Friday, December 30, 2011

How sexism hurts skeptical inquiry, and everything else for that matter.

Just the other day, there was an event over on the r/atheism section of the site Reddit that has just been brought to my attention.  It seems that a 15 year old girl posted an image of herself holding the book The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan that her highly religious mother gave her for the holidays.  She had posted it in hopes of an open discussion on the matter of her atheism in a religious family as well as her excitement over receiving such a wonderful and thoughtful gift from a parent that has often disapproved of her daughter's lack of belief.

Instead, she was met with levels of misogyny and sexualized comments that are beyond reprehensible.  Many of these comments were up-rated in excessively large numbers, showing that it was more than just a few idiots vomiting up their own brand of moronic bile.  At the girl's original post, comments of such a horrid nature can be found that I am loath to even repost them.  But I know that I must for the sake of pointing out the scale of the event as I know there will be people who would rather downplay such occurrences as trivial.

Comments such as “Well 15 is legal in many places, including my country, so I’ll only have to deal with abduction charges.” “Relax your anus, it hurts less that way.” “Blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” “Tears, natures lubricant.” “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” were posted.  Not only this, but as I said, they received far more up votes then down votes instead of being pointed out as vile comments they obviously are.  How many you may ask?  The second one on that list received, as of the writing of Rebecca Watson's original article on the event, 1715 up votes and only 648 down votes.  This makes it plainly obvious that they are being viewed by far to many as normal or even funny, instead of as the acts of horrible and hurtful people.

While not everyone who posted responded with such vile comments, the very fact that any occurred should be a source of shame for any decent person.  This is doubly so when it comes from a community that claims to pride itself in rationality and equality.  This is not to say that such traits are not held in high esteem by the skeptical community, but that there is much work that still remains to be done, otherwise this would never have transpired

Such behavior should be vociferously deplored the moment it creeps up.  There should be such a stigma against any such disgusting and clearly idiotic behavior that anyone who holds or exposes such beliefs should be afraid to mention them, or is forced to reevaluate them.  No one should ever have to fear speaking up on the internet because of how they will be treated by clearly damaged people.

Some will claim that to treat such commenters as the backwards and harmful individuals that they are is a violation of their right to free speech.  The fact that such things can be thought without having a melt-down of their irony meters shows a severely deranged and self-entitled mode of thinking.  It is to say that such commenters right to free speech is more important than the free speech of those they are attacking.

And yes, this is an attack and it should not be assumed to be anything less.  It is not playful trolling or harmless joking.  It is stating that someone else is so much less then you as to be unworthy of even the most basic of levels of human dignity and respect.

Not only have they harmed this girl who was only trying to show her own love of rational thinking and a great book, but they have also made what should be a rational and accepting community into the kind of place that has no place for those silly women-folk with their absurd illusion of having worth as something other than an object for a man to use.

Thankfully, many atheist writers have taken a stand against this behavior.  I was introduced to this account by the ever wonderful Greta Christina who goes on to link others who have also written in protest of this occurrence.  Many others have read about these accounts and have taken it upon themselves to speak out against this behavior as well as give their support to this girl on her original post.  I hope that many of those reading will follow the link and offer your own support.

Some may hope that if we ignore such fools they will simply shut up and go away.  I cannot fathom why anyone would think this, especially amongst a community that often does what it can to speak out against the crimes of others in religious and political arenas.

It displays and underlying misogyny that cannot be ignored.  For to do so will only serve to alienate half the human population.  Non-believers (and believers alike) of all forms must stand in unison to put this to a stop.  We should be above this and those that truly are must speak up.  Otherwise the voice of the misogynistic morons will be the only voice budding young female skeptics will hear and be turned away from what, I for one, see as one of the most fulfilling realizations possible.  That the universe can be understood on its own merits and is all the more beautiful for it.  If we do not stand up, then we are only quietly condoning such behavior.  We should be showing such individuals our passion for a rational understanding for the world and nurture their own love for it as well, not letting them suffer at the hands of others.  To do anything less is to deny such individuals humanity and lose a part of ours in the process.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Regalecus glesne, the Giant Oarfish

A washed up Giant Oarfish found in 1996 by members of the U.S. Navy.

Regalecus glesne, or more commonly known as the Giant Oarfish or the King Of Herrings, is quite possibly the longest living fish and certainly the longest living bony-fish.  The debate stems from the fact that the first Giant Oarfish to be encountered was a specimen that had washed up in Scotland in 1808.  The individual was recorded to have a length of 56 ft (17 m).  However, other than this single instance, the largest specimen encountered was only 36 ft (11m).  This has led some to claim that the first recording was in error while others do not find it surprising and believe that individuals of 50 ft (15.24 ft) in the wild may not be uncommon.  But until further data can be found, the limit of 36 ft is the most often cited.

This disagreement as to the limit in size for the Giant Oarfish puts it as either the longest fish period or simply the longest bony-fish.  To compare its size, the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), generally considered to be the largest living fish, has a maximum recorded size of 41.50 ft (12.65 m).

Despite being an enormous fish and having a range throughout the worlds tropical and temperate oceans, the fish is rarely sighted.  The few times it has been encountered have almost exclusively been when specimens have washed ashore or into shallow water, either dead or dying.  Though a few instances of live individuals being encountered in the wild have occurred.  Though no matter the state of the fish, encounters are sure to grab regional, if not worldwide attention.

A taxidermied Giant Oarfish in the Museum of Natural History of Vienna.
The Giant Oarfish's natural habitat is at a depth of between 600 feet (200 m) and 3,000 feet (1,000 m), though healthy individuals have been occasionally known to rise to the surface for short periods for unknown reasons.  It is during these rare excursions to the oceans surface, or when they have washed ashore or into shallow water, that it is thought that these unusual fish gave rise to the myth of the sea serpent.  While ill, it is not uncommon for individuals to swim with their heads and the crests of their dorsal fins to be sticking out in a way that resembles elaborate spines or horns.  In fact, it is one can still find the occasional old map with images of sea monsters that curiously resemble Oarfish.

It is not hard to see how sightings of this fish could give rise to myths of sea serpents.
The most notable feature of the Giant Oarfish is its long and laterally compressed body.  Despite having an immense length, they have a lateral length of only around and inch or two.  They also have pinkish to crimson red fins.  The most obviously being the body length dorsal fin with its large crests and its long, thin pelvic fins.  In fact, other then these and the small pectoral fins, these fish have lost all of their other fins.  They also have a highly extendable sideways mouth, much like those found in certain flatfish such as flounder.  There body is a brilliantly shiny silver with blue to brown spots and stripes, however these spots and stripes will often fade as the fish grows ill.  However the fish's shiny exterior will remain.  The reason for this shininess is not due to scales, for they utterly lack any.  Instead, they have large amounts of Guanine embedded within their skin (the same molecule that is used in DNA) that gives them their metallic luster.

