It is well known that many of the permanent inhabitants of caves have evolved a bizarre, convergent morphology, including loss of eyes and pigment, elongation and thinning of appendages, and other adaptations to conditions of complete darkness and scarce food.
Biomechanics is the study of how animals move. It’s a very broad field, including concepts such as how muscles are used, and even how the timing of respiration is associated with moving. Biomechanics can date its beginnings back to the 1600s, when Giovanni Alfonso Borelli first began investigating animal movements. More detailed analyses by pioneers such as Etienne Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, in around the late 1800s started examining the individual frames of videos of moving animals.
Time is running short. When the IPCC published its first scientific report in 1990 on the possibility of human-caused global warming, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) was 354 ppm. It is now 397 ppm and rising. In spite of Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Doha, atmospheric CO2 continues its inexorable upward path.
It pays to be nice. One of the most absolutely, emphatically wrong hypotheses about the oceans was coined by one of the most carefree and amiable people in nineteenth century science. It should have sunk his reputation without trace. Yet, it did not.
It is likely that most ecologists have their own stories regarding the annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the world’s largest organization of professional ecologists. Some revere it, whereas others may criticize it. There is, however, truth in numbers—growth in attendance has been seemingly exponential since my first meeting in the early 1980’s.
Films trick our senses in many ways. Most fundamentally, there’s the illusion of motion as “moving pictures” don’t really move at all. Static images shown at a rate of 24 frames per second can give the semblance of motion. Slower frame rates tend to make movements appear choppy or jittery. But film advancing at about 24 frames per second gives us a sufficient impression of fluid motion.
By John Archibald
We humans have a love-hate relationship with bugs. I’m not talking about insects — although many of us cringe at the thought of them too — but rather the bugs we can’t see, the ones that make us sick. Sure, microorganisms give us beer, wine, cheese, and yoghurt; hardly a day goes by without most people consuming food or drink produced by microbial fermentation.
By William Hoffman
In pondering how rapidly animal, plant, microbial, viral, and human genetic and regulatory sequences travel around the world over wireless and fiber optic networks, I’m transported back to the sci-fi movie The Fly I watched as a boy. Released in 1958, the film was based on a story George Langelaan published in Playboy.
By Laura Kelley and Jennifer Kelley
Visual illusions, such as the rabbit-duck (shown below) and café wall are fascinating because they remind us of the discrepancy between perception and reality. But our knowledge of such illusions has been largely limited to studying humans.
By Mary Blair
Slow lorises are enigmatic nocturnal primates that are notoriously difficult to find in the wild. The five species of slow loris that have been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species are classified as threatened or critically endangered with extinction. So, how did one end up recently on the set of Lady Gaga’s music video?
By Kersten Hall
It is a safe bet that the name of Pierre Rolland rings very few bells among the British public. In 2012, Rolland, riding for Team Europcar finished in eighth place in the overall final classifications of the Tour de France whilst Sir Bradley Wiggins has since become a household name following his fantastic achievement of being the first British person ever to win the most famous cycle race in the world.
By Charles Sheppard
Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystem in the sea. In some ways they are very robust marine ecosystems, but in other ways, perhaps because of their huge numbers of species, they are very delicate and susceptible to being damaged or killed. On the one hand, healthy reefs are glorious riots of life, and marine scientists have spent several decades unravelling the complicated ways in which they work. On the other hand, at least one third of the world’s reefs have already died – gone for ever in terms of human lifetimes at least – even when the cause of their demise is lifted.
By Rachael A. Bay
For tigers, visiting your neighbor is just not as easy as it used to be. Centuries ago, tigers roamed freely across the landscape from India to Indonesia and even as far north as Russia. Today, tigers inhabit is just 7% of that historical range. And that 7% is distributed in tiny patches across thousands of kilometers.
By Tom McLeish
There is a pressing need to re-establish a cultural narrative for science. At present we lack a public understanding of the purpose of this deeply human endeavour to understand the natural world. In debate around scientific issues, and even in the education and presentation of science itself, we tend to overemphasise the most recent findings, and project a culture of expertise.
In the reality-based community outside of Washington D.C. there is a growing fear and increasing disbelief about the failure to take climate change seriously. Many who once put their faith in science and reason have come to the depressing conclusion that we will only take action if nature slaps us silly; they increasingly see hurricanes and droughts as the only hope.
By David Tarkhnishvili
Rapid development of molecular genetics in recent decades has revolutionized our understanding of life and the natural world. Scientists in the 1970s suggested that the grey wolf might be the sole ancestor of domestic dogs, but it was only in 1997 that Carles Vilà, Peter Savolainen, Robert Wayne, and their co-authors provided the conclusive evidence on this based on the analysis of molecular genetic markers.