Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Urban Legends: Mice don't like Cheese

You'll not believe this, but is actually true! In fact, as many mice owners or pest exterminator knows, mice don’t like cheese at all and they’re even disgusted eating certain types, due to their excellent sense of smell that permits them to identify repulsive smells given by some kinds of cheese.
According to Dr. David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University, who recently did a study on whether mice liked cheese or not, mice will pretty much eat anything if hungry enough. Most type of mice mainly prefer grains, fruits, and sweet things; certain types of mice will also eat insects and other small animals. Basically, they like to eat what they've learned eating since before humans started making cheese around 10 thousands years ago.
Nobody knows how the myth that mice like cheese got started.  It’s been around for a long time, even being mentioned by philosopher Seneca about 2000 years ago:

"Mouse is a syllable.  Now a mouse eats its cheese; therefore, a syllable eats cheese…  Without a doubt, I must beware, or some day I shall be catching syllables in a mousetrap or, if I grow careless, a book may devour my cheese!  Unless, perhaps, the following syllogism is shrewder still: Mouse is a syllable.  Now a syllable does not eat cheese.  Therefore a mouse does not eat cheese."  (Seneca’s Letters – Book II Letter XLVIII)

One of the most successful theories probably had to do with ancient people stocking grains, highly salted meats, and cheese. The grains and meats were commonly stored in such a way as to keep all pests away.  On the other hand, cheese that needs to “breathe” was not so securely stored.  Inevitably, a mouse that is hungry enough will eat the cheese, leaving little teeth marks, leading people to think that mice seek out cheese.  But this theory is pure speculation and it seems odd that people who would actively protect grains and meats from vermin would start thinking from this that mice preferred the thing they hadn't under strict protection.

Dr. Holmes suggests that the myth may have arisen from a legend that comes from various ancient mythologies. The most relevant is found in Ancient Greece, saying white mice were often kept under the altars in Apollo’s temples, and Apollo himself was often referred to as “Apollo Smintheus”, meaning “Apollo the Mouse”. The connection with cheese has to be given to one of Apollo’s children, Aristaeus,  who is credited in Ancient Greek mythology with teaching mankind to make cheese, a method he learned from the Myrtle-nymphs. So, the "friendship" between mice and cheese could have popped out from some sub-legends or  artists depiction of Apollo and Aristaeus, which included mice and cheese in the painting. But unfortunately, this is all based on speculations...
Talking about this correlation between mice and cheese, Dr. Holmes notes:

"Cartoonists like to draw little segments of cheese with holes in them and little mice’ faces poking out of them.  They will admit this and they say quite simply it’s a really good image and it’s the kind of image we will continue to use, even though we know mice don’t like cheese."

So maybe it's just a good image, so good we decided to learn this fake truth.
Whatever the origin, given that mice aren’t overly fond of cheese, it doesn’t exactly make the most effective bait in a mouse trap. So don't expect to do something extremely clever putting cheese on the trap and wait for the mouse to come out!
So if cheese isn’t an effective bait for mouse traps, what is?  Turns out, mice go crazy for lots of things, such as peanut butter, Chocolate (and it seems Maltesers works extremely well) and also hamburgers.

Maybe it's a shame to let such delicious food be wasted on mice, but it may be their last meal, so you might as well give them a good little taste before the “SNAP”.
Well, cheese is not a good idea, but also add too many traps isn't, like what happened to the Smunts Brothers in the movie MouseHunt , if you know what I'm talking about. Well, and if you don't click the link to find it out ;)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Random Facts About... Time Conception

Here are some facts that will twist your vision of time! If you want your sense of time to be destroyed, definitely check it out!

