The Issus Bug’s “Mechanical” Gears


Well Wonderguests, Nature has done it again! Humans with microscopes have recently discovered the use of organic moving gears on a life form. This find proves that, while humans are a resourceful bunch, the natural process of evolution has accomplished a great deal more than we previously thought. In this instance a clock-like mechanism was first created by a creature other than humans.

Related article: Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears

To find these mechanical gears we have to take a close – very close- look at the Issus insect. This little bugger is most common in Europe and the surrounding area. It spends a lot of time living off of the precious phloem sap from plants like the European climbing Ivy. Generally speaking, the Issus are considered to be nondescript and rather uninteresting but, if you look closely, you’ll find a whole lot more than you expected. Specifically the use of mechanical gears. If you expect to find these gears on just any of the Issus insects you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The Issus nymphs, or insect “children,” use the gears in a similar sort of way that people use training wheels to ride bikes. At a certain point they no longer need them for balance. From the published abstract in Science magazine:

The nymphs, but not adults, have a row of cuticular gear (cog) teeth around the curved medial surfaces of their two hindleg trochantera. The gear teeth on one trochanter engaged with and sequentially moved past those on the other trochanter during the preparatory cocking and the propulsive phases of jumping. Close registration between the gears ensured that both hindlegs moved at the same angular velocities to propel the body without yaw rotation. At the final molt to adulthood, this synchronization mechanism is jettisoned.

These gears encourage proper jumping from the adolescent Issus bug. Without the organic apparatus, the nymphs would rotate uncontrollably along their y-axis (see Yaw Rotation). This would cause the Issus younglings to land facing a different direction.

The strangest part is how effective the gears are! From the University of Cambridge website:

The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.  Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears – essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.

Related Article: Surprises of the Amazon

To get a better idea of exactly how these gears work, check out this video! It truly is amazing that such a mechanism can exist in an organic setting.



It Says Organic: Does That Mean It’s Non GMO?

non GMO food products

USDA certified organic non GMO Wheat

GMO or non GMO? That is the question….

Lately, GMO products have been hit with some bad publicity. I recently went to a local grocery store in Palatine, Illinois and took a photo of this USDA Organic certified wheat package. In case you can’t see it, this is a whole wheat Gemelli brand wheat product with the fancy USDA Organic logo. However, an organic label alone does not guarantee that you are getting a non GMO product.

What’s the Difference?

non gmo use graph

The agriculture industry has decided the answer to the question for you: “GMO or non GMO?” .

The difference is what each of these terms describe. The term organic is used to define how a product is grown. GMO and non GMO are adjectives that describe whether the product is genetically altered in some way. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. An organism that is genetically modified can still be grown organically.

GMO plants have their genetic code changed in a way deemed beneficial by scientists, not by nature.  Before 1997 the USDA Organic label did not specify whether or not the produce grown organically was non GMO or if GMO plants needed to be excluded from the definition of organic. Over the years the USDA has changed it’s stance.

The USDA government website states that,

USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use…

These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.

Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

These standards specifically state that USDA certified organic products are in fact non GMO products as well. This is not necessarily true for all organic standards and certainly has not been true at all times in the past.

According to,

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its draft National Organic Program rule. At this time, they proposed that organic allow the use of GMOs. This proposal was unacceptable to consumers, manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and basically anyone who had anything to do with organic.

The battle ended with consumers and farmers reigning victorious.

The final rule outlines that an organic operation has to document that it has not used GMOs and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with GMOs. Whether a product is labeled “100% organic,” “certified organic” (with an allowance of 5% non-organic ingredients) or “made with organic” (a minimum of 70% organic ingredients), none of the ingredients are permitted to use genetic engineering.

That means in a “made with organic” cereal containing 70 percent organic ingredients, the remaining 30 percent non-organic ingredients cannot be produced from genetic engineering. Providers of non-organic ingredients being used in organic products, must also be able to provide proof that their ingredients are non GMO.

So the USDA Organic certification on a product is the government’s guarantee that these products will contain only non GMO ingredients. If you want to avoid GMO products and go only for the non GMO, then this is as sure of a bet as you can get at the grocery store.

non gmo map

Want to go non GMO in he US? Good luck.

How To Tell If A Product is Non GMO

If you don’t want to buy exclusively USDA certified organic products but would still like to eat non GMO foods there is another way to go about your grocery shopping. It is common for produce to use short numbers called PLU codes, or price-look-ups, to indicate what kind of product is behind the label. It can be used to indicate manufacturer, color, etc. It is often used to indicate growing conditions. The major benefit of the PLU system is that each PLU code is unique to each product, regardless of where you buy it. This is key for those people going the non GMO route.

The PLU Code user guide states that:

The IFPS shall be responsible for deciding the assignment and definition of qualifying prefix digits
for international recognition. At present, only three digits have been allocated:

0 Applies to all non-qualified produce and is generally presented without the leading
“zero” digit.
8 Genetically modified
9 Organic

This means that if the PLU code is five digits the first digit indicates organic or genetically modified, but it is not mandatory for the producer to specify if they do not want to. If the PLU code is four digits, then PLU code will not indicate whether the product is GMO or non GMO. While it is not currently a requirement in the United States to label GMO produce, in the USA and Canada, food manufacturers are not allowed to label their food as 100% organic if any GMOs are used.  To be 100% certain that your food is organic: look for an organic label, a 9 at the beginning of a 5 digit PLU code, or just grown your own.



