rambling of Quantum physics and comparisons to Einstein lost my interest. Perhaps Physics doesn't get my juices flowing, but the details and explanations fit accordingly and appropriately throughout the article. For providing a vivid image and details to ease the confusion, I would have to give a 18 out of 20 for clarity. Overall, I thought this was a well written article that taught a lot about Stephen Hawkins I was not previously aware of.

The Emerald Killer

They are dying. The beautiful trees that provide shade on many US streets, providing both beauty and shade are dying; and we have the invasive Emerald Ash Borer to thank. The infection has already arrived in Canada as well as Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive species native to Asia. Its scientific name is Agrilus planipennis. The adult body is about 7.5mm to 13mm long, with a green metallic body. It is not known how EAB arrived in the US, but it is suspected that they came with ash wood in ships oversees to stabilize cargo or packing heavy consumer products. Since their arrival in Michigan, it has spread throughout North America killing 50 million Ash trees.

Green Ash and Black Ash trees are preffered by this green goblin. The White Ash trees are often next, and then Blue Ash, which show some resistance. The EAB does not only feed on sick trees, but healthy trees of all stature. I'm not necessarily sure how the EAB differentiates between other trees, but perhaps the trees just feel like home once the larvae has hatched.

Female EAB lay about 75 eggs, up to 300 from early May to mid-July. The Adults lay eggs in crevasses in the bark. When they hatch, the larvae burrow into the bark and eat the cambium and phloem. The death of the tree follows soon after within two years.

For more information on the EAB click here

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lovely that lede was...

In Discover Magazine, an interesting lede proses a question, breaking the common lede rules:

"What if researchers could reboot a misfiring immune system? That is the intriguing possibility raised by stem cell transplant specialist Richard Burt. He is pioneering a new treatment for autoimmune disorders, one in which patients’ immune systems are suppressed and then replaced with an infusion of their own immune stem cells, filtered out from their blood. These then grow into all types of blood cells, including the white blood cells of the immune system."

Although the lede asked a question, it explained who-Richard Burt, what-a new treatment for autoimmune disorders. She also went in further to explain what an autoimmune disorder is, how- the new treatment will work. The fact that she included this information drew me in as a reader. Her lede was unusual and explained important information early on.

The rest of the article, although short was still informative. She explained in more depth about autoimmune disorders, and how the new treatment came about, and how it may work in the future.

Stop Biting ME!!!

Every summer at sleep away camp, my flesh became a feasting ground for those local country mosquitoes. That famous OFF spray that my mother packed never seemed to help, but it did reduce the number of bites. I should be thankful, more than a mosquito has never bitten me, but just how do bug repellents work?

Mosquito's are attracted three ways to humans. They are attracted to body heat; body temperature may rise during emotional or physical activities. They are also attracted to the carbon dioxide Humans exhale making people more susceptible after exercising or exerting themselves, releasing more carbon dioxide. Last, they are attracted to lactic acid, secretions our skin produces. In some species, female mosquitoes can only hunt for human blood using the scent of lactic acid.

The common active ingredient found in OFF and many other bug repellents is DEET. DEET, or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, is the leading active ingredient world wide against insects. They distort the receptors on the mosquito's antennae, and make the skin unappetizing for future bites. It has also caused health concerns with rare adverse affects including headache, disorientation, nausea, confusion, irritability, difficulty in sleeping, convolutions and death. Products containing a low concentration of DEET are effective and usually safe when used as directed. Adverse effects are incredibly rare in low concentrations, but may occur in prolonged use or if ingestion occurs. Picaridin, the active ingredient found in Cutter Advanced Picaridin Repellent, (chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester), works similarly to DEET but has been used as a safer alternative with a "fresher lighter scent". It inhibits the mosquito's ability to locate the human by interfering with a specific olfactory receptor on the antennae. Other active ingredients are Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, p-Mentane-3,8-diol, Methyl nonyl ketone, IR3535 (Avon Skin-So-Soft) and Oil of Citronella.
For area or clothing usage, popular ingredients are Permethrin, Allethrin and Metofluthrin.

What I found more interesting was WHY mosquitoes bite in the first place. Once having 37 mosquito bites (and a few choice words) after sitting in the park for about two hours at dusk, I took a trip to my local hospital getting a Benadryl shot for my widespread allergic reaction. My friend, however, had only one or two bites on his arms but rarely ever attracted mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes (males are not capable of biting) bite in order to produce the blood lipids they need to lay eggs. Like many species, these females are also selective about what their optimum blood choices are at a distance of 50 meters away. Scientists have found that some people who may process cholesterol more efficiently than others will have the by-product on their skin, thus attracting mosquitoes. Genetics also accounts for 85% of our susceptibility to the biting. The next time I get an awful mosquito bite ready to swell, I must remember to thank my mother.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EWWWWW!!!! Whats that next to my bag?!?!

So after a pleasant walk home from campus, I opened up my front door and turned on the light. In my hallway there was this hideous creature crawling out of the wall next to my bag. After screaming and allowing the hives to melt away I decided to take this picture:

So I found out that this creature is called the House Centipede. Disgusted out of my mind, I searched a couple of sites looking for the fuzzy multi-legged visitor. It's scientific name is Scutigera coleoptrata.