1. France was still executing people by guillotine when "Star Wars" came out. The movie premiered in theaters in May 1977. The last execution by guillotine took place on September 10th of the same year.
2. Harvard University was founded before there was even calculus. In fact Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the US, founded in 1636.  Calculus wasn’t derived until later in the 17th century, with the work of Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton.
3. Speaking about prestigious universities, Oxford University is actually older than Aztec civilization.
Oxford University was opened by 1249, while the Aztec civilization as we know it began with the founding of Tenochtitlán in 1325.
4. If the history of Earth were compressed into a single year, modern humans would appear on December 31st, at about 11:00pm. The human race has ‘dominated’ Earth for only 0.004% of the planets history. Who's the dominating race now...
5. If you turn the TV to a dead station, almost 1% of the static is left over radiation from the Big Bang. Actually you are watching the aftermath of the creation of the universe.
6. The first pyramids were built while the woolly mammoth was still alive. While most mammoths got extinct 10,000 years ago, a small populations survived until 1650 BC. In that age, Egypt was in the middle of its empire, and the Giza Pyramids were already 1000 years old.
7. The jewelry company Tiffany & Co. has been around longer than Italy. Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young founded Tiffany & Young in 1837, while my dear country didn’t become an actual country until 1861.
8. There was more time between the Stegosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex than between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and current humans. The Stegosaurus lived around 150 million years ago, while the T-Rex lived only 65 million years ago. Practically yesterday...
9. When Warner Brothers formed, the Ottoman Empire was still a thing.Their first theatre called Cascade, in New Castle (Pennsylvania) opened  in 1903. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire spanned from 1299 to 1923, when Turkey became an independent nation.
10. The fax machine was invented the same year people were traveling the Oregon Trail. The first fax machine was developed by Alexander Bain in 1843, At the same time, The Great Migration began across America.
11. Cleopatra lived closer in time to the building of Pizza Hut than the pyramids. The Great Pyramid was built in 2560 BC, while Cleopatra lived around 30 BC. The first Pizza Hut opened in 1958, which is about 500 years closer.
12. All the people born before 1928 can affirm that is older than sliced bread... just like the great American actress Betty White.
13. Every two minutes, we take as many photos as all of humanity took during the 1800s.
14. In the span of 66 years, we went from taking flight to landing on the moon. It all started in 1903, when the Wright brothers successfully flew a plane for 59 seconds. 38 years later, in 1941, the Japanese used flight to bomb Pearl Harbor. Only 28 years after that, Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969.
15. Humans never fully experience the "present" - we're always living in the past. In fact every human being is living at least 80 milliseconds in the past. David Eagleman believes that our consciousness lags behind actual events and that when you think an event occurs, it has already happened before your brain has a chance to create a cohesive picture of the world.
16. There are whales alive today who were born before Moby Dick was written. Some of the bowhead whales living off the coast of Alaska are well over 200 years old. They were born well before Moby Dick was written in 1851.
17. Last but not least, this is what’s happening in the world at this very moment.


 This is an idea of the brilliant artist XKCD, called Frequency. This comic shows all the things that are happening in a precise amount of time after you clicked the link. Every time one of the events, common or unusual, blinks on screen, well THAT is happening... An amazing way to demonstrate the difference between talk about time... and feel time !!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Did You Know...How do fireflies glow?

As a child I've always thought fireflies were magical creatures. And that is due to the lower part of their abdomen. The magic has a name: bioluminescence, the light produced by a small cells called photocytes, reflected off several layers of reflective cells, with a consequent emission of a greenish-yellow glow.
Inside this light producing cells within the firefly is an organelle called a peroxizome. The chemical part within it is what creates the light. Magnesium and ATP (so it's called energy in biology) combine with an enzyme known as luciferase and the protein luciferin. This combination creates a very excited molecule. When oxygen is introduced into the mix, the molecule goes from excitement back to a steady state. This transaction releases energy in the form of a photon of light.
The mechanism that starts this light show is not very well known. The main theory revolves around the firefly’s ability to control oxygen within photocytes. The organelle that controls ATP production, called Mitochondria,  require large amounts of oxygen. When the firefly decides to light up the sky, it signals “trigger cells” to produce large amounts of nitric oxide. When the mitochondria inside the photocytes become soaked with nitric oxide, it results in extra oxygen available within the cell. It seems this extra oxygen availability starts the chain reaction, producing light.
Researchers have also found that white light can reverse the nitric oxide effects on a key respiratory enzyme found in mitochondria. Because of this, it is thought that light itself could be the "off" button.
And the reason why fireflies decide to light up the world. Not an easiest answer: mating purposes ! A good flashlight is a fantastic method to attract all the females!
Well, I still believe there is magic within their little wings...and I will always believe in these thoughts of mine....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Did You Know That...Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way to Orientate?

