Tag Archive: biology


Fremen from Arrakis, and the movie Dune, in their stillsuits

Fremen from Arrakis, shown in the movie Dune, wearing their stillsuits

Recently my mind has turned to the problem of excessive humidity – not because I’m suffering from it currently, but because I was curious as to how an algae-based CO2 scrubber could be used without having to live in a near 100% humidity environment!  This was, apparently, one of the issues with the algae biocoil in the Biosub project.  In the end, I blew through a tube and got dizzy – here’s why.

Continue reading

Certain caterpillars and lizards have an amazing escape strategy – when startled, they’ll suddenly snap into action, curling into a wheel shape and rolling at proportionally breakneak speeds away from danger.  1G of acceleration, and over 200RPM.  Zoom!  This unusual movement method (specifically the non-gravity-assisted version) is the one that the above video (of the GoQBot) is designed to imitate.

So once again, science imitates nature, and discovers more amazing secrets – and yet some aspects are still a mystery.  How does a mere caterpillar generate as much force as a leaping locust with its soft, flabby body?  Yet to be discovered.  But GoQBot, by Huai-Ti Lin, Gary G Leisk and Barry Trimmer, is already incredibly impressive.

Pyrocycstis lunula algae viewed under a USB microscope

Pyrocycstis lunula algae viewed under a USB microscope

Ok, I need you to squint a little at the photograph above – look for a vaguely crescent-moon shaped outline, with a yellowy-whiteish blob in the middle.  Found one?  That’s a Pyrocycstis Lunula alga!  They’re about 0.1mm to 0.14mm in length, and they’re one of the bioluminescent algae strains that I’ve been culturing.

Continue reading

Cyber-Monkeys Love Marshmallows

No really, they do.  If you’re at all squeemish about certain kinds of animal testing, then this isn’t for you.  For everyone else, there are several more videos of monkeys with microelectrode arrays implanted in their brains, able to feed themselves marshmallows, or do other tasks, with various different attached robotic arms.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Motorlab is the source, and according to someone on Reddit, they’ll be trying human trials very soon, offering spinal cord injury patients the hope of controlling robotic arms of their own.  Of course, human trials are always very cautious, delicate, things, so don’t go expecting anime style neuro-plugged mech suits quite yet.

How excited am I allowed to be about this, without getting sectioned?  Ah, who cares.  The video above shows the operation of a computer controlled bioreactor and integrated vending machine for spirulina – a form of blue-green algae and all round science celebrity!

Continue reading

Penellus Stipticus, a bioluminescent fungus or foxfire fungus.

A Glowing Encrustation of Penellus Stipticus

Sometimes those crazy things we see in games which are too good to be true, have more than an ounce of truth in them.  Those CG scenes of Pandora that so wowed 3d audiences showing an alien landscape more alive in the dark, than during the day – had some small element of more terrestrial lifeforms at their heart.  Bioluminescent fungi like Panellus Stipticus.

Continue reading

Even Silkworms Are What They Eat

Fluorescent silk cocoons fluorescing under UV light

Fluorescent silk cocoons fluorescing under UV light

If you ever did that experiment where you left cut white carnations in tinted water until the flowers were edged with color, then you’ll understand what Dr. Natalia Tansil and her team at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering have been doing with silkworms.

Continue reading