Sunday, 22 November 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 16-22/11/15

Hi microscopists,

'Black Son of a MULTIMILLIONAIRE, STILL the SJW victim!'

Ugg, i loathe posting these things, week after week, but as Jeff Goldblum didn't say:

"When you gotta know, you gotta know"

Now, let's skip onto something more fun - microscopes and sperm...

'Laser Microscopes | Shedload of Science'

"Shedload of Science is a curated playlist of the best science videos around YouTube, this time on the theme of laser microscopes"

Gotta watch 'em all! that a dated reference? :-P

The series touches very briefly on sperm, then wipes its metaphorical hand#, and continues. That's a shame, because there's something very humbling about seeing spermatozoa under a microscope. Especially if they're your own.

{# That will not be the last 'seedy' joke, in this week's talkie bit :-P }

No other bodily cells are so easily available, and yet can also be seen swimming before your eyes.

If you don't have the good fortune to produce your own supply, then maybe request someone you know to give you a hand... sorry, that's the wrong idiom, isn't it? show you theirs... it doesn't get better does, it? :-P

Or you could look a video up, on the internet! But basically, try not to get put on a register, for the sake of scientil wonder!

'Size matters when it comes to sperm dominance'

The odd thing about sperm, is that they have evolved so weirdly, under sexual selection pressure. Smaller animals tend to have bigger sperms, and bigger animals tend to have smaller ones... but a lot more of them.

The record for longest known sperm goes to a tiny little fruit fly (they're all tiny) with a single sperm 20 times the length of its own body, and 1000 times the length of a human sperm.

In comparison, a fresh* dose of mouse ejaculate contains ~9.5 million sperm, each ~124 micrometres long; a fresh dose of human semen contains ~200 million sperm, each ~50 micrometers long; and a fresh dose of elepant semen contains ~200 billion sperm, each ~56 micrometres long.

The tightly-coiled sperm of the fruit fly Drosophila bifurca is an incredible 5.8 centimetres (2.3 inches) long.

{ *'Fresh' in this case means the testes have been allowed to 'refill' - 'second comings' in the Biblical sense, will have fewer sperm, because it takes time to rejuvenate the sperm population}

'The biggest sperm come in the smallest packages—and other surprising facts about male sex cells'

The causes that favour number over size, in bigger animals, are not entirely known, but a good working hypothesis, is that in small animals, the sperm can just be placed into the lady's 'reception pouch' and left, where it unravels to become generally unremoveable. But this can't be achieved in the relatively gigantic plumbing of a vertebrate.

Consequently, evolution favours more of a 'splash and dash' technique, where large numbers of sperm are dispatched, and a small number might actually win the world's most difficult steeplechase, to the awaiting ovum.

If it's even there, LOL.

It's the nature of the steeplechase's course, that motivates such a wide variety of spermy forms. In fact, spermatozoic morphology is often deemed the most diverse of any animal cell type.

Another nature that influences spermatic development, is the behaviour of the sexes its genome produces.

More promiscuous females mean more competitive sperm, as they vie for fertility, with each other.

Economics - the limited abundance of resources - means secondary sexual traits can influence sperm form and number. Males featuring big horns, or big bodies, or deep voices, tend to produce fewer sperm, as they lack the biological resources to do so.

In humans, it's been observed (i wonder how reliably) that psychology can play a part in the evolution of male gametes, as conceptions of competition (seeing other males) causes them to pump more sperm into their semen, maybe in anticipation of spermatoid warfare inside the female.

Some species can even deselect sperm from the whole process, by shunning them at the gates.

Females of these species can physically or chemically reject sperm from males, with whom they have a biological disagreement. Maybe their immune systems are too similar, for example.

Humans can not do this.

So don't get bogged down in human spunk. There's a wide world of wriggly wonders, out there!


The 21st of November was the 40th anniversary of the release of Queen's 4th album - A Night At The Opera - the most expensive album ever recorded, at the time of release. It culminates (except for the instrumental outro) in Bohemian Rhapsody - one of the most famous and loved songs, in the history of music.