Dung beetles, as only few people know, have remarkable navigation abilities, despite the relatively small sizes of their brains. It seems also that after dung beetles collect the dung (the most common characteristic of these animals), they do a little dance on top of it before moving it in a straight line to their final destination. The dancing actually helps the dung beetle get its bearings as it dances around in circles, looking at the stars.
This behaviour, as well as the fact that dung beetles have specialized eyes which analyse the direction of light polarization, first led researchers to affirm that the beetles might be using the sky to orientate. During the day, it was easy to see that they were using this polarized light found around the sun in order to navigate. But nowadays it wasn't exactly known how they manage to navigate at night. This have led scientists to say they might be using the moon.
To test this, there are a variety of different experiments conducted by Marie Dacke, a researcher of the Lunds University in Sweden. She and her scientific crew set up a circular arena with high walls in South Africa, blocking out views of everything but the sky. They then timed a particular specie of dung beetle (Scarabaeus satyrus) on how long they took to cross the arena. The beetles were tested in different conditions: with the moon out, without the moon, and with an overcast sky. To harden the situation, some of the beetles were also equipped with caps, which forced their eyes downward, so they weren’t able to see the sky at all under any conditions.
They found out that dung beetles had a tough time staying in a straight line when there were clouds obscuring the sky and when they were wearing the caps. However, when there was a clear sky with no moon, the beetles were still able to orientate. This led to the idea that they use stars to navigate during the night. But, as Dacke said, “We thought that they could be using the stars, but dung beetles have such small eyes that they don’t have the resolution, or sensitivity, to see individual stars". This is actually a real issue to demonstrate !

To study this further in order to ensure the results, the researchers repeated the experiments under strict conditions. They moved the arena to a planetarium where they were able to control stars locations and movements. Once again, some of the beetles wore caps (as you can see in the photo on the right). This time, they showed the beetles the brightest stars, showed only the Milky Way, and then showed the entire sky. What they found is astonishing: the beetles were slow to cross the arena when the brightest stars were visible, but they crossed at normal speed when only the Milky Way was visible. As the first attempt, beetles with caps had lots of problems orientating.
The conclusion is that beetles use the Milky Way in order to navigate. This falls in line with the findings of a similar experiment that used the Scarabaeus zambesianusa, a different type of dung beetle, which was unable to move in a straight line without the Milky Way in the sky.
The ability to roll a ball of dung in a straight line is very important for the survival of these insects. After they create a ball of dung, they have to roll it away as quickly as possible to avoid having it stolen by others of its specie. They don’t have time to wander around! They have to get out of there fast. Once the pile of dung is a safe distance away, the dung beetle will bury it and it becomes food for the beetle’s offspring.
And, talking about speed, we don't have to think this insect isn't strong. In fact it can be considered a superbug: with its own strength it can push 1.141 times its weight. Pretty powerful...
And now let's see these dung bettles "rollin", if you know what I mean...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Images From The World: Miracle Garden (Dubai)

Let me be the first to welcome you to the wonderful "Miracle Garden". This giant garden is the largest garden in whole world with the most impressive landscaping that will get you out of breath. Here are planted over 45 millions flowers in many stunning and creative arrangements: peacocks, butterflies, bigger flowers, pyramids and many more.

