The Plant that Hides from Humans…

Fritillaria Delavayi grows in the hillsides of China in the Hengduan mountains and in Nepal. It has been used for over 2,000 years for medicinal purposes. The plant is believed to have properties that can treat coughs and other respiratory ailments. What this plant has done is evolve to the point where it can change its color to blend in with its environment in much the same way as reptiles do. This is in response to the over harvesting of the plant and its attempt to survive. The over harvesting of the plant is the result of the high price it now brings on the market. Since the plant is not threatened by any animal that feeds on it, scientists determined that this is a defense mechanism against humans. In areas where it is not threatened it has a bright yellow flower and green leaves. In heavily harvested areas it can change to blend in with rocks. Since it only blooms every 5 years it is difficult to find and harvest the bulb of the plant. This is not the first time humans have had an effect on plant life. Until recently, this was not even considered.

 

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/plant-camouflage-people-china-traditional-medicine-fritillaria

The Un-squashable Bug…

The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle (Phleoodes-diabolicus) has an ironclad exoskeleton that is almost impossible to crush. Dr. Rivera, of the Biometrics and Nanostructured Materials Lab of the University of California, set out to prove this. The beetle was place on a pillow of dirt in a parking lot and a Toyota Camry (3,500 lbs.) ran over it twice. Any other insect would have been liquified. The insect is capable of withstanding 39,000 times its body weight. This force would completely crush a human. The exoskeleton is packed with proteins giving it extreme durability. The underpart of the insect is of a separate section that interlocks with the above allowing it to separate almost like two puzzle pieces while providing a buffer space. As a result, there is no weak spot. The question remains, why would you run over a beetle in the first place?

Cicadas and a 17-year Gestation Period…

Their sound is so much a part of an August evening. A gradual hum that breaks out into a roar. They break through the ground and head in groups for the nearest tree. The nymphs remain underground for 17 years feeding on tree roots. Their number is so great that they provide an unending meal for turtles, racoons and birds. Every year a new group emerges in some area of the US, which is the only country where they are found. Only the males are capable of their unique sound which is used to attract females. Eric Day, an entomologist, recommends frying them in sake and garlic because of their high protein content. They are not poisonous and will do no harm to humans. They are a bit clumsy and will slam into you when you least expect it. Cicadas are extremely vulnerable to predators while they are waiting for their wings to dry after they emerge, but in spite of this, billions manage to survive, mate and die off leaving their nymph eggs to settle underground for another 17 years.

Machines That Can Taste Your Food…

Machines are now being trained to be attentive to shape, texture and sweetness. These decisions up to now have been made by experienced workers. Blueberries for example have a standard color palette and are very delicate so they can bruise easily. BBC Technologies of New Zealand has invented machinery that can separate blueberries by color and size which until now was time consuming and done by workers with nimble hands. The software takes from 2400 individual images of what a firm and proper color of a blueberry should look like. The color can also determine the sweetness which is another factor on how they are priced and packaged. Artificial intelligence can distinguish the difference from a stem hole and that which has been pecked by a bird and will soon rot. It can separate fruit that should be eaten within a week as opposed to the berries that can travel longer distances. PepsiCo is teaching machines sensory perception. Lasers are bounced off of potato chips to capture the sound of crunchiness in order to replicate someone biting into a potato chip. I wonder if the day will come when we walk into our home and see a machine sitting on our couch munching on chocolate chip cookies.