17 January 2019

Harpy eagle

Photo via.

Belly button bacterial biodiversity

From 60 belly buttons, the team found 2,368 bacterial species...

Some belly buttons harbored as few as 29 species and some as many as 107, although most had around 67. Ninety-two percent of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10 percent of subjects—in fact, most of the time, they appeared in only a single subject.

One science writer, for instance, apparently harbored a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been.

Another, more fragrant individual, who hadn't washed in several years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents...

Despite the diversity, themes emerged. Even though not a single strain showed up in each subject, eight species were present on more than 70 percent of the subjects. And whenever these species appeared, they did so in huge numbers.
"That makes the belly button a lot like rain forests," Dunn said. In any given forest, he explained, the spectrum of flora might vary, but an ecologist can count on a certain few dominant tree types.
More at National Geographic and Wikipedia. [The most prevalent organisms were Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Actinobacteria, Clostridia, and Bacilli - pretty much like the skin in general].

See also omphaloskepsis, navel fetishism, and alvinolagnia.

"Instant karma" illustrated

In Kentucky some people built a 9-foot-tall snowman.
“We were playing in the snow, she’s from Mississippi so this is the most snow she’s ever seen in her entire life. I’m from Buffalo so this is no big deal,” Lutz said. “I love the snow!”
At night a local driver decided to ram the snowman with his truck.

The snowman had been built around the trunk of a dead tree.

Here's an interesting aspect of a border wall with Mexico

I was flipping past TV channels the other day and heard a new observation about "the wall."  I don't know whether it was part of a pro-wall or anti-wall comment, and I don't know who was speaking, but the gist was something I had not heard before.

If a wall is built along the length of the U.S./Mexico border, the easternmost part will have to contend with the presence of the Rio Grande river.  For practical reasons, the wall cannot be built in the river - it has to be on the shore, and on the American side.

This means that if anyone crosses the river (easy to do - you can wade across at certain places in certain seasons) they would be standing on United States soil and could ask for asylum.  They wouldn't need to cross the wall.

An interesting observation.  I'll leave the Comments section open for a while, as long as discussion remains civil.

BTW and unrelated: "In the 1640's the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam built a 12' wall to keep the bad hombres out. In 1664 the British ignored the wall and took New Amsterdam by sea. It's now called New York."

Image annotated from the original here.

A company will now transfuse you with a young person's blood

It may be batshit crazy, but it's real.  And it's legal.
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia, a startup that fills the veins of older people with blood from younger donors, hoping the procedure would help conquer aging by rejuvenating the body's organs...

The company is now up and running... Ambrosia... is now accepting payments for the procedure via PayPal. Two options are listed: 1 liter of young blood for $8,000, or 2 liters for $12,000...

Because blood transfusions are already approved by federal regulators, Ambrosia does not need to demonstrate that its treatment carries significant benefits before offering it to customers.

Karmazin said that "many" of the roughly 150 people who had received the treatment described benefits including renewed focus, better memory and sleep, and improved appearance and muscle tone.

However, it's tough to quantify these benefits before the study's findings are made public. There's also the possibility that simply traveling to a lab in Monterey and paying to enroll in the study could have made the people feel better.
The embedded image is of Elizabeth Bathory.  Only tangentially related, but I couldn't think of anything better.

"Self-lacing" sneakers are a thing now.

And they don't even have laces - just a contractile mesh, controlled by an app on your phone
The highlight of Adapt, which Nike is calling its "most advanced fit solution to date," is that you can control its power laces manually via physical buttons on the shoe or a companion app on your phone. When you put on the Adapt BB, the built-in custom motor with trained gears senses the tension needed by your feet and adjusts itself accordingly to keep each foot snug in the shoes. Nike says its new lacing system can create 32 pounds of force, about the same energy needed to pull a standard parachute cord, allowing it to stay locked in through any range of movement from a player.

Naturally, all this tech requires power, so you're going to have to charge the Adapt BBs eventually. According to Nike, the shoes can last up to 14 days on a full charge.
You'll be glad to hear that Nike "was able to bring the price down to $350."  And with your phone you can change the color of the little LED lights on the side.

I am so far behind the times...

16 January 2019

Grass grasshopper

An impressive origami creation "found on a tram in Japan."  Image cropped for size from the original in the mildlyinteresting subreddit.

Can you spot the grasshopper in this Van Gogh painting ?

You have to look closely.  Very closely...

... and remember that Van Gogh painted outdoors.
“But just go and sit outdoors, painting on the spot itself! Then all sorts of things like the following happen — I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention dust and sand ... when one carries a team of them across the heath and through hedgerows for a few hours, the odd branch or two scrapes across them,” Van Gogh wrote.
More information at The Telegraph.

Ice disks - updated

I've previously posted photos of interesting ice formations, including round ice floes in Russia and a "creek circle" in Canada.  This photo above was posted at the cosmos of enlightened vision; the disk was reportedly seen on the Salmon River in Idaho.

Related:  Frazil ice at Yellowstone (video).

Reposted from 2011 to add this massive one:

This disc formed on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine.  It's about a hundred meters in diameter.   Details, plus a rather unexciting video at Gizmodo, via Neatorama.

