There's a magnet in a secure room in central Tokyo. It's an electromagnet, the kind that generates a magnetic field when electrical current flows through it. The last time the scientists who operate it switched it on, it blew open the heavy doors designed to keep it contained. Already, it has created one of the most intense magnetic fields ever generated on Earth. And it keeps getting more powerful. The magnetic field, which recently reached a strength of 1,200 teslas — a unit of magnetic intensity — was described in a paper published Sept. 17 in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments. Twelve hundred teslas is an enormous measurement. The most powerful magnet most people have any chance of encountering in their lifetime is inside an MRI machine — and the most advanced, powerful, sometimes dangerous MRIs in the world clock in at just 3 teslas. In 2004, Popular Mechanics magazine described a machine billed as "the world's most powerful magnet" … [Read more...] about This Super-Strong Magnet Literally Blew the Doors Off a Tokyo Laboratory
There's a saying that goes, "Blink and you'll miss it." But generally, we don't miss a thing when we blink; in fact, we don't even notice when we're doing it. Indeed, even though adults blink about 15 times per minute, on average, our vision appears seamless and uninterrupted. But how does that work, exactly? Experts have proposed that the brain fills in these gaps, maintaining a "snapshot" that bridges the brief moments during blinks when visual input is paused. But those explanations limited this activity to certain areas in the brain; namely, the sensory areas found in the back. But researchers have recently questioned if other brain regions were involved as well, and they found one — in the front of the brain. ['Eye' Can't Look: 9 Eyeball Injuries That Will Make You Squirm] In a new, small study, published online today (Sept. 24) in the journal Current Biology, scientists found that the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in decision making and short-term … [Read more...] about Why Doesn’t Your Vision ‘Go Dark’ When You Blink?
After a remarkable month-long cooperative effort to save a young, ailing orca (Orcinus orca) named Scarlet, or J50, authorities now presume the animal is dead because she hasn't been spotted in more than two weeks, King 5 News reported. Scarlet's death means the subpopulation of endangered southern resident killer whales now includes only 74 individuals, down from 98 individuals in 1995, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scarlet was a 3-year-old female who was part of the J pod, one of three small groups of orcas (also called killer whales) within the southern resident killer whale subpopulation. [In Photos: Response Teams Try to Save Starving Killer Whale] The J pod also includes J35, or Tahlequah, a female whose calf died a half-hour after it was born on July 24. Biologists watched the grieving mother carry her dead calf around for hundreds of miles and an unprecedented 17 days. Since early August, teams of biologists and … [Read more...] about Scarlet, the Struggling Orca, Now Presumed Dead
Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates called coral. The coral species that build reefs are known as hermatypic, or "hard," corals because they extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies. Other species of corals that are not involved in reef building are known as “soft” corals. These types of corals are flexible organisms often resembling plants and trees and include species such as sea fans and sea whips, according to the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), a nonprofit environmental organization. Each individual coral is referred to as a polyp. Coral polyps live on the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of their ancestors, adding their own exoskeleton to the existing coral structure. As the centuries pass, the coral reef gradually grows, one tiny exoskeleton at a time, until they become massive features of the marine environment. Corals are … [Read more...] about What Are Coral Reefs?
It's said that each of us is his or her own worst enemy. That's especially true when you're a hungry, venomous snake with two heads. One such snake — a baby, two-headed copperhead — was recently discovered slithering around a family's yard in northern Virginia. According to a statement from the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where herpetologists performed a medical screening on the snake several days ago, the rare conjoined serpent has two brains, two tracheas and two esophagi leading to a single, shared heart and set of lungs. Both heads are capable of catching and swallowing prey — and that's where the trouble starts. "Based on the anatomy, it would be better for the right head to eat," Wildlife Center staff wrote in the statement, adding that the right head appeared to have a more developed esophagus. "But it may be a challenge, since the left head appears more dominant." [The 10 Weirdest Medical Cases in the Animal Kingdom] Imagine arguing with a second, … [Read more...] about Two-Headed Viper Could End Up in Virginia Zoo — If It Stops Fighting with Itself