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Toothy-Toothy Vision!

A couple weeks ago as I was watching Daily Planet, I saw a story that was so improbable that I thought it was a joke. I think you'll agree once you've seen it. It is about a woman who uses her tooth to see, and it seemed a little too bizarre to be true. I think we all have read about the woman with the face transplant, but I think this story tops that one by far!
You have to check it out!! toothy-toothy vision?
I have to say that when I saw this story on TV and I thought it was so interesting I wanted to share in on this blog. I guessed that it was unique enough that someone would have posted it on YouTube.I did a quick search and sure enough there it was, I hope you guys enjoy it.

Meta cognition* -- In Animals

I just read an article in NewScientist called "Known Unknowns." It is very interesting for two reasons. First, it's about research that has recently been done that proves that some animals have metacognition in that they know when they don't know an answer. Secondly, this article is also interesting because the reader gets to watch the evolution of the testing for the meta cognition as the researchers figure out how to test for this and work out the difficulties. The reader can really see how tricky it is to develop elegant research methods for isolating whatever it is that they want to test for. In this article, they show how a dolphin and Rhesus monkeys can take tests in which they have buttons for selecting an answer or for passing if they don't know the answer. An aversive noise, or an aversive long blank screen, was paired with getting a wrong answer, to make the subjects not want to get the wrong answer. Both the dolphin and the monkeys quickly learned to use the pass button when they were unsure of an answer. Rats and pigeons could not do this. With the monkeys, they were even able to have them answer several questions before giving them their results (delayed reinforcement), and the monkeys would still use the pass button.When some other researchers expressed concern that they might still be testing for conditioned reflex instead of true meta cognition, a new test was developed in which the monkeys could place wagers, or bets, on how sure they were that they were right, this they easily did. Fascinating stuff! (This part of the testing was not done with the dolphin because it was shipped elsewhere to take part in a movie). The article gives a very nice, brief summary of our history in studying meta cognition in general and types of consciousness in animals. I would love to see this experiment tried with elephants as I would wager a bet myself that elephants have meta cognition! I can't wait to see what they come up with next to further this line of inquiry.

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*Meta Cognition: awareness and understanding one's thinking and cognitive processes; thinking about thinking (

New Scientist, December 16 - 22, 2006. "Known Unknowns" by Helen Phillips.

Go Shove It Up Your Errrrrrrrr... Down Your Throat?

I saw an episode on MythBusters in which they were testing a myth involving alcohol and core body temperature. Both Jamie and Adam (the researchers) swallowed a capsule thermometer to monitor their core temperatures throughout their experiment. I found this so interesting I googled it to find out more about this technology.

The capsule itself is called the Jonah.TM It is about the size of a multi-vitamin (1.6 grams and 8.7mm in diameter). It takes about one and a half to two days to pass through your body. As it passes through your digestive system, it transmits temerature data telemetrically to a small monitor (the "Vital Sense Monitor"), which can be strapped to you or placed in a pocket. A small skin patch can also be purchased to transmit your skin temperature at the same time that you are measuring your internal temperatures. And how much does this wondrous technology cost, you ask? It is within reach for a researcher with a little cash to back them up, a health care provider, or for your average hypochondriac. The capsule is listed at $77.00 (one time use only, of course!), and the monitor is listed at $4235.00.

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I think this beats the heck out of an anal probe, both in sophistication and accuracy, as well as pleasantness of application. And it can be used for so many different applications. The possibilities are "endless"!

- Myth Busters

How Small Is Small??

I find that try as I might, it's very hard to get my mind wrapped around exactly how small the cell size and scale is that we study in blown-up diagrams. This web site that I found really helps get the proportions into perspective.It's really amazing that we have the ability to see and study things that are this unbelievably tiny. Everyone should check this out:

What Gives Fizz it's Flavor??

Woaah, I used to think that carbonation tastes like it does because the bubbles were popping on my tongue. It turns out, so did scientists, but we were all wrong! Then they found out that bubbly drinks still taste bubbly when they are consumed in a pressurized chamber where the bubbles don't burst. Scientists also knew that mountain climbers complained of "champagne blues" when they open a bottle of "bubbly" on top of a mountain and it doesn't taste good at the high altitude. So how do we taste bubbly, you ask? It turns out that apparently our sour-sensing cells on our tongue is what also taste fizz. To find out how they used mice tongues and "bubbly" to prove this, just click on the following -- Fizzzzzzzzzzzz

Sour-sensing cells reacting to fizz. (Mice)


What Are You, a Neanderthal??

For the first time ever, researchers have been able to extract and sequence a mitochondrial genome of Neanderthals. Our Neanderthal "cousins," who died out 30 thousand years ago, have long been a puzzle for us. Scientist have wondered if there was ever any interbreeding between our Homo sapien ancestors and Neanderthals, but have thought it unlikely. More recently, scientists have looked at genes such as FOXP2, Tau locus, and microcephalin-1and wondered if these couldn't be a proof of interbreeding between the two species. This newest research does not role that out, but indicates that at most, a very small fraction of that variation of genes from Neanderthals is found in modern humans. If they interbred it wasn't much... Thank goodness! For more details check it out -- Ewwwww


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This is really @#%#!#!! interesting! New research shows that swearing may actually help us manage pain. It seems that swearing is linked to brain structures that are deep in the right half of the brain, instead of being like normal language, which is located close to the surface in the left hemisphere of the brain. It is unclear precisely how, but swearing seems to trigger the almond-shaped group of neurons called the "amygdala" (associated with our fight-or-flight instincts). Swearing releases emotions, and actually allows people to tolerate more pain when they are able to swear. Researchers compare it to the horn of a car, which can be used for a variety of purposes, but caution that if it is too socially acceptable, the function may not work as well, because the swear words are potent precisely because because they are forbidden and emotionally loaded.

