Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Does Drinking Cold Water Burn Calories?

The answer to your question appears to be yes!

Read this:

"Studies have suggested that drinking water has a thermogenic effect in adults that significantly increases their resting energy expenditure (REE), the calories required to maintain normal body functions in a resting state. Water-induced thermogenesis hadn't been tested in pediatric patients, researchers said."

Source:International Journal of Obesity 35, 1295-1300 (October 2011) | doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.130 Influence of water drinking on resting energy expenditure in overweight children. G Dubnov-Raz, N W Constantini, H Yariv, S Nice and N Shapira

What's the Best Way to Stay Awake and Study?

Experts tell us that pulling "all nighters" rarely are effective in raising test grades. Newer research tells us that the best way to increase alertness is to drink a cup of coffee and then take a 15-20 minute nap. The nap clears the body of sleep inducing adenosine and gives just enough time for the caffeine to hit the blood stream.

Source:Psychophysiology. 1997 Nov;34(6):721-5.
Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap.
Reyner LA, Horne JA.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can You Tell Me A Little About How Memory Works?

It appears that there are a lot of misconceptions about the accuracy of memory.The facts below came from the August 4, 2011 online Scientific American:

Here are four common incorrect assumptions about memory, held by some of the survey subjects, that experts say should be forgotten:

1. Memory works like a video camera, recording the world around us onto a mental tape that we can later replay.

Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of those in the random telephone survey said that they agreed with this model of a passively recorded memory. This notion runs counter to research that has shown events to be recalled based on “goals and expectations..."

2. An unexpected occurrence is likely to be noticed—even when people’s attention is elsewhere.

More than three quarters (77.5 percent) of people thought that this would be the case. Clearly, they are unfamiliar with the gorilla suit study. That work and other research have shown that unexpected—and even preposterous—details frequently go unnoticed, and thus do not make it into memory.

3. Hypnosis can improve memory—especially when assisting a witness in recalling details associated with a crime.

Most memory experts disagree with this statement, but more than half (55.4 percent) of the surveyed public thought that it was accurate. Courts have already steered away from accepting testimony that was gathered through hypnosis. And many studies have demonstrated that people under hypnosis—and even those who are not—can often be led by questioners to “recall” things that never occurred.

4. Amnesia sufferers usually cannot remember their identity or name.

Although soap operas might lead you to conclude otherwise, most common forms of amnesia interfere with the formation of new long-term memories—usually as a result of a major brain injury. The researchers cite the movie Memento as a reasonably accurate portrayal of the condition, but most popular portraits “depict amnesia as something more like a much rarer fugue state in which someone cannot remember who they are and suddenly take leave of their home and work,” they noted. Perhaps because of the prevalence of this blank-stare amnesia in television and movies, a whopping 82.7 percent of those surveyed shared this (incorrect) view of the condition.

The survey also found that nearly half (47.6 percent) of respondents said that once a memory is formed, it is set in stone. This is also not true, say the researchers: “Our memories can change even if we don’t realize they have changed,” Simons said.

Along these lines, more than a third (37.1 percent) of people thought that “confident” testimony from a witness should be adequate for a criminal conviction. However, many defendants who were later shown to be innocent via DNA testing had originally been convicted based on a faulty ID by an eyewitness. And as the researchers pointed out in their paper, being confident about your memory of an event is a good predictor of its actual accuracy, but “the link between confidence and accuracy across individuals is more tenuous, in part because people differ in their baseline levels of expressed confidence.”

A lesson to be gleaned from all of this might exonerate a group that might need all of the credibility it can get these days: politicians. “The extent of these misbeliefs helps explain why so many people assume that politicians who may simply be remembering things wrong must be deliberately lying,” Chabris said. But imperfect memories alone, of course, do not guarantee anyone is always striving to be deception-free.

But if there’s one thing to remember about the findings, it’s that “people tend to place greater faith in the accuracy, completeness and vividness of their memories than they probably should,” Simons said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is the Real Difference Between Sunscreens?

It appears that there is a lot of confusion about sun screen and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has attempted to help the consumer by making the label more clear and truthful.

The FDA has banned exaggerated claims about sunscreens' strength and durability. Even broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF over 15 cannot be called "sunblock," because no lotion entirely blocks the sun's rays. Nor can sunscreen products be labeled as waterproof or sweatproof: There is no sunscreen that stays completely on the body when exposed to water. At the most, a product may be water- or sweat- resistant.

Not only do sunscreens come off the skin (particularly when exposed to water or toweled off) but their chemical components break down over time. To preserve the efficiency of sunscreens, the products should be stored in a cool, dry place and replaced every year. In addition, they should be reapplied at least every two hours or more frequently if exposed to water or rubbed off. Under the new regulations, water-resistant formulas must say on the label how long the product will protect skin before needing to be reapplied, either 40 or 80 minutes.

