Math for steaks, slug in the family tree, don’t touch that butterfly, and more

Published April 16, 2020

Just keep walking

OK, this isn’t exactly shocking, but now it’s got science behind it. The more you walk, it seems, the less you’re likely to die, especially if you’re over 40. Down side: You have to walk a lot. 4,000 steps is the baseline, and that’s … like, more than a mile. If you want to live longer, start with 8,000 steps, which means “a 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality” than just 4,000 steps. If you’re looking forward to flying cars, wooly mammoths, and a cure for the common cold, better hit 12,000 steps per day — that’ll mean a 65% lower risk than 4,000 steps.

The yeast you can do*

Sourdough bread is getting hot these days (along with baking in general), but here’s a cool tidbit: Bakers have been baking for at least 10,000 years, but they still don’t know why yeast does what it does. Enter NC State’s Wild Sourdough Project. It wants people to make sourdough starter from their local wild yeasts — mix flour and water and then wait; the yeast is everywhere. After 10 days, the researchers want to you to fill out a questionnaire about your new yeasty friend.
Together we can use these data to learn how geography and different flours affect microbial growth over time, and how those microbes affect the taste and texture of bread.
* Yes, I admit the headline is awful.

I know your steak is grass-fed, but is it cooked based on Flory-Rehner theory?

What do you do if you’re a researcher stuck inside … but still need to publish? If you’re a physicist, you can get creative: “A mathematical model for meat cooking“. Don’t forget to make it extra science-y with phrases like “We present an accurate two-dimensional mathematical model for steak cooking based on Flory–Rehner theory.”

Whale sharks and nuke tests

Yesterday we told you how teeth have rings like a tree’s. You know what else does? Whale shark vertebrae. What’s interesting about that? Because of nuclear tests done in the 1950s and ’60s, marine biologists can measure the amount of carbon-14 in each layer of a fish’s vertebrae to calculate how old it was and thus figure out how long they live.
By matching the amount of carbon-14 in different vertebral growth bands with the known carbon-14 levels in surface seawater in different years, the researchers estimated when each band formed — and found that subsequent bands generally grew a year apart.

The very stressed-out butterfly

UGA researchers have found that handling young monarch butterflies makes them stressed. The adults, though, they’re cool with it.

Great great great grandma slug

So you know those “Tree of Life” pictures that show the evolution of life on Earth from single-celled organisms to our AI overlords? At one point, animals branch off from the tree, and now geologists at the University of California, Riverside say they’ve found the critter at the end of that branch: “A wormlike creature that lived more than 555 million years ago.”
The tiny, wormlike creature, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut
If you look closely, you can see the resemblance to [insert name of politician you hate]:

Eyes above the face

“Hitchhiking oxpecker” — it’s not just a great insult, it’s also a pretty cool bird. Why? It rides on the back of blind rhinos, and it warns them of danger.
Even in close proximity, a rhino might struggle to notice lurking danger by sight. But the oxpecker easily can, unleashing a sharp call to warn of intruders.

The real reason is to make the moon look like the Death Star

NASA funds proposal to build a telescope on the far side of the moon.” (The reality is that this is a cool idea: Use a natural feature as your “dish” so you just need receivers and cabling. And being on the far side of the moon gives you a great view.)