Tickling Yourself

By Anupum Pant

In most cases tickling yourself is tough. That is because whenever you try to tickle yourself, at the back of your head (yes, really at the back, in a part of the brain called the cerebellum) you know that the sensation was caused as a result of your own movement. That way, the brain is able to predict the sensation and is able to nullify it.

When someone else tries it on you, the brain fails to predict the movement and the somatosensory cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex fire up to make you feel the tickle.

But have you ever tried tickling yourself with a fake hand? It still doesn’t work! Even when you don’t use your direct body part, your brain knows and can predict movement. Unless of course, the fake hand is being used by someone else. It’s interesting but believable that tickling yourself with a fake rubber hand doesn’t fool the brain. But there’s more.

In fact, if you had a tickling robot which could be controlled with a remote control, you still won’t be able to use the remote to operate it and make yourself tickle. While, if some one else had the control and they tried to control the robot to tickle you, you’d feel more ticklish. Unless, there’s a delay. It blows my mind to think about that!

What if, there was a robot which could control the remote control of a tickling robot, and you could control the first one with another remote control. Would you be able to tickle yourself using this contraption? I’m saying no, you still won’t be able to tickle yourself if there was no delay in between. What do you say?

Yes, delay is crucial here. Suppose you had a long contraption which would make movements after a few seconds of delay with respect to the control (which you have in your hand), you’d feel more ticklish, if you tried. Studies say, more the delay, the more ticklish it is.

Note: People with schizophrenia can tickle themselves, using their own hands, fake hand or something else.

Remember, I started the article with “most cases”. That is because there are a couple of ways to tickle yourself successfully. Try making little circles with a soft touch behind your knee for instance. Or use a feather on the sole of your foot. Or, try making circles with your tongue on the roof of your mouth where there’s a ribbed texture…

Mind Controlling Fungus Turns Insects into Zombies

By Anupum Pant

If you have played the game Last of Us on PS3, you’d know that the game is set in a time 20 years after a fungal-based, brain-altering pandemic has taken over the world and infected nearly 60% of the world’s population. Sounds too fictional. Right? Well, of course the game is fictional, but the brain-altering fungus parasite is not very far from reality.

The real fungus, Cordyceps isn’t really fatal to Human beings. However, there’s always a chance. In a very absurd way they kill insects. In fact their life cycle is totally dependent on insects. And a there are more than 1000 different kinds of these fungi, each one of which specializes on one kind of insect. What these fungi do to insects is something very incredible.

The fungus infects insect brains and turns them into zombies! Something similar to what this wasp does to cockroaches. This is how it works…

When an insect comes in contact with the spores of this parasitic fungus, they start acting in a weird manner. That is because the fungus affects its brain and turns it into a zombie, an insect zombie which takes directions from a fungus. The infected brain tells the insect to climb up. At some point, high up on a tree or plant, the insect dies and the fungus hollows the body and starts growing a shoot out of the insect. It’s bizarre to watch! (see the video below)

The fungus programs the brain to make the insect move up because its life-cycle actually benefits from it. The higher the insect goes, the better its spores can spread and can have a better reach.

The fungus is like a nature’s way of saying to an insect species that your population has reached very high levels.

Hit like if you learnt something.

Pando – An Organism That Weighs 6 Million KG

By Anupum Pant

Blue whales weigh about 150 tons each. That is a 150,000 kg animal we are talking about! Incredible! It is the largest animal to have ever lived on earth. Yes, bigger than any of the dinosaurs. Just for the perspective, the heart of a blue whale can weigh about 600 kg and is almost the size of a Volkswagen Beetle car. A human can fit in its arteries. But, if you thought no other organism can be heavier than a blue whale, you are in for a surprise.

The heaviest organism we’ve ever found, lives in the Fishlake national forest, Utah. In fact, the organism itself is the forest. This forest is a Vatican-city-sized forest which looks like it has several identical trees in a normal forest. Only what looks like identical trees in a normal forest, is actually a single huge tree.

The absolutely humongous tree is known to have come out of a single seed about 80,000 years back. With time, it went on to spread its roots and has cloned itself by popping out about 47,000 other extant clones.

Since it is a single huge tree, it indeed acts like a single huge tree. When one of the shoots (tree) is in need of nutrients, the interconnected root system makes sure that the tree gets what it needs. Also, these trees transition from winter to spring simultaneously, just like a single huge tree would.

MinuteEarth explains it better in the video below: