jtotheizzoe:

Why Are Stars Star-Shaped?

Great new video from MinutePhysics that asks why we draw stars as star-shapes, when they’re really just spherical orbs of superheated plasma (and those are much easier to draw, by the way).

We know that stars twinkle because of the distortion caused by our atmosphere miles above your head, but that’s not what gives them their apparent star shape. If that were the case, then why do Hubble images also flare out? Unless J.J. Abrams works for NASA or something…

The actual answer lies in your very own eye. I won’t spoil the rest, but after my video this week (which looked into why goats have such weirdly shaped rectangular pupils), I have to know: What does the ungulate astronomer see?

PS - Which came first, stars… or stars?

Q

tuggywuggy asked:

Is congenital myotonia found in non-domesticated animals?

A

jtotheizzoe:

This question comes from my video about GOATS! so you should watch that first to get an intro on fainting goats (congenital myotonia) and also just because goat science is awesome. 

I just spent half an hour digging through scientific literature trying to find reports of congenital myotonia (“fainting syndrome”) in a wild animal and came up with exactly zilch, zero, and nada. We see it in goats, horses, dogs, cats, people… all of which are domesticated species (except for maybe people), but no reported cases in wild animals. Does that mean it’s impossible?

 

First let me summarize what should happen in a normal skeletal muscle contraction, then I’ll answer that question.

Muscle cells, like nerve cells, actively maintain different concentrations of ions on either side of their membrane. This resting membrane potential is super-interesting, but also pretty complicated, so instead of me turning this answer into a textbook chapter, all you need to remember right now is that the inside of a muscle cell is slightly negative compared to the outside. The ions we need to keep in mind right now are sodium (Na+, higher conc. outside), potassium (K+, higher concentration inside), and chloride (Cl-, higher concentration outside). 

When a nerve impulse reaches a muscle fiber, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine opens a sodium-specific door on the muscle and lets some Na+ ions inside.

Sodium is a positive ion, so it makes the inside of the muscle more positive. Then that initial burst of Na+ leads to an even larger Na+ wave. Positivity breeds positivity, people!

This burst of positive charge into the muscle cell is essentially what makes it contract (although I’m leaving out a bunch of stuff, like how calcium comes into play, to dig into more detail on all this, check out these great illustrations from MDA.org)

Of course, muscles don’t usually stay contracted, unless you’re dead, diseased, or get a cramp. Why not? After a short amount of time, potassium ions flow out of the cell through their own special potassium doors (making the inside more negative again) and chloride ions move in through their special chloride doors (making the inside even more negative).

It’s the return to that original inside-negative state that makes the muscle relax (now maybe you can start to see why loss of salt/electrolytes can lead to cramps?)

Finally we come to the fainting goats. Congenital myotonia leads to a mutation in that chloride channel I mentioned up there (if you’re into gene and protein names, it’s called CLCN1), meaning that those muscle cells take longer to return to their normal negative-on-the-inside charge and stay locked in the “on” state. 

That’s what we see in “fainting” goats, or any other creature with congenital myotonia. The muscles just lock up, and the “fainting” is really just “falling over thanks to suddenly obtaining the flexibility of a statue.” 

So does this mutation exist in wild animals? Probably. There’s no reason a wild animal could gain a spontaneous mutation in its chloride channel gene and have particularly rigid offspring. Only these statue-creatures would be easy pickings for predators, as in “easiest meal evar,” and that mutation wouldn’t be able spread throughout the population. Since we can’t keep track of every single wild animal and their offspring, we probably never see it (although there might be isolated reports out there). Like, what’s happening with this panda? I don’t even know.

On the other hand, we inbreed the hell out of domesticated animals, and thanks to fences, sharp sticks, and sheepdogs, we tend to keep them fairly safe from predators (not to mention that humans don’t have any predators except each other). So whether or not they have the genetic misfortune of crumpling into a heap of myotonic hilarity every time we sneak up behind them, we’ve artificially (and accidentally) amplified this mutation in domesticated breeds (although breeders are often encouraged to not breed “fainting” animals).

So the answer to your question is almost certainly yes, although the Bad Wolves keep the Weeping Angels from taking over.

asapscience:

jtotheizzoe:

thebrainscoop:

Science Needs Women: 
For Women in Science; the L’Oreal Foundation 

I’m sharing this video on any platform I can because when I first found it last week it had something like 1,400 views, but it’s the most beautifully produced and succinctly narrated video addressing some of the most complicated issues facing women in STE(A)M fields I’ve found yet. 

I’m sharing this for every time I’m called a “feminazi.”

