Archive for the ‘cool things’ category

Artificial Jellyfish!

July 28, 2012

– – I’m sure that you’ll all be pleased as punch to learn that scientists in the U.S. have created a free-swimming artificial jellyfish!  I, for one, know that when at the ocean, I can never have enough of them bumping against me in the tide or lying on the beach.

It gets stranger, too; the team members built the replica using silicone as a base on which to grow heart muscle cells that were harvested from rats.  They then used an electric current to shock the created Medusoid into swimming with synchronised contractions that mimic those of a real jellyfish!  I swear that I am not making this up…

The finding serves as proof of concept for reverse engineering a variety of muscular organs and simple life forms.  As jellyfish use a muscle to pump their way through the water, the way that they function is similar on a basic level to that of a human heart.  Such similarities reveal what you need to do to design a bio-inspired heart pump.

Synthetic life is an emerging field of science that until now focused on replicating life’s building blocks.  Now instead of just building a cell, researchers at Caltech and Harvard University have built a beast!  

The Great Emancipator, and More!

June 7, 2012

– – Before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was…Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter!  In one of the strangest, genre-blending movies since Cowboys & Aliens, the film to be released June 22nd will mix incidentals of the American Civil War era with the gothic.  Based on the 2010 novel of the same name and co-produced by Tim Burton, it seems that the mother of the 16th president was killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels Lincoln’s passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers!  Lincoln therefore assumes a secret identity as a vampire hunter, brushing elbows during the story with a variety of historical notables, including in the book Edgar Allan Poe.

– –Ha, and you thought that history was a dead subject!- -Well, in a sense, part of it is, at least where the vampires are concerned.  The book has generally received favorable reviews, and been described as being an original vampire tale with heart, humor, and (–of course!) bite.  I’m encouraged by the fact that the vampires in the film will supposedly be presented as fierce, visceral, intense, and bloodthirsty rather than as the insipid pretty boys that they’ve recently morphed into elsewhere.  Lincoln will supposedly prove himself adept at wrestling and with an ax…and John Wilkes Booth wouldn’t have dared to take on this president in a fair fight!

Mythic Mayhem!

March 29, 2012

— It’s not easy being a demigod; everyone expects great things out of you!  Pity poor Perseus; as if whipping the Kraken wasn’t enough in 2010’s Clash of the Titans, now he has to beat a whole host of other assorted monsters in Wrath of the Titans.  There will be a slew of them to boot in this special effects extravaganza, everything from a thirty-foot high Cyclops to a Minotaur to my personal fave, a Chimera…I just like things with multiple heads and incongruous parts that spew fire, that’s the way I roll!  Mighty Kronos himself enters the fray,  just dripping with lava…what more could a boy want?  Yes, I know, robots, zombies, mummies, aliens, and werewolves are extremely cool too, but you can’t have them all in the same movie and preserve artistic integrity.- -Besides, I’d die of too much happiness!

While most of the beasties are computer generated, the Minotaur is played by an actor in a latex suit who underwent four hours of makeup for each day on the set!   You’ll also see Perseus’ noble winged steed Pegasus, and the demonic Makhai, who attack like whirling dervishes.  

This isn’t Shakespeare, but it’s good guy fun…and what’s wrong with that?  Wrath of the Titans opens March 30th…and it’s a cornucopia of creatures!!!– -Woo-hoo!

Frontier Airlines “Spokesanimals…”

March 18, 2012

– – Frontier Airlines boasts wildlife images that appear on the tails (- -where else?) of each of their aircraft!  There are more than 60 animals with distinctive personalities and bios  that are said to represent the airline’s character, commitment to service, and humor. 

Members of the “stable” include Larry the Lynx, Grizwald the Bear, Jack the Rabbit, Sal the Cougar, and my personal favorites, Foxy the Fox,  and Trixie the Fox.

Frontier Airlines was founded in 1994, and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.  Their corporate slogan is,  “A Whole Different Animal.”   With tail art like this, Frontier looks like a good place to rack up my frequent flier miles! 

Freeze-Drying Fido…

March 9, 2012

– – Up until recently, people had to relegate deceased animal companions to the grave or cremation; a few even chose to have deceased animals stuffed, although traditional taxidermy involves stretching the animal’s hide over a three-dimensional mold, which tends to yield a rather generic appearance.  Requests by grieving owners, however,  have led a handful of taxidermists to pioneer animal preservation through freeze-drying, which results in a more individualized, natural appearance. 

Freeze-dry chambers lower air pressure to the point that ice turns directly into gas without going through the liquid phase; internal organs and fat don’t freeze-dry well, and accordingly must be replaced with artificial fillers.  The machines themselves are incredibly expensive and require lots of electricity to run; the process is also a slow one, requiring perhaps six months to prepare a ten-pound cat, and up to a year for preservation of a large dog.  The process costs hundreds of dollars for even the smallest of animals, and thousands for a larger dog. 

Despite the high cost, businesses piloting freeze-drying animal preservation report handling between 150 and 200 deceased pets per year…

Permian Pompeii?

February 23, 2012

– – Roughly 298 million years ago, a volcano erupted in the Inner Mongolian district near the modern-day city of Wuda, China raining down volcanic ash with such intensity that a forest was quickly buried and essentially preserved in remarkable detail down to branch and leaf structure. American and Chinese  scientists have recently excavated this lost forest, ironically through coal mining activities in the region. 

The preserved forest of about 11,000 square feet gives researchers the unique opportunity to examine an ecosystem essentially frozen in time by a natural disaster dating back to when the earth had only one giant landmass known as Pangaea.  Scientists have worked with artist Ren Yugao to capture how the sites may have looked at the time…

The Bark Side…

February 1, 2012

  – – Turn to the Bark Side…you know it is your destiny

A teaser for a Volkswagen Super Bowl ad, the new commercial features a number of assorted dogs barking to Darth Vader’s distinctive “Imperial March” theme from Star Wars.  The dogs play different Star Wars characters; there’s even an Ewok and a Wookie dog, and at the end a greyhound or whippet clad as an AT-AT parades across the stage!  Is it Paw Wars?–Or are these not the dogs that you’re looking for?

Apparently none of this teaser will appear in the actual upcoming Super Bowl commercial,  which is to herald the arrival of the redesigned VW Beetle…