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Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine

Science news, articles, current events and future views on technology, space, environment, health, and medicine.

Tesla's Electric Semi Shows Promise—But Will it Deliver?  

Elon Musk finally revealed the Tesla Semi, an electric big-rig he professes will outstrip the diesel fleets that have dominated American freight for decades. The Tesla CEO flaunted his latest creation and its "BAMF performance"—it's a technical term, he says—at an unveiling ceremony Thursday night in Hawthorne, CA. He outlined the semi's specs, which include parlor tricks like going from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds and potentially industry-upending figures for driving range and cost...

2017-11-17 22:12:28

We Should Toss That $450M da Vinci into a Particle Accelerator  

A portrait of the world's most recognizable person, Jesus Christ, painted by an icon whose renown doesn't trail too far behind, Leonardo da Vinci, on Wednesday sold at auction for $450.3 million, setting a new record for artistic largesse. Only a handful of authentic da Vinci paintings exist today, and Salvator Mundi is the only one that could still be purchased by a deep-pocketed collector. Christie's Auction House billed the work as "The Last da Vinci," "the holy grail of ou...

2017-11-17 21:57:36

Darwin Was Right About Bird Vomit  

Charles Darwin was a busy man. When he wasn't advancing his groundbreaking theory of evolution by natural selection, he could be found carefully analyzing the contents of bird vomit and droppings. No, this wasn't an obscure hobby. He was getting his hands dirty to stack up more evidence to support one of his many hypotheses. He suspected that some birds had an unusual way of transporting plants to new locations. "Freshwater fish, I find, eat seeds of many land and water plants; fis...

2017-11-17 18:00:03

A First Attempt to Edit Genes Inside the Body  

For the first time, doctors have attempted to edit a man's genes inside his body. The patient is 44-year-old Brian Madeux, who suffers from a rare genetic disease that has left him progressively more debilitated over the course of his life. His liver can't produce an enzyme necessary for breaking down a type of carbohydrate, something researchers hope to repair with a gene-editing technique called zinc-finger nucleases (ZFN). Gene Repair Through an IV, billions of copies of a harmles...

2017-11-15 22:50:17

Even Pills Are Going Digital  

Not following medicine as prescribed can be costly — like $100 billion to $289 billion, as reported by The Atlantic in 2012. Not only that, but it can also harm patients and set back their treatment. But a new digital pill could change that. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday approved the first pill in the United States that comes loaded with a digital ingestion tracking system. After taking one of these new pills, the IEM sensor communicates to a patch worn by the pa...

2017-11-15 22:38:58

Researchers Capture Video of CRISPR Slicing DNA  

Forget about the generic stock art that shows scissors cutting chunks of DNA, because researchers have recorded actual video of CRISPR in action. CRISPR is a powerful gene-editing tool that allows researchers to cut and paste snippets of DNA to make targeted changes to a living organism's genome. It's a method that's fast and easy, and it has ushered in a new era of customized life. Scientists have used the technique to breed mosquitoes that resistant to the malaria virus, develop ...

2017-11-15 22:14:50

Signatures of Alzheimer's Disease Discovered in Dolphins  

A team of scientists in the United Kingdom and the U.S. recently reported the discovery of pathological signs of Alzheimer's disease in dolphins, animals whose brains are similar in many ways to those of humans. This is the first time that these signs - neurofibrillary tangles and two kinds of protein clusters called plaques - have been discovered together in marine mammals. As neuroscience researchers, we believe this discovery has added significance because of the similarities bet...

2017-11-15 19:17:52

Organic Farming Could Feed the World, But...  

The United Nations estimates the global population will reach more than 9 billion by 2050, and, by some estimates, agricultural output will have to increase by 50 percent to feed all of those mouths. So is it possible to do it organically? Modern farming methods focus on maximizing crop yields with the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which put off a surplus of nitrogen that turns into greenhouse gases or finds it's way into waterways. Advances in industrial farming methods a...

2017-11-15 17:38:44

Is Life Locked in Ice on Mars?  

Missions from above and on the surface have been searching for life on Mars for years. But there's an important question worth asking, amidst this vital search: If life once thrived there, how long could even extreme microorganisms survive in Mars' current harsh conditions? And where might they best survive? A group of researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University has just released their answer to those questions.  The paper, published in the journal Extremophiles, focused ...

2017-11-15 17:26:33

With Just $1,000, Anyone Can Track Your Every Move  

By now, most of us are probably used to the idea that large corporations track our preferences and activities every time we go online. It's the price we pay for the custom, convenient experiences we seek on the internet. But tracking your activity online isn't exclusive to high-flying FAANG companies. For a modest sum, anyone can use the similar tracking tools to essentially spy on another person's activities. To illustrate the ease of web-based voyeurism, researchers from the University...

