The unique goats of Morocco

 

Morocco’s treetop grazing goats.

I thought I already saw the most extraordinary breed of goat in the mountain goat, also known as the Rocky Mountain goat that is endemic to North America, when it is climbing up and down steep, rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60 degrees, what with the tip of its feet having dewclaws that keep it from slipping.

Like our local, domestic goats, mountain goats are also herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diets include grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, mosses, lichens, and twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers of their high-altitude habitat.

But it looks like Morocco breeds the weirdest domesticated goats as far as I know now.

Domesticated goats in the region are unusually fond of climbing to the precarious tops of argan trees to find fresh forage because there is nothing much to eat on the ground.

Argan is popular for the beauty products which feature in argan oil, made from the tree’s nuts.

In some arid habitats, such as argan forests, most green vegetation is at the tops of the trees – which can grow 10 meters high.

Local goatherds are known to encourage the activity, pruning the bushy, thorny trees to make it easier for goats to ascend them, and even helping the goats’ kids to learn how to climb.

During the bare autumn season in the region, goats can spend three quarters of their foraging time “treetop grazing” in the argan trees.

In reality Moroccan goats are causing a paradox in the region.

While the foraging animals may cause to produce less tree nuts because of their fondness for the argan fruit, the fact, however, that they don’t like the large argan seeds and, like cows, sheep and deer, the goats re-chew their food after fermenting it for a while in a specialized stomach, and while ruminating over their cud, the goats have been observed spitting out the argan nuts.

Since it is tough for argan trees to thrive in the semi-desert Sous valley region of southern Morocco, the act therefore of spitting out the nuts means the goats are delivering clean seeds to new ground wherever the animals wander.

Interesting!

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The case of the shoelaces getting undone

 

You probably have experienced and been puzzled, one time or another, why after lacing your shoes it loosens up and gets undone when walking or running.

Apparently, a detailed study was made about this phenomenon by engineering researchers and they found out that there are separate forces that act on the knot and on the laces which causes them to unravel when in motion.

Accordingly, the researchers used a slow motion camera filming a person running on a treadmill to figure out how it could happen.

What they discovered was that the running foot exerts a force seven times greater when landing on the ground than the one exerted while standing, forcing the knot tying the laces to stretch and relax, loosening it slightly.

At the same time, they also found out that as the knot loosens, the swinging of the laces that occurs as the leg moves forwards and backwards causes an inertial force to be applied on the free ends of the laces, pulling the already-loosened knot apart.

The researchers have been able to observe, saying, “The forces that cause this are not from a person pulling on the free end but from the inertial forces of the leg swinging back and forth while the knot is loosened from the shoe repeatedly striking the ground.”

Adding weights to the loose ends of a swinging laces showed that they untied themselves more often, as the inertial forces on their ends were greater.

The study also found that, while some laces might be better than others for tying knots, they all suffered from the same fundamental cause of knot failure.

The study and findings finally answers the mystery that many have been silently asking themselves of why shoelaces come undone even as they think it was tightly knotted.

New human organ discovered

 

mesenteryAs if the human body is not full of it already, another organ has been newly added to the list.

Not that this new organ, a mighty membrane that twists and turns through the guts called the mesentery by researchers led by J. Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick in Ireland, has been seen present in the digestive system only recently.

No, it has been there, but all along they thought of it as an insignificant fragmented and disparate structure that connects the intestine to the abdomen until they discovered that it is one continuous and complex organ.

According to the research the mesentery is a fold of tissue which generally attaches the intestines to the abdomen. The word, which is often used to refer to the small bowel tissue, acts as the bridge where the blood vessels, lymphatics, and nerves pass through the intestine. Other mesenteries, on the other hand, support the other organs of the digestive system, such as the colon and the appendix.

Now that the mesentery is classified as an organ, researchers hope that they will be able to understand its function more which will lead to a diagnosis of a more specific type of disease. This could also lead to a new field in science and medicine called mesenteric science.

The discovery has been published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

For better appreciation of the newly discovered organ, I am posting a video on the subject that is clearly explained in lay man’s term.

Head transplant getting closer to reality

 

Valery Spiridonov

Valery Spiridonov

On April 10 2015 I blogged about Head Transplant Surgery which you could read at this link: (https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/head-transplant-surgery/).

It looks like the time table the intrepid surgeon, Sergio Canavero, envisioned is going to materialize on time, which is in 2017.

If this is not going to the mother of all transplants, I do not know what is.

Valery Spiridonov, the Russian man with a genetic muscle-wasting disease will still be Canavero’s first patient.

One could immediately notice the difference between Spiridonov’s physique in his latest photo compared to the one I posted in 2015.  One could tell indeed that time is of the essence for this equally courageous volunteer who expects to see himself in another man’s body.

But before the unprecedented operation is to be done, Spiridonov will go through a virtual reality system, which Canavero described as “prepar(ing) the patient in the best possible way for a new world that he will be facing with his new body – a world in which he will be able to walk again”. This is in partnership with US firm Inventum Bioengineering Technologies which created the virtual reality world that it says will help train patients such as Spiridonov.

The knife to be used in the transplant.

The knife to be used in the transplant.

Canavero also displayed the knife that will be used for the head transplant – a custom-made blade that can control cuts to a micrometer (one millionth of a meter) to allow the precision required to cut the spinal cord.

He said that the knife, developed by an American professor, will allow a “clear cut of the spinal cord with a minimal impact on the nerves”.

Dr. Sergio Canavero

Dr. Sergio Canavero

Canavero is aware that many are still skeptical of his impending bizarre operation, calling it Frankenstein surgery, but he has only this to say: : “To all the critics I say go and see what happens when you’re affected by a wasting disorder…trade places with (Mr Spiridonov) and then you tell me.”

