Famous Scientists

Understanding the El Niño Phenomenon

Author: Heather Brown

Understanding the El Niño Phenomenon

There was a time when all you could see in the news was “El Niño this” and “El Niño that” but most of the time, people had no clue what it was. In fact, all they knew was that El Niño was scary and it would ruin their lives.

What is El Niño?

El Niño is characterized by markedly warmer water in the Pacific Ocean just off the Coast of South America. Now it shouldn’t be too worrisome since water temperature changes all the time but what El Niño does is it actually changes the weather patterns not just in the US but in other areas of the world as well.

Who Recognized El Niño?

It wasn’t some big-time, hot-shot research team that found out about El Niño first. Actually, it was recognized by fishermen just going about their job off the South American Coast. After all, who better to notice the chances in the ocean than people who spend their daily lives beside it? These days however, El Niño is tracked by climate experts with the use of satellite data and ocean buoys.

What is with the Name?

Now some of you might wonder what “El Niño” means and why that name was chosen. El Niño is the Spanish term for “Christ Child” or “The Little Boy” but before you start blaming the Spanish or little boys for the phenomenon, the name was actually given to the phenomenon since it had a propensity to show up around Christmas time. It is also good to note that El Niño actually has a cool sister that goes by the name of “La Niña” which is “The Little Girl” in Spanish.

What Happens when El Niño Starts?

When El Niño kicks in, trade winds become more relaxed in the western and central pacific. The surface water temperature by South American shores rises since there is less cold water up-swelling from below the water to cool the surface. This works to cut off the supply of nutrients in the water which affects the food chain drastically which then leads to fish shortages.

What are the Known Effects of El Niño?

1)  It brings about drought in the West Pacific area.

2)  It is associated with Australia Bushfires.

3)  It causes more rainfall across the Southern United States and Peru which leads to destructive floods.

Some people have asked why El Niño has not yet been stopped and the answer is simple: there is no way to stop or reverse it. It is a phenomenon that scientists are still trying to solve up to this day.

8 Craziest Japanese Inventions of All Time

Author: Heather Brown

Japan is a country that is usually foremost on technological developments and they have come up with some really cutting edge inventions such as robotics, the first still video camera, the compact disc player, and the electric rice cooker, just to name a few. However, despite their many wonderful inventions that has changed the world, they also have the occasional misses that just makes the world scratch their heads in confusion. Check out some of their craziest inventions below.

The full-body umbrella

The full-body umbrella

Umbrellas really do a good job of keeping your head dry but it does allow the rest of the body to get wet. The Japanese however, have conquered that and came up with the full body umbrella. It looks just like a regular umbrella but is surrounded by a water-proof curtain.

Easy Ear-explorer

Easy ear-explorer

Do you ever wonder what the insides of your ears look like? Well, with the easy ear-explorer, you no longer have to wonder since you get direct access to the most inner recesses of your ears. It might look strange but it does have its use: it can make ear-cleaning a breeze.

Subway Chin Rest

Subway chin rest

After a long and hectic day at work, the last thing you want to do is ride a train and nod off as you stand shoulder to shoulder with other commuters. However, Japan has come up with a chin rest that allows you to sleep even as you ride the train while standing up.

Butter Stick

Butter stick

This Japanese invention is so wacky yet useful that you wonder why you have never thought of it before. Think of your tube of Chapstick but instead of lip balm, it contains a stick of butter instead. This means you can butter your toast on the go without the need to pack butter knives!

Umbrella Tie

Umbrella tie

Is it a tie that doubles as an umbrella or is it the other way around? Either way, this is one wacky Japanese invention that will free your hands and make you look somewhat stylish (or strange) at the same time.

Silent Karaoke

Easy ear-explorer

Ever wanted to belt out a tune but too worried about what your neighbors will say? Enter the Silent Karaoke! A device from Japan that looks as strange as its name.

Square Watermelon

Square watermelon

Are oval watermelons too boring for you? Japan has the answer in their square (and expensive!) watermelons! They are forced into square tempered glass containers and cost about $15-20.

4 Common Carnivorous Plants

Author: Heather Brown

Is there anything more titillating than plants that can trap, kill, and digest animals? These carnivorous plants are like things from science-fiction novels but the fact of the matter is they exist in real life. For those who are particularly interested in such plants, check out some of the most famous carnivorous plants that exist.

Drosera

Drosera

There is a species if plant belonging to the Drosera genus called “sundews” and they happen to be one of the most common carnivorous plants in the world as well. These sundews look like flowers with tentacles all over them. These tentacles have a sticky substance that glitter in the sunlight which attracts insects. Once they land on the sticky dew-covered tentacles, they become trapped. The tentacles close around the insect and digestive enzymes get to work, digesting them and extracting nutrients.

Dionaea muscipula

Dionaea muscipula also known as the Venus flytrap has to be one of the most common carnivorous plants in the world. It preys on insects by luring them into its leaves using sweet nectar. A soon as the insect steps into its “mouth,” it triggers tiny hairs which stimulates impulses in the plant and makes it close it leaves. Glands found in the leaves release a digestive enzyme that breaks down the insect and the leaves absorb the nutrients. These days, it is not uncommon to find Venus Flytraps for sale for people who want them as “pets”.