2017-11-13 21:32:40

A New Titleholder For Earliest Wine?  

Where are the roots of the earliest wine? Countries in southwestern Asia have long contested who was first to ferment grapes. To date, the oldest widely accepted evidence for viniculture came from the Zagros Mountains of Iran. But now new research from the Republic of Georgia — a perennial and fierce challenger for the title — suggests people in that Southern Caucasus country were sipping the nectar of the gods even earlier. Wine* was all the rage throughout much of the ancien...

2017-11-13 20:00:36

She's back! As a giant blob of cold water arises from the depths, La Niña takes over the equatorial Pacific  

Will La Niña help bring a warmer or colder winter to your neck of the woods? And will it be wetter or drier? Read on. Before I delve into the substance of this post, I should mention this: As regular readers may have noticed, I've been gone for awhile. That's because my day job is directing the University of Colorado's Center for Environmental Journalism, not ImaGeo — and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to keep up with everything. But now I'm very glad to be back. An...

2017-11-10 21:12:15

New Fabric Warms or Cools Depending How You Wear It  

If you've ever worked in an office, you know about the battle of the thermostat. This futile clash costs quite a bit of energy: some 12 percent of the United States' total energy consumption goes to regulating building temperature with air conditioning. Now, a new fabric could end that war and save energy at the same time. The textile, described Friday in the journal Science Advances, offers wearers dual heating and cooling, allowing individuals to control their personal temperatur...

2017-11-10 19:00:03

Stuffed Animals Help Scientists Learn How Sea Lion Moms Recognize Their Babies  

Tending to a nursing newborn is hard enough, but sea lion moms have an extra challenge. To consume enough calories for themselves and their pups, they have to repeatedly leave their babies behind and swim out to sea to hunt. Each time the mothers return, they have to find their pups again. Australian sea lion moms use a pup's smell and the sound of its calls to recognize it. They also use sight—which scientists learned by creating fake, stuffed sea lion pups, and leaving them for mo...

2017-11-10 17:45:12

Is Cannabis an Effective Sleep Aid?  

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it. This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep - like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It's also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards. I am a sleep psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients with ...

2017-11-10 16:27:16

27 Ways to Die In A Heatwave  

If you want to teach your children the alphabet while mildly traumatizing them at the same time, look no further than "The Gashlycrumb Tinies." In alphabetical order, and with a jaunty rhyme scheme, 26 children meet fates both gruesome and preposterous. In the future, though, as climate change warms the planet beyond our comfort zone in many regions, the book could be rewritten by adding some heat. There are 27 ways that a heat wave can kill you, say researchers from the University of H...

2017-11-09 20:49:09

First Americans: Overland Beringia Route Takes Another Hit  

One if by land, two if by sea...if only the debate about how the first humans arrived in the Americas was as easy to sort out as Paul Revere's fabled lantern signal. Maybe it is. A new study from a different field offers indirect support to researchers advocating a coastal route for human migration to the New World. For decades, reconstructions of the earliest human migrations to the Americas had hunter-gatherers crossing from Siberia to what's now Alaska via the land bridge known a...

2017-11-09 19:00:26

Pigeons Sound the Alarm with Whistling Feathers  

When the crested pigeon of Australia flees potential foes, it can raise an alarm — not by calling out vocally, but with whistling feathers in its wings. These new findings may be the first proof of an idea Darwin proposed nearly 150 years ago suggesting that birds could use feathers as musical instruments for communication. Birds are known for the songs they can sing, but many can also generate unusual noises with their feathers. Darwin called these sounds "instrumental music" in his 18...

2017-11-09 18:00:41

Killer Mosquitoes Will be Released in 20 States  

Talk about a killer job. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week approved a bacterium that will be carried by mosquitoes to eradicate their offspring. A Kentucky-based company called MosquitoMate is using the common bacterium Wolbachia pipentisa and sexual attraction to help eradicate Asian tiger mosquitoes, Aedes albopictus, an invasive species in the United States. These mosquitoes can carry a cocktail of dangerous diseases including dengue, yellow fever and Zika. S...

2017-11-09 16:41:12

80 Percent of Patient's Skin Replaced With Genetically-Modified Grafts  

Doctors have replaced the majority of a patient's damaged skin using genetically-modified grafts. In 2015, a seven-year-old boy was admitted to a German hospital with lesions and blisters across nearly his entire body. He suffered from a rare genetic condition called junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) that prevents the epidermis, the outermost layer of our skin, from properly attaching to the underlying base. It results in extremely fragile skin prone to breaking and tearing, and pat...

