Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Dung beetles use dung balls as a source of food – but the balls of animal dung also keep them cool as they trundle across the hot desert. Think of it as a (rather smelly) air conditioning unit.

See the original paper in Current Biology.

Sounds from a white whale called NOC have been recorded at the National Marine Mammal Foundation – it seems like the whale was trying to imitate human voices.

Listen to the audio file.

According to the Argonne National Laboratory, there are about one trillion quintillion microbial cells on this planet, which is more than there are stars in the known universe.

The barley genome has 5.3 billion bases (letters of genetic code) – this makes it almost twice the size of the human genome. This is the first complex grass genome to be sequenced and annotated.

A company in Bristol has used carbon dioxide and hydrogen to make methanol, which can then be processed into petrol. They have made five litres so far.

Not so much a science fact now as a maybe one day – Craig Venter (the genetics visionary behind the first cell with a synthetic genome) has suggested that we could have 3D DNA printers at home that could download and print out a vaccine for us to administer ourselves.  Tests are under way.

Volunteers using the Planethunters.org website, with astronomers from the US and UK have found a planet with four suns. The planet has been named PH1 and is just under 5000 light-years away from us.

Read the original paper on the Arxiv pre-print server.

Chinese soft-shelled turtles (Pelodiscus sinensis) dip their heads in ponds or puddles to urinate through their mouths, using gill-like projections. This may be their way to avoid having to drink salty water.

Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis)

Source: kkic via Wikipedia

Read the original paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Well not quite, but brewmaster John Maier, of Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon, has brewed (what sounds like rather good) beer using wild strains of brewers yeast (Saccharomyces) isolated from his beard.

Dinosaurs were not necessarily all cold-blooded – researchers have found similar bone structures in mammals as are seen in dinosaurs. This dark layer, called fibromellar tissue, indicates periods of fast growth.

Read the original paper in Nature.

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