This Green Slime Like Thing is a 3000 Year Old Plant

By Anupum Pant

It looks like moss, but it isn’t. Nor is it slimy.

This gooey or slimy looking thing is actually a plant which grows in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, up in the Andes at altitudes between ten to fifteen thousand feet. Believe it or not, some of these plants are more than 3000 years old. Yes, they are one of the oldest living organisms on the planet earth – older than the golden age of Greece.

Even though the plant looks slimy goo-like from a distance, when you go closer, it is actually solid and dry to the touch. The surface of the plant consists of densely packed tens of thousands of tiny buds and flowers which make the surface feel like a pillow. That is the reason it is also  known as the Andes Pillow. In fact the surface is so stiff that a person can lie on it and the plant won’t get crushed.

It is sort of a cousin to parsley and carrots. And it is interesting to note that the plant smells like mint. Locals often boil it in water and use it to cure muscle pain.

Llareta grows extremely slowly. It grows about 1.5 cm every year. The ones which are about 2.5 to 3 meters in size can be said to have grown for hundreds of years to reach that size.

Since Llareta is dense and dry, it burns like wood, and has been known to be used by the climbers/hikers to make fire. Some say that it was also used in steam engines instead of coal. This careless burning of the extremely slow-growing living museum has endangered their long-term survival.

via [RadioLab]

2000 Year Old Extinct Tree is No Longer Extinct

By Anupum Pant

At Herod the Great’s palace in Masada, Israel, from the year 1963 to 1965 an excavation was carried out. It was an excavation which blew everyone’s mind. As a result of this archaeological endeavour, an ancient jar containing date palm (Judean Palm) seeds was unearthed. The radio dating of these seeds confirmed that they were about 2000 years old. Like all other excavated material, the seeds too were sent into a safe storage at the  Bar-Ilan University. For the next 40 years, these seeds remained in the storage.

The seeds which were unearthed belonged to a plant which in its time had flourished for thousands of years. Around 150 AD the tree went extinct. None of them remained. However, the seeds did…

In the year 2005, a researcher, Elaine Solowey, decided to plant the seed. Elaine was pretty sure that a 2000 year old seed would be totally dead by now, and there’s a little chance it would even sprout. She went ahead anyway.

Elaine did a deep research on how to revive old seeds. Then, she first soaked them in hot water. And then in a nutrient rich solution. Finally they were put in contact with an enzymatic fertilizer.

To her surprise the seed did germinate. But when it did come out, Elaine was pretty sure that the sapling would die out. It didn’t. Although there were claims of a 32,000 year old germinated seed later in the year 2012, in its time, the Judean palm’s name had gone into the record books as the oldest seed to have ever sprouted

The tree has been named Methuselah after the oldest person named in the Old Testament of the Bible. Today the plant still continues to grow and has even made its first flowers.

[More about it]

The Old Tale of a Boiling Frog

By Anupum Pant

Background

The Frog in a pot is a very popular anecdote and you probably know about it. Still, if you don’t, it is about a frog that rests easy in a pot of water that is warmed slowly. Frogs normally won’t go into boiling water. They’ll jump out and keep themselves away from very hot water. But, if placed in a tub of water at normal temperature that is being heated slowly, according to the anecdote, they don’t react and end up getting cooked in the boiling water.

The story is used as a metaphor to tell a cautionary point about life. The moral of the frog story goes something like this – Letting small and seemingly harmless wrongs slip, could kill (or be bad for you).  It basically tells you to not be complacent about minor changes that usually seem harmless, but add up to something big/bad.

The video proof?

Scientifically, a bizarre video (not for the faint hearted) on Youtube claims to proves the frog tale. The guy in the video initially tries to put a frog in a pot full of boiling water. Of course it resists, and doesn’t go in. Later, when the frog is put into a pot full of water at normal temperature and is warmed gradually, the frog never tries to leave. It gets cooked in the boiling water. Just like the tale suggests.

Everything looks very convincing about the video experiment. Little details like placing the frog on a piece of insulator so that it doesn’t feel direct heat through the metal base, are also taken care of in the video. Also, the narrator sounds so convincing with all the science facts referring to how cold blooded animals react to temperature. They indeed do! I totally fell for it. Watch it below…

The video cuts in between and the water which was put on flame before starts boiling suddenly after the cut. Or brains tend to skip video cuts. In the boiling water is something that looks like a dead/cooked frog. If you watched it till the end, the video shows you that the dead frog wasn’t a real one. No frogs were harmed in the making of the video. Good.

But, that completely nullifies the point this experiment tries to make. A fake rubber frog being cooked in boiling water doesn’t scientifically prove the tale.

The Science

Unlike us, who maintain a constant body temperature, the frog being a cold blooded animal, its body will react to its surrounding temperature and will try to match it. But real scientific experiments have never been able to prove it. According to a very old experiment that was done in the 1800s, where water was heated at 0.002°C per second, the frog was found dead at the end of 2½ hours. Why do you think would the frog sit still for 2½ hours?

Modern scientists reject the old experiment which seems to prove it. You could place your trust in the words of a Harvard professor, Professor Douglas Melton. He says:

If you put a frog in boiling water, it won’t jump out. It will die. If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot—they don’t sit still for you.

Victor H. Hutchison, Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma also said, “The legend is entirely incorrect!”

Moral: don’t believe everything you see on the internet.

Hit like if you learnt something today.