Tag Archives: Netherlands

The First Ever Chimp Fashion Trend: Sticking Blades of Grass In the Ear

A group of chimps at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust sanctuary in Zambia have a new fashion statement: sticking a blade of grass in one ear.

Chimps are highly intelligent and are known to use grass to fish for termites, but after extensive study, scientists have concluded that there is no discernible purpose for what they’re calling the “grass-in-ear behavior”.

It all started back in 2010 when an older female named Julie started sporting a long blade of grass from her ear. Julie was a sort of role model for the other 11 chimps in her group, and they paid close attention to her strange new behavior.

Julie, the chimp who started the fad. Click to enlarge

After repeatedly observing the behavior for a while, other chimps in the group began to join. Although Julie has since passed away, seven of the 11 chimps from her group still sport blades of grass from their ears today.

Edward van Leeuwen is a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in the Netherlands who led a study to examine the odd behavior. Him and his colleagues spent a year observing four groups of chimps at the Chimfunshi orphanage.

Despite the fact that all four groups lived in the same grassy environment, only Julie’s group exhibited the “grass-in-ear behavior”. After extensive observation, van Leeuwen concluded that there were no genetic or ecological purposes for the behavior- it had simply become part of the group’s culture.

Other chimps from the group adjusting the blades of grass in their ears. Click to enlarge

“The chimps would pick a piece of grass, sometimes fiddle around with it as to make the piece more to their liking, and not until then try and stick it in their ear with one hand… Most of the time, the chimps let the grass hanging out of their ear during subsequent behavior like grooming and playing, sometimes for quite prolonged times. As you can imagine, this looks pretty funny,”

says van Leeuwen. He also pointed out that the behavior isn’t much different then the fads that emerge amongst humans, comparing it to, “wearing earrings or certain kinds of hats.”

Read the original story from The Dodo here.

This 19-Year Old Has A Plan To Clean Up Half of The Pacific Garbage Patch In 10 Years (Video)

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of the United States, lies the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It’s tough to say exactly how widespread the island of plastic is; estimates range from 270,000 square miles (slightly larger than Texas), up to 15,000,000 square miles (twice the size of the United States).

An estimation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Click to enlarge

Its real size is probably somewhere in the middle, but even at the lowest estimates, the island is massive and only continues to grow every day.

Enter Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old entrepreneur and conservationist from the Netherlands. Boyan has come up with a simple yet ingenious way to clean up half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years, using the ocean’s currents to his advantage. Check out the video below to learn more about it.

Slat claims that half of the garbage patch will be equal to 70 million kilograms of plastic- that’s more than 77,000 tons.

These plastics could be used in a number of ways- we recently reported on the world’s first waste-to-biofuel facility, which converts even non-recyclable plastics into methanol, a useful building block for chemicals and a component of many gasoline blends today.

Slat first publicized his idea at a TEDx conference in his home town of Delft in the Netherlands. You can watch it below to learn more about the details of his plan.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five trash patches around the world. These patches form in gyres, which are basically massive vortexes that form as a result of ocean currents and prevailing winds.

All the floating trash that ends up in our waterways will eventually end up in one of these gyres.

The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

If Boyan’s idea proves successful, we could use it worldwide to battle these ever-growing trash islands, while simultaneously turning this trash back into biofuels.

Boyan was recently named one of Intel’s 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide. Check out the homepage of his company The Ocean Clean Up.

If you’re curious, here’s a great graphic that shows how long it takes for various pieces of garbage to decompose in the ocean. Click the image to see the full size version.

Are The Netherlands’ Glow In The Dark Roads The Future?

On a half a kilometer stretch of highway in the Netherlands, glow in the dark roads have replaced streetlights for the first time. The idea, which won Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards, was first promised by design firm Studio Roosegarde in 2012.

The road markers have been re-painted using a photo-luminising powder (co-developed with Heijmans, a road construction company), which charges up from sunlight during the day and glows for about 8 hours.

A picture of the new roads posted to twitter by @MaximeVerhagen

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, if Daan Roosegarde, the studio’s founder, has his way. Here he is talking about his idea back in 2012:

“One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”

These futuristic ideas include weather markings, such as snowflakes on the road, that would appear when the pavement dropped below a certain temperature. Here’s a few concept pictures from the studio.

