Florida Sea Turtle Recovery Astonishes Scientists

The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is, in the scope of Florida’s 2,276 miles of shore, a blip. Just 20 miles long, it was set aside in 1991 specifically for turtles after declines in the populations of all local species had crashed from a combination of pressures. People disturbed nests on beaches (sometimes poaching eggs, sometimes just crushing the nests) and turtle meat was also very popular. It’s the only federal land set aside for the animals.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 made it a crime to kill, buy or eat endangered turtles and the refuge created a safe place for them to lay their eggs in a stretch of beachfront that’s a favorite spot for various species.

Lou Ehrhart, a University of Central Florida researcher, has been counting sea turtle nests in the refuge area since the 1980s when 30-40 nests were found each year. In 2012, there were more than 18,000 loggerhead nests, and in 2013, more than 13,000 green sea turtle nests. Ehrhart told WFME: “As a scientist I have to be a little careful about how I throw the word ‘miracle’ around, but yes I agree in this case it is really quite extraordinary.” Why did the recovery take so long?

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If you are in Florida in June or July, you can actually take a limited-visitor guided tour at the refuge to see the sea turtles laying their eggs.

If you or your kids have never seen a sea turtle digging a burrow and laying eggs, I can tell you, it’s a pretty magical experience. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen it twice and both times I shed some tears. There’s just something about the quiet labor of the turtles, who lay their eggs — and never see their offspring again — that’s incredibly profound.

Humans Will be Hybrids by 2030

That’s the prediction of Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, who spoke Wednesday at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.

Kurzweil predicts that humans will become hybrids in the 2030s. That means our brains will be able to connect directly to the cloud, where there will be thousands of computers, and those computers will augment our existing intelligence. He said the brain will connect via nanobots — tiny robots made from DNA strands.

“Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking,” he said.

The bigger and more complex the cloud, the more advanced our thinking. By the time we get to the late 2030s or the early 2040s, Kurzweil believes our thinking will be predominately non-biological.

We’ll also be able to fully back up our brains.

“We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves,” he said. “In my view, that’s the nature of being human — we transcend our limitations.”

Kurzweil, who is known as one the world’s leading inventors, has predicted what the future will look like before. In the ’90s, he made 147 predictions for 2009. In 2010, he reviewed his predictions, 86% of which were correct. He gave himself a “B” grade.

His correct predictions included that people would primarily use portable computers in 2009, that cables would disappear and that computer displays would be built into eyeglasses.

He did admit on stage Wednesday that he thought we’d have self-driving cars by 2009.

“Now that’s not completely wrong,” he said. “If I had said 2015, I think it would’ve been correct, but they’re still not in mainstream use. So even the [predictions] that were wrong were directionally correct.”

For those concerned with artificial intelligence taking over the world, Kurzweil said we have a moral imperative to keep developing the technology while controlling for potential dangers.

“As I wrote starting 20 years ago, technology is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also burnt down our houses. Every technology has had its promise and peril.”

L’Oreal is Printing Human Skin

L’Oreal have announced a partnership with bioprinting startup Organovo to figure out how to mass produce 3D printed skin that replicates living human skin, to test new products for toxicity and efficacy. The deal is expected to increase production from the five square meters of skin the company already produces every year.

Currently the skin samples are grown from tissues donated by plastic surgery patients near L’Oreal’s France facility, before being broken down into cells. By feeding those cells a ‘special diet’, and exposing them to the correct biological signals, the company is able to grow over 100,000 small samples of skin annually, each up to 1mm thick. Half of the skin produced is currently used by the company, with the rest being sold to rivals and pharmaceutical companies.

With San Diego-based Organovo’s help, L’Oreal aims to speed up and automate skin production within the next five years. Research for the project will take place in Organovo’s labs and L’Oreal’s new California research center. L’Oreal will provide skin expertise and all the initial funding, while Organovo, which is already working with such companies as Merck to print liver and kidney tissues, will provide the technology.

