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narwhals tusking

Male narwhals will rub their horns together, an action known as ‘tusking.’ (Photo: Glenn Williams/National Institute of Standards and Technology)

Known as “the unicorns of the sea,” narwhals are unique for the solitary tusk that protrudes through the tops of their heads. The horn is actually a canine front tooth that can reach as long as nine feet. But until recently scientists weren’t sure what, if any, purpose it had.

Research from 2014 suggests that the tusk is used as a sensory organ, helping the narwhal pick up changes in its environment. Researchers say males of the species may use the horns to look for food or find mates. The results of the study were published in the journal The Anatomical Record.

“People have said it’s everything from an ice pick to an acoustic probe, but this is the first time that someone has discovered sensory function and has the science to show it,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Martin Nweeia from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, told the BBC.

A team of international investigators worked together to understand the function of the narwhal’s unusual protuberance. To do so, they captured several of the elusive animals and anchored them using a net anchored perpendicular to shore.

The researchers found that the outer cementum layer of the tusk is porous, the inner dentin layer has microscopic tubes that channel toward the middle, and the pulp in the center has nerve endings that connect to the animal’s brain. The structure makes the tusk sensitive to temperature and chemical differences in the environment.

When the tusk was exposed to different levels of salt in the surrounding water, for example, the researchers noticed a change in the narwhal’s heart rate.

The animals can basically “taste” the concentrations of chemicals in the water. Because of that, researchers believe males may use the tusk to find food. They also appear to be able to find females that are ready to mate.

Nweeia told the BBC that he’s fascinated that narwhals put all their energy into growing a single tusk rather than having a set of teeth to help them eat their diet of large fish.

“If you were looking for an ideal and fascinating tooth to study, there’s no question this would be it.”

Stunning tusks

Footage from Canada may support one of the tentative conclusions Nweeia’s study: using the tusks to find food. One additional quirk? The horns may also help the narwhals prepare to eat that food, too.

The video above, shot using drones by the WWF in Canada in 2017, shows narhwals in Tremblay Sound, Nunavat, striking Artic cod with their tusks to stun them and then gobble up the fish.

Steve Ferguson, of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, explained in a video for the agency that the drone footage shows male narwhals “kind of tracking the cod with the tusk […] and as the cod was positioned close to the tip of the tusk, the narwhal sort of gave it a quick, hard tap that likely stunned the fish — it looked like it was momentarily not moving — and then the narwhal would move in with its mouth and suck in the prey.”

Given that we’re only seeing this behavior now, in no small thanks to the general unobtrusiveness of drones, researchers are eager to learn what other possible uses there are for the tusks. A dual purpose sensory organ and cod stunner is already pretty exciting, so what other uses could these creatures of the deep have for this horn-looking tooth?

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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in All, Business, Entrepreneur, Finance, Market, Marketing and Sales, Money, Small Business, Start-up, Uncategorized

 

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Jaycee Dugard, Her Daughters Today, and if They Ever Want to See Their Father

By SEAN DOOLEY –

“I want them to make their own choices in life, and if that’s something that they need to do, then you know I’d … I wouldn’t be OK with it. But I wouldn’t not let them do it,” Dugard, 36, said in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

Dugard was abducted at age 11 in 1991 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido in 1991. She was held captive in Garrido’s California backyard compound and had two children fathered by him.

Dugard and her daughters were rescued in 2009. Phillip Garrido pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and 13 counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to 431 years in prison.

Nancy Garrido pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping, one count of rape by force and to California’s “one strike” rape law. She was sentenced to 36 years to life in prison.

More than two years after Dugard was kidnapped, when she was 13 years old, she learned she was pregnant and gave birth at 14 years old to her first daughter.

“I can’t fathom how I kept it together or, you know, I must’ve been checked out, you know, on a different level. You know, [I was] present, but not present for, you know, some of it, because it’s terrifying on its own. But being alone, how did I even do that?” Dugard recalled.

When the Garridos found Dugard in labor, she said they gave her codeine. Dugard said Phillip Garrido told her he had watched videos about giving birth and knew how to deliver a baby. Dugard said she was in labor for another 12 hours.

In 1997, Dugard gave birth to her second daughter.

“Anything could happen,” Dugard said of the dangers of giving birth in such difficult conditions. “And I had two.”

As she and her daughters grew older, Dugard said she planted a flower in front of the shed and set up a little school to teach them as much as she could with only her fifth-grade education.

“They’re so resilient, and they’re beautiful and loving, and I’m really lucky,” she said.