It has a riot of colors as far as the eye can see in many different tiers and levels, and there are even arches shaped like hearts that mark out romantic passageways to walk through. This can be an ideal destination for lovers or for couples, and perhaps it's no coincidence that it was opened right on Valentine's day !!

In this fantastic masterpiece you can see all kind of flowers, from ordinary ones to some exotic species more often found in the jungles of Asia and South America. Each area has special vertical and horizontal landscaping designs from arc-shaped walkways, pathway covered with colorful mini-umbrellas for shade, outdoor water pools, flower-decked vintage cars and other amazing designs.

But the most surprising thing about this garden, which makes it practically the only one in the world, is that is completely surrounded by desertic areas. Growing a garden in the desert is not easy at all, but the team of botanists, gardeners and environmentalists from the whole world showed us the opposite. They made such a progressive garden in the big desert, and maybe that's why they called it the "Miracle Garden". It's actually a natural miracle !
There are also many attractions and facilities including open parking, VIP parking, sitting areas, prayer room, toilet blocks, ablution facility, commercial kiosk, carts for handicapped visitors, security room, first aid room, retails and and all other related services. The garden has installed an eco-friendly irrigation system, to deliver moisture most efficiently.
I'm in love with this flowery paradise!! What do you think about it?
Oh, and if you want to know more about the garden or simply watch other fantastic arrangements and landscapes, go visit the Miracle Garden Official Site.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Random Facts About...Your Brain

The human body is one of the most amazing machines ever created. And  among the organs inside this wonderful creation, the brain is without a doubt the most amazing. It's useless to mention the enormous capacity that you all know, so let's discover some interesting facts about this not very well-known organ.
1. Your brain keeps developing until your late 40s.
2. New brain connections are created every time you form a memory.
3.When awake, the human brain produces enough electricity to power a small lightbulb.
4. In this case, size doesn't matter. In fact the weight and size of a brain has nothing to do with intellectual ability. Albert Einstein’s brain actually weighed less than the average weight of a human brain!
5. Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood in your body.
6. Did you know that when our eyes receive images, they are actually upside-down? Our brain automatically corrects them, so that we see them the right side-up!
7. The reason why memories that are triggered by scent seem more intense and easier to recall, is because our sense of smell has a deeper emotional connection with our brain!
8. Lack of oxygen in the brain for 5 to 10 minutes results in permanent brain damage.
9. Violent homes have the same effect on children as combat on soldiers!
10. It's scientifically proven that even a small dose of power changes how a person's brain operates and diminishes empathy.
11. The blood vessels in our brain equal a total distance of 100,000 kilometers when stretched out. That's enough to wrap around the whole Earth four times!
12. The smell of chocolate (the "random facts" article here) increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.
13. The human brain has the same consistency as tofu.
14. Humans have approximately 70,000 thoughts each day! Looks like we really are thinking too much.
15. The left side of your brain actually controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body. Strange, isn't it?
16. The brain is divided into two identical sides. While they do co-operate together, the left brain is involved with more rational aspects such as logical thinking, and the right side of the brain is more emotionally and visually orientated.
17. High altitude conditions makes the brain see weird visions due to the reduced supply of oxygen. It isn't uncommon for mountaineers at 8,000 feet or higher to imagine light emanating from their bodies, or visualize other people near them!
18. At least 60 % of your brain is composed by fat.
19. The brain contains no pain receptors, therefore it cannot feel pain! This is the reason why brain surgery is able to be performed on the patient while they are still awake!
20. Scientists say dieting could force your brain to eat itself.
21. You have something in your brain called mirror neurons. If you see somebody stub their toe for example, the same pain area will light up in your own brain causing you to flinch.

