Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Glowing Bunny Rabbits (Picture of the Day: 8/13/13)

Glowing rabbits. Source

 These rabbits are really glowing. Scientists, called genetic engineers, have been adding or replacing genes in animals for years now in order to study the effects, research new medicine production techniques, or for any other number of scientific reasons. So why would anyone create a glowing bunny? The glow is not the purpose of the genetic engineering itself, it is merely a marker. Genetic engineers add a bio-luminescence gene so that they know if the other genes that they added took hold. It is literally a glowing beacon letting scientists know if they were successful. These rabbits (created in Turkey) have joined the ranks of numerous other glow-in-the-dark animals, like cats that are resistant to FIV (the feline version of HIV).
For more information, check out this article.

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Perseid Meteor Shower Update

So, sadly I didn't get to see the Perseids Sunday night. I went out to a field in Iowa City around midnight, but it was too cloudy and bright to see anything but the brightest stars. The curse of living near civilization. With any luck, many of you got out to see those meteors and didn't have to deal with clouds and light pollution.
If you didn't get to see the meteor shower, there are plenty of websites out there (like this one) where you can see beautiful images of the Perseids.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perseid Meteor Shower Live! (Video of the Day: 8/11/13)

Hey everyone! Tonight the Perseid meteor shower starts up again! If you can, I recommend getting out of the house tonight between 10:30 and 4:30 to see the best parts of this shower, as bits of dust and rock hurtle themselves into our atmosphere. If you can't get out of the house, check out this live feed of the meteor shower. I know that I'll be checking it out myself.
The Pereid shower is one of the more prolific meteor showers around. This meteor shower occurs annually whenever the Earth passes through the debris tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Hey everyone, I'm back on Twitter!
I'll be posting daily about new things I've learned and new discoveries in science. Be sure to follow me and get all of the juicy knowledge that I know you want!

Accretion Disc (Science Word of the Day: 8/8/13)

An accretion disc is a disc-shaped rotating mass formed by gravitational attraction.
This explanation doesn't seem like much, but it makes more sense when you put it in the context of our universe. Earth formed through the process of accretion; a bunch of dust began to clump together and eventually attracted bigger rocks which clumped until you have the large spheroid that is Earth. However, all this matter didn't just fly together. Gravity pulled particles to what would become Earth over time, and as these particles flew in towards Earth, they often fell into orbit. This orbital pattern of accreting matter rotates a lot like a hurricane viewed from the top. This rotating disc of matter is the accretion disc.

Lab-Grown Burgers (Picture of the Day: 8/8/13)

The raw lab-grown meat patty. Source
Cooking the patty. Source
This demonstration of our new technology has been a long time in coming. Humanity first gained the ability to grow meat without the aid of an animal (called in vitro meat) in the 1990s, but now we're approaching the day when this food source will be cheap enough to market.
I suppose I should explain what lab-grown meat is. The general principle is that this in vitro meat is cruelty free and much better for the environment than conventional meat. A couple cells are harvested from a donor animal (this does not injure the animal) and then grown in a lab setting. The cells can be coaxed into dividing like they were still on the animal, thus allowing for the growing of meat without having to kill anything to harvest it.
This new demonstration was given at a science talk turned cooking show where two food critics taste tested one of these lab-grown burgers. Flavor-wise, the critics claimed, the meat was just like regular meat, except that it lacked fat (which is, admittedly, a pretty big deal when it comes to meat).
This particular patty looks pink here, but that's only because it was colored with beet root juice and saffron. The actual meat itself is a pasty white due to the fact that there's no actual blood involved.
Artificially grown meat is currently far too expensive to be a consumer product, but I have hope that one day we'll be able to grow meat without having to breed environmentally wasteful animals. I know I'd eat a lab-grown burger if I ever got the chance.
For more information, check out this article.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Earth from Saturn, Dolphins Using Names, and Neutrino News (Pictures of the Day: 7/23/13)

There are so many cool new things in science today that I've decided to have three Pictures of the Day for today.

A view of Earth from the rings of Saturn. Source
The Cassini spacecraft recently looked back past the rings of Saturn to take a picture of its place of origin, Earth. You can see the pale blue dot that the arrow is pointing to. That pale dot is our home. This picture really puts our size into perspective. Cassini is well within our tiny solar system, and yet Earth still appears as little more than a piece of dust. We truly are just specks walking around on a speck which orbits a speck that is just one of billions of specks that make up even larger specks in our vast, vast universe. It's things like this that make all of my problems seem insignificant.
For more information, check out this article.
Dolphin. Source

New research seems to indicate that dolphins have names given to them by one another. The researchers used a specific call that corresponds to a specific dolphin to run this test. Whenever the call that corresponded to the dolphin was used, that dolphin would respond, but if they used a different call, the dolphin just ignored it. As far as we can tell, this is the first animal besides humans that has ever been observed using a name. The reason that this is different from your dog responding when you yell "Fido!" is because the dolphins assign this name to one another. It seems like we are constantly learning that other animals aren't as dumb as we thought. Sure, dolphins don't know how to build cars, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't give them a little respect. After all, they have a form of language just like us.
For more information, check out this article.
Super Kamiokande particle detector in Japan. Source


Researchers have learned something new about neutrinos. Neutrinos are the elusive and nearly massless particles that stream through us every day. What most people don't know is that there are three kinds of neutrinos, three "flavors". There are electron-neutrinos, muon-neutrinos, and tau-neutrinos. These researchers fired a stream of muon-neutrinos at the Super Kamiokande detector in Japan and observed a much greater number of electron-neutrinos than they would have expected if these neutrinos weren't changing in transit. This evidence tells us that it is possible for neutrinos to switch their types. In other words, they can switch flavor. I find this fascinating. Who knows what will come of this discovery in the future?
For more information, check out this article.