Protein in deadly spider venom blocks “death signal” after heart attack

By Nick Lavars As unlikely as it may seem, the venom of the deadly funnel web spider could prove a valuable source of a number of life-saving medicines, including drugs that kill skin cancer and reduce brain damage in stroke victims. Adding to these possibilities is new research demonstrating how a drug candidate built off a molecule in this spider venom can stop the “death signal” that results from a heart attack, potentially providing first responders with a powerful new way to intervene. The work was carried out by scientists at the Australia’s University of Queensland and actually builds off a previous study in which … Continue reading Protein in deadly spider venom blocks “death signal” after heart attack

Crows understand the ‘concept of zero’ (despite their bird brains)

By Nicoletta Lanese  Crows may be bird-brains, but the feathered creatures can understand the highly abstract concept of zero, new research suggests.  The concept of zero, as used in a number system, fully developed in human society around the fifth century A.D., or potentially a few centuries earlier, Live Science previously reported. For instance, the notion of multiplying 8 by 0, or adding 0 to 10, didn’t emerge until then. The concept of “none,” or the absence of any quantity, likely emerged earlier, but this differs from using zero as a distinct “quantity,” in and of itself. That idea may sound obvious, … Continue reading Crows understand the ‘concept of zero’ (despite their bird brains)

Do animals perceive time differently to us?

Studies suggest smaller animals may experience the world in slow motion, compared to humans. By Helen Pilcher Time perception depends on how quickly the brain can process incoming information. Scientists have attempted to measure it by showing animals pulses of light, which start slowly and then speed up. There comes a point when the light is flashing so quickly, that it looks as though it is on permanently. Carefully placed brain electrodes can reveal when this moment occurs. Studies show that smaller animals with faster metabolisms can detect higher frequencies of flickering lights than chunkier, slower animals. Just like Neo dodging … Continue reading Do animals perceive time differently to us?

Between Science and Magic: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible

How a tiny creature faster than the Space Shuttle balances the impossible equation of extreme fragility and superhuman strength. BY MARIA POPOVA Frida Kahlo painted a hummingbird into her fiercest self-portrait. Technology historian Steven Johnson drew on hummingbirds as the perfect metaphor for revolutionary innovation. Walt Whitman found great joy and solace in watching a hummingbird “coming and going, daintily balancing and shimmering about,” as he was learning anew how to balance a body coming and going in the world after his paralytic stroke. For poet and gardener Ross Gay, “the hummingbird hovering there with its green-gold breast shimmering, slipping its needle nose … Continue reading Between Science and Magic: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible

The Woman Who Saved the Hawks: Redeeming an Overlooked Pioneer of Conservation

The story of the countercultural courage and persistence that shaped the modern ecological conscience. BY MARIA POPOVA It is 1928 and you are walking in Central Park, saxophone and wren song in the April air, when you spot her beneath the colossal leafing elm with her binoculars. You mistake her for another pearled Upper East Side lady who has taken to birding in the privileged boredom of her middle age. And who could blame you? In some obvious ways — polished and traveled, born into a wealthy New York family to a British father whose first cousin was Charles Dickens … Continue reading The Woman Who Saved the Hawks: Redeeming an Overlooked Pioneer of Conservation

The joy of being animal

Human exceptionalism is dead: for the sake of our own happiness and the planet we should embrace our true animal nature by Melanie Challenger works as a researcher on the history of humanity and the natural world, and environmental philosophy. Her books include On Extinction (2011) and How to Be Animal (2021). She is a current member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Edited by Pam Weintraub When I visited my grandmother at the undertakers, an hour or so before her funeral, I was struck by how different death is from sleep. A sleeping individual shimmers with fractional movements. The dead seem to rest in … Continue reading The joy of being animal

A Zoologist Imagines What Alien Life Might Look Like

In “The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Arik Kershenbaum speculates about the universal lessons of evolution on Earth. BY EMILY CATANEO ANIMALS AS VARIED as sharks, salamanders, and duck-billed platypuses can detect electric fields around them, while some fish, including the South American knifefish and various species of African elephantfish, can actually generate unique, complex electric fields, which they use to communicate information about their social status, sex, and dominance position within their social group. These are the kinds of musings that can help us postulate about alien life, according to “The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About … Continue reading A Zoologist Imagines What Alien Life Might Look Like

What pastoralists know

Pastoralists are experts in managing extreme variability. In a volatile world economy, bankers should learn how they do it Ian Scoones is professor at the Institute of Development Studies, and co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre, both at the University of Sussex in the UK… Edited by Sam Haselby What are the connections between a banker working on a trading floor in London and a pastoralist herding animals across the grasslands of East Africa? More than you’d think. Let me explain how they’re connected; and why they can both learn from each other. Both bankers and pastoralists must, as a matter … Continue reading What pastoralists know


Recent research on nearly 400 Labrador puppies reveals a genetic basis for a tendency to look to humans for guidance by DENYSE O’LEARY  Considerable mystery surrounds the question of why dogs achieve a close emotional relationship with humans. Chimpanzees are genetically very much closer to us but few of us bond with them. So the ability is not obviously genetic — but recent findings point to at least one genetic component: Puppies seem naturally adapted to learn the significance of a common human communication method, pointing: Scientists have known for more than 2 decades that dogs understand the logic behind a surprisingly complex … Continue reading RESEARCHERS: DOGS ARE HARDWIRED TO UNDERSTAND US

Philosophers and other animals

Christine Korsgaard argues that we can extend a Kantian moral framework to include other animals. But her argument fails Peter Godfrey-Smith is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (2016). He lives in Sydney.Listen here Edited by Nigel Warburton Some of the most pressing moral issues we face today arise from how humans treat nonhuman animals, especially in farming and scientific experiments. High-intensity or ‘factory’ farming raises the biggest questions because of its sheer scale, and because routine practices there, once … Continue reading Philosophers and other animals