My Writings. My Thoughts.
This is the best crowd-funded campaign I’ve ever seen, mostly thanks to The Oatmeal. If you haven’t seen The Oatmeal’s web comics, well hurry over and find out why Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived.
To put it briefly: Tesla was genius who wanted to give all his inventions away for free, his story ended really sadly Edison took advantage of him, stole his ideas and refused to pay him, destroyed generators and blocked Tesla’s project to provide free wireless energy. That’s right. Free. Power. Wirelessly. We could have that right now if Edison wasn’t such a jerk.
And to top it all off – history has mostly forgotten him. Just like it has forgotten Alfred Wallace, who worked out the Origin of Species at the same time as Darwin – from the jungles of the Malay Archipelago. On that subject, I highly recommend watching “Bill Bailey’s Jungle Adventure,” which follows his magnificent adventures catching flying frogs and malaria.Well, he’s forgotten no more. A museum will boldly stand where Tesla was planning his wireless communication and energy transmission tower in Shoreham, New York.
Now that the land has been purchased, there’s a massive clean-up underway. Apparently there are believed to be tunnels underground that might contain some of Tesla’s original experiments, so they’ll need to be secured and explored. There are also rumours of a giant underground resonance chamber…
To celebrate, there’s hopefully going to be an event in New York over the Summer – with more details to be posted on The Oatmeal as they’re confirmed. I would go, if getting to New York was a remote possibility for me, because The Oatmeal owns a Tesla coil and is going to fry up bacon sandwiches with 20,000 volts of pure, unadulterated science awesome.
It will take time and more funds before the Science Centre is open for business, and be sure I’ll blog about it when it is.
Congratulations to the not-for-profit Tesla Science Centre who are now the proud owners of the site. In the words of The Oatmeal:
“Mr Tesla. We’re sorry humanity forgot about you for a little while. We still love you. Here’s a goddamn museum.”
Check out the happy news on The Oatmeal for more information and to donate or volunteer.
I’ve always wanted a computer that would fold up like a newspaper. I could sit on a bench and open it to read, then close it up and cram into a bag. It wouldn’t be backlit like a computer screen, just a soothing paper-like display. There’s something lacking in e-readers today that look terribly phoney. As in, they look like giant phones or tablets. I want one like a book, an extremely lightweight paperback.
That’s been the dream since before iPhone’s were released, and it looks like it’s a step closer now. New prototypes for shape-shifting mobile devices were unveiled today at the Computer-Human Interaction Conference CHI2013 in Paris. They transform on demand, bending up to hide personal information or curving around to make a console for playing games. The press release says they can even curl into a stress ball, which doesn’t sound very healthy for a smart phone, though I can imagine it might come in handy.
Here’s a nifty video of the “Morphees” in action.
There are a few different ways the researcher’s achieved this kind of movement. Some prototypes used wires attached to motors that pulled and pushed them. Others used memory wire, which reverts to its original shape when heated by running a current through the wire.
The research was led by Dr Anne Roudaut and Professor Sriram Subramanian from the University of Bristol. They have also introduced a new metric to help guide the developing industry – “shape resolution.” Like screen resolution, shape resolution allows different devices to be compared easily, measuring the ability to stretch, bend, curve and so on.
On a related note, researcher Roel Vertegaal from Queen’s University is working on thinfilm phones, called the world’s first paper computer. The work was presented at the same conference, CHI, in 2011. Here’s a quick video. Looks incredible.
Pretty keen to head over to the next CHI conference, which is in Toronto on April 26, 2014. Though it might be easier to get to the 2015 one in Asia, as it’s a bit closer to Australia. For more info on the conferences, check out the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction.
Sorry for the unscheduled downtime last week, all the issues have been sorted now (I think) and we’re back! Just in time for… A Schooner of Science’s fourth birthday! Hooray!
If you want to help me celebrate, why not buy me a beer? To date, the Schooner has been running on dreams and tap water, but I received a comment just recently from someone who wanted to donate to the blog. I was floored! Such kindness! So I’ve added a PayPal donation box in the right hand column to help A Schooner of Science stay afloat. Each beer purchased will improve the quality of this blog, by lubricating the brain and bubbling the soul (not to mention offsetting server costs). Cheers!
