Locusts Swarming. With Culinary Tips.

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Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae.

These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory when their populations become dense enough. Both the bands and the swarms are nomadic and rapidly strip fields and greatly damage crops.

Locusts are edible insects, and are considered a delicacy in some countries. There have been references to their consumption as food throughout history. On swarming they are known to produce a toxin that renders them inedible.

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While not swarming, many locusts are edible. In fact, even Jewish and Islamic dietary laws give a pass on eating locusts, something that makes sense given how prevalent a food source they are in some parts of the world.

Locusts are, as well, a surprisingly efficient source of protein, harvestable to yield as much as five times as much protein as cattle by some accounts.

Top image via BILAL TARABEY/AFP/Getty Images.
Text via Wikipedia.

Free Spirit Sphere Tree Houses

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In bio-mimicry fashion, the nut like shape attaches to a web of rope. The web connects to which ever strong points are available. This replaces the foundation of a conventional building. A tree house sphere uses the forest for its foundation. The occupants have a vested interest in the health of the grove.

A suspended sphere is tethered by 3 nearly vertical ropes to each of 3 separate trees. This distributes the load evenly over the 3 trees and results in a stable hang. Like an inverted three-legged stool, there will be almost equal tension in each of the three suspension ropes. The sphere resides in the center of the triangle formed by the 3 trees. It can be slung from 5 to 100′ off the ground, depending on the size of the trees.

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Via Free Spirit Spheres.

Wikipedia’s Most Controversial Topics

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Taha Yasseri, Anselm Spoerri, Mark Graham and János Kertész have analyzed ten language versions of Wikipedia and discovered the most controversial topics, based on which topics are the most heatedly edited in Wikipedia’s “edit wars.” Based on this data, they have written a book chapter titled The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis. This chapter presents graphics that represent these controversial topics.

During this project, the authors discovered

Wikipedia is more than just an encyclopaedia; it is also a window into convergent and divergent social-spatial priorities, interests and preferences.

The most controversial topics in English are:

  • George W Bush
  • Anarchism
  • Muhammad
  • List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees
  • Global Warming
  • Circumcision
  • United States
  • Jesus
  • Race and intelligence
  • Christianity

Via Cornell University Library and MIT Technology Review.

The Irony of the Discovery in Afghanistan of the Oldest Oil Paintings Ever Found

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Murals found on cave walls in Afghanistan prove that painting with oil had been going on in Asia for centuries before artists used the technique in Europe, scientists said this week.

Until now, art historians believed that oil painting started in Europe in the 15th century.

Scientists found the murals in a network of caves where monks lived and prayed in the Afghan region of Bamiyan, according to a statement on the Web site of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, where the ancient paintings were analyzed.

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Old oil paintings are cool, to be sure. But there’s a twist to this particular story:

The oil paintings found in these Afghani caves were behind the Buddha statues that the Taliban blew up at the urging of Osama bin Laden (or so the locals insist). Moreover, nobody even knew these caves existed until the destruction of the statues revealed them, leading to the aforementioned discovery of said ancient old paintings.

Top image via Livedoor.
Bottom image via Wikipedia.

Via CNN, Live Science and National Geographic.

Human Urine Powered Cell Phones

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Researchers at two British universities have successfully powered a cellphone using urine.

The project involves microbial fuel cells, which are ceramic cylinders filled with bacteria. As the bacteria eats fuel supplies, it creates a small electrical charge as a by-product.

Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos says, “So far the microbial fuel power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call.”

Plans are underway to develop a “smart toilet” to power lightning, electric shavers and other bathroom devices as a way to conserve electricity.

Via Geeks are Sexy.

Bees Making Balls to Slow Cook Enemy Wasps

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The Japanese honeybee and the giant hornet are waging an epic war. The hornets, which can grow up to 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) long, attack the nests of the bees, and the honeybees will surround a hornet and “cook” it.

The honeybees’ stingers can’t penetrate a hornet’s thick outer skin, so the bees swarm around an attacker instead, forming a spherical bee ball, and use their vibrating flight muscles to create heat. The mass of bees will heat the area up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius), enough to kill the hornet.

Via Live Science.