Friday, January 30, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

JellyFish are immortal : The Only Known Species to Live Forever

While the humans have been looking for the elixir of life throughout every period of history, it appears that there is one species of jellyfish that are actually immortal. Turritopsis nutricula, or sometimes – Turritopsis dohrnii, is able to transform its cells from mature state back to immaturity, in other words – back to youth. The medusa leads a regular cycle of life, but after maturing and mating, it reverts back to its initial state – a polyp colony. The process is referred to as “transdifferentiation”, and it basically makes the jellyfish unable to die.
The bell-shaped immortal jellyfish measures up to a maximum of bout 4.5 millimeters (0.18 in) and is about the same in its length and width. Originating in the Caribbean, it has now spread worldwide, and the discovery of its unique ability has heated up many discussions among the scientists. Some claim that their mystery is soon to be solved and applied to humans, while others only expect it to improve the quality of life at our final stages. Either way, knowing that something out there goes back and forth from being young to old to young again, blows your mind!

Sources: wikipedia, NY Times

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Out of body Experience

Are out-of-body experiences valid? Dr. Crookall at the University of Aberdeen has written 9 books on out-of-body cases due to the overwhelming amount of evidence in their favour. A survey of 380 Oxford students showed that 34% had an OBE. A separate survey of 902 adults revealed that 8% have had an OBE. In a study of 44 non-Western societies, only 3 did not hold a belief in OBEs. Another study showed that out of 488 world societies, 89% had at least some tradition regarding OBEs. So this phenomenon is familiar and lots of people claimed to have experienced it before, but is there any scientific credibility to this phenomenon? 

A fascinating experiment was done by Dr. Charles Tart, who was a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California. He had also served as a Visiting Professor in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and as an Instructor in Psychiatry at the School of Medicine of the University of Virginia. A study he published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research may be the most infamous OBE study ever done. He documented the out-of-body experience of a young woman who was one of his research subjects. She was in a room with nothing but a bed, a shelf, a clock, and an observation window where Dr. Tart observed from another room. She also had electrical devices hooked up to her head to detect brain wave activities, which can be seen in the diagram below. 

What makes this particular out-of-body experience remarkable is that she was able to leave her physical body as Dr. Tart watched from the other room and read a 5-digit number of 25132 off of a piece of paper that was on a shelf in the corner of the room. The number was at a significant distance above the bed so that she would not be able to read the number even if she was standing, and she reported seeing the correct number him upon return to her physical body which remained attached to the bed as she was being watched. EEGs, REMs, and galvanic skin response were all recorded before and during her OBE which indicated a significant alteration in the readings during the time she left her body. Her OBE a good example of “veridical perception” which is where verified events are observed while in an out-of-body state. 

As Dr. Tart concluded: “While the physiological data are limited by dependence on her retrospective report in correlating physiological pattern with the experience, it seems as if her out-of-body experiences occurred in conjunction with a non-dreaming, non-awake brain wave stage characterized by predominant slowed alpha activity from her brain and no activation of the autonomic nervous system. Two incidents occurring in the laboratory provide suggestive evidence that the out of-the-body experiences had parapsychological concomitants. In summary, this brief study found a fairly clear-cut correlation between several of Miss Z’s reported OOB experiences and a physiological pattern characterized by a flattened EEG with prominent alphoid activity, no REM or skin resistance activity, and normal heart rate”. 

This is huge, because not only does it show that the experience of leaving your body is correlated with abnormal changes in brain-body activities, the test subject was also able to go and read a 5 digit number. She also reported the correct positioning of the piece of paper that had the number on it, which as flat on the shelf as opposed to leaning against the wall which is what she was expecting. By the way, the odds of guessing a 5 digit number first try are less than 1 in 59000, so to claim that she just so happened to guess it right on her first try is out of the question. I have had 2 out-of-body experiences myself, one of which I observed real events happening in a different location in my house, so I can personally testify to their validity. 

I saw exactly what my dad was doing and wearing, and I saw exactly what was on television at the time, all of which were verified to be true after I awoke. What skeptics are really good at is leaving out pieces of evidence that they can’t explain, and point to how some scientific studies have replicated the feeling of being out-of-body by some virtual means. There is a difference between the illusion of being somewhere else, and actually seeing real events happening in locations that your physical body has absolutely no access to. This study is another piece of evidence that gives serious scientific credibility to the idea of a soul. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Tardigrades (also known as water-bears or moss piglets) are water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals, with eight legs.

They were first described by the German pastor Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773. The name Tardigrada (meaning "slow stepper") was given three years later by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani. Since 1778, over 1,150 tardigrade species have been identified.