Dugard has protected her daughters’ privacy and said some of their friends don’t even know of their past. She said the three of them are able to talk about what happened with each other.

“When I refer to him … I think I’ve been calling him Phillip lately, actually,” Dugard said.

Five years ago, Dugard said she called Phillip Garrido their dad.

“They saw his craziness and ups and downs and knew how unpredictable he was,” she said.

She said she and her daughters have learned to laugh at the challenging life they live together.

“To know it was OK to laugh about, you know, Phillip and Nancy and their … craziness … it helps,” Dugard said.

Both Dugard and her mother, Terry Probyn, said they would not want the two girls to see their father in person, but that they would respect their decision if they wanted to meet him.

“I would hope they wouldn’t want to, but as long as he’s behind bars, and they’re safe, then I wouldn’t hinder their ability to make that choice,” Dugard said.

Probyn said: “It’s their decision. I would hope that they would choose not to.”

Dugard said she has done everything she can to not let her own fears limit her daughters’ lives.

“Do we scare our kids into never wanting to do anything or do we prepare them for the worst in life, never knowing if, you know, if it’s really going to happen?” she said.

Dugard first detailed her horrific experience in her 2011 bestselling book, “A Stolen Life: A Memoir,” and now has a second book, “Freedom: My Book of Firsts,” about moving on after those years in captivity.

Her memoir is due out July 12.

 
 

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Portland to fuel city vehicles with sewage fumes

The City of Roses’ poop-to-power plan is nothing to hold your nose at.

by MATT HICKMAN –

Columbia Wastewater Plant, Portland, Oregon

Methane converted into renewable natural gas at this Portland wastewater treatment plant will power diesel trucks. (Photo: Eli Duke/flickr)

Portland, Oregon’s reputation for setting itself apart from the pack — and then some— is well deserved.

And while not the first city to capture noxious sewage gas and convert it into vehicle fuel, Portland’s newly approved $9 million “poop-to-power” scheme is certainly ambitious, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21,000 tons annually while producing enough homegrown, revenue-generating natural gas to power the equivalent of 154 sanitation trucks for a year.

Portland Environmental Services, the city’s wastewater and stormwater management utility, anticipates that capturing methane-rich waste gas produced at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant and converting it into renewable natural gas (RNG) will bring in a minimum of $3 million per year through sales of the fuel. The city itself will, of course, also power some its own vehicles with the diesel-replacing poop fuel.

Built in 1952 on Portland’s north side, the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant is the larger of two wastewater treatment facilities, serving 600,000 residential and commercial customers in this Salmon-Safe city of roughly 619,000 residents. Previous to the construction of the plant, raw sewage flowed directly into the Willamette River and floodplain of the Columbia River.

About 2,500 miles of sewage-conveying pipes feed into the plant, which has undergone numerous improvements and expansions over the decades including the addition of a striking, LEED-certified support facility in 2013. The construction of a methane-to-natural-gas conversion facility along with an on-site RNG fueling station is the biggest greenhouse gas-curbing project in the 65-year history of the plant. The scheme is also being heralded as the biggest emissions-reduction project in the history of the entire city although some, including Vivek Shandas, a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, feel that estimation is a touch too generous. “Arguably, we’ve done more with the urban growth boundary, with a number of density policies than we have with any single win, any single project like this,” he tells Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Currently, 77 percent of the methane gas generated as a byproduct in the processing of solid human waste at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant is harvested and used to generate electricity and heat. But as the Oregonian reports, the remaining 23 percent is flared — or burned and released into air. Along with releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, the wasteful practice of methane flaring has also shown to have other disagreeable impacts on the surrounding environment. Once the new facility is constructed, flaring will cease as Portland achieves full methane recovery status from sewage waste.

A garbage truck in Portland, OregonBy converting methane into renewable natural gas, Portland will produce enough fuel annually to power 154 garbage trucks. (Photo: mike krzeszak/flickr)

Poop gas: Portland’s new clean fuel export

Approved unanimously by Portland City Council on Earth Day, the first major components — the conversion facility and the on-site RNG filling station — of the methane-to-renewable-natural-gas scheme are due to be completed and up and running by the end of this year. Initially, the gas will exclusively be used to fuel converted diesel trucks operated by Portland Environmental Services and other city entities. But by the end of 2018, the sewer gas-derived fuel will be connected via pipeline to a natural gas distribution network owned by Portland-based utility NW Natural (née the Northwest Natural Gas Company) and sold both locally and out of state on the renewable energy market.

