About Chris Riley

I'm a middle school science teacher in New Jersey.

Robots with blood?

You have blood. Your dog has blood. Heck, spiders have blood (hint: it’s clear). And now so do robots.

Would you believe that a robotic fish has blood that is used for both hydraulics and energy? Well there is one. It looks like a lion-fish. And using this special blood instead of batteries let it last up to 8 times longer.

You can read lots more about it here, at Nature.

A new human species

Recently, archaeologists in the Philippines found new kinds of human bones. They looked like humans, and were about 67,000 years old. When they compared these bones to the bones of other human species and close relatives, they found that they were similar, but there were some marked differences. Enough differences to call them a different species: homo luzonensis.

What does it mean to be self-aware?

That is the question that some scientists are coming back to. There is a test to see if an animal is self-aware: the mirror test. First scientists put a mirror in the environment so the animal can get familiar with it. Then they put a mark on their body that they can only see in the mirror. It’s evidence for self-awareness if they look in the mirror and then touch that part of their body.

Human can do this when they’re about 2 years old. Many other primates also pass. So do elephants, and 1 bird, the magpie. Some scientists disagree that they elephants and magpies really passed.

And now, there’s another possible species that might be considered self-aware: The cleaner wrasse. This is an intelligent, very social, fish that lives in coral reefs. Researchers gave some the mirror test, and some of them passed. The injected a bit of color under the scales around the “chin” of the fish, and after seeing their reflection, they tried to scrape their chin on the sandy bottom, something they do to remove irritants.

The researchers had a lot of trouble getting their paper published, possibly due to resistance in the scientific community to admitting that a fish can be self-aware. Many scientists doubt the results of this experiment, thinking that the fish’s behavior doesn’t show self-awareness.

Just what this experiment means has yet to be decided, but it’s very interesting.

Science being suppressed at the Department of the Interior

It’s not a surprise that the Trump administration doesn’t pay attention to science. But at the Interior Department, it’s so bad that the Union of Concerned Scientists have written a report about it.

The current administration has been

  • Systematically suppressing science
  • Failing to acknowledge or act on climate change
  • Silencing or intimidating agency scientists and staff
  • Attacking science-based laws that protect wildlife

As a science educator, this willful dismissal of evidence and attitude that politics is more important than reality upsets me greatly. I hope that soon my government will come to its senses and pay attention to the world around us.

3D printing meat

This is really cool. A researcher has developed a way to 3-D print “meat”. I say “meat” because while it tastes like meat, it’s really made of rice, peas, and seaweed protein.

The food that is made looks like meat, tastes almost like meat, and has a meat-like texture. Since it’s not actually made from animals it is more sustainable than farming animals. It’s also inexpensive, only costing $3 to make 100 g of this. The price would go down if done in industrial scales.

This is just one of the ways that food is being 3-D printed.

The food industry has had various encounters with 3D printing. Previously, the University of Washington’s researchers presented a novel way to ferment yeast with a 3D printer. Prior to this, Germany’s Biozoon has 3D printed ‘Smoothfood’ to help feed the elderly. Furthermore, Munich-based chemical company Wacker its new “Candy2Gum” process which uses food resins, to make chewing gum.

How can you look in your own lungs?

I mean, without using an X-Ray. Recently a person was able to do just that, though I expect it wasn’t pleasant. A 36 year old man went into an ICU with acute heart failure. Later that week, he coughed up a blood clot consisting of much of the right bronchial tree. In later examination, doctors saw a small amount of blood in his lung, so this clot was blood that had bled into the bronchial tubes, and clotted there.

Research shows that old people may end up believing their own lies

A new study shows that older people are more susceptible to believing their own lies as the truth within an hour of telling the lie. They had both young and old participants lie about doing an activity while their brainwaves were measured by an EEG. The older cohort was significantly more likely to believe the lie as truth.

The bottom line is that lying alters memory.

A plane with no moving parts

That is, no propeller, no turbines, no elevators, etc. Nada. Zilch.

OK. You and I have made airplanes like that: paper airplanes. But what about a plane that is self-powered, but still doesn’t have any moving parts? Well, MIT made such a thing, and it doesn’t even need black magic.

They use high voltage wires in front of and behind the wings to strip electrons off of nearby air molecules, and then pull those molecules to the rear. This “ionic wind” generates enough thrust to power the aircraft.

Granted, the plane itself only weighs 5 pounds, and didn’t fly far, but this is a pretty groundbreaking achievement.

Who talks about the past? Not just us.

Other than humans, there is only one animal that we know about that talks about events that have already happened (the past): Orangutans. Orangutans make a certain sound to signal that there is a predator nearby. Scientists have observed orangutans seeing a predator, quietly climbing to safety while carrying her infant, and waiting until it was safe to give the warning.

This delayed warning makes it safer for the infant, and indicates a greater intelligence than only communicating about events that are currently happening.

 “The mother saw the predator as most dangerous to her youngster and chose not to call until it was gone,” he says. Then, and only then, did she provide information, letting the infant learn about the danger that had passed, the team reports today in Science Advances.