Genius Stray Dogs of Moscow

By Anupum Pant

Back in the old days, there weren’t as many fast food centres and restaurants in Moscow (anywhere actually). So, stray dogs of those times didn’t find many people holding food stuff. Instead of begging for food, the dogs preferred searching for it on their own. Probably bins of residences and factories were the best places to find food.

Soon, fast food centres and restaurants started pooping and factories started converting into shopping centres, in the new world. This changed something. Dogs started feeling a need to adapt to the city life. For one, their strategies to forage for food changed. Stray dogs started developing better techniques to get food.

Gathering Food in a City

They started sneaking behind people who carried food. And just when they felt the moment was right, they barked. The men got scared and dropped the food. Moreover, they’d jump and bark just behind the head of people to startle them. They don’t bite, their aim is to just get the food somehow. Other times, packs of dogs send out smaller and cuter dogs to beg for food!
To make their food finding efficient, they have figured out which one of the many people would actually get startled. Dogs turned into dog psychologists. The dogs of today know Muscovites better than Muscovites know the dogs.

Travelling in the Subway

Besides that, the stray dogs of Moscow have mastered using the subways. To travel across the great city, the dogs move around in the subways with the humans as if it’s totally normal. Unlike the domesticated dogs, these dogs have mastered the art of handling dog stress that is associated with loud sounds. What scares the domesticated dogs, has become normal for the stray dogs of Moscow now.

The most amazing part is that, even if they can’t read, they somehow know where to get in and where to get out. Scientists are guessing that it could be the signature scents they associate with various stations. Or may be there’s something else. It’s hard to know. That is the reason there are people who’ve been formally studying local stray dogs for 30 years now!

The thing is, even the city people love these dogs. In fact, they even have a dog’s memorial statue in one of the subway station. Watch how the city dogs move in train…

By watching the traffic lights, dogs there have even learnt to cross the street. After I read and watched what these dogs have been doing, I’ve found new respect for these seemingly “not so clever” animals.

Still they have a long way to go before they can get as smart as crows of Japan. [Link]

Practical, Impractical and Bizarre Ways to Lose Weight

By Anupum Pant

Here are some impractical, practical and bizarre ways to lose weight scientifically:

1. Practical – Switch to Smaller Plates [Study]

While it may sound like switching plates won’t help your diet, it actually greatly affects the way you see, and consume food. In the long run it helps you lose weight effortlessly.

If you don’t believe me, I suggest you look at the following common optical illusion – Tell me which one of the circle that is filled with black color, is larger?

You know the answer. Although they don’t look equal to our not-so-smart brain, both of the circles are really equal in size. But what does that tell you?

Moral: Think of the black circle as food. Put it in a larger plate and you think it is less food, and you don’t mind adding little more food to it. Whereas, if you use smaller plates, the amount food looks like it is a lot already. As a result, if you own only small plates, you won’t add more food. Who am I to tell you that little changes give big results.

It has been proven by scientists that using smaller standard plates will reduce your consumption by around 20% every time. 20% is not less!

Note: Similarly, if you want to drink less, you could try replacing your short and stout glasses with taller glasses. This technique is based on another optical illusion known as the T-Illusion – which says that we tend to over-estimate the length of objects placed vertically. See it for yourself. [link]

Other Good Ways: In fact, before moving on to the bad ways, you must know that there are several good ways to lose weight without even trying hard. For instance:

  • Drinking good amounts of cold water can help to some extent.
  • Or, you could try making it a rule to turn away and use stairs, every single time you come across an escalator.
  • When you are travelling in a bus, make it a rule to always get down one stop before your destination.
  • An apple before breakfast everyday can help you lose weight by making you feel full due to its fiber content. – [Source]
  • Just place a mirror in your kitchen or your refrigerator door. Yes, that helps. How? See this – [Video]

2. Bizarre – Excessive Gum Chewing? [Study]

Wait! Before you try this, let me tell you, this is one of those impractical / bizarre ways to experience severe weight loss I was talking about in the first line of this post. Since excess of anything isn’t good – backed by the fact that in ancient China people committed suicide by eating a pound of salt – chewing excess gum probably isn’t a good way to lose weight. I mention it just for the sake of information.

Sugar-free chewing gums contain Sorbitol – a laxative. Chewing these in excessive amounts – about 15+ a day – can cause serious weight loss and chronic diarrhea.

You’ll end up in the hospital if you try this.

3. Impractical – Don’t get Married. [Study]

Although deciding to remain single all your life is not so impractical for everybody, you could consider it socially impractical (at least in orthodox Indian societies).

Yes, studies prove that Married men were 25% more likely to be overweight or obese than single men or men in committed relationship (i.e. dating or engaged). – Thanks to UsefulScience.org

Now, go and subscribe the budding 59 Seconds channel on YouTube and buy the book. That is what I am doing…

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Radiotrophic Fungi Feeds on Gamma Radiation

By Anupum Pant

Background

On April 26th 1986 a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and is still considered the worst nuclear power plant accident ever (another one happened in Japan recently). The massive explosion spewed out huge amounts of radioactive particles into the air which spread till Europe.

As a result of this tragedy, it was reported that 31 people died within a few months due to acute radiation sickness. In total, more than 200 people were affected. It is estimated that deaths caused due to cancer by Chernobyl may be around 4,000 among the 5 million persons living in the surrounding area.

The disaster was responsible for turning green trees, in the 10 square kilometers of pine forest around the reactor, into red trees. Eventually the trees died and the forest has been called the “Red Forest” ever since.

Today, an area covering 30 km in all directions from the power plant has been labeled as the “zone of alienation“. Mostly it is uninhabited by humans (excluding those 300 odd residents who have decided that they won’t leave). Till date, the radiation levels remain extremely high. Workers who are responsible for rebuilding the place are only allowed to work for a maximum of five hours a day for one month and are asked to take a 15 day rest after that.

With an environment where the radiation level even today is about 500 times higher than the normal environment, it is estimated that the area will remain uninhabitable for humans for the next 20,000 years.

But something lives inside the still-highly-radioactive ruins

Few years back when a robot was sent into the devastated reactor, it returned with samples from the walls of the ruined power plant. These samples contained a black colored substance which piqued the researchers’ interests.

After performing several tests on these samples they concluded that the black samples comprised of two kinds of fungi. Both of them contained a pigment called melanin (the pigment that colors our skins). The fungi had been using melanin to convert radiation into chemical energy. It was mind-boggling for everyone to learn that amidst the toxic sarcophagus a creature was living and was feeding on gamma radiation for making food and to grow. Scientists decided to call it, the “radiotrophic fungi” – the fungi which feeds on gamma radiation.

It is like plants using solar radiation for making food, just that, in this case, the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation being used, is different.

Feeding the spacemen

Scientists say, since the pigment is also present in our skins, and as ionizing radiation is prevalent in outer space, in the future, astronauts could probably rely on melanin as a source of food during long missions or for living on other planets; Just like the radiotrophic fungi does.

According to Dr Casadevall:

While it wouldn’t be enough energy to fuel a run on the beach, maybe it could help you to open an eyelid.