Am sure the whole world will be anxiously watching this milestone and we can only wish both Canavero and Spiridonov good luck and Godspeed!

 

Cloud now a factor in global warming

 

Cloud_Feedback_1024This is one scientific study that has got to be shared as it is now a serious problem that is impacting people’s lives.

Led by researchers at Yale University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory whose study was published in the journal Science, it warned that global warming could make the planet far hotter than currently projected because today’s scientific models do not correctly account for the influence of clouds.

According to the study, when climate scientists look ahead to how much the planet’s surface temperature may warm up in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide — a byproduct of fossil fuel burning — they typically predict a rise of between 2.1 and 4.7 degrees Celsius (3.75 to 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Apparently these models overestimated the ability of clouds to reflect back sunlight and counteract warming in Earth’s atmosphere.

“We found that the climate sensitivity increased from four degrees Celsius in the default model to five to 5.3 degrees Celsius in versions that were modified to bring liquid and ice amounts into closer agreement with observations,” said lead author Ivy Tan, a researcher at Yale University.

The following are further observations and comments of the researchers in their study:

The problem is most models assume there is more ice in clouds than there actually is.

Icier clouds would gain more liquid in a warming environment, and more liquid in clouds would mean less global warming.

“Most climate models are a little too eager to glaciate below freezing, so they are likely exaggerating the increase in cloud reflectivity as the atmosphere warms,” said co-author Mark Zelinka.

“This means they may be systematically underestimating how much warming will occur in response to carbon dioxide.”

Researchers said their findings add to previous studies that have suggested clouds may make warming worse, rather than lessen it.

“The evidence is piling up against an overall stabilizing cloud feedback,” said Zelinka.

“Clouds do not seem to want to do us any favors when it comes to limiting global warming.”

Does this mean that there will be a greater adverse effects on the weather condition all over because the world we live in is now going to be hotter than previously charted?

Just asking.

Digestive tract of goats/sheep could lead to better biofuels

goatsThis is one scientific research that really caught my eye.

At this time when the world is talking about alternative fuel this study could not have come at a very opportune time.

It is not that biofuels – fuels produced directly or indirectly from organic material (biomass) including plant materials and animal waste – are non-existent because for a long time now they are being converted into bioenergy, after applying more advanced conversion technologies.

The problem with biofuels, however, is that not only are they produced from crops, such as maize, which impacts the lives of the poor because its being used as a fuel instead of food limits the supply and drive up prices, but, so far, the ability to efficiently use the vast majority of cheap, waste organic material has eluded the makers of biofuels.

The study says that the problem with turning wood chips and grasses into fuel is the matrix of complex molecules found in the cell walls of these tough materials.

Industrial attempts to break these down into the type of sugars that can be refined for fuel often require preheating or treatment with chemicals, which add to the complexity and the cost.

To solve the problem, researchers have turned to the well-known abilities of goats and sheep to digest almost anything they eat.

Researchers believe this facility is the result of the presence of anaerobic gut fungi, organisms that have existed since the time of the dinosaurs.

To test their ideas, the scientists collected fresh manure from a zoo and a stable and isolated three previously uncharacterized cultures from goats, sheep and horses.

They found that these fungi excrete enzymes that break down a wide range of plant material.

Unlike the best genetically engineered enzymes produced by the biofuel industry to date, they discovered that the sheep and goat fungi produced many hundred more of these proteins.

The scientists say that in tests, the fungi performed as well as the best engineered attempts from industry.

Reportedly, the study has been published in the journal, Science.

The alarming spread of the Zika virus

 

Zika virus carrier mosquito

Zika virus carrier mosquito

The reason why I am writing about this health menace called Zika virus is not to sound alarmist, although this mosquito-borne virus is now plaguing Central and South America, after having been found mainly in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

But more than that, it is important to be aware, especially in the Philippines, that the Zika virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Global health authorities are warning that the Zika virus is predicted to most likely reach all countries and territories where the Aedes mosquitoes are found.

Zika virus disease outbreaks were reported for the first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013 (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and in 2015 from the Americas (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde). In addition, more than 13 countries in the Americas have reported sporadic Zika virus infections indicating rapid geographic expansion of Zika virus.

The Zika virus is said to have ravaged Brazil, which has had more than 1 million cases in the past several months.

The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

sika1What is devastating and heartbreaking about the Zika virus is that it has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases. The birth defect is characterized by a malformed or smaller head and brain and can result in serious developmental delays.

Brazilian authorities, with help from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are investigating the possible link between Zika and microcephaly. Although health experts have not established a concrete connection, the CDC has confirmed that the Zika virus was found in two newborns who had microcephaly and later died, as well as in the placentas of two women who miscarried children with microcephaly.

The WHO-affiliated Pan American Health Organization has issued the following instructions to prevent the Zika virus spread:

• Mosquito populations should be reduced and controlled by eliminating breeding sites. Containers that can hold even small amounts of water where mosquitoes can breed, such as buckets, flowerpots or tires, should be emptied, cleaned or covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in them. This will also help to control dengue and chikungunya, which are also transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Other measures include using larvicide to treat standing water.

• All people living in or visiting areas with Aedes mosquitoes should protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-colored) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets, especially during the day when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.

• Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites. Although Zika typically causes only mild symptoms, outbreaks in Brazil have coincided with a marked increase in microcephaly — or unusually small head size — in newborns. Women planning to travel to areas where Zika is circulating should consult a health-care provider before traveling and upon return. Women who think they have been exposed to Zika virus should consult with their health-care provider for close monitoring of their pregnancy. Any decision to defer pregnancy is an individual one between a woman, her partner and her health-care provider.