New "Devil Worm" Is Deepest-Living AnimalA "devil worm" has been discovered miles under the Earth—the deepest-living animal ever found, a new study says.
The new nematode species—called Halicephalobus mephisto partly for Mephistopheles, the demon of Faustian legend—suggests there's a rich new biosphere beneath our feet.
Before the discovery of the signs of the newfound worm at depths of 2.2. miles (3.6 kilometers), nematodes were not known to live beyond dozens of feet (tens of meters) deep. Only microbes were known to occupy those depths—organisms that, it turns out, are the food of the 0.5-millimeter-long worm.
"That sounds small, but to me it’s like finding a whale in Lake Ontario. These creatures are millions of times bigger than the bacteria they feed on," said study co-author Tullis Onstott, a geomicrobiologist at Princeton University in New Jersey.
"Shocking" Worm Evolved For Harsh Depths
Onstott and nematologist Gaetan Borgonie of Belgium's University of Ghent first discovered H. mephisto in the depths of a South African gold mine. But the team wasn't sure if the worms had been tracked in by miners or had come out of the rock.
To find out, Borgonie spent a year boring deep into mines for veins of water, retrieving samples and filtering them for water-dwelling nematodes. He scoured a total of 8,343 gallons (31,582 liters) until he finally found the worm in several deep-rock samples.
What's more, the team found evidence the worms have been there for thousands of years. Isotope dating of the water housing the worm placed it to between 3,000 and 12,000 years ago—indicating the animals had evolved to survive the crushing pressure and high heat of the depths.
"This discovery may not surprise passionate nematologists like Gaetan, but it’s certainly shocking to me," Onstott said.
"The boundary of multicellular life has been extended significantly into our planet."
Worm Inspires Search for Extreme Life
Onstott hopes the new devil worm will inspire others to search for complex life in the most extreme places—both on Earth and elsewhere.
"People usually think only bacteria could exist below the surface of a planet like Mars. This discovery says, Hold up there!" Onstott said.
"We can't negate the thought of looking for little green worms as opposed to little green microbes." - NatGeo
Chinese teen sells his kidney for an iPad 2
The 17-year-old boy, identified only by his surname, "Zheng", confessed to his mother that he had sold the kidney after spotting an online advertisement offering cash to anyone prepared to become an organ donor.
"I wanted to buy an iPad 2, but I didn't have the money," the boy told Shenzhen TV in the southern province of Guangdong, "When I surfed the internet I found an advert posted online by agent saying they were able to pay RMB20,000 to buy a kidney." After negotiations, the boy travelled north to the city of Chenzhou in Hunan Province where the kidney was removed at a local hospital which discharged him after three days, paying a total of RMB22,000 for the organ.
Trading organs online is a common practice in China, despite repeated attempts by China's government to stamp out the practice. Last year Japanese television reported that a group of "transplant tourists" had paid £50,000 to receive new kidneys in China.
According to official statistics more than a million people in China need a transplant every year, but less than 10,000 receive organs, driving an almost unstoppable black-market organ trade that enriches brokers, doctors and corrupt government officials.
The boy, who has suffered complications following the surgery, returned home but was unable to keep what he had done from his mother.
"When he came back, he had a laptop and a new Apple handset," his mother, identified as Miss Liu, told the station, showing off the livid red scar where her son's kidney was removed, "I wanted to know how he had got so much money and he finally confessed that he had sold one of his kidneys."
The mother took the son back to Chenzhou to report the crime to the police, however, the mobiles of the three agents that Zheng had contacted were all switched off.
The hospital, which admitted contracting out its urology department to a private businessman, denied any knowledge of the surgery.
The case, which caused an online furore, was cited by some as an extreme example of the rampant materialism of modern China.
Thousands of comments were posted on internet discussion groups, with many lamenting the lack of rule of law in China and the "immorality" of the new, 'capitalist' China.
"This is a failure of education, the first purpose of which is to 'propagate morality'," said one comment on Hong Kong's Phoenix TV website, "This teenager's stupid behaviour is a manifestation of his radically materialistic values." "To sell a kidney in order to buy consumer goods? What vanity!" added another, "It is undeniable that modern Chinese teenagers' morality is declining. This is something we must all think about."
