Thursday, 29 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
This scene was witnessed by the keepers at a gorilla conservation reserve as their most prominent female gorilla died. Thus the recognition of death, grief and respect for the dead are obviously not traits possessed only by humans. Our fellow primates are very like us. They too have day to day activities and routines. Chimpanzees have been observed to have 39 distinct day to day behaviours, such as grooming, mating and tool making.
In 2003, researchers documented traits of fairness amongst brown Capuchin monkeys. This is the first time this trait has been recognised in any other animal than humans. The experiment was carried out on females whereby they were given a small stone by a human handler. The human then tried to take the stone back, much like getting a stick back off a dog. In return for giving it back they would receive a small treat, i.e. a piece of fruit. When the other monkeys saw some monkeys were being given some fruit even though they didn’t give the stick back, they complained, showing their ideas of fairness and equality.
All in all monkeys, apes and humans show extreme similarities. We each have culture, personality traits and great intelligence. We share an amazingly close gene pool, and can trace all of our ancestors back to the same beginnings. However in saying that, we do have differences too. But at least now, when I call my little brother a monkey, I can back up my argument!
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) have upgraded over 600 Leaving Certificate Biology papers country wide, after a parent of one of the candidates questioned the marking scheme’s limited interpretation of the term “predator”. Subsequently, the marking scheme was altered to expand the limited definition in the marking scheme. After the appeals process, in which 56 candidates had their grade increased, 1900 more examinations were assessed. All of these were within 3 marks of a higher grade. Of the 1900, 621 candidates had their scores increased so that they achieved a higher grade. 44 of these individuals have now received offers from universities in Ireland because of their increased grades. This is a welcome development but yet another embarrassing situation for the SEC.
In St. Columba’s, two pupils were upgraded on this occasion. This means that over 32% of candidates in SCC achieved an A grade in their biology examination with 21% achieving an A1 grade.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
“So ripples from the future are stymying the particle collider? It's more likely to be a multiverse thing.
In a desperate attempt to explain why CERN's Large Hadron Collider has suffered a series of mishaps preventing it from commencing its search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle, respectable physicists have suggested (apparently in all seriousness) that nature abhors the Higgs so much that ripples from the future are travelling back in time to stop the Switzerland-based particle accelerator working.
Reports of the emergence of these theories have prompted renewed contemplation of the "granny paradox", which some think debunks the very idea of time travel. In this scenario, a time traveller goes into the past and inadvertently causes the death of his/her granny, before the traveller's parents are born. So the traveller never goes back in time, so granny doesn't die – and, well, so on. I have a much simpler explanation for the collider's plight. Its failure is related to the existence of other universes, the "parallel worlds" beloved of science-fiction writers.”
The research has been funded by the Breast Cancer Campaign and Cancer Research UK.
Monday, 19 October 2009
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Silver has antibacterial properties and has been used to fight infection for thousands of years, even by Roman soldiers. But it went out of use with the development of antibiotics, which are far more effective. It continued to be used in some over-the-counter medicines until 1999, when the Federal Drug Administration in the US banned it because it causes argyria, which is a result of the silver reacting with light the same way it does in photography. The silver collects in the skin and other organs and does not dissipate. Mr Karson is in good health, but ironically, his dermatitis was not cured by the silver. The condition is not reversible.
Monday, 12 October 2009
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Friday, 9 October 2009
In the late 1880s Sir William Crookes, amongst others, had been investigating the effect of running electrical currents in partial vacuums and noted that photographic plates stored in his lab kept getting 'fogged up' before he could use them – but apart from writing to complain to his photographic suppliers he thought nothing more of it. In 1879 Crookes had invented a piece of apparatus which allowed a current to be passed through an evacuated glass tube, and Röntgen was working with such a ‘Crooke’s Tube’ (or ‘Hittorf Tube’) in 1895 in Würzburg when he noticed that a nearby piece of paper coated in barium platinocyanide started to glow whenever the electric current was switched on, even though the tube was completely blacked out. He deduced that some invisible ray was passing through the card blackout onto the paper, and on testing other materials found that the ray passed through wood and plain paper but not metal. When Röntgen’s wife held up a photographic plate in front of the tube, an image of the bones in her hand, complete with its wedding ring, became one of the first x-ray photographs ever produced.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
A DISEASE which cannot be controlled in the wild is killing off one of Ireland’s most popular garden birds, the greenfinch. While trichomoniasis, caused by the parasitic trichomonad organism, has been hitting all bird populations, greenfinches have been the species most affected. The parasite lives in the bird’s upper digestive tract, its actions progressively blocking the bird’s throat, making it unable to swallow, thus killing it by starvation.
