Zombie Dogs

(Guest post by Nick Withers.)

Dogs on Auckland beaches are being killed by tetrodotoxin, a lethal poison occurring naturally in puffer fish. Properly prepared puffer fish can serve a couple of purposes. As Fugu it is a Japanese delicacy. In powdered form it is part of a powder used to make zombies.

Ethnobiologist Wade Daviss suggested its use in “zombie powder” after going undercover in Haiti,  “dramatised” in the wonderfully b-grade The Serpent and the Rainbow. The powder would render the victim in a state almost indistinguishable from death. Once the “living corpse” was recovered from the grave datura and other substances were used to keep the “zombie” in a state of dosile slavery.

It should be noted that while head shots will also kill this type of zombie, the preferred methodology in dealing with them is to stop feeding them the drugs.

So there you have it… either the canines are experimenting with Japanese cuisine, or its zombie dog time.

“Reports, incredible as they may seem, are not the results of mass hysteria.”

Lie-Bot

An interesting find by Science Blogs. Basically, a bunch of robots were programmed to work together in finding a resource and avoiding a “poison”. They would wander around looking for the resource, and when they found it, they were initially programmed to turn on their light to indicate to other robots that the resource was over there. Then they’d gather around it.

The programming was a little bit variable, though, and would change as time went on. Every so often the most successful resource-getting poison-avoiding robots were “mated”, making that behaviour selected for. While the robots got more successful by working together, they began to get crowded out of the resource when they let other robots know where it was.

So 60% of them learned to lie. They’d leave their light off when they found the resource, hoarding it for themselves. That was the randomly generated behaviour that was selected for.

It would be interesting, however, to see the same experiment done on a larger scale, with competing groups of robots, rather than competing individuals, where the groups were rated collectively and selected for on that basis. I suspect cooperative behaviour would trump the liars.

Japanese scientists create robot [insert word here]

The Japanese are certainly robot crazy. The latest creation is the skiing robot. Prior to that we have the hybrid insect robot and the dancing cuttlefish robot. They are also working on creating more human-like robots. However they played little part in the robotic recreation of Philip K Dick, which apparently escaped the captivity of its masters and the Black Iron Prison when it went missing in 2006.

All of this has been rendered obsolete of course by the invention of the robogeisha.

Intelligent Slime Kicks all of the Arse

Here’s a pretty goddam awesome story about slime moulds learning and anticipating. These Japanese scientists have found that they can hit the mould with a cold snap on every hour, and after a while, holy shit, the thing learns to expect it. It learns and remembers. Keep in mind: slime moulds have no brain.

Actually, this isn’t terribly new, as there have previously been stories about slime moulds solving mazes and controlling robots. The robot story is particularly cool because the first thing the light-sensitive slime does is use its new six legs to scuttle the fuck off to a dark place.

Plus, how cool does that photo look? Hat-tip to Discover‘s Top 100 Stories of 2008.

Everybody’s Got AIDS

Interestingly, AIDS is also Aids in the Oxford Dictionary. No, that’s not interesting. That’s boring. And frustrating.

Anyway, gangsta geneticists from the South Sweden Massif are a step closer to a vaccine for HIV. How’d they do it? Oh, just took a gene from the HIV virus and transferred it into a bacterium, which then passed it on to a MOTHERFUCKING PLANT, which started producing the BITCHIN’ HIV-IDENTIFYING PROTEIN, and which they then FED TO GODDAM MICE and the mice started PRODUCING ANTIBODIES, HOMES.

In other news, studies have shown that making science stories a little more gangsta increases their palatability.

Back to the original news, the plan is to feed the world the HIV vaccine in fucking carrots. Holy shit. Life is cool.

I wonder how much those carrots will cost.