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Monday, November 14, 2022


PiPs vs spider & beetle (by @sciecemug)
PiPs vs spider & beetle (by @sciencemug)
Spider img by Dr. Andrew Posselt
Frog-Legged leaf beetle img by Yousef Al Habshi (@yousef_al_habshi)
Source: Nikon's Small Word
The photographers authorized the use of their images.
All images adapted by @sciencemug
PiPs cartoons by @sciencemug

From the images' source website:
"Nikon’s Small World
Celebrating 47 years of images captured by the light microscope.
The Photomicrography Competition is open to anyone with an interest in microscopy and photography

Sooo, pal reader, as you can see for yourself, when one looks real close, well, things do may be different from one's thought (unless one goes quantum-close, then things get beyond "different"...).

Anyway, the photographers who took the amazing spider & beetle pics were kind enough to tell us the story of those shots. Enjoy!

Dr. Andrew Posselt (spider)
"This was a tiny (4-5 millimeters [about 0.15-0.2 inches]) spider [Phidippus audax] I found in my backyard.
The image is a composite of approximately 200 pictures that were created using focus stacking – it is necessary to use that many images because at this magnification, the DOF
[Depth of Field] is very small – approximately 30 microns
[1 micrometer (aka micron, aka µm) is 1 millionth of a meter (aka m), meaning were Thor/Chris Hemsworth 1µm, then 1m would be a bit more than the distance between Kyiv and Brussels, or a bit less than the distance between Tokyo and Taipei (or, probably, right the distance covered by a bunch of a very angry Hulk's jumps)].
The most tedious aspects of the process are cleaning the spider, positioning it in a pleasing pose (hard to do as the camera view only shows a very thin sliver that is in focus), and obviously the lighting.
The colors are not enhanced at all – this is how he (males are more colorful) looks in nature

Mr. Yousef Al Habshi (beetle)
"I was in love with the multiple colors of this beetle [Chrysomelidae Sagra buqueti] and started to set up my equipment to shoot. Only then, I was fascinated by the aggressive looks of this beetle through the lens, even though these beetles aren't aggressive, considering they are leaf beetles.
With the right lighting effects, the shown work was produced.


Well, thank you, Dr. Posselt and Mr. Al Habshi, for sharing your beautiful pictures and their stories!
To you, pal reader, ciao!

I feel compelled to intervene in order to specify a thing about which, often, there is confusion, and that this cheap blog, obviously, given its intellectual sloppiness, has not made sure - as indeed it would have been appropriate to do - to make clear.
I proceed, then.
The often times shared misconception is this: spiders are insects.
They definitely are not.
Spiders are arachnids.
Spiders and beetles are both, in fact, arthropods, but the former are, as just mentioned, arachnids, while the latter are insects.
In short:
Spiders - Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Arachnida
Beetles - Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Insecta.

You are welcome.

William Will Whatever

Monday, October 31, 2022


PiPs vs Halloween! (by @sciencemug)
PiPs vs Halloween and two larvae-ghosts (by @sciencemug)
Pumpkin free pic by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR, blue door free pic by Aziz Acharki, dark corridor free pic by charlesdeluvio (source of the three images: Unsplash).
Orange larva pic by Bruno Vellutini is under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license (source: flickr).
Larva pic by Alvaro E. Migotto is under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)
(source: Cifonauta).
All images adapted by @sciencemug.
PiPs cartoons by @sciencemug.

The two spooky-cute creatures (they're larvae) deserved a Halloween cartoon, don't you think?

And if you now want more halloweenish creatures, well, go find seven of 'em here (courtesy of the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC))!




I agree, dear reader, very few words are indeed scarier than "Booo!" (well, probably any German word pronounced out loud is - for those who don't speak the language at least), but, for the joke sake, I had to pick one, and "unprovoked illegal genocidal colonialist war started and waged by a nazi-fascist terrorist nuclear imperialistic state among other atrocities purposefully and cynically putting millions of people in the poorest parts of the world at risk of starving", well, was too long to fit in the cartoon. And it was more than one word. And it's actually more enraging than scary.
So I chose "Inflation".

Saturday, October 22, 2022


Seabird (streaked shearwater) vs paparazzi (by @sciencemug)
Seabird (streaked shearwater) vs paparazzi (by @sciencemug)
Streaked shearwater pic by
Tony Morris, is under CC BY-NC 2.0 license (source: flickr); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

Sooo, pal reader, a bunch of researchers from the UK and Japan use the Global Positioning System (aka GPS) to track, for eleven years, adult streaked shearwaters in the Sea of Japan (Lempidakis et al., 2022 (P)).
Shearwaters are indeed pelagic seabirds, meaning the kind of winged creatures that live a big chunk of their lives on open oceans and seas (others are, for instance, albatrosses and puffins).
Now, dear reader, you're for sure asking yourself why
our science people look into these specific birds' movements, and in that particular location?
Well, buddy, it has to do with the fact that the brains are interested in cyclones (aaand, no pal, although they can and do kill humans, cyclones are not a new model of humans-killing machines designed for a reboot of the Battlestar Galactica saga maybe with a less crappy finale than the last one, not that that'd require a big effort, given the high level of crappiness of said finale, by the way)

