Sesame Street Unveils Ameera, Muppet Girl In Wheelchair To Inspire Disabled Kids

When you think of Sesame Street, you might envision a place where everyone’s singing and dancing without a care in the world, and nothing ever goes wrong.

This is a utopian land that’s far from the realities of many kids in real life, and over the years, the long-running children’s series has set out to rewrite its stories so younger viewers would find a character or experience they can connect with.

The newest muppet on the block is Ameera, an eight-year-old green puppet who has a spinal cord injury and now gets around with a wheelchair or crutches.

In spite of physical restrictions, Ameera continues to play basketball, one of her favorite sports. Being passionate about science, she’s also possibly one of the smartest kids in the neighborhood.

Ameera is witty and inquisitive, according to Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s educational nonprofit. “She’s everyone’s favorite comedian, and her great sense of humor serves her well as a natural leader who encourages others with her bright personality,” it adds. “Sometimes, Ameera gets too wrapped up in her own ideas and forgets to notice everyone else’s, but she always remembers that play and learning are most fun when she includes her friends’ ideas too.”

Sesame Workshop endeavors to provide early childhood education to kids affected by global crises. As such, Ameera will first appear on Ahlan Simsim (or Welcome Sesame), the Middle Eastern and North African edition of the show.

On a broader scale, Ameera will serve as a character that 240 million children with disabilities worldwide can look up to, in addition to encouraging young girls to get into STEM careers. And although she is not a refugee, she will shed light on the everyday experiences of displaced children, including Rohingya Sesame Street muppets Noor and Aziz.

Ameera’s character came to life with the help of inclusivity and disability advisors from the Middle East and the US, as reported by Mashable. Among them are occupational therapists, inclusive early educational experts, disability technical specialists, and people with disabilities.

Source: DesignTAXI

Scientists Produce Embryos In Race To Save Northern White Rhino From Extinction

Scientists working to save the northern white rhino from extinction have produced two more embryos of the world’s most endangered mammal, increasing the number of viable embryos produced so far to five.

There are no known living males and neither of the two remaining northern white rhinos on Earth – a mother and her daughter living in Kenya – can carry a calf to term.

Scientists hope to implant embryos made from the rhinos’ egg cells and frozen sperm from deceased males into surrogate mothers from a more abundant rhino species.

The work of the BioRescue research team has been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic as international travel restrictions delayed some of its procedures.

“2020 was really a hard test for all of us, but giving up is not the mentality of any true scientist,” BioRescue leader Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany told Reuters.

“Christmas gave us a present: two embryos. And we are extremely happy about that.”

The five embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at a laboratory in Cremona, in Italy’s Lombardy region, waiting to be transferred into a surrogate mother.

The team hopes to be able to deliver its first northern white rhino calf in three years and a wider population in the next two decades.

“We are under time constraint because we want really a transfer of the social knowledge from the last existing northern white rhinos to a calf,” Hildebrandt said.

The northern white rhino used to live in several countries in east and central Africa, but its numbers fell sharply due to poaching.

Source: Reuters

This Antlion Is A Devious, Cold-Blooded Killer

Antlions will hide under the sand, undetected, and then emerge to ambush a nearby insect. But it’s the sheer nonchalance with which they discard the corpse afterwards that is especially chilling.

Depending on the species and where it lives, the larva either conceals itself under leaves, debris or pieces of wood, hides in a crack or digs a funnel-shaped pit in loose material. As ambush predators, catching prey is risky because food arrives unpredictably and, for those species that make traps, maintaining one is costly. The larvae therefore have low metabolic rates and can survive for long periods without food. They can take several years to complete their life-cycle; they mature faster with plentiful food, but can survive for many months without feeding. In cooler climates they dig their way deeper and remain inactive during the winter.

Memories Can Be Injected and Survive Amputation and Metamorphosis

The study of memory has always been one of the stranger outposts of science. In the 1950s, an unknown psychology professor at the University of Michigan named James McConnell made headlines—and eventually became something of a celebrity—with a series of experiments on freshwater flatworms called planaria. These worms fascinated McConnell not only because they had, as he wrote, a “true synaptic type of nervous system” but also because they had “enormous powers of regeneration…under the best conditions one may cut [the worm] into as many as 50 pieces” with each section regenerating “into an intact, fully-functioning organism.” 

In an early experiment, McConnell trained the worms à la Pavlov by pairing an electric shock with flashing lights. Eventually, the worms recoiled to the light alone. Then something interesting happened when he cut the worms in half. The head of one half of the worm grew a tail and, understandably, retained the memory of its training. Surprisingly, however, the tail, which grew a head and a brain, also retained the memory of its training. If a headless worm can regrow a memory, then where is the memory stored, McConnell wondered. And, if a memory can regenerate, could he transfer it? 

Shockingly, McConnell reported that cannibalizing trained worms induced learning in untrained planaria. In other experiments, he trained planaria to run through mazes and even developed a technique for extracting RNA from trained worms in order to inject it into untrained worms in an effort to transmit memories from one animal to another. Eventually, after his retirement in 1988, McConnell faded from view, and his work was relegated to the sidebars of textbooks as a curious but cautionary tale. Many scientists simply assumed that invertebrates like planaria couldn’t be trained, making the dismissal of McConnell’s work easy. McConnell also published some of his studies in his own journal, The Worm Runner’s Digest, alongside sci-fi humor and cartoons. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of interest in attempting to replicate his findings.

David Glanzman, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has another promising research program that recently struck a chord reminiscent of McConnell’s memory experiments—although, instead of planaria, Glanzman’s lab works mostly with aplysia, the darling mollusk of neuroscience on account of its relatively simple nervous system. (Also known as “sea hares,” aplysia are giant, inky sea slugs that swim with undulating, ruffled wings.)

Source: Nautilus

NASA astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble respond to #BroomstickChallenge, say that it can actually be conducted on any given day; ‘It’s just physics’

Broomstick-Challenge.jpg

“Did you do the Broomstick Challenge yesterday?” Noble asks in the video. “Well, turns out you can do it again today.”

“It’s just physics,” Drew added.

The NASA Earth twitter account also weighed in saying “There’s no special gravity that only affects brooms, but the Moon’s gravity creates tides on Earth.”

Source: NBC News