In addition, the FDA proposed a rule that would cap advertised SPF at "50 +", because the evidence that more expensive, higher-SPF products provide more skin protection is lacking. Many who wear high-SPF sunscreen spend more time in the sun and reapply less frequently than those whose sunscreen has a lower SPF. As a result, they end up with both sunburn and possibly long-term skin damage. In addition, many misunderstand the meaning of SPF.
Source:Scientific American: 6/27/11

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yes, You Can Eat Insects

When the health department in Columbia, Mo., nixed a new flavor of ice cream laced with cicadas in early June from a local shop's menu, it wasn't because it's illegal to serve the winged insects to the public. "It's not really regulated," says Gerald Worley, the department's manager of environmental health, who adds, "I don't claim to be an expert on this." Nonetheless, Worley says he discouraged Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream proprietor Scott Southwick from selling the surprisingly popular flavor because Southwick "didn't really have a plan for how he would cook them," and Worley worried that the critters, which were collected from the ground, might make people sick. "We suggested that it would not be a good idea," says Worley. The first batch, in which the boiled bugs were covered with brown sugar and milk chocolate, then mixed in with an ice cream base of brown sugar and butter, had promptly sold out after the shop announced the flavor on its Facebook page.

As it turns out, cicadas have a long culinary history, and the emergence this spring of the noisy, 13-year-cyclical cricket-like insect in the Southeast and southern Midwest has brought a resurgence in cicada cuisine. Ashlee Horne of Nashville likes her cicadas sautéed in butter and garlic. Jenna Jadin of Washington, D.C., bakes them into banana bread, chocolate-chip cookies and rhubarb pie. Others like them dipped in chocolate for a sweet, crunchy snack. The inch-long bugs are widely consumed around the world, especially in East Asia, and are considered a delicacy among the Iroquois people in the U.S. Even the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle gobbled them up: in his 4th century B.C. text Historia Animalium, he noted that the young nymphs are tastier than mature bugs, which have a harder exoskeleton, and that among adults, the egg-laden females are best. (See pictures of bug cuisine.)

So why all the fuss about eating cicadas today? "We make such a big deal out of this, but the biggest thing we have to deal with is human ignorance. They are no more germy than any other animal," says David George Gordon, author of The Eat a Bug Cookbook, who likes cicada nymphs as a pizza topping and says they have an asparagus-like flavor. Nymphs also have a chewy texture, while mature cicadas are crunchy and have more of a nutty taste, similar to that of peanuts or almonds. (See TIME's photo gallery of what the world eats.)

Entomologist Steve Murphree of Belmont University in Nashville says nymphs, which live underground for 13 years by sucking the sap of tree roots, are safe to eat raw after they emerge from the ground and shed their exoskeleton. Mature cicadas should be boiled while still alive to kill any bacteria, and already-dead cicadas should never be harvested because they could be decomposing. Also, anyone with allergies to shellfish, which belong to the same family as cicadas, should avoid the bugs altogether. (Read more about cicada ice cream.)

But bug eaters need to act fast. Once they emerge, the 13-year cicadas live for five weeks at most, according to Murphree. They can be found mostly on oak, hickory, apple and pear trees, where they lay their eggs. By the end of July, most of these so-called Brood XIX cicadas, also known as the Great Southern Brood, will have gone back underground. While the red-eyed bugs have already quieted down in Kentucky and Tennessee, the males' distinctive mating song is still piercingly loud in parts of Missouri and southern Illinois. (See the top 10 annoying sounds.)

But chances are you'll need to catch and cook them yourself, judging by the Columbia, Mo., health department's reaction to cicada ice cream. Good thing the Web is full of cicada recipes, along with tips on catching and preparing them. Meanwhile, the more timid among us can sit back and watch.
Source Time Magazine:,8599,2078830,00.html

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Deep in the Earth Can Living Things Be Found?

Scientists already knew that single-cell organisms live in harsh, dark environments miles underground. But recently a multicellular organism, a worm, was found deep in rock nearly three-quarters of a mile underground. Nematodes are tiny worms known for being adaptable. The nematode the team found in the mine was a new species, and the scientists named it Halicephalobus mephisto.

That wasn’t the only discovery. A little more than half a mile down, the researchers found two kinds of nematodes already known to live on the surface. And more than two miles underground, the team discovered traces of nematode DNA in the water coming from cracks in the rocks.

Source: Science News 6/15/11

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Heard We All Have Genetic Mutations - Isn't This Bad?

The best answer to this question is from the June 13, 2011 Science News:

In a study, published online June 12 in Nature Genetics, shows that some individuals mutate faster than others. That means it may be fairly common for people to inherit a disproportionate share of mutations from one parent.

Researchers from an international collaboration known as the 1000 Genomes Project deciphered the genetic blueprints of six people from two families — a mother, father and child from each — and counted up the mutations inherited by each child. From there, the team calculated the human mutation rate.

“We all mutate,” says study coauthor Philip Awadalla, a population geneticist at the University of Montreal. “And the mutation rate can be extraordinarily variable from individual to individual.”

Combined with the results of three similar recent studies, the rate indicates that, on average, about one DNA chemical letter in every 85 million gets mutated per generation through copying mistakes made during sperm and egg production. The new rate means each child inherits somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 new mutations.

