Little Badger Buries Entire Cow — on Camera

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Little Badger Buries Entire Cow — on Camera

  • Little Badger Buries Entire Cow — on Camera
A badger rests on top of the grave of a cow that it buried. The badger was caught on camera interring the cow carcass over the course of five days.

Credit: Courtesy of Evan Buechley

An industrious badger in Utah’s Great Basin Desert was caught on camera burying a cow four to five times the little animal’s own size.

The behavior has never been seen in the wild, and it was a total surprise to the researchers who accidentally captured time-lapse video of the burial, the scientists said. It was particularly surprising because they were attempting to study scavenging birds, not badgers, the researchers said. The badger spent five days excavating a hole around the cow carcass and burying the animal in it, before lolling around near its cache of food for weeks.

“Not to anthropomorphize too much, but he looks like a really, really, happy badger, rolling in the dirt and living the high life,” University of Utah doctoral candidate in biology Evan Buechley, who discovered the footage, said in a statement. [Watch the Video of the Badger Burying a Cow Carcass]

To document the behavior of scavengers like vultures, Buechley dragged seven calf carcasses out to the Grassy Mountains west of Salt Lake City. He and his colleagues set up camera traps by the staked-down carcasses so they could monitor what kind of scavengers visited. After a week, Buechley returned to the study site and found only six carcasses.

A badger in Utah’s Grassy Mountains west of Salt Lake City gets busy burying a calf carcass for later snacking. This is the first time a badger has been seen burying a carcass larger than itself.

Credit: Courtesy of Evan Buechley

“When I first got there, I was bummed, because it’s hard to get these carcasses, to haul them out and set them up,” he said. He said he figured a coyote or mountain lion had dragged the body away. [Beastly Feasts: Amazing Photos of Animals and Their Prey]But then he noticed that the dirt was disturbed where the carcass had been lying.

“Right on the spot, I downloaded the photos,” he said.

What he saw was a five-day time-lapse of a badger (Taxidea taxus) completely burying the calf carcass, caught by the camera trap that was programmed to go off upon detecting movement. The cow weighed about 50 lbs. (23 kilograms), and badgers weigh around 15 to 20 lbs. (6 to 9 kg). Badgers are known to bury small prey like rabbits for later noshing, but this was the first time a badger had been seen burying a carcass larger than itself, Buechley and his colleagues reported today (March 31) in the journal Western North American Naturalist.

A badger pauses for a bite as it buries the carcass of a calf set out by scientists to use in researching scavenging birds like vultures. Instead of observing avian scavengers, though, the researchers got a window into badger behavior they never expected to see.

Credit: Courtesy of Evan Buechley

During the same field season in the winter 2016, the team’s camera traps caught another badger trying to bury a calf, though this badger didn’t complete the job. This suggests that the behavior isn’t outside of the badger norm.

Badgers “are an enigmatic species,” study co-author Ethan Frehner, of the University of Utah, said in a statement. Badgers are active mostly at night and spend a lot of time burrowed underground, so direct observations of their behavior are rare, he said.

If badgers are regularly burying large carcasses, that behavior could have a major impact on desert ecology, Buechley said.

“[T]here are a lot of animals that could be using this resource, and the badger just monopolizes it,” Beuchley said. For example, other scavengers that have visited the researcher’s cow carcasses include ravens, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, turkey vultures and golden eagles.

On the other hand, he added, badgers that bury cows could be doing an important favor for ranchers: Burial would isolate disease from other members of the herd and keep large predators from sniffing around.

This isn’t the first time a badger’s digging prowess has had unexpected results. In 2013, archaeologists in Germany uncovered a 12th-century burial ground after a badger unearthed some artifacts while digging a burrow.

Original article on Live Science

The Secret to Cubans’ Homemade Wine: Condoms

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The Secret to Cubans’ Homemade Wine: Condoms
In this photo, taken on March 30, 2017, winemaker Orestes Esteves moves a jug of wine, at his house in Havana, Cuba.

Credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Cubans have found a homemade solution to making wine without high-tech fermentation tools: They use condoms.

Homemade wine is an affordable spirit for Cubans, where a bottle of imported wine in state-run liquor stores sells for at least half of the average person’s monthly salary of $25, reported Associated Press. One backyard winemaker, Orestes Estevez, has hundreds of fruit-filled glass jugs capped with condoms. Estevez told the AP he uses the condoms to signal when the juices are ready to be bottled.