Sources: USDA says “organic” means “non GMO” Organic Agriculture National Organic Standard

International Federation of Produce Standards

IFPS- Produce PLU Codes User Guide

Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?

Organic Food Council- Certified Food Logos

Snopes- PLU Codes

All Tea Comes From the Same Plant

Green tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea, and all the rare in-betweens are actually the same plant. The difference is the way each tea is grown and prepared.  Harvest time, climate, altitude, plant part and method of drying all play a crucial role in the final product that results.

It’s  amazing that such subtle changes can alter a single plant so dramatically and change the way our taste buds respond with such a wide array differences.

In case you were interested, although I prefer buying loose leaf tea in bulk, my favorite brand of tea bag is Yogi Tea.  They are completely organic, extremely effective, and have a great variety to choose from.

Drop the soda, pick up the tea! (allow it to cool first)

All Tea Comes From the Same Plant: Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis lookin good! Camellia sinensis on the hill

Green tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea, and all the rare in-betweens are actually the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The difference is the way each tea is grown and prepared.

Related Article: Green Tea Power: Surprising Health Benefits

Harvest time, climate, altitude, plant part and method of drying all play a crucial role in the final product that results. Each tea variety is created using a unique combination of the aforementioned growing aspects. It’s  amazing that such subtle changes can alter a single plant so dramatically and change the way our taste buds respond with such a wide array of differences. Of course Camellia sinensis isn’t the only tea out there. There are many types of herbal teas on the market made from other plants and are very good for a variety of functions.

Related Article: Japanese Diet Secret: Kuromame Tea (Black Soybean Tea)

Although I prefer buying loose leaf tea in bulk, my favorite brand of tea bag is Yogi Tea.  They are completely organic, extremely effective, and have a great variety to choose from. Yogi tea has a variety of teas derived from Camellia sinensis, herbal tea and teas which are mixtures of the two. Explore the wonderful world of tea and enter into a healthier lifestyle with Camellia sinensis.

Related Article: The Life Changing and Life Lengthening World of Fasting

In addition to being delicious tea is much healthier than some of the market’s tasty alternatives. Soda and diet soda are quite unhealthy and easily replaced by hot tea or even refreshing iced tea.

Drop the soda, pick up the tea! (allow it to cool first) Camellia sinensis might be your new best friend.




Researchers Merge Biology with Electronics: First True Cybernetic Tissue Created


Harvard Researchers have created the first true cybernetic tissue, merging electronics with living nerve tissue.  The researchers embed a three-dimensional network of nanoscale wires into human tissues which grow and merge together into perfect, functional unison.

The head researcher, Mark Lieber states that the team has succeeded, for the first time, in working “at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin.”

Through the new technology, the team was able to create a wide range of cybernetic cell types ranging from heart and nerve cells, to bio-engineered blood vessels.  The cells respond organically just like natural cells in our bodies.  The cybernetic cells are also able to provide researchers with feedback regarding overall health and well being of the host environment, as well as the status of the cell itself.

Permaculture Connection


This site connects people interested in sustainable farming, permaculture, organic lifestyles, clean energy methods and more from all around the globe.  It is a forum with invaluable information abound!

There’s a name for these wonderful people by the way; Permies.

Check out the site, become a permie and as Gandhi said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Make a Permaculture Connection

permaculture graph

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture was invented in Tasmania Australia by Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and their associates in the 1970’s. It was a revolutionary approach to age old problems with farming and gardening.  Through a series of publications they began to spread their ideas and it has continued ever since with growing international communities and passionate people expanding and improving methods everyday. Wikipedia tells us that,

Permaculture is a branch of ecological designecological engineering, and environmental design which develops sustainablearchitecture and self-maintained horticultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Geoff Lawton, a permaculture consultant, takes it a step further in his TEDx video and explains why it is such an important practice.

How can I get involved?

There are many great websites that connect worldwide communities interested in sustainable agriculturepermacultureorganic lifestylesclean energy methods and more.

Permies is a forum with invaluable information abound! It’s called Permies, because that’s what these wonderful people are called!

Permaculture Global is another website that helps connect people all over the world through projects and classes.

If you’re interested more in organic farming make sure to check this site on WWOOFing. The WWOOFing organization allows people to travel and learn this valuable information on a low budget. If you just want to stay at home and learn a little more the  Permaculture Activists site is quite useful. Of course you could always take a vacation to California where they’re working a lot harder at it than the rest of the states. (There is also a really great detailed version with explanations of the above chart)

In addition to looking at websites and joining forums there are also classes and schools you can go to in order to receive permaculture certifications or general foundation knowledge. Here’s a link to courses in the American Midwest.

The Chart

In the chart above the three main circles stand for earth care, people care and fair share.

The 12 smaller circles represent the following ideas.

1. Observe & interact

2. Catch & store energy

3. Obtain a yield

4. Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

5. Use & value renewable resources & services

6. Produce no waste

7. Design from patterns to details

8. Integrate rather segregate

9. Use small & slow solutions

10. Use & value diversity

11. Use edges & value the marginal

12. Creatively use & respond to change

So check out the site, become a permie and as Gandhi said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”


Permaculture Global

Certification Courses

Short History

Fundamental Courses 

Geoff Lawton



Permaculture Activists

Transition California