2017-11-08 20:53:38

NASA Needs Your Help Naming a New World  

NASA needs your help. The New Horizons probe, which flew past Pluto two years ago to much fanfare, is heading towards another, even more distant world — (486958) 2014 MU69. It's a maddeningly boring name, and it just doesn't quite capture the adventure, the thrill, the awe of an earthly spacecraft visiting an object over 4 billion miles away. But if you act now, you can help give the target a more fitting nickname. NASA announced earlier this week they'll be looking to the public...

2017-11-08 17:22:31

Scientist Wants to Replicate Google Street View With Drones  

Google Street View can pretty much show you every location in the world, even the Faroe Islands thanks to camera-yielding sheep, from the ground. While Satellite View shows us a large-scale aerial of the world, what about what's in between? Gregory Crutsinger, a scientist who's worked for drone companies like 3D Robotics and Parrot, recently started a UAV consulting company called Drone Scholars and is leading a citizen scientist drone project called Fly4Fall. The project's goals: to s...

2017-11-07 22:07:40

Human Brain 'Organoids' Implanted Into Rats  

Tiny brain "organoids," or clusters of neurons grown from human stem cells, have been implanted into rats. The news comes from Stat, and it seems that two different teams have managed to integrate human brain cells into rat brains. The organoids began stretching out new cells, and even showed signs of activity when the researchers shone lights at the rat's eyes, a sign that they were functionally connected to the rats' own neurons. Organ-ish It's another step forward in the new, but ra...

2017-11-07 20:10:32

Jane Goodall, Redux  

Jane Goodall has been a flashpoint in science circles. Was her years-long study of chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania real science? Or was it too subjective to have scientific value? The questions arise anew in the wake of a new documentary, Jane, that looks back at Goodall's career and how she became a household name in the 1960s. In 1965, her CBS special Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees was watched by 25 million people in North America. A paper published la...

2017-11-07 19:58:16

Crab Gloats After Winning To Discourage Rematches  

From touchdown dances to victory laps, we all love to bask in the glory after a big win. So do mangrove crabs. After a fierce physical altercation, victorious male crabs sometimes stridulate, planting one claw into the ground and rubbing it vigorously with the other to both visibly and audibly revel in their triumph. But the purpose of this gloating was unclear, as little research has examined the consequences of such victory displays. Now, a new paper in Ethology may have an explanation...

2017-11-07 14:00:41

Why This Fungus Has Over 20,000 Genders  

Gender isn't really a fungal construct. Where we have two traditionally recognized genders, male and female, some species of fungi can have thousands. It sounds confusing, but it's actually helpful — with so many variations, the fungi can mate with nearly every individual of their species they meet. It must make for a wild singles night. Sexy Fun Guys One species of fungi, Schizophyllum commune, really shines when it comes to gender diversity. The white, fan-shaped mushroom has more t...

2017-11-06 21:23:09

Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 1)  

I recently decided to revisit a 2014 case that regular readers might remember. Back in 2014, I posted about a terrible piece of statistical 'spin' that somehow made it into the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric Research. The offending authors, led by Swedish psychiatrist Lars H. Thorell, had run a study to determine whether an electrodermal hyporeactivity test was able to predict suicide and suicidal behaviour in depressed inpatients. Now, the standard way to evaluate the perfor

2017-11-06 20:19:50

"Facephenes": Brain Stimulation Creates Phantasmal Faces  

Have you ever seen a face on a football? In a new paper, neuroscientists Gerwin Schalk et al. report that brain stimulation caused a man to experience strange hallucinations. The patient saw faces in everyday objects, including an orange soccer ball and a featureless box. The researchers coined the word "facephenes" to refer to these face-like perceptions. Schalk et al. studied a 26 year old Japanese man suffering from intractable epilepsy. The patient was implanted with a large number

2017-11-04 19:45:06

The Next Mars Rover Will Sport Some Serious Hardware  

NASA must be big fans of Douglas Quaid in Total Recall. "Get your ass to Mars," he says, and NASA listened, sending 24 probes, landers and rovers over the past five decades. It's just too tempting a target: The closest, easiest planetary neighbor for us to explore, which may or may not prove habitable, also tells scientists more about the solar system's history. We're steadily learning more and more about the next Mars rover, currently known as "Mars 2020."  It's due to l...

2017-11-03 19:46:42

Discovered: A (Theoretical) Fusion Technique 8 Times Stronger Than One In H-Bomb  

When hydrogen atoms fuse together, they release a vast amount of energy. That's the principle that makes hydrogen bombs so frighteningly powerful, and it's part of what powers our sun as well. Now, researchers from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) say they've uncovered a kind of theoretical particle fusion that's almost eight times more energetic than the fusion of two hydrogen atoms. The discovery, reported in Nature this week, came during the course of an experiment aimed at making a ...