Tardigrades can survive in extreme environments. For example, they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for more than 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to re-hydrate, forage, and reproduce. They are not considered extremophile because they are not adapted to live in these conditions. Their chances of dying increase the longer they are exposed to the extreme environments,[5] whereas extremophiles are organisms that can thrive in a physically or geo-chemically extreme condition that would be detrimental to most life on Earth.

Usually, tardigrades are about 0.5 mm (0.020 in) long when they are fully grown. They are short and plump with four pairs of legs, each with four to eight claws also known as "disks". The animals are prevalent in mosses and lichens and feed on plant cells, algae, and small invertebrates. When collected, they may be viewed under a very-low-power microscope, making them accessible to students and amateur scientists.

Tardigrades form the phylum Tardigrada, part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. It is an ancient group, with fossils dating from 530 million years ago, in the Cambrian period.

Johann August Ephraim Goeze originally named the tardigrade kleiner Wasserbär (Bärtierchen today), meaning 'little water bear' in German. The name Tardigrada means "slow walker" and was given by Lazzaro Spallanzani in 1776. The name water bear comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear's gait. The biggest adults may reach a body length of 1.5 mm (0.059 in), the smallest below 0.1 mm. Newly hatched tardigrades may be smaller than 0.05 mm.

About 1,150 species of tardigrades have been described. Tardigrades occur throughout the world, from the Himalayas (above 6,000 m (20,000 ft)), to the deep sea (below 4,000 m (13,000 ft)) and from the polar regions to the equator.

The most convenient place to find tardigrades is on lichens and mosses. Other environments are dunes, beaches, soil, and marine or freshwater sediments, where they may occur quite frequently (up to 25,000 animals per liter). Tardigrades often can be found by soaking a piece of moss in water.

Anatomy and morphology
Tardigrades have barrel-shaped bodies with four pairs of stubby, poorly articulated legs. Most range from 0.3 to 0.5 mm (0.012 to 0.020 in) in length, although the largest species may reach 1.2 mm (0.047 in). The body consists of a head, three body segments with a pair of legs each, and a caudal segment with a fourth pair of legs. The legs are without joints while the feet have four to eight claws each. The cuticle contains chitin and protein and is moulted periodically.

Tardigrades are eutelic, meaning all adult tardigrades of the same species have the same number of cells. Some species have as many as 40,000 cells in each adult, while others have far fewer.

The body cavity consists of a haemocoel, but the only place where a true coelom can be found is around the gonad. There are no respiratory organs, with gas exchange able to occur across the whole of the body. Some tardigrades have three tubular glands associated with the rectum; these may be excretory organs similar to the Malpighian tubules of arthropods, although the details remain unclear.

The tubular mouth is armed with stylets, which are used to pierce the plant cells, algae, or small invertebrates on which the tardigrades feed, releasing the body fluids or cell contents. The mouth opens into a triradiate, muscular, sucking pharynx. The stylets are lost when the animal molts, and a new pair is secreted from a pair of glands that lie on either side of the mouth. The pharynx connects to a short esophagus, and then to an intestine that occupies much of the length of the body, which is the main site of digestion. The intestine opens, via a short rectum, to an anus located at the terminal end of the body. Some species only defecate when they molt, leaving the feces behind with the shed cuticle.

The brain includes multiple lobes, mostly consisting of three bilaterally paired clusters of neurons. The brain is attached to a large ganglion below the esophagus, from which a double ventral nerve cord runs the length of the body. The cord possesses one ganglion per segment, each of which produces lateral nerve fibres that run into the limbs. Many species possess a pair of rhabdomeric pigment-cup eyes, and there are numerous sensory bristles on the head and body.

Tardigrades all possess a buccopharyngeal apparatus, which, along with the claws, is used to differentiate among species.

Although some species are parthenogenetic, both males and females are usually present, each with a single gonad located above the intestine. Two ducts run from the testis in males, opening through a single pore in front of the anus. In contrast, females have a single duct opening either just above the anus or directly into the rectum, which thus forms a cloaca.

Tardigrades are oviparous, and fertilization is usually external. Mating occurs during the molt with the eggs being laid inside the shed cuticle of the female and then covered with sperm. A few species have internal fertilization, with mating occurring before the female fully sheds her cuticle. In most cases, the eggs are left inside the shed cuticle to develop, but some attach them to nearby substrate.

The eggs hatch after no more than 14 days, with the young already possessing their full complement of adult cells. Growth to the adult size therefore occurs by enlargement of the individual cells (hypertrophy), rather than by cell division. Tardigrades may molt up to 12 times.

Ecology and life history
[icon] This section requires expansion. (November 2014)
Most tardigrades are phytophagous (plant eaters) or bacteriophagous (bacteria eaters), but some are predatory (e.g., Milnesium tardigradum).

