BGRAs Russian gold hunters sifted through rocks they came across something entirely more valuable, a meteorite found to host an alien mineral we have yet to document.
The mineral was found in the Uakit meteorite, which was named for the tiny town in eastern Russia where it was found. There are over 4,000 documented minerals found both on Earth and in space. The mineral uakitite can be added to that list, a mineral never found before on Earth and born under extreme temperatures in space.
From the coasts of Indonesia to the rainforests of Peru, venomous animals are everywhere―and often lurking out of sight. Humans have feared them for centuries, long considering them the assassins and pariahs of the natural world.
Now, in Venomous, the biologist Christie Wilcox investigates and illuminates the animals of our nightmares, arguing that they hold the keys to a deeper understanding of evolution, adaptation, and immunity. She reveals just how venoms function and what they do to the human body. With Wilcox as our guide, we encounter a jellyfish with tentacles covered in stinging cells that can kill humans in minutes; a two-inch caterpillar with toxic bristles that trigger hemorrhaging; and a stunning blue-ringed octopus capable of inducing total paralysis. How do these animals go about their deadly work? How did they develop such intricate, potent toxins? Wilcox takes us around the world and down to the cellular level to find out.
Throughout her journey, Wilcox meets the intrepid scientists who risk their lives studying these lethal beasts, as well as “self-immunizers” who deliberately expose themselves to snakebites. Along the way, she puts her own life on the line, narrowly avoiding being envenomated herself. Drawing on her own research, Wilcox explains how venom scientists are untangling the mechanisms of some of our most devastating diseases, and reports on pharmacologists who are already exploiting venoms to produce lifesaving drugs. We discover that venomous creatures are in fact keystone species that play crucial roles in their ecosystems and ours―and for this alone, they ought to be protected and appreciated.
Thrilling and surprising at every turn, Venomous will change everything you thought you knew about the planet’s most dangerous animals.
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The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought both certain economic stability for the middle class as well as the means to produce what had been luxury items on an affordable, mass scale.
More and more people were drawn to the acquisition of everyday items that were also works of art. One of the types of goods where this was especially true was tableware. China of the time was often heavily decorated with painted motifs and gold or silver rims.
Glasswork could be downright baroque. It was often carved, painted, or engraved and could be found in an ever-increasing array of colors.
Producers of glasswork could achieve remarkable results by adding metal salts or other compounds to the glass while it was in its molten state.
Interestingly enough, one of the compounds that started being used in the 1800s was uranium.
Living things are star stuff. Other than hydrogen, which comes from the Big Bang, which marked the birth of the universe, the familiar elements of which flesh is composed—carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and so on—were created by the energy-releasing process of nuclear fusion that powers stars. But fusion has its limits. The balance of forces inside an atomic nucleus means that creating an element heavier than iron (number 26 on the periodic table) consumes energy, rather than releasing it. Further up the table, beyond lead (number 82), nuclei tend to fall apart spontaneously. In other words, they become radioactive.
The Lost Purple Snail starts at minute 7:00
An ancient sea snail shell discovered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has created tremendous interest among researchers, who believe the find ties in with the particular shade of vibrant blue dye ("tchelet" in Hebrew) used in ancient times to color the fringes of religious garments.
The shell of the branded dye-murex (Hexaplex trunculus) snail was recently discovered as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project underway in the Emek Tzurim National Park. The project is funded by the Ir David Foundation and directed by archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University.
Archaeologist Zachi Dvira noted that finding the shell of an ancient sea snail far inland on the Temple Mount raises questions, as such snails are generally excavated in coastal archaeological digs.
In ancient Rome, purple was the color of royalty, a designator of status. And while purple is flashy and pretty, it was more important at the time that purple was expensive. Purple was expensive, because purple dye came from snails.
The video above, by CreatureCast, recounts the story of Rome’s vaunted Tyrian purple, and the color’s close link with the marine snail Bolinus brandaris. The New York Times:
To make Tyrian purple, marine snails were collected by the thousands. They were then boiled for days in giant lead vats, producing a terrible odor. The snails, though, aren’t purple to begin with. The craftsmen were harvesting chemical precursors from the snails that, through heat and light, were transformed into the valuable dye.
But this telling leaves out one of the best parts of the story.
The video explains that snail-fueled purple persisted until chemists learned to make synthetic dyes. But the development of an artificial purple wasn’t a deliberate decision, but a happy accident for a young chemist named William Henry Perkin.
In the 1850s the British Empire was pushing into Africa. The Empire’s colonization attempts, though, were being beaten back by malaria. Scientists had recently realized that quinine, a chemical derived from the bark of cinchona trees, could be used to treat against malaria. But cinchona trees come mostly from South America, and scientists wanted a better way to get their hands on the drug.
Enter William Perkin, a young chemist who had joined the Royal College of Chemistry at 15. In 1856 Perkin, now 18, was trying to synthesize quinine in the lab. After repeated failures, “Perkin produced little more than a black, sticky mess,” says the Independent. Trying to dissolve his gunk in alcohol, though, revealed a deep purple liquid.
Perkin’s purple, otherwise known as aniline purple, or mauveine, was the first synthetic dye. The synthesis transformed purple’s elite status, and probably saved the lives of a great many snails.