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Avocados can be cryogenically frozen and shipped to MARS, say experts who revived frozen shoots

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avocados can be cryogenically frozen and shipped to mars say experts who revived frozen shoots

Hollywood has suggested that space faring heroes living on Mars will have a menu of just potatoes, but scientists are working on a way to add avocados to the list.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have designed a method that cryopreserves the shoots and revive them later to grow a healthy plant.

The shoots are placed in an aluminum foil strip and then in a ‘cryotube’ before being stored in liquid nitrogen.

The team says it takes about 20 minutes for the shoots to recover and within two months, the plants regrew leaves.

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Researchers at the University of Queensland have designed a method that cryopreserves the shoots and revive them later to grow a healthy plant (pictured)

Researchers at the University of Queensland have designed a method that cryopreserves the shoots and revive them later to grow a healthy plant (pictured)

Researchers at the University of Queensland have designed a method that cryopreserves the shoots and revive them later to grow a healthy plant (pictured)

Professor Neena Mitter: ‘I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados – ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible.’

The team set out on this mission to find a solution to protect the world’s supplies of avocados, which are commonly face shortages throughout the year and around the world.

Mitter joked saying their work is not only about protecting the fruit, but also ‘ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed ‘avo’ on toast.’

This is the first time scientists have successfully created a cryopreservation method for avocados – something that has been in the works for more than 40 years.

Hollywood has suggested that space faring heroes living on Mars will have a menu of just potatoes, but scientists are working on a way to add avocados to the list (stock)

Hollywood has suggested that space faring heroes living on Mars will have a menu of just potatoes, but scientists are working on a way to add avocados to the list (stock)

Hollywood has suggested that space faring heroes living on Mars will have a menu of just potatoes, but scientists are working on a way to add avocados to the list (stock) 

University of Queensland PhD student Chris O’Brien, who developed the first critical steps, said:’ The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt – a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida.’

‘Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it’s an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period.’

Pictured is the move 'The Martian,' as Matt Damon's character is on Mars farming potatoes

Pictured is the move 'The Martian,' as Matt Damon's character is on Mars farming potatoes

Pictured is the move ‘The Martian,’ as Matt Damon’s character is on Mars farming potatoes 

Cryopreservation is typically used to freeze sperm and eggs, which is stored at -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the process has also been used on other plants including bananas, grape vines and apple.

O’Brien teamed up with Mitter and Dr. Raquel Folgado from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in California to perfect his technique.

They began with a clonal shoot tip developed from tissue culture propagation technology, which is a technique used to maintain plant cells.

This allowed up to 500 avocado plants to grow from just one shoot-tip.

However, O’Brien said the initial work resulted in the team sifting through brown mush.

The shoots are placed in an aluminum foil strip and then in a 'cryotube' before being stored in liquid nitrogen

The shoots are placed in an aluminum foil strip and then in a 'cryotube' before being stored in liquid nitrogen

The shoots are placed in an aluminum foil strip and then in a ‘cryotube’ before being stored in liquid nitrogen

The team says it takes about 20 minutes for the shoots to recover and within two months, the plants regrew leaves

The team says it takes about 20 minutes for the shoots to recover and within two months, the plants regrew leaves

The team says it takes about 20 minutes for the shoots to recover and within two months, the plants regrew leaves

‘There was no protocol so I experimented with priming the tips with Vitamin C, and used other pre-treatments like sucrose and cold temperature to prepare the cells – it was a question of trial and error to get the optimal mixture and correct time points,’ he said.

After some trial and error, the group placed the shoot tips on an aluminum foil strip.

This was key to allowing it to quickly cool and rewarm without becoming a slush.

And then the strips were put into ‘cryotubes’ that were stored in liquid nitrogen.

‘It takes about 20 minutes to recover them,’ Mr O’Brien said.

‘In about two months they have new leaves and are ready for rooting before beginning a life in the orchard.’

The team achieved 80 percent success in regrowing frozen Reed avocado plants and 60 percent with the Velvick cultivar.

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Algorithm trained with hundreds of zombie faces transforms selfies into blood thirsty undead corpses

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algorithm trained with hundreds of zombie faces transforms selfies into blood thirsty undead corpses

People across the world will soon put on scary makeup, terrifying masks and spooky costumes in honor of Halloween, but an algorithm is capable of transforming you into a flesh-eating zombie in just seconds.