2017-11-03 19:11:33

Proxima Centauri's Dust Belt Hints at More Planets  

Our nearest neighboring star just got a whole lot richer as a system—and a whole lot weirder. In research published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers from the European Southern Observatory announced … quite a few things, really. The biggest and brightest—literally—of their discoveries is a ring of icy dust around our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, that's sort of like that system's version of the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a circumstellar disc of ...

2017-11-03 17:07:49

Alzheimer's Study Casts Doubt On Rejuvenating Blood Transfusions  

Transfusing blood from young mice into those with Alzheimer's doesn't appear to treat the disease. It's an out-there concept that seems more of a kind with cryogenetics and organ xenotransplants but the promise of rejuvenation by blood infusion actually has some scientific legs to stand on. Shoulder to Lean On That the blood of the youthful might help the elderly was first proposed over 150 years ago when studies of mice whose circulatory systems had been sewn together revealed t...

2017-11-02 20:59:03

Woolly Mammoth Bachelors Skew the Fossil Record  

When paleontologists pull woolly mammoth fossils from mud pits, sinkholes, mudflows and other ancient booby traps, odds are it was a male that fell victim to the hazard. This macabre gender bias, researchers say in a new study, serves as a window into the behavioral patterns of these hirsute beasts that died out roughly 10,000 years ago. It turns out, as one might expect, woolly mammoth society may not have been so different from the pachyderm families that roam earth today. An interna

2017-11-02 19:04:17

Did the First Americans Arrive Via A Kelp Highway?  

The average person's idea of how — and when — the first people arrived in the Americas needs a serious revision, say researchers: The First Americans arrived significantly earlier and via a different route than most of us learned in school. There's something fishy about the whole thing. Open most middle school textbooks to the chapter on how our species migrated to the Americas and you'll likely see an image of people in furs trekking over taiga and tundra, the lost world of Beri...

2017-11-02 18:00:19

Newly Discovered Orangutan Species May Soon Be Extinct  

A newly discovered species of orangutan is already teetering on the edge of extinction. The Tapanuli orangutans (Pongo tapanuliensis) have been identified as the most endangered great ape species in the world, consisting of less than 800 individuals. That population size is strikingly different from the two other known species of orangutans. There are an estimated 14,000 Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and 100,000 Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) currently living in the Indonesian...

2017-11-02 16:02:28

Cosmic Rays Uncover New Room in Egypt's Great Pyramid  

A large chamber, never-before observed, has been discovered in the Great Pyramid at Giza. The previously unknown space was announced Thursday by an international team of researchers who used cosmic ray detectors to discern the presence of what they call a "big void" inside the pyramid's structure as part of the Scan Pyramids project. The void lies just above the Grand Gallery passageway that leads to the King's chamber within the massive monument, and appears to be over 100 feet long.

2017-11-02 12:00:11

Do We Need An Adoption Service for Orphan Data?  

Having recently left an academic post, I've been thinking about what will happen to the data that I collected during my previous role that remains unpublished. Will it, like so much data, end up stuck in the limbo of the proverbial 'file drawer'? The 'file drawer problem' is generally understood to mean "the bias introduced into the scientific literature by selective publication - chiefly by a tendency to publish positive results but not to publish negative or nonconfirmatory results."

2017-11-01 23:05:12

About That Dinosaur Family Tree Rewrite...  

Earlier this year, a trio of paleontologists led the charge to rewrite the most fundamental thing we believe about dinosaurs. Their call to action generated controversy and, more importantly, serious academic discussion. Now, a bevy of researchers weigh in on whether the dinosaur family tree really does need a revision — and their answer likely will surprise many armchair dino enthusiasts. You may remember back in March when University of Cambridge paleontologist Matt Baron and colle...

2017-11-01 18:00:23

Alzheimer's May Not Start in the Brain  

For years, experts thought Alzheimer's, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, originated in the brain. After all, it's the organ that takes the beating: Proteins build up in the brain, forming plaques or tangles that can damage cell function. And depending on which hypothesis you're reading up on, the critical damage that kick-starts symptoms comes from either beta-amyloid proteins, the traditional suspects, or tau proteins, a relatively new but increasingly popular pick for the ...

2017-11-01 16:24:20

From Longest Name to Loudest Sound, Scientists Catalog Over 100 Spider World Records  

Few groups of animals are as feared as spiders. Doctors estimate at least 5% of people are arachnophobic, meaning they are terrified of the eight-legged critters. But such fear is largely misplaced. Of the nearly 47,000 species of spider on the planet, only 200 or so can actually bite through our tough skin and deliver venom that causes any kind of reaction. And of those, only a few are considered truly dangerous. Rather than fearing them, we should be in awe of just how incredibly diverse,

2017-11-01 04:00:05

A New Twist on Invisible Ink  

With many of us spending our time online, we tend to be laser-focused on preventing our personal information from falling into the hands of nefarious hackers. But let's not forget about the security of print-based communications. Remember how the ink appears and disappears on the Marauder's Map that appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Basically, scientists are trying to recreate this bit of magic to protect information. But instead of using a password to make the invisi...