L’Oreal, which is more of a tech company than many people realize, spends about 3.7 percent of its revenue—more than $1 billion annually—on research and development.

First Warm-Blooded Fish Found

The car-tire-size opah is striking enough thanks to its rotund, silver body. But now, researchers have discovered something surprising about this deep-sea dweller: It’s got warm blood.

That makes the opah (Lampris guttatus) the first warm-blooded fish every discovered. Most fish are exotherms, meaning they require heat from the environment to stay toasty. The opah, as an endotherm, keeps its own temperature elevated even as it dives to chilly depths of 1,300 feet (396 meters) in temperate and tropical oceans around the world.

“Increased temperature speeds up physiological processes within the body,” study leader Nicholas Wegner, a biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, told Live Science. “As a result, the muscles can contract faster, the temporal resolution of the eye is increased, and neurological transmissions are sped up. This results in faster swimming speeds, better vision and faster response times.”

The result, Wegner said, is a fast-swimming fish with an advantage for hunting slow, cold-blooded prey.

Undersea moon

The opah, also known as the moonfish, has relatively small red fins decorating its large, round body, which can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. These fins, which flap rapidly as the fish swims, turn out to be important in generating body heat for the opah.

“The opah appears to produce the majority of its heat by constantly flapping its pectoral fins which are used in continuous swimming,” Wegner said.

Researchers first suspected that something might be strange about the opah after analyzing a sample of the fish’s gill tissue. According to the new study, published today (May 14) in the journal Science, the blood vessels in the tissue are set up so that the vessels carrying cool, oxygenated blood from the gills to the body are in contact with the vessels carrying warm, deoxygenated blood from the body to the gills. As a result, the outgoing blood warms up the incoming blood, a process called counter-current heat exchange.

“There has never been anything like this seen in a fish’s gills before,” Wegner said in a statement. “This is a cool innovation by these animals that gives them a competitive edge. The concept of counter-current heat exchange was invented in fish long before [humans] thought of it.”

To confirm that these special gills helped the opah stay toasty, the researchers tagged a number of moonfish with temperature monitors and tracked the fish as they dove. The fish spend most of their time at least 150 feet (45 m) below the ocean surface. No matter how deep they dive, however, their body temperature stays about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) warmer than the surrounding water. Fat deposits around the gills and muscles help insulate the fish, the researchers found.

Built for speed

Warm blood gives deep-sea fish a boost, according to Wegner. The opah’s muscles and nervous system likely function faster than an equivalent fish with cold blood. Other deep-diving fish, such as tuna and some sharks can shunt blood to certain body parts to keep them warm during deep dives. But these fish have to swim up out of the depths frequently to prevent their organs from shutting down.

In contrast, the opah can stay deep for long periods of time.

“Nature has a way of surprising us with clever strategies where you least expect them,” Wegner said in a statement. “It’s hard to stay warm when you’re surrounded by cold water, but the opah has figured it out.”

Next, Wegner told Live Science, he and his colleagues want to studyLampris immaculatus, the opah’s southern cousin. This fish, the southern opah, lives in colder waters than the northern opah, so it would be harder to keep warm, Wegner said — but even more beneficial.

This Creeps Us Out… Humans Are Actually More Bug Than Human

We hate to break it you, but you’re not totally human. It’s nothing about you personally. It’s just that more than 90% of the cells in the human body are actually parasites. You might feel like a single being, but you’re really more of a bug city, teeming with different species.

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Every square centimetre of your face houses one or two tiny spiders. — Don’t panic – they keep you clean.

Or as Greg Foot from BritLab puts it in the above video: “In a rather gross way, you are practically a walking petri dish, a home for more bugs and bacteria than you’d care think about.”