According to Oran O’Sullivan of BirdWatch Ireland, its records have shown greenfinches have declined from 7th to 10th place in the most commonly observed birds in gardens. “This is the most accurate indication we have of falling numbers and we are concerned about what is happening, especially when the disease cannot be controlled in the wild.” The disease was first noticed about four years ago when Birdwatch began receiving reports of garden birds dying. The main outbreaks are during the late summer and autumn, but there are already signs of an outbreak in 2009.... click here to see more.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Today is the 57th anniversary of the first patent on the bar code. Inventors Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver filed the patent in October 1949, and it was granted, No. 2,612,994, on October 7, 1952. The original patent was for a system that would encode data in circles (a bulls eye pattern), so that it could be scanned in any direction. To celebrate the fact, Google have replaced their distinct logo with a barcode. Not to be outdone by the search engine giants, so have the Frog Blog!
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
It is thought that all plants trace their ancestry back to aquatic green algae. The plant groups evolved as a response to a move onto land which, according to liverwort-like spores from a borehole in Oman, probably occurred in Ordovician times, around 475 million years ago. The move by plants onto land resulted in soil formation and increased oxygen levels in the atmosphere, and this cleared the way for the subsequent move onto land by animals.
The oldest plant macrofossils (2 cm to 3 cm high) are Silurian, from around 425 million years ago, and come from Devilsbit Mountain, Co. Tipperary in Ireland. These moss-like specimens belong to the genus Cooksonia, which was first described from S. Wales by W.H. Lang in 1937, and named after fellow palaeobotanist Isabel Cookson. The Tipperary specimens were discovered by TCD postgraduate student John Fehan in the 1970s. Specimens have since been found in Scotland, England, Bohemia, Kazakhstan, Siberia, USA, Canada, China, Bolivia and Brazil. In 1992 Diane Edwards published photographs of xylem vessels in Cooksonia specimens from Shropshire – thus confirming that this was a vascular plant. The first seed plants did not evolve until the end of Devonian times, some 65 million years later.
Monday, 5 October 2009
Lake Nyos is a crater lake, located in an apparently idyllic spot in Cameroon's north-west province. A lake two kilometres long, it sits high on the flanks of an inactive volcano in the Oku volcanic plain. Quiet and warm, it is surrounded by granite cliffs, corn fields and steep grassy slopes. But carbon dioxide (CO2), a by-product of volcanic activity in the rocks beneath, seeps constantly into the depths of Nyos, 200 metres below the surface.
A pocket of magma lies beneath the lake and leaks CO2 into the water, changing it into carbonic acid. Nyos is one of only three known lakes to be saturated with carbon dioxide in this way, the others being Lake Monoun, at a distance of 100 km south, and Lake Kivu in Rwanda. It took many years of study for the science community to agree that the origin of CO2 within Lake Nyos is due to CO2 that rises from volcanic activity.
As the CO2 dissolves into ground waters, it is transferred to the lake resulting in the slow saturation of the hypolimnion (the dense, bottom layer of water in a thermally-stratified lake). In most crater lakes, turnover of the stratified waters occurs periodically and harmless amounts of dissolved gases are released; however, the problem with Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun is that these two particular lakes do not periodically turn over. Thus, dissolved gases are allowed to reach much higher concentrations.
On the 21st August in 1986, possibly triggered by a landslide, the lake emitted a large cloud of CO2 which was responsible for the deaths of 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock within a 15 km radius. Though not completely unprecedented, it was the first known large-scale asphyxiation caused by a natural event. To prevent a repetition, a degassing tube that syphons water from the bottom layers of water to the top allowing the carbon dioxide to leak in safe quantities was installed in 2001. Today, this lake holds the place in the Guinness book of records as the ‘Worlds’ Deadliest Lake’.
