Axolotl – A Walking Fish That can Regenerate Limbs

By Anupum Pant

If you are looking at an Axolotl for the first time, it will confuse you. With an oddly shaped body that resembles both a catfish and a salamander, you’ll wonder if it lives in water or on land. [Image]

What is it?

A fish? Axolotl, commonly known as the Mexican Walking Fish, isn’t actually a fish. It is an amphibian, which means it has both lungs and gills. They almost never come out of water, hold their breath and take in oxygen using their gills (those three pairs of parts coming out at the back of its head are the gills). They can hold their breath for a year, beat that Mr. David Blaine.

Or Salamanders? They are closely related to salamanders and interestingly the adult Axolotls look like baby Salamanders. They have long abandoned the usual amphibian-transformation from a larva stage to an adult. Unlike Salamanders, they don’t transform into adults that can live outside water. They stay in water and walk around on the water-bed.

However, strange species of Axolotl was once delivered to a zoologist Auguste Duméril, which had somehow transformed like salamanders and would happily come out of water. But this transformation (metamorphosis) shortened their life span. Later it was found that this process can be artificially triggered by injecting iodine. (Do NOT try this at home)

As pets: Today, these animals are fairly common and are used as exotic pets all around the world. Especially in Japan, people love to have them in their aquariums.

Side note: Like several other Pokémon based on real animals, Whooper and Mudkip were actually based on Axolotls.

Regenerative Powers

Besides having the ability to walk underwater and its unusual appearance, there is something that is much more interesting about them. Unlike, almost any other vertebrate, they have the power to regenerate various cells. Not just cells, Axolotls can regenerate complete body parts – limbs, gills, eyes, kidneys, even large portions of its liver and its heart muscle. Even portions of its spine and brain can be regenerated. They are able to grow back a severed limb in span of few months. This is the reason scientists love these creatures and conduct a number of studies on them every year.

Gravity Light – A Light With No Running Costs

By Anupum Pant

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A $5 lamp that lights up using gravity can be used without electricity or batteries, over and over again with no running costs. Impressive enough? There is more.

A British company, after working for 4 years on this project, with an aim to replace kerosene lamps, started an internet fundraising campaign on Indiegogo and successfully raised about 7 times more than what they had aimed for – aimed for raising a fund of $55,000 and ended up raising $399,590. They had invented the Gravity Light.

Gravity light uses the force of gravity to light up – a free, completely reliable and totally unlimited source of energy. For it to start, the user is supposed to lift up a hanging weight of about 10 kg. And there! As the bag full of dirt, stones or sand starts coming down slowly, it lights up an LED light. The weight keeps coming down for about 30 minutes and then it has to be raised again. It generated a very minuscule amount of electricity and manages to give out a much brighter light than a kerosene lamp.

The energy generated from it can also be used to charge batteries, charge phones, run a radios etc, with attached accessories.

Interestingly, the company has plans to develop various other gravity powered solutions. So, in the future, we might probably see a way to reach the internet without batteries or electricity.

Other interesting lighting ideas:

[Gravia lamp] [Water + Bleach lamp] [Algae + CO2 lamp]

 

Hot Ice

By Anupum Pant

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For years we’ve been subconsciously conditioned to think of something cool when the word ‘ice’ is heard. But, does ice always has to be cool? How much more interesting, than water-ice, can ice be?

What is it?

The name: Hot ice isn’t solidified water, it isn’t anything even close to water. Neither is hot ice, hot. It is just a common name for Sodium Acetate Trihydrate. At room temperature, this substance looks like ice crystals and if heated, it starts turning into a transparent liquid. Since, the ice like crystals are formed at a relatively hotter temperature than water-ice, it is called hot ice.

Everything freezes. While metals ‘freeze’ at extremely high temperatures and carbon dioxide freezes at extremely low temperature, Sodium acetate freezes at 54 degrees centigrade. But, that is hardly anything interesting about it. There is more.

Touch water and turn it to ice

Think about water: Cooling water, beyond its freezing point without it getting solidified, can be done and it is called ‘super-cooling‘. This can be done by not letting water (distilled water) find any ‘nucleation points’ or simply by using an extremely clean tray to freeze it. Now, water remains in a liquid state despite being cooled under 0 degree centigrade. At such a state, if water is disturbed, say using your finger, a chain reaction starts and the water freezes almost instantly. But, doing it is tough.

Making hot ice at home – The same thing that happens with super-cooled water, can happen with sodium acetate. Touch the liquid sodium acetate and it magically turns to ice, it is indeed a fascinating process to watch (watch in the video below). And can be done fairly easily. Moreover, you are not at a danger of getting poisoned in any way. This is the reason it is used to make hot ice. It can be made at home using vinegar, baking soda and a steel vessel.