Consider the skin on your face. As smooth and peachy as it may look, every square centimetre houses around one or two “demodex spiders”. They mostly lie low, but once you’re asleep they crawl across your face to mate and lay eggs in your pores. Don’t feel too disgusted, though – in return for their food and lodging, these spiders clean away some of the harmful bacteria that might cause a dangerous infection.

Away from the face, humans can host three different types of lice, each of which has evolved to the unique environments of the scalp, pubic regions and the rest of our bodies. As the video explains, studying these bugs has helped scientists to work out when our ancestors started to cover their modesty with animal skins – after millions of years of walking around butt naked.

By far the most numerous inhabitants are the microbial colonies inside the body itself – there are 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells. Most are crucial for us to break down food into the nutrients we need to survive; these immigrants pay back just as much as we give them.

In fact, looked at another way, even the small number of cells actually carrying your DNA are not purely human, since they also contain their own individual microbe…

Babies Learn Best by Being Surprised According To Study

It’s no secret that babies love a good game of peek-a-boo. Well, it turns out that this type of innocent play can in fact be beneficial to babies, who learn best by being surprised, according to new research.

Infants have an innate knowledge about the world, and when their expectations are defied – for example, when an object doesn’t behave the way a baby expects it to – they ultimately learn more from this element of surprise compared to normal situations.

“For young learners, the world is an incredibly complex place filled with dynamic stimuli. How do learners know what to focus on and learn more about, and what to ignore? Our research suggests that infants use what they already know about the world to form predictions. When these predictions are shown to be wrong, infants use this as a special opportunity for learning,” Lisa Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University, who co-led the study, said in a statement.

“When babies are surprised, they learn much better, as though they are taking the occasion to try to figure something out about their world.”

In order to determine whether babies learned more effectively about objects that defied their expectations, Feigenson, along with her colleague Aimee E. Stahl, a cognitive psychologist, conducted four experiments involving preverbal 11-month-old babies. The researchers also wondered if babies would seek out more information about surprising objects, and if this exploration meant babies were trying to find explanations for the objects’ strange behavior.

First, the research duo showed the babies both surprising and predictable situations regarding an object. For instance, one group of infants saw a ball roll down a ramp and appear to be stopped by a wall in its path. Another group saw the ball roll down the ramp and appear to pass – as if by magic – right through the wall.

When the researchers gave the babies new information about the surprising ball, the babies learned significantly better. In fact, the infants showed no evidence of learning about the predictable ball.

What’s more, the researchers found that the babies were more intrigued by the ball that had defied their expectations, compared to the toys that were brand new but had not done anything “magical.” They even attempted to better understand these surprising objects – for example, by playing with the balls and testing their solidity by banging it on a table.

“The infants’ behaviors are not merely reflexive responses to the novelty of surprising outcomes, but instead reflect deeper attempts to learn about aspects of the world that failed to accord with expectations,” Stahl explained. “Infants are not only equipped with core knowledge about fundamental aspects of the world, but from early in their lives, they harness this knowledge to empower new learning.”

The findings are described in more detail in the journal Science.

The Science of Bacon

Imagine rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning, shuffling into your kitchen, and tossing a few strips of streaky bacon into a skillet. After a few minutes, you’ll hear a delightful crackling and sizzling, soon followed by a complex and savory aroma that could lure even the most resolute of vegetarians to the kitchen. As time passes, you peek into the skillet and notice the bacon begin to brown and bubble. After an agonizing wait, the bacon has finally reached a desired color and crispness and is ready to be consumed. You eagerly bite into a strip of bacon and are met with a pleasantly smoky taste, crunch, and a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. Bacon is a delight to eat, but it’s even better when you understand the science of why it’s so delicious.

There are two major factors that can explain why bacon has such a devoted fan base, with the first and more obvious factor being its aroma. Scientists have identified over 150 compounds responsible for bacon’s distinctive smell. As bacon cooks, there are a couple of different things going on. The Maillard reaction, the browning that results when amino acids in the bacon react with reducing sugars present in bacon fat, produces several desirable flavor compounds. This same browning reaction is also what forms the darkened and crunchy exterior on a pretzel or provides a stout beer with its characteristic color and taste.