Friday, 2 October 2009
- Veterinary Medicine Prize - Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson at Newcastle University's school of agriculture share the award for the groundbreaking discovery that giving cows names such as Daisy increases their milk yield.
- Peace prize - Awarded for research on whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full beer bottle or an empty one, the prize went to Stephan Bolliger and colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
- Public Health Prize - Awarded to Elena Bodnar of Hinsdale, Illinois, for patenting a bra that, in an emergency, can be converted into a pair of gas masks.
- Medicine Prize - To Donald Unger, a doctor in Thousand Oaks, California, who cracked the knuckles of his left hand, but never those on his right, every day for 60 years to investigate whether it caused arthritis. It didn't.
- Chemistry Prize - Javier Morales shares the award with two colleagues at the National University of Mexico for turning the national drink, tequila, into diamonds.
- Physics Prize - Awarded to Katherine Whitcome at the University of Cincinnati and colleagues for a detailed explanation of why pregnant women do not topple over.
- Biology Prize - Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University graduate school of medical sciences in Japan share the prize for demonstrating that kitchen waste can be reduced by more than 90% by using bacteria extracted from giant panda excrement.
- Mathematics Prize - Awarded to the governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, for ordering his bank to print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.
- Literature Prize - Awarded to our very own Gardaí for issuing more than 50 penalties to a man they supposed to be the most persistent driving offender in the country: a Mr Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means "driver's licence".
- Economics Prize - Awarded to the directors, executives and auditors of four Icelandic banks: Kaupthing bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir bank and Central Bank of Iceland, "for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa – and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy".
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Robert was brought up at 48, Henry Street – near his father’s factory, which no doubt helped him to gain an early interest in chemistry. He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1826 to study medicine, but maintained his interest in chemistry and 2 years later, at the age of 19, he published his first academic paper, "Observations on the Existence of Chlorine in the Native Peroxide of Manganese". In 1830, following in his father’s footsteps, he moved to Paris to study pharmacy. In 1831, at the age of 22, Kane returned to Dublin and published his first book Elements of Practical Pharmacy. In the same year he accepted the post of professor of chemistry at the Apothecaries' Hall in Dublin, was elected to the Royal Irish Academy, and founded the Dublin Journal of Medical and Chemical Science. Kane continued to publish on a wide variety of chemical topics, helping to uncover the nature of acids, the electropositive nature of hydrogen, and the existence of the ethyl radical. In 1834 he took up a new post as lecturer and then professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Dublin Society, and in 1836 spent some time in Germany working with Liebig in his laboratory in Giessen (about 30 miles north of Frankfurt).
1845 marked the start of the Potato Famine, and Kane became one of the 8 Relief Commissioners, as well as a member of the Board of Health (looking at an outbreak of typhus), and a member of the Commission set up to investigate the causes of the blight. Although he was knighted in 1846 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1849 – at least partially for his work on litmus as a pH indicator, he seemed to lose some of his drive and interest after the famine, and in 1853 there was an official enquiry into his prolonged absences from Queen’s College Cork (it seems he was often in Dublin with his family).
Kane retired in 1873, taking up the post of National Commissioner for Education and then becoming President of the Royal Irish Academy in 1877 – until his death on February 16th 1890. Kane was a rounded and highly cultured man and an extremely able linguist, and he was an early champion of the important role that science has to play in a fully rounded education.
LCROSS will search for ice by plunging its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket into the permanent shadows of Cabeus A, where water might be trapped in frozen form. The LCROSS satellite will then fly into the plume of debris kicked up by the impact and measure the properties of the plume before it also collides with the lunar surface. The LCROSS team selected ‘Cabeus A’ based on a number of conditions, including -:
- A debris plume which will be visible from Earth, where astronomers will be watching closely.
- It has a high concentration of hydrogen (a constituent of water, H2O)
- A suitable terrain - flat floor, gentle slopes and the absence of large boulders.
The LCROSS mission has been dedicated to the memory of Walter Cronkite, who covered NASA missions from Mercury through the space shuttle.