Archive | 4:45 pm

Zombie Ants Exiled By Fungus

21 Mar

Zombie Fungus FactoryMonsterTalk had probably its most science-related, as opposed to the pseudoscience it trades in, and creepy discussions in its latest episode. And, Svengali fungus compelling unwitting ants to become fungus nurseries is only half the horror.

“The behavior of these infected zombie ants essentially causes their bodies to become an extension of the fungus’s own phenotype, as non-infected ants never behave in this way,” said David P. Hughes, the first author of the research paper and an assistant professor of entomology and biology at Penn State University.

Using transmission-electron and light microscopes, the researchers were able to look inside the ant in order to determine the effect of the fungus on the ant. They found that the growing fungus fills the ant’s body and head, causing muscles to atrophy and forcing muscle fibres to spread apart. The fungus also affects the ant’s central nervous system. The scientists observed that, while normal worker ants rarely left the trail, zombie ants walked in a random manner, unable to find their way home. The ants also suffered convulsions, which caused them to fall to the ground. Once on the ground, the ants were unable to find their way back to the canopy and remained at the lower, leafy understory area which, at about 9 or 10 inches (25 cm) above the soil, was cooler and moister than the canopy, provided ideal conditions for the fungus to thrive.

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Between The Lines

21 Mar

B-52 TrainingNorth Korea isn’t the only place on the Korean peninsula talking loosely about nukes. South Korea wants a submarine from the United States to stay in the neighborhood. Jeffrey Lewis thinks this March 12 Joongang Daily story is just crazy. (I know this is old news, but the Boards are insightful, too.)

“We decided to convene another Korea-U.S. submarine drill after the Foal Eagle training ends at the end of April,” the official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We are still negotiating [with Washington] how to utilize the nuclear weapons after then.”

The official did not specify which warships would remain behind with nuclear weapons.

Sources in the South Korean military told the JoongAng Ilbo that a nuclear-armed submarine is a strong candidate.

Now, “핵탄두 장착이 가능한 핵추진 잠수함” means a nuclear-propelled submarine with the capability to mount a weapon equipped with a nuclear warhead. Lewis identifies three possibilities:

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The Long View On North Korea Not Taken (Video)

21 Mar

Ri Tong-il in the CrosshairsFormer United States ambassador to South Korea, Christopher Hill, and Christine Hong, Assistant Professor at UC- Santa Cruz and Executive Board Member of the Korea Policy Institute (KPI) had a tête-à-tête at HuffPost Live (via UN Dispatch). The issue was the long view, both historically and geopolitically on China (Hong) versus recent North Korean provocations and the parts of the diplomatic history when Amb. Hill can speak with authority. Hill provided very little that he hasn’t said before. I’m glad Heather Hurlburt set the record straight about just how pathetic North Korea’s missile and nuke capabilities are, exposing how threadbare its bluster is. And, Mark Goldberg makes a case for humanitarian aid regardless of the diplomatic situation.

North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations couldn’t make international law sound provocative.

Nuclear weapons are possessed by only a very small number of countries, while conventional weapons are of a very sensitive character, with a direct bearing on all countries’ security,” Ri [Dong-il] said. He went on to say, “the importance of forming a treaty to completely eliminate nuclear weapons” should be reflected in the conventional weapons treaty. Ri also said it was “easily predictable” that “the continued preemptive nuclear strike policies of the biggest nuclear nation [the US] will lead in the end to more countries possessing nuclear weapons.” He also made reference to the US missile defense system, which he said, “hints at ambitions of absolute nuclear supremacy” and “possesses the risk of setting off a potential nuclear arms race.”

And, what was wrong with the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty? Can North Korea be trusted with any treaty?

Props to Christine Hong for taking on the ‘pivot’.

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