Each of the species is only found on one or a handful of hills, some of which have become limestone quarries. Pretty impressive, as a quarry is not a friendly habitat for an animal whose main predator is the boot.
As well as coming in a range of fancy colours, the new species are characterised by nothing less than the shape of their genitals. All from the Perrottetia aquilonaria has a club-shaped penis and penial hooks (sounds painful?), while P. dermapyrrhosa has a long penial sheath, long, scattered penial hooks and vaginal hooks.
It seems like snail penises are a common way to distinguish between species, and there must be quite an art to it. Take this rather lengthy description of P. aquilonaria’s junk.
“Genitalia with a long, slender penis; penial sheath short, about half of penis length; internal wall of introverted penis with black to brown penial hooks; vas deferens passes through a short section of penial sheath before connecting distally to penis; vagina and free oviduct short to long, vaginal hooks may be present; gametolytic duct and sac may not extend as far as albumin gland; seminal vesicle present with about the same length from vesicle to talon.”
If you click through to the complete article, published open-access on peer-reviewed ZooKeys, you can even see some pictures of penial hooks and vaginal corrugated folds. Come on, what else are you going to do with your day?
It all sounds rather saucy, and top-notch science research, but I got caught up on this idea of a carnivorous snail. I mean, what IS that? It sounds like something from an old Doctor Who episode, back when the creepy alien du jour was footage of maggots, zoomed in so they looked gigantic. These day’s it’s terrifying ghosts with their mouth all screamy and sideways and it looks like something from The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
They may not be lions and tigers, but carnivorous snails are nonetheless vicious. Some of the species we have in Australia are small and are probably in your garden right now, others are big black ones that live in the Victorian rainforest.
Carnivorous snails hunt other snails, following their slime trail until they catch up with them. Now, most snails have a tongue like a rasp, and they eat lettuce leaves and such by simply licking them away with their tongue-which-works-like-teeth. Carnivorous snails upsize the rasp for big-ass hooks, and when they catch up with their prey they give them a lick and stick their hooks in.
If you’ve ever poked a snail, you know they slip inside their shell and produce gross foam to stop you poking them (no means no). Unfortunately they try the same trick when they get licked by a carnivorous snail, and the attacker has already shoved its hooks in so the snail unwittingly sucks the hunter right into its shell with it. Then the predator just licks away until there’s nothing left.
Actually, that does sound like a creepy Doctor Who episode.
Carnivorous snails also hunt worms, hooking ‘em and eating ‘em like spaghetti. There’s a great discussion of carnivorous worms on land and sea here on the ABC Radio website.
The research was performed by Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and the Natural History Museum, London.
Siriboon, T., Sutcharit, C., Naggs, F., & Panha, S. (2013). Three new species of the carnivorous snail genus Perrottetia Kobelt, 1905 from Thailand (Pulmonata, Streptaxidae) ZooKeys, 287, 41-57 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.287.4572
What a year! I’ve been around the world (Canada, USA, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, England, Hong Kong) to be finally reunited with my kitty cat Phobos back in Adelaide, Australia. I know most pirates have a parrot, but I prefer my pets fluffy.
I had just over a month in my home town (during which time I haven’t blogged so much, as I was seeing everybody back home and the house I was staying in didn’t have internet access), and then had to move again. This time to Melbourne, a larger city full of trendy coffee shops, where my partner is studying at University.
It’s a seven hour drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, and the cat would be coming too. Oh dear. Phobos is not one for cars. Like me, she prefers fresh air and sunshine to exhaust and headlights. She’s not good at hiding her displeasure. On the short trips we’ve taken before, she spends the entire time mewling most heartbreakingly, building up into a reverberating crescendo of “RAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAAaaaawaaarrrrr” and then panting for air. It’s quite upsetting.
That, for seven hours? Forget it! So we went to the vet and got some cat sedatives.
The vet gave us some ACP 10mg tablets, the active ingredient is Acepromazine. It is used for pets, including cats, dogs and sometimes horses. In the UK it’s not allowed to be used in horses intended for human consumption, which is hilarious in light of all the ruckus lately about humans eating horses without intending to. Perhaps a little anti-anxiety medication in the “steaks” would not have gone awry?
