Write and Win $170 in Prizes – January 2018

Here’s the best chance to make $100, $50 or $20 for yourself. Let me explain how.

I am giving away a $100, $50 or $20 in Amazon gift cards to the three people who will submit the best three articles. Read ahead to know what “best” means.

Now this is a small blog and I will not get many entries. So there you go. With a very small number of competitors comes a high chance of winning. This contest possibly has the best odds on the internet right now to make you some cash.

It is simple.

Write up something interesting, worthy to be put up on Awesci.com and wish for the best.

Submit an article

Rules

  • The last date for submission for this contest is 31st January.
  • Three of the “best” articles will be published on 1st February 2018, and the article with the greatest reach by 28th February 2018 will win. Share it away.
  • 2nd and 3rd places, determined by extent of reach will win $50 and $20 Amazon gift cards.
  • Only the last submission by each person will be considered.
  • If the contest receives 5 or less valid articles by 31st January 2018, the contest will be canceled for this month and your valid articles will be enrolled in the next month’s contest, waiting for up to a total of 5 or more articles to turn up. And so on.
  • Only valid articles will be considered. That means,
    1. An article would have to be at least 600 words in length.
    2. The exact topic of your article should not have been covered on Awesci before.
    3. It should not be ridden with grammatical or obviously factual errors.
    4. Should not be an outright copy of something else. The effort put into the article should show.
  • If I think your article may have a good chance and for some reason it is not valid, I will get in touch with you.
  • Use this link to submit or send a word file as an attachment to me at the email mentioned below.
  • Contact me at admin@awesci.com for any questions.

The best articles

The best three articles will be chosen based on these few criteria.

  • The presentation and clarity.
  • The article’s ability to induce “mindblow” – more the better.
  • The extent of research, diversity and reliability of sources used for information and the length of the article – Longer and denser are better.
  • Including interesting links, pictures, figures, videos, sounds clips etc. would work in your favor.

For ideas and inspiration:

If this is a success I will consider doing it again.

Submit an article

Spider Eyes are Nature’s Marvels

Now I do not exactly remember where and how I started my journey down this rabbit hole. But the deeper I went the more interesting it became. It was a great learning experience. I’m clearly not an expert. Here I share the understanding I developed of the spider eye over the few hours of exploration. For this I referred to various sources all of which are mentioned in the links. And if you know more or would like to add something interesting to the article please let me know in the comments below.

The  first thing about spider eyes is that 99% of spiders have 8 eyes. A little less than 1% of them have 6 eyes. In some fringe species there are 4, 2 or no eyes at all. Apparently, based on the pattern these eyes are arranged in, on their cephalothorax (let us mortals call it the ‘head’ to make things simple), the family to which the spider belongs can be determined. Some blessed human, made the following schematic to help us do exactly that. In case you ever feel the need to do so, here it is:

And in much greater detail, right here.

For their small size and the limited number of photocells, spider eyes, especially the jumping spider’s (Salticids) eyes perform surprisingly well. Their resolution is better compared with larger mammals than with insects. In the human world a camera of such standards this would simply be an engineering miracle. You will understand why I say that soon…

In the image above if you locate the family Salticidae, you will see those two large eye in the front which are particularly very interesting. These are called the principal eyes (or anterior median eyes) and are the ones that allow high resolution vision. So much that the spider would be able to resolve two spots on a screen 20 cm away from the spider, sitting just 0.12 mm apart from each other. An acuity of about ten times that of a dragonfly – 0.04°.

The brain of this spider, show in blue in the image below is pretty big for its size. The proportion of the volume of brain to body is more or less similar to that of human beings. The brain of Salticids also have a rather large region dedicated for visual processing.

The principal eyes we are talking about are in the shape of elongated tubes as seen below, in the front of which is a hard lens and at the other end is a layer of photocells. Inside the tube, near the retina is another little lens which moves back and forth along the tube like a telephoto lens system. These elongated tubes are like the tubes of a binocular which allow for a higher resolution using a small package.

However the downside of such a tube like architecture is that it limits the field of vision. Here’s how that problem is dealt with.

The front part, with the big corneal lens is fixed. It has a long fixed focal length. The farther end where the retina is located, is connected to these muscles shown in red. These muscles allow for the tube’s farther end to move around in several degrees of freedom to make quick movements and scan a larger image in its head, one small field of view at a time.

In the video below you can see the retinal end of the black tubes moving around inside the translucent exoskeleton of the spider as the spider forms a high resolution complete image of its surroundings, one small field of view at a time.

If you peer deep into their eyes you will see a dark (black) when you are looking into the small retina. However when the farther end of the tube moves, you see a honey brown color with spots. This is the inner wall of the tube that you are seeing in the following video.

Then the retina itself is another biological marvel. Unlike our single layered retina, the Salticid’s retina is made up of four layers. The four layers are arranged one behind the other. This lets the nature pack more photocells in a smaller area and also helps the spider see in color as different colors (different wavelengths) with different refractive indices are focused in different planes.

