Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

U.S researchers at the Washington State Department of Agriculture have trapped one of the murder hornets for the first time last week. Also called the Asian giant hornet, why do they prey on bees? How are complex honeycomb structures made by bees anyway?

Crux of the Matter

Who Are These Murder Hornets ?

They are the world’s biggest predatory wasps who prey on honey bees, swooping down and grabbing them out of the air. Several dozen Asian giant hornets can together kill a whole hive and use them as protein nourishment for their young versions. So far, more than 1,300 traps have been set in Washington and their nests are being searched using infrared cameras.

Such mass attacks can kill thousands of bees in a few hours. Thus Entomologists (scientists studying insects) have nicknamed these orange and black insects after seeing their aggressive nature towards bees and protecting their kind in general to build colonies.

Difference Between Bees And Hornets
Hornets feed on insects like flies and bees while honeybees collect plant pollen as their protein. The former can sting again & again, yet survive. The bee dies after its one-time-use stinger rips out its abdomen.

Maths Behind Complex Honeycombs Solved?
As per a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the algorithm behind the complicated architecture of beeswax cells has been discovered.

The genus Tetragonula (stingless bees) specialize in building hives in several shapes, from stacks of circles in a bulls-eye, a single/double spiral to a group of terraces. Each individual cell is the landing spot for an egg and a building block for structures 20 levels high.

Digital Model Replicates Real-Life Process
Bees building such complicated shapes without any blueprints actually follow an algorithm. When each bee follows the very same rule in a different part of the waxy hive, an overall pattern is formed.

Hexagonal building blocks are used because they have the shortest perimeter of shapes that fit together tightly, making the most efficient use of wax.

So How Do They Do It?
The digital beehive started with one cell, with the worker bees working on it. Random variables were selected for the new additions to a growing edge which then produces various output patterns.

In nature, crystals grow similarly, with different impurities causing their different shapes. Entomologist Tim Heard suggests that this structure improves airflow through the hive and helps the queen bee navigate her home more easily.

Curiopedia
  • Coyote Peterson is a YouTube personality, wildlife educator, and host on Animal Planet. He is best known for his YouTube content, which includes animals stinging and biting him.
  • Vessel is a structure and visitor attraction built in Manhattan, New York City. Built by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs.
  • Honeycomb structures are natural or man-made structures that have the geometry of a honeycomb to allow the minimization of the amount of used material to reach minimal weight and minimal material cost. They are widely used in the aerospace industry for this reason, and honeycomb materials in aluminum, fibreglass and advanced composite materials have been featured in aircraft and rockets since the 1950s.

History of Electric Vehicles

History of Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles have been in existence longer than the General Motors EV1 of the late 1990s and today’s Tesla Inc. Let’s understand how things came to be as they are now.

Crux of the Matter

1830s – 1840s
1832-1839 – Batteries (galvanic cell or voltaic cell) were not yet rechargeable. Scotland’s Robert Anderson built the first motorized carriage between this period.

Then Robert Davidson of Aberdeen, built a prototype electric locomotive (rail transport vehicle) in 1837. William H. Taylor in the US made similar motors from 1838.Both these men worked independently, unknown to each others’ works.

1841
Davidson’s advanced version called Galvani was launched. It could go 1.5 miles at 4 mph towing 6 tons of heavy goods. The railway workers saw this as a threat to their jobs tending steam engines and so they destroyed it.

1859
Rechargeable batteries came into existence, with the invention of the lead–acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté.

1884
Thomas Parker helped in the deployment of electric-powered trams (a rail vehicle that runs on tracks in public streets) and subsequently built prototype electric cars in England.

1890
Scottish chemist, William Morrison, applied for a patent on the electric carriage he’d built and then it appeared in a city parade in 1888. It had 24 battery cells that needed recharging every 50 miles, with front-wheel drive, 4 horsepower & a top speed of 20 mph. Later on, it gathered interest in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

1900s
Electric battery cars became popular for taxi services during this period, after Walter Bersey had introduced them in London. There was General Motors’ EV1 launched in 1996 and in 1997, the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle Toyota Prius was launched in Japan.This was followed by the Honda Insight in 1999 US, Japan and thereafter Europe, North America and worldwide in 2000.

However, in the early 1900s, battery-powered vehicles had an edge over their gas counterparts. They did produce a high level of noise, vibration, and emanate smell associated with gasoline. Plus these battery cars were preferred as they did not require a manual effort to start or gear changes.

Things changed with the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912, making gas cars to travel faster and longer than their electric versions. Plus added discoveries of large petroleum reserves worldwide, led to the wide availability of cheaper gas. Again gas prices soared between 1960s-1990s, creating interest in electric vehicles once more.