Snooping Around....Molten Aluminum Creations

Ants are highly social creatures who live in colonies of thousands of members.
Humans often use poisons to get rid of these creatures to protect their home and property, but an artist did something quite weird with Molten Aluminum. In this process the aluminum is carefully poured into the top of an ant nest, and the metal goes throughout all of the tunnels and settles into all of the crevices. Once the Aluminum has cooled and the dirt has been washed away, the resulting structure makes a perfect representation of the nest’s internal structure. Actually these seems to be a very rude process because all of the ants die in the process, but given the ants’ invasive nature it’s hardly worth for most of people losing any sleep over.

But these have given scientists a wide knowledge. In fact making models of the nests allow scientists to study differences between species, as not all ants make the same nests. For example, carpenter ants have simple nests with only a few tunnels while red imported fire ants have highly complex networks of rooms and tunnels.
Here below you can admire the video showing this curious process:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Random Facts About...Jellyfish, The Elves of the Ocean

First I have to tell you...these are my favourite animals ever! And as you saw in my previous article about Poisonous Animals (check it out if you haven't yet ) are also very dangerous!! Let's find out other random facts about these amazing creatures!!

1. Jellyfish are found in every ocean of the world. They are even found in some freshwater lakes and ponds.
2. Jellyfish reproduce both asexually and sexually. They are usually male or female, though hermaphroditic species have also been found.
3. Even a dead jellyfish can sting.
4. Jellyfish are invertebrates, which means they are animals without a skeleton. Approximately 95% of their body is water.
5. Jellyfish have lived in the waters of the world for more than 650 million years, long before the dinosaurs, making them the oldest multi-organ animal.
6. Jellyfish move in essentially two ways. They take water in their bell and then squirt it out behind them, which creates a jet of water that moves them forward. They also drift on water currents.
7. Jellyfish range from the size of a thimble or the eraser tip of pencil to approximately 8 feet in diameter and tentacles that reach 200 feet. That is as long as two blue whales.
8. The jellyfish’s main defence mechanisms are its stings and its transparent body, which makes it easy for it to hide.
9. Each jellyfish tentacle is armed with thousands of cells called cnidoblasts. Inside the cnidoblasts are nematocysts, each of which contains a coiled stinging thread. When a fish or other object becomes tangled in the tentacles, the pressure inside the nematocysts causes the venomous threads to uncoil like a spring-loaded harpoon.
10. Jellyfish do not have brains, hearts, ears, heads, feet, legs, or bones. Their skin is so thin that they can breathe through it.
11. A jellyfish tentacle can still sting even if it is separated from the jellyfish’s body.
12. Most jellyfish are passive carnivores. They feed on plankton, crustaceans, other jellyfish, fish eggs, and small fish. They eat and void through the same hole in the middle of the bell.
13. Jellyfish are usually seen in shallow coastal water; however, scientists have discovered a few species that live at depths of 30,000 feet (9,000 meters). While most jellyfish prefer warm water, some live in subarctic temperatures.
14. While jellyfish do not have a brain, they have an elementary nervous system with receptors that detect light, vibrations, and chemicals in the water. These abilities, along with the sense of gravity, allow the jellyfish to orient and guide itself in the water.
15. Jellyfish are harvested for collagen, which is used in a variety ways, including treating rheumatoid arthritis.
16. The uncoiling of the jellyfish’s small stingers is one of the fastest actions in nature. Stingers shoot out even faster than a bullet from a gun.
17. The largest jellyfish in the world is the Nomura’s jellyfish. Other candidates for the largest jellyfish are the Lion’s mane jellyfish and the Stygiomedusa gigantean.
18. Jellyfish have a short tube that hangs down from its body. The tube acts as both its mouth and its digestive tube. In some jellyfish, the central tube is surrounded by frilly pieces that look like curly ribbons in the water. These are called oral arms or mouth arms.
19. The smallest jellyfish in the world is the creeping jellyfish. It has bell disks from 0.5 mm to a few mm in diameter. It reproduces asexually by splitting in half. Another contender for the smallest jellyfish is the extremely toxic Australian Irukandji, which is only the size of a fingernail.
20. Jellyfish blooms near Japan can have over 500 million jellyfish, with each jellyfish the size of a refrigerator.
21. There are more than 2,000 different types of jellyfish. Approximately 70 can hurt people, with the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) being the most dangerous. Scientists believe that there could be as many as 300,000 different species of jellyfish yet to be discovered.
22. Many scientists believe that environmental stressors—including climate change, pollution, overharvesting of fish, and dams—have led to the proliferation of jellyfish.
23. Jellyfish digest their food quickly. It would be difficult to float if they had to carry around large amounts of food.
24. Jellyfish that stay near the sunlight at the water’s surface tend to be colorless. Jellyfish that swim deeper are often red, purple, green, yellow, and sometimes they may even have stripes.
25. Scientists have developed antivenom for box jellyfish stings. In Australia, where box jellyfish live, ambulances and hospitals keep the life-saving compound on hand.
26. In several parts of the world, jellyfish are considered a delicacy. For example, in Malaysia, people call them “music to the teeth.” Approximately several hundred metric tons of jellyfish a year are eaten at $15 a pound, making it a multimillion-dollar business. The most commonly eaten jellyfish is the Cannonball jellyfish.

