Geeking Science: Self-burying seeds

Image from the Carnegie Mellon University

Humans have been sowing seeds for generations; sometimes digging holes with fingers, dropping the seeds in, and burying them in the dirt, and other times following the more traditional method of plants themselves – scattering them in the wind and hoping for the best. One is labor intensive and the other is just a play against statistics, praying to the capacious weather gods that the birds and weather will be on our side.

But what happens when you absolutely must plant things in hard to reach areas, for example, reforesting an area after a fire? Today’s drones answer half the equation with accessibility – flying easily to places that could take hours and remarkable physical danger – but that doesn’t get the seeds planted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if seeds could plant themselves?

Scientists recently stole an idea from seeds and upgraded it. Erodium have a stalk that taps into different moisture reactions to create a screw action for burying its seeds. It works okay – the plant exists in nature after all, but the natural best results depends on uneven soil with crevices because up-and-down for the one tail seed changes with each flip until the bury is successful. Once buried, the one-way directional hairs keeps the seed from popping back out and the stalk continues to wind and bury the seed deeper.

To upgrade the design, engineers at Carnegie Mellon University found that three coiled tails create nearly a 80% success rate. In a world with birds, rain washes, and rocky soil, this is amazing.

The device is made from biodegradable wood. And the carrier area can hold pine and other tree seeds, or crop seed. Plus it can been used to deploy and bury “nematodes (worms used as natural pesticides), fertilizers, and fungi.” (Spice) Other real-world applications outside of farming is reducing landslides by increasing deep-root vegetation and using the corkscrews “to implant sensors for environmental monitoring.” (Spice)

The inventors are still working on how to create and deliver these carriers at scale needed for farming crops and reforestation, but the device itself works great.

Two important questions for any invention – 1) can it be done and 2) how do we make enough for the invention to be useful. We have the “yes” for the first, now we need to Geek the Science on the second.

Bibliography

Nature video. “This device corkscrews itself into the ground like a seed.” YouTube. February 2023. (video imbedded above)

Science Friday. “A New Twist on Sowing Seeds.” 24 February 2023. (https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/corkscrew-seed-self-planting/ – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Spice, Byron. “Engineered Magic: Wooden Seed Carriers Mimic the Behavior of Self-Burying Seeds.” Carnegie Mellon University. 15 February 2023. (https://news.pantheon.cmu.edu/stories/archives/2023/february/engineered-magic-wooden-seed-carriers-mimic-the-behavior-of-self-burying-seeds – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Theresa, Deena. “This bioinspired seed carrier has a 80 percent success rate.” Interesting Engineering. 15 February 2023. (https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/bioinspired-seed-carrier – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Williams, Mary. “Inspired by nature: Self-burying seeds.” Plant Science Research Weekly. 24 February 2023. (https://plantae.org/inspired-by-nature-self-burying-seeds/#:~:text=Burrowing%20underground%20gives%20the%20seed%20protection%20from%20being,is%20hygromorphism%20%E2%80%93%20movement%20in%20response%20to%20water. – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Geeking Science: Space Pics

Pictures about space features in the Planetary Society email magazine “The Downlink”

SUN RAYS ON MARS NASA’s Curiosity rover recently captured this image of the setting sun’s rays shining through iridescent clouds high in the Martian atmosphere. Although we see rays like this all the time on Earth around dawn and dusk, it was the first time that the phenomenon (also known as sunbeams or crepuscular rays) has been seen so clearly on Mars. February 2, 2023 (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Although crepuscular rays are a common sight on Earth, we don’t often get to see them from this perspective. In this image captured from aboard the International Space Station in 2011, you can see how clouds blocking the setting Sun’s light create alternating shadows and beams of sunlight. Image credit: NASA.

It’s not every day you can plan to photograph an asteroid streaking through the sky. This meter-sized asteroid was spotted by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky only a few hours before it collided with our planet on Feb. 13, giving Dutch photographer Gijs de Reijke enough time to travel to the predicted location of impact and set up for the perfect shot. Image credit: Gijs de Reijke.

The concept of this picture is just amazing. First to find the asteroid. Second to report it quickly to the world. Third for a photographer to be ready and get where they can take the picture. Fourth to actual get the picture. Total Geeking this picture.