14 January 2019

"Pick of the Litter"

I watched this movie tonight and can recommend it unreservedly.  Rotten Tomatoes rating 100%.  Available on Netflix and probably your local library on DVD.  Just watch it.

Let's just call it a dinosaur and leave it at that...

Via ReplacesandcancelsthepreviousJohnnythehorse

Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - updated

Even if you're not normally interested in elections, this 2-minute video is worth viewing, because it may be representative of a major shift in U.S. politics.

In the New York Democratic primary election yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the incumbent Joe Crowley - by 15 percentage points.  The contrast between the candidates couldn't have been greater.  He has been a major figure in the current Democratic party for almost 20 years - fourth in seniority in the House of Representatives, and considered the likely replacement to Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.

She is 28 years old, female, of Puerto Rican descent, with a working-class background, and is an advocate of socialist principles, such as Medicare for all.  She refused any corporate funding, relying only on small donations, and accumulated only $600,000 exclusively from small-dollar donors, versus Joe Crowley's $3,000,000.

She is considered by many to be representative of the future of the Democratic Party.
Ocasio-Cortez ran decidedly to the left of Crowley, but she also shook up how Democrats go about getting elected. Until now, Democrats have seen big money in politics as simply a deal with the devil that had to be made. Democrats are so often outspent by Republican mega-donors that they viewed courting big-dollar donors and corporations as part of creating a level playing field.

But if one of Democrats’ top fundraisers and likely successor to Nancy Pelosi can be toppled, perhaps Democrats need to rethink that deal.
She will easily sweep to victory in November over any Republican challenger; that result will have no effect on the national balance, because this district voted heavily for Hilary Clinton in the last election.  (Donald Trump's claim that Crowley lost of Ocasio-Cortez because Crowley was a "Trump-hater" is of course pure bullshit).

A seasoned CNN political analyst opined today that "The Democratic base is sick of the establishment."

One last observation regarding the often-talked-about "Blue Wave."  It's not certain that the Democrats will make major gains in the November mid-terms, but it is clear that a "blue wave" is already sweeping inside the Democratic Party.  Look at this graph from the Washington Post:

For eighteen years, the Republican Party has remained ideologically stable - about 2/3 conservative and about 10% liberal.  The Democratic Party has become steadily more liberal - from 29% to 50%  It's hard to believe that as recently as 2000, there were as many conservative Democrats as liberal ones.
Most of the Democrats who win primaries and then win election in November will not be as progressive as Ocasio-Cortez. Should the Democrats surge to victory, the new Congress will not be one in which Democratic Socialists are swarming the halls of power. But it will certainly be a more progressive Democratic caucus than the one that’s there or, probably, any in the last century.
If you read this without viewing the video, I encourage you to scroll up and spend 2 minutes watching it at full-screen.  I think it will become a template for a surge of similar campaign videos this fall.  And it cost only $10,000 to produce (she wrote the script for it, BTW).

Reposted from June 2018 to add the following from Axios:

"A freshman congresswoman who has held office for less than two weeks is dominating the Democratic conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions — retweets plus likes — than the five most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days... And she has far more power on Twitter than the most prominent Democrats, including the congressional leaders and the likely 2020 presidential candidates..."
  • "In short, she is the first — but certainly not the last — of an entirely new archetype: a politician that is not only fueled by the Internet, but born of it."

If (like me) you are not on Twitter, you can still monitor their tweets: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  Donald Trump (and others via the "You may also like" links in their left sidebars).

13 January 2019

Caption contest

Via ReplacesandcancelsthepreviousJohnnythehorse.

"Electrical bandages" for skin wounds

From Science Daily:
"... Researchers have developed a self-powered bandage that generates an electric field over an injury, dramatically reducing the healing time for skin wounds in rats...
As early as the 1960s, researchers observed that electrical stimulation could help skin wounds heal. .. To power their electric bandage, or e-bandage, the researchers made a wearable nanogenerator by overlapping sheets of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), copper foil and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The nanogenerator converted skin movements, which occur during normal activity or even breathing, into small electrical pulses. This current flowed to two working electrodes that were placed on either side of the skin wound to produce a weak electric field. The team tested the device by placing it over wounds on rats' backs. Wounds covered by e-bandages closed within 3 days, compared with 12 days for a control bandage with no electric field. The researchers attribute the faster wound healing to enhanced fibroblast migration, proliferation and differentiation induced by the electric field.
Via Neatorama.

12 January 2019

Night scene in the Atacama

NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day:
It can be the driest place on planet Earth, but water still flows in Chile's Atacama desert, high in the mountains. After discovering this small creek with running water, the photographer returned to the site to watch the Milky Way rise in the dark southern skies, calculating the moment when Milky Way and precious flowing water would meet. In the panoramic night skyscape, stars and nebulae immersed in the glow along the Milky Way itself also shared that moment with the Milky Way's satellite galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic clouds above the horizon at the right. Bright star Beta Centauri is poised at the very top of the waterfall. Above it lies the dark expanse of the Coalsack nebula and the stars of the Southern Cross.
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