It’s that time again! Welcome to my weekly sampling of the weirdest/coolest things the interweb had to offer–read through and astound your friends and family as you litter your conversations with these tantalizing tidbits. It’s science for the win!
- Fatal Familial Insomnia
This rare disorder (that is just as terrifying as it sounds) is found in about 20 families around the globe. It typically arises from an autosomal dominant gene mutation—autosomal dominant refers to the way this gene is inherited; it’s similar to the genes that code for brown eye color in that an individual needs just one copy of the gene for the trait to be expressed. Activated mid- to late-adulthood, people afflicted with this disorder suddenly lose the ability to sleep and develop extreme anxiety and depression. As the disease progresses, the sufferer begins to have uncontrollable muscle spasms before descending into a psychosis that ultimately yields to coma and…death. Holy. Cats. (I first read about it in the book Brain Rules by John Medina and found more info here)
- Saltwater Bees?
First things first: some underwater plants actually produce flowers. I mean, it makes sense, but have you ever thought about it?? Just like their land counterparts these flowers serve to produce and disperse gametes for these organisms to ensure fertilization. Underwater pollination was initially considered to occur exclusively via transport of pollen in water currents, but scientists recently recorded small crustaceans and marine worms in the act of performing the same service provided by bumblebees on land; they actually shuttled pollen from male flowers to female flowers. So cool! (Check it out here)
- Crabby Glue
Chitin is the major chemical component of the exoskeletons of arthropods (i.e. insects and crustaceans). Researchers have worked to find novel usages for this molecule because of its abundance in the animal kingdom (this graph is a good estimate for the relative numbers of species of insects compared to all other animals on earth; spoiler alert, they win). It turns out that this handy molecule can be used to produce a variety of medically relevant substances, including a biodegradable glue that may replace sutures as an ideal means of closing post-surgical wounds Even better you can find chitosan blended as a component of…sock yarn! It’s antimicrobial properties yield a comfy sock that keeps your feet both warm and reduces the production of offensive bacterial odors. Anyone up for a knitting group? (Medical relevance here, knitting group here)