The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘science and technology’ Category

Crocs for dinner. Whole ones.

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From Colombia, a snake story to remember:
clipped from www.npr.org
Artist's interpretation of how Titanoboa might have looked.Morning Edition, February 5, 2009 · The largest known snake that ever lived grew as long as a school bus, was 3 feet thick, weighed over a ton and ate crocodiles — presumably whole and al dente.

Not to worry: Titanoboa cerrejonensis lived 60 million years ago and is extinct. But for some 20 million years after the dinosaurs disappeared, this 42-foot serpent ruled the land.

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Titanoboa vertebra dwarfs an anaconda vertebra.A vertabra from the Titanoboa dwarfs that of an adult Green anaconda.

Cold-blooded animals such as snakes require warm climates to grow large. The Titanoboa’s size suggests that the average temperature once was considerably higher than it is now.

Python crawling over Titanoboa vertebra.Enlarge A live python crawls over the enormous vertebra of Titanoboa.

Head points out that a cold-blooded animal that big would have had to live in a very hot place to survive […] several degrees warmer than the [current] tropical average and […] warmer than scientists believed the tropics ever got […] even during ancient periods of greenhouse warming […]

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See the whole story at the NPR link.

Stands to reason, I suppose, that if global warming is happening anything like majority scientists believe it to be, reptiles in some parts of the world will grow larger again.

And then there’ll be snake stories to tell. Let’s see: what reptiles do you think would become huge first?


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February 5, 2009 at 11:42 am

Water-filled glasses, adjustable for anyone, may change 3rd-world life

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Check out this brilliant invention: These water-filled lenses can be produced by the millions and adjusted on-site by the users themselves, many of whom stand less than a one in a million chance of ever visiting with an optometrist.
clipped from www.core77.com

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British inventor Josh Silver, a former professor of physics at Oxford University, has come up with a game-changer of a product design with his water-lensed glasses.[…]
Inside the device’s tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. […]

[W]ith very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription […]
Silver’s goal is to help the hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who suffer from poor eyesight […]
[I]n Ghana, Silver met a man … who had been forced to retire as a tailor because he could no longer see to thread the needle … He was about 35…
“We put these specs on him, and he smiled, and threaded his needle, and sped up with this sewing machine. He can work now. He can see …”
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Life-changing, don’t you think?


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January 2, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Web-surfing helps brain; may fight Alzheimer’s!

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“What’s that, my sweet? No, sorry! Can’t help right now. Taking care of the old brain, you know.'”

clipped from www.msnbc.msn.com

For middle-aged and older adults, searching the Internet could be a boost to the brain, a new study suggests.

[Researchers studied] volunteers between the ages of 55 and 76 as they searched the Internet. Half of the participants had experience surfing the Web, while the others did not […]
All the study participants showed significant brain activity during the book-reading task […]
But Internet searches revealed differences between the two groups. While all the participants showed the same activity as during the book-reading, the Web-savvy group also registered activity in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain, whereas those new to the net did not. (These areas of the brain control decision-making and complex reasoning.) […]
“Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading — but only in those with prior Internet experience,” […]

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October 16, 2008 at 11:45 am