Like many of the largest organisms in the worlds oceans, all Oarfish and their closely related cousins, the Ribbonfish and the Crestfish, feed on some of the smallest of organisms.  Feeding primarily on the zooplankton where they selectively strain out their preferred foods, such as tiny euphausiids (krill), shrimp and other crustaceans.  They have also been known to occasionally eat smaller squid, fish and sea jellies.  Using their highly extendable mouths, they feed in a fashion similar to many other fish, by extending their mouth and sucking in their prey.  Their food is then ingested whole.

The source of the common names for the Giant Oarfish come from the fact that people once believed the fish swam by undulating its body while using its long pelvic fins to 'row' through the water.  This, however, is simply a myth.  It moves by undulating its long dorsal fin while keeping its body perfectly straight, in what is known as amiiform locomotion.  Its other common name, the King Of Herrings, comes from yet another myth.  This one being traced back to fishermen occasionally seeing the Giant Oarfish around the same time as they were catching Herring and them assuming that the fish was leading the school.  With the rather regal look of the Giant Oarfish, it is not hard to see why this was so.  In fact, this myth gave rise to its genus name, as Regalecus means regal.


In the wild, the fish swim vertacally through the water column, with their tail end facing down and their head pointing straight up.  It is believed this may be so that the fish can spot the silhouettes of its prey against the light from the surface, much like many other species of deep water fish are known to do.


The Giant Oarfish is known to be a migratory species.  Specifically, they are what is known as oceanodromous, meaning that their migrations never take them out of sea water.  They migrate to waters off of Mexico between July and December to spawn, then back to their original locations throughout the worlds oceans.  The fish are strict loners so males and females will release their gametes into the water to be fertilized as part of the plankton.  The eggs are brightly colored and buoyant, floating to the surface where they are fertilized and hatch after about three weeks into a larval form that stays near the surface, feeding upon the zooplankton that they live amongst.  These larva are so morphologically distinct that their identity was long a mystery until more developed specimens were found and the link to adult Oarfish was made.

The larval form of the Giant Oarfish.
A slightly more mature individual.
A healthy Giant Oarfish has been caught on camera at its normal depth only once.  The video was taken by an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) at a depth of 2509 ft (765 m) in the Gulf Of Mexico near a deep-sea oil rig.  I have included the video of this amazing event for your viewing pleasure.

 


The Giant Oarfish is truly a marvelous fish that brings a sense of wonder for scientists and the public alike whenever it is encountered.  It is a prime example of how evolution can take life in truly fantastical directions.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

She can dance if she wants to...

I found this over at  Memebase and had to share it (original here).  The text in the original piece is a bit hard to read so I shall reprint it here with the Demotivational poster below it.  The featured article says:

"That's my niece Diane, and she's going to Hell."
Diane is a beautiful girl, I love her like I love my own daughter.  But it breaks my heart knowing she is going to spend eternity in the fiery furnace of Hell.  She'll never know Jesus.  There'll be no second coming.  Just an existance as one of Satan's minions.  Why?
Because she dances.
She could do anything else in the world.  Sing, Pray, Knit, Make hot dishes for families in need.  But she chooses to dance, Reverend Jerry Falwell says dancing leads to premarital sex, drinking, smoking, voting pro-choice and driving foreign cars.  And I always trust Reverend Falwell.
I've tried talking to Diane.  I've asked her to pray with me.  I've even taken her to church.  But she keeps dancing.  I don't think I can save her soul, but I'm sure you know someone who dances and can be saved.  Thomas Road Baptist Church has a free pamphlet on how to spot the warning signs of a dancer, and how you can intervene with the help of Our Lord and Savior.  Please write today.  There are more Dianes in the world who need our prayers.
Mrs. Loyd Douglas, Ned Beauty, Wyoming
Write today for your free pamphlet, You Can Dance Your Way To Hell If You Want.  Together with the help of Our Lord and Savior and Reverend Falwell, we can stop this sinful activity before God sends another plague of Muslim Airline Pilots our way.
A message from your friends at Thomas Road Baptist Church
And below the photo of the dearly departed Reverend:
"Friends, I need your help.  The power of prayer is indeed mighty, but to end this scourge I need more of your prayers.  I need your dollars to continue our crusade to help make America righteous and holy in His light.  I really, really need your dollars today.
-Jerry Falwell
Credit to Bagal_Tree_Socks for the meme.
 For those of you are desperately hoping that this is a joke, that the Thomas Road Baptist Church is fake or a case of a particularly good Poe, I have depressing news for you.  They are not only a real church, but a multi-million dollar mega-church in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Yes, a hate fueled church that can be found in a place called Lynchburg.  Be afraid.  If you still have your doubts, take a look at the relevant Wikipedia page.

Obviously this is a bit old as Jerry Falwell died in 2007, but it has lost none of its insanity in the years since.  I apologize to everyone who's brain I have melted in the process of sharing this.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope everyone enjoys their various winter oriented holiday of choice. Well, for those in the northern hemisphere at least, for those in the southern, have a good seasonally opposite Holiday of choice?  Anyway, enjoy the various forms of merriment!

Cyc
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

A random quote that has nothing to do with the holidays, but enjoy anyway

I just stumbled upon this quote from Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth and I thought I would share it with you.  He really was a brilliantly clever man and far ahead of his time.  I hope everyone has a wonder Holiday.

The priest said, "Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him." The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.
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Republicans rush to the aid of the Christmas tradition

There comes a time when abusing the system to pander for votes changes from a bad idea to outright absurd.  A prime example of this comes from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and 55 co-sponsors who have just brought a resolution onto the House floor that comes to the defense of our precious Christmas traditions. Earlier this month, on December 7th, they introduced H. Res. 489.  I shall let it speak for itself:


Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.
Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
    (1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
    (2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
    (3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

It is certainly good to know that the Republican party thinks that we can waste tax payer money on a resolution that does absolutely nothing about a problem that doesn't exist but we can't spend money on extended medical coverage for veterans or education.
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Discovery of the chib(3p) particle

The Large Hadron Collide (LHC) has proved its value once again.  This time by confirming the existence of an up till now hypothetical particle.  Known as the Chib(3p) particle, it is a boson, the same class of particle the Higgs is in.  Bosons are any particle with an integral spin (0, 1, 2, etc).  The existence of Chib had been expected for quite a while, but the energies required to detect it had yet to be attained.  However thanks to the LHC, teams of physicists working with the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS ) detector were able to do just this.

Unlike the Higgs Boson, the chip particle is not an Elementary Boson, but composed out of other particles, namely a pairing of a Bottom and an antiBottom quark.  Sometimes still refereed to as the Beauty quark (it all depends on where the team you are working with hails from), interactions between this kind of pairing had been beyond the abilities of particle accelerators until now.