During this process, bacon fat also melts and degrades into flavor compounds of its own. The compounds produced from the Maillard reaction and from the thermal degradation of bacon fat combine to form even more aroma compounds. In one study, scientists used gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy and revealed many of these aroma compounds to be pyridines, pyrazines, and furans, which were also found in the aroma of a fried pork loin that was tested. Pyridines, pyrazines, and furans are known to impart meaty flavors, so what actually sets bacon apart from the fried pork loin is the presence of nitrites. Nitrites are introduced into bacon during the curing process and are believed to react with aroma compounds in such a way that dramatically increases the presence of other nitrogen-forming compounds, including those meaty pyridine and pyrazine molecules. Ultimately, we can thank the high presence of nitrogen compounds as well as the interplay of fat, protein, sugars, and heat for bacon’s savory and unique aroma [1].

Now imagine that you’re eating breakfast. You alternate between bites of fluffy pancake drenched in maple syrup and mouthfuls crispy bacon, and maybe you’ll also have a side of velvety scrambled eggs. Here, you have a variety of textures on your plate –which brings us to our next concept to explain why bacon is so revered—mouthfeel.

Mouthfeel is described as the physical sensations felt in the mouth when eating certain foods. Bacon delivers a crunchy contrast to the softer textures found in scrambled eggs or pancakes in a mouthfeel phenomenon known as dynamic contrast. The brain craves novelty, and sensory contrasts will often increase the amount of pleasure that the brain derives from food, which is why you can find bacon as a textural accompaniment in many classic, creative, or sometimes questionable combinations. In a strip of bacon, you’ll see that it consists of lean meat that is heavily marbled with fat. During the cooking process, fat renders off leaving behind a product that simultaneously crisps and melts in your mouth when consumed, a texture combination that is rivaled by few other foods.

The melt-in-your-mouth phenomenon of bacon illustrates another nuance of mouthfeel, which is vanishing caloric density. Vanishing caloric density can be blamed for why it’s so easy to mindlessly consume massive amounts of popcorn, cotton candy, or other foods that seem to melt in your mouth. Upon ingestion of these foods, it is believed that the brain is tricked into thinking that you’re eating fewer calories than you actually are. Foods with vanishing caloric density have low satiating power but high oral impact, so your brain urges you to consume more, as it finds them more rewarding [2].

Between its tantalizing aroma and its delectable mouthfeel, it’s no surprise why bacon mania has so aggressively swept the nation.

Ancient Seashell Coloration Patterns Revealed in UV Light

Nearly 30 ancient seashell species coloration patterns were revealed using ultraviolet (UV) light, according to a study published April 1, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Hendricks from San Jose State University, CA.

Unlike their modern relatives, the 4.8-6.6 million-year-old fossil cone shells often appear white and without a pattern when viewed in regular visible light. By placing these fossils under ultraviolet (UV) light, the organic matter remaining in the shells fluoresces, revealing the original coloration patterns of the once living animals. However, it remains unclear which compounds in the shell matrix are emitting light when exposed to UV rays.

Using this technique, the author of this study was able to view and document the coloration patterns of 28 different cone shell species from the northern Dominican Republic, 13 of which appear to be new species. Determining the coloration patterns of the ancient shells may be important for understanding their relationships to modern species. Hendricks compared the preserved patterns with those of modern Caribbean cone snail shells and found that many of the fossils showed similar patterns, indicating that some modern species belong to lineages that survived in the Caribbean for millions of years. According to the author, a striking exception in this study was the newly described species Conus carlottae, which has a shell covered by large polka dots, a pattern that is apparently extinct among modern cone snails.