Since no one had ever directly measured the human mutation rate, the researchers weren’t sure how much variation to expect. But the scientists did anticipate that fathers would hand down more mutations than mothers, due to a well-known phenomenon called male mutation bias. The effect stems from the fact that females are born with all the eggs they will ever have, but males produce new sperm all the time. Each time cells divide to make new sperm there’s a chance mistakes will happen in the DNA-copying process.

One of the two families the researchers examined — a mother, father and child of European descent — followed the expected pattern; 92 percent of the new mutations inherited by the child came from the father. But in the other family — a mother, father and child of Yoruban descent — only 36 percent of the mutations came from the father, meaning that the mother had the higher mutation rate.

“That’s very unusual. It’s surprising,” says Adam Eyre-Walker, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. That doesn’t mean that male mutation bias doesn’t exist in humans, just that some women have faster mutation rates and some men have slightly slower ones. On average, men still rack up more DNA changes per generation than women do.

The reason for the variation in mutation rate is unclear. Genetic factors may make some people more prone to getting mutations or could beef up mutation-fixing machinery in others. Environmental factors and the age of the parents at the child’s conception might also influence the mutation rate, says Peter Keightley, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Edinburgh. More, and larger studies of this kind will be needed to determine how much people’s mutation rates vary between individuals.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do Sloths Really Only Go To the Bathroom Once a Week?

Strange but true, yes, a sloth has a very slow metabolism and does only descend from the tree about once a week to defecate.

Even more interesting is that the sloth digs a hole with his/her tail at the base of the tree and the waste from the sloth serves as a nitrogen boost to the tree roots.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When you are cold, why do you get the shivers?

The hypothalamus, located right above the brain stem, serves to link the nervous system and endocrine system. The hypothalamus helps control heat, thirst, hunger, sleep, and many other functions. When you are cold, the hypothalamus sends messages to your muscles to warm you up. In order to generate heat, the cells in your body begin to move rapidly. The shivering you experience when you are cold is a natural reflex that causes the hypothalamus to send messages to the body to help you warm yourself.

Source:Hillendale Health, Kids Health

Are Sea Horses and Sea Dragons the Same?

Seahorses and sea dragons are unique in the animal kingdom because it's the male that gets pregnant and gives birth. Unlike seahorses, who carry eggs in a bulging brood pouch, sea dragons affix them to the undersides of their tails for the duration of the pregnancy.

After courtship, the female pushes the eggs onto a soft patch of tissue on the male’s tail. This tissue then surrounds the fragile eggs and holds them in place.

Source: Monterrey Bay Aquarium

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Approximately how many nephrons are in a kidney?

Nephrons are functional units of the kidney that actually produce the urine by excreting waste and excess substances. There are about 1 million nephrons in a human kidney, but nephron number does decrease with age.

What causes gas?

Gas and gas pains are most commonly caused by swallowing too much air and by bacterial breakdown in intestines.

Undigested carbohydrates in the small intestine and fermented by bacteria in your colon. The unabsorbed substances are typically fibers and sugars, and the bacteria causes the production of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane in the form of flatulence. The bacteria as it breaks down rotting substances is what typically causes the unpleasant smell.

Gas can also be caused by swallowing too much air! This typically comes out at burps and belches. We swallow air all the time, just don’t often notice. We most often swallow air by chewing gum, smoking, eating too fast, and old people who’s dentures are not properly fitted!

Various high fiber foods, antibiotics, laxatives, and food intolerances can also be culprits for flatulence and gas pains.

Why do kids with asthma carrying around an inhaler? What exactly is in there?

A drug called albuterol is what’s inside an inhaler. What asthma does is make the small tubes in your lungs called bronchioles contract, making it hard for oxygen to get through your lungs to alveoli.

That’s why it’s very tough for asthmatics to breathe during an asthma attack. What the albuterol does is act as a muscle relaxant. As the albuterol travels through the bronchioles, it relaxes the bronchioles tubes, which are made of smooth muscle, allowing for air to get through.

What is the effect of the hormone estrogen in females, and what relation does it have to emotions?

There are three different types of estrogen created naturally in women. They are Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3).

The most common form of estrogen found in women who are not pregnant is estradiol (E2) as Estriol is the primary estrogen produced during pregnancy, and Estron is introduced in the body during menopause. They are mostly produced in the ovaries by developing follicles. These follicles are called corpus luteum and placenta. This process starts in the internal cells in the ovary by the synthesis of Androstenedione, 19-carbon steroid hormone, from cholesterol.

Then this compound is converted to estrogen Estrone or Estradiol, usually immediately. Estrogen can also be produced in other tissues such as the liver, breasts, or in fat cells which is why being over or underweight in woman can be dangerous to fertility.

As far as estrogen affecting emotions in woman this usually happens just before or during the menstrual cycle. During this time the woman’s estrogen levels spike to thin out the blood in the body. This also seems to make women extra emotional although the reasons as to why remains a mystery to scientists and doctors. It is thought it has something to do with the fact that it is active in every part of the body including the part of the brain that controls emotions and releases endorphins into the body.

What kind of damage does Alzheimer’s disease do to the nervous system?

