Monday, April 20, 2015

Why we (and bees) crave coffee

OK, it's Monday, where's the coffee?

Why do so many people crave coffee first thing in the morning?

Yes, we need it to feel awake.  But why coffee?  Why not an egg roll?  Or some yogurt?

Because coffee, and not eggs or yogurt, contains caffeine, a substance that stimulates the human nervous system and makes it think the body is still full of energy. Yeah, I don't need sleep!

Caffeine, the kicker in coffee (and tea, and Coca Cola, etc) is a psychoactive drug, one that alters your brain function, temporarily changing your perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior. Many of these changes are helpful (e.g. that increased alertness that coffee brings on), and this positive reinforcement makes us depend on it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trees and priorities

As you breathe while reading this on your wireless device, consider the trees and other plants that take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen to help you out. Our collective fitness literally depends on them continuing to do that!

Living trees and other plants help us in many other ways too, by creating cleaner, cooler, quieter environments for us and for other animals, who in turn pollinate plants, aerate soil, and generally keep Earth's terrestrial systems running. For those of us that eat food – of any sort – it's something to appreciate.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The light stuff: anglerfish brighten up the depths

goldfish showing off its tremendous fish-ness
photo: LoveToKnow
Think of the fish you know best.  They may look like this orange guy:

Having a certain hydro-dynamic shape facilitates movement in the ocean, so faster-moving fish (and marine mammals - think dolphins) tend to taper on both ends.

In the ocean's depths, however, speed is less critical for survival, and bizarre and ancient forms become the norm. Survival in the cold deep water, where there's little oxygen, light, or nutrients, requires exceptional adaptation and so brings out some of our world's crazier-shaped life forms.