The Oregonian elaborates:

The city plans to sell the product for credits they will be awarded based on the volume of natural gas they sell to oil companies and other ‘obligated parties’ required to invest in renewable energy or purchase carbon offsets under The Clean Air Act, said Paul Suto, supervising engineer at Portland’s environmental services bureau.

The environmental services bureau’s natural gas production is expected to bring in $3 million to $10 million of revenue per year, depending on the value of the credits in state and federal energy markets, bureau officials estimated.

While Portland’s buses currently run on biogas, there’s the possibility that the public transit system and other city agencies with sizable fleets could switch over to this special homegrown natural gas at some point down the line.

“We are creating a triple-win for the public in terms of revenue, climate action and cleaner air,” says City Commissioner Nick Fish in a press statement. “The renewable natural gas we will produce is truly local and homegrown, a by-product of the waste from every Portland household that we can now repurpose.”

With the water flushed by Portlanders soon to be producing a clean source of fuel for diesel trucks, it’s worth noting that in 2015, the city announced plans to tap into its drinking water supply as part of a cutting-edge in-pipe hydroelectricity project that’s been touted as a low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional hydroelectric projects like dams. That project, powered by the city’s drinking water naturally flowing through tiny turbines, harnesses enough juice to keep the lights on and appliances humming in an estimated 150 Portland homes.

As Portland has proved, when you have thousands of miles of pipes running beneath a city, it only makes sense to use these hidden renewable energy goldmines to their fullest advantage — in the end, it doesn’t matter if the water flowing through them is potable or filled with poop.

 
 

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How to make the perfect smoothie

By Cassie Best –

Mango & passion fruit smoothie

A vitamin-packed smoothie is a great way to start the day, or works as the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Cassie Best shares her top tips on how to make your smoothies delicious and nutritious every time.

Mango & banana smoothiesGetting your ratios right

Start your smoothie with two mugs full of a liquid base. This can be milk, or a dairy-free alternative such as soya or almond milk, natural or flavoured yogurt, fruit juice, or for a tropical flavoured smoothie, low-fat coconut milk or coconut water. It’s important to add the liquid to your blender before adding the fruit as this will prevent the blade from getting damaged.

Next add about three quarters of a mug of your chosen fruit. Banana is a great base flavour for any smoothie, and will give you a lovely creamy texture. Other fruits that work well are berries, mango, peaches, plums, nectarines, grated apple or pear, and melon. You may have to add more fruit or liquid, depending on the type of fruit you choose. Play around until you have a texture you like. Add a squeeze of honey, maple syrup or agave syrup if your smoothie needs it and finally add a few ice cubes to the blender for a thick and frosty smoothie.

Mango & banana smoothie

Super berry smoothieFreeze your fruit

If you want to make smoothies regularly, it’s a great idea to stash some fruit in the freezer. Not only will they retain their nutritional value and flavour, they will instantly chill your smoothie, so no need to add ice. Before your bananas have a chance to turn brown in the fruit bowl, peel and slice them, then freeze on a sheet of baking parchment on a tray until solid. You can then store in sandwich bags and throw into your blender whenever you need them. Even fruits that don’t usually freeze well, like strawberries and melon, are ok to freeze if you’re using them in a smoothie. Most supermarkets now sell frozen smoothie packs, which are often great value and give you a good mixture of fruit.

Super berry smoothie

Banana, honey & hazelnut smoothie
Get creative

Once you’ve mastered the basics, try adding different flavours to your basic recipe. Add a spoonful of cocoa powder, cinnamon, grated nutmeg or vanilla essence before blending, or give your smoothie some texture with a sprinkle of flaxseeds, toasted chopped nuts or whole oats. Not only will it taste great but it will keep you fuller for longer too.

Banana, honey & hazelnut smoothie

Bump up the goodness

If you haven’t tried a smoothie made from a mixture of fruit and vegetables before, you may be surprised by the flavour. The sweetness of fruit blends well with lots of vegetables and makes for a delicious and super-nutritious drink. Try making a green detox smoothie with coconut water, grated apple, kiwi, banana and spinach. Other vegetables which work well are grated beetroot or carrot, kale, tomatoes and avocados.

Forest fruits & banana smoothieIf you’re having a smoothie for breakfast or lunch, make it a more rounded meal by adding some protein. A spoonful of protein powder, peanut or other nut butter, or some tofu will blend well with your smoothie and give you an essential protein boost. Contrary to what you may have seen in Rocky, raw eggs are not a good option as we absorb the protein in eggs much better when they are cooked.

Forest fruit & banana smoothie

 

Are you a fan of a smoothie? What do you put in yours? Get some inspiration from our collection of smoothie recipes

 
 

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