For a little more explanation into what this means, let me first explain what a meson is.  A meson is a pairing of a quark and an anti-quark.  While quarks are technically fermions (particles that have fractional spins, such as 1/2, 2/3, etc) and have a mass, when a quark and its anti-quark join up, their spins combine to form an integral spin (1/2 + 1/2 = 1), making them actually a Boson.  As I said, this puts them in a different class from elementery Bosons such as the photon, W and Z Bosons, gluon, and potentially the Higgs and Graviton.  Instead, they are called Composite Bosons, due to their being constructed of multiple parts.  This allows them to have mass and, because of this, does not allow them to have a trait shared by Elementary Bosons such as the ability for multiple to be in the same place at the same time.  Known as the Pauli Exclusion Principle, particles with mass cannot exist in the same place at the same time.  But Bosons do have an effect on the Pauli Exclusion principle, being that, for a short range, particles are attracted to one another if they are of the right type.

To elucidate this, think of a simple atom, say Helium.  A neutral atom of Helium is made of two protons, two neutrons (though this varies in isotopes) and two electrons.  Each Proton is composed of a series of Quarks, namely two Down and an Up Quark (while a Neutron is made up of one Down and two Up Quarks).  These are held together by the exchange of the Elementary Bosons called Gluons, which mediate the Strong Nuclear Force.  At very close distances, the interaction of these Quarks through their Gluons emit short lived Mesons, which, as we said, are Composite Bosons, usually made of an Up and an antiDown Quark (or vice versa) that radiates away and quickly decays.  But before it can decay, it extends the Strong Nuclear Force (mediated by the Gluons) to the nucleaus and holds the protons and neutrons together despite being of the same charge and wanting to be apart (remeber how like charges such as with a magnet repel?).  This is what I was meaning as the short range of the Pauli Exclusion principle where Fermions (in this case, the protons) can be held together.  The Composite Bosons (if you wish to know, the up and antidown pair is known as a Pion) keep them together, elaborating upon the Strong Nuclear Force.

Now that this is in place, we can understand what the Chib particle really is.  It is a Composite Meson that is made up of, and in turn, holds together a Bottom and and antiBottom pair.  Through this process, many ordinary bits of matter get much of their mass.  Their mass is an effect of the Strong Nuclear Force emiting these Mesons and holding things together.  The Higgs field is still needed to determin what that mass will be, but it cannot do it without the Strong Force. 

While this new particle is very short lived, it shows that the underlying physics that we have developed is still displayed in nature which is good news for researchers looking for this Higgs Boson.  It doesn't mean the Higgs does exist, it just means that there is a bit more evidence to suggests that it does based on what we have observed.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

...Eh?

I was just shown this.  I don't think I can do it any credit other than looking at it in a confused manner.  If this was written with sincerity it is the most absurd thing since the Time Cube.  Whoever this person is, they need help, desperate help.  Warning, it will take a while and afterwards you may have little hope left for humanity, read at your own risk.
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Republicans decide to finally grow up, sort of

It seems that the Republican party has finally realized that it cannot get away with having things their way or else throwing a tantrum.  As anyone with a grain of intelligence can tell you, American politics are screwed up, but the GOP has taken things to the next level and beyond in many instances.  The entire concept of the 'Tea Party' and their often racist, homophobic, big business promoting ways that have pushed into popular Republican values has become a joke onto itself.  But their general plan of acting like they are the good guys when in fact they only care about getting paid well finally backfired.

When a bill to renew a cut in payroll taxes by about $20 a week for an average worker making $50,000 a year came to the senate was first stopped, Republicans claimed it was because the only way to do it was not a 2 month renewal, but a full year, Thus tricking the voters into thinking the Democrates were idiots for thinking of this and couldn't be bothered to deal with when real issues were at hand.  But once word of this spread that if this wasn't done now, the payroll tax would be increased in an attempt to find funds for a previous cut in social security tax, Republicans realized that they would receive harsh criticism for their actions and gave in to negotiations.  Instead of looking for money where it could be appropriated more easily and less destructively to the working class, it would have been placed at the foot of middle class taxpayers had things stalled further.

To be fair, many Republicans were fully on board with the tax cut, but the idea that they had to convince so many others that this was the right thing to do and had to be done now is absurd.  It is this part of the Republican party that has made American politics a joke to much of the rest of the world.  Even this side was mostly on board with the idea, but kept wanting to hold out for more breaks for small businesses instead of seeing that the economy was not in a state to allow the American taxpayer to pick up this burden at this time.

I do hope that this will be a step in the right direction and that the Republican party can become a more unified whole, stepping away from the crazy direction that it has been following with increasing intensity in modern years.  It is time for the world to be shown that we Americans should be a leading force in the world not because of our power, but because of our system, that we have the right ideals. Unfortunately actual political work seems to only only become muddled in the bureaucracy far too much as of late.  I believe that such a turn around would be just what many nations need to restore some of their faith in the economic and political strength of the Unites States.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A final note on Christopher Hitchens



I had recently stumbled upon this video over at Spanish Inquisitor.  After watching it...and once the numbness finally left my limbs from my proximity to that kind of stupid, I decided to have a go at this.  The individual in the video brings up the idea that, according to his doctrine, Christopher Hitchens is in hell not because of some punishment, but because god loves him ever so much.  For those of you with a low stupidity tolerance, I shall give you a moment before trudging on.

So how does someone love another enough to let them burn eternally?  Well, there really isn't any way that it can make sense, at least not the kind of sense that is seen outside of serial killers and, apparently, Christian talk show hosts.  According to him, Hitchens was in pursuit of damnation his entire life, by not accepting the loving embrace of Jesus (I still cannot write that without getting a bit of a shiver down my spine at the thought of just what that embrace might entail).  So in his infinite and unquestionable wisdom, god gave him just what he had always strived for, an unveiling of the truth and a betterment of humanity...wait, I'm sorry, god was just fresh out of those and instead Hitchens has to settle for an infinite understanding of pain and agony, same thing right?

According to this man and all those countless others who follow such doctrine, god loves everyone and is willing to let everyone have what they desire.  And by that I mean give those who believe in his kid everything they could hope for while torturing the rest.  All the good the man did, all the events he brought to light in his various books and articles, his own moral stance and actions, all cast aside because Hitchens didn't believe in their god (specifically their god's son...who is also god...I hate the trinity), all his life's works condensed into one little nugget that, with the aid of a bit of Magic Jesus Juice, would be light enough to float into heaven. But Hitchens clearly made his choice, so his eloquent and satirically laced nodule would be just a bit too heavy and would sink down into hell (satire being the densest of all writing styles).  Thus, god gives us what we truly desire, isn't it beautiful?