Alzheimer’s disease which affects the victims’ memory, emotions, responses, and reasoning. Primarily, the disease affects the cerebral cortex, which governs movement, thought, and judgment, and the hippocampus, which controls learning and processing.

Alzheimer’s irreversibly damages the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex by forming plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the affected cells. Slowly, the tangles and plaques spread to healthy brain cells until the brain cannot function any longer. The disease decreases the amount of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter necessary for brain processes) in the cerebral cortex. This is caused by the deterioration of neurons that produce acetylcholine by the protein, beta amyloid.

Essentially, the tangles and plaques take up space in the brain and spread until the affected cells far outnumber the functioning, healthy cells.

Are Muscles Attractive to Women?

Apparently so. This question can be answered with a study done that shows that people who are “ripped or on da swole patrol” are likely to receive a higher amount of education, obtain a higher paying job, accept health and life insurance, and are more likely to marry than the non-muscular person.

Even in movies or advertisements, the stereotypical “dream guy” is a muscular jock with his shirt off. Therefore, beginning at young ages, girls begin to learn by societal beliefs that muscular men are more likely to succeed in their endeavors.

Appears that culture and peer pressure is in play here.

Why is Protein Necessary for Building Muscles?

During physical activity, one breaks down their muscles for fuel. In order to build muscle, the body needs to be in an anabolic state. In order to be in an anabolic state, the body must have a sufficient amount of protein. An anabolic state requires having a positive nitrogen balance, which is why protein is great (protein is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen).

Protein helps repair and rebuild muscle tissue, after it is broken down. In order to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, the body needs amino acids, which are the building blocks for the body’s muscles, which come from protein.

Why and how do we get “goose bumps”?

Most people are prone to get “goose bumps” when they are cold, excited, or in awe. Biologically, however, the process is much more complicated. Cold temperature will serve as the stimulus in this explanation. Almost all people have been surprised by a shock of cold and received goose bumps, or cutis anserina. They are caused by nerve cells reacting to the stimulus, sending a message to the brain, and hormones releasing to insulate the skin. The body functions so that it maintains homeostasis, so when the brain receives the message “cold”, it reacts.

The message is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, the part that regulates hormones and is also said to connect the physical and spiritual body. The hypothalamus scientifically connects the nervous system to the endocrine system, and is also the part of the brain that stimulate emotions.

Beneath the hypothalamus is the pituitary gland, which is connected to the hypothalamus by neurosecretory cells. The pituitary gland releases hormones into the blood stream which are rushed to the affected area(s), and create “goose bumps”. The hormones that stimulate “goose bumps” cause tiny muscles at the base of each hair to contract and cause the hair to erect. This process is for insulation, and is one of the ways of how the body most efficiently maintains heat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Does caffeine have an effect on nutrients absorbed by the body?

Yes, caffeine promotes the excretion of calcium which is released in excrements and inhibits the calcium absorbed in the small intestine. It also limits Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron absorption which decreases overall health. Caffeine also increases urination. In moderation, 2-4 8 oz cups of coffee per day, caffeine is not too influential, but too much could affect overall health.

Sources: Fit Day; Lifetime Fitness, Mayo Clinic

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What causes a heart murmer?

Believe it or not, heart murmers are harmless most of the time. However, occasionally, they can be caused by a damaged or overworked valve. This is a common problem at birth and may also occur due to diseases or illnesses. Pregnancy, anemia, high blood pressure, and fever are a few factors that may alter the rate of blood flow in the heart, resulting in a heart murmer. These causes usually result in only harmless heart murmers. Septal defects, holes between chambers of the heart, can cause an abnormal heart murmer, or shunts, abnormal amounts of blood flow. It can also be caused by stenosis, when not enough blood can be conveyed by the valves, or regurgitation, when the valves don't completely close or have a leak. Rheumatic fever can affect the heart valves as can endocarditis, a disease that can actually destroy the valves. Valve calcification, build-up in the valves, can cause heart murmers.

Mayo Clinic

What are complications that can occur in blood clotting?

A deep vein thrombosis occurs when an unneeded blood clot forms in a major vein, usually a leg. If this clot travels to the lungs it is called a pulmonary embolism. One-third of people who suffer from a pulmonary embolism will die. Blood thinning medicines can help with this problem. Also, a vena cava filter implanted surgically, can catch and rid the body of the clot.

Risk factors include smoking, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, and other unhealthy habits. On the other hand, if blood fails to clot at a cut or abrasion, this could be a symptom of hemophilia or von Willebrand disease. The von Willebrand factor links the platelets, cell fragments in the blood, to the collagen, a fiber, that causes blood clotting. A lack of or mutant of this factor causes von Willebrand disease. When factors 8 and 9, found on the X chromosome, are mutated or missing, this causes hemophilia. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and sometimes, injections from blood donors can also help.

Everyday Health

Monday, May 9, 2011

What is the difference between a heart attack and a stroke?

A heart attack occurs when blood supply is cut off to a portion of the heart. Some warning signs of a heart attack is shortness of breath, chest discomfort, possible cold sweat and light headedness.

