Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast

Scientists Play Classical Music for Crocodiles to Study their Brain
Credit: Beverly Houwing, National Geographic

Researchers found that additional brain areas activated in crocodiles when they were exposed to complex stimuli such as classical music

For the first time, researchers have used music to learn more about the brains of crocodiles. The unusual experiment revealed new aspects of a crocodile’s brain activity that would otherwise be impossible to see.

Crocodiles are important for our understanding of the reptilian brain as they are one of the most ancient species on Earth and they have barely changed over the past 200 million years or so. Alongside birds, crocodiles are considered to be the living descendants of dinosaurs.

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154 Flights of Stairs Straight Out of Escher Drawing [via Nina Reznick]

“Vessel,” as it is currently called, will offer the public a mile of climbable space inside a 15-story steel frame. The "public landmark" will have 154 winding flights of stairs, including nearly 2,500 steps and 80 landings, he explained. Its base will measure 50 feet in diameter before widening to 150 feet at the top.

Women in Iran are pulling off their headscarves — and hoping for a ‘turning point’ [via Alan Gibson]

An activist group posted videos in February of women in Iran with their hair uncovered, waving garments in protest.

Iranian women have been raising a new challenge to their Islamic government, breaking one of its most fundamental rules by pulling off their headscarves in some of the busiest public squares and brandishing them in protest. 

Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list [via Nina Reznick]

It sports a green mohican, fleshy finger-like growths under its chin and can breathe through its genitals.

The Mary river turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.

The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Despite the turtle’s punk appearance – derived from vertical strands of algae that also grow on its body – its docile nature made it historically popular as a pet.

We Just Proved Plants Have Consciousness, New Study Suggests

The benefits of talking to houseplants have long been relegated to the halls of pseudoscience, while the benefits of playing them music has seemed even goofier. Now, a study published in The Annals of Botany journal suggests that plants are much more complex in their range of reactions and much closer to animals than previously assumed.

The study used a single-lens reflex camera to follow organ movements in plants before, during, and after recovery to exposure to diverse and unrelated anesthetics. "Mimosa leaves, pea tendrils, Venus flytraps and sundew traps all lost both their autonomous and touch-induced movements after exposure to anesthetics," it said. "In Venus flytrap, this was shown to be due to the loss of action potentials under diethyl ether anesthesia. The same concentration of diethyl ether immobilized pea tendrils. Anaesthetics also impeded seed germination and chlorophyll accumulation in cress seedlings."

By trapping pea plants in ether-filled glass chambers, soaking garden cress roots and seedlings in lidocaine, and measuring the electrical activity of Venus flytrap cells, they soon determined the plants become unresponsive. This meant the anesthetics worked, and the plants' cells stopped firing. Once the medicine wore off, they seemed to regain consciousness.

While these insights can help doctors learn more about the effectiveness of those same anesthetics, they also offer further proof that plants are complex living organisms, receptive to pain and able to be subdued using medicine.

"Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices," said study co-author Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. "They're living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like with humans feeling pain or joy. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass."

A few years ago, scientists discovered a plant that could tell when caterpillars were munching on its leaves. Though it suggested plants were more aware than we knew, this new study offers further proof.

In related news, China recently announced plans to grow plants and animals on the moon. By sending potatoes, Arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs in a capsule to the surface of the moon, the eggs will hatch into carbon dioxide-producing silkworms,  while the potatoes and seeds will release oxygen through photosynthesis.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, MIT is growing plants that glow in the dark. They managed this by introducing chemically interacting nanoparticles, like the enzyme that gives fireflies their bioluminescence, into the leaves of a watercress plant.

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