In Tyson We Trust

Just when I start to believe the world is progressing, something comes along that makes me question my faith in humanity.

As you may have heard, rapper B.o.B is claiming, via his Twitter page, the world is flat (if you haven’t, a quick Google search can fix that). Seriously? I’m at a loss for words on this one. The rapper has apparently written a song, Flatline, calling out NASA and the science community (specifically Neil DeGrasse Tyson), but it seems to have disappeared from the internet.

I didn’t want to make any sort of post discussing this, because people like that do not deserve the attention. Instead, I’ll highlight the talents of Stephen Tyson, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s nephew who’s rapper name is simply, Tyson. He wrote a song in response to B.o.B’s claims, and it is FIRE. Listen to Flat to Fact.

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Hologram

The future is here! Check out this video of a hologram I made:

This was accomplished by constructing a small projector-like device and setting on my phone. Seems simple enough, right?

The Supplies: graph paper, a rule, scissors, a pen, tape, a box cutter, CD cases, hot glue, and a smartphone.

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First Step: I measured out a trapezoid shape onto graph paper and cut it out as a guide. The references I found suggested using 1 cm x 3.5 cm x 6 cm measurements, but I ended up tweaking those a bit as I went along.

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Second Step: I traced that shape along the plastic part of the CD case, then used the box cutter to cut the plastic shape out; needing 4 pieces of plastic, I repeated this step a few times. This part was a little challenging, because the plastic kept breaking on places I didn’t want it to.

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Eventually I cut out four little trapezoids.

Third Step: I arranged the pieces into a pyramidal shape, and held them together momentarily with tape while I let the glue heat up. When it was ready, I glued the edged of the pieces together. The picture below gives a visual into what I just tried to describe.

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After the glue cooled, I was ready to try out the projector!

There are a bunch of cool videos to try on YouTube, the one from my video is here.

And here is the aftermath of the plastic cutting:

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Creature Corner, Vol. 1

I want to do a series of posts about animals that I find interesting/weird/uncommon/etc. The animal that will be starting this exploration is

Cantor’s Giant Soft-Shell Turtle

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(On the street it’s also called a frog-faced soft-shell turtle.) The name is in honor Theodore Edward Cantor, a Danish zoologist who was known for describing many new species of reptiles and amphibians. Scientifically, this turtle is known as Pelochelys cantorii, and for those needing a little brush up on their binomial nomenclature, that is the genus and species respectively.

Also known as an Asian giant soft-shell turtle (sounding a little less majestic in my opinion), this turtle could be found in many Asian countries, such as India, China, Thailand, Laos, etc. Since it’s a freshwater species, the habitat is primarily inland slow-moving freshwater rivers and streams. Interestingly, this species is not found in New Guinea, however two other members of the genus Pelochelys are restricted to New Guinea.

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While the largest recorded length of the carapace (a fancy word for shell) is 183 cm (6 feet), the average length of the shell is only about 100 cm (a little over 3 feet). These turtles also weigh around 100 lbs.

This turtle is carnivorous, with a diet consisting of crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and human babies. (Just kidding about the human babies, seriously!) 95% percent of this creature’s life is spent buried and motionless in sand, surfacing only twice a day to take a breath! (Much like one of my roommates who only leaves their room twice a day.. HA!) These turtles lay about 20-28 eggs, usually around February or March.

Sadly, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized this species as endangered. However, in 2007 a nesting ground in Cambodia was discovered, which gives hope that this giant can be saved from extinction.

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As a side note, this particular animal is often confused with Yangtze giant soft-shell turtles (Rafetus swinhoei), which IUNC has categorized as critically endangered. In fact, only a few days ago one was found dead in Vietnam. Scientists believe that this leaves only 3 known living specimens: one in a protected lake in Hanoi, and a pair at the Suzhou Zoo in China. This turtle played a key role in Vietnam’s mythology, symbolizing Vietnam’s independence struggle. Many people fear that the death is a bad omen for upcoming changes in the ruling Communist Party. State media has said the turtles’ body is being held in a temple on a small island on the lake while an official decision on what to do is made; embalming is being considered.

Heads Will Roll

Are you suffering from complete paralysis? Good news! Soon you may be able to have a total head transplant!

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero and a team of other scientists have been experimenting with animals and human cadavers, and hope to offer the surgery to  treat complete paralysis within the next two years. The team has reported transplanting a monkey’s head, which resulted in no apparent brain damage. Canavero is currently looking for funds to perform a transplant on Russian patient with muscle-wasting disease.

No official papers have been submitted for peer-review, which makes the surgeon’s announcement seen pretty unorthodox. Thomas Cochrane, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, says, “…[the] operation has mostly been about publicity rather than the production of good science.”

Multiple huge ethical issues aside, many critics are suggesting Canavero invest his time into studying nerve regrowth of injured spinal cords rather than conducting total head transplants. Other experienced surgeons are interested in the research merely as proof of principle.

Personally, I am all for the expansion of science and technology in the medical field, for the right reasons, but a total transplant of a human head seems extreme and somewhat creepy. Despite all the reading I have done, many questions still arise.

Read the full story in this article (which may be graphic for some audiences!) from New ScientistHead Transplant, which includes a photograph of an actual monkey stitched up at the neck, and a video of a mouse with a severed spinal cord having the ability to walk again. Googling Sergio Canavero’s name will also lead to a wealth of information pertaining to the topic.

Lava Lamps

A trusted lab assistant and myself set out to make our lava lamps, which was easy enough!

The Equipment: science oil, two clean bottles, a funnel, water, food colouring, Alka-Seltzer tablets

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First Step: Drink the juice in the bottles; rinse and let dry.
Second Step: Fill the bottles ¾ full of science oil; fill the rest of the bottle with water.

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The water formed in spheres below the oil, how pretty!

Third Step: Add food colouring! We went with a deep turquoise and a green.

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The blobs of food colouring landed on top of the water spheres; eventually one broke through to the bottom.

Fourth Step: Put the caps on the bottles, and give them a little shake to mix the food colouring with the water.

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So cool!

Fifth Step: Let the orbs of colour settle for a moment; it’s about to get even more cool!
Sixth Step: Break an Alka-Seltzer tablet into about 6 pieces. Drop a piece at a time into the bottle. This should be the result:

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And of course, a video:

And a slowed-down video (because we couldn’t get enough!):

Keep adding the tablets as many times as you wish! Experiment with different size pieces or multiple pieces at a time! We decided to play with the lighting too; here are what the lava lamps look like illuminated in the dark:

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Happy Lamping!