Scientists have reported tardigrades in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, and in ocean sediments. Many species can be found in milder environments such as lakes, ponds, and meadows, while others can be found in stone walls and roofs. Tardigrades are most common in moist environments, but can stay active wherever they can retain at least some moisture.

Hypsibius dujardini imaged with a scanning electron microscope
Tardigrades are one of the few groups of species that are capable of reversibly suspending their metabolism and going into a state of cryptobiosis. Several species regularly survive in a dehydrated state for nearly 10 years. Depending on the environment, they may enter this state via anhydrobiosis, cryobiosis, osmobiosis, or anoxybiosis. While in this state, their metabolism lowers to less than 0.01% of normal and their water content can drop to 1% of normal. Their ability to remain desiccated for such a long period is largely dependent on the high levels of the nonreducing sugar trehalose, which protects their membranes. In this cryptobiotic state, the tardigrade is known as a tun.[25]

Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal, including:

Temperature – tardigrades can survive being heated for a few minutes to 151 °C (304 °F),[26] or being chilled for days at −200 °C (-328 °F).[26] Some can even survive cooling to −272 °C (~1 degree above absolute zero or -458 °F)[27] for a few minutes.
Pressure – they can withstand the extremely low pressure of a vacuum and also very high pressures, more than 1,200 times atmospheric pressure. Tardigrades can survive the vacuum of open space and solar radiation combined for at least 10 days.[28] Some species can also withstand pressure of 6,000 atmospheres, which is nearly six times the pressure of water in the deepest ocean trench, the Mariana trench.

Dehydration – the longest that living tardigrades have been shown to survive in a dry state is nearly 10 years, although there is one report of a leg movement, not generally considered "survival",[30] in a 120-year-old specimen from dried moss. When exposed to extremely low temperatures, their body composition goes from 85% water to only 3%. As water expands upon freezing, dehydration ensures the tardigrades do not get ripped apart by the freezing ice.
Radiation – tardigrades can withstand 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, median lethal doses of 5,000 Gy (of gamma rays) and 6,200 Gy (of heavy ions) in hydrated animals (5 to 10 Gy could be fatal to a human).The only explanation found in earlier experiments for this ability was that their lowered water state provides fewer reactants for the ionizing radiation. However, subsequent research found that tardigrades, when hydrated, still remain highly resistant to shortwave UV radiation in comparison to other animals, and that one factor for this is their ability to efficiently repair damage to their DNA resulting from that exposure.
Irradiation of tardigrade eggs collected directly from a natural substrate (moss) showed a clear dose-related response, with a steep decline in hatchability at doses up to 4 kGy, above which no eggs hatched.[37] The eggs were more tolerant to radiation late in development. No eggs irradiated at the early developmental stage hatched, and only one egg at middle stage hatched, while eggs irradiated in the late stage hatched at a rate indistinguishable from controls.[37]
Environmental toxins – tardigrades can undergo chemobiosis, a cryptobiotic response to high levels of environmental toxins. However, as of 2001, these laboratory results have yet to be verified.[30][31]
Outer space – tardigrades are the first known animal to survive in space. On September 2007, dehydrated tardigrades were taken into low Earth orbit on the FOTON-M3 mission carrying the BIOPAN astrobiology payload. For 10 days, groups of tardigrades were exposed to the hard vacuum of outer space, or vacuum and solar UV radiation.[3][38][39] After being rehydrated back on Earth, over 68% of the subjects protected from high-energy UV radiation revived within 30 minutes following rehydration, but subsequent mortality was high; many of these produced viable embryos.[28][40] In contrast, dehydrated samples exposed to the combined effect of vacuum and full solar UV radiation had significantly reduced survival, with only three subjects of Milnesium tardigradum surviving.[28] In May 2011, Italian scientists sent tardigrades on board the International Space Station along with other extremophiles on STS-134, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.[41][42][43] Their conclusion was that microgravity and cosmic radiation "did not significantly affect survival of tardigrades in flight, confirming that tardigrades represent a useful animal for space research."[44] In November 2011, they were among the organisms to be sent by the US-based Planetary Society on the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission's Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment to Phobos; however, the launch failed. It remains unclear whether tardigrade specimens survived the failed launch.

Evolutionary relationships and history :-
A number of morphological and molecular studies have sought to resolve the relationship of tardigrades to other lineages of ecdysozoan animals. Two plausible placements have been recovered: tardigrades most closely related to Arthropoda ± Onychophora (a common result of morphological studies) or tardigrades most closely related to nematodes (found in some molecular analyses).

