Happier butterflies, super puppies, surviving fish, and more

Published April 21, 2020

They promise to use this technology only for good

Researchers achieve remote control of hormone release“. But seriously, folks, the idea is to embed nanoparticles in people’s adrenal (and other) glands, and be able to trigger them to release hormones without drugs or invasive technology. Side note: The research was sponsored by the Defense Department because it might be used to treat PTSD … or, I assume, to create mindless, soulless killing machines. But mostly for PTSD.

Good news for butterflies

The annual monarch butterfly migration will be coming to the northeast and midwest soon, and there’s good news:
[T]ransportation agencies, railroads and energy companies have agreed to create monarch-friendly habitats for the butterflies and other pollinators on millions of acres of rights-of-way.
These companies already manage vegetation, so it’s not a huge step to make it butterfly- and pollinator-friendly.
(It’s not just out of goodwill, of course. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might list the monarch as protected under the Endangered Species Act, those companies “will receive special federal waivers on future permits and licenses.”)

Building “super puppies”

How do you prepare a dog for a life of potential stress (rescue service, military life, living in Philadelphia, etc.)? You train it early — literally three days after birth — for a couple of weeks. It was called a “bio-sensor program” but now they say “Super Puppies” instead. And you can do it, too!
From the age of 3 days to 16 days, each puppy in the program is exposed to five stimuli once each day. These include being held in head-up, head-down, and supine (on the back) positions; cotton-swab stimulation on the paws; and being laid on a cold washcloth.
Those stimuli are just a few seconds each. So you’re talking one or two minutes a day. The result?
This program has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, increase adrenal gland function and brain activity, and improve a puppy’s resistance to stress and disease.
It also makes them smarter, more confident, and less likely to bite. But my favorite part: “Similar tests on mice and primates have shown identical results.” So throw out your Skinner Box, new parents, and get out the Q-Tips and cold washcloths.

Dry hands? Got you covered

If for some reason you find yourself washing your hands a lot lately, and you’re starting to deal with really dry skin or even dermatitis, here are some good (science-based) tips for preventing and dealing with it.

Rice, methane, and bacteria

Rice feeds half the world, but it also produces about five percent of the world’s methane — you know, the super-potent greenhouse gas. That’s because flooded rice fields have little oxygen in the soil, so methane-producing bacteria flourish. But now those shifty Danes have found a solution: “By adding electric conductive cable bacteria to soil with rice plants, they could reduce methane emissions by more than 90%.” Cable bacteria? They were discovered in 2012, and live at the bottom of bodies of water where they use electrical power (!) to move oxygen from the water to the soil. They can oxygenate the soil of rice paddies, removing the methane-producing bacteria. Science!

Big news from Ohio State

People may know the best decision – and not make it“.

File -> Print (bomber)

If you think of 3-D printing only for plastic do-dads, think again. Texas A&M researchers have found a way to print martensitic steel. Not a metallurgist? Martensitic steel is strong, lightweight, and cheap. It’s hot stuff in the aerospace industry, where it needs to be “built into complex structures with minimal loss of strength and durability.” You know, the kind of thing 3-D printing would be perfect for.

Masks for the next pandemic

An engineering team at the Queensland University of Technology has created “a highly breathable nanocellulose material that can remove particles smaller than 100 nanometers, the size of viruses.” It’s biodegradable, made from plant waste, and can be made using relatively simple equipment. Next step, says team leader Thomas Rainey: finding industry partners to turn it into masks.

The Long Read: Fish and oil

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, coastal fish populations were devastated … right? Actually — and surprisingly — no. (Inland* fish populations… that’s another story.) Even crazier: If you expose a single fish to the chemicals in a spill, bad things happen to it. But for some reason the population of fish isn’t affected by a spill.
* Or the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, or the 1990 New York spill, or the 2001 Galapagos spill, or even the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.