A stroke happens when blood supply is cut off from a blood clot in the brain. Unlike a heart attack in a stroke there is usually no pain. Some warning signs of a stroke are numbness and weakness of face, arms, or legs. It also causes confusion,trouble speaking, dizziness, trouble seeing, and sudden headaches.

Source: American Heart Association

Why do people use artificial pacemakers?

A Pacemaker is a small device that is placed in your abdomen or chest, it regulates problems with ones heart rate or rhythm. Blood may be pumping too fast or too slow, causing fatigue, shortness of breath, and can possibly damage internal organs. Pacemakers help reduce risk of heart attack and can save peoples lives.

Source:National heart, lung, and blood institute

What is the survival time for human egg and sperm?

An egg lives for about 12-24 hours after ovulation. Sperm can live for 5-7 days. Most typically only one egg comes from the ovary through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. Since the sperm is able to live for about a week, pregnancy is possible even if you have intercourse before you ovulate.

During a female’s menstrual cycle, when is it most likely that pregnancy will occur?

Pregnancy is most likely to occur during ovulation, which is about the middle of the menstrual cycle. But,you do not have to have sex on that day in order to get pregnant. Due to the life of the sperm, having sex within a week of ovulation may result in pregnancy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's dirtier than a toilet seat?

Actually a lot of things are dirtier than a toilet seat. A recent article in Consumer Reports came up with another item to add to the list of dirty things - the steering wheel of your car!

Here's something to chew on the next time you're chowing down while behind the steering wheel. You're eating in a spot that's roughly nine times dirtier than a public toilet seat.

That's what microbiologists at Queen Mary University of London, England found when they did a small research study for B&Q, a UK-based home and garden retailer.

On average, they found that the steering wheels, driver's seat floor, rear seats and gear shift lever contained an average of 700 bacteria per 10 square centimeters. The worst area: The car's trunk with 1,000 per 10 square centimeters. Public toilet seats, note the researchers, contain on average 80 bugs per 10 square centimeters.

Source: Consumer Reports 4/28/11

What is the difference between a sting ray and manta ray?

One of the main differences between the sting ray and the manta ray is size. The manta ray is quite a bit bigger than a sting ray.

More importantly, the manta ray does no have stingers so in spite of it's size it is not a threat. Manta rays are harmless plankton eaters that neither bite, sting nor charge.

How Long is a Lamprey and What Fish Does It Live On?

Adult sea lamprey range from 14 to 24 inches in length. Sea lamprey uses its suction disk mouth which is filled with small sharp, rasping teeth and a file-like tongue to attach to fish, puncture the skin, and drain the fish's body fluids. An anticoagulant in their saliva ensures that the blood of the host fish does not clot while the sea lamprey feed.

Often the host fish die from loss of blood, or infections resulting from stress. Fish that survive sea lamprey attacks will have decreased reproduction. Sea lamprey in prefer landlocked salmon, lake trout and other trout species, due to their small scales and thin skin.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Long Does It Take a Star Fish to Regenerate?

The actual time it takes for an arm to regenerate into an adult star fish varies. This phenomenon is regulated by both exogenous (seasonal changes, environmental stimuli)and endogenous factors (body size, humoral and nervous factors). Several studies have been done on this topic and it appears that within 6 weeks the animal has made significant growth advances in replacing the lost body parts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What is the deadliest creature in the world?

Many creatures are able to secrete venom but many believe the deadliest is the Sea Wasp, a box jelly fish that is found in Australia. The venom from this creature is able to kill 60 people and over 100 deaths have been attributed to this sea animal.

The Sea Wasp is not aggressive but it swims along at about 5 mph with it's tentacles flowing behind. It is easy for other animals and sometimes humans to get stung by these trailing tentacles.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How long are the roots of a Lily Pad?

A Water Lily is classified as an aquatic plant and it's roots are attached to the bottom of the lake or pond. So I think what you are really asking is the length of the stem that then attaches to the root at the muddy bottom.

In researching your answer I found a lot more information on how to get rid of these pretty but sometimes invasive plants than true facts about their structure. It appears that the stem length fluctuates with the depth of the water but can be 12-15 feet in length.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How many times can a Venus Fly Trap open and close?

Carnivorous plants are really interesting but we may some misconceptions on how a venus fly trap works.
The traps consist of two clamshell-like halves, lined with guard hairs and very small nectar glands. In their resting position the traps are held open at 45°-60°. A healthy plant may have from 3 to 12 or more traps.

The interior surface of each leaf is filled with microscopic digestive glands, giving the leaf surface a fine bumpy appearance. Each inner leaf half usually has three small delicate trigger hairs in a triangular pattern. Most of the time, for the trap to close, any one of these trigger hairs must be touched twice, or any two hairs touched one after the other. In very warm temperatures one touch may be enough. The longer the period between the two stimuli the slower the closure. The best closing response seems to happen when both stimuli occur within 40 seconds. Each trap will close about 10 times before it will no longer respond.