Counting from the rear end, the spider uses different layers of retina to obtain different colors of the image. The retina’s layer 1 and 2 to get the green color (~580 nm – 520 nm wavelengths), blue color using the layer 3 (~480 – 500 nm wavelengths) and layer 4 for ultraviolet (~360 nm).

An important detail in the above image reveals how spiders manage to keep focus on different objects at different depths, in focus. The layer one has photocells arranged in a step fashion, with varying distance from the lens which makes sure that all objects are focused on at least one part of the layer 1.

The other problem of distance estimation which matters a lot for jumping spiders is again solved rather elegantly by the same apparatus. Humans use their stereo vision – two eyes which are far apart to estimate distance. Other animals move heads to do the same but I’m not getting into that.

Jumping spiders employ a completely different algorithm, utilizing degree of blur cues. For which the second layer plays a crucial role. The second layer would have received a sharp blue image, but they are not sensitive to blue light like I mentioned above. The green they detect is rather blurred at that plane. It turns out that the amount of blur depends on the distance of the object and helps the spider determine the depth by processing the amount of blur in the image. Hence allowing it to jump and hunt accurately.

If you are a university student with free access to journals, I think a quick look at the paper titled: “‘Eight-legged cats’ and how they see – a review of recent research on jumping spiders,” will help you delve into greater detail.

Psst: Someone has it uploaded on research gate for free access for I don’t know how long: here.

Please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts on this, or if you have any ideas for future posts. I plan to reward the top commentators every month so do not forget to say something.

Humans Are to Blame for These Environmental Disasters

Humans have changed the environment drastically, especially in the last century. As our population has grown, so has our effect on our natural world. Much of that impact has, unfortunately, been negative.

Since our population has begun booming, we’ve made gradual changes to the environment — as well as caused some large, environmental disasters that have caused acute harm both to the environment and human health.

An environmental disaster is an event caused by human activity that’s damaging to the environment. This differentiates it from a natural disaster, which occurs due to natural processes.

Our planet and humankind have seen many environmental disasters in the recent past, but a few stand out as especially costly in terms of money, environmental damage and human health impacts. Here are five of the most catastrophic.

  1. The Dust Bowl

The dust bowl, which occurred in the 1930s in the Southern Plains of the United States, is a well-known environmental disaster. Drought, coupled with rapidly expanding poor agricultural practices, caused dust storms that ripped away the fertile soil of the semi-arid region and created “black blizzards” that reached heights of up to 10,000 feet in the air.

The event made the region virtually uninhabitable and worsened the economic difficulties of the Great Depression. It also inspired lawmakers to pass bills promoting responsible farming practices. It was years before rain finally returned to the region, eventually restoring the plains.

  1. Chernobyl

The Chernobyl disaster is infamous as the most devastating event involving a nuclear power plant in the planet’s history. In 1986, one of the reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine exploded, spewing huge amounts of radiation into the air.

The explosion itself killed two workers, and more died in the hours following the event. Twenty-eight workers died in the next four months, as did many emergency responders. The radiation may have caused an increase in instances of thyroid cancer in the region.

The radiation also killed all the trees in the area, and the site is still largely off-limits due to fears about the impacts of lingering radiation.

  1. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

When oil spills from a tanker, pipeline or other source, it can harm wildlife and ecosystems and contaminate groundwater and soil, as well as impact human health. The destruction of plant life associated with oil spills can increase erosion by as much as four times the normal amount.

One of the most infamous oil spills occurred in 1989 in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. An oil tanker, called Exxon Valdez, hit a reef that tore open the hull and allowed 11 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the water. The leak killed an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 otters and 300 harbor seals. You can still find oil under beaches near the location of the accident.

  1. London Smog

Smog is a common occurrence in cities around the world, but in 1952 in London, it reached unheard-of levels of severity. For five days, a heavy fog merged with sulfurous fumes from coal fires, power plants and vehicle exhaust.

The incident killed around 12,000 people, hospitalized 150,000 and killed thousands of animals. To this day, it remains one of the largest air pollution events in history. It led to the eventual creation of the UK’s Clean Air Act of 1956, which limited the use of coal in cities.

  1. The Bhopal Disaster

Industry makes our modern life possible, but also comes with environmental risks. In 1984 in Bhopal, India, the worst industrial disaster of all time killed approximately 25,000 people.

On Dec. 2, a chemical plant began leaking a deadly gas known as methyl isocyanate (MIC). Safety systems were not functioning properly, so 27 tons of the gas spread throughout the city.

Many thousands of people died within the next few days of respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and other health problems. The disaster also killed many animals and plants in the area and contaminated the groundwater. Toxic elements still remain at the site today due to improper cleanup.

These environmental disasters had a devastating impact on their local environments, animals and people, and may have also contributed to global issues. As we move forward, we must strive to learn more about our natural world and do our best to protect it.