Seabird (streaked shearwater) vs cyclone vs cylon (by @sciencemug)
Seabird (streaked shearwater) vs cyclone vs cylon (by @sciencemug)
Streaked shearwater pic1 &
pic2 by Tony Morris, and Cylon pic by GogDog are under CC BY-NC 2.0 license (source: flickr); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

and in how seabirds react to these billions of bucks atmospheric damage making phenomena that provoke, among all the rest, "mass mortality and strandings" (P) (given that tens of thousands of individuals can be wrecked in the worst cases) in, precisely, seabirds.
Now, as per the location, the Sea of Japan is "the world’s most active cyclone basin"
(P), and as per the birds, well, shearwaters breed also there.
Ok reader, so the UK+Japan researchers know, from the few studies available on the subject, that seabirds usually go around or above the higher speed winds of the cyclones, even flying up to 400 – 600 km from their routine foraging area not to meet & greet them. But, after analyzing their collected data, our science dudes find out that shearwaters' "response to cyclones [varies] according to the wind speed and direction. In strong winds, birds that [are] sandwiched between the storm and mainland Japan [fly] away from land and toward the eye of the storm, flying within ≤30 km of the eye"
In other words, dear reader, when between a rock (the cyclone) and a hard place (the land), our mighty shearwaters dive into the former, right toward its eye. Like that, our skilled birds face the strongest winds (with a speed ≤75 km/h), yes, but they manage to avoid the powerful onshore winds and therefore reduce the deadly risk to be pushed toward land and be hit by some flying bullet-like debris, or
crash down or, once landed alive, be unable to take-off again and then becoming an easy target for predators like crows and raptors.
Shearwater - that are "relatively small, weighing some 580g, and typically fly with airspeeds up to ~ 14 m/s [~ 50 km/h]" (P) - are able to ride the cyclones that way 'cause they are able to exploit strong winds tanks to "their use of dynamic soaring flight, which enables them to extract energy from the vertical wind gradient and fly at low metabolic cost" (P).
Their storm-facing strategy, however, is linked, as mentioned, to the speed and direction of the winds and the location of the land. Therefore, it seems adult shearwaters probably can count on a "map sense, which would be required for knowledge of the distance and direction to [said] land"
(P), and such navigational skill would be the result of a selective pressure. Proof of that would be that juvenile exemplars of shearwater should be less able to successful face cyclones as they lack that map sense, and can just count on their innate compass bearing to migrate. And the fact that young shearwaters "appear to be particularly susceptible to being wrecked after storms [...] [(]although the exact cause of wrecking and/or mortality is unclear[)]" (P) seems to confirm this hypotesis.

Aaaaanyway, dear reader, this dumb blog, in the following cartoon, shows you its idea about the actual reason why our resourceful seabirds, the streaked shearwaters, do their thing into the storms...

Seabirds (streaked shearwater & albatross) vs cyclone (by @sciencemug)
Seabirds (streaked shearwater & albatross) vs cyclone (by @sciencemug)
Streaked shearwater pic
by Tony Morris, and albatross pic by GRID-Arendal are under CC BY-NC 2.0 license (source: flickr); free storm pic by Daniel Lerman (source: unsplash); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

Wednesday, October 5, 2022



Screaming psychedelic chimp (by @sngshp)
Screaming psychedelic chimp (by @sngshp and @sciencemug)
Chimp img is a free pic by mwangi gatheca (source: unsplash)
adapted by sense_not_given and @sciencemug

Listen here

Aaaand, PiPs, this is pixel number one billion one hundred and eighteen million thirty-five thousand five hundred ninety-two, that is the last darn one of this heck of a digital puzzle you won last summer at that raffle organized by that shady group of NFTs that looked like a mix between a hamster suffering from colitis and a space monster with a very bad case of pink eye...

And, I've to say that the fact that this thing portray a giant middle finger tattooed with the word "u gigantic moron", and with in the background a horde of wildly laughing walruses fin-pointing at the viewer, well, you know, somehow vaguely irritates me.

Anyway, dear listener, now that my gang and I are done with the utterly urgent aaaand totally useless things, we can finally go back and tell science stories!

The coming not-so-soon next one is about wounded chimps, insects implemented self-medication, and hints of empathy!



2023/07 Update

Yeah, well dear reader/listener, PiPs here to tell you, see, that quantum stuff happened in copious abundance which cluttered the "time-to-do-this" highway SM was running its wheels onto, so... Yeah, well, sorry, but no way it is able to fulfil the prophecy of the "coming not-so-soon".