Gas Giants Overpowering Electric Aspirants
Throughout the EV emergence, there has been a constant pressure exerted by the oil industry, who was always afraid of losing its monopoly on transportation fuel over the coming decades.

There were reported figures of low consumer demand and hyped advertisements about the success of gas driven cars in the US. Then due to lack of infrastructure and finances, EV models were later destroyed or donated to museums and educational institutions.

In fact even now, for an undisclosed sum, oil giant Shell bought German home energy-storage startup Sonnen in 2019, in order to utilise their assets to Compete against Tesla and it’s batteries.

2000s – Present
The emergence of MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) technology and lithium ion battery led to the development of modern age electric road vehicles with less power losses.

The likes of Japanese Nissan Leaf, American Tesla Model X, German BMW i3 and South Korean Hyundai Ioniq Electric became popular electric cars, with more attempts at installing their respective charging stations. Additionally, Chinese and Taiwanese firms became manufacturing in e-bikes like the Gogoro series and Okinawa iPraise.

Curiopedia
  • Bertha Benz was a German automotive pioneer. She was the business partner and wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz. She was the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance in 1888.
  • Hummer is a brand of trucks and SUVs, first marketed in 1992. After closing the brand, it was revived earlier this year by General Motors. It was announced that a new electric pickup Hummer will soon be released.
  • Rivian is an American automaker and automotive technology company. Founded in 2009, the company develops vehicles, products and services related to sustainable transportation. In 2017, Rivian announced it was building an electric SUV.
  • In 1907, the tram car commenced in Mumbai, formerly Bombay and was run by the Electric Supply and Tramway Company till 1964. They later introduced double-decker trains to streamline traffic and increased routes.
  • The second oldest electric tramway in India after the Chennai tram service, was started by WBTC and CTC in 1902. To date it’s the only tram network operating in the nation.

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Not dinosaurs unfortunately, however, Japanese scientists have got a headstart with resurrecting dormant microbes, lying at the south pacific seabed for more than a 100 million years. So how did they find these ancient life forms? Can this be a breakthrough towards resurrecting mammoths or even dinosaurs?

Crux of the Matter

Rise Of The Sleeping Microbes?
Scientists from Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology have revived microbes that were in a dormant state for 100 million+ years, giving us a glimpse at what life was like in the past.

The team led by geomicrobiologist Yuki Morono found that the microbes survived in the South Pacific seabed, a sediment poor in nutrients, but having enough oxygen to allow them to breathe. It was published by Nature Communications.

What Is A Microbe?
A micro-organism that is amongst the earth’s simplest organisms, that has the ability to live in extreme environments where other developed life forms cannot survive.

It exists as a unicellular or multicellular living organism or even as a cell cluster and are of six major types: bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae, and viruses.

How Did They Stumble Upon It?
As per study co-author Steven D’Hondt, “In the oldest sediment we’ve drilled, with the least amount of food, there were still these ancient life forms”, After incubation of these microbes by scientists, the microbes began to eat and multiply.

What Does This Imply?
The new finding depicts how some of Earth’s simplest living structures don’t have the concept of a lifespan. Using DNA and RNA gene profiling, bigger creatures may be resurrected in the future.

Can The Woolly Mammoth Be Revived?
The possibility is a tall order right now. Though futuristic technology can help explain why the elephant ancestor went extinct in the first place.

Last year scientists revived genes from a population of Siberian Island mammoths that survived until around 4,000 years ago.

Curiopedia
  • Micrographia is a historically significant book by Robert Hooke about his observations through various lenses. It is particularly notable for being the first book to illustrate insects, plants etc. as seen through microscopes.
  • The word mammoth was first used in Europe during the early 17th century, when referring to maimanto tusks discovered in Siberia. They were called “mammon’s horn” and were often found in washed-out river banks. Some local people claimed to have seen a living mammoth.
  • The role of RNA in protein synthesis was suspected in 1939. Severo Ochoa won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine after he discovered an enzyme that can synthesize RNA in the laboratory.

New Law in Turkey Gives Added Social Media Power To Govt

New Law in Turkey Gives Added Social Media Power To Govt

A law was been passed by the Turkey government recently that lets the government store user data found in their social media accounts. What’s the motive behind this move? What do the critics have to say?

Crux of the Matter

What Happened?
The Turkish lawmakers passed legislation on 29th July that gives them the authority to regulate social media content. This has raised concerns about the country falling under greater governmental control, as social media was one of the few places for free public debate in Turkey. Starting from Oct. 1, it requires social media companies to store user data in the nation’s internal servers itself.

What Does The Bill State?
It orders popular social giants like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to open offices in Turkey and impose strict rules.

These offices would be responsible for meeting the demands of both the individuals and government. They can block content hosted on their platforms that is deemed inappropriate.

