Components and Functions of Neurons

Biology
The brain is the cognitive center of the higher animals, and humans. The brain is compared to a computer central processing unit (CPU). The brain has a complex substructure. These include macroscopic, microscopic, and submicroscopic features. Of special significance are neurons. These are typically illustrated in Figure 1. What are it's component parts? Notably axons, dendrites, synapses, and receptors. Components of Neurons A neuron is a nerve cell. It receives signals via chemicals called neurotransmitters. It then transmits the signals, electrically. A neuron consists of a cell body or soma, dendrites, and a single axon. It is one of many units that makes up the brain. Axons An axon is a fiber rather like a cable. It carries electrochemical signals from the soma to other neurons. The axon is surrounded…
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How the Electric Eel Produces Electricity

Biology
[caption id="attachment_5928" align="alignright" width="440"] Electric Eel - Attribution 2.5 Generic by Vsion[/caption] In my youth, I was a tropical fish hobbyist. I had many amazing fish in my aquaria. Among my favorites was the knife fish. Now I never would have had an electric eel in my fish tanks. Yet, the electric eel is a kind of knife fish! Electrophorus electricus can produce more than 500 volts. This grotesque creature is a danger to many moderate sized creatures, such as humans. The electric eel is native to northeastern South America. It may reach more than 8 feet¹ in length. E. electricus usually dwells in rivers, but can inhabit swampy areas. They prefer to remain in darker regions. The skin of the electric eel protects it from being shocked by its…
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The Differences Between Flagella and Cilia

Biology
[caption id="attachment_5797" align="alignright" width="440"] Is there a difference? After all they all look like little hairs to me.[/caption] Transportation by hairs called flagella and cilia? Yes, either works. What are they and how do they function? One-celled animals want to get around, too. One method used by the amoeba seems very innovative. Basically a liquid-filled blob, the amoeba directs some of its protoplasm to form pseudopodia, which is a 50-cent word meaning false feet. Other protozoa possess what is called a flagellum (some use two flagella). These are long hairs, sometimes longer than the body of the animal. It moves through the water using the flagellum like a whip. Yet others use a collection of shorter hairlike organelles called cilia. What is the difference between flagella and cilia? The differences…
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Novel Wastewater Treatment – Reducing Nitrogen and Phosphorus

Biology, Chemistry
[caption id="attachment_19184" align="alignright" width="480"] Wastewater Treatment Plant[/caption] The University of Kansas, in conjunction with the City of Lawrence, Kansas, has been investigating a fascinating approach to reducing nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. It’s a process, really, that occurs in nature, with a minimum of artificial intervention. Simply put: still water containing an abundance of “nutrients” tends to produce a proliferation of green algae. A Most Interesting Approach Why not take advantage of that fact? And so, they have. In their September 2013 Issue, Treatment Plant Operator (TPO) magazine included a well-written piece by author Doug Day that greatly intrigued me. Not long ago, I was employed as a Wastewater Operator, Level III at the local Nelson County, Virginia treatment plant. I am a retired chemist. I had rejected a career…
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Micrathena Spider In Your Face

Biology
[caption id="attachment_4583" align="alignright" width="440"] Micrathena sagittata[/caption] To me, the best thing about August is that September is near. One thing I particularly hate about August is when I walk smack-dab into a spider web. Now Micrathena isn’t your ordinary-looking spider. It’s this incredibly ugly, spiky, humpbacked thing that scares the living daylights out of you. I call it (and at one time believed all called it) the Pyramid spider. Gradually for the rest of the year, I begin to forget the existence of this most cursed of spiders. Then, just when I least expect it... Micrathena Ninja When you bump into it, or rather into its web, you may suddenly become the neighborhood karate expert, chopping the air and spinning and crying out—AYAHH! Personally, I dance when I am smacked…
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The Brown Widow Spider

Biology, Health
[caption id="attachment_8515" align="alignleft" width="440"] Brown widow spider image by Matthew Field, GNU Free Documentation License 1.2[/caption] The brown widow spider? When we think of widows and spiders together, we think of the black widow spider, no? In reality, there are not one, but three slightly different versions of the black widow. There are the northern black widow, the southern black widow, and the western black widow spiders. Easily identified by its disproportionately fat, round, shiny black body emblazoned with a red hourglass, the black widow is dangerous to the old and to the young. The bite of the black widow elicits a variety of symptoms. These may include localized pain, cramping, nausea, a rise in blood pressure, and respiratory problems. For further details, see emedicinehealth. It's Not a One-Act Show…
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Watch Out! The Brown Recluse Spider

Biology, Medicine
The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is small and deadly. Sometimes called the brown spider, the brown recluse is usually found out of doors in dark places. It sometimes finds its way indoors. When that is so, it hides in closets, folded clothing, shoes, and indeed, any dark place it finds. It may even hid behind the back board of a bed! Although not aggressive by nature, if pressed against human skin, it will bite. This tiny spider produces a bite that at first may appear as a red target shape circle that changes color, eventually killing skin tissue. It may progress to produce massive organ failure, even death. Brown recluse venom includes sphingomyelinase-D. There is a treatment procedure that many animal lovers will find saddening. Brown Recluse Spider Bites…
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Termite Methane Generator

Biology
[caption id="attachment_3662" align="alignright" width="440"] Termites - ARS, US Gov't.[/caption] Clearly the world cannot function forever using "fossil fuels" in the way it currently uses them. Society recognizes the need for alternative fuel sources. But could it be that methane gas could be used in some new way as fuel? At present, methane gas is not viewed in too favorable a light. But sometimes a bane can be turned into a boon, depending upon how one deals with a matter. Methane is disparagingly referred to as a “greenhouse gas.” This is due to its being released into the atmosphere by biological sources, where its excess promotes global warming. Of these, we will address two main sources: cattle methane and termite methane. Better Out Than In The National Geographic News web site…
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Vorticella – a Living Spring

Biology
What is vorticella? Among microscopic aquatic creatures, it is the most bizarre. Vorticella looks like an upside down bell attached to a pull rope. That pull rope is actually a fibril or stalk called a myoneme,¹ which has, running down its middle, an internal organelle. This spasmoneme contracts into a spring or corkscrew shape, as seen in the video below. Why is Vorticella of Interest Scientists are not ashamed to learn from the lowly creature. The contraction and elongation of its stalk appears to depend on the binding and re-release of calcium ions by the protein spasmin. What makes this of special interest is no ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is necessary to achieve the task, though ordinarily, it plays a vital role in muscle function. High Tech Plumbing? Curiously, it has…
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The Y Chromosome: In Danger?

Biology, Medicine
[caption id="attachment_3050" align="alignright" width="480"] Y Chromosome - Image: NIST[/caption] The Y Chromosome. Some feel it is endangered. Why? Male and female have been differentiated in non-biological ways throughout human history. Privileges and responsibilities—royalty and headship—are traced through the male. Although distorted by humans, this follows Bible headship, described at 1 Corinthians 11:3. As we will see, the biological distinction of male and female lies with the y chromosome. This chromosome might appear in danger. What danger? What does it imply? Humans and Heredity [caption id="attachment_15979" align="alignright" width="344"] Unraveling the DNA of an X-Chromosome.[/caption] Every human organism, though largely similar, displays varying family and individual traits. The information “portfolio” lies in certain macromolecules called DNA. These macromolecules are contained in tiny structures—genes—which are themselves contained in 23 pairs of heredity bearing…
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