Jellyfish Stings and The “Pee on it” Myth

By Anupum Pant

I haven’t been ever stung by a jelly fish, but from how Destin says it in the video, and other people I’ve seen getting bitten, tells me that it is something no one would want to experience in their life. If you did not know, the sting is awfully painful.

A jelly fish uses venom, not poison. They are two different things. Which means that a jellyfish stings you and uses extremely tiny hypodermic needle like things to inject toxins in your body.

But doesn’t jellyfish seem like a bunch of jelly floating around with no visible prickly parts? how does something so soft actually go about inserting something sharp into your skin?

Turns out, on the surface of those long tentacles these fish have, there are microscopic organelles called nematocysts which it uses to sting you. Even a tiny brush with those tentacles can trigger them. The more interesting part is that these tiny needles act very fast, and like I said, they are also very tiny. So, to see them you need a really high frame-rate camera attached to a microscope.

That is exactly what Destin does in the video below. It’s fascinating to see those tiny stingers do their work so fast under a microscope. Not many get a chance to see something like this.

Just FYI. In case you ever end up getting bitten by a jellyfish, please don’t ask your friend to pee on it. There’s a word going around that this helps, but in reality it doesn’t. In fact it can make it worse. Instead try washing it off with sea water. And then use a credit card to scratch the sting to remove any nematocysts stuck in your skin.

Don’t believe me? Please watch this…

10% of Our Brains? Oh, Come on Lucy!

By Anupum Pant

Have you ever heard people say that we use just 10% of our brains and 90% of it is lying dormant waiting to get awakened? I’ve heard this all the time, from parents, teachers and “self-help” gurus. And that what I believed  too, until a couple of years back when I read it on the internet that it was so not true! Later, I came across an informative science video (shared below) which explained otherwise. Of course it came from someone whose authority we can trust in – TED education.

The 10% thing is a myth has already hit most well-informed people, and yet I’ve heard it once again now. This is coming from an upcoming Hollywood movie trailer. I just watched it and it made me uneasy that people are still propagating it. This was the reason I wanted to make it clear to every one who reads my blog that “we use just 10% of our brains” is a pure myth.

Well, if you haven’t heard people say that, you will, in a couple of days, when the sci-fi movie Lucy will hit the theatres. Or you probably have already seen its trailer. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below. I was totally flabbergasted by the concept, I think this movie is based on. Pay attention at the 1:11 mark.

But, then it’s only a movie. When other sci-fi movies can show reverberating explosions in space making huge sounds, and people talking in space, it is only normal for Morgan Freeman, a neuroscientist in the movie, to say:

It is estimated most human beings only use 10 percent of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.

No!

The myth that humans are only capable of using around 10% of their brain capacity has floated around for a very long time. So much that more than 65% of the people believe that it’s true! There are a number of levels on how this statement is wrong, I cannot even begin to explain. TED makes it easier for me to put across the argument…

Some time ago, a MythBuster Tory Belleci, hooked himself up to a neuroimaging device (magnetoencephalogram) which is able to measure the feeble magnetic fields generated by the brain’s electrical activity. During this time, he involved himself in some memory drills, math calculations, word associations and image comparisons. 35% of his brain showed activity. But again, in order to prove the 10% myth wrong (which they did), it meant that only a certain percentage of the brain was lighting up.

35% might mean to someone that removing 65% of the unused brain shouldn’t make a difference in our cognition. But we know how even tiny lesions can impair normal function. So, myth busters didn’t mean that.

35% in only what we can measure. There’s a lot that happens in there without us having figured it out (yet). Or like the video puts forward a solid argument – “by now evolution would have gotten rid of 90% of the parts which the myth says we don’t use.”

However, not completely relying on what the myth busters “proved”, you might want to have a look at this insightful answer by a computational neuroscientist, Paul King. Turns out myth busters were not totally right. Again, that doesn’t make the 10% myth true.

We do not use all of the different areas of the brain at the same time because they have different functions.  The closest the brain gets to being completely active is during a seizure. At any time there is only a percentage of the brain active. – [Source]

Bad news for people looking to unlock the full potential of their brain by some mystical methods, one thing is for sure, the following is definitely not true.
we use only a certain percentage of our brain at one time, meaning we are not using it to its full potential. No!

Australian Bird Makes Camera Shutter Sounds

By Anupum Pant

Until now I hadn’t even heard about, probably the most well-known bird of Australia, the Lyrebird. These birds are there on the 10 cents coins in Australia. Their feathers are beautiful, but what these birds can do is truly astonishing – The R2D2s of the real world.

The Lyrebird has been seen mimicking the sounds of at least twenty other birds. That’s not all. Some of these captive Lyrebirds have been seen mimicking sounds of human technology like a camera shutter, car alarm and a chainsaw too – as seen in the video below.

In 1969, as observed by an ornithologist in New England National Park, these birds were able to reproduce sounds of a flute, singing two famous songs of the 30s “The Keel Row” and “Mosquito’s Dance.”  They had learnt it from a farmer who used to play these tunes on a flute.

A word of caution

Although the video would lead you to believe that wild birds have started mimicking sounds of human technology, it isn’t totally true. The birds that has been shown in the video, in reality, are captive birds from Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and from the Adelaide Zoo. While Attenborough makes it seem like the bird is mimicking “sounds of the forest”. these clips are not typically what these wild birds do in the wild.

Maybe it happens in the wild too, but it’s highly unlikely because the human technology sounds are usually lost amidst the forest sounds. Moreover, never in the past has there been a recording of this bird mimicking human technology sounds in the wild. Maybe they do, but science requires evidence.