Search results for: fruit flies

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Fruit Flies Evolve The Ability To Count

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Well it turns out that fruit flies can count. But before you star throwing out all sorts of arithmetic problems at the little buggers circling your food waste bin, it isn’t all fruit flies. A team of geneticists have specifically bred a strain of fruit flies with the ability to count.

Fruit Fly

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How Do Flies Fly So Well? Calculus.

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fruit flyCalculus remains the hardest class I’ve ever taken in my life. Senior year, for some ungodly reason, I decided to try my hand at AP Calculus, probably because it seemed like I should. Chemistry was fun, and even physics wasn’t too bad, so how hard could calculus be? I remember the day our teacher taught — or in my case, tried to teach — u substitution. He might as well have been speaking in Greek (or, if he wanted to be awesome, in Klingon). I had absolutely no idea what was going on, and only passed the class because of my teacher’s sympathy and my abundance of extra credit. I’m pretty humbled to learn that flies with their teeny-tiny brains can do something I never could: perform calculus, and quickly.

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Bats Jam Each Other’s Signals

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Technology mimics nature all the time, though usually intentionally. Scientists were surprised when they recently learned that bats jam each other’s sonar when they compete for food. No, it’s not some NSA hijinks or animal cyborg project — it’s actually a skill bats have adapted over time, and it’s pretty impressive.

As you probably know, bats use sonar, or echolocation, to maneuver in their pitch-black caves and to catch prey in total darkness. In fact, they also use sonar to distinguish between surfaces, such as water.

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Space Travel May Mess With Your Fertility, Here’s How

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ShatnerAstronauts have the job with the highest highs and the lowest lows. They’re hailed as heroes, they get to look upon Earth, that pale blue dot, see the sun “rise” or “set” every 45 minutes, and bounce around in zero gravity. But, as we saw in Gravity, pretty much anything and everything they do is dangerous enough to kill them. Even if a mission is entirely successful, their bodies suffer simply from being in space—their immune systems become weaker, their bone density decreases, their muscles begin to atrophy, and their cells age more quickly, primarily due to lack of gravity. Scientists are beginning to study effects of radiation exposure as well, using twins, but suffice it to say, that probably doesn’t help astronauts either. Now NASA is afraid that being in space may reduce an astronaut’s fertility, and has even begun offering to freeze astronauts’ sperm and eggs before they head into the cosmos.

Russia sent up some geckos to see how microgravity affects their sexual activity, but alas, they died before they could have any fun. But the fruit flies made it (and had sex), and there are mice on the ISS right now, so scientists should be able to conduct more in-depth studies on the effects of microgravity, as well as radiation, on both male and female reproductive organs. But scientists are worried that the results might pose a major problem for future Mars colonies.

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Russian Geckos Die Before They Can Have Sex In Space

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gecko spaceOn July 19, Russia’s Institute of Medico-Biological Problems launched the Foton-M4, a research satellite that contained geckos, fruit flies, mushrooms, and bacteria. They wanted to see what the effects of microgravity would have on these species, particularly on their sexual behavior. No one really knows how reproduction works—or if it works—in space, so before we send people up there, it makes sense for other animals to give it a whirl first. Five days later, the Foton-M4 stopped responding to commands, prompting concern for the geckos, whose equipment was working in automatic mode.

The craft never reached its intended orbit. Communication was reestablished roughly a week later, and program officials were confident that the geckos would be okay. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case. The satellitereentered Earth’s atmosphere this weekend—a few weeks ahead of the planned return—and when scientists opened the gecko capsule, they were all dead. And what’s even sadder, they never even got to have sex in space.

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Human Suspended Animation Trials Are Set To Begin

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suspended animationBears will tell you hibernation is the best way to weather a brutal winter. It may also be the best way to make it through long-distance spaceflights or to survive life-threatening injuries. Researchers have figured out ways to induce suspended animation in worms, frogs, fruit flies, and pigs, and will soon conduct human trials.

While this may eventually become a way to get humans to the far-flung corners of the galaxy, Pittsburgh’s UPMC Presbyterian Hospital is experimenting with the technique to save lives. Placing injured patients in suspended animation is a way to buy time. The human body can’t last long—only a few minutes—without blood pumping to its organs, but suspended animation might increase survival time. Rather than externally lowering the patient’s body temperature, this trial involves replacing blood with a cooled down saline solution. This will slow down body functions and cellular activity, which also makes the body less dependent on oxygen.