27. One species of jellyfish, the Turritopsis nutricula, is also known as the “immortal jellyfish” because it can transform from the mature medusa state back to the polyp state, thereby essentially avoiding death. It accomplishes this through the cell development process called transdifferentiation.
28. The type of jellyfish most seen on the shores of North America and Europe is the Moon jellyfish. This type of jellyfish is typically blue or pink and is found in waters approximate 20 feet (6 meters) deep. Its sting is usually mild, but can leave an itchy, red rash.
29. Many jellyfish have bioluminescent organs, which emit light. This light may help them in a number of different ways, like attracting prey or distracting predators.
30. If a jellyfish is cut in two, the pieces of the jellyfish can regenerate and create two new organisms. Similarly, if a jellyfish is injured, it may clone itself and potentially produce hundreds of offspring.
31. The movements of bell-shaped jellyfish have provided researchers with a new understanding of propulsion. The flexibility of their umbrella-like bodies allow them to pulse upwards and downwards without expending much energy. Researchers have created biomimetic robots with flexible bells, which may one day lead to better undersea vehicles.
32. It's probably not that surprising that jellyfish have served as inspiration for swimming robots. However, it's more unusual to see a sea creature inspire a flying machine, but that's just what happened at New York University.
33. A group of high school students in Japan came up with a salted caramel recipe that uses powered jellyfish. It's not vegan for sure, but it is one way to deal with an invasive jellyfish bloom.
34. Some jellyfish look like trash bags.They're known as Deepstaria enigmatica, and are usually found in the Arctic seas.
35. Another jellyfish-derived product takes advantage of the jellies' fluorescent protein, and could be used to power medical devices in the future.
36. In the past decade, jellyfish blooms have been responsible for shutting down several nuclear reactors, which often rely on ocean water intakes. The jellyfish swarms can clog the intake pipes, forcing facilities to stop operating temporarily.
37. Two Aquarists in Dallas, Texas created a peanut butter mix and fed it to moon jellies. Apparently, the jellies found this mix to be an acceptable source of protein. "We would love to claim we conducted this trial with noble purpose, but the truth is that we just wanted to make peanut butter for jellyfish simply to see if it could be done," the researchers write.
38. You may have heard that jellyfish are taking over the world's oceans. However, there's actually a good deal of debate about this issue among scientists.
39. Let's end this with a funny thing...Do you know why are jellyfish kept in round aquariums? Round aquariums prevent them from getting stuck in the corners!

What do you think about these fantastic animals? If you still wanna know more, I suggest you to click on Jelly Biologist , a wonderful blog where you'll find everything about jellies, from all over the world. And now I want to offer you a fantastic documentary here below. Astonishing, Amazing, Beautiful.... don't ya think?

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