the science of springs

8 Formidable Facts About Bees

Let’s hear it for the bees! (Let’s give the bees a ha-aa-aa-aaand!)

Spring is (supposedly) on its way, so we want to send a little love and appreciation to all the bees out there, making our everyday possible. Join us in celebrating these 8 reasons to celebrate our tiny, but mighty friends.

1. Bees make our surroundings beeee-autiful. In addition to pollinating our crops, bees are responsible for pollinating all of the things that make spring sing. And they’re no novices - they’ve been producing honey from flowering trees (fruit trees, nut trees, and bee-yond) for 10-20 million years! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

2. Bees are social insects. Honey bees live together in large, well-organized family groups and engage in a variety of complex tasks not practiced by solitary insects. Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defense, and division of the labor are just some of the behaviors that honey bees have developed to exist successfully in social colonies. And they are not the least bit lazy: one single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

3. Bees are above words. They communicate through ‘dance’ and pheromones. By performing what’s referred to as the ‘waggle dance’, bees can share information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new nest-site locations. From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? - Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson

4. Bees make great wingmen. Bees are very busy little matchmakers. The bees’ side of the whole “birds and the bees” business is to help plants find mates and reproduce. Today, around 170,000 plant species receive pollination services from more than 200,000 pollinator species, a good many of which are bees! In return, flowering plants are an abundant and diverse food source for pollinators. For instance, fossil records suggest that bees may have evolved from wasps that gave up hunting after they acquired a taste for nectar. From the TED-Ed Lesson How bees help plants have sex - Fernanda S. Valdovinos

5.Bees put food on our tables. Bees pollinate our crops on an industrial scale, generating over one-third of U.S. food production. Their work alone has contributed an estimated $15-20 billion of value to the U.S. agricultural business. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

6. Bees can totally pack up a car better than you. Honeybees are some of nature’s finest mathematicians. Not only can they calculate angles and comprehend the roundness of the earth, these smart insects build and live in one of the most mathematically efficient architectural designs around: the beehive. Charles Darwin himself wrote that the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is “absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax.” From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? - Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson

7. Bees are hooked on coffee, too. When bees pollinate coffee plants, they consume low doses of caffeine from the coffee flower nectar, which means that bees are **BUZZZZZING** from a caffeine high just like us, AND helping us to get our coffee fix on the daily! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

8. Honeybees are disappearing at astonishing rates. Not to be a **buzzkill**, but here’s a not-so-fun fact. In the past decade, the U.S. honeybee population has been decreasing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Bee mortality rates in commercial production have more than doubled in the last decade, and in 2015, 40% of bee colonies were reported lost in just a single year. There are a variety of factors causing Colony Collapse Disorder, and scientists everywhere are working to prevent further loss of bees. Keep reading to see how you can help. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

Love bees as much as we do? Well, let’s give the bees a hand, for real! Plant some bee-friendly flowers this spring and remember, when bees have access to good nutrition, we have access to good nutrition through their pollination services

Watch on the-earth-story.com

Last day of a conference yay!

Make sure to check out our twitter page for all sorts of science conference related tweets. 

Allergy Season Explained

Happy First Day of Spring, Tumblr! 

What better way to celebrate than to **ACHOO!!**….wait, what were we saying?

Ah, spring! Grass growing, flowers blooming, trees growing new leaves, but if you get allergies, this explosion of new life probably inspires more dread than joy.  

Step outside, and within minutes, you’re sneezing and congested. Your nose is running, your eyes are swollen and watery, your throat is itchy. For you and millions of others, it’s seasonal allergy time. So what’s behind this onslaught of mucus?

The answer lies within you. It’s your immune system. Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, are a hypersensitive immune response to something that’s not actually harmful. Pollen from trees and grass, and mold spores from tiny fungi find their way into your mucous membranes and your body attacks these innocuous travelers the same way it would infectious bacteria. 

The immune system has a memory. When a foreign substance gets tagged as threatening, white blood cells produce customized antibodies that will recognize the offender the next time around. They then promptly recruit the body’s defense team. But sometimes, the immune system accidentally discriminates against harmless substances, like pollen. When it wafts in again, antibodies on the surface of white blood cells recognize it and latch on.

This triggers the cell to release inflammatory chemicals, like histamine, which stimulate nerve cells, and cause blood vessels in the mucous membranes to swell and leak fluid. In other words, itchiness, sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose. 

Allergies usually, but not always, show up for the first time during childhood. But why do some people get allergies and others don’t? Allergies tend to run in families, so genetics may be one culprit. In fact, errors in a gene that helps regulate the immune system are associated with higher rates of allergies. The environment you grow up in matters, too. Being exposed to an allergen as a baby makes you less likely to actually develop an allergy to it. People who grow up on farms, in big families, and in the developing world also tend to have fewer allergies, although there are plenty of exceptions, partly thanks to genetics. One theory is that as children, they encounter more of the microbes and parasites that co-evolved with traditional hunter-gatherer societies.

Called the hygiene hypothesis, the idea is that when the immune system isn’t exposed to the familiar cast of microbes, it’ll keep itself busy mounting defenses against harmless substances, like pollen. Another theory is that an immune system toughened up by a barrage of pathogens is less likely to overreact to allergens. Pollen is a common offender, just because we encounter so much of it, but there’s a long list of substances: dust, animal dander, insect venom, medications, certain foods, that can send your immune system into overdrive. Some of these reactions can be scary. An allergy can develop into full-blown anaphylaxis, which typically brings on severe swelling, shortness of breath, and very low blood pressure. It can be deadly.

