Cryptobiosis

Cryptobiosis is an ametabolic state of life entered by an organism in response to adverse environmental conditions such as desiccation, freezing, and oxygen deficiency. In the cryptobiotic state, all metabolic procedures stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair. An organism in a cryptobiotic state can essentially live indefinitely until environmental conditions return to being hospitable. When this occurs, the organism will return to its metabolic state of life as it was prior to the cryptobiosis.

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Related to a Popular Science article: Why Sex With Creatures from the Future Is a Bad Idea

I wonder what society would be like today if homo sapiens were capable of entering a cryptobiotic state. I think it would make a great basis for a science fiction book. Maybe someone has already written something along these lines?

Psychedelics

One subject reported: “I feel that I relate better in my marriage. There is more empathy—a greater understanding of people and understanding their difficulties and less judgment. Less judging of myself, too.” Another said: “I have better interaction with close friends and family and with acquaintances and strangers….My alcohol use has diminished dramatically.” Fourteen months after the experiment, 94 percent of the subjects called their psilocybin session one of five most meaningful experiences they’d ever had.

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Fun Friday Links

Some blogs you might not be subscribed too –

Your Pet’s Best Friend – A small town vet who blogs. Hat tip to Smays for the link. I’ve been subscribed to this for a while now, it’s not earth shattering stuff, but if you’re looking for yet another blog to help sooth your scientific curiosity about things, you might find YPBF fun to read from time to time.

If Charlie Parker Was a Gun Slinger – Seminal Images that’ll send you searching Google for answers.

LP Cover Lover – The title says it all.

Deep Sea News – Yet another scientific curiosity soother.

Who Killed Bambi – I can’t even begin to explain it, but it’s always interesting. (Some imagery NSFW)

Hard Wired Religion

Which is the better biological explanation for a belief in God — evolutionary adaptation or neurological accident? Is there something about the cognitive functioning of humans that makes us receptive to belief in a supernatural deity? And if scientists are able to explain God, what then? Is explaining religion the same thing as explaining it away? Are the nonbelievers right, and is religion at its core an empty undertaking, a misdirection, a vestigial artifact of a primitive mind? Or are the believers right, and does the fact that we have the mental capacities for discerning God suggest that it was God who put them there?

In short, are we hard-wired to believe in God? And if we are, how and why did that happen?

NYT Link

Interesting article digging into current scientific study revolving around a belief in God. Hat tip to my sis for the link.

Internet Meanderings

The area I live in experienced a major thunderstorm this morning, complete with heavy thunder and lightning. Not exactly rare but it doesn’t happen too often in the winter time. It’s also been pretty nice temperature wise all day, about 68 degrees. Nice enough to open up all the windows and freshen the air a bit.

The storm made me think about how much I love the weather here in Florida and the fact that I live in what I thought was commonly referred to as “lightning alley”. A quick check on Wikipedia though showed I was wrong, “lightning alley” is actually down in central Florida between Orlando and Tampa. While reading the Wiki page on Lightning, I came across a link for St. Elmo’s Fire – which is caused by high charge differentials on objects and is often seen surrounding the tips of ship masts at sea. This led me to a video on YouTube shot from the cockpit of an air fuel carrier flying over Iraq through a thunderstorm –

The outer skin of the canopy can apparently build up quite a bit of static charge which then dissipates across the outer surface in spidery static shock. Pretty neat. You can check it out here. Flying through a thunder storm with sparks all over the surface of the plane and a million gallons of fuel strapped in the back – sounds like fun!

Tickling The Dragon’s Tail

On May 21, the screwdriver slipped, the upper beryllium hemisphere fell and caused a “prompt critical” reaction, resulting in a burst of hard radiation. The “blue glow” of air ionization was observed and a “heat wave” was felt by the scientists in the room. Slotin instinctively jerked his left hand upward, lifting the upper beryllium hemisphere and dropping it to the floor. He exposed himself to a lethal dose (around 2100 rems, or 21 Sv) of neutron and gamma radiation, in history’s second criticality accident. In addition to the blue glow and heat, Slotin experienced a sour taste in his mouth and an intense burning sensation in his left hand. As soon as Slotin left the building, he vomited, a common reaction from exposure to extremely intense ionizing radiation.

Slotin died nine days later.

Wikipedia Link

The web is the ultimate time suck, but it’s an educational time suck, so I think that makes it better than say something like television. How did I get to this article? Lets see, I started reading about a new solar power plant in Australia –

The government will contribute $57 million to the $319 million project to build a 154 megawatt solar power plant in Victoria state, which will use mirrored panels to concentrate the sun’s rays, Treasurer Peter Costello said.

The plant, which is to be built by Melbourne-based Solar Systems Pty Ltd., would begin operations in 2008 and reach full capacity by 2013.

“The project aims to build the biggest photovoltaic project in the world,” Costello told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Yahoo News Link

(Images of Solar II (above) always reminds me of Sim City.)

This article had me wondering how a 154 Megawatt solar power plant stacks up against nuclear power plants. Turns out your typical nuclear reactor can crank out 1 gigawatt of power, and nuclear power stations tend to house 2 – 4 reactors.

Which had me digging into the different types of nuclear reactors, as well as reading about Chernobyl.

Which in turn reminded me of an old test nuclear reactor in Denver that was plagued by problems – Fort St. Vrain, which has since been decommissioned and is now a natural gas power plant.

In the process I came across Wikipedia’s “List of military nuclear accidents” which ultimately landed me on “Tickling the Dragon’s Tail”. Cool!

Now I need to get back to work. 🙂

Nobels

American university research ‘doing it’s thing’ and earning a number of Nobel medals in the process.

Anders Liljas, member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said the decision to give Kornberg the prize was an example of what he called the American edge over the rest of the world because Kornberg had a decade to research his science without being pressured to publish a finding immediately.

“A granting system in which you can survive doing science with nothing publishable for a long period of time is certainly not what we have in Sweden, and probably other countries as well,” Liljas said. “To have good funding is a very important part.”

Liljas said American universities often have a more “creative university environment” than those in other countries.

“Creative means that people interact with each other a lot,” he said. “It means you should talk to each other also, and not work as hermits, separately.”

Why doesn’t the Swedish Government have the funding to support “odds of no return” scientific grants?

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