I shouldn’t jest, I was in the UK when the story broke and I’m pretty sure I accidentally ate horse. I must remember not to eat meat in the UK… you’d think we’d remember that from the mad cow outbreak in the 80′s. Speaking of mad cow, the fourth case in the US was identified in April 2012 in California, perhaps a month before I was there last year. Sure, it was in a dairy cow and bovine spongiform encephalopathy is not passed on by milk, but still…
Anyway, back to the cat! I gave her one tablet and within 15 minutes it had kicked in. Her eyes became unfocused and her third eyelids crept up. I’m glad the vet warned me of that one, it looked creepy – a layer of pinkish white arising from the corner of her nose and covering about a third of her eyes. The third eyelid has a protective function and it’s visible if the eye is injured, as a side effect of sedation, and during deep sleep.
Next she lost some motor control of her back legs and tail, like she had to move her whole hips to get her legs to move forward. Later she would start stepping backwards when she tried to curl into a ball, until she hit a wall and then stopped. She looked like a cowboy kitty.
The real test was when we got her in the car. She had a halfhearted meow or two, tried to look out the window, and then sat on my lap and rested quite peacefully. Acepromazine is an anti-anxiety drug, and she really didn’t seem anxious at all. Every hour or so she’d go for a little walk across our lap and quickly get worn out and go back to sitting with us or sleeping.
So it seemed good to me. She seemed less stressed.As we were driving, and it’s a long drive, the topic changed to how much easier it was for the cat to be calm, not really for us but mostly for Phobos herself. What about with kids, then? We both knew that some kids are pretty loud and upset on plane flights (not all, but some), and we’ve heard of people who sedate their children with some cough medicine (or even stronger stuff.) It seems pretty unethical to me, on first glance and being childless myself. So why is it different to sedate a cat?
Perhaps it’s partly an age thing… I’m not sure I would sedate a kitten, for example. I have no problem with adult humans sedating themselves on flights, in fact I have a friend who does it due to extreme anxiety and sinus pain. But that’s also a question of consent, and even a grown cat can’t consent to taking drugs.
The next logical step in this conversation was “Do cat sedatives work on humans too?” And now I’m settled in Melbourne with high speed cable internet, I can tell you the answer for Acepromazine is yes, as it was used as an antipsychotic in humans during the 1950′s. However, it is no longer used in humans, and one of the reason’s that it is prescribed by vets is because it is much less likely to be misused recreationally than a morphine-based drug.Although it’s no longer used as an antipsychotic, the closely related Chlorpromazine is. Chlorpromazine (or Thorazine in the US) has been used since the 1950′s, about the same time that Acepromazine was briefly used. The drug became very popular and was aggressively marketed, but it’s far from perfect. It’s one of the drugs given to patients in Ken Kesey’s book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That book is very critical of society’s reliance on drugs, and the overuse of medication to control mood and make patients compliant.
I agree, I think there is an overprescription of behavioural and mood drugs. All drugs have side-effects, and they should be taken seriously – especially if someone is taking a drug long-term. Also, in my opinion, western society today has a particularly strict view on “normal” and people who don’t fit in with the norm are medicalised.
Chlorpromazine is still used long-term as a treatment for schizophrenia, and I’d rather not give an opinion on that because it’s such a complex issue. However, a long-term usage as prescribed by doctors is surely different to the descriptions in One Flew which was decades ago, very extreme, and let’s not forget, fictional. Both are different again to a short-term one-dose of the closely related Acepromazine to a cat.
It’s hard (often impossible) to know what’s happening in an animal’s head. Hell, it’s hard enough to know what’s happening in your own head sometimes! It’s entirely possible that she hated the experience, that she felt vulnerable and dissociated and confused – but there’s no evidence that this was the case. However, I do know (as far as it is possible to know) that she hates being in a car when she’s not sedated because she cries and cries. So for such a long journey I think the benefits outweighed the risks.
Altogether, I was pleased with Acepromazine. Phobos has completely recovered and is back to her usual inquisitive, scampering self.
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