Have you ever chanced upon a tiny spider in your garden, or perhaps on the wall of an old building, that swiftly jumped away as soon as you noticed it? Chances are that you spotted a spider of the Salticidae family. Jumping spiders, as they are commonly termed, are known for their leaping abilities, active hunting behaviour and impressive vision. It is hard to imagine that these wee arachnids have evolved a complex system of signalling using colours.
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We are often told that bacteria are dangerous, cause notorious infections and that we need to keep them away. While there is a bit of truth in that, did you know your gut has a plethora of these ‘friendly’ microbes? Yes, our gastrointestinal tract is home to many microorganisms forming an ecosystem called the gut microbiome. They help the digestion process and also contribute to our happiness and other moods!
Our blood, the elixir of life, is an incredible mixture of cells and proteins. While the red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, carry oxygen to different parts of our body, the white blood cells help us defend ourselves against invading pathogens. Then there are platelets, which are cell fragments, which aid in clotting of our blood among other things. All these cells are suspended in the blood serum—a storehouse of vital proteins and electrolytes needed by our body.
Astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Little did we know that this “something”, for the field of tissue engineering, would be a little spinach leaf!
Haven’t we all read about how our ‘genes’ make up who we are— many traits like the colours of our hair and how we look depends on the genes. However, where exactly are these genes? They are in the coiled ‘chromosomes’ found in our DNA. So where exactly in the chromosomes are these genes that decide our height or our eye colour? Well, you then have to zoom the gene locus—the exact physical address of the gene on the chromosome.
If you have noticed a young child draw clouds, you might observe that irrespective of the size of these clouds, they have the same distinctive shape. Surprisingly, there is a scientific basis for this observation and is said to be because of the ‘fractal’ or self-similar nature of clouds.
Cloud seeding is the technology of introducing artificial nuclei or “seeds” (silver iodide, salt, dry ice), into clouds from either the air or ground to increase the chances of rain. The popular belief is that cloud seeding is done only to bring rain in a particular place. But did you know that the same technique is used to disperse rain?
Kopi Luwak, a coffee variant believed to be of Indonesian origin, has gained popularity all over the world over the last few years. The reason for its popularity is attributed to the factors such as flavour and texture which is achieved through a unique process—digestion of the coffee beans by Asian palm civet.
If ever the Beatles were to be formed again, they would definitely agree to rope in field crickets, the distant rockstar relatives of grasshoppers, into their influential band. The male members of the Gryllidae family are noted in the animal world for the music they make with their forewings. As the sun goes down and the dark is welcome, the musical concert of adult male field crickets goes live. Some sing continuous trills, the others produce periodic chirps to enchant the ladies of their own species for mating.