The website, called MakeMeAZombie,’ stems from Toonify which transforms portraits into fun-loving cartoons, but has been redesigned to make users look like the undead.

The algorithm was trained on a sample of 300 pictures from the internet of people wearing zombie masks and makeup, which were then combined with images of traditional human faces to teach it how to map the ghoulish features.

The resulting image shows the person with angry, beady eyes, a mouth of rotten teeth and skin that appears to be decaying.

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An algorithm is capable of transforming you into a flesh eating zombie in just seconds, just as it made US President Donald Trump look like the undead

An algorithm is capable of transforming you into a flesh eating zombie in just seconds, just as it made US President Donald Trump look like the undead

An algorithm is capable of transforming you into a flesh eating zombie in just seconds, just as it made US President Donald Trump look like the undead

MakeMeAZombie is the brainchild of Josh Brown Kramer, who is a senior data science consultant for Lincoln-based medical AI developer Ocuvera, and has been working on the system for nearly one year.

The project required Kramer to pair 50,000 images of artificial intelligence generated human faces with corresponding zombie faces.

‘I initially started trying to turn people into dogs,’ Kramer told Silicon Prairie News, describing his project’s origin.

‘Then a friend of mine had the idea of doing zombies, which just sounded much cooler, and like it would be a lot of fun for Halloween.’

The website, called MakeMeAZombie,' stems from Toonify that transforms portraits into fun-loving cartoons, but has been redesigned to make users, or even the form Vice President Joe Bide,  look like the undead

The website, called MakeMeAZombie,' stems from Toonify that transforms portraits into fun-loving cartoons, but has been redesigned to make users, or even the form Vice President Joe Bide,  look like the undead

The website, called MakeMeAZombie,’ stems from Toonify that transforms portraits into fun-loving cartoons, but has been redesigned to make users, or even the form Vice President Joe Bide,  look like the undead

The algorithm was trained on a sample of 300 pictures from the internet of people wearing zombie masks and makeup, which were then combined with images of traditional human faces to teach it how to map the ghoulish features, such as the decaying features shown on Kim Kardashian West

The algorithm was trained on a sample of 300 pictures from the internet of people wearing zombie masks and makeup, which were then combined with images of traditional human faces to teach it how to map the ghoulish features, such as the decaying features shown on Kim Kardashian West

The algorithm was trained on a sample of 300 pictures from the internet of people wearing zombie masks and makeup, which were then combined with images of traditional human faces to teach it how to map the ghoulish features, such as the decaying features shown on Kim Kardashian West

He gathered a zombie data set of 300 images of people representing the living corpses from Google and Pintrest.

These images were then fed into the neural network StyleGan2, which is a system designed by NVIDIA – an American-based AI computing firm.

And finally, Kramer taught the algorithm how to map faces using 50,000 pairs of human and zombie faces.

‘I dumped 50,000 pairs of images — the first from the human StyleGAN2 generator, and the second with the same latent space representation, but passed through the zombie generator,’ Kramer explained on Reddit.

‘I then used Pix2PixHD to learn a mapping from the pairs.’

AI has been used to transform traditional images into nightmarish scenes for years, such as MIT’s innovation that generated creepy images from famous sights around the world.

The resulting image shows the person with angry, beady eyes, a mouth of rotten teeth and skin that appears to be decaying

The resulting image shows the person with angry, beady eyes, a mouth of rotten teeth and skin that appears to be decaying

The resulting image shows the person with angry, beady eyes, a mouth of rotten teeth and skin that appears to be decaying

Users simply upload a selfie or another image, such as the one of Elon Musk shown here, and MakeMeAZombie does the work in just seconds

Users simply upload a selfie or another image, such as the one of Elon Musk shown here, and MakeMeAZombie does the work in just seconds

Users simply upload a selfie or another image, such as the one of Elon Musk shown here, and MakeMeAZombie does the work in just seconds

The algorithm created by the team is making photographs of famous landmarks appear like something out of a horror film.

‘We use state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms to learn how haunted houses, or toxic cities look like,’ the researchers said.

‘Then, we apply the learnt style to famous landmarks and present you: AI-powered horror all over the world!’

The two main techniques used in the project, style transfer and generative adversarial networks, were published in papers last year.

The network typically consists of 10 to 30 stacked layers of artificial neurons and each image is fed into the input layer, which then talks to the next layer, until eventually the ‘output’ layer is reached.