Click an image to enlarge.

Heijmans is looking to expand the project, but as of yet they haven’t secured any new contracts. How well the photo-luminising paint holds up to wear and weather is yet to be seen. Read more from Wired here.

Neurosurgeons Just Performed the First Successful Implant of a 3-D Printed Skull

A young woman in the Netherlands had spent all her 22 years suffering from a bone disorder that increased the thickness of her skull.

At the time of the procedure, it was 5cm thick (normal skulls are around 1.5cm). The extra bone was putting pressure on her brain, causing vision problems and chronic headaches.

So a team of brain surgeons from University Medical Centre in Utrecht in the Netherlands decided to attempt a bold procedure: removing the top half of her skull and replacing it with one they had created using a 3-D printer.

The operation took 23 long hours, and was lead by Dr. Bon Verweij, who said,

“It was only a matter of time before critical brain functions were compromised and she would die.”

The printed skull before implantation

That was 3 months ago, but the hospital has just recently released details of the procedure. Since the operation, the patient has fully regained her eyesight, and is symptom-free and back to work.

The university claims that this operation is the first of its kind.

Read the full story from Wired here.

All images courtesy of UMC Utrecht.

Amazing: Man Finds Himself in an Audience Full of People Who He Saved From The Nazis as Children (Video)

In the winter of 1938, 29-year old British stockbroker Nicholas Winton was headed for a Christmas skiing holiday in Switzerland when his friend Martin Blake, who was involved in Jewish refugee work in Czechoslovakia, called him to ask for help.

Not only did Winton help, he established an organization to aid the children of Jewish families that were being targeted by the Nazis. He then managed to secure passage for 669 children through the Netherlands to Britain, despite the fact that the Dutch had already officially closed their borders to Jewish refugees.

Winton never told anyone about his act of heroism. But in 1988, his wife discovered the book he had used to keep a record of all the children and managed to track some of them down…

Amsterdam Pays Its Alcoholics in Beer to Clean The Streets

After a long history of issues with the homeless alcoholics who roam the city streets and famous Oosterpark, often getting into altercations or harassing citizens who are out and about, Amsterdam decided to try out a creative solution to the issue.

Oosterpark, Amsterdam

For a full day of work, each worker gets 10 euros (around $13), a half pack of rolling tobacco and five beers: two for the morning before starting work, two for lunch (where they are also served a hot meal) and one for after their shift is complete. They start their day at 9:00am and usually finish around 3:30pm.

Speaking on the changes she has seen in the alcoholics since implementation of the program, director Gerrie Holterman (who heads the Rainbow Foundation project, as it’s known) noted that,

They’re no longer in the park, they drink less, they eat better and they have something to keep them busy during the day.”

The locals also seem happy with the change, and are friendly with the workers, greeting them in the streets. All of the participants do so voluntarily and, “are happy to be there”.

The effect the program has on the alcoholics’ actual drinking habits varies. Some of the workers say that after a busy day where they’ve already had five beers, they get off and don’t really feel like drinking much anymore. Others, unfortunately, take the 10 euros directly to the supermarket to buy more beer.

They all agree, however, that the added structure and consistency has definitely had a positive effect on their lives.

Read the full story here.

Downtown Amsterdam

Stomach Cells Naturally Revert To Stem Cells

Stomach Cells Naturally Revert To Stem Cells

(click link above for full story)

Stem Cell Switch

Stem Cells in Stomach (in green)


It’s long been known that the stomach naturally produces stem cells for the repair of internal/intestinal damage in the body, but,

“Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Utrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands report in the new study that a class of specialized cells in the stomach reverts to stem cells more often than they thought.”

They discovered that these specialized cells (known as “chief” cells because of their versatility in repairing different types of cells and tissues) often revert back into stem cells even when there is no apparent internal injury. Scientists are optimistic that this discovery may lead to them being able to make mature adult cells revert back to stem cells more easily. If this process could be perfected, doctors would be able to transform cells produced naturally in your body into stem cells to replace damaged or diseased tissues in your body when you were injured or ill.

The researchers are also looking into the possibility that the high potential for growth facilitated by these “easy-access” stem cells could contribute to cancers, specifically stomach cancer, in the body.