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Archive for April, 2008


The binturong or bearcat is neither a bear nor a cat.   The Binturong is a type of large civet or omnivorousus midsize mammal whose family include Mongoose and Meercat.  Binturongs are cat-sized animals native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand, Malasia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.  Binturongs are very endangered nocturnal animals.  They are distinguished by their long, fluffy tails and small, round ears.  They have a dull black or brown color. 

The Binturong in its Natural Habitat

The binturong is very in Southeast Asia as a result of the widespread habitat destruction.  Binturongs live almost solely in treetops (their sharp, curved claws make them expert climbers).  Poachers often hunt for the binturong as well because their body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines.  The poor food situation in the region causes the local peoples to hunt the Binturong as well. 

On a side note, the Binturong smells strongly of popcorn, which is the scent it uses for territory markers.  It is also, strangely enough, the mascot of Binghamton University.  There are no Binturongs native to New York.

 

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Marine biologists from New Zealand are now thawing out the largest dead squid ever found.  As of now, nobody has seen a living, fully-grown colossal squid, or Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, in its natural habitat, which is very deep in the ocean.  Colossal squid are not to be confused with giant squid, as the former are much larger and found furthers south, in Antarctic waters.  The squid that was found weighs 1,089 pounds and is 26 feet long.  It was caught by fishermen and was frozen until science teams could thaw and observe it.    The scientists plan to learn more about the squid’s anatomy, diet (by removing the stomach), and reproductive cycles. 

A Collosal Squid Being Caught

The colossal squid are some of the least studies residents of the deep ocean waters.  It is projected that they can grow up to 46 feet long.  The problem to study them is reaching where they live.  Giant squid can dive down to 6,500 feet.  It is also a rather aggressive animal, which often gets into life-or-death fights with whales. 

The calamari rings from this specimen would be the size of tractor wheels.  Quite a feast, but the squid will be preserved in a museum located in Wellington, New Zealand.  The video feed can be found at http://www.r2.co.nz/20080427/rotate-1.asx

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We may never know what is inside a black hole, but recently, scientists have gotten the best images aso of yet.  It has also shed light on the jets of particles emitted from black holes at the speed of light.  These jets are also amongst the brightest objects in the entire cosmos, but as of now, we do not know how the particles obtain such speeds. 

A Black Hole and Its Particle Jets

Thanks to the new images, scientists noticed that the particles are being flung out in a kind of corksscrew direction.  The leading theory now is that the black hole’s great mass distorts space-time around it, twisting magnetic fieldlines which then propell the particles outward from the center of the hole.  Particles in space get pulled into the black hole because of the hole’s insanely high gravitational force.  the particles, including magnetic field lines themselves begin to spiral in the hole because of its inertia.  The field lines then push the charged particles into space at crazy high velocities. 

 

A team studied a galaxy called BL Lacertae, which lies around 950 million light years from Earth (are we there yet?), which orbits around a black hole that has 200 million times more mass than the son.  A new radio telescope showed the jet in all of its glory.

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On this first Soulful Sunday post, I will be talking about football: the real sport.  Not the one where the ball touches a player’s foot around three plays every game.  Just to tell everyone, I am a big Celtic F.C. fan (mainly because of Artur Boruc, Celtic’s Polish goalkeeper). 

Today, one of football’s biggest rivalries will play out.  Rangers vs Celtic.  First off, it’s kind of like the Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Yankees rivalry as they both play their games in Glasgow, Scotland.  Another reason is because of the whole Protestant vs Catholic thing in Scotland.  Celtic began as a Catholic organization while Rangers was founded to counter Celtic’s Catholic domination of the Scottish Premier League.  For more reasons behind the brutal rivalry: http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showthread.php?t=121107

Celtic and Rangers Players in Action

Both teams have been on a hot streak, winning each of their last three games.  Celtic, however, have the advantage in both goals scored and goals against, and thus are in first place in the league (yay!).  If you pay attention to the game, keep your eyes peeled for Rangers’ top scorer Kris Boyd to be a big impact in the game.  He has scored 13 goals thus far and has more in him.  For Celtic, the man to keep your eye on is Aiden McGeady.  The flamboyant midfielder plays with great intensity which can prove to be a two-edged sword.  He has 9 yellow cards, but 8 goals and 15 assists in the League alone.   Another boon to Celtic is that a swarm of their players have returned from injury or suspension.  Nakamura, Brown, Caldwell, Hesselink, Hinkel, Naylor, and Hartley have all returned at some point during the week from injury, fit to play today. 