Apple products like the iPhone and the iPad are in huge demand in China, and are seen as a badge of wealth and sophistication by young consumers.
Last month scuffles broke out among desperate shoppers outside several Beijing Apple Stores as they queued to buy the newly launched iPad2 and white iPhone4. - telegraph
Russian who buried himself alive dies by mistake
A Russian man has died after persuading a friend to bury him alive for a night, hoping it would bring him "good luck".
The victim dug a hole in a garden in the eastern city of Blagoveshchensk and climbed into an improvised coffin, with holes for air pipes, taking a mobile phone and a bottle of water with him.
His friend covered the coffin with earth and then left, after the buried man phoned to say he was fine.
The next morning, he returned to find his friend dead, investigators said.
The 35-year-old victim had believed that burying himself alive for a night would bring him luck the rest of his life.
"According to his friend, the man wanted to test his endurance and insistently asked his friend to help him spend the night buried," said Alexei Lubinsky, a senior aide to the region's chief investigator.
"We know that the victim was a computer programmer and that he has a small child."
The coffin was covered with soil to a depth of about 20cm (eight inches), Mr Lubinsky said.
He speculated that heavy rainfall overnight could have blocked the air supply to the man trapped inside.
The superstitious victim was probably influenced by reading stories about self-burial on the internet, investigators said.
In a bizarre trend, numerous Russian bloggers write of undergoing supervised self-burial. State newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta has even run a feature on the practice.
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg, in Moscow, says it is not the first time this has happened in Russia.
Last summer a man in the north-western Vologda region persuaded his friend to bury him in the ground - to help him overcome his fear of death.
He was found dead an hour and a half later, crushed by the weight of the earth. - BBC
Human Brain Limits Twitter Friends to 150
Back in early 90s, the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar began studying the social groups of various kinds of primates. Before long, he noticed something odd.
Primates tend to maintain social contact with a limited number of individuals within their group. But here's the thing: primates with bigger brains tended to have a bigger circle of friends. Dunbar reasoned that this was because the number of individuals a primate could track was limited by brain volume.
Then he did something interesting. He plotted brain size against number of contacts and extrapolated to see how many friends a human ought to be able to handle. The number turned out to be about 150.
Since then, various studies have actually measured the number of people an individual can maintain regular contact with. These all show that Dunbar was just about spot on (although there is a fair spread in the results).
What's more, this number appears to have been constant throughout human history--from the size of neolithic villages to military units to 20th century contact books.
But in the last decade or so, social networking technology has had a profound influence on the way people connect. Twitter, for example, vastly increases the ease with which we can communicate with and follow others. It's not uncommon for tweeters to follow and be followed by thousands of others.
So it's easy to imagine that social networking technology finally allows humans to surpass the Dunbar number.
Not so say Bruno Goncalves and buddies at Indiana University. They studied the network of links created by 3 million Twitter users over 4 years. These tweeters sent each a whopping 380 million tweets.
But how to define friendship on Twitter. Goncalves and co say it's not enough simply to follow or be followed by somebody for there to be a strong link.
Instead, there has to be a conversation, an exchange of tweets. And these conversation have to be regular to be a sign of a significant social bond, so occasional contacts don't count.
Goncalves and pals used these rules to reconstruct the social network of all 3 million tweeters and studied how these networks evolve.
It turns out that when people start tweeting, their number of friends increases until they become overwhelmed. Beyond that saturation point, the conversations with less important contacts start to become less frequent and the tweeters begin to concentrate on the people they have the strongest links with.
So what is the saturation point? Or, in other words, how many people can tweeters maintain contact with before they get overwhelmed? The answer is between 100 and 200, just as Dunbar predicts.
"This finding suggests that even though modern social networks help us to log all the people with whom we meet and interact, they are unable to overcome the biological and physical constraints that limit stable social relations," say Goncalves and co.
The bottom line is this: social networking allows us to vastly increase the number of individual we can connect with. But it does nothing to change our capability to socialise. However hard we try, we cannot maintain close links with more than about 150 buddies.
And if Dunbar is correct, that's the way it'll stay until somebody finds a way to increase human brain size. - technologyreview