If that seems a bit, well, crazy to you, congratulations, you are not a psychopath!  The attempt at wit at the very end of the video, where the individual states that Hitchens would not want to be given access to heaven is actually correct, but not for the reasons he thinks.  For who in their right mind would want to enter into a heaven that involves spending all your time worshiping a tyrant.  No, Hitchens wouldn't want entry into such a place based on the principles of its ruler, not out of pride as this person, and many others think.  But luckily for him, we live in a universe where things don't work that way.  Instead we have nothing to fear but the people who prop up their ideals upon the very gods they create in an attempt to raise some part of themselves above what they see as the 'enemy'.  This is a sad state of affairs and one I wish was not so, but if anything, Christopher Hitchens taught us to look directly at what is worst about ourselves, he did this in a hope that the rest of humanity might rectify the wrongs of others.  And for that we should thank him, for giving us a chance to look at the darker parts of our selves and figure out how to make things just a bit brighter.

1949 - 2011
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Ayn Rand, it had to be done

While talking with my love, I was inspired to get a bit creative and ended up creating  a new demotivational poster.  So, for everyone who has had to put up with the kind of self idolizing libertarian idiots that so many of us, sadly, have the burden of calling acquaintances, here is a meme you can get behind.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

CERN announces possible evidence for the Higgs Boson

On Tuesday, December 13th, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that two competing teams have possibly detected the hypothetical Higgs Boson, the last of the elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model remaining to be uncovered. The possible new discovery was made at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest particle accelerator in existence. With a circumference of 27km (17 miles), the LHC is able to accelerate twin proton beams up to a speed of 99.999 the speed of light, creating an impact energy of 14.7 TeV (Terra Electron Volts). One of the prime reasons for the construction of the LHC was to look for the Higgs Boson, which until the construction of the LHC, had a predicted energy limit above the capability of the largest particle colliders of the time.

The announcement was made based on the works of two competing teams working at two separate detectors located at the LHC. One at the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and the other at the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), both of which are considered the general purpose detectors of the LHC, with the ATLAS fittingly being the larger of the two. The team at ATLAS found an excess of reactions stemming from the range of 125-6 GeV (Giga Electron Volts) while the CMS team found a similar excess at 124 GeV. When combined with other data from previous experiments, this gives us a certainty of 95% of the Higgs Boson being limited to the range of 115-130 Gev. To give you an example of what these numbers mean, 125 GeV is 133 times the mass of a proton, one of the two particles that make up the nucleus of an atom.

The Higgs Boson itself is far to short lived to be detected directly. Instead, it can be infered based on particles formed from its decay inside the detectors at the LHC. Because of this and the mess of other particles formed during these intense collisions, it takes both large amounts of computing power as well as huge numbers of collisions. In the case of the Higgs, an excess of two muons and two neutrinos, which come from, in turn, two W bosons. Because these kinds of reactions can be formed by random background noise, physicists must be careful to rule out all possible causes before settling upon the Higgs Boson as the source.

A simulated computer model for the reaction caused by a Higgs Boson.



It should be noted that CERN did not confirm that the Higgs Boson had been discovered, but that further evidence must be uncovered before it can be safely said that the Higgs Boson exists. Until then, this new data only makes the existence of the particle much more likely while reducing the energy ranges that are likely to harbor the particle. If the Higgs does exist, it is expected to be confirmed sometime in 2012 if current predictions are accurate.

The importance of the discovery of the Higgs Boson is hard to understate. It has often been referred to as the "God Particle" in the media, much to the chagrin of many physicists. This is due to the book of the same name written by physicist Leon Lederman who has been quoted as stating that the Higgs Boson is:

so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive

As well as jokingly following this with:

the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.

The Higgs Boson was predicted by three independent groups at nearly the same time in 1964. Eventually the particle was named after one of these individuals who has been given the credit for fleshing out the concept the most, Scottish physicist Peter Higgs. The Higgs Boson is the quanta (smallest unit of energy) for the Higgs Field, which would grant mass to other particles. One of the simplest ways to describe the Higgs Field was written by David J. Miller. He described the process as:

Imagine that a room full of physicists chattering quietly is like space filled with the Higgs field. A well-known scientist walks in, creating a disturbance as he moves across the room and attracting a group of admirers with every step.

This increases his resistance to movement. In other words, he acquires mass, just like a particle moving through the Higgs field. Now imagine if, instead of a well-known scientist entering, somebody started a rumour.

As the rumour spreads throughout the room, it creates the same kind of grouping, but this time it’s the scientists grouping together.

In this analogy, these groups are the Higgs bosons. If we find these groups, we can prove the Higgs field exists and thus explain the origin of mass.

The Higgs Boson also would be responsible for the symmetry breaking of the ElectroWeak Force, which is a combination of the Electromagnetic and Weak Nuclear forces and would explain why the mediating particle of the Electromagnetic (the Photon) is mass-less while the ones for the Weak Nuclear (the W and Z bosons) has a mass. It has also been hypothesized as one possible cause for the Inflationary period of the universe, when the young and hot cosmos expanded in volume by a factor of 10 to the 78th power between the times of 10 to the -36th seconds and either 10 to the -33rd or -32nd seconds. Though the Higgs Boson's part in Inflation is still hotly debated.
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Disturbing youtube name, disturbing videos. Please report this.


So, I was on youtube, watching The Young Turks and I was watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSltPSxD-Bc&feature=autoplay&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ&lf=plcp&playnext=3
When I came across a comment by someone called beagoodgirl4Daddy.
If you go on their channel, it has nothing but videos of preteens, or even younger, doing 'sexy' things.
Please, please go and report them. I believe in freedom, but that is just absolutely horrible. There's no way that should be on any popular site.
Unless you approve of sexualizing young children, this is sick, wrong and just plain disgusting.

-Misa 
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Mola mola, the Ocean Sunfish

The Ocean Sunfish is a bony fish that has made it its life-long goal to set as many records as possible. It does this while having an appearance that is, in a word, odd. These fish have undergone so many specializations as to set them apart from nearly every other group of extant fish.

The largest species, the Ocean Sunfish Mola mola belongs to the genus Mola of which it shares with only one other living member, The Southern Sunfish Mola ramsayi. In turn, the genus Mola belongs to the family Molidae which contains three genera and five known species. Until more genera were uncovered, the genus Mola did not exist and was instead classified under the same genus that houses the pufferfish, Tetradon. However, with better study of these fish and improved classifications of the related genera and species, they were moved to their own family and genera. Though they are still classifed within the same order as the pufferfish, porcupinefish, boxfish and filefish, the Tetradontiforms.

The Sunfish's relation to the Tetradontiforms has led to an ongoing debate as to the toxicity of these fish. Some claim that the organs contain a low level tetrodotoxin, the same kind of toxin found within certain pufferfish (as well as the Blue-Ringed Octopus and certain newts) and the cause of Fugu poisoning. Despite the claims, there have been no confirmed cases of tetrodotoxin poisoning in any species of sunfish. Which is certainly reassuring for the multiple cultures (primarily Japanese and Thai) that find sunfish flesh to be a delicacy.