2017-10-31 19:08:11

Real Halloween Horrors: Corpse Cosplay by Zodarion Spiders  

Humans in North America only spend one night a year in costume with the hopes of feasting on tasty treats. For Zodarion spiders, that's just called Tuesday. These clever mimics pretend to be ants to sneak close to their prey. And if in danger, they'll use the corpse of their latest capture to complete the charade. The spiders in the genus Zodarion are ant specialists—which is a pretty dangerous lifestyle for a small spider. After all, ants are armed with strong mandibles and some...

2017-10-31 17:00:40

Ford Uses a Robotic Butt to Test Seats  

Ford is using a robot dubbed "Robutt" to test the comfort and durability of its car seats. The butt-bot sits up and down 25,000 times in about three weeks, simulating 10 years of driving. It's based on an average-sized large man and made to move just like you as you get in and out of a vehicle. The company analyzes how human drivers get in and out of vehicles using pressure mats. Then the Robutt tests the durability of the seats, while robotic metal buttocks assess for comfort. For...

2017-10-31 16:55:47

Boo! Lost Salamander Reappears, Dressed for Halloween  

Earlier this month, a guard patrolling a Guatemalan wildlife reserve photographed a young salamander. Its glossy orange-and-black skin made it look like a Halloween decoration. But the salamander's appearance wasn't just seasonally appropriate—it was the first time anyone had laid eyes on the species in 42 years. Two Americans first discovered Jackson's climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) while hiking in the cloud forests in 1975. Its name came from one of the pair, Jeremy Jac...

2017-10-31 15:59:01

Astrophysics, Bible Confirm Earliest Recorded Eclipse  

In 1207 BCE, as an army of Israelites waged a bitter conflict against soldiers from Canaan, the sun all but disappeared. The event had all the markings of divine intervention, and the auspicious occurrence would go on to be recorded in the Old Testament. Today, eclipses have lost the aura of religious significance, but this particular occasion was special. It's the first time we can confirm that an eclipse was ever recorded for posterity, say researchers from Cambridge University. Their w

2017-10-30 21:08:01

Lordotic Curve: Bringing Sexy Backs  

When the new release accompanying a science paper immediately alludes to lap dances and twerking, attention must be paid. That doesn't happen all the time. And, incredibly, the study in question, which appeared last week in Evolutionary Psychological Science paper, actually lived up to the hype! It really does mention "female erotic lap dancers" and "twerking, which appears to be a simulated copulatory act, performed while dancing," all in the service of mathematically determini...

2017-10-30 19:08:40

The Flying Car Future Is Leaving Wheels Behind  

A prototype flying car that supposedly does the job of both a helicopter and a truck went up for sale on eBay a few days before Halloween. That privately-developed AT Black Knight Transformer represents a vision of the flying car future that has seemingly fallen out of favor as new startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere pursue the idea of flying cars without wheels. But flying car enthusiasts or companies with specialized missions in mind may still find something to admire in the Black ...

2017-10-29 00:21:09

The Voodoo Curse of Circular fMRI Analysis  

Remember the 'voodoo' fMRI controversy? Well, I just came across a new voodoo-ish paper - just in time for Halloween. The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, comes from Franziska Plessow and colleagues of Boston. The main claim is that a dose of oxytocin reduced the response of "reward-related food motivation brain regions" to pictures of high-calorie foods, suggesting that the hormone might be of use in the treatment of obesity. However, I have some questions. In their ke...

2017-10-28 21:12:53

Astronomers Record First Observation of an Interstellar Object  

Astronomers have spotted an interstellar visitor for the first time. It's either a comet or an asteroid, and came speeding right through the heart of our solar system; after a hairpin turn around the sun, it's now on its way back out of our cosmic backyard. Scientists at the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at Haleakala first spotted the quarter-mile-wide object on Oct. 19, and knew immediately that it was something different. "Its motion could not be explained using eit...

2017-10-27 17:26:29

In a Digital World, Why Do Hard Copies Remain Alluring?  

Do you prefer a paperback or hardback to a download on your Kindle? Or maybe BluRays and CDs instead of MP4s? You're not alone. Digital products might help us combat clutter, and satisfy that need for instant gratification, but when push comes to shove, a lot of people still prefer something they can hold in their hands. And sales for physical goods like books and movies seem to support that notion. So if digital is so much easier to store and tote around, what gives? "When somethi...