Nepenthes

Nepenthes

Plants known as tropical pitchers or Money Cups belong to the plant genus Nepenthes. These plants have brightly colored leaves that look a lot like pitchers. The plant makes use of its bright color and its nectar to lure in insects but the inside walls of the leaves are very slippery because of waxy scales. The insects that go in and land on the leaves then slip and slide to the bottom of the pitcher where digestive enzymes are waiting. One plant that is similar to this is the Sarracenia also known as the North American Pitcher Plant. The plant also has digestive enzymes at the bottom of the pitcher-like leaves although in some species, it is water that drowns the insects and digestive enzymes in the water is what breaks them down.

Utricularia

There are some species of Utricularia known as Bladderworts and these plants are also carnivorous. The plant gets its name from tiny bladder-like sacs that are found in its leaves and stems. These plants come with mechanisms that work like trap doors with a vacuum effect on insects when they trigger tiny hairs which could be found in the vicinity of the “door”. The digestive enzymes in the sacs break down the insects that are trapped.

Facts about the Immortal Jellyfish

Author: Heather Brown

Facts about the Immortal Jellyfish

The oceans take up about ¾ of the earth’s total area and it is a hotbed for some really unusual creatures that scientists are discovering just now. In fact, more and more unusual water animals wash up on shores and beaches all over the world as the years go by. One unusual ocean creature that proves to be really interesting to scientists and people in general is the immortal jellyfish. Why, just the name itself is enough to make you wonder what earned the jellyfish the grandiose moniker.

• The immortal jellyfish (scientific name – Turritopsis nutricula) was discovered in 1883 in the Mediterranean Sea. However, it’s extremely unique regeneration powers were not known to researchers and scientists until the mid-1990s.

• The unique regeneration process of the mature immortal jellyfish is quite unique. When it is injured or starving, it will attach itself to a surface in warm waters and turns into a sort of living blob. From this blob state, its cells will undergo a process called “transdifferentiation”.

• Transdifferentiation is a process wherein cells will turn into different kinds of cells. For instance, the muscle cells of the immortal jellyfish can turn into egg cells or even sperm cells. Nerve cells may also turn into muscle cells, and this means that the immortal jellyfish has transformation powers, the likes of which have never been seen and unmatched in the animal kingdom.

• Ever since the discovery of the immortal jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea, more identical species have been found in places like the Atlantic Ocean side of Panama, Spain, and even Japan. The reason they are so spread out is that they get caught in ballast waters that come from long-distance ocean cargo vessels.

• Though most of the species are genetically identical, they have come up with different physical adaptations depending on their environments. For instance, specimens that live in tropical waters have 8 tentacles while ones from more temperate regions have 24 tentacles.

• Despite the “immortal” tag, these jellyfish can and do die. For instance, they still get eaten by predators and the process of transdifferentiation only kicks in when they have reached maturity. If they starve or get sick as polyps, they do not regenerate and therefore die.

• The main diet for these jellyfish usually consists of fish eggs, plankton and tiny mollusks.

• These jellyfish are quite small and while they do sting, they are not poisonous like the box jellyfish which is also tiny at just 2.5cm long.

The Science and Origin Behind the Lipstick

Author: Heather Brown

Lipsticks are popular cosmetic products which have transcended time and different generations from all over the world. The reason behind the use of lipstick is how people prefer setting themselves apart from others—making a mark by having something different in their physical appearance. Facial paint and eventually, lipsticks were some of the most noticeable ways to change one’s appearance back then.

What was the Very First Lipstick Like?

the-first-lipstick

Back then, lipsticks weren’t really in stick or bullet forms inside fancy tubes. These lip pigments were made only from natural ingredients such as fruit and plant juices. They were crushed right before use and were applied as lip stains. The rise of newly developing civilizations in India, North America, and the Middle East to name a few also led to the development of advanced manufacturing processes for lip products.

It was in Egypt where lipstick first had its close resemblance to products known today— the creamy consistency and bright red shades. Royalty and upper clergymen used lipsticks to identify themselves as upper class members of the society. Lipstick recipes back then had different ingredients. Some even had poisonous ingredients which could lead to serious ailments which is why today, lipsticks are strictly inspected before being released for public use.

Who Used the First Lipstick?

Women from the Mesopotamian region first conceived the use of lip pigments from ground precious gems and minerals that gave their lips color and shine. The use of lip pigments then spread to the Indus Valley before it was further developed in Egypt.

The Lipstick—Making its Way to Modern Civilizations

lipstick-as-we-see-today

After being developed by the Egyptians, the use of lipstick spread to the actors of Rome and Greece. When Christianity spread though, the use of lipstick was forgotten since painting one’s lips red was associated with Satanic worship.

In the 16th century though, the lipstick made its way back to the fashion scene when Queen Elizabeth I used it to have pigmented lips. Back then, the trend was to have stark white faces paired with red lips. After being used by the elites, its popularity faded and was later on reduced to being used by prostitutes and low-class women.

It was quite a while before this notion was changed, and the use of lipstick was somehow forgotten again. In the late 19th century, commercial lipstick made its way back to the fashion scene and it was available for low prices and many variants. Actresses and its use in movies popularized this cosmetic product, and to this day, lipstick remains as a staple in every modern woman’s beauty kit.



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