Geeking Science: P is for Psychopath

Image from Dreamtime (paid for)

In “Hope for the Future” (1/28/2024), I created a small slice of the future run by psychopath. And if I continue the Gas Station Killer (first post appearing at 2/7/2021) series far enough, the serial killer(s) posing and modus operandi will lead the police to their doorstep(s). Unlike ADHD and autism, the killer versions of neuro-spicy have little benefit in a healthy society, hunter-gatherer or modern, but they do provide a ton of fun material for writers of thrillers and mysteries. The challenge is to present them realistically without reminding people (too much) that these types are monsters are real.

Psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably by non-specialists, but neither are defined in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders.” There the diagnosis becomes defined as “antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)”. Under 18, the diagnose is “conduct disorder”.  In either case, going against societies standards, even quantified ones like laws, without remorse, is standard. Lying, tricking, and endangering others is done without empathy. Some going against society restrictions is expected, especially during teenage years, but people with ASPD have it in unhealthy levels. (Baby)

But when psychopathy is added to the mix, it takes ASPD to another level. About 1% of the population has psychopathy, and 25-30% of people with ASPD have these traits. Psychopathy isn’t a disorder or a diagnosis, but more like introvert or extrovert – just a set of traits some people have. Few of these traits are good … just saying: insincere charm, easily bored, manipulation of others, no guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and usually many sexual relations, likely because of the inability to connect emotionally but the brain’s neuro-spicy bonus of immediate rewards administered at a higher priority than “average”. Given the lack of guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and the manipulation of others, if this combo is found in someone with average intelligence (and 50% of all humans are at or below average – statistics being what they are over a population), crime and getting caught doing the crime is common. 15-25% of people in prisons display psychopathy traits. (Baby)

The upside of psychopathy is little-to-no imposture syndrome and virtually no anxiety issues. Helps not to care. Hey, not all traits personality need to be negative, even in a group package like psychopathy.

Not every person with psychopathy or ASPD is a serial killer, or even a criminal. Some function in society fine, and there are even jobs tailor-made for them. For example, repossession (of cars), foreclosures (of homes), and dunning (of credit) are all necessary in a capitalistic society for a lending system to function. I had a sister who worked in a dunning call center for about two months, but it destroyed her emotionally – people in that position needed a good helping of psychopathy to survive long-term. Sure we all hate people in these positions, especially when we are on the receiving end of life raining lemons on us after covering our bodies in papercuts, and being unable to pay back loans. But if a lending system is to exist, recourse on collecting the loans are needed too. (Not sure which is worse, not having a lending system or having a lending system.)

But back to the FUN part of psychopaths for writing. Serial killers – thank goodness there is not as many of these monsters in reality as show up in fiction but aren’t they fun in a fictional setting?

There are “organized” and “disorganized.” Organized creating premeditated crimes (which mysteries love so much), and the other creating crimes of passion (perfect for thrillers).

The organized are sane, not healthy but they are sane, an important distinction. They are aware they are killing people and society will punish them for this behavior if it is discovered. To stay unfound they are usually charming and have a “normal” life, even with spouses and children. A good job is necessary to get time off and travel money. Police hate organized killers as they don’t make many mistakes and stringing together enough of the mistakes for the police to actually find them could mean a long line of bodies. Readers love a good organized psychopath for murder mysteries.

The especially fun parts for readers are Modus Operandi (MO) and the signature. In romances, a reader loves how far-flung locations change up love stories; for mystery readers, a good MO makes all the difference between their “book candy” hauls. The method of operation combines things like the type of victim, where the victim is acquired, and the weapon used. All the things that make up the crime. The signature is something the perpetrator does not have to do to commit the crime, such as leaving a riddle with the body or redressing the person in a red gown. The signature comes from the fantasies driving the un-aliving. (Bonn)

Staging and Posing may be part of the signature. For the “Gas Station Killer”, the body(s) was found posed in a gas station bathroom. This particular killer does not stage to confuse the police, although moving the body away from the kill site means a lot of evidence is missing, and the amount of people using gas station bathrooms means any evidence missed during the transfer is highly compromised. The killer is driven by their fantasy to pose the victims.

