What’s the hottest shot of the season?
The evolution of eyesight.
And a little fool’s gold…coming up today On Science!
Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m your host Emerald Robinson.
The hottest shot to get this fall isn’t going to be of Kimye or Branjelina. Think of an even brighter star. The National Science Foundation along with Astronomy and Discover magazines are offering a $2500 prize for the best photo of Comet ISON. The contest continues through January 15, 2014. Amateurs and pros are welcome to submit up to 3 pictures, but there are some requirements. You must include a visual of Comet ISON as well as information about when and where the image was taken. You can submit your photos in one of three categories: Cameras & Tripods; Piggyback Cameras; and Through the Scope. Each category has a $2,500 first place and $1,000 second place prize with a $1,500 people’s choice prize in addition. So have your cameras ready to capture one hot shot!
Looks like our ancestors had their eyes out for snakes. Neuroscientists in Brazil and Japan have new evidence to support a theory that we developed high-quality vision as a defense mechanism against the threat of snakes. They looked at the brains of rhesus monkeys and found specific nerve cells that respond to snakes and these neurons were more numerous than other nerve cells. They also had a stronger, quicker response than those firing in response to other images. The monkeys used in the study had grown up in a walled colony and had never been exposed to snakes before, suggesting that the sensitivity of these neurons are purely evolutionary. The researchers say that our primate ancestors had evolved the ability to see well at close-range to avoid snakes. Well, my evolutionary path is lost because I can only see this well. [ holding out hand ]
Hey, kids, meet Bo and Yana. Aren’t they cute? Start-up company Play-i has created a pair of robots with the goal of getting children interested in robotics and programming. Bo and Yana take commands from an iPad and are designed to be programmed by children. Bo at $149 is an explorer on three wheels and can be programmed to run obstacle courses and play music on a xylophone. Yana at $49 is more of a storyteller, rolling across surfaces or slopes, lighting up and making sounds. Children can program the robots via two drag-and-drop style apps called Scratch and Blocky or the basic Play-i programming. Google Ventures put in $1 million in seed money for the product but the company has a crowdsourcing campaign to garner the rest, where you can pre-order a robot for your kids that will hopefully ship in the summer of 2014. Wait, who said they had to just be for kids? They look pretty cool to me!
Killing to save seems like an ironic concept, but that’s exactly what one conservation group is planning to do. There are only about 4,800 black rhinos left in the wild. In order to assist conservation efforts, the Dallas Safari Club is auctioning off – and you’re not going to believe this – only one permit to kill a black rhino in Namibia and the proceeds will go toward saving these endangered creatures. The permit is being issued on behalf of the government of the Republic of Namibia and is expected to go for anywhere between $250,000 to $1 million. Although100% of the proceeds go to saving the black rhino, some conservationists aren’t having it, saying it’s “inappropriate and disturbing.” Well, I guess sacrifice one for the greater good right?
There isn’t just gold in them there mountains in California, there’s mercury too thanks to those hopeful miners looking to strike it rich. Back in the Gold Rush days of the mid-1800s, gold miners used mercury to separate gold from sediment. They sprayed it via large hoses onto the mountainside to wash the sediment downstream. A group of researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara recently found that this mercury is still a big problem for central California as heavy floods every ten years or so carry the mercury down from the Sierra Nevadas to the lowlands which ends up in the fish which humans consume. The researchers believe there is still enough mercury to continue the contamination for the next 10,000 years.
And that’s all for today On Science!