Shot of science |3| Giant stars, Darwin awards, Birds, Human/Mice brains

Two giant stars are in the process of forming one supermassive star

 

About 13,000 light years from where you are currently sitting, you can find the Giraffe constellation. For years, one of the brightest objects there was believed to be a single star but just last week, a team from Spain discovered that this bright star is actually made of two massive stars which are in the process of merging. These stars really are massive, with one about 38 times the mass of our sun and the other 32 times bigger. These stars are orbiting so closely that their outer layers are believed to be in contact. The most interesting thing in this story is that nobody knows what exactly will happen when the two finally do merge… We’ll just have to wait a few million years to find out!

 

Men are idiots!

 

Men make up 88.7% of all darwin award laureates - Headstuff.org
From darwinawards.com

This might not seem like news for a lot of people out there, but The BMJ (British Medical Journal) just published a paper looking at sex differences in people who have ‘won’ Darwin Awards. This paper very accurately describes how one might go about winning one of these awards, to put it very scientifically;

Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their actions ensures that one less idiot will survive”.



Bottom line, this paper found that 88.7% of the Darwin Award winners are males, which was found to be highly statistically significant (P<0.0001).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bird which mimics a toxic caterpillar to stay alive

Bird that imitates a toxic caterpillar to avoid becoming dinner - HeadStuff.org
from Londono et al. American Naturalist

 

A great piece by the science writer Carl Zimmer, shows that the chick of the species of bird known as the cinerous mourner, disguises itself as a toxic caterpillar to avoid being eaten. If you haven’t heard of these birds before, that’s probably normal since they are not native to Ireland/Europe/N. America. They can be found in S. America in the rainforests of Peru. I wont say any more, just go over to Carl Zimmers’ blog on the National Geographic to find out more yourself.

 

 

 

 

Human brain cells make mice smarter

 

Human brain cells are more powerful that mouse brain cells -HeadStuff.org
Figure 3 from Windrem et al. 2014. Red cells are mouse and green ones are human brain cells, which take over the brain in the space of a year

Okay, so this story isn’t brand new, it came out over a week ago but I thought I would go over it because, although it’s cool, it’s kind of been done before.

Scientists in the US have implanted human glial cells into the brain of mice embryos to find out what happens. In this super interesting study, the researchers implanted human oligodendrocyte precursor cells into mice and let them grow up for a year or so to see what happens to these human cells. These cells normally become oligodendrocytes and form myelin which insulates the axons of neurons allowing them to fire and conduct electrical ‘information’ more efficiently. What is super interesting is that these mice proved to be much smarter than normal mice and even more interesting is that, in certain brain areas, these human brain cells seemed to take over the job entirely from mice glial cells.  This work is pretty cool because it should allow us to study human brain cells in a more intact environment, because as this study goes to show, human brain cells and mice brain cells aren’t exactly the same.

But nevertheless, a similar story was published a year ago, in Cell Stem Cell. The same team, alongside another, published a paper where they implanted human astrocytes into the brains of mice. Astrocytes, another type of glial cell in the brain, have so many different roles in the brain that I won’t go into depth here. Again, these researchers found that implanting human brain cells into mice actually made them smarter.

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