But as we who suffer from seasonal allergies know, even non-life threatening allergy symptoms can make you miserable. So what can you do about it? Medications can help reduce the symptoms. The most common ones keep histamines from binding to your cells. These antihistamines stop the inflammation response. Steroids can help dial down the immune system. Another more permanent option is immunotherapy. Deliberate, controlled exposure to gradually increasing amounts of an allergen can teach the immune system that it isn’t dangerous after all. 

Of course, you can always just wait your seasonal allergies out. The spring pollen onslaught dwindles by mid-summer…just in time for ragweed season!

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do people have seasonal allergies? - Eleanor Nelsen 

Animation by TED-Ed

Honestly imagine how cool it would be if everyone just stopped mowing their lawns.
After a few months we would have meadows and tons of bees and rabbits and toads and stuff. After a few more summers there would be trees, and eventually your neighborhood would become a forest. There would be so much shade. The air would be so fresh. You would see deer on your walk to school, we could save the Earth.

Masters of Art History Asks
  • Botticelli: Do you look forward to the spring?
  • Da Vinci: Which area of the sciences do you enjoy the most?
  • Michelangelo: If you could own a classical statue in the form of any figure from myth, religion, or even modern fiction, who would you choose?
  • Raphael: Do you have a good relationship with your mother?
  • Titian: What is your favourite mythological story?
  • Veronese: If you put on a big feast, what would you serve?
  • Bosch: How do you have fun? (What is your favourite 'Earthly Delight'?)
  • Holbein: Do you often look for hidden messages and meanings?
  • Bruegel: What was your favourite game as a child?
  • Velázquez: Have you ever received an award or special position?
  • Goya: If a revolution was about to happen in your country, would you be part of it?
  • Gentileschi: Have you ever planned an act of revenge?
  • Caravaggio: What is the most dramatic thing you have ever done?
  • Rubens: Do you care about your weight?
  • Poussin: Is your life moving too slowly or too fast?
  • Rembrandt: Do you prefer to stay in the shade?
  • Tiepolo: If you could have any mural on your ceiling, what would it look like?
  • Boucher: Do you enjoy the countryside?
  • Delacroix: Are you a romantic?
  • Ingres: What is your favourite historic subject?
  • Gainsborough: Do you prefer landscape paintings?
  • Hogarth: Are you interested in social issues?
Briefly, science behind the Zodiac Signs....

I have said many times that witchcraft and the sciences more closely relate to one another than people give them credit for. 

Babies who are born in the winter are held, cuddled, and touched more often during their early childhoods than any other sign because of the cold weather. They are also more likely to be swaddled tightly and kept indoors. This makes them more co-dependant, sympathetic, and empathetic, because they were receiving lots and lots of touches and were kept close by. 

Babies who are born in the summer wear less clothing, are held less, and are taken outside to explore and play around, and just generally put down more than winter babies are. This makes them more independent, more curious, less needy for people, and more attention seeking than signs born in the winter.

Signs born in spring in fall are somewhere in between.

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Ughhh im so bad at keeping up with the april study challenge! I’ll do better for may

25 (Tu). Do you get nervous for exams? If so, how do you combat this?

Ans: I get really really nervous for exams to the point that my hand would start sweating buckets. However, I combat this by telling myself “ I can pass this exam, I can do this as long as I studied well enough” ( if that makes sense l o l)

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British flowering plants
W.F. Kirby, 1906

Think near-boiling water is too hot to support life? Think again. The geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park host an array of thermophillic, or heat-loving, microorganisms that can tolerate temperatures as high as 175 degrees Fahrenheit. These bacteria, along with other microorganisms like archaea, create the vivid color palettes of some of Yellowstone’s famed springs and geysers, like the Grand Prismatic Spring pictured here.

The blue center is the heart of the spring, where nearly boiling water makes it impossible for anything to survive, resulting in a startlingly blue hue. As the temperature dips farther out from the hot spring’s superheated center, though, more and more kinds of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms are able to endure. The different rings of color emanating from the steaming epicenter represent different microbial communities that call the spring home.

The most heat-tolerant cyanobacteria dominate the still-extreme temperatures in the yellow-colored ring, while the outer, orange layer hosts an array of organisms that can’t stand the heat quite as well as their neighbors. The colors of these rings also change in response to the time of year and other environmental factors. The cooler outer rings, meanwhile, form ecosystems of their own, hosting flies, mites, spiders, and other animals. Ephydrid flies feast on the bacterial communities and lay their eggs there, while predators like wolf spiders and parasites such as mites are drawn here because of the presence of the flies.

Find out about more amazing species thriving in exceptional environments in the special exhibition Life at the Limits, open now through January 2016. 

03.14.17 - Tuesday

Spring Break Organic Cram Session 🎉
Our campus library is undergoing renovations and since most students are away for break, the construction workers have brought out the power tools and I decided it would be better to just study on the floor at home!

Hope everyone is having a great spring break, study hard but remember to have fun!

-Cece