In another edition of “invasive species are a bad idea,” Australia is suffering a plague of feral camels (on top of the rabbit brouhaha, the cane toad fracas, and the red fox situation). Imported by those clever British settlers to work in the desert in the late 19th century, these dromedaries were released into the wild when trains and machinery took over the work. Now, there are more than a million kicking around the outback, and they are coming to eat your air conditioner. And your toilet. And anything else that might have water in it.
“Many furry mammals engage in oscillatory shaking when wet.” Translation: When a dog comes in from the rain, it engages in a body-twisting, jowl-flapping shake that sprays water over the living room. But exactly what kinds of oscillations are required to make the water droplets scatter? Thankfully a team of curious researchers decided to study the physics of that motion.
In the abstract posted on ArXiv, Andrew Dickerson of the Georgia Institute of Technology and some colleagues explain that they attacked the question via high-speed video and fur-particle tracking:
You use a Brita filter to take metal out of your water. But what if you want to stir in divine powers? In that case, one South Korean man said, you run tap water through his special ceramic and paper filters. He now faces fraud charges.
As the BBC reports, the man, identified as “Professor Kim,” claimed he could replicate the holy water from a Virgin Mary shrine in Lourdes, France, known for its supposed healing powers.
The BBC article quotes the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper detailing Kim’s “scientific” methods:
“Professor Kim says if the medical properties are changed into digital signals, and radiated onto any water, the water will adapt those properties.”
What the “professor” taught, we do not know. Digital signals? Radiation? Sure sounds like magic science…. Whatever he was selling, people sure were buying it. Apparently he made 1.7 billion South Korean won, the equivalent of $1.3 million dollars, and sold customized filter systems for different ailments to a total of 5,000 people.
Discoblog: A Bishop Calls for Holy Water Ban to Stop Swine Flu Spread
Discoblog: Copernicus Gets a New Grave, Belated Respect From the Catholic Church
Discoblog: Religion: A Tool to Keep the Parasites Away?
Discoblog: No Time to Pray? No Problem! Your Computer Can Do It For You
Image: flickr / missfitzphotos
Pulses of certain Turkey Day food ingredients are detected in the water supply in the days after the holiday, according to researchers. But as reported in National Geographic News, it doesn’t stop there:
For instance, thyme and sage spike during Thanksgiving, cinnamon surges all winter, chocolate and vanilla show up during weekends (presumably from party-related goodies), and waffle-cone and caramel-corn remnants skyrocket around the Fourth of July.
A research team from the University of Washington tracked pulses of food ingredients that enter Washington’s Puget sound to learn more about how our actions on land affect the water supply, and to determine what slips through sewage treatment plants. Similar monitoring is underway worldwide, and scientists have turned up things such as flu vaccines, cocaine, heroine, rocket fuel, and birth control in waterways.
Click on over to team leader Rick Keil’s lab Web site to learn more about the Puget Sound research. But Keil told National Geographic News that the no one knows yet whether the subtle seasoning of the water is having an impact.
For now, there’s no evidence that a sweeter and spicier sound is a bad thing—salmon, which can smell such flavors, could be enjoying their vanilla-enhanced habitat, Keil said.
Discoblog: Fun in the Sand Now Hindered by Fecal Bacteria
Discoblog: Vatican Science: Pope Blames Male Infertility on…the Pill
80beats: Duck Flu Defense? Tamiflu From Urine Builds Up Downstream
Image: flickr / Lana_aka_BADGIRL
Basilisk lizards have garnered the nickname Jesus Lizards over the years for their ability to “run” across the surface of water. However, these fast little guys don’t rely on miracles, say scientists. New footage of the lizard, filmed at 2,000 frames per second, will air on the BBC on Monday October 19, revealing the science behind the lizards’ water run. From the Huffington Post:
Simon Blakeney, a producer who had filmed the lizard for the BBC told Matt Walker from BBC Earth News, “Because [the lizards] run so fast they create a bubble as their feet hit the water and then they push off from this bubble before it bursts,” says Blakeney. By balancing and pushing off from these bubbles, the lizard is able to “walk” on water.
The 2-4cm lizards only know one speed—full throttle—and this forces their bodies upright as they sprint across the water. In an older video, courtesy of National Geographic, there is considerable splashing as one lizard’s feet appear to sink below the surface during a run. However scientists say this is due to water being yanked up as the lizards pick their feet up off the surface of the water.
We’ll have to wait for the new footage, which is slowed down to 1/80th the speed of real life, to see for ourselves. But for now, check out the NatGeo video, showing a basilisk lizard scooting across the water in around 49 seconds.
Discoblog: The Science of Virgin Birth
Discoblog: What Kind of Peer-Review Would Jesus Want?