The network’s ‘answer’ comes from this final output layer.

In doing this, the software builds up a idea of what it thinks an object looked like.

‘In the ‘generative adversarial network,’ part of the network will attempt to fool the other part by inventing fake data, which will be mistaken for training data.

In creating a network that works against itself, researchers believe it will eventually learn to be more precise in its output.

‘We use state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms to learn how haunted houses, or toxic cities look like,’ the researchers said.

‘Then, we apply the learnt style to famous landmarks and present you: AI-powered horror all over the world!’

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Scientists reveal how octopuses can ‘taste’ things by touching them

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scientists reveal how octopuses can taste things by touching them

Scientists have revealed how octopuses can ‘taste’ things by simply touching them with the suction cups on their tentacles. 

Sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups have adapted to react and detect molecules that don’t dissolve well in water, US researchers claim. 

These sensors, called ‘chemotactile receptors’, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it is touching and whether that object is prey. 

The chemotactile receptors send signals on to the creature’s nervous system to help the octopus smother prey or keep going in its hunt for food. 

Some marine invertebrates that octopuses prey on produce chemicals known as terpenoids, which as a defence or warning signal.

By detecting these signals with their tentacles and their chemotactile receptors, octopuses can also avoid toxic prey.  

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Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus's eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus's eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus’s eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

The eight suction-cup covered tentacles are essential for an octopus when foraging, but few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level. 

It turns out the molecules in the water and their aquatic ‘taste’ are also key to the hunting process. 

‘We think because the molecules do not solubilize well, they could, for instance, be found on the surface of octopuses’ prey and whatever the animals touch,’ said study author Nicholas Bellono at Harvard University. 

‘So, when the octopus touches a rock versus a crab, now its arm knows, “OK, I’m touching a crab because I know there’s not only touch but there’s also this sort of taste”.

‘We think that this is important because it could facilitate complexity in what the octopus senses and also how it can process a range of signals using its semi-autonomous arm nervous system to produce complex behaviors.’

Close-up of an octopus's suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don't dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it's touching and whether that object is prey

Close-up of an octopus's suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don't dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it's touching and whether that object is prey

Close-up of an octopus’s suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don’t dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it’s touching and whether that object is prey

About two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are located in its tentacles, which operate partially independently from the brain.  

That’s why a severed octopus arm can reach for, identify and grasp items for at least an hour after it has become detached from the body.

Bellono and colleagues had already shown that the California two-spot octopus (octopus bimaculoides) responds differently when its suckers touch a prey item versus another object. 

To learn more, the researchers looked more closely at the octopuses’ suckers to identify the discrete populations of chemotactile receptors. 

After isolating and cloning the receptors, they inserted them into frog eggs and in human cell lines to study their function in isolation. 

Nothing like these receptors exists in frog or human cells, so the cells act like closed vessels for the study of these receptors.

The researchers then exposed those cells to molecules such as extracts from octopus prey and others items to which these receptors are known to react. 

Some test subjects were water-soluble, like salts, sugars, amino acids, while others do not dissolve well. 

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

The team found that only the poorly soluble molecules – the ones that didn’t dissolve in water – activated the receptors.

Researchers then went back to the octopuses in their lab to see whether they too responded to those molecules by putting those same extracts on the floors of their tanks. 

They found the only substances the octopuses receptors responded to were a non-dissolving class of naturally occurring chemicals known as terpenoid molecules.

‘[The octopus] was highly responsive to only the part of the floor that had the molecule infused,’ Bellono said. 

This led the researchers to believe that the receptors they identified pick up on these types of molecules and help the octopus distinguish what it’s touching. 

‘With the semi-autonomous nervous system, it can quickly make this decision, “do I contract and grab this crab or keep searching?”‘ Bellono said. 

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals' arms may have minds of their own

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals' arms may have minds of their own

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals’ arms may have minds of their own

Researchers suggest further study is needed, given that a great number of unknown natural compounds could also stimulate these receptors.

‘We’re now trying to look at other natural molecules that these animals might detect,’ Bellono said.      

Similar receptor systems may occur in other cephalopods, the invertebrate family that also includes squids and cuttlefish.  

‘Not much is known about marine chemotactile behaviour and with this receptor family as a model system, we can now study which signals are important for the animal and how they can be encoded,’ said study author Lena van Giesen at Harvard University. 

‘These insights into protein evolution and signal coding go far beyond just cephalopods.’