Its identifying colors are yellow, black and white. It size is approximately 34 to 35mm. They have 15 pairs of legs and males usually have longer antennae in the back. I found out that they are attracted to damp moist areas, porches, and may sometimes arrive in a bathtub drain (I thought the last one was kind of rude).
As someone who is afraid of insects (or anything else that crawls or slithers) I was not happy to see this creature lurking in my hallway. However, I did find out something rather interesting about them. Centipedes often keep away other nasty pests such as cockroaches, and moths away. Perhaps these visitors may be helpful after all, still, I would not appreciate the peaking creature while in the tub!

My Favorite Lede

The Science Times consists of some interesting ledes grabbing New York Times' readers attention into the science world. The science journalist must capture the reader's attention, while creating a sense of urgency and concern for the new science discovery.

So what makes a good lede?

My Journalism professors have instilled certain values a good lede should contain. Here are some common elements that most have agreed upon:

  • The lede should be exciting and capture the reader's attention
  • It should explain what the story is about, and why we should care.
  • The five W's, and/or How if it is applicable, but also not to wordy
  • Should not start off with a quote, or question.

One particular lede in the Science Times, by John Tierney captured my attention:

"If you’re not rich and you get sick, in which industrialized country are you likely to get the best treatment?"

To read the complete article click here

This lede breaks most rules, but does so in a way that intrigues the reader to keep reading. The lede does not tell any of the five W's, but simply asks a question that the reader must ask themselves.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Years Found!

Tool making has been one of the many things to distinguish the intelligence of our species from others. Previously, the earliest man-made tool dated back to Africa about 1.5 Million years ago but in Europe, only half a million years ago. Scientist have wondered what took so long for tool making to develop in Europe yet an article in the Science Times by Henry Fountain has reported recent discovery of stone-age tools in Spain dating a lot further than previously expected. Fountain explains that the location in Spain Estrecho del QuĂ­par contains a hand-axe dating 900,000 years old. The other location Solano del Zamborino dates a hand-ax at about 760,000 years old. Paleomagnetic dating allows scientist to use the minerals in rock and analyzing the polarity in them determining when the rock was formed.

The main question sparking this article "What took Europe so long for distinguished tools to be formed?" intrigued me the most. Perhaps it was Eurocentric thinking (the idea that European customs and belief's took precedence over non-European societies also belittling non-European customs) stimulated scientist to wonder how a group so advanced could be so behind. Any number of locations could have be inserted in the question "What took so long for distinguished tools to be formed at ___________", yet only Europe came to mind; I find that to be strange. My next question was what other locations were hand-axes found at and how far apart were they? Unfortunately, my answer could not be found in this article.

Besides the regrettably unanswered question, I found this article to be quite informative. It is always interesting when science corrects itself and updates the public about new discoveries. While the migration of the earliest humans (still a long lived debate of what should be considered "human") has been puzzling for years, scientist finally have proof to what made common sense for them, migrating to a neighboring continent should not have taken millions of years!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Children as Subjects?

I just finished reading an article seconds ago in the Science Times questioning the morality of an experiment conducted by Dr. Kochanska’s, a researcher at the University of Iowa. Dr. Kochanska’s has conducted an experiment testing the immediate response of todler children after being made to feel guilty by telling them to be careful with a toy (that was already broken). Her studies have showned is that children will feel guilty, look sheaplishly, or express other feelings in response to their guilty conscious. They are then reassured that it was not their fault the toy broke, the toy is fixed and all is right in the world again. Or is it?

Some parents feel that it is completely unethical to expose a young child to pain unnecessarily. Others in support of Dr.Kochanska’s research say that the experiment is very similar to real life scenarios of toddler mishaps. The emotional response of guilt after doing something wrong will continue with all children far after toddlerhood. It is an important aspect of all human consciousness to determine right from wrong, good from bad, and doing things because it is the correct thing to do.

I also think this experiment transcends to the parent's style and ability to understand their child. Each parent is there with their child during the experiments and have the ability to decline their child from participating in particular experiments. For some children, they will feel bad for a short period of time and move on quickly to the next tasks. Others will feel bad for a longer length of time. Knowing the child's temperament and ability to deal with unfortunate situations seems to be the key in whether or not a child's participation is reasonable in this experiment.

Nostrils Nose Rivalry!

Since the beginning of time Humans have tried to understand more about themselves; Biology, DNA, our anatomy (how it works) and even the forever existing debate of how we got here in the first place just to name a few...

Recently, scientist have discovered that our nose works quite similarly to our competitive eyes and ears that struggle for dominance within our brain. In "How the Nose Copes With Nostril Rivalry", an article in the Science Times by Henry Fountain, researchers Wen Zhou and Denise
Chen suggest that the nostrils do not blend smells but alternate between them in their fight for dominance. In addition, their research shows that smells become habituated to the nose.

What I found interesting about this article was that smells become habituated to the nose rather quickly. While visiting a friend's house, they may have become habituated to their kitty litter quietly sitting in a corner with air freshener adding an extra blast of freshness. To the native nose of the house, the kitty litter may have a weakened scent because it has been habituated; however, the visiting nose alternates the two scents of air freshener and kitty litter while struggling for dominance. This may lead to a blunt and unforgivable question of "WHATS THAT SMELL?!?!"