Evidence that birds sleep while flying

We already know that some birds can fly for weeks or even months at a time without landing, but this remarkable ability has raised a few questions about how, if at all, these creatures find the time to sleep. In the first study of its kind, scientists have monitored the brain activity of seabirds in flight and discovered that they regularly squeeze in some shut-eye while out searching for food, though how they perform on such little rest remains a little unclear.

If there was ever a bird well-suited to sleeping on the job, it might be the frigatebird, a large seabird that scans the ocean surface for flying fish and squid. Recent research has shown that these elite gliders can stay aloft for months by hitching rides on clouds and are among the longest-flying creatures in the seabird world. But even frigatebirds need their sleep, so scientists have been perplexed as to how they maintain performance without regularly coming down for rest…

To find some conclusive answers, an international team of scientists hooked up frigatebirds nesting on the Galápagos Island to a device to monitor electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and head movement during flight. This recorder was carted along for 10-day flights across 3,000 km (1,864 mi) with a GPS module on the bird’s back to monitor their position and altitude.

The data showed that during the day, the birds remained awake while searching for food, so business as usual. But when the sun went down and the birds soared, the awake EEG pattern changed to a slow-wave sleep pattern, sometimes for minutes at a time. This SWS often occurred in one half of the brain, but interestingly, sometimes in both hemispheres at the same time, suggesting that unihemispheric sleep isn’t critical to maintaining aerodynamic control.

Compared to how frigatebirds sleep on land, however, the SWS sleep mode was more frequent. By tracking the head movements of the birds, the researchers found that as they circle on rising air currents while sleeping in this way, it allowed them to keep one eye open in the direction they were turning.

The big surprise was that the frigatebirds were only sleeping for 42 minutes per day — compared to the usual 12 hours a day on land. Working out comparisons with what we know about sleep and sleep deprivation in other species – like us – will be part of where these studies will be going next.

Federal judge crushes “moderate Republican” John Kasich’s latest attempt to defund Planned Parenthood

A federal judge on Friday blocked an Ohio law that would have defunded Planned Parenthood — by kicking it out of state grant programs for public health and education services, like maternal health and HIV prevention programs.

“Today’s ruling supports the rights of all Ohioans to access needed health care,” said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, in a statement. “This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care.”

…Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he will appeal, blah, blah, blah…Not only was Planned Parenthood a major provider of these health services that couldn’t easily be replaced but the bill was also written so poorly that it could have accidentally defunded Ohio’s public health departments in the process of trying to go after Planned Parenthood…

The law would have blocked Planned Parenthood, and other entities connected to abortion services in almost any way, from receiving funding for:

The “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” program that supports mostly black mothers before, during, and after pregnancy. The program is aimed at reducing abysmally high infant mortality rates in Ohio, which are the highest in the nation for black Americans

Several federal programs that help low-income people access breast exams, Pap smears, and screenings and treatment for STIs and HIV

Funds from the Violence Against Women Act to provide education for high school–age youth, including youth who are in jail or foster care, on domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and healthy relationships

“The defunding law in Ohio would have stopped Planned Parenthood from providing HIV tests, cancer screenings, and assistance for poor mothers with newborn infants,” said Kellie Copeland, president of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio…

Attorney General DeWine did claim — falsely, as it turned out — that Planned Parenthood improperly disposed of fetal remains…The state of Ohio was forced to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees as a result.

Couldn’t happen to a more representative leader of liars and bigots. America’s conservative politicians – mostly led by Republican godly pretenders like John Kasich – specialize in a War on Women that ranges from rationalizing inequality in wages to blocking access to education, health and well-being.

The Alien Megastructure gets weirder and weirder

Last fall, a little-known star called KIC 8462852 became our planetary obsession when astronomers said that its erratic flickering could be the result of an alien megastructure. Further observation of Tabby’s Star yielded no signs of aliens, but the sudden dips in luminosity continue to defy explanation. Now, things just got a bit weirder.

In an unpublished paper posted today to arXiv, Caltech astronomer Ben Montet and Joshua Simon of the Carnegie Institute describe the results of a new photometric analysis of Tabby’s Star, which was first flagged in the Kepler Space Telescope’s database by citizen science astronomers.

By carefully examining all the full-frame images collected during Kepler’s observational campaign, Montet and Simon discovered something astonishing: Not only did the star’s light output occasionally dip by up to 20 percent, its total stellar flux diminished continuously over the course of four years…

“The part that really surprised me was just how rapid and non-linear it was,” Montet told Gizmodo. “We spent a long time trying to convince ourselves this wasn’t real. We just weren’t able to.”…

RTFA for possible explanations – none of which are currently provable. Some are really interesting.

Scary for folks who can’t deal with the insignificance of our species. 🙂