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Cephalopoda from History

BibliOdyssey: The Cephalopoda.

In 1898, the steamship Valdivia left Hamburg for a nine month scientific voyage to the Atlantic, Indian and Great Southern oceans [map]. Known as the German Deep-Sea Expedition, the mission was led by Leipzig University Professor of Zoology, Carl Chun and investigated chemical, zoological and physical characteristics encountered in the oceans during the voyage.

In 1975, the Israel Program for Scientific Translations (in association with the Smithsonian Institution) arranged for the publication of the Professor Chun cephalopoda volumes in English for the first time.

Polypus levis Hoyle (male) - Port Gazelle, Keguelen

Follow the link for more stunning pictures of cephalopods.

Patricia Brennan and Duck Porn

Patricia Brennan from Yale University is trying to encourage male Muscovy ducks to launch their ballistic penises into test tubes.

Normally, the duck keeps its penis inside-out within a sac in its body. When the time for mating arrives, the penis explodes outwards to a fully-erect 20cm, around a quarter of the animal's total body length. The whole process takes just a third of a second, and Brennan captures it all on high-speed camera. This isn't just bizarre voyeurism. Duck penises are a wonderful example of the strange things that happens when sexual conflict shapes the evolution of animal bodies.

Full article here – and it really is worth the read. Fascinating stuff to learn whilst eating toast and marmite!

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This Really is Interesting

This is a piece of mercury thiocyanide burning.  A neat reminder that burning is a chemical reaction, and not all things burn the same way.

I like chemistry now.  Hated it at school – and we were allowed to blow things up, set light to them and do shit my kids were not allowed to do.  I can see why – some of that shit was dangerous.  But hey, it was also fun!  But I could not get to grips with the actual chemistry bit (why some elements had weak bonds, while others grabbed electrons from anywhere to make another whole new thing) so I just gave up.

If there had only been YouTube and The Periodic Table of Elements back then, I might have been a chemist now.  Or blown up.  

I love the fact this has an elderly scientist, with a nice white afro and a good line in high-waisted pants, a sodium chloride lamp and a dual-screen display paired with an excitable chap in green, very laddish, who was probably the one in school egging the others on.  And both knowledgeable about the subject with a desire to help you become knowledgeable. 

I expect there are a lot of teachers out there showing this in their chemistry lessons.

Now look here, kids.  I know you can't actually do these spiffing experiments, but let's watch a mad scientist and a nerd do them. OK?

So, should your inner nerd need some nourishment (mine needs feeding quite often!) pop along to The Periodic Table of Elements YouTube Page, maybe subscribe to their channel and watch two nutters in love with what they are doing. 

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The Atlas Detector @ Cern

Coffee ‘protects female memory’

Must drink more coffee. Must drink more… what was I saying? Oh, yes.
Must drink more coffee.
clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

Caffeine may help older women ward off mental decline, research suggests

Cup of coffee

French researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day.

Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, raises the possibility that caffeine may even protect against the development of dementia.

It might be that caffeine could slow the dementia process

Dr Karen Ritchie
French National Institute for Health and Medical Research

Caffeine is a known psychostimulant, but this study appears to suggest its effects may be more profound.

Dr Karen Ritchie of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research warned against jumping to premature conclusions.

The study did not find that caffeine consumers had lower rates of dementia.

She said it was not clear why the protective effect did not seem to apply to men.

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It’s That Mars Time Again

Every year at this time the claim of Mars being at its closest filters through the internet. Take this moment to educate those who believe this nonsense and pass it on.  Cos I am a Space Nut and this sort of thing does drive me a little bit crazy. 
cartoon making fun of a close approach of Mars

Every year. Every fracking year.

The email, I hear, is going around again. The one that says that if you go outside next month and look at Mars, it’ll be as big as the Moon. You know; the one I debunked here and here and here and here, every year since this dumb thing started back in 2003.

Short and sweet: Mars won’t look big to the eye (the email says, not very clearly, that through a telescope mars will look as big as the Moon does to the eye) in August. It never gets that close. It won’t even be particularly bright in August; it’ll shine at magnitude 0.4 or so, roughly as bright as the star Aldebaren, which in fact is just a few degrees from Mars in the sky (they make a nice pair, too, since they are both ruddy in color as well).

image of orbits of Mars and Earth in August 2007

As you can see in this image, in August Mars won’t be at its closest to Earth, and in fact will be about 180 million kilometers (over 100 million miles) away.

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