Category: Scat-egory

How Our Circadian Cycle Helps Us Not Need to Pee Overnight

By Sarah Zhang | May 2, 2012 12:48 pm

spacing is important
How to keep track of mouse urine

Eight hours is a long time without a trip to the bathroom when awake, yet most of us can sleep through the night without peeing. And no, it’s not just because you (presumably) stop drinking coffee in your sleep: even when food and drink are factored out, you both make less urine and have better bladder capacity during the night. As with most behaviors that change from day to night, it does indeed have everything to do with the circadian rhythm.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers compared normal mice with mice whose circadian rhythms were disrupted by genetic mutations. To keep track of mice urination over time, they used a rather charming contraption that slowly unspooled urine paper under the cages (see image). Urine spots on the paper were counted up and, sure enough, urination in the normal mice showed 24-hour patterns while the mutant mice did not.

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Hyenas Change Their Diet During Lent, According to a Poop Analysis

By Sarah Zhang | April 6, 2012 8:26 am

spotted hyena
Did you know I can eat and digest bone? Plenty of calcium.

After painstakingly identifying all the animal hairs in hyena poop, scientists have determined that Lent forces spotted hyenas in Ethiopia to change their diets too. No, Ethiopians have not managed to convert hyenas—they just deprive them of butcher scraps.

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How to Catch Beetles: An Ice Cream Scoop, PVC Pipe, and Frozen Dung Balls

By Sarah Zhang | March 9, 2012 2:49 pm


After three and a half years of mucking around Florida cow pastures, veterinary entomologist Philip Kaufman has collected 62,320 dung beetles. That comes to about 60 beetles a day, if you’re counting. What’s the secret to his beetle-catching success? The New York Times Green Blog has got the scooper—erh, scoop:

He collected fresh dung with an ice cream scooper, then packed it into small pouches that he froze in his lab. He set up pit fall traps, or mesh-covered funnels partly buried underground that were baited with the thawed dung balls. Positioned at a slant, the mesh encouraged beetles to fall into a bit of PVC pipe from which they could not escape. After placing the traps, he would return within 24 hours to investigate the day’s catch.

Squatting around cowpats paid off: Kaufman’s research on the diversity dung beetles has just been published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. He isn’t the only one with an affinity for dung beetles though. The little critters actually do a lot of a farm’s clean-up work, eating through the dung that can quickly pile up when a single cow produces 82 lbs of manure a day. Cow farmers have been asking Kaufman for dung beetles to stock their farms.

Read more about the fascinating world of dung beetles at the Times

Image via Flickr / mbarrison

Extreme Sewage Disposal: 6 Creative Ways to Get Rid of #1 & 2

By Sarah Zhang | March 1, 2012 10:32 am

Portland's Tips for Making Public Potties That Last

By Veronique Greenwood | January 24, 2012 1:03 pm

potty
Breezy and exposed! That’s the secret to bathrooms no one, not even street people, wants to live in.

Many cities have had epic, expensive public toilet fails. Seattle, we’re looking at you and your $5 million self-cleaning toilets that wound up trashed.

But over at The Atlantic’s Cities site, John Metcalfe has a piece detailing why Portland’s public potties have survived the aggressions (and heavy use) of the citizens. Here are Portland’s tips for defecation success.

1. Make it open to the elements: we’re talking bathroom stall, sans the bathroom. People walking by on the sidewalk should be able to see the peer’s feet and hear every little splish, splash, and sploosh in that potty. A comfortable, enclosed public bathroom is a bum’s living room, but an open-air crapper is just an open-air crapper.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Scat-egory

Dizzy Discus Throwers, Horny Beer-Bottle Beetles, and the Wasabi Alarm Clock: the 2011 Ig Nobels

By Veronique Greenwood | September 30, 2011 12:07 pm

Those classy folks at the Annals of Improbable Research are at it again. Last night, they announced the 2011 winners of some of the most coveted awards in science: the Ig Nobels.

You should watch last night’s ceremony in its entirety, but here are (drumroll) the winners:

Success! Functioning Anal Sphincter Grown in a Petri Dish

By Veronique Greenwood | August 10, 2011 3:59 pm

anal sphincter

Eyes, sperm, you name it: these days, chances are someone’s cooking it up on a little slab of agar and gearing up to graft/sew/implant it in anything that comes near. Today’s body part is the anal sphincter, that handy little ring of muscle that maintains the separation between your insides and your outsides. Researchers grew them from cells, implanted them in mice, and compared the new sphincters’ function with the animals’, ah, native orifices. And apparently, they were quite satisfactory.

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When Biologists Wear (Faux) Fur, It’s With the Babies in Mind

By Valerie Ross | June 23, 2011 12:54 pm

Don’t worry, this is for science.

It’s not easy being a parent. There are the constant feedings, the sleepless nights—and of course, the time-consuming task of shimmying into that unwieldy animal suit.

When the offspring of endangered species are orphaned or abandoned, scientists and vets fill the pawprints of the missing parents. But animals raised by humans can develop all sorts of issues; they’re not prepared to fend for themselves in the wild, they don’t play well with others, and they have an unhealthy interest in humans, cozying up to hikers and hunters.

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Newsflash: Civilization Was Built on Llama Dung

By Valerie Ross | May 24, 2011 8:48 am

Far before the looming pyramids and the learned librarians at Alexandria, Egyptian civilization sprung up from the fertile banks of the Nile. Long predating the Inca empire and the sprawling structures of Macchu Picchu, Andean civilization emerged from a whole bunch of llama poop.

For civilizations to take root, people need to have enough food on hand to put time and energy into activities like waging war, building stuff, and composing epic poetry. In the high and rugged Andes, growing that much maize—the staple crop of ancient South America—isn’t easy. That’s what llama droppings are for, a new study suggests.

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Vets-in-Training Plunge Their Hands Into Rectal Simulators to Learn Their Craft

By Patrick Morgan | March 22, 2011 6:46 pm

When you have your hand up a cow’s behind for the first time, you’re literally groping in the dark. Unable to see what you’re touching and armed with only textbook knowledge of cow anatomy, it’s easy to make a wrong move, which in your first rectal class can mean misdiagnosing a cow pregnancy or not even feeling your first uterus. That’s all changed with the advent of rectal simulators.

Dubbed Breed’n Betsy, this metal-framed simulator with a latex back-end and internal organs allows students to perfect their pregnancy-testing, artificial-insemination, and embryo-transferring techniques before they touch a living cow. After you put on your lubricated glove, you just plunge your hand into the cow and feel around to learn the positions of latex uteri, ovaries, and cervixes. There are also upgrades: A water-filled acrylic tube simulates real-cow temperatures, and you can switch out the latex organs for real ones from your local slaughterhouse (oh goodie!). So after you’ve grown comfortable performing rectal exams on this Frankensteinian mishmash of organs, you can confidently do the same to a living, breathing bovine.

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