Discoblog: Man, Pronounced Dead, Spontaneously Comes Back to Life
Video: YouTube / National Geographic
Four French design school students came up with a clever concept: They proposed using a plant system made of sand, reeds, rushes, a mesh filter, water hyacinths and lemnas, and a carbon filter that can be placed underneath the tub to recycle the water used during a shower. After the water goes through eight filtering steps, the contaminants in the water, like shampoo and soap (and your newly-removed dirt), can be turned into tasty, drinkable water.
The Daily Mail reports:
[Designer Jun] Yasumoto, 34, said: “These plants have been proven to be able to remove the chemicals from your shampoo.”
Using a natural filtering principle called phyto-purification, the bathroom becomes a mini-eco-system by recycling and regenerating the wastewater.
The designers put their drawings online—and, not surprisingly, people soon wrote to them and asked how they could purchase the system. But sadly, the concept has not actually been built yet. On the bright side, there are other ways of conserving water in the bathroom—like peeing in the shower.
DISCOVER: From Toilet To Tap
Discoblog: Not Subtle, But It Works: Peepoo Bag Converts Human Waste Into Fertilizer
Discoblog: Celebrities Sell Cars, Beer, Clothes…and Toilet Use?
Image: flickr/ cool3c
Navy chemists are claiming they can take seawater and turn it into hydrocarbon fuel—which, if it ever happens, would be great, since the ocean contains 140 times the amount of carbon dioxide held in the air. But right now, the notion of an endless supply of jet fuel from the Atlantic seems too good to be true.
Granted, the idea is gaining ground: Researchers are working on the process of taking carbon dioxide from ocean water and mixing it with hydrogen that has been split from water molecules. And Naval Research Laboratory chemist Robert Dorner has even been able to create fuel from refined seawater by tweaking a process that normally uses coal to produce hydrocarbon fuel.
But before seawater can become a gasoline resource, the researchers will have to figure out the right catalyst to use. In general, too much methane is produced when the wrong catalysts are used in fuel-making, causing fewer hydrocarbons to form—which means less fuel is produced.
So assuming it all gets ironed out, what are the chances this would ever work? Well, scientists have been able to take just about anything and turn it into oil, including turkey, poop, and human corpses—but these alternative sources still haven’t become anything close to major sources of fuel.
Discoblog: Robot Fuels Itself on Grass, Wood, and Human Corpses
Discoblog: Sewage-Powered Buses
Discoblog: Styrofoam Ups Biodiesel Performance
80beats: Jet Fuel Made From Poisonous Jatropha Seeds
Image: flickr/ Matza74
Cross-posted from Cosmic Variance:
From the Seattle P.I.:
About 3 p.m. Sunday, Bellevue firefighters were called to the 17100 block of Northeast Fifth Street after neighbors saw flames and smoke.
“It appears that a glass bowl, partially filled with water and elevated on a wire rack in a sunny area of the home’s deck, provided the right conditions to focus the sunlight and start a fire,” Lt. Eric Keenan said.
They should have listened to the warnings from the ants.
Discoblog: Fire Water Gets Literal: Colorado Couple’s Tap Water Erupts in Flames
Discoblog: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires—But Maybe You Shouldn’t
It’s only Monday, and there’s already a toss-up for worst science article of the week. Scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health seem not to have realized that when it comes to weight gain, we’ve got one thing figured out: The fewer calories you consume, the less weight you put on. So they spent time and resources on a study to reach the following conclusion: Drinking water is less likely to cause obesity in kids than drinking sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and juice.
Weirder yet, the researchers don’t even sound assertive, as if their hypothesis needs further testing—not drinking sugary beverages, they say, “can reduce” excess calorie consumption. Well, yes, it can—and it does.
But while there’s validity, however obvious, to the Columbia study, the U.K.’s Bath Spa University has just published its own, er, breed of ludicrous research: a study concluding that pet owners look like their dogs.
The same technology that makes ravers at a club look like they’re gyrating in slow motion can be used to levitate water. Watch it here!
It’s a nifty illusion created by strobe lights, or a stroboscope, a device that emits quick pulses of light. In the setup shown in the video, all the water drops are actually falling and most of the time they are invisible. The drops are only visible during the millisecond pulses of the strobe light. By adjusting these pulses to the rate of the falling drops, the drops can be made to look like they are traveling at certain speeds, hovering in midair, or even levitating. Your mind automatically connects the images illuminated by the pulses, likes frames of an animated cartoon, creating the illusion of gravity-defying motion. What you perceive as a rising drop of water is actually frames of many different falling drops. The same concept is behind the wagon-wheel effect often seen in movies.