Seen next to a diver, the adult Ocean Sunfish's size can truly be appreciated.
These fish have an appearance that makes them seem like they are only half a fish. In a sense, they are as their cauldal fin (the tail fin) has degenerated to a clavus which barely has any use in locomotion, acting more as a stumpy rudder. The dorsal and anal fins have become the prime sources of locomotion, moving side to side to slowly propel the fish through the water with a speed of under 2 mph (3.2 hm/h) and a range of around 16 miles per day (26 km). In fact it is due to this slow speed and large size, combined with their habit to lay on the surface of the water on their side to sunbathe that they have become known as a boating hazard where they have damaged hulls and destroyed engines. But this is essentially the only threat these docile fish pose, with the lone example of direct injury occurring when of boy was injured when an Ocean Sunfish breached (jumped out of the water) and landed on his boat, knocking him into the water.

One of the first record breaking traits to be noted about the Ocean Sunfish is its size. These fish are both the heaviest bony fish as well as the largest ray-finned bony fish. With a weight of up to and sometimes exceeding 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg), these fish are massive. Also, due to their odd appearance, they often have a length equal to their height, often around 11 ft. (3.3 m).

Despite their large size, Ocean Sunfish feed primarily on small organisms.  Their primarily source of nutrition are sea jellies, but they have also been known to feed on small fish, crustaceans, squid and eel grass.  Their teeth have fused into a beak, similar to many other tetradontiforms, but the sunfish's has fused in a way to prevent it from closing its mouth fully.  So instead of biting at its food, it will suck it in where it will blow water back and forth rapidly to tear apart its soft bodied prey.  It will then partially swallow its food and allow its pharyngeal teeth to grind the food down to a more manageable size before swallowing it the rest of the way.  The pharyngeal jaw is a trait held in common by some 30,000 species of fish and is, as the name suggests, teeth or, in some rare cases like Moray Eels, fully mobile jaws used to pull food down the throat.  In the Ocean Sunfish, they are basic teeth in the pharynx that simply grinds bits of food and nothing more.  Due to their nutrient poor diet, the Ocean Sunfish must eat frequently.

Due to the primary prey item of the sunfish being sea jellies, these fish are often found dead after they have tried to eat a plastic bag floating in the water and are unable to swallow it further.  Making pollution, as well as ocean traffic and fishing the primary threats to these fish.  Due to their size, they have few natural predators.  The only ones of note being Sea Lions, Orcas and certain sharks.

One of the other record setting traits of these fish can be found in their rate of reproduction.  The Ocean Sunfish lays more eggs at a time then any other vertebrate.  At a time, a single female sunfish can lay as many as 300,000,000 eggs (yes, that is 300 million).  These eggs are then externally fertilized by a male and then left to drift with the rest of the plankton on the oceans currents.  These eggs are fed on by multiple organisms all along the food chain including fish such as tuna.  It is because of this rather wasteful method of reproduction that such a large number of eggs must be produced to maintain the species population.  Once the eggs have hatched, the tiny fry appear as 1 mm, spiny spheres, betraying their common ancestor with the pufferfish.

A newly hatched sunfish fry.
Another of the record setting traits of the Ocean Sunfish has to do with the size of its spinal cord.  Due to the shortening of the body that has occurred over time, the actual spinal cord only extends about 1mm from the base of the brain.  The rest of the body is connected through the peripheral nervous system.  Thus, the sunfish has the smallest spinal cord of any fish in relation to their body.  They have also lost many of their vertebrae leaving them with the fewest of any fish.  In fact, despite being a bony fish, the sunfish has lost nearly all of its bone, replacing it with cartilage.  This adaptation has allowed the sunfish to grow to such large sizes without causing damage to its skeleton.  Further showing convergent evolutionary traits with the cartilaginous fishes is the development of denticles, sharp, teeth like protrusions of the skin.  These give sharks and rays, as well as the Ocean Sunfish, their sandpaper like texture.  This acts as a kind of body armor as well as decreasing water friction allowing them to move more easily through the water.
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Well this sucks...

As my Misa has recently said, I was denied entry to the UK. After months of work, I get there and based on a technicality, I was turned away without even so much as getting to see my love. Quite obviously, I was more than a bit peeved.

However I am not yet beaten. I am now working on getting a visitor's visa (which, according to the UK Immigration website, I shouldn't even need). I would love to be able to make it over there by Christmas, but I am unsure if that will be possible.

If not, I shall just have to do what I can to get there as soon as I can. I care for her far too much to just let things go at this point.

On other news, I shall do my best to try and update more often, though I cannot guarantee that. It is getting quite cold out and the only way I can reliably get online involves walking to the library for computer use for about an hour or two. But I shall do what I can.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Change Immigration Laws To Include Character And Employment References

Disaster has struck, and I need the help of the good people of the internet.
This blog belongs to my boyfriend of two years who lives in America. I am English. Recently, yesterday, he tried to come here, as mentioned on his blog, but due to some complications at immigration, he was refused entry, because our immigration system in a computer system where you must tick the right boxes, rather than judging who we actually want to visit our country, and who we don't. This is pure unfairness.

My petition letter is on this link, for the change.org petition, please sign and give us both some hope for humanity, and maybe we can change the unfairness in this particular part of the world.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/24371
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm not dead yet.

Believe it or not, but soon there will come fresh lines of prose on this now, forgotten corner of the internet. Worry not, I have not died during my hiatus. I was just a bit...poor. But things are changing. Not the fact of my being poor, just where I will be poor at. Instead of servicing the mighty taco overlord, as I have for weeks (that sounded far more disturbing than I had initially intended), I will soon be finding myself in England and the start of a new life. I have just purchased my ticket for the flight and I shall be there by the end of the month. Shortly there after, I shall attempt to dust off this site and get it going again. I have missed writing here and for my other gigs quite a bit in the past months. It will be good to be doing something non-taco related for a change...

To hold you over, enjoy a bit of something I wrote while bored a couple days ago...

Welcome to another thrilling episode of "Wild Kingdom: Championship Edition"! The show were we pit two fearsome beasts against one another. In today's episode we pit the ferocious Thresher Shark against a bag of kittens. This is sure to be a riveting match.

After being dropped in the water the kittens start the bout by mewing helplessly in an attempt to intimidate the shark. Undeterred, the thresher lashes at the slowly sinking bag with its tail. The kittens appear to be retaliating by bleeding profusely, in what can only be a tactic aimed at confusing and disorienting the opponent.

Seeing through the ruse, the shark devours the bag, kittens and all. However, the kittens anticipated this move and now aim to claim victory through inducing a case of mild indigestion. But at the last moment, the Thresher Shark's gastric fortitude wins it the fight. Tune in next time to witness another one of nature's epic struggles in Toy Poodle vs. Komodo Dragon!
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Sound Of Freethinking #13: The Easter Parade

This will be different to Cyc's, mostly because we have completely different music tastes, but also because he's a far better writer then me.