The latter hypothesis has been rejected by recent microRNA and expressed sequence tag analyses.[45] Apparently, the grouping of tardigrades with nematodes found in a number of molecular studies is a long branch attraction artifact. Within the arthropod group (called panarthropoda and comprising onychophora, tardigrades and euarthropoda), three patterns of relationship are possible: tardigrades sister to onychophora plus arthropods (the lobopodia hypothesis); onychophora sister to tardigrades plus arthropods (the tactopoda hypothesis); and onychophora sister to tardigrades.[46] Recent analyses indicate that the panarthropoda group is monophyletic, and that tardigrades are a sister group of Lobopodia, the lineage consisting of arthropods and Onychophora.[45][47]

The minute sizes of tardigrades and their membranous integuments make their fossilization both difficult to detect and highly unlikely. The only known fossil specimens comprise some from mid-Cambrian deposits in Siberia and a few rare specimens from Cretaceous amber.[48]

The Siberian tardigrades differ from living tardigrades in several ways. They have three pairs of legs rather than four; they have a simplified head morphology; and they have no posterior head appendages. But they share with modern tardigrades their columnar cuticle construction.[49] It is considered that they probably represent a stem group of living tardigrades.[48]

The rare specimens in Cretaceous amber comprise Milnesium swolenskyi, from New Jersey, the oldest, whose claws and mouthparts are indistinguishable from the living M. tardigradum; and two specimens from western Canada, some 15–20 million years younger than M. swolenskyi. Of the two latter, one has been given its own genus and family, Beorn leggi (the genus named by Cooper after the character Beorn from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien and the species named after his student William M. Legg); however, it bears a strong resemblance to many living specimens in the family Hypsibiidae.[48][50]

Aysheaia from the middle Cambrian Burgess shale has been proposed as a sister-taxon to an arthropod-tardigrade clade.[51]

Tardigrades have been proposed to be among the closest living relatives of the Burgess Shale oddity Opabinia.[52]

Genomes and genome sequencing
Tardigrade genomes vary in size, from about 75 to 800 megabase pairs of DNA.[53] The genome of a tardigrade species, Hypsibius dujardini, is being sequenced at the Broad Institute.[54]

The genome of R. varieornatus has been reported to be sequenced but the results of this effort have not been published or made publicly available.[55]

Hypsibius dujardini has a compact genome and a generation time of about two weeks, and it can be cultured indefinitely and cryopreserved.[56]

These 30 Photos Say More Than Words Ever Could

Photography has the power to capture more than just pretty landscapes and family portraits. It can capture history and often times the emotion of actually being there. This is exactly what these 30 photos do. From life and death, to war and those amazing moments of rare beauty in unexpected places. They tell us more about the human experience and our place in the universe than words ever could.

1) In 1967, 17-year-old Jan Rose Kasmir offers a flower to soldiers during an anti-war protest outside the Pentagon.

2) Brazilian police fire on a man during protests against corruption and police brutality in 2013.

3) Sergeant Frank Praytor looks after a kitten during the height of the Korean War in 1952.

4) A curious Afghan girl holds the hand of a female American soldier.

5) A South Korean man cries as his North Korean brother waves after inter-Korean temporary family reunions.

6) Anna Fisher on the cover of Life magazine in 1985.

7) Thania Sayne leaning on her husband's headstone the day before their wedding anniversary.

8) A tribal Chhetri woman in Nepal.

9) A boy in London in the 1960s with a toy double decker bus.

10) Captain Donald Spindler saves 6-year-old Aaliyah Frazier from a fire in Indiana.

11) A protester in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989.

12) Violinist, Nancy Dinovo, cries during a service at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver for the 9/11 victims.

13) The child KKK member touches his reflection in an African American officer's riot shield during a 1992 demonstration.

14) Ballet students at Rwanda's only classical ballet school.

15) 100,000 monks in prayer for a better world

16) Punk rock skater girls in Tehran, Iran

17) An Irish teen and British soldiers during unrest in Northern Ireland

18) A Mursi tribe woman sees Vogue magazine for the first time.

19) Spreading the love of punk rock

20) A doctor monitors vitals after 23 hour long heart transplant surgery in 1987. His assistant is sleeping in the corner.

21) The patient survived and actually outlived his doctor.

22) A Ukrainian protester plays piano during riots in the capital city Kiev.

23) Celebration as Minnesota legalizes gay marriage

24) What life is all about.

25) Finding beauty in unexpected places.

26) "I'll see you soon."

27) Stay strong.

28) Bus riders in China save a woman who attempted suicide.

29) A child is passed through barbed wire to his grandparents at a refugee camp during the Kosovo War.

30) Looking ahead.

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