The time delay for trap closure seems to have some survival advantage. A single stroke caused by a brisk breeze or raindrop will not make the plant spend unnecessary closure energy on non-food. The double stroke will often allow prey to enter the center of the trap and be better positioned for capture. If the trap captures non-organic matter or misses its prey, it will open usually within 24 hours. A trap may take 3 to 5 days to digest completely entrapped prey.


Monday, April 4, 2011

What is the largest living organism, a plant or an animal?

The largest tree is 275 feet - a Giant Sequoia. The largest animal is the Blue Whale at 110 feet. That means that the plant wins the title of largest living single organism.

Can You Give Me More Examples of C4 Plants?

C4 plants are plants that use a supplementary method of CO2 uptake which forms a 4-carbon molecule instead of the two 3-carbon molecules of the Calvin cycle. These plants are able to handle higher temperatures and higher light intensity than C3 plants. C4 plants do require more ATP than C3 plants but also make more glucose per given leaf area and grow more quickly.

Plants that are C4s include sorghum, sugarcane, crab grass, millet,corn,Bermuda grass,amaranth,and nut grass.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Should I be worried about radiation in my food?

On March 22, 2011 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it would stop all milk products, and vegetable and fruit products imported from the Japan's prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma from entering
the U.S. -- a response to public fears about radiation from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

This announcement comes despite the agency's repeated assurances that radiation found in foods in Japan was small, and posed no risk to the U.S. food supply.

Since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented blanket radiation screenings for nearly all U.S.
imports, including food. The FDA programmed its import tracking systems to flag food shipments from Japan automatically, amid growing contamination concerns after this month's earthquake. But the agency says it will now stop all shipments of milk
products and fruits and vegetables originating from radiation affected areas from entering the U.S. It will detain these products without radiation screening,
according to an FDA spokesperson.

In 2010, the U.S. imported $16.5 billion worth of milk, fruits and vegetables, of which a small fraction -- $6.725 million -- came from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the imported dairy products are processed foods such as casein and cheese. Imported fruits and vegetables include potatoes, frozen vegetables, citrus fruits and melons.

Source: LA Times 3/22/11

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Save the Environment - Eat an Insect

A bright, engaging man, Mr. Van Dongen is head of the meat department at Sligro, a kind of Costco on the edge of this trim Dutch town. Besides steaks, poultry and others kinds of meat, he offers mealworms, buffalo worms, locusts and other insects, as well as prepared products containing insects like Bugs Sticks and Bugs Nuggets — not for pets, but as a source of protein for people.

On a recent afternoon he arranged two sample stands, one with chunks of chocolate laced with ground mealworms (larvae for a type of beetle), another with various kinds of whole insects for munching, including worms and crickets, in small plastic containers.

At a nearby stand with a Dutch name that translated roughly as the Tasting Garden, there were more insects than garden. While shoppers gazed with puzzled looks, Mr. Van Dongen, 41, warmed up portions of an Asian vegetable dish with crickets mixed in.

Silvia van der Donk tasted some, raised her eyebrows and smiled approvingly.

Her daughter Melanie, 21, recoiled. “I ate locusts once,” she said. “I didn’t like the texture.”

The efforts of Mr. Van Dongen and Sligro, a chain of 25 membership-only warehouse stores throughout the Netherlands, are part of a drive to convince the Dutch that crickets, worms and caterpillars are healthier sources of protein, and are less taxing on the environment, than steaks and pork chops.

Dutch breeders of insects, who until now have supplied the market for pet food — insects for geckos and other lizards, salamanders, newts, frogs, birds or fish — have jumped at an opportunity to open a new market and have founded a trade organization to promote the idea. The government is backing them, and last year it appropriated $1.4 million for research into insects as food, to prepare legislation governing insect farms, health and safety standards, and marketing through retail outlets.

To be sure, the idea is not new. Entomologists in the United States have promoted the idea for decades and produced a newsletter and even cookbooks with titles like “Creepy Crawly Cuisine.”

The Dutch take the food business seriously. One of the world’s largest food companies, Unilever, has roots here, and the Netherlands, though a small country, is a major exporter of food products, including vegetables, meat and fish.

Moreover, it has the backing of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which warns that the production of meat like beef and pork as sources of protein taxes the environment, estimating that almost one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock.

Ms. Peters stresses that insects are already a major source of protein elsewhere in the world. Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand. Yet in Europe, as in the United States, most people, except some very young children, consider them, well, pretty disgusting.

Michel van de Ven, 38, and his brother Roland, 40, have been raising insects for 12 years, the last six of them in a large brick barn once used for growing mushrooms. They export 40 percent of their stock to pet shops in Britain, Germany, Portugal and elsewhere; only 1 percent or less goes to supermarkets.

Most of his customers are restaurants, cafes and snack bars. To attract individual shoppers, he places his insect-laced chocolate samples where they will be encountered first. Only then does he display his samples of insects.

“When they see the bugs, they’ve already eaten them in the chocolate,” he said. “Some people scream, ‘Oh, my God!’ But if you do it once, then you do it twice.”

Source: New York Times, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Makes Bamboo So Hard to Get Rid Of?

