Happier butterflies, super puppies, surviving fish, and more

Published April 21, 2020

They promise to use this technology only for good

Researchers achieve remote con­trol of hor­mone release”.

But seri­ous­ly, folks, the idea is to embed nanopar­ti­cles in peo­ple’s adren­al (and oth­er) glands, and be able to trig­ger them to release hor­mones with­out drugs or inva­sive technology.

Side note: The research was spon­sored by the Defense Department because it might be used to treat PTSD … or, I assume, to cre­ate mind­less, soul­less killing machines. But most­ly for PTSD.

Good news for butterflies

The annu­al monarch but­ter­fly migra­tion will be com­ing to the north­east and mid­west soon, and there’s good news:

[T]ransportation agen­cies, rail­roads and ener­gy com­pa­nies have agreed to cre­ate monarch-friend­ly habi­tats for the but­ter­flies and oth­er pol­li­na­tors on mil­lions of acres of rights-of-way.

These com­pa­nies already man­age veg­e­ta­tion, so it’s not a huge step to make it but­ter­fly- and pollinator-friendly.

(It’s not just out of good­will, of course. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might list the monarch as pro­tect­ed under the Endangered Species Act, those com­pa­nies “will receive spe­cial fed­er­al waivers on future per­mits and licenses.”)

Building “super puppies”

How do you pre­pare a dog for a life of poten­tial stress (res­cue ser­vice, mil­i­tary life, liv­ing in Philadelphia, etc.)? You train it ear­ly — lit­er­al­ly three days after birth — for a cou­ple of weeks.

It was called a “bio-sen­sor pro­gram” but now they say “Super Puppies” instead. And you can do it, too!

From the age of 3 days to 16 days, each pup­py in the pro­gram is exposed to five stim­uli once each day. These include being held in head-up, head-down, and supine (on the back) posi­tions; cot­ton-swab stim­u­la­tion on the paws; and being laid on a cold washcloth.

Those stim­uli are just a few sec­onds each. So you’re talk­ing one or two min­utes a day. The result?

This pro­gram has been shown to improve car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, increase adren­al gland func­tion and brain activ­i­ty, and improve a puppy’s resis­tance to stress and disease.

It also makes them smarter, more con­fi­dent, and less like­ly to bite.

But my favorite part: “Similar tests on mice and pri­mates have shown iden­ti­cal results.” So throw out your Skinner Box, new par­ents, and get out the Q‑Tips and cold washcloths.

Dry hands? Got you covered

If for some rea­son you find your­self wash­ing your hands a lot late­ly, and you’re start­ing to deal with real­ly dry skin or even der­mati­tis, here are some good (sci­ence-based) tips for pre­vent­ing and deal­ing with it.

Rice, methane, and bacteria

Rice feeds half the world, but it also pro­duces about five per­cent of the world’s methane — you know, the super-potent green­house gas.

That’s because flood­ed rice fields have lit­tle oxy­gen in the soil, so methane-pro­duc­ing bac­te­ria flourish.

But now those shifty Danes have found a solu­tion: “By adding elec­tric con­duc­tive cable bac­te­ria to soil with rice plants, they could reduce methane emis­sions by more than 90%.”

Cable bac­te­ria? They were dis­cov­ered in 2012, and live at the bot­tom of bod­ies of water where they use elec­tri­cal pow­er (!) to move oxy­gen from the water to the soil.

They can oxy­genate the soil of rice pad­dies, remov­ing the methane-pro­duc­ing bac­te­ria. Science!

Big news from Ohio State

People may know the best deci­sion – and not make it”.

File -> Print (bomber)

If you think of 3‑D print­ing only for plas­tic do-dads, think again. Texas A&M researchers have found a way to print marten­sitic steel.

Not a met­al­lur­gist? Martensitic steel is strong, light­weight, and cheap. It’s hot stuff in the aero­space indus­try, where it needs to be “built into com­plex struc­tures with min­i­mal loss of strength and dura­bil­i­ty.” You know, the kind of thing 3‑D print­ing would be per­fect for.

Masks for the next pandemic

An engi­neer­ing team at the Queensland University of Technology has cre­at­ed “a high­ly breath­able nanocel­lu­lose mate­r­i­al that can remove par­ti­cles small­er than 100 nanome­ters, the size of virus­es.”

It’s biodegrad­able, made from plant waste, and can be made using rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple equipment.

Next step, says team leader Thomas Rainey: find­ing indus­try part­ners to turn it into masks.

The Long Read: Fish and oil

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, coastal fish pop­u­la­tions were dev­as­tat­ed … right? Actually — and sur­pris­ing­ly — no. (Inland* fish pop­u­la­tions… that’s anoth­er story.)

Even cra­zier: If you expose a sin­gle fish to the chem­i­cals in a spill, bad things hap­pen to it. But for some rea­son the pop­u­la­tion of fish isn’t affect­ed by a spill.

* Or the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, or the 1990 New York spill, or the 2001 Galapagos spill, or even the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
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