…for every time I’m told that my concerns aren’t valid, our that our issues are imagined.

…for every time I hear “women just don’t like science,” or worse - “women just aren’t good at science.”

…for every time we’re told that we can have a family or a career, but not both - and for every time we feel like we have to decide between the two.

…for every time a study comes out saying as many as 64% of women endure sexual harassment during field work

…for the fact that women earn 41% of PhD’s in STEM fields, but make up only 28% of tenure-track faculty in those fields.

…and because we need more women mentors in these fields to stand up for issues that are not “women’s issues” - these are people issues that affect our collective society as a whole.

The women in this video are my heroes and they should be your heroes, too.

Science needs women.

Seconded! 

afro-dominicano:

Rarest Transit of Planet Venus Across The Sun

The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was one of the better-photographed events in sky history. Both scientific and artistic images flooded in from the areas that could see the transit: Europe and much of Asia, Africa, and North America. Scientifically, solar photographers confirmed that the black drop effect is really better related to the viewing clarity of the camera or telescope than the atmosphere of Venus.

Image Credit & Copyright: David Cortner

(via iambecomesloth)

jtotheizzoe:

Humans kill a lot of sharks. Like, A LOT OF SHARKS. More than three every second to be exact. If we keep it up, several shark species will be extinct within the next few decades. 

What would happen in a world without sharks?

That’s the question posed in this week’s episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart. From ecosystems to food chains to depressing death tallies to how much a shark is worth in $$$, there’s plenty of brain chum to watch and share with your fellow shark lovers.

But wait! It gets better! I also teamed up with The Brain Scoop, SciShow, Veritasium, MinuteEarth, and Smarter Every Day to bring you a week’s worth of shark science.

Because lawyers, we’re calling it “Several Consecutive Calendar Days Dedicated to Predatory Cartilaginous Fishes" instead of… well, you know. And unlike certain cable TV channels, our videos are non-fearmongering, unsensationalized, and dedicated to celebrating and protecting sharks , not turning them into bloodthirsty monsters. This should go without saying, but all of the S.C.C.D.D.P.C.F. videos are 100% true, factual and not made up in the least bit, unlike some other shark-related programming.

Check out the full playlist of shark science videos from your favorite channels here, or you can watch it embedded below:

jtotheizzoe:

chels:

A fish slingshot for helping our finned friends get over dams is now being tested in the wild: 

"Originally designed for fruit, Whooshh turned its technology into a tool to help safely send fish over dams blocking the course on the Columbia river in Washington state. Under tests right now with the Department of Energy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Whooshh tubes could be shooting more fish over dams in the near future. A test this past summer showed that fish will voluntarily enter the tube. When they swim into the entrance, the vacuum sucks them in and gives them initial boost; after that, elevated pressure behind the fish keeps them moving at about 15 to 22 miles per hour till they go flying out the other end."

You can watch a whole video about how this crazy fish cannon works, or read more about it here. 
(Via Alexis Madrigal’s 5 Intriguing Things newsletter)

We are mighty.

jtotheizzoe:

chels:

A fish slingshot for helping our finned friends get over dams is now being tested in the wild: 

"Originally designed for fruit, Whooshh turned its technology into a tool to help safely send fish over dams blocking the course on the Columbia river in Washington state. Under tests right now with the Department of Energy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Whooshh tubes could be shooting more fish over dams in the near future. A test this past summer showed that fish will voluntarily enter the tube. When they swim into the entrance, the vacuum sucks them in and gives them initial boost; after that, elevated pressure behind the fish keeps them moving at about 15 to 22 miles per hour till they go flying out the other end."

You can watch a whole video about how this crazy fish cannon works, or read more about it here

(Via Alexis Madrigal’s 5 Intriguing Things newsletter)

We are mighty.

fastcompany:

theenergyissue:

The Bio Intelligent Quotient (B.I.Q.) Building is the First Fully Algae-Powered Architecture

Operating successfully for over a year, the Bio Intelligent Quotient (B.I.Q.) building in Hamburg, Germany is the first to be fully powered by algae. The building is covered with 0.78-inch thick panels—200 square meters in total—filled with algae from the Elbe River and pumped full of carbon dioxide and nutrients. The panels, which display the bright green algae, are not only aesthetic, but performative. When sunlight hits the “bioreactor” panels, photosynthesis causes the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat. The warmth is then captured for heating water or storing in saline tanks underground, while algae biomass is harvested and dried. It can either be converted to biogas, or used in secondary pharmaceutical and food products. Residents have no heating bills and the building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%. 

Read More>

(via asapscience)