Bum Deal, Cuttlefish and Proteins

Pipestone Flyer

 

Inventor Creates Bum Deal

 

You might say this one came from the bottom of the science files. According to a Reuters News Agency report, an inventor in Tokyo, Japan, Nobuhiro Takahashi, has developed an emotion recognition device for robots that has no equal, no ifs ands or butts. The device, which the cheeky scientist named ‘Shiri’ (Japanese for ‘butt’) uses simulated buttocks in order for the robot to respond to emotional stimuli of various sorts. Such stimuli includes, among other things, giving the faux fanny a slap to get the message of ‘fear’ across to it. When in a normal or neutral emotional state, the engineered rear flex and undulate slowly, while in a happy state, the buttocks exhibit a clenching action. The article did not reveal how they got the plastic posterior happy, however. (We’re not making this up!)

Takahashi asserts the device has serious scientific applications despite the oddness of the concept. He explains it is much easier to recognize simplistic derriere emotions than the much more challenging and complex demands of facial emotional recognition. The differences between such facial expressions as a frown of deep thought as compared to a frown of displeasure are extremely subtle. By abandoning the face as a starting point for emotional interaction purposes, it makes the beginning steps of this new technology more simplistic and thus, more possible.

 

Two Sides to the Wily Cuttlefish

 

Cuttlefish are like the ocean’s answer to their land-based counterpart, the chameleon. They can change their pigmentation to mimic their surroundings, be it a colourful coral reef, or a mottled, sandy sea bottom, cuttlefish can blend in with their surroundings better than any other aquatic animal.

Now, however, researchers have discovered the male cuttlefish have developed a sneaky approach to dating that uses their remarkable colour-changing ability. 

When a male cuttlefish is hanging out with a group of females, it will display the brown-streaked patterns they exhibit normally. However, if another male joins the group, the first male cuttlefish will change his colouration on the competitor-facing side to appear to have the markings of a female. On his other side, he will still maintain his male pattern pigmentation.

Researchers have theorized the cuttlefish use this behaviour as way of tricking its rival Romeos so they are unaware of any other would-be competitors in their midst. There is some disagreement in the scientific community, however, whether this behaviour is learned or is an innate response to external stimuli, such as birds pretending to have a broken wing to lead predators away from their young, which scientists have ascertained is hard-wired into the birds’ brains.

The reason for the learned versus hard-wired controversy in the scientific community is that cuttlefish have the largest brain to body ratio of any invertebrate species and are easily the smartest fish in the ocean. Many investigators postulate the changes in colour produced by the males are not spontaneous but predicated on the fish making conscious decisions to fit situational necessities, a sure sign of intelligence.

 

Protein Therapy Possible Vaccine 

Replacement

 

Virologists at San Diego State University’s biological sciences centre have discovered a method that may one day minimize the majority of flu-like illnesses that plague the planet. According to lead researcher, Dr. Joy Philips, PH.D, the therapy they have developed involves introducing into the body immediately upon exposure to flu bugs, a synthetic protein already in use for other medicinal applications. The protein, EP67, is normally added to vaccines to make the body’s defense systems kick in within just two hours to hasten the effect of the inoculation. This is as opposed to the two day time frame it normally takes for the body to recognize it is under attack from either a viral or a bacterial threat.  This is partially due to the character of some pathogens that chemically mask their presence in the body to allow the maximum amount of infection before the white blood cells and other ant-viral agents go to work. 

By significantly reducing the response time in activating the body’s illness defense shield, it allows us to produce the appropriate antibodies to fight the illness far earlier, often before the illness gets a good foothold. This means the effects of the sickness are either minimized greatly or even eradicated entirely.

Another advantage to this therapy is that it works regardless of the strain of flu it is combating. Whether you are dealing with SARS or the dreaded H1N1, the treatment doesn’t vary which makes it much less difficult and inexpensive than other methods. Each variety of flu, for example, requires its own special chemical concoction to fight, which can sometimes take weeks to develop, whereas EP67 is much more ‘one size fits all’.

Laboratory mice that were administered both the protein and a large dose of influenza pathogen, were much more successful at fending off the effects of the illness than those infected without the EP67. Quantifying the level of sickness is measured by weight loss. In control animals, a severe flu will make them lose 20% of their weight on average. With the administration of the protein, however, the average weight loss in the test animals was only 6% with some specimens not showing any measurable weight loss whatsoever.

Dr. Philips added, because EP67 works in birds and animals, as well as humans, the amazing protein may have enormous application in the veterinary sciences, too.

 

On a Lighter Note

 

A Higgs-Boson particle walks into a church. The priest stops him angrily and says, “You have no place here in the house of the Lord!” 

The particle responded, “Wanna bet? Without me, you would have no mass!”

 

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