The last game was won by Celtic in a scoreline of 2-1, where Hesselink and Nakamura scored for Celtic.  I look forward to a very passionate game, that is sure to be fun to watch if some of the fans (hooligans) don’t take it to far (people have been killed over these games!).  I personally predict a scoreline of 2-0 favoring Celtic (there’s a surprise).

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According to the Canadian Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife, the polar bear is not endangered or threatened with extinction due to increasing temperatures from global warming.  The committee did, however, begin a plan to protect the animals, whose numbers have been decreasing by around 22 percent.  They are currently listed as “special concern,” the lowest threatened level.

This Polar Bear Mother Leading her Cubs Across the Thinning Sea Ice May be a Rare Sight

Canada is home to around 15,500 polar bears, which accounts for about two-thirds of the global population.  Because summer sea ice is receding more and more each year, the population is declining.   Over-hunting and the oil industry have also hurt the numbers of the world’s largest land carnivore.  If current models hold true, half of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050. 

If the bear becomes, “threatened,” there would be bans on hunting or destroying the habitats of the animals.  This, of course, would not be applied to the native Inuit people.   The committee also called for tougher action to combat global warming as well.

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Scientists have discovered that using tiny magnets to deliver anti-cancer gene thereapy could make the therapy more effective.  Gene therapy replaces faulty genes, which would possibly code for the regulatory proteins that cause cells to die or stop replicating.  IF one of these genes is damaged through mutation, the cell divisions become very rapid and uncontrolled, causing cancer.  The problem has been getting the genes to the right part of the body to treat the damaged DNA.

Gene Therapy, but Instead of Using Viruses, Scientists Want to Use WBCs and Magnets

Now, by inserting magnetic nanoparticles into white blood cells and injecting them into the bloodstream, doctors have been able to guide the genes attached by using an external magnet.  Thus, the therapy has actually reached its target and in great numbers causing the treatment to become much more powerful.  The new method might also be used to send genes to treat other conditions like arthritis or heart disease.

Tests on humans are still not quite ready.  As of now, the tests have only treated tumors just under the skin of mice.  The real test will be treating tumors deep inside the body, where cancer normally strikes organisms.  “We would hope that this will be safer because we are using a natural mechanism in the body and patients’ own white blood cells to deliver the gene therapy,” says Dr. Clair Lewis, the head researcher.

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It seems that commercials urging to buy certain products have been around since the first civilizations.  Images of beautiful women and strong men have been Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and scientists believe they are advertisements or logos, much like Adidas or Gatorade today. 

 

Examples of the Ancient Commercials

 

“Some images, possibly from wines, show warriors involved in violent acts, perhaps appealing to a more macho or laddish individual of the kind targeted today by Lynx commercials.  You get some designs that show people in the act of drinking or eating,” says Dr Wengrow, the chief scientist on this project.  “They show people, gods, animals, even monsters doing all kinds of things together, including drinking beer through a straw, making textiles, but also killing each other too.”

The first logos were created around 6000 B.C.  This is also the first time when when alcoholic beverages, textiles and dairy products were mass produced.  These logos seem to be describing to travellers in this economic crossroads about the origins and quality of the goods they depict, much like how the Pepsi or Coke logo give people ideas of good pop.  Amazingly, the images themselves seem to be mass produced by a wet piece of clay being mechanically forced onto a stone with the impression of the picture on it.

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