Monday, May 30, 2011

Unfortunate Star Wars babies

Yeah, let's make this baby uglier.

Baby visiting mum and dad at the psyche ward.

Now, did they shave this baby to make it look like an old man, or is it just reeeeeaaaally unfortunate?

Yeah, put your finger there. Like it's not mean enough to make your baby wear a dead Andy Warhol rug on it's head.

If this thing came crawling up against me I'd freak out and kick it. Seriously.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

yes please

Our most traumatic memories could be erased, thanks to the marine snail

"Although the idea of erasing your memories may sound horrific, there may be nothing better for those dealing with severe trauma. Now we're one step closer to making it a reality, with a little help from the tiny marine snail.

UCLA researcher David Glanzman led the study, which discovered that it's possible to erase long-term memories in snails by inhibiting a specific protein kinase known as PKM. While researchers have previously made headway with memory-erasing drugs, this new work focuses on the actual neurons of the brain, potentially allowing far finer control over the memory erasure process. If the methods used here could be adapted to humans, Glanzman hopes it could be used to help treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, and possible long-term memory disorders such as Alzheimer's.

Glanzman explains how it all works:

"Almost all the processes that are involved in memory in the snail also have been shown to be involved in memory in the brains of mammals. We found that if we inhibit PKM in the marine snail, we will erase the memory for long-term sensitization. In addition, we can erase the long-term change at a single synapse that underlies long-term memory in the snail."


It seems totally Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I'd do anything to forget all about that one guy and all the hurt he's caused me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

criminal koalas

Koalas have exactly the same fingerprints as humans

"Humans, along with our closest relatives chimps and gorillas, are pretty much the only animals that have fingerprints. The only other is the koala, an adorable marsupial that is separated from us by 70 million years worth of evolution.

Since we share these distinctive marks with our primate cousins, it's quite likely that fingerprints first evolved with our common ancestor several million years ago. But that isn't the case with koalas, who are alone among all marsupials in having these prints.

And it's not just that our fingerprints are roughly similar to koalas - they really are identical. A trained expert would have trouble telling human and koala fingerprints apart, even using a microscope. You can see a comparison of koala and human fingerprints on the left. While the two look quite similar in the larger view, it's under the even higher resolution of an electron microscope that they really look pretty much indistinguishable.

So why have we undergone precisely the same evolutionary path as koalas? Indeed, why do we have fingerprints at all, considering so few other animals have them? The first question might help answer the second, as both our hominid ancestors and koalas may have evolved fingerprints because they climb trees in the same way. Researchers from the University of Adelaide explain:

"Koalas feed by climbing vertically onto the smaller branches of eucalyptus trees, reaching out, grasping handfuls of leaves and bringing them to the mouth. Therefore the origin of dermatoglyphes [fingerprints] is best explained as the biomechanical adaptation to grasping, which produces multidirectional mechanical influences on the skin. These forces must be precisely felt for fine control of movement and static pressures and hence require orderly organization of the skin surface."

As always, I think the real takeaway from all this is quite straightforward: the next time fingerprints are found at a crime scene, investigators need to consider the possibility of super-intelligent koalas. And if they don't find any fingerprints at all? That just means the koalas are even smarter than we thought."


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The unlikely graffiti of Chernobyl

"It's been 25 years today since the Chernobyl disaster, but that doesn't mean people don't drop by the ghost town of Pripyat. One sign of human visitation is the graffiti street artists leave behind. Photographer Alex Cheban has taken numerous photos of Chernobyl's graffiti."



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ugly Ass Animals pt2

Hairless cat.

Who said graffiti wasn't art?

This is the Kelburn Castle in Scotland, close to a wonderfully-named Fairie village (Fairlie, actually) painted over by Brazillian street artists from Sao Paolo Nina and Nunca Os Gemeos (completed in June 2007):