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Hello, dear reader! So, a bunch of science dudes & dudettes working mostly in France & Spain sticks its nose in the "what else the climate change causes?" business, "identified colorful flying living objects" branch. And it finds something interesting (López-Idiáquez et al, 2022 (P)).
The researchers indeed, for fifteen years (2005-2019)
stalk birds, specifically, two Mediterranean blue tit subspecies, more specifically, the Cyanistes caeruleus caeruleus and the Cyanistes caeruleus ogliastrae, which tipically have bright blue crowns and yellow breasts.
The scientists collect more than 5800 observations on these winged animals, and, thanks to these data, the brains can then say that the birds'
colors are now "duller and less chromatic in both sexes" (P) than when the study began.
The researchers, besides, perform a genetic analysis on the animals to check if evolution be at work on their color traits, and eventually they verify that, well, it is not.
So, the people of the science conclude that the
loss in brilliance of the birds' colors is "caused by a plastic response to the environmental conditions [and their work] suggests that ornamental colorations could become less conspicuous because of warming" (P).
In short, climate change strikes again! And it even influences the colors of birds, which are
not (the colors) just there by chance, or to catch the eye of human photographers so to end up on some bird-fashion journal's glossy glamorous cover and get all lavishly birdy-rich&famous. Nope.
Colors are part of the "
sexual and social ornaments" family (P), meaning they are important for the mating and breeding process of animals, since they are used as markers of the quality of the biological stuff specimens are made of.
So, dear reader, to sum up, climate change, among other tons of not particularly pleasant things, makes colorful birds less colorful.
As to the why
this de-balzing thing happen, well, this dumb blog has an idea that you can find in the following cartoon. Ciao!

Bird's coloration gets less blazing due to global warming (by @sciencemug)
Bird's coloration gets less conspicuous due to climate change (by @sciencemug)
Top bird pic and bottom bird pic are CC0 Public Domain images (source: pxhere); mirror pic by Dalida's Art is under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License (source: deviantart); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

Friday, January 14, 2022


Goldfish drives fast a super car (by @sciencemug)
Goldfish drives fast a super car (by @sciencemug)
Goldfish pic by zhengtao tang, and car pic by Damian Ochrymowicz, are free images (source: Unsplash); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

So folks, four researchers from Israel (aka the Fab4), put six goldfishes (Carassius auratus) at work (Givonet al, 2022 (P)) to see whether space representation and navigation skills (which allow animals to do plenty of things, like finding food, shelter, sex buddies and so on) are shared properties across the animal kingdom, or, instead, they specifically depend on the different species, brain structure, and ecological system.

The researchers, in their study, use the "
domain transfer methodology, where one species is embedded in another species’ environment and must cope with an otherwise familiar (in [their] case, navigation) task" (P): in layman's terms, the Fab4 want to see if a fish can navigate through a terrestrial environment.
To check that, the brains train each fish to "drive" something called <Fish Operated Vehicle> (aka FOV). The FOV is a water tank (35×35×28 cm) put on a four wheeled self-propelled platform (40×40×19 cm), equipped with a pole, on top of which there are a computer, a camera and a lidar. By this control apparatus, whenever (and only when) "
the fish [gets] near one of the water tank walls and facing outwards, the FOV is automatically propelled in [such] direction" (P).

The machine, with its aquatic driver, is then placed in the center of a three by four meters room, illuminated with artificial light, and with white walls and one or more colored boards stuck on them. The colored spots are the targets the fishes are trained to reach in exchange for a food reward (consisting of a 0.002 g food pellet of the same kind the fishes are usually fed with).

Well, dear reader, in the end, the goldfishes training's success, they can reach the targets, adapt to changes in such targets positioning and overall overcome the "
distortion in vision due to refraction through the air-to-water interface [and the] differences in the natural structure of the terrestrial and aquatic environments" (P).

The Fab4's work (that they define "
an observational report, rather than a scientific study" (P), and that needs follow-ups ) shows, thus, that "a fish [is indeed] able to transfer its space representation and navigation skills to a wholly different terrestrial environment, thus supporting the hypothesis that the former possess a universal quality that is species-independent" (P).

But this dumb blog, in the following cartoon, shows you, dear reader, what's the next step of this experimental journey humanity has embarked on.

A fish drives a car full of water to go to a sushi bar (by @sciencemug)
A green fish drives a car full of water to a sushi bar (by @sciencemug))
The car pic by Dan Gold , the green fish pic by Gábor Szűts, the bubbles pic by Alberto Bianchini and the spilling water pic by Pixa Karma, are free images (source: Unsplash)
; the fish drawing by Mrmw, is
under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (source: Wikimedia Commons); all images adapted by @sciencemug