Science

I was perusing the net today and came across this really cool story from Wired Magazine's online edition. It's about a Harvard University biologist who studies the tiny ecosystems of the carnivorous pitcher plant -- so named because of its shape and for the fact that it holds rainwater. Here's the deal... Studying an ecosystem is difficult for a litany of reasons, ranging from the unethical to the impractical. Scientists can observe to their hearts content, but actually making changes to the ecosystem to see what happens is another matter. We've set up things to replicate nature, like the biosphere project in Arizona, and that's worked to some degree. But you can't do any better than working in nature itself.

What is a body farm?

Most farms host crops and animals, but body farms specialize in corpses. Join Josh and Chuck as they tackle the fascinatingly gross phenomenon of body farms in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Today's entry into the top 5 biofuels sweepstakes is rapeseed. This mustard green is also known as oilseed and canola. Though it is indeed and leafy green, it's largely grown for it's seeds, which are about 40 percent oil. China and Europe produce most it, to the tune of about 47 million tons per year in total. Rapeseed has been used for making soap, oils and plastics manufacturing, but it really shines as a biofuel. In fact, Europe is the leader in making biodiesel from rapeseed oil. Why? Mainly because they heavily subsidize the stuff in Europe, much like the United States does with corn. The EU wants to have 10 percent of its vehicles running on biodiesel by the year 2020 and rapeseed looks to be a major player.

This Just In: Humans Not So Different From Animals

A co-worker sent me this groovy little graphic that very simply points out some of the ways that humans and our animal friends are similar to each other. It's definitely worth taking a look at, but here are some highlights:

Permanent Kittens Flat-Out Refuse to Grow

Just when you think you've seen it all comes a story from the "Felines: Out Of Love" society -- a cat-loving genetic research group based out of The University of Wisconsin at Sheboygan. The scientists there have designed what they're calling the "Permanent Kitten." Yes, this is exactly what you think it is -- felines that remain in a permanent state of arrested "kittenness."

Josh and I are always much tougher on ourselves than anyone else could be in regards to the show, but this week we were both pretty pleased with our podcasting efforts. Tuesday's "Microexpressions" and yesterday's "Can Anger be a Good Thing?" were both chock full of Stuff You Should Know goodness, if you ask me. My favorite shows are typically loaded with interesting facts and studies and plenty of personal anecdotes. We don't tell each other these stories beforehand and the usually occur on the fly, so when Josh spins a great yarn it's new to me as well as you all. Having said that -- microexpressions. These are very small, but significant gestures someone makes in conversation. They can either give you away as a liar or reinforce that you're telling the truth, as well as saying a host of things about your mood and temperament. Really fascinating stuff.

This morning I came across an interesting story on MSNBC.com that revealed the discovery of a 300 million year-old fish fossil. Ordinarily this wouldn't be the biggest deal in the world. It's not the oldest fossil on record -- that distinction belongs to an ancient sponge believed to be 635 million years old. It's not even the oldest fish fossil on record. That honor goes to a fossil found in China in 1999 that's estimated to be 530 million years old. The cool thing about the recent find is that it's a fossil of a brain. This makes it an extremely rare find and the oldest brain (fossil) on earth. Most ancient fossils are from bones, not organs or soft tissue. There's been some fossilized muscle tissue found here and there, and fossilized kidneys have also been discovered.

A Kansas City, MO woman discovered a superpower when her hair weave stopped a speeding bullet in its tracks. Was this dumb luck or can it be scientifically explained? We need our SYSK listeners to chime in on this one so we can get to the bottom of it.