To ferment grapes into wine, yeast feeds on the sugars found in the fruit and carbon dioxide (CO2) is subsequently released, Kathleen Arnink, a viticulture (science of wine) and enology (study of wine) lecturer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, told Live Science. The gas inflates the condoms as the fruit ferments, and when the condoms become limp again, Estevez said they signal that fermentation is complete. [Photos: Amazing Microscopic Views of Italian Cocktails]

Putting a condom on a bottle is just like with a man,” Estevez told the AP. “It stands up, the wine is ready, and then the process is completed.”

Estevez, who turned his backyard winemaking into a winery, told the AP he sells an average of 50 bottles a day for about 40 cents each. The tiny winery has become a neighborhood attraction, the AP reports, thanks to the affordable local vino and bizarre sight of condom-capped jugs of wine.

In commercial operations, winemakers use fermentation locks that allow the CO2 to escape while still sealing off the wine from oxygen, Arnink said. Winemakers monitor the sugar concentration of the wine during fermentation to determine when the process is complete.

Trapping CO2 in a condom does help protect the wine from oxygen, though waiting for the inflatable to deflate is not a precise measure of the fermentation process, according to Arnink. And though it may look strange, at-home winemakers have used inflatables, such as balloons, for their concoctions before.

“I have seen balloons used, but anything that will fit on the neck of the carboy [wine jugs] and trap the gas would work,” Arnink told Live Science in an email. “I guess manufacturing birth control has been more important in Cuba than making balloon animals, so they had more condoms available than balloons.”

Though there are better tools available for winemaking, Arnink said using balloons or condoms is an acceptable method for a makeshift fermentation operation at home.

Original article on Live Science.

Bizarre Superfluid with Negative Mass Created in a Lab

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Bizarre Superfluid with Negative Mass Created in a Lab
Force equals mass times acceleration.

Credit: Shutterstock

Scientists have created a new superfluid that has a negative mass, meaning that if it’s pushed to the right, it accelerates to the left and vice versa.

The bizarre behavior may sound like a freakish violation of nature, but it is a phenomenon that physicists have seen hints of before. However, this is the first time that negative mass has been demonstrated without ambiguity in a lab, said Han Pu, a theoretical physicist at Rice University who was not involved in the new research.

The newly created material with negative mass is a type of Bose-Einstein condensate, in which individual atoms move as one object, the scientists wrote in the new study. [The 18 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics]

The new findings could hold clues to the behavior occurring in the heart of ultracold neutron stars, which also act as superfluids, said study co-author Michael Forbes, a physicist at Washington State University.

One of the first things that students learn in high school physics is that force is equal to mass times acceleration, or F= m*a. Called Newton’s second law of motion, the equation dictates what everyone experiences daily: If you push an object (barring other forces at play), it accelerates away from you.

Yet, for a long time, scientists have known that — theoretically, at least — there are certain conditions in which acceleration could be negative.

“These types of negative-mass conditions can arise in a variety of contexts,” Forbes told Live Science. “They don’t occur out in the middle of space, as far as we know.”

However, there have been hints of this behavior occurring spontaneously in systems where light is traveling through nonlinear materials with special electrical properties, as well as in certain types of crystals. However, in these systems, it was hard to control or predict where the negative mass occurred, so it was difficult to say whether the behavior was actually occurring, Forbes said.

In the new study, which was published April 10 in the journal Physical Review Letters, Forbes and his colleagues eliminated this uncertainty. They cooled rubidium atoms to near absolute zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius) while the atoms were squished inside a tiny horizontal tube. At these bone-chilling temperatures, the atoms move glacially slow, and their motion is correlated such that the material made up of the rubidium atoms acts more like a wave than a particle. In essence, it is as if the collection of supercool atoms behaves as one particle.

Then, the researchers shined lasers at the tube, which changed the state of the atoms inside. Based on the angle of the laser, it pushes the particles either one way or the other. Next, the researchers opened up the ends of the tube holding the atoms. Normally, the laser light would push the cloud of atoms to expand outward toward the ends of the tube. But in this instance, a shock wave built up on one side of the cloud, causing the cloud of atoms to contract away from the wave.

