Page 7 - Science Facts

There was a time when a cleaning lady was one of only two people to know the sun was not near the center of the Milky Way!

Harlow Shapley was an American astronomer who lived from 1885 to 1972. His effect on science isn’t widely known outside of scientific circles, but he certainly had a great one.

He was one of the first to suggest the habitable or goldilocks zone for planets which he called the “liquid water belt.” But what he is most known for is correctly estimating the size of the Milky Way and the sun’s place within it.

This great accomplishment came when Shapley was working to determine distances to globular clusters under a fellowship at Princeton.

The discovery came when he was working late one night. He was so excited that he knew he had to share it with someone, so he found the only other person in the building: a cleaning lady.

The two stood looking at his graph as he explained that they were the only two people on Earth who understood that humanity lives, not near the center of a small star system, but in the suburbs of a vast wheel of stars.


A hybrot, or hybrid robot, is part nature, part machine, connecting neurons to a robot!

It may seem like science fiction, but scientists have found a way to create a cybernetic organism in the form of a robot that's controlled by a computer that uses electric and biological parts!

This has been going on since 1993, and so far the biological components have been mostly rat neurons.

The reason this came about was not to build a terminator or avatar. Actually, Steve Potter, the researcher who led the group that came up with the idea for hybrots, did it to better understand how neurons learn.

Previously, traditional, isolated cultured networks wouldn't work very well because the neurons didn't receive any data; they would only output data.

He decided to provide a body for the neurons early in his research, first in computer simulation and then in reality, so that neurons would have feedback.

In that way, if the cells learned, he and his group might observe the changes that came about in the network.

"People say learning is a change in behavior that comes from experience," he said. "For a cultured network to learn, it must first be able to behave."

As the robot moves, it functions as a sensory system, delivering feedback to the neurons through the electrodes. For example, the robot has sensors for light and feeds electrical signals proportional to the light back to the electrodes.

Said Potter: "We return information to the dish on the intensity of light as the robot gets closer and the light gets brighter."


Music affects plant growth, and now we may know why! Not all music has the same effect, though...

Studies in the 60s and 70s showed that plants respond to music.

Different kinds caused different effects. Plants responded best to classical and Indian devotional music.In a controlled environment, plants exposed to these kinds of music had lush and abundant growth and good root development.

Exposure to country music or silence brought about no abnormal growth reaction, while jazz produced more abundant growth.

Plants that listened to rock did pretty poorly, showing signs that they were in the dying stage. Plants exposed solely to white noise died quickly.

Recently, researchers have found genes in rice that are expressed more strongly when listening to Beethoven's Midnight Sonata. The results of these studies suggests that plants can somehow "hear."

It was further found that the genes were more active when exposed to frequencies from 125Hz to 250Hz, while the genes were less responsive to frequencies of 50Hz.

Some are skeptical of the result, though. Several different factors could have led to the genes being more expressive. Wind is an example. The study took into account sunlight by experimenting in light and darkness, so that was ruled out.


Some awesome lists!

This fungus, discovered in the jungles of Ecuador, can live on polyurethane alone and might be the solution to plastic waste!

Countless items are made of common plastic, and it used to be a known fact that all items made from plastic and discarded would still be in tact for generations to come. This is because plastic does not disintegrate or decompose on, or in, landfills.

But now it has met its match! A fungus was discovered that will happily 'eat' plastic and can live on it alone. What's even better is that it can do so in anaerobic (oxygen free) environments—like at the bottom of a landfill.

The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, are the first anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone. It was discovered in the jungles of Ecuador by students from Yale University, while on the University's annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory.

Student Pria Anand recorded the fungi's amazing behavior and Jonathan Russell isolated the enzymes that allow it to 'eat' polyurethane. They published their findings, concluding the microbe is "a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation."

We may soon have fields of fungi digesting anything from unwanted garden hoses to garden furniture and out-dated shoes – which is a much more pleasing thought than being outlived by something you threw away!


Maybe you've heard of Blood Moons and Harvest moons, but do you know why they're called that?

For years people have been calling the closest full moon to the fall equinox the Harvest moon. This is the time of year when crops were being harvested, and the moon allowed them to work longer into the night to get what they needed for winter.

The moon rises around sunset when there's a full moon, and usually rises around 50 minutes later each day after. In the days following the Harvest and Hunter's moons, that time is only 30 minutes, meaning there were more days in a row when farmers could take advantage of the additional sunlight.

The origin of the Hunter's moon, or blood moon, is a bit more interesting. This moon appears orange or red due to where it is on the horizon which has led to the latter of the two names. The reason it's called the Hunter's moon is pretty similar to the Harvest moon, though.

The Hunter's moon is always the first full moon after the Harvest moon. While the Harvest moon got its name from additional harvesting, the Hunter's moon got its name because there was more time to hunt. Since it was after harvest time, it gave people the ability to hunt more effectively later into the night.

Of course, there is a lot of folklore surrounding the Hunter's or blood moon. If you're superstitious, it might be beneficial to light some candles in the moon's name.



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