So, my therapist and I were talking about music earlier today, and she showed me a delightful song artist called Emmy The Great, specifically the song The Easter Parade. The song is about how, on Easter, we're pretty much worshipping a ghost, and how we're all temporary and how you, and everyone you know and love will die. Enjoy.


Lyrics to The Easter Parade :


Is all that we've become,
Just nothing but hats and bags
We're waiting for taxi cabs
So you light cigarettes
And i'm taking drags

In the air, a sea of words,
That didn't come soon enough
In my mind a railway station
And a ticket stub

And it is easter in the town
I can hear as they strike off the bell
We're listening to some old man
Say he came back to life with a hole in his head

And now the sunday school is gathered Together in pink and in blue
They're heralding angels for you
But not for me

They're singing
Gloria in excelsis
Deo deo

Gloria in excelsis
But there's no,
There's no hope

And i am grateful for the things
That you've tried to show to me dear
But there no arcadia
No alby and theres no jerusalem here

And underneath your pastures green
There's earth and there ash
And theres bone
And there are things that dissapear
Into it and then they are gone

And there is light that hits the sky
And then it is midnight again
And there is my mother, my father,
And you and we are all impermanent

And on the green they tell their tales About how even the dead can come back
I just dont believe in that

So you can keep on singing

Gloria in exclelsis
Deo deo

Gloria in excelsis
But there's no,
There's no hope

There's no such thing (x7)
There's no such thing as ghosts
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paedophilia: What... Exactly.. Is it?

So, these days, the news seems to brings out everything involving a child as paedophilia.
Man kills child: paedophilia
Mother gives child botox: paedophilia
Parents take pictures of their own child in the bath: paedophilia

Okay, so these are so more out there things, they obviously do happen, but they aren't the norm in what people mistake as paedophilia.
What we have to do to find the actual meaning of it, is get right back down to the technical definition, and even after we do that, it's not black and white. (Is it ever?)
One of the things that few people understand is that being a paedophile is not actually a crime, as paedophilia is only the attraction to prepubescent children, and not the actual crime of doing anything inappropriate with children. That's like saying that all straight males must touch women, despite how inappropriate it may be. Many paedophiles live very normal lives, and do nothing inappropriate to anyone.

First, there are several types of attractions to younger people, first, adolescent paedophilia, which is 16-18 year olds being interested in children 5 or more years younger than them. Next, is adult paedophilia, which is adults over 18 being interested in children under thirteen. After this, we leave what technically is paedophilia, and move into hebephilia, which is 11-14 year olds, or ephebophilia, 15-19, and if we go backwards for a moment, infantophilia or nepiophilia,which is interest in under 3 year olds.

Even though these are social unacceptable if acted upon, if kept entirely in the mind, or only acted upon in a safe way (With all participants over 18, such as infantalism,) which isn't usually enough to satisfy paedophilia, it's absolutely legal. It's only when it actually leaves that, and the paedophile either starts looking at, or touching children in inappropriate ways. Even then, this isn't actual technical child or adolescent sexual attraction or -philia, unless it's continuous behaviour with at least two children. Otherwise it could be opportunist sexual abuse, or just attraction to that child. Say, if a young adult takes interest in a young adolescent, unless there's a continual pattern of this, either with adolescents previously, or younger children, it isn't paedophilia, but it is child abuse, no matter how consensual it is. (I actually disagree with this sweeping generalisation, as there can be rare healthy relationships with that age difference.)

Another difference that I mentioned before, the sexual opportunist, who will either coerces anyone they can into sex, and younger people are a lot more vulnerable to this, or someone who would resort to rape, either out of sadistic tendencies, mental instability, or just sexual urges, are both not technically paedophiles, even if they do sexual things with children, as they aren't actually interested in the age of the person.

Paedophiles are also incapable of staying in a relationship with a child, even if it is consensual, with a child that does understand, and it being non-sexual, a paedophile cannot wait for the child to become legal for the relationship to properly work, as that would mean the child ageing, and therefore becoming less and less attractive to them.

Due to modern over-sensationalism, not only has paedophilia become one of the least understood -philias, but also has been thrown around by people that have no understanding of it. While I'm against it when it's harmful, to have desires towards younger people, while it is potentially dangerous, and should not be acted on, it's definitely not as uncommon as it's thought to be, and I strongly recommend that anyone feeling that way should seek open-minded and professional help, but only if it is actually paedophilia, and not just an exception, as I've written on here.

From my blog, <a href="http://suicideisoverrated.blogspot.com/">The Last Lemurisian </a>
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gorgonopsia

One of my favourite suborders that has ever existed is the Gorgonopsids, a therapsid synapsid in the middle to late Permian, though, they were sadly extinct in the Permian mass extinction, the only theradont line to meet this end. There were many types of Gorgonopsid, the largest, inostrancevia, the size of a rhino, and due to the extinction of dinocephalias, because the top Permian predator.

Gorgonopsia, meaning 'gorgon face', were mammal-like, with heterodont teeth, ear bones and temporal fenetraes (skulls characterised by bilateral, symmetrical holes, or fenestraes, in the temporal bone.), though it's unknown whether they had scales, fur, or just naked skin. They're one of three groups of theradonts, and are a close relation to mammals, through cynadonts, another group of theradont. 

There are 19 families of Gorgonopsia, and three subfamilies. The three subfamilies of Gorgonopsia are Gorgonopsinae, Inostranceviinae and Rubidgeinae, and contain three, two and four species respectively. 

Gorgonops is the most common genus of Gorgonopsinae, that grew to 2-2.5 meters long, and had 12-cm sabre teeth, similar to smilodon. Gorgonops were faster than the majority of Gorgonopsinae because of their long legs under their body. There are three definitely known species of Gorgonops:

  • Torvus, the type species. A medium-sized Gorgonops characterised by a longer snout and some difference in skull structure. 
  • Whaitsi, a larger Gorgonops, with a wider skull rear and details of proportion. 
  • Longifrons, a large Gorgonopsid with an larger skull-orbit and snout than Whaitsi.
There are three other species, though they're either uncertainly placed, or synonyms. These are dixeyi, kaiseri, and eupachygnathus. 

Artist interpretation of Whaitsi 

Torvus, by Theropsida

Longifrons, also by Theropsida


Gorgonops have been in popular culture a couple of times. In 2005, a Gorgonopsid was featured in Walking With Monsters, but was specified as a Gorgonops in the companion book, though as it was shown preying on a scutosaurus, it was likely a different genus of Gorgonopsid, as Gorgonops and scutosaurus lived in separate countries. It was also shown in the 2007-present ITV-sci-fi, Primeval twice.  

