Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Slime Mold Maps Roman Roads


Okay. I have officially heard it all. Microbiology and archaeology combine to retrace lost Roman roads. 

What?! 

I know. I was skeptical too. Well, here's basically how it works/tracks back to Roman times. Molds want to find food via the shortest path between points A and B. So, they meander (slime along) until they get to the food (a flake of oatmeal). The odd thing is that when food was placed in roughly the places (on agar in a petri dish) as 17 towns and major cities of the ancient Roman empire, the slime mold traveled the same route as the Roman roads. Researchers found this to be true of known (and still used) roads as well as military roads only described in ancient travel texts. Interesting! So next time I need directions, I might try a trusty slime mold. It would take days, but all for the advancement of science, I say! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Brain Awareness Week

When I did something particularly dumb as a child, my father used to tell me to use my head for "something other than a hat rack"  I loved hats, so it always made me grin. Now that he is gone, I remind myself of his advice on occasion. :)

But lots of people have been using their heads for important educational activities about the brain for many years. In fact, March 2015 marks the 20th year of Brain Awareness Week. And in Little Rock, the Arkansas chapter of the Society for Neuroscience will celebrate this milestone with kid- and teen-friendly activities at the Reynolds Museum of Discovery.

“On Saturday, March 21, the Arkansas Chapter of the Societyfor Neuroscience will celebrate Brain Awareness Week at the Museum of Discovery. From 10 am-3 pm, neuroscience research groups from around the state will host educational activities for children of all ages. Activities including sculpting brains out of Play-Doh, learning neuroanatomy from brain specimens, demonstrations of perceptual illusions, and teaching about operant conditioning.”

So take advantage of this chance to use your head and find out what goes on inside it too! Go science!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Flying Dinosaurs

Have you ever wondered when dinosaurs started flying? And weren't a lot of species happy that T. rex was too massive to take to the skies? 

Just published by Yale University researchers Teresa Feo, Daniel Field, and Richard Prum is a study on a key component of a winged dinosaur's anatomy – asymmetrical feathers. Why? Because, shape is important in creating lift.

Actually, the Yale team has been analyzing the question of the first dino flyers using feather and barb angle. 

Apparently, barbs on the leading edge of feathers are positioned at small angles from the shaft they branch from. This may have served to keep the feather's leading edge fairly rigid which in turn, facilitates pitch control in flight.

So, if you're a devotee of all things aviation. Or just curious about bird history and development, check out the Yale results. Go science!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Vizzies

I know last night was the 2015 Oscars and there was a whole lot of beauty and bling going on, but have you ever thought about the beauty of science? No, it isn't just a geek thing. Everyone I know thinks about it. Oh, right. I have a geek merit badge, too.

Anyway, the National Science Foundation and Popular Science joined together this year to sponsor the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. With 303 entries from twelve different countries and categories such as illustration, posters and graphics, and video, 50 finalists were judged on artistic merit and communication of science ideas. Readers voted for the People's Choice.

Check out the video for the creativity and beauty of neurons firing in the brain, x-ray of turtle structure, and beautiful chemical reactions videos happening real time. Very cool! Go science!