The study has been published in the journal Cell.  

OCTOPUS TENTACLES CAN MAKE DECISIONS WITHOUT THE BRAIN 

Octopus suckers can initiate action in response to information they acquire from their environment.

The arms process sensory and motor information, and muster collective action in the peripheral nervous system, without waiting on commands from the brain.

‘The octopus’s arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it, said Dominic Sivitilli at the University of Washington in Seattle, US. 

‘So while the brain isn’t quite sure where the arms are in space, the arms know where each other are and this allows the arms to coordinate during actions like crawling locomotion.’

Of the octopus’s 500 million neurons, more than 350 million are in its eight arms. 

The arms need all that processing power to manage incoming sensory information, to move and to keep track of their position in space. 

Processing information in the arms allows the octopus to think and react faster, like parallel processors in computers. 

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals’ arms may have minds of their own.

An octopus arm that has been severed from its body will still move for at least an hour and can still has grabbing reflexes. 

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Nature: Ogre-faced spiders can hear without ears via their hairy legs

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nature ogre faced spiders can hear without ears via their hairy legs

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found.

Experts from the US found that the arachnids — named for their massive eyes, which provide great night vision — can pick up on both low and high frequency sound.

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Ogre-faced spiders — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia.

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

‘I actually put dental silicone over their eyes so they couldn’t see,’ said paper author and neuroethologist Jay Stafstrom of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.

‘And I found that when I put them back out into nature, they couldn’t catch prey from off the ground, but they could still catch insects from out of the air.’

‘So I was pretty sure these spiders were using a different sensory system to hunt flying insects.’

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects.

While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike — one which does not appear to rely on vision in order to be effective.

In lab tests, Dr Stafstrom and colleagues used electrodes placed in the spiders’ brains and legs to measure the arachnids’ neural responses to different tones.

The researchers found that the spiders could hear both low and high tone frequencies — reacting differently to each.

In fact, they determined that the ogre-faced creepy crawlies can hear sounds of up to 10 kilohertz in frequency — far higher than the sound of a walking or flying insect. 

‘When I played low tone frequencies — even from a distance — they would strike like they were hunting an insect, which they don’t do for higher frequencies,’ explained Dr Stafstrom.

‘And — the fact that we were able to do that from a distance, knowing we’re not getting up close and causing them to vibrate — that was key to knowing they can really hear,’ he added. 

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

 Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

‘I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they’re only good at detecting close vibrations,’ said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University.

‘Vibration detection works for sensing shaking of the web or ground, but detecting those airborne disturbances at a distance is the province of hearing.’

This, he added, ‘is what we do and what spiders do too, but they do it with specialized receptors, not eardrums.’

Hearing high frequencies may help the spiders avoid predators, the team explained.

‘If you give an animal a threatening stimulus, we all know about the fight or flight response. Invertebrates have that too, but the other “f” is “freeze.” That’s what these spiders do,’ said Professor Hoy.

‘They’re in a cryptic posture. Their nervous system is in a sleep state. But as soon as they pick up any kind of salient stimulus, boom, that turns on the neuromuscular system. It’s a selective attention system.’ 

'I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they're only good at detecting close vibrations,' said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

'I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they're only good at detecting close vibrations,' said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

‘I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they’re only good at detecting close vibrations,’ said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia. Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

With their initial study complete, the researchers are now looking to test to what extent the ogre-faced spiders have directional hearing — that is, the ability to tell exactly what direction a sound is coming from.

This ability could well explain how the arachnids can perform their acrobatic backwards hunting strikes without being able to see where they are going.

‘What I found really amazing is that to cast their net at flying bugs they have to do a half backflip and spread their web at the same time, so they’re essentially playing centerfield,’ added Professor Hoy.

‘Directional hearing is a big deal in any animal, but I think there are really going to be some interesting surprises from this spider.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Current Biology

IS A FEAR OF SPIDERS IN OUR DNA? 

Recent research has claimed that a fear of spiders is a survival trait written into our DNA.

Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the instinct to avoid arachnids developed as an evolutionary response to a dangerous threat, the academics suggest.

It could mean that arachnophobia, one of the most crippling of phobias, represents a finely tuned survival instinct.

And it could date back to early human evolution in Africa, where spiders with very strong venom have existed millions of years ago.

Study leader Joshua New, of Columbia University in New York, said: ‘A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.

‘Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.’

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