The roots of the bamboo are made up of rhizomes which are food-storing branches of the underground system of growth. The rhizome is surrounded by a husk-like protective organ called a sheath which attaches basally to each rhizome node. This makes the rhizome very tough and woody so it is hard to dig out. Rhizomes also run under the soil and grow rapidly so it is easy to get more bamboo than you had planned on.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Do They Put Those Wipes By the Shopping Carts?

The wipes began to make their appearance when the H1N1 flu was at pandemic levels and continue to be found in many supermarkets today. Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. Of the 85 carts examined, 72 percent turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria.

The researchers took a closer look at the samples from 36 carts and discovered Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, on 50 percent of them — along with a host of other types of bacteria.

“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “That’s because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.”

The study’s results may explain earlier research that found that kids who rode in shopping carts were more likely than others to develop infections caused by bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, Gerba said.

Shopping cart handles aren’t the only thing you need to worry about when you go to the local supermarket, Gerba added. In other research, he’s found that reusable shopping bags that aren’t regularly washed turn into bacterial swamps. “It’s like wearing the same underwear every day,” Gerba said.

The best way to keep kids safe, Gerba said, is to swipe the shopping cart handle with a disinfecting wipe before you pop your kid into the basket.

Source:Linda Carroll at 3/1/2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's the name of the big plant that stinks?

Hmm...I think you are referring to the Corpse Lily (Amorphophallus titanum). It has a very large flower and smells like well, rotting flesh. The smell helps attract pollinators.

What are the main differences between a Neandertals and humans today?

Neandertals are a separate species from Homo sapiens, Neandertals were around during the Stone Age but are now extinct. Their bodies were shorter and stouter than those of modern people. Their inner-ear canals were smaller, too, which would have affected their balance.

The new study "provides a new line of evidence that Neandertals were not as adept at long-distance running as modern humans were” (Science News online, 2/22/11). But did have great strength in their arms and hands. Their brain size was thought to be equal to humans today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How many carrots do you need to eat to turn orange?

It would take a lot of carrots to turn your skin yellow/orange. It appears that the carotene is best absorbed if the dark green and orange foods are cookied, pureed or mashed. This breaks open the membranes of the plant cells and makes the carotene more absorbable. Foods known to cause carotenemias include, green beans, supplements,
papaya, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce,squash, apples, peaches, prunes, tomatoes, yams, butter, eggyolks, milk, and yellow corn.

I found one case study of a 32 year old female who had yellow discoloration of her skin and she was eating a dozen oranges every day along with greens and sweet potatoes. After she modified her diet the skin reverted back to her normal color.

Source:Indian J Dermatol 54; Supplement, January-March 2009

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why do some states have more obese people that others?

Some of the regional differences in the obesity rate may relate to popular foods that are frequently eaten by people in different areas like corn dogs and frito pie here in Texas. But, activity also plays a part in the obesity rate. A recent study by the Center for Disease Control showed that obesity in different areas correlates with the activity level.

These states recorded the least physical activity: Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

States that reported the highest levels of physical activity were California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Four of the five least-active counties in the USA are in Kentucky, report the researchers, and four of the five most active are in Colorado — including Boulder County, known for its outdoor sports culture and bike-friendly communities.

Source:USA Today 2/17/11

Are there some states with a higher rate of obesity than others?

There appears to be a higher percentage of obesity in the southern and midwestern United States. The biggest percentages of fat adults — those 21 and older — live in the South (28.4%) and Midwest (28.2%), compared with 24% in both the Northeast and the West.

Overall, non-Hispanic black women and Hispanics have the highest rates of obesity — 41.9% and 30.7%, respectively. Among states, Mississippi had the highest rate, 34%. Joining it in the over-30 crowd were Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Only Colorado and the District of Columbia had adult obesity rates lower than 20%. CDC official William Dietz attributed Colorado's relative thinness to its mountain altitudes — which require more exertion — and its "culture of physical activity." D.C. is "more of a mystery," he said. "It may have to do with the city's higher rates of breast feeding and consumption of fruits and vegetables."

Source: USA Today 8/3/10

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will Eating in The Middle of the Night Cause Me to Gain Weight?

A pound of weight is equal to 3,500 extra calories, whether you eat them before 7 a.m. or after 1 a.m.

When we snack late at night or in the middle of the night we're typically not reaching for celery sticks. We're often snacking on junk food like ice cream and chips. That, of course, can cause weight gain no matter when you do it.

Read more:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Causes a Migraine?

According to the Mayo Clinic, migraines may be caused by changes in the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin — which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved.

In addition to serotonin, some foods seem to serve as triggers for a migraine headache. Common offenders include alcohol, especially beer and red wine; aged cheeses; chocolate; aspartame; overuse of caffeine; monosodium glutamate — a key ingredient in some Asian foods; salty foods; and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger migraines.

It appears that migraine triggers are as unique as the individual suffering from them as stress, bright lights, barometric changes and hormones can also cause migraines to develop.


Does Butter Get Moldy?

Since mold spores are transported by air, water and insects it is possible that butter may serve as a new home for this microscopic fungi. Usually it is safe to keep butter out at room temperature for 24-48 hours however a warm and humid room will increase the chance that your butter will mold.

Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Will Storing Batteries in the Freezer Make Them Last Longer?

If you are talking about alkaline batteries the answer is no. If you store them at a temperature less than 85 degrees than freezing provides very little advantage.

But, batteries do lose their power faster as the temperature increases so in a hot climate you could lose as much as 25% of their power in a one year period. In this situation it is advantageous to store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Stats on Obesity

The obesity rate worldwide has roughly doubled in the past three decades, hitting 9.8 percent for men and 13.8 percent for women in 2008, an international team of researchers reports online February 3 in the Lancet.

Pacific Island nations collectively recorded the highest average weight. Among high-income countries, the United States ranked heaviest, followed by New Zealand.
Japan and Singapore weigh the least. Bangladesh women weighed least among their gender, as did men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among European females, Swiss women were the thinnest. —Nathan Seppa

Source: Science News, February 3, 2011

What is more important in weight loss carbs, calories, or fat?

Great question and a very confusing one for anyone who has contemplated weight loss. The science behind weight loss is the same now as 100 years ago - if you take in too many calories of any type, your body will store them as fat and the scale will go up. Likewise, take in less calories than you burn and you lose weight.

Now for the tricky part; your body needs not just calories, fat and carbs but a balance of all nutrients including protein and water. Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower fat diary products and lean meats will ensure your nutrient needs are met in a lower amount of calories. Add regular exercise to this equation and you have the perfect "recipe" for weight loss.

Not a very exciting answer given all of the weight loss items on the market but still the best one.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Can you get sick from kissing your dog?

Humans and dogs have different bacteria in their mouths. So it isn't necessarily true that you will get sick from kissing your dog since many bacteria and viruses are species specific.

However, in a research article published in the February 2011 edition of Emerging Infectious Disease, Drs. Chomel and Sun note that people are "sharing their environments with pets, allowing them in their beds, and kissing them like crazy. They need to know that a risk does exist” from bacteria that live in the mouths of felines and canines.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Can Eating Carrots Change Your Skin Color?

Yes, high amounts of a pre-cursor to vitamin A called carotene can cause a change in the color of your skin. Before you think of this as a bad thing consider recent research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour which found that eating foods high in carotenoids — a nutrient found in some fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables — gave them a healthy glow that rivaled a sun tan and made them more attractive in tests.

People with diets high in fruits and vegetables had demonstrably yellower skin, the researchers found. But the scientists weren't sure if the veggie glow would be perceived differently than one achieved by sitting in the sun. So they asked study participants to look at 51 different Caucasian faces and adjust the skin tones to the hues, ranging from those typical of a day in the sun to the glow from a carotenoid-rich diet, that they thought looked healthiest.

Results? The students found yellower faces more attractive and healthy looking.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

I heard staying up later burned more calories than sleeping, is that a good thing?

All of the recent research on sleep can be a little confusing. Scientists found that people getting a full night's sleep were more successful in their weight loss. But recent studies did show that an all nighter burned about 160 calories more than going to sleep. On the surface this looks like a good thing but researchers say it’s no weight-loss miracle: The body tries to make up for the deficit by saving more energy than usual the next day and night, researchers report in the January Journal of Physiology.

Pulling an all nighter continues to cause issues with sleep even when you try to make up for the sleep deprivation. After staying up all night, volunteers burned about 28 fewer calories during eight hours of recovery sleep than they had during a full night of regular sleep. And the energy conservation didn't stop there. In the 24-hour period during which people caught up on missing sleep, they burned about 228 fewer calories than during a comparable period in which they were sleep-deprived. Overall, when people slept normally, they expended 96 more calories than they did on days when they were making up for lost sleep.

This is a great example of looking carefully at research before running off with incomplete conclusions.

Source: Science 1/19/11
C.M. Jung et al. Energy expenditure during sleep, sleep deprivation and sleep following sleep deprivation in adult humans. Journal of Physiology, Vol. 589, January 2011, p. 235 DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197517

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dirty Money?

Dirty money usually is associated with illegal transactions but in this case it is referring to the bacteria living on currency.In a new study, Frank Vriesekoop and other researchers compared the germ populations found on bills of different countries. Vriesekoop is a microbiologist at the University of Ballarat in Australia. He led the study, which compared the germ populations found on money gathered from 10 nations. The scientists studied 1,280 banknotes in total; all came from places where people buy food, like supermarkets, street vendors and cafes, because those businesses often rely on cash.

Overall, the Australian dollars hosted the fewest live bacteria — no more than 10 per square centimeter. A square centimeter is a unit of area that is almost equal to the size of the nail on a child’s index finger. Chinese yuan had the most — about 100 per square centimeter. (Imagine 100 germs on your fingernail!)

Most of the germs on money probably would not cause harm. While six types of currency were germier than the United States dollars, U.S. dollars were the most likely to carry E. coli, a bacterium that usually lives in the intestines of animals (including humans). E. coli is largely responsible for food poisoning: People who eat food contaminated with this germ can get very sick.

Source: 1/19/11