Science, Schmience 3/13/21: Werk, Slug Queen

Alec Sarché
7 min readMar 13, 2021

Science, Schmience: the weekly science digest for people who didn’t know that COVID-19 also ruined weather predictions!*

Slugs’ Bodies, Slugs’ Wisdom:

This just in: There are some (possibly very many) species of sea slugs that are capable of detaching their own heads, surviving for weeks on end without reproductive organs, a digestive tract, or even a heart — and, honey, they look GREAT doing it!!! Scientists at the Nara Women’s University in Japan have observed a third of their lab-bred Elysia marginata slugs autotomizing, or voluntarily self-amputating, their own heads over the course of their lifetimes, and beginning to grow back their whole bodies the very next day (and finishing in as little as three weeks!).

This absolute queen slays us, even from the neck up.

Science, Schmience has always been a body-positive publication, and it is our sincerely held belief that all bodies are beautiful, even — no, especially — if they’ve been recently voluntarily autotomized by a sea slug’s head to free it from parasites. The researchers believe that the slugs are able to survive because of kleptoplasty, their remarkable ability to incorporate chloroplasts, the cells that most plants use to perform photosynthesis, from the algae they eat into their own bodies. That means these slugs are able to squish around for weeks at a time as disembodied heads, without worrying about deviating from society’s “classically beautiful slug.” Remember that Dove ad campaign that everyone was so excited about because it was “so inclusive?” Well, Dove, we’re pretty sure we didn’t see any sacoglossan sea slugs in those ads. Do better. And to any slugs out there, if you’re reading this: you just keep working what your chloroplasts gave you, babe.

Hunk Like a Horse

Our lawyers tell us we need to preface this article with a disclaimer: we are not 100% sure Dr. Martine Hausberger was having sexual relations with horses; but we’ll be god-dammed if we’re saying there’s no chance she didn’t! Enjoy the read.

Have you ever wondered how to pleasure a horse? Ethologist Martine Hausberger certainly has. She’s spent the last 6 years researching how to get stallions rallyin’. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device which records electrical impulses in the brain, Hausberger was able to find out what makes horses feel bad… and what makes them feel really, really good.

The headband might get Dr. Hausberger stamping her hooves, but we prefer a different look.

Here at Science, Schmience, we don’t quite understand what’s in it for Hausberger, but we say, “Go for it, girl!” The EEG is placed on the horse in the form of a headband, making it look like an 80s basketball star (everyone’s got their type, we assume this is just Dr. Hausberger’s). Critically, the headband does not affect the horse’s beautiful mane, which, if this was a part of the whole thing for Hausberger, we absolutely are not judging! The headband houses electrodes with many tiny needles poking gently against the skin, which we imagine might make the experience more pleasurable for the horse — which to be clear, we are totally cool with. Over the last 6 years, Hausberger has experimented with 18 horses to see what pleasures them the most. Half of those horses were classic city boys who lived in stables, and the other half were rugged, independent types who roamed with herds in the open pastures. Martine, it’s natural to go through phases, and that’s not something we’re judging you for! Hausberger found that each type had very different EEG profiles. Horses in stables showed an average of 2.5 times more right-hemisphere “gamma” waves than those in open fields. When these types of results are found in people, they are often a sign of anxiety, distraction, or depression. The horses that spent most of their time out in the open, meanwhile, showed twice as many left-hemisphere “theta” waves, which is normally (in humans, at least) a sign of a calm and attentive mind. These results show that in general, horses find more pleasure with being in open spaces as opposed to enclosed, so. Horses… aren’t into bondage, we guess? Very interesting stuff from a leading horse scientist. Through all this, we just hope Dr. Hausberger has found a way to pleasure herself as well!

You’re a Nerd

To paraphrase an old adage, commonly told by bullies and their friends on schoolyards, “Your mother is so heavy, she has her own gravitational pull.” It breaks our hearts to tell you this, but scientifically speaking, the bullies are correct, so if A=B and B=C, then you must be a freaking nerd and you better hand over that lunch money.

Since Einstein published his theory of relativity, it’s been a tenet of physics that all objects exert a force on the fabric of spacetime: that is, all the matter in the entire universe has its own gravitational pull, no matter how infinitesimal (even you, you little pipsqueak — what’re you gonna do, cry about it?). Scientists published a paper in the journal Nature this week documenting their observation that even a gold sphere with a mass of only around 90 milligrams has a gravitational pull.

Look a little closer. We’re definitely not going to push your face into your computer screen.

This is the weakest recorded observation of gravity, which brings science one step closer to understanding just what causes this mysterious force. Basically, don’t let your mom in the lab, because these scientists aren’t prepared to study that much gravity and she’ll break all their instruments.

In order to make their groundbreaking observation, scientist Markus Aspelmeyer and his team used a specialized horizontal pendulum to measure the gravitational field of the tiny gold sphere. In order for Red-Headed Tony and his Wrecking Crew to prove you’re a little Nancy, you’re gonna have to go eat a handful of rocks, and don’t you tell nobody.

Aspelmeyer had to create extremely sensitive conditions in order for the pendulum to accurately show the gravitational pull of the gold. The researchers reported having to pause their observations to wait for runners to cross the finish line at a marathon more than two kilometers away! You, on the other hand, should try being a little less sensitive.

Anyway, gravity is cool, we’re gonna go throw rocks at cars, peace out, ya little bitch!

Brits Hit by Space Bits

Homeowners all over the UK are pissed this week as the first meteorite material found in the country in 30 years ruins their driveways and gardens. After thousands of reports of a blazing light rushing across the sky (no, dear reader, not the sun, don’t be a smartass), Britons in the village of Winchcombe started finding little piles of priceless black dirt on their immaculate lawns. In total, about 400 grams of carbonaceous chondrite, a stony compound with origins in our infant solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago, was scraped off a bunch of British herb gardens, which could have huge implications in our understanding of the chemical composition of our solar system before the formation of the planets. Although, if they wanted to find out what the universe was like 4.5 billion years ago, we’re not sure why they wouldn’t just ask Queen Elizabeth. Eyo! (Sorry, we’re still in a bullying mood from that last article.)

Tally-ho! It’s the Queen’s geology, innit, bruv?

Silver Linings Spacebook

Over the course of 2020, astronomers catalogued some 2,958 near-earth asteroids previously unknown to the field, a record year of discovery despite the pandemic. Of those, at least 107 of those were considered “close calls” that passed at a distance less than that of the moon. Proving, as always, hey, we could have had it worse!

Pictured: untold billions of threats the universe didn’t send our way this year.

You hear what we’re saying, right? Like, yes, 2020 was bad, but at least we weren’t hammered to pieces by asteroids! For example, an asteroid named Apophis whizzed safely past the earth on March 6. You had a hard enough week as is, right? So at least you didn’t get pelted with space metal like those poor Brits. Apophis will make its return in 2029, coming within 40,000 kilometers of the planet. It’s projected to skim just above the region of our atmosphere where some high-flying satellites orbit, which, yes, could pose some issues, so don’t relax too much. But hey, at least it didn’t happen last year!

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Oh, right, the asterisk: *“…for people who didn’t know COVID -19 also ruined weather predictions,” Seriously. Up to 75% of the data used by meteorologists pre-2020 came from commercial aircraft, which collect wind and temperature values in flight — and which were grounded en masse this year. Temperature forecasts from this time last year were up to 2ºC more accurate. So. No stone left unturned. Thanks for everything, COVID :)

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