Another Gorgonopsinae is Sauroctonus, a 3 meter long gorgonopsid with a triangular skull, and a primitive parietal eye. They had a pair of huge canines on the upper and lower jaws, larger on the upper jaw. Their other teeth were smaller and pointed, and tiny blunt teeth were found on the palatine bone. The lower jaw was widened to form a chin, and their long, lightly-built limbs resembled mammalian limbs. Despite having mammalian characteristics, they're not ancestors of mammals. There are two species of Sauroctonus, Parringtoni and progressus. 

Artist impression of Sauroctonus

Another genus of Gorgonopsia is Scylacops, a moderately-sized relative of Progressus Sauroctonus, composed of two species, bigendens and capensis. 


Scylacops bigendens, by theropsida

In the subfamily Inostranceviinae, the first genus is Inostrancevia. Inostrancevia had an upright posture of 1-4.3 meters long and strong muscular attachments. They had larger temporal fenestras and smaller eye sockets than less advanced therapsids. The upper jaw contained 10 small back teeth, 6 large incisors, and 2 larger canines. Their lower jaw was composed of 6 large incisors, and 8 small incisors. 

An artist impression of an Inostrancevia and a scutosaurus

There are four species of Inostrancevia, Amalitsky, l. Pravoslavlev,Tatarinov, and v. Pravolsavlev.

Pravoslavlevia is another genus of Inostranceviinae. Only one species of Pravoslavlevia is known, Parva. Their total length was around 1.4 meters, making them a particularly small Gorgonopsid. 

Artist impression of Pravoslavlevia Parva

The last subfamily of Gorgonopsidae is Rubidgeinae, and the first genus is Broomicephalus. They were small gorgonopsids with long, broad snouts, only about 1.1 meters in total. 

Artist impression of Broomicephalus.

Niuksenitia is another genus of Rubidgeinae, but I can't find any information on it. 
Prorubidgea is also a genus of Rebidgeinae, containing 6 species, Alticeps, Brinki, Brodiei, Maccabei, Pugnax and Robusta, but I couldn't find any more information on it. 

The last genus is Rubidgea, a 2.4 meter gorgonopsid with very large canines, which contains one known species, Atrox. 

Artist impression of Rubidgea Atrox.

There are another 19 families of Gorgonopsids, but I'm very tired, and have an exam in the morning. I may return to them, but for now, I do need to sleep. 



From my blog, The Last Lemurisian
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Hiatus

Unfortunantly due to unavoidable circumstances, I am going to have to put my blog on hiatus for a while. I am unsure how long this will take, but this is by no means and end for this blog. I have enjoyed subjecting the masses to my writing here to just give it up. I'll just have to set it down for a bit while I get some things in order.

In the mean time, I will be letting the ever wonderful Misa Akane take over for a bit. She will be taking over any administrative duties as well as possibly putting up some of her own posts here in my absence.

I hope to be back as soon as I can, until then.

Cyc
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rape is like getting a flat tire?

Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaf (Republican) is behind a new bill that has passed the state house and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback. This bill will ban insurance companies from covering abortions in any case other than when the women’s life is in danger. While separate ‘abortion policies’ will be allowed under the bill, it affectively makes abortions out of reach for a large percentage of the populace who would need them. This bill does not make expectation for cases or rape.

A fellow Republican Representative, Barbara Bollier who supports abortion rights questioned the rationality behind such a bill. She wondered whether women really should be expected to purchase abortion only policies to cover for what is always an unforeseen possibility. Be it for an unwanted pregnancy in general or for the case of rape victims. In a completely unexpected rebuttal, Representative DeGraaf responded with:

We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"

Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have spare tire on my car."

"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."

I really do not know what to say to this. How can anyone consider being violated in one of the most horrific ways as the same as the annoyance of getting a flat tire? If nothing else proves the inhumanity of such people, this certainly must.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All hail Cthulu!

While I could not stand the original version of this song, I think I could get used to the improved version.



Edit:

Thanks to the wonderful Misa Akane for finding this for me, sorry for forgetting this.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

How the firefly glows

Biolumination, the creation of light by living things, is an evolutionary strategy that has formed multiple times for different reasons. But in the case of the fireflies, or lightning bugs if you prefer (despite them not being members of the true bugs, but that was last post), the cause for all the ephemeral lights generally comes down to one thing, sex.

Members of the family Lampyridea, or as they are more commonly known, fireflies, are a group of beetles that have developed the ability to use light for communication. Being beetles, a good portion of their lives are spent underground as larvae feeding off of soft bodied invertebrates such as slugs, snails and earthworms. Even at the larval stage, the glowing abdomen can be found in some species if flipped on their back. In this instance, the firefly is taking use of a secondary purpose behind glowing known as an aposematic signal. This is a warning to all those who find it that, due to chemicals unrelated to illumination, the creature possesses a terrible taste. In this case, the use of light is quite similar to the bright colors of certain poisonous frogs.

The production of light, in both the larvae and the adults, occurs in the abdomen. Here, on the underside of the posterior abdominal segments, within specialized cells known as photocyes, a chemical reaction occurs that produces the light. In the case of fireflies (as there are many ways to produce light), they begin with a florescent substrate known as Luciferin. While Luciferin can produce some light when oxidized, fireflies use an enzyme known as Luciferase to speed up the reaction. While Luciferin on its own only produces one wavelength of light, changes to the shape of the Luciferase enzyme in different species allows for the production of the wavelengths of yellow, green and even red light.

The reactions use of oxygen is key to the fireflies control over its light. While the nervous system does not directly contact the photocytes, it does connect to nearby cells. When the firefly wants to light up, it sends a signal to these neighboring cells to start producing nitrous oxide which is then absorbed by the adjacent photocytes. The photocytes have arranged their mitochondria (the source of energy for a cell) along the outside so that oxygen is used up by them before it can react with the Luciferin produced within the cell. But once nitrous oxide starts to be absorbed, the mitochondria start to metabolize using this gas instead, allowing for oxygen to diffuse deeper into the cell where it can finally be used in the reaction to produce light. As long as the supportive cells produce nitrous oxide, enough oxygen will diffuse throughout the cells for the firefly to glow. But once the production of nitrous oxide stops, the mitochondria go back to using oxygen which interrupts the oxygen flow, preventing the light producing reaction. In this round about manner, the firefly can appear to flick on and off.

All of these complex pathways have evolved for the sake of sex. For when it comes to reproduction, evolution will take any and all possible paths it can so that the individual’s genes may be passed on. The flashing is used as a sign of fitness, the longer and brighter the flash, the better suited the mate. Many females, who often do not develop wings and may even stay in a permanent larval form, use their own light to signal to the males whether they are interested or not.

The color, frequency and duration of the flashes are unique to each species. This prevents an individual from trying to attract a mate only to find out that it is the wrong species. However, one genus has taken advantage of this distinction. Females of the genus Photuris will mimic the flashes of the females of members of a different genus, Photinus, to lure in incompatible males. Once lured in, the female Photuris will eat the unsuspecting male so that it might gain the toxins it produces. It seems Photuris has found a more efficient way of becoming inedible than just producing the chemicals herself.