The audio clip on swearing in this link is informative AND hilarious:


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Wasps - Better Than Dogs?

We have all heard of "sniffing-dogs" - dogs that can be trained to sniff for drugs or explosives, but have you ever heard of a "sniffing-wasp"? It turns out that researchers have learned how to train wasps to search for certain smells in a matter of minutes. By exposing wasps to a new smell and sugar water for 10 seconds, and then waiting a few minutes, and exposing them to the same thing again, wasps can be trained to associate the new smell with sugar water in just three 10-second lessons. That is a lot cheaper and quicker than training dogs, and less risky if you are having them sniff out dangerous materials.

Wasps have olfactory (smell) sensors on their antennae and use them in a variety of ways to stay alive - from smelling out food to finding a specific caterpillar that some wasps need to lay their eggs in (ewww..). They can sense chemicals as diluted as only having a few parts per billion in the air - as good or better than dogs and "electronic noses."

So far, they have trained wasps to smell coffee, drugs, fungus on crops, and explosives. They have not found anything that they can's detect yet. They are hoping that they will eventually be able to train them to look for cancer as well.

Researchers are also hoping to train other smelling insects such as mosquitoes, honey bees, and moths.

This is a really interesting article, with an interesting video clip, if you want to check it out:




Stem Cell Therapy In Animals

Wow. While we debate the ethics of stem-cell therapy in humans, veterinarians have quietly been working out how to use it for animals - and without techniques that would cause ethical questions if used with humans. It turns out that they can use "adult stem cells," extracted from the animal patient's own fat (about 2 tablespoon's worth), and send it away to a lab in San Diego, California. The lab then processes the fat sample, concentrates the VSRC's (Vet-Stem Regenerative Cells), and ships it back overnight in pre-loaded syringes. The vet then injects the pet at the site of the injury. They do not have to worry about rejection, because the cells have been obtained from the animal itself. This technique, if used for humans, avoids the tricky moral ground surrounding embryonic stem cells. This website says that these adult cells are not as potent as embryonic stem cells, but there is a 70% rate of significant improvement (25% "don't respond" to the treatment).

This treatment is being used on dogs and horses for ailments such as osteoarthritis (of the leg joints), osteochondritis dessicans, orthopedic soft tissue: tendon and ligament partial tears, and fractures. They believe they will soon be treating hearts, livers, and kidneys, and even hope for spinal-cord injury treatments to be eventually developed.

I looked around the website for prices, but didn't find any. However, on the ABC News clip included in this site, they use the example of a lovely dog who would have needed hip replacement, which would have cost in the range of $10,000. Instead, they used stem cell therapy, and it was successful, less traumatic for the dog, and only cost about$2500.

This web-site is inspiring, and gives me hope for the future of stem-cell research. The reader needs to be aware that the site is obviously set up to sell their therapy, but the news clips, testimonials, and research data all look legitimate, and could be the spring-board for someone to do more extensive research on the topic:




Exercise To Fight Aging

Research has recently shown that intensive exercise actually works at the DNA level to help us stay younger. DNA has what we call "Telomeres," that are at the beginning and end of our chromosomes, and help protect the ends from damage. As we get older, the telomeres get gradually shorter. When they are too short, the cell dies. The telomeres have been compared to the tips of shoelaces, and when the tips are gone, the "lace" frays, and the cell dies. Cells need long telomeres to divide and reproduce. The length of telomeres have actually been used to determine how our biological clock is aging - a person with long telomeres is usually young, and a person with shortened telomeres is usually older. However, athletes who strenuously exercise over the long term (i.e. they exercise for years), have longer telomeres than their counterparts, and thus healthier cell regrowth, and healthier vital organs as a result of their healthy telomeres.

This website outlines how this works, and gives other interesting links to health and exercise:RUN!

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Kitchen D.N.A.

Click on the link below to get a relatively simple recipe for how to extract your own DNA from the comfort of your own home! Normally DNA is so small that we can't see it with the naked eye, but this recipe helps you collect enough that they intertwine with each other and make a mass large enough to see without a microscope.

I have got to try this myself:

DNA Recipe



Tool Using Octopus Stuns Scientist!

Not that long ago people thought we were the only life forms to use tools. However, over the last few years we have discovered more and more mammals using tools from monkeys to crows to even sea otters. Even now knowing that some mammals use tools, scientist have been startled to discover octopuses using tools! So much for basing our superiority on using tools... Check it out:):)

Here's an article on it -- Octopus


What Do Mexican Bearded Lizards & Shrews Have In Common!?

Apparently, both the mexican bearded lizard and the shrew have developed a venomous bite that has derived from the same harmless digestive enzyme. This is an really interesting story for these to completely different species to have parallel evolution in this toxic venom to paralysis their prey! If you want to know more you should really check this article out -->

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Crocodilians Do Better At Keeping It In Their Pants Than Humans Do!!

I found these two articles separately but I think they are well worth comparing!
Faithful Crocodiliansvs. Faithful Homosapiens?