Have you even written a serial killer with an MO and signature? Comment below what parts of the science of psychology you drew from to create your antagonist (or anti-hero) below. As I indicated, I used posing for the “Gas Station Killer” signature and their MO was the type of person they chose to kill and how they drained the blood from the body. In “Hope for the Future,” I played off organized and disorganized killers on a prisons ship interacting – using their different strengths to create a functional society which could (hopefully) perpetuate itself for the members to survive. Hard to do when most of the ship has the antisocial personality disorder and the inability to follow laws. But if the convicts do not figure it out, death will be long and uncomfortable to the last few left standing at the end.

Bibliography

Baby, Dany P. (reviewer). “How Sociopathy and Psychopaths are Different.” WebMD. 16 March 2023. (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/psychopath-sociopath-differences – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Bonn, Scott A. “Serial Killers: Modus Operandi, Signature, Staging & Posing – Understanding and classifying serial killer crime scenes.” Psychology Today. 29 June 2015. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201506/serial-killers-modus-operandi-signature-staging-posing – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Lampley, Steven. “The Psychological Phases of Serial Killers.” Psychology Today. 25 August 2020. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/captivating-crimes/202008/the-psychological-phases-serial-killers – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Geeking Science: Surround Sound’s Future

Photo by Sandy Kawadkar on Unsplash

Sound is about to change and I am here to Geek about it. Engineers at MIT have developed paper-thin speakers … like the speakers can be used as wallpaper. And they use a tenth of the power of a normal home speaker.

Now why would you want wallpaper speakers? Talk about surround sound for a movie theatre or immersion for a video game! How about lining an area with noise cancelling speakers; suddenly living on a busy street no longer has the hassle.

And it gets better. For medical instruments which use sound to look inside a human body, the ultra thin speakers would be smaller, cheaper, and use less energy! Ultrasound is used for looking at babies and for cancer diagnosis. It can be used to view eyes, gallbladders, kidneys, liver, ovaries, pancreas, spleen, thyroids, testicles, uterus, and blood vessels. Imagine having ultrasounds being readily available at community care locations! And for healthcare during emergencies like wars and hurricanes, having less energy usage and more portability will save lives.

The same way that light, thin monitors and TVs have opened up the visual world, paper-thin speakers can open up the audio world.

No more thick speakers vying for place on my computer desk – I could just attach one to either side on the outside of my bookshelves.

Oh, and you know how zoom calls have the active following a person around a room … the tech works for music. You could crank your tunes at home, while a spouse or baby sleeps in another room, because the music is aimed ONLY at you.

I’m ready for this tech to be mature now. Sign me up for this Geekery.

Bibliography

Zewe, Adam. “Researchers develop a paper-thin loudspeaker.” MIT News on campus and around the world. 26 April 2022. https://news.mit.edu/2022/low-power-thin-loudspeaker-0426 – last viewed 11/9/2023.

Geeking Science: Do You Want Fries in Space

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Food is essential. No only for survival but also for socialization. If you have hung out on my website for any amount of time, you know that meals are a mainstay in my flashes and that I will Geek the Science out of food – everything from the science of Fried Chicken to how Nori develops in nature.

Time to talk about food in space. Last month I touched on soda being a non-starter in an environment where you can’t burp with any grace. Next question on the table, is space exploration going to be sans fries too? I mean, the movie The Martin, Matt Damon raised potatoes – are we going to have potatoes and no fries?!?

It was a worry for a bit – again the action of microgravity and gas which takes out beer and Coke – might mean the bubbling cauldron of oil won’t work but fries do look like they can stay on the menu after some tests run in parabolic flights. (Lea) Hamburgers – with yeasty bread and greasy meat and cheese, all of which are high gas items – may not make it, but at least we get to keep our fries.

Seems strange to test out cooking techniques for space-worthiness, but food is a necessity on earth and food will be a necessity in space. In addition, like the invention of Tang (Cordell), all knowledge adds to Earth’s present benefit as well as our decedents braving the Black.

Bibliography

Cordell, Lyndsay. “Tang: The Orange Drink That Got Its Start From NASA.” Wide Open Country. 18 February 2021. (https://www.wideopencountry.com/tang-drink/ – last viewed 11/14/2023)

Lea, Robert. “Space food: Why Mars astronauts won’t have to hole the fries.” space.com. 12 June 2023. (https://www.space.com/space-food-frying-works-microgravity – last viewed 11/14/2023)