Oct 28, 2019


Paris zoo unveils the "blob", an organism with no brain but 720 sexes

A Paris zoo showcased a mysterious new organism on Wednesday, dubbed the “blob”, a yellowish unicellular small living being which looks like a fungus but acts like an animal.

This newest exhibit of the Paris Zoological Park, which goes on display to the public on Saturday, has no mouth, no stomach, no eyes, yet it can detect food and digest it.

The blob also has almost 720 sexes, can move without legs or wings and heals itself in two minutes if cut in half.

“The blob is a living being which belongs to one of nature’s mysteries”, said Bruno David, director of the Paris Museum of Natural History, of which the Zoological Park is part.

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The blob was named after a 1958 science-fiction horror B-movie, starring a young Steve McQueen, in which an alien life form - The Blob - consumes everything in its path in a small Pennsylvania town.

A vast heat wave is endangering sea life in the Pacific Ocean. Is this the wave of the future?

A vast region of unusually warm water has formed in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, and scientists are worried that it could devastate sea life in the area and fuel the formation of harmful algal blooms.

The broad swath of warm water, now known as the Northeast Pacific Marine Heat Wave of 2019, was first detected in early June. Now data from weather satellites and buoys show that it measures six to seven times the size of Alaska, which spans more than 600,000 square miles.

Given its size and location, the marine heat wave rivals a similar one that arose in 2014 and persisted for two years. That heat wave, known simply as “the blob,” occupied roughly the same region of the Pacific and became known for triggering widespread die-offs of marine animals including sea birds and California sea lions.

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The extent of the warm water and how deep into the ocean it penetrates have enormous implications for marine life. Sea birds and sea lions may have been some of the most obvious victims of marine heat waves, but the negative consequences of unusually warm water can be seen throughout the marine food chain — from plankton, the tiny organisms that form the foundation of the food chain, to whales.

Melting glaciers in the Russian Arctic reveal five new islands

The Russian Navy has discovered five new islands in the Arctic after they were revealed by melting glaciers.

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Scientists warn that emerging islands aren't flukes, but rather the direct result of the growing climate crisis as the Arctic undergoes a mass melting of glaciers and sea ice.

The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the global average, and the resulting glacial melt could potentially destroy the cycle of life that starts there -- and threaten the lives of people all over the planet.

This summer, Greenland's ice sheet lost 11 billion tons of ice on just one August day, after months of record temperatures. The previous month, the total amount of ice lost was 197 billion tons -- the equivalent of about 80 million Olympic swimming pools. Experts say the expected average would be between 60-70 billion tons at this time of year.

Scientists Want to Try Using Shrooms to Revive People in Vegetative States

Psychedelics seem to increase levels of complexity beyond what’s normal, said Gregory Scott, a neurologist at Imperial College London and an author of the paper from April. There are multiple examples of a relationship between brain complexity and consciousness, and evidence of increased brain complexity in healthy people given psilocybin, but the link between psilocybin and improvements in consciousness is unresolved. That’s why Scott and his co-author, Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial, proposed such a trial.

“The simple way of framing it is that disorders of consciousness have low complexity, and these drugs seem to increase complexity,” Scott said. “Let’s see what these drugs do in disorders of consciousness. Can they increase complexity and accordingly increase consciousness levels?”

Through a trial, they could measure psilocybin's therapeutic value, and also learn something about consciousness, Scott said. Psilocybin interacts with a particular kind of serotonin receptor, and increases the activity of neurons with a lot of those receptors. Those neurons are concentrated in parts of the brain that have been implicated in consciousness, and seeing how they respond could guide our understanding of just how crucial these areas are.

We need to understand the culture of whales so we can save them

Beyond primates, the animal group for which we have the most evidence of culture are the cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Among them, the sperm whale has received particular attention.

Like us, sperm whales have families, they have strong affiliations with a few individuals and they are extremely social. Such a social environment is the perfect substrate for culture.

Sperm whales are matrilineal, which means that females stay with their mothers, forming groups called social units. These social units are comprised of one or two families and are stable over their entire lives. They travel together, socialize together, forage together and learn from each other. Beyond social units, sperm whale societies are also organized at a higher tier called vocal clans. Vocal clans include thousands of individuals and can be recognized acoustically.

Whales from different vocal clans sound incredibly different!

Researchers hope DNA testing may finally prove whether bones found on a remote island were Amelia Earhart's

DNA testing may determine whether newly discovered bones from an island in the Pacific are those of Amelia Earhart -- and perhaps shed light on what happened to the pioneering aviator after she disappeared.

The bones were found on Nikumaroro, a remote island in the western Pacific Ocean, in 1940. But it wasn't until a 2018 study that people began to suspect they could belong to Earhart. That's when researcher Richard Jantz re-examined their measurements and found they closely matched those of the missing pilot.

Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at the University of South Florida, plans to use DNA testing to confirm the theory. Kimmerle sent samples off for DNA testing and is awaiting the results.

She was invited by National Geographic and appears in an upcoming documentary about the pilot.

Archaeologists unearth 20 well-preserved wooden coffins in Egypt which ‘may have belonged to high-priests’ who ditched traditional burial tombs for the decorated boxes

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 'huge cache' of vividly painted wooden coffins near the ancient city of Luxor which 'may have belonged to high priests’.

At least 20 well-preserved coffins have been found 'just as the ancient Egyptians left them', in the ancient town of West Thebes.

Experts claimed that the coffins may date back to the third intermediate period which began with the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1070 BC, which would make the coffins around 3,000 years old.

The Egyptian government made the announcement but has not yet revealed details of the discovery, instead releasing a series of photos which show the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Khaled el-Anan inspecting the findings.

Hobby Lobby Scandal Widens as Museum of the Bible Admits Oxford Prof Sold Illicit Papyri to Green Family

In June The Daily Beast reported on the possibility that an illustrious award-winning professor at the University of Oxford had sold an ancient fragment of the Gospel of Mark that did not belong to him to crafting giant Hobby Lobby, Inc.

At the time of purchase the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, planned to donate the fragments to Museum of the Bible, the charitable organization and D.C.-based museum they founded. Statements released today by Museum of the Bible and the Egypt Exploration Society reveal that the Mark fragment was just the beginning of the scandal. Investigations have revealed that (so far) 13 pieces in the Museum’s collection are in fact the rightful property of the Oxford-based nonprofit Egypt Exploration Society.

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If the allegations are true, they reveal a perfect storm of complicity between seller, buyer, and institution in which an unscrupulous academic was able to remove and sell valuable historical artifacts; a buyer was willing to look the other way on questions of provenance and legitimate ownership; and a museum failed to do due diligence when accepting donations.

We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe

Since 5G is a new technology, there is no research on health effects, so we are “flying blind” to quote a U.S. senator. However, we have considerable evidence about the harmful effects of 2G and 3G. Little is known the effects of exposure to 4G, a 10-year-old technology, because governments have been remiss in funding this research. Meanwhile, we are seeing increases in certain types of head and neck tumors in tumor registries, which may be at least partially attributable to the proliferation of cell phone radiation. These increases are consistent with results from case-control studies of tumor risk in heavy cell phone users.

5G will not replace 4G; it will accompany 4G for the near future and possibly over the long term. If there are synergistic effects from simultaneous exposures to multiple types of RFR, our overall risk of harm from RFR may increase substantially. Cancer is not the only risk as there is considerable evidence that RFR causes neurological disorders and reproductive harm, likely due to oxidative stress.

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Instead, we should support the recommendations of the 250 scientists and medical doctors who signed the 5G Appeal that calls for an immediate moratorium on the deployment of 5G and demand that our government fund the research needed to adopt biologically based exposure limits that protect our health and safety.

Why Computers Will Never Be Truly Conscious

Many advanced artificial intelligence projects say they are working toward building a conscious machine, based on the idea that brain functions merely encode and process multisensory information. The assumption goes, then, that once brain functions are properly understood, it should be possible to program them into a computer. Microsoft recently announced that it would spend US$1 billion on a project to do just that.

So far, though, attempts to build supercomputer brains have not even come close. A multi-billion-dollar European project that began in 2013 is now largely understood to have failed. That effort has shifted to look more like a similar but less ambitious project in the U.S., developing new software tools for researchers to study brain data, rather than simulating a brain.

Some researchers continue to insist that simulating neuroscience with computers is the way to go. Others, like me, view these efforts as doomed to failure because we do not believe consciousness is computable. Our basic argument is that brains integrate and compress multiple components of an experience, including sight and smell — which simply can't be handled in the way today's computers sense, process and store data.

Mark Zuckerberg Teases AI ‘Brain Chip’—But It Will Be Different Than Elon Musk’s

If Silicon Valley were to put a team of tech bros together on a project to merge computers and people, the lineup wouldn’t be complete without car and rocket man Elon Musk and the Valley’s most dubious robot, Mark Zuckerberg.

In all fairness, Musk has already proposed a plan to make an actual chip which is meant to be inserted into human brains. (It will be designed with taste and wireless cleanliness so you “have no wires poking out of your head,” as Musk assured.) Zuckerberg has said he’s interested in the idea of computer-human integration, too, but will approach it differently than Musk.

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“Brain-computer interface is an exciting idea,” Zuckerberg told employees, according to a meeting transcript leaked earlier this month. “The field quickly branches into two approaches: invasive and non-invasive… We’re more focused on—I think completely focused on non-invasive.”

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