2017-10-27 16:16:36

This Could Be the First 1,000 mph Land Vehicle  

A slim blue needle raced down a runway today in southwest England Thursday. Called the Bloodhound, the vehicle reached speeds of only around 200 miles per hour, but the team behind it has their sights set much higher. They hope to be the first to notch the 1,000 mph land speed record, a speed that today is only achievable in the skies. The demonstration was the Bloodhound's first public outing, and served as both a PR opportunity and a chance to get preliminary data on the vehicle's perf...

2017-10-26 16:55:56

Hey Kim, Stephen Hawking's PhD Thesis Also 'Broke the Internet'  

The PhD thesis of perhaps the world's most famous living scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, was recently made publicly available online. It has proved so popular that the demand to read it reportedly crashed its host website when it was initially uploaded. But given the complexity of the topic - "Properties of Expanding Universes" - and the fact that Hawking's book A Brief History of Time is also known as the most unread book of all time, you might benefit from a summary of...

2017-10-26 16:25:28

Robot Aces Water-to-Air Transition  

Another day, another bioinspired drone. But this microrobot, powered through a wire tether, can launch itself through the air and into water — then blast itself back into the air. Harvard researchers have been working on bee-like robots for years, and a new study published Wednesday in Science Robotics shows more advancement. Scientists showed the little bot could successfully hover in the air, transition from air to water, swim, takeoff from the water and land on the water, accordin...

2017-10-26 16:13:25

Project Wing Drones Test Home Delivery Down Under  

If you get food cravings or need to grab some over-the-counter medicine, chances are that you live just a short walk or drive away from a convenience store or pharmacy as long as you live in a city or the suburbs. But the Aussie residents of a certain rural community face a 40-minute round trip in the car whenever they want to pick up some ingredients for dinner or even grab a cup of coffee. That situation made them the ideal first customers for backyard drone deliveries through Project...

2017-10-25 22:38:44

Genetically Modified Lean Pigs Are Healthier, Not Necessarily Tastier  

Chinese scientists say they've found a way to take some of the sizzle out of our bacon. Though that sounds worrying, it was actually done with the pigs' health in mind. Pigs are so notoriously porky in part because they lack a gene, UCP1, that helps burn fat to generate heat. The result is plumper pigs, but it also poses an increased risk for newborns that can die if they're not kept warm enough. Porky No More With the gene-editing technology CRISPR, researchers from the Institute of Z...

2017-10-25 18:20:53

Unearthed: Remains of the Earliest Known Tsunami Victim  

Tsunamis have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the past two decades. Now a new study finds that a 6,000-year-old skull may come from the earliest known victim of these killer waves. The partial human skull was discovered in 1929 buried in a mangrove swamp outside the small town of Aitape Papua New Guinea, about 500 miles north of Australia. Scientists originally thought it belonged to an ancient extinct human species, Homo erectus. However, subsequent research dated it to about 5

2017-10-25 18:00:52

Southern Africa's New Mega-Carnivore: A Whole Lotta Dinosaur  

My, what big feet you have...200-million-year-old dinosaur footprints found in the mountainous Southern African country of Lesotho are unique within the Southern Hemisphere and the largest of their kind ever discovered on the continent. But size isn't the only thing that matters about the mega-carnivore that made them. The footprints, each measuring about 22 inches in length, were discovered on a layer of rippled, fine-grained sandstone dated to about 200 million years ago. The ripples

2017-10-25 18:00:00

DNA Edits, Without All the Cutting  

The human genome is composed of some 3 billion base pairs, the individual molecules that compose our DNA. A mutation to just a single base pair can have dramatic consequences if it occurs in certain locations. Cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease and more are caused by point mutations, or aberrations in just a single letter of our DNA. Those letters, A, T, C and G, represent the four molecules, or nucleotides, that comprise the alphabet of our genomes. In research publis

2017-10-25 17:00:56

Salmon Sex Reshapes Rivers  

Many forces shape the planet's rugged features: wind, water, fire, and, of course, salmon sex. That's the conclusion from Washington State University researcher Alex Fremier and colleagues in a study that's billed as one of the first attempts to quantify the earth-shaping power of spawning salmon. They titled their study, in part, "Sex That Moves Mountains," and it's a new take on the ways living things transform habitats. Take Me to the River Waterways reshape terrain throu...

