Rare 'Unicorn' Plant, Which Hasn't Been Seen in 131 Years, Discovered In Maine

Unicorn root growing in a field
Unicorn root growing in a field
Maine Natural Areas Program, DACF

Maine conservationists just rediscovered a plant that hasn't been seen in the state for more than a century, according to the Bangor Daily News. The rare unicorn root, also known as the white colic-root or colicroot, was last documented in 1887.

This summer, the Maine Natural Areas Program—part of the state's Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry—located and documented examples of the plant near the town of Bowdoin. The plants were growing in a damp field on private property.

While rare to spot, Aletris farinosa is native to much of the southern and eastern U.S. and Ontario, Canada, and often grows in moist prairies and meadows. (Some of its close relatives grow elsewhere in the world, too. There are a number of species in the genus Aletria that grow in Asia.) Historically, it was used as a medicinal plant to treat digestive issues, among other ailments.

A single unicorn root plant
Maine Natural Areas Program, DACF

Only three specimens of unicorn root have previously been collected and officially documented in Maine in the last 145 years: one in 1874 near the town of Brunswick, one in 1879 near the town of Wells, and one in 1887 near the city of Lewiston.

It's not quite clear how the recently spotted specimen popped up in Bowdoin after years of no sightings. The seeds may have been buried underground for years and only recently turned up due to bulldozers or a fire shifting the soil around, as botanist Don Cameron of the Maine Natural Areas Program told the Bangor Daily News. It's unclear what will happen to these particular plants now, since the field they are growing in is on private property, but Cameron noted that the property owner seems amenable to protecting the plant.

[h/t Bangor Daily News]

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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How to Brew Your Own Fluorescent Beer at Home

The Odin
The Odin

If you're one of the many people who made their own sourdough starter in quarantine, you already know yeast is a living thing. That means its biological makeup can be tweaked using genetic engineering. As Gizmodo reports, that's exactly what a former NASA biologist has done to create his new fluorescent yeast kits.

A few years ago, Josiah Zayner left his job as a synthetic biologist for NASA to found The Odin, a company that lets anyone experiment with genetic science at home. His recently launched yeast kit accomplishes this in an eye-catching way. Thanks to a fluorescent protein from jellyfish, yeast that's been genetically modified with the kit glows green under a black or blue light.

Despite looking like a prop from a sci-fi film, the yeast is still yeast. That means it can be used in home-brewing projects if you want to take the science experiment a step further. According to Eater, yeast made with the kit ferments and fluoresces when added to honey and water. If you brew a batch of beer with the right amount of yeast, the final product will emit an otherworldly glow when viewed under a blacklight. The kit hasn't been FDA approved, but the company states the materials are nontoxic and nonallergenic, and beer made with it will still taste like beer.

You can purchase a fluorescent yeast kit from The Odin's online shop for $169. If you're looking for more ways to experiment with genetic technology at home, the company also sells kits that let you play with frog and bacteria DNA.

[h/t Gizmodo]