Thank you JuneBug for the request!
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Superfamily Pentatomoidea – The stink bugs

The insects known more commonly as the stink bugs, shield bugs or chest bugs are all members of the large superfamily Pentomoidea. There are approximently 7000 known species divided up amongst 14 to 15 families (depending on the system preferred by the consulted taxonomist). All are distinguishable by a similar body plan, the structure of their mouth parts and their varying use of chemical defenses.

Members of the true bugs (order Hemiptera), stink bugs are often mistakenly called beetles (order Coleoptera), despite having being members of a distinct order. While there are a number of anatomical differences between the true bugs and the beetles, one of the most distinctive can be seen in their mouth parts. Members of the true bugs all have modified their mouth parts into a sucking proboscis like structure. Composed of fused mandible and maxillae used for piercing and housed within a labium, most stink bugs use this proboscis to feed on the fluids of plants though a few species are predators of other insects.

Another distinct difference between true bugs and beetles can be seen in their wing structure. The beetle’s elytra (fore-wings) are entirely hardened and are not used for flight. These form a protective barrier for their alae (hind-wings). Both pairs of wings sit side by side and do not overlap, as they are in the true bugs. The true bugs also either have fully membranous wings or partially hardened elytra. In the case of true bugs with partially hardened elytra, the alae will be membranous, but many true bugs with membranous elytra will posses either reduced or completely lack their alae.

The final primary difference can be seen in their life cycle. Beetles are endopteryotes, meaning they go through a complete metamorphosis from a larval stage where as the true bugs are hemimetabolous and, after hatching, their young often appear as under-developed adults, known as nymphs. Often lacking wings until being gained during a molting (the most well known case of this, and also a member order Hemiptera, is the cicada) stink bug nymphs still possess the ability to produce the noxious chemicals found in the adults, though sometimes in a less developed way.

All members of superfamily Pentomoidea (which gets its name from these insects trade-mark 5 segmented antennae) either have a rounded or somewhat triangular body plan. Most in North America are more familiar with the angular body plan, but both forms are common. One of the easiest ways to tell if you are dealing with a member of this superfamily (other than the often nauseating odor when they are disturbed) is their well developed scutellum. This is a hardened extension of the thorax that covers the abdomen and protects part of the insect’s body and its wings, it is also the source of the common names ‘shield bug’ and ‘chest bug’. The scutellum is often mistaken as the hardened fore-wings of the beetles despite not being a part of the wing structures. Instead, the fore-wings are partially hardened and leathery to cover the membranous hind-wings, which are the primary source of flight. This combination of hardened and membranous wings gives the insect its characteristic buzzing sound while in flight.

Because of many stink bugs feeding off of the fluids of plants, many are considered major agricultural pests. A prime example of this can be seen with the introduction of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) to the North-Eastern United States from various parts of East Asia where it is also a common agricultural pest. First spotted in 1988, this species has quickly spread and now threatens crops as diverse as apples, sweet corn, peaches, soy beans, blackberries and others. Besides the damage to crops, many species of stink bugs are also common household pests where their repulsive sent makes many homeowners unsure of how to remove them without causing the insects to release their defensive chemicals. Despite being a common pest, some stink bugs are desirable due to their predatory nature, often feeding off of insects considered pests themselves.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.


Many stink bugs take advantage of a survival technique known as clustering. This occurs when multiple insects congregate to increase their chances of survival as a group and, in some species, to mate. This form of aggregation is often aided by pheromones many species use to attract other individuals and mates. If these pheromones are present, they are typically produced by exocrine glands on the abdomen. It seems a wise maneuver to move in numbers when many animals are afraid to take on one insect, let alone risk a potential sudden cloud of terribly smelling chemicals.

But I’m sure what many of you have been waiting to read involves the source of their most common of names. This has to do with a defensive measure that most members of superfamily Pentatomoidea share to one degree or another, the use of chemical weaponry. Housed in special glands found on either side of the thorax, these insects emit of spray of odiferous chemicals. The nature of these chemicals varies from specie to specie with the most common derivatives being alcohols, aldehydes and esters. In a few species, the compound is based off of cyanide and has the poison’s trademark almond like scent, though despite being based on a potent toxin, exposure is not fatal to humans. It should be noted that there are a few insects that also posses foul smelling chemical defences that have no relation to the true stink bugs. These include the pinacate beetles (genus Eleodes) and the Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata) amongst others.

While few can tolerate the rancid smell if allowed to spray, some people have found another use for these pungent insects. As astonishing as it might sound for an insect notorious for its scent, many stink bugs are used in various cuisines from around the globe. Most commonly eaten in Vietnam, Laos and Mexico, they are often prized for their strong flavor.

Thank you Holte Ender for the request!
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

It’s the end of the world as we know it…


Well now that I have gotten the tune to a song that no one can properly hope to sing stuck in your head, it is time to celebrate the end of the world!

But what should you expect on the rapture?  Well one thing to keep in mind is if you go out, be sure to wear a rain coat.  Why you might ask?  Just think of how much mess a flock of birds flying overhead can make and imagine how much worse it would be with a group of humans scared shitless (quite literally) by their sudden loss of gravity. 

You should also expect to have massive cancellations of flights.  After the first two or three planes experience in flight emergencies after their engines get clogged up with bits of Christian chunks, flights everywhere will be grounded until the sky-lanes finally clear of the flocks of believers.

The believers that make it past the airplanes will have a few other things to contend with.  The first is the fact that oxygen levels and temperatures quickly begin to drop the higher up in the atmosphere you get.  Soon the excited believers will begin to become panic stricken once they realize that the writers of the bible had a very poor grasp of the fundamentals of our planet.  I imagine god will be pretty embarrassed when he goes out to greet the first of his chosen only to find them as lifeless meat-sicles. 

The various space agencies are likely also to be rather pissed by god’s oversight.  Our planets orbit is already littered with bits of space junk that perpetually threaten the many artificial satellites that help maintain our modern life.  All they need is a few thousand more things to track, not to mention the disruption of the amazing view those on the International Space Station has after it becomes obscured with the morbid vista of countless bodies drifting past.

Of course it is also possible that this entire thing is the creation of a series of deluded minds attempting to interpret the ramblings of ignorant ancient desert dwellers as absolute truth and nothing more than a lot of embarrassed back-tracking from the die-hard believers will come of this.  Perhaps there will even be an explosion of people coming to their senses about all this rapture business with former believers realizing that their invisible sky daddy is nothing more than a silly myth that should have been set aside with the likes of the tooth fairy.  People might learn from the error of their petty divisive beliefs and attempt to more forward as a more unified society.  On second thought, we should all probably just be on the lookout for someone claiming to have uncovered the ‘real’ date of the rapture for the believers to cling on to.
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