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« Science: April 2008 | Main | Science: June 2008 »

Science

Real Life ROUSes

Ugh.

For tens of thousands of years, the birds of Gough Island lived unmolested, without predators on a remote outcrop in the south Atlantic.

Today, the British-owned island, described as the home of the most important seabird colony in the world, still hosts 22 breeding species and is a world heritage site.

But as a terrible consequence of the first whalers making landfall there 150 years ago, Gough has become the stage for one of nature's great horror shows. Mice stowed away on the whaling boats jumped ship and have since multiplied to 700,000 or more on an island of about 25 square miles.

What is horrifying ornithologists is that the British house mouse has somehow evolved, growing to up to three times the size of ordinary domestic house mice, and instead of surviving on a diet of insects and seeds, has adapted itself to become a carnivore, eating albatross, petrel and shearwater chicks alive in their nests. They are now believed to be the largest mice in the world. Yesterday Birdlife International, a global alliance of conservation groups, recognised that the mice, who are without predators themselves, are out of control and threatening to make extinct several of the world's rarest bird species.

...

"The albatross chicks weigh 10 kilograms. They evolved on Gough because it had no mammal predators - that is why they are so vulnerable. The mice weigh 35 grammes; it is like a tabby cat attacking a hippopotamus," said Hilton.


By min | May 20, 2008, 3:31 PM | Science | Comments (2)| Link



Carbon Nanotubes - the Next Asbestos?

First, please note how kewl "nanotubes" makes anything sound. That is all. Now onto the serious stuff.

Scientists have warned that carbon nanotubes could pose a cancer risk similar to that of asbestos. They say the government should restrict the use of the materials, which are included in a variety of consumer products, to protect human health.

In most products containing nanotubes, such as car body panels, tennis rackets, yacht masts and bike frames, the fibres are embedded in composite materials, which provide strength and lightness. In this form they are likely to be relatively harmless. But the researchers said further studies were necessary to confirm that -- it was not good enough to simply assume that people could not be exposed to carbon nanotubes embedded in materials.

...

"This is a reason for concern," said Anthony Seaton, a professor and expert in asbestos-related diseases, working at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh. "Asbestos started in the same way -- it had thousands of applications and people used it experimentally. It became very widespread, almost ubiquitous."

The similarity between the size and structure of carbon nanotubes and asbestos fibres has always placed a question mark over how the former could affect lungs. The new research shows that, in mice, the tubes, like abestos, cause inflammation of the mesothelium, the slippery membrane that surrounds lungs and other bodily organs. With asbestos fibres, the inflammation is a stage leading towards the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. It typically takes 20 to 50 years for the cancer to develop following exposure to asbestos fibres.

The researchers, who report the development in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, compared the effects of short and long nanotubes. With asbestos, stiff fibres about 10 micrometres in length (100 times smaller than a milimetre) are harmless because immune cells can engulf them and safely remove them. Stiff fibres longer than 15-20 micrometres are too big for the cells to handle and their presence provokes an inflammatory response. The researchers confirmed that carbon nanotubes seemed to have the same effect.

Thank god they so efficiently came up with an asbestos replacement. Although there is still some concern of encountering asbestos in older buildings and schools and such, you don't really hear much about it nowadays. I was afraid we'd get off too easy.

Oh, science. Is everything you make deadly?


By min | May 20, 2008, 2:55 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



I thought this guy was supposed to be smart

PZ Meyers on Ben Stein:

I can't believe what an idiot this man is; it's not just that he's ignorant, but that he has these bizarrely inappropriate notions about biology. He complains about "Darwinism" because it doesn't explain why are there laws of gravity and thermodynamics, or where physics and gravity come from.

By fnord12 | May 17, 2008, 12:59 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (4)| Link



Er...Ah....Yeah...

Lingerie maker Triumph International Japan Ltd unveiled its environmentally friendly, and green colored, "Solar Power Bra" on Wednesday in Tokyo which features a solar panel worn around the stomach.

The panel requires light to generate electricity and the concept bra will not be in stores anytime soon, said Triumph spokeswoman Yoshiko Masuda, as "people usually can not go outside without wearing clothes over it."

Elsewhere, i read that the bras also have pads that can be used to hold beverages "so that the usage of cans and plastic bottles can be reduced". Oy.


By min | May 15, 2008, 3:10 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



G-Dog

Engadget blurb

And you don't have to constantly rush home to let this dog out.


By min | May 12, 2008, 2:27 PM | Science | Comments (1)| Link



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