“If you try to push [the cloud of atoms] away, it’s effectively the lasers that are causing it to push backward,” Forbes said. “At a microscopic level, that’s what’s happening.”

Though the new demonstration may seem to violate the laws of physics, it actually doesn’t.

“I wouldn’t say it’s unexpected,” Pu told Live Science.

That’s because the effective negative mass of the system here is inertial mass, which dictates how an object accelerates in response to an applied force; in this instance the study simply means that in certain narrow, dynamic conditions, the sign on the mass term in the equation is flipped. But energy is still conserved and the gravitational mass of the system, meaning the amount of gravitational pull the atom cloud exerts and experiences, has not changed. So Newton’s law of universal gravitation, which describes the gravitational attraction between two masses, has not been violated. (This law is what dictates that, in a vacuum without air resistance, a feather and a lead ball will fall toward Earth at the same rate.)

Because the gravitational mass of the Bose-Einstein condensate is still positive,  the individual atoms in the material are still pulled together by gravity. So if the same experiment were flipped so it were in a vertical tube, the force of gravity could cause the atom cloud to fall toward the floor and expand, just as ordinary intuition would expect, Forbes added.

(If, somehow, an experiment created conditions in which gravitational mass turned negative, that would likely violate fundamental physics laws, and things would get weird — fast. For instance, if there were a negative gravitational mass particle and a positive mass particle in proximity, one would be attracted to the other, while the other would be repelled. So one particle would essentially chase the other one forever, reaching infinitely high speeds, Forbes said.)

The new findings are interesting from a purely theoretical point of view, but they could also help scientists understand what’s going on inside neutron stars, Forbes said. For instance, cold clouds of lithium atoms filled with fermions have almost identical energetic properties to neutron stars, so they could be used to create “experiments” that otherwise never could have been done on the massive interstellar objects in space, Forbes said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Blanket of Spiderwebs Covers Entire Field

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Blanket of Spiderwebs Covers Entire Field

Blanket of Spiderwebs Covers Entire Field

A transparent layer of spider webs covers the grass in a New Zealand park.

Credit: Tracey Maris/Storyful

Visitors to a New Zealand park recently found the grass blanketed not by flowers, but by silk webs produced by what appeared to be thousands of tiny spiders.

Park-goer Tracey Maris noticed something unusual about the scene on April 16 and captured video footage of the gently rolling silk waves. The web blanket was approximately 98 feet (30 meters) long and as wide as 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m), The New Zealand Herald reported. Webs covered ground near a soccer field at the Gordon Spratt Reserve in suburban Papamoa, near the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s eastern coast, the newspaper said.

Initially, Maris thought the silk nets were unoccupied, she said. But as she and her family explored the webs’ outer perimeter, they noticed that there were “little black things on top” — spiders, numbering in the thousands, Maris told The NZ Herald. “So, as you do, we screamed really loudly,” she said. [Weird and Wonderful: 9 Bizarre Spiders]

Maris spotted the webs on a newly made tsunami evacuation mound, she told the news agency Storyful. “There was a bright glistening coming from the top of the mound. It looked almost like the hill was sparkling,” Maris said. The elevated mound may have attracted spiders seeking higher ground after recent flooding from Cyclone Cook earlier that week, Maris told Storyful.

It is very likely that the field’s silky cover is made of sheet webs, spun by members of the sheet web spider family, Thomas Scheibel, head of the Department for Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, told Live Science in an email.

Scheibel, who studies biomaterials like spider webs, explained that sheet webs are made up of not just one type of spider silk, “but typically several silks with different properties.”

New Zealand hosts a variety of sheet web spider species, the largest of which is Cambridgea foliata. While the smallest sheet web spiders measure just a few centimeters across, C. foliata‘s leg span is “palm-sized,” and it produces a web that can measure over 3 feet (1 m) across, according to a species description shared by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

“But it is impossible to tell which spider made the webs in the video,” Scheibel told Live Science. “However, it is likely that all webs in the video are made by the same species — although probably several thousands of individuals.”

But even the efforts of several thousand spiders can last for only so long. Their work was partly destroyed by a dog that ran across the field shortly after Maris shot her video, and a thunderstorm wiped away what was left; when she returned to the park the next day, no sign of the web remained, Maris told Storyful.

“For me, it was being at the right place at the right time yesterday to see a phenomenon which is rarely seen,” she said.

Original article on Live Science.

Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

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Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week