Astronaut blindness explained, hairy palms still mystery

NASA ruled out masturbation after removing the bathroom door did not affect vision impairment rates.
NASA ruled out masturbation after removing the bathroom door did not reduce vision impairment rates.

It’s not exactly well advertised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on LinkedIn, but extended stays on the International Space Station — or in micro-gravity in general — may irreparably damage your vision. Two-thirds of astronauts spending six months or longer on the ISS now suffer from permanently blurry vision. Unsurprisingly, this “blindness” is fluid-related; surprisingly, it’s from brain fluids, not … idle hands.

We already know that fluid behaves differently in zero-G. What we didn’t realize is that, given enough time, the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull’s brain cavity flows willy-nilly and can eventually press on the backs of the eyeballs enough that they flatten a bit. And changing the shape of the eye even a little is enough to impair the ability to focus.

At the moment, NASA has no plan to prevent this as there’s no way to control where fluid flows within the skull. The only current possibilities are either shorter stays or inventing artificial gravity — which introduces its own problem:

Nobody installed seatbelts onboard the ISS.
Nobody installed seat belts onboard the ISS.

Attack of the vision-enhanced praying mantises

Once again, science has made it another step closer to delivering us to our eternal foes, the animals.

Researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K. have, for some reason, affixed 3D glasses to praying mantises. You read that correctly. That’s not one of those outlandish throwaway lines we add for comedic effect, it’s real. Scientists created the world’s smallest 3D glasses for praying mantises to find out how three-dimensional vision developed, which they claim could lead to vision-related advances.

Or it can give the bugs access to technology they should have never known about in the first place, inspiring them to weaponize it and use it against us.

You think they can see altruism in their eyes?

Scientists have discovered that locusts literally look where they’re going, and this discovery about the importance of visual input may mean that bugs are a lot smarter than we thought they were. Literally (that second literally is courtesy of Jeremy Clarkson).

That is not good news in the War on Animals.

It’s being reported from researchers at Cambridge University in the UK that locusts have been observed climbing ladder-like structures to investigate whether or not they used vision to guide them. The fact that they did means that they’re displaying a level of visual brain processing previously believed to be too great for insects, according to the study’s Dr. Jeremy Niven:

The visual control of limb placement in the locusts suggests that this can be achieved by much smaller-brained insects. It’s another example of insects performing a behavior we previously thought was restricted to relatively big-brained animals with sophisticated motor control, such as humans, monkeys or octopuses.

Next up, we expect Cambridge scientists to probably set up a chess match between an octopus and a locust to decide which is more intelligent. Whoever wins that game, we all lose. Also, the octopus will probably try to squirm out of match. After all, it is in its nature.