2017-10-24 20:24:15

An Astonishing Return to Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden  

During the 1960s, humanity's place in the universe changed dramatically as Soviet and American astronauts ventured off the planet and (for the Yanks, at least) onto the surface of the Moon. During those same years, humanity's place on Earth changed rather dramatically, too, as scientists took a closer look at our primate relatives and discovered that they are a lot more like us--far more complex and sophisticated--than anyone had suspected. One of the scientists most responsible for the l

2017-10-23 20:56:29

Self-Driving Snow Plows Could Battle Winter  

We hate to break it to you, but winter is coming. And with winter comes snow, which tends to spoil people's travel plans. But a group of self-driving snowplows could clear the tarmac faster and more efficiently, helping make winter-weather delays a thing of the past. Four autonomous Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor's recently hit the the tarmac at a former airbase in Germany, showcasing the tech and use-case, according to a news release. Using a Remote Truck Interface (RTI) the Arocs are ...

2017-10-23 17:30:10

Shrews' Heads Shrink and Grow With the Seasons  

Creating shrunken heads—small, severed human heads that are widely associated with Voodoo and tribal rituals—is a gruesome process, apparently much more than what's shown in Beetlejuice. But leave it to the animal kingdom to prove there's a natural, less sinister way to shrink a head. Red-toothed shrews' heads seasonally reverse sizes once they're adults, something called the Dehnel phenomenon, which was first discovered in 1949. We now have more information on how much a shrew'...

2017-10-23 17:17:43

Unraveling a Secret  

The Inka Empire ruled millions without a written language. Keeping records was a knotty situation.

2017-10-23 01:48:41

"Hyper Brains"? High Intelligence and Health  

A few weeks ago I blogged about the idea that high-IQ people suffer from an inability to communicate with less gifted folk. Now, a new paper claims that very intelligent people are more prone to mental illnesses and allergies. However, I don't think the paper is very smart. Researchers Ruth I. Karpinski and colleagues surveyed the members of American Mensa, a society for people in the top 2% of IQ (IQ 130+). 3,715 Mensans responded to the survey, which asked them whether they were curr

2017-10-22 10:33:24

'Lights-Out' Manufacturing Hits Main Street  

Robots toiling day and night assembling widgets and thingamabobs in pitch-black warehouses isn't some mustache-twirling industrialist tycoon's fantasy. It's here, it's the future of manufacturing, and it's not just the multinational conglomerates that stand to benefit from the robot labor revolution. Main Street will, too. Voodoo Manufacturing, a small 3D printing farm in Brooklyn—OK, so not quite mom and pop "Main Street"— was running up against a problem every small business w...

2017-10-20 19:42:01

Scaring Babies for Science  

"Snakes, why'd it have to be snakes?" so sayeth Indiana Jones, and so, apparently, say babies too. In a study published Wednesday in Frontiers in Psychology, European neuroscientists determined that our instinctive fears of snakes and spiders are so primal, even babies become alarmed at the sight of them. How'd they figured it out? Well, they scared some babies. For science! Primal Fear Though not everyone is frightened of the two creepy crawlies, studies have shown more than a thi

2017-10-20 18:05:53

Beluga Living with Dolphins Swaps Her Calls for Theirs  

In November 2013, a four-year-old captive beluga whale moved to a new home. She had been living in a facility with other belugas. But in her new pool, the Koktebel dolphinarium in Crimea, her only companions were dolphins. The whale adapted quickly: she started imitating the unique whistles of the dolphins, and stopped making a signature beluga call altogether. "The first appearance of the beluga in the dolphinarium caused a fright in the dolphins," write Elena Panova and Alexandr...

2017-10-20 17:43:37

When Wealth Inequality Arose  

We've heard how great times used to be, and I don't mean in 1950s America. For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn't own much and had very little social hierarchy. Sure, it wasn't all kumbaya and high-fives. But the fact that individuals had so few personal possessions took the bitter dish of economic inequality off the table. So how'd we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth? That...

2017-10-20 17:30:50

New Zealand Songbirds Attack Rivals That Sing Pretty Songs  

Birds are territorial creatures, and they'll passionately defend their chosen area from unwanted intrusions. For some songbirds, it doesn't even take a physical breach to draw their ire — if you're a lovely singer, they'll attack. New Zealand's tui songbirds certainly aren't doing the "jealous performer" stereotype any good. Males of the species will fend off rival males encroaching on their territory, and they're especially aggressive toward those with more intricate, some might say...

2017-10-20 16:27:42

Problematic Neuropeptides And Statistics (PNAS)  

Back in May I discussed a paper published in PNAS which, I claimed, was using scientific terminology in a sloppy way. The authors, Pearce et al., used the word "neuropeptides" to refer to six molecules, but three of them weren't neuropeptides at all. The authors acknowledged this minor error and issued a correction. Now, it emerges that there may be more serious problems with the PNAS paper. In a letter published last week, researchers Patrick Jern and colleagues say that the statistics u

2017-10-20 16:17:53

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend  

If you're out enjoying the predawn darkness Saturday, you'll likely see a number of bright streaks peppering the sky. These are Orionid meteors, which belong to an annual shower that peaks before dawn. Observers under a dark sky could see up to 20 meteors per hour shortly before twilight begins, when the constellation Orion the Hunter climbs highest in the south. (The meteors appear to radiate from a point in northern Orion.) With the Moon absent from the morning sky, viewing conditio...