Tonight The Blood Moon Rises… Don’t Miss It

The Blood Moon is almost upon us. It is when there will be a total lunar eclipse, where the earths shadow will turn the Moon a blood red color. The Blood Moon will be visible worldwide.

One of the great things about lunar eclipses is that they are completely safe to view with the naked eye. No special filters are required to protect your eyes like those used for solar eclipses. You don’t even need a telescope to watch the eclipse, although a good pair of binoculars will help.

In Paganism a Blood Moon opens a gateway into the heavens as the Earth, Sun and Moon align. For a brief moment in time we can commune with the spirit world and other realms.

In many religions this is a great Omen, many Christians believe it will be the return of their savior Jesus. The King James Bible predicts: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD comes,” [Joel 2:31] The Blood Moon is also on the same day as the Jewish feast of Passover. And is just before Easter.

The Blood Moon is part of a very rare event which is called a Tetrad where there are 4 blood moons in a row. They are spaced out between each other 6 month apart, this gives us 666 between the Blood Moons which has some Christians and Jews worried. The First Blood moon was 15th April 2014, the second was on 8th October 2014, the third is on April 4th 2015 and the final one will be on 28th September 2015.

Searching Online May Make You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are

Using the Internet is an easy way to feel omniscient. Enter a search term and the answers appear before your eyes.

But at any moment you’re also just a few taps away from becoming an insufferable know-it-all. Searching for answers online gives people an inflated sense of their own knowledge, according to a study. It makes people think they know more than they actually do.

“We think the information is leaking into our head, but really the information is stored somewhere else entirely,” Matthew Fisher, a doctoral student in cognitive psychology at Yale University, tells Shots. Fisher surveyed hundreds of people to get a sense of how searching the Internet affected how they rate their knowledge. His study was published Tuesday in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Fisher began with a simple survey: he asked questions such as “How does a zipper work?” or “Why are there leap years?” He allowed just half of his subjects to use the Internet to answer the questions.

Then he asked the subjects to rate how well they thought they could answer a question unrelated to the first question, such as “Why does Swiss cheese have holes?” or “How do tornadoes form?” People who had been allowed to search online tended to rate their knowledge higher than people who answered without any outside sources.

To reveal factors that might explain why the Internet group rated their knowledge higher, he designed follow-up experiments using different groups of people. First, he asked people to rate their knowledge before the test; there was no difference between subjects’ ratings. But afterwards, the Internet-enabled subjects again rated their knowledge better than the others.

Next, Fisher tried to make sure that people saw the exact same information. He told the Internet-enabled group, “Please search for the scientificamerican.com page with this information.” The non-search group was sent directly to the page. Fisher checked that the two groups used the same URL. Still, the people who could actively search rated their knowledge higher than those who simply saw the information.

And this is just a taste of the experiments Fisher ran. He also:

  • Compared different search engines.
  • Reworded his questions to make it clear that he was asking for only the subjects’ knowledge, not the Internet’s.
  • Made the online searchers use filters that would keep any relevant results from showing up.
  • Asked questions for which there were no answers online, such as “How do wheat fields affect the weather?”
  • Asked people to choose one of seven brain scans that most resembled their brain. The people who had been searching online picked the image with the most activity.

The results kept coming back the same: searching online led to knowledge inflation.

There are practical consequences to this little exercise. If we can’t accurately judge what we know, then who’s to say whether any of the decisions we make are well-informed?

“People are unlikely to be able to explain their own shortcomings,” says Fisher. “People aren’t aware of the quality of explanation or the quality of arguments they can produce, and they don’t realize it until they encounter the gaps.”

The more we rely on the Internet, Fisher says, the harder it will be to draw a line between where our knowledge ends and the web begins. And unlike poring through books or debating peers, asking the Internet is unique because it’s so effortless.

“We are not forced to face our own ignorance and ask for help; we can just look up the answer immediately,” Fisher writes in an email. “We think these features make it more likely for people to consider knowledge stored online as their own.”