Courtesy Twin Cities NaturalistIt may not feel like it but rest assured, this is December. Check out this week's Phenology Roundup where professional naturalist Kirk Mona of Twin Cities Naturalist discusses what was seen around the Twin Cities area in the past week.
Phenology is the science of the seasons. It looks at how and when nature changes according to seasonal climatic conditions.
A while back I blogged about the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and its possible removal from the endangered species list. The designation would play a role in the development that could take place in the mouse's habitat. Well, the little fellow is in the news again, with the designation of wildlife areas as critical habitat for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. Good luck little fella!
Three US scientists have successfully simulated a mouse’s brain (or at least half of a mouse’s brain) using IBM’s BlueGene L supercomputer .
You probably think something as small as half a mouse’s brain wouldn’t take much computer power to simulate it, but you’d be wrong.
James Frye, Rajagopal Ananthanarayanan, and Dharmendra S Modha, from the IBM Almaden Research Lab and the University of Nevada detailed the process in a short paper entitled "Towards Real-Time, Mouse-Scale Cortical Simulations", and reported that the model puts “tremendous constraints on computation, communication and memory capacity of any computer platform”.
Half a typical mouse’s brain contains more than 8 million neurons connected with over 8,000 synapses. The BlueGene L supercomputer used 4096 processors each of which used 256MB of memory to create half a virtual mouse brain that had 8,000 neurons with up to 6,300 synapses. And despite all that massive computing power, the complex simulation only lasted 10 seconds at one-tenth the speed in real life.
In other, smaller tests the research trio reported seeing activity with characteristics of thought patterns observed in actual mouse brains, as well as nerves in the simulated synapses firing in the same way they do in nature.
Of course this is only the beginning. For future tests the researchers hope to speed up the simulations and make them more neurobiologically realistic.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that mice sing.
Scientists already knew that mice make ultrasonic sounds-squeaks that are too high-pitched for us to hear without special equipment. But these scientists used microphones and computer software to study the squeaks of 45 male mice.
The researchers separated the squeaks into types of syllables based on how quickly the pitch rose or fell. The mice "sang" about 10 syllables per second. And almost all of the mice repeated sequences of syllables in clear patterns. None of the mice are Marvin Gaye, exactly, but their noises meet the scientific definition of song. (People, birds, whales, and some insects do the same thing.)
Researchers still have to figure out WHY the mice sing. Because the mice sang in response to pheremones-chemicals that transmit messages between animals of the same species-one guess is that male mice sing to impress females.