What If They Don’t Obey?
The dire consequences of disobeying the law would be slowing the bandwidth of the sites and making them mostly inaccessible. Moreover, the company offices would have 48 hours to comply and the fine for being late would be $700,000+.

Experts’ Take On Why It Was Passed
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and governing A.K.P. party behind the legislation cited that this move was needed to “protect citizens from cybercrime.”

Critics say that things took a personal turn when the president’s family was being targeted in social media criticism. Many reporters have been jailed to date, and many have left the country in fear.

As it is offline, conventional media houses are under the scanner of the Turkish government, with 90% of them being controlled by businesses close to the government. Now, this law would be the start of an online censorship regime.

History Of Its “Online Mess”

  • In 2016 before an attempted coup, Turkey had seen an online battle of the government loyals and the general public.
  • In 2017 Wikipedia was banned there, till it was lifted this year.
  • In 2019, streaming services like Netflix were targeted, with entertainment programs being rigorously censored. The series “If Only” was even cancelled as a result, because it was based on a gay character.

Curiopedia
  • A Black and White photo challenge is a recent social media trend which has started from Turkey, where the campaign is associated with raising awareness about femicide in the country. It is so because, b&w photos of murdered women are shown in the country’s media.
  • The Justice and Development Party, abbreviated officially AK Parti in Turkish, is a conservative political party in Turkey. The current party leader is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the incumbent President of Turkey.
  • Yeşilçam is the sobriquet that refers to Turkish film art and industry. The first Turkish-made film was a documentary entitled Ayastefanos’taki Rus Abidesinin Yıkılışı (Demolition of the Russian Monument at San Stefano), directed by Fuat Uzkınay and completed in 1914.

Can Fungus Protect Astronauts From Cosmic Rays?

Can Fungus Protect Astronauts From Cosmic Rays?

Never thought a mere fungus could help astronauts combat cosmic rays in space right? Well, scientists have figured out a way to use the fungus growing near the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in astronauts’ space shields!

Crux of the Matter

What’s The Discovery?
Scientists from Johns Hopkins and Stanford University have found out about a very thin sample of a fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. It reportedly has the ability to block and absorb 2% cosmic rays that hit it during its experimentation tenure in the International Space Station (ISS).

Wait, What Are Cosmic Rays?
Cosmic rays are atomic nuclei & high-energy protons that move through space at almost the speed of light (3×10^8 ms-1).

They can originate from the sun, outside of the solar system, and from distant galaxies. These rays are harmful to astronauts as they end up having excessive space radiation exposure which can lead to degenerated tissues and damaged DNA cells in the human body, causing the deadly disease cancer.

So Where Was The Fungus Found?
The radiation-absorbing fungus grows near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Kiev, Ukraine (formerly the Soviet Union). Made up of 4 nuclear reactors, it exploded causing the worst nuclear disaster the world had seen.

The disaster occurred during a regular routine maintenance check on April 26,1986, as per U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

Within the span of the next couple of years, 220,000+ residents were advised to move out of the contaminated areas. This was after there were signs of acute radiation sickness like seizures, coma, and skin damage caused mainly due to Iodine-131, which localises in our thyroid gland.

What Help Can 2mm Give To Astronauts?
Scientists suggest that even though a thin 2mm of the fungus wouldn’t suffice, a thick layer of 21 cm would be helpful in protecting the current astronauts in space and future explorations.

What Would Be The Process?
There are plans of weaving this fungus material into the spacesuit fabric. A major advantage would be that even if the fungus shields are damaged, they would be able to grow back.

According to study co-author Nils Averesch, “It self-replicates and self-heals, so even if there’s a solar flare that damages the radiation shield significantly, it will be able to grow back in a few days.” These flares occur when there is a sudden flash of increased brightness on the Sun.

Material Found For Future Mars Inhabitation?
Earlier space shields were made of the abundantly available plastic, Polyethylene which was good at dispersing off radiation, compared to its counterparts.

With discoveries like this naturally self-repairing fungus, it would be more convenient to make long-lasting and lighter weight shields to protect future colonies on Mars from cosmic rays and let them live healthily.

Curiopedia
  • Pier Antonio Micheli was a noted Italian botanist. He discovered the spores of mushrooms, was a leading authority on cryptogams, and coined several important genera of microfungi including Aspergillus and Botrytis. His Nova plantarum genera was a major step in the knowledge of fungi.
  • The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in 2035 and must improvise in order to survive. The novel was later adopted into a film starring Matt Damon
  • A solar flare is a sudden flash of increased brightness on the Sun, usually observed near its surface and in close proximity to a sunspot group. X-rays and UV radiation emitted by solar flares can affect Earth’s ionosphere and disrupt long-range radio communications.