Thursday, June 9, 2016

Plants, Animals, and Dolomite: Natural Investigations

Dolomite involved in archaeological prank. A site originally thought to be a lost city near the Greek island of Zakynthos turned out to be a weird quirk of geology. Julian Andrews from University of East Anglia has found that the paved floors, courtyards, and colonnades observed underwater were naturally occurring formations and not evidence of a vanished civilization.

"Golden Rice" sucks, but don't blame environmental activists. This genetically modified food was supposed to be a big deal back in the year 2000, and has been described as a "promising idea backed by good intentions." Glenn Stone, of Washington University in St. Louis, has published an article discussing the current state of Golden Rice efforts, and it doesn't seem as promising in its current state — but the shortcomings are not the fault of anti-GMO activists.

Do shy moms make better moms? If those moms are wild boars, and there is plenty of food available, then the answer is yes. Finally, a team from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine has answered the boar-related questions that we've all been asking about motherhood, food availability, and porcine aggression. Detailed, multi-year work involving personality indices and variable feeding regimes has definitively concluded that the answer is: "It depends."

The wonders of nature, explained by slap-wrap bracelets. The exploding seed pods of popping cress, a common garden weed, are able to function because of unique cell wall geometry that is present in its seed pods. Derek Moulton, of the University of Oxford, explains that it's the same geometric forces that are at work in toy slap bracelets. Previously, scientists thought that the explosive shatter of popping cress was due to the differential contraction of the inner and outer layers of the seed pod as it dried; they were wrong.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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