In other news:

Hurrah! If believed silliness can be respected, then so can unbelieved silliness. Maybe this kind of thing will encourage governments to drop their fear-based deference to religion - it's just as valid as Pastafarianism.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries pick a 'word of the year' to highlight as an interesting, and influential new addition to the lexicon of the English language. Past winners include "vape", "selfie" and "omnishambles". But the winner for 2015, is barely a word at all - it's an emoji. Specifically, the crying-with-joy emoji. Now, there's no good reason why emojis should not be allowed in dictionaries - the entire Chinese and Japanese ones consist of single-character words! And the whole point of any word, is that it represents a meaning, whether through its audio version or not. The genuine contention, is whether emojis should be regarded as words, or as punctuation. Ending a sentence with a smiley face indicates your emotional state, but then, so does an exclamation mark or three!!! Anything with semantic value counts as language, but should emojis really be competing for 'Punctuation Mark Of The Year' rather than 'Word Of The Year'? Discuss.

The International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) presented themselves with the unenviable task of judging which member of ISIS is the least evil, this year. Or at least, they might as well have done, as they were actually judging which is the 'greenest' airline. Worst of the offenders were British Airways, Lufthansa and Scandinavian airline SAS, and at the top of the deeply-submerged pile was Norwegian Air Shuttle, which burned 51% less fuel per passenger kilometre than BA, during the study period. Air Berlin and Ireland's Aer Lingus came in second and third. Noting the fuel efficiency disparities between the carriers, ICCT said the average fuel burn of the aircraft was a key factor in the results and that seat configuration used was also significant. Consequently, first class and business class seats accounted for around a third of carbon emissions but only 14 percent of overall seats - they occupy more space, but on the same flights. "Airlines that invest in new, advanced aircraft are more fuel-efficient than airlines that use older, less efficient aircraft" stated the ICCT. So the solution to 'greening' the airlines is to pump billions of public money into a fixed assets upgrade? I think people would rather vote for nationalisation than see that kind of news, again.

An ancient fossilised forest has been discovered and uncovered, in Svalbard - a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean - and been dated to approximately 380 million years dead. The forests grew near the equator during this time - the late Devonian period - and tectonics caused them to drift so far north. The change in flora is thought to be the game-changer that pulled huge amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, changing the climate dramatically. The 4m tall lycopod trees have been turned into coal seams in many other areas of the world, which, if all returned to the atmosphere, would increase atmospheric CO2 toward the 15-times-higher-than-today concentrations that were around then. Tectonic Europe was an archipelago itself, back then, by the way - a billion people would drown, if the change were instantaneous.

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Deadly Strychnine - Periodic Table of Videos'

'ScienceCasts: Space Vision'

'Top 5 MONSTER Galaxies [Astro Top 5s]'

'Sliding Door Moire'

'How Do Dragonflies See The World? - Animal Super Senses - BBC'

'Why Isn't It Faster To Fly West?'

'Unexpected Shapes - Numberphile'

Definitely watch the other parts as well.

'NASA rocket could allow you to live for 1000 years!'

'NASA images: A day on Pluto, a day on Charon'

'Image: Stunning shot of Dione and Enceladus'

'Image: Extremadura, in western Spain captured by Sentinel-2A'

'Image: Fingerprints of water on the sand'

'NASA's STEREO-A resumes normal operations'

'The Good of the One - Spock tribute - by Melodysheep'

'"MANLY ADVICE" (Tips For Men) Tales Of Mere Existence'

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Season 2 Episode 10'

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Series 2 Episode 11'

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: seax (pronounced say-acks) -- also spellt sax, sæx, or sex; a knife or short sword, used by the peoples of northern Europe from 400-1000 CE, in domestic use and in war, where it would be more easily wielded around the shield walls, that were tactically popular at the time; the seax features on the coats of arms of Essex and Middlesex (defunct); the word sax/saks/sakset continues to be used in Norse languages, to refer to scissors, as a result of its material-cutting application; and the word zax refers to a roofing material, used to split slates and adapted to punch nail holes too.

Etymology Of The Week: seminal -- meaning 'crucial in the development of later works'; originated in Old French, in the 14th century CE, and comes from latin 'seminalis' with 'semen' literally meaning 'the seeds of plants and animals'; the figurative (and modern) meaning of 'seminal' dates to the 1630s CE.

Fact Of The Week: The Rhode Island School of Design's mascot is called 'Scrotie' and takes the form of a cock and balls. It's their hockey team that is called the 'Nads' and who are spurred on with the chant "go Nads!"

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'Queen - White Queen (A Night At The Odeon - Hammersmith 1975)'

'Planeta Tierra #8' (Planet Earth #8)

'A River Changing Course'

'Dog In Space'

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