For hundreds of years, a mystery surrounded the cathedral of Venzone, a small city in the province of Udine, Italy. Instead of decomposing normally, bodies buried in the tombs beneath the cathedral were perfectly preserved and still recognizable decades later, a fact which led the townspeople to periodically retrieve and commune with their dead loved ones. In modern times, scientists finally traced the source of this wonder to Hypha tombicina, a microscopic, parasitic fungus that rapidly dehydrates the bodies before decomposition can even begin. (via)
What do Jell-O, toothpaste, and floating fire-ant rafts have in common? All are so-called “viscoelastic” materials, meaning that they can both resist flow under stress, like honey, and they can bounce back to their original shape when stretched or compressed, like rubber bands. As such, the materials neither behave exactly as solids or exactly as fluids, but as something in between.
And fire-ant rafts’ unusual properties don’t stop there, according to a new study presented in a talk at the upcoming American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa. Researchers found the rafts actively reorganize their structure, a feat that allows them to more effectively cushion themselves against applied forces, such as the battering of raindrops or the surges of waves.
An ant raft stays on top of the water surface even when it is hardly pressed by a branch — showing water repellency and buoyancy. (Credit: Nathon Mlot)
The work of Pierre Huyghe a major figure in the contemporary art scene both in France and internationally. Pierre Huyghe’s mysterious biotope Untilled, 2011-12, was a major highlight of Documenta XIII last year. Rich with poisonous plants and guarded by a ghostly gardener and his dog, the work drew crowds to Kassel’s Karlsaue Park, where it was built around a compost heap. The seemingly haphazard installation was meticulously designed, right down to the types of ants and bees. But it is the unpredictable nature of such environments that is really at the heart of the work and, indeed, his art in general.
When threatened, it’s capable of swinging its ribs outwards so that their sharp points actually pierce through its own skin to act as defensive barbs. At the same time, its skin secretes a poisonous substance, coating the exposed ribs and turning them into ‘stings’ that can deliver the poison into the thin skin of an unfortunate predator’s mouth.
Surprisingly, the newt doesn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from doing this. Its efficient immune system and ability to regenerate damaged body parts allow it to heal the self-inflicted wounds quickly and carry on just fine.
They’ve also been sent into space on at least six different missions, studying how well they’re able to breed and regenerate in microgravity.
Most of the dinosaurs identified in the first half of the 19th century were massive plant-eaters like Iguanodon, which is why the discovery of the tiny, meat-eating Compsognathus—in Germany in the 1850’s—caused such a stir. However, Compsognathus wasn’t the first theropod dinosaur ever to be named; that honor belongs to the still-controversial Megalosaurus.
The numerous, exquisitely preserved fossils of Solnhofen provide a detailed snapshot of a late Jurassic (150 million years ago) ecosystem. Depending on how you classify Archaeopteryx, Compsognathus is the only true dinosaur to be retrieved from these sediments, which were more extensively populated by pterosaurs and prehistoric fish…