2017-10-20 15:36:13

A Giant Cave on the Moon Could Host Lunar Settlers  

Turn-of-the-century science fiction posited the existence of aliens living deep beneath the surface of the moon. Someday, those subterranean creatures could very well be us. New data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has uncovered a 30-mile-long tunnel under the moon's surface, likely the relic of long-ago lava flows. Though the existence of lava tubes isn't something new, this latest find appears to be both mostly intact and sufficiently large enough to potentially...

2017-10-19 19:17:53

Psychopaths Aren't the Best Hedge Fund Managers After All  

Pretty much everyone agrees investing, whether it's your own money or a company's, is wise. And hiring someone to manage that investment portfolio could get you the most bang for your buck. So, who to chose? Probably someone who would do whatever it took — no matter how many friends they'd lose or people they'd leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way — to get the job done, right? In other words, a psychopath or a narcissist. (Or, if you're Derek Zoolander, an investigat...

2017-10-19 18:58:06

Dogs Attempt To Communicate With Us Through Facial Expressions  

Hey dog owners, you're not imagining it: Researchers think your pooch may be trying to say something with a pout or pleading eyes. Everyone who lives with dogs may be rolling their eyes right about now and saying "Of course Boopsie/Rex/Potato is smiling/frowning/expressing wide-eyed existential dread," but heaps of anecdotal evidence don't mean much in terms of scientific cred. A study out today, however, is a big step toward confirming that dogs use facial expressions in an attempt t...

2017-10-19 13:00:46

Albatross Teaches Drones the Art of Marathon Flights  

We've seen drones modeled after geckos, insects and if you've watched Black Mirror there's no way you can forget the massive bee drone swarms. Now, scientists are looking to one of nature's best fliers, the albatross, for tips to help drones fly longer distances. The albatross is one of the world's largest living birds, with a wingspan of up to 11 feet across. It can fly hundreds of miles in just one day, while exerting very little effort. But how does it do this? Two separat...

2017-10-18 18:33:14

To Find Nectar, Bees Follow Blue Halos  

Subtle halos on flowers function as bright blue landing pads for bees. Tiny ridges on flowers, visible only at the nanoscale, serve to reflect blue and ultraviolet light that draws in pollinators. To bees, it appears as a ring around the flower's center, and lets them and other insects immediately differentiate between a nourishing plant and a dead end. The trait seems to have appeared many times throughout the evolution of flowers, and likely dates back to the emergence of pollinators ...

2017-10-18 18:23:06

The AI That Dominated Humans in Go Is Already Obsolete  

Remember AlphaGo? You know, the artificial intelligence that in 2016 soundly defeated the finest players humanity could muster in the ancient Chinese strategy game of Go; thus forcing us to relinquish the last vestige of board game superiority flesh-and-blood held over machines? Remember that? Well, here's something to chew on: Google's AI research arm DeepMind, the same benevolent creator that spawned AlphaGo, has already rendered that gluteus maximus-spanking version obsolete. In...

2017-10-18 18:19:59

Fatty Tissues Preserved In Fossil for 48 Million Years  

It really is true: fat hangs around a long time whether you want it to or not. Okay, so we're not talking about stubborn love handles and saddlebags, but researchers have confirmed that fatty tissues were still identifiable in the partial fossil of a 48-million-year-old bird. The new research hints that similar soft tissues might be found in fossils sitting in museum archives around the world. Soft tissue preservation in fossils is rare but not unheard of. Earlier this year, resear...

2017-10-17 23:00:58

How Volcanoes Starved Ancient Egypt  

Ancient Egypt was the most powerful civilization in the world for a time. The monuments built by laborers to honor pharaohs stand to this day, testament to the vast resources at their command. But the architectural excess hid a crippling weakness. Egypt sits in the middle of a vast desert. To support a population that numbered in the millions, large-scale agriculture was vital, and for that you need water, and therefore, the Nile. The river was so important to the Egyptians that they st...

2017-10-17 21:05:15

Defibrillator Drones Aim to Respond in 911 Calls  

Delivery drones carrying defibrillators could begin swooping in to save American victims of cardiac arrest starting in 2018. A new partnership between a delivery drone startup and an emergency medical services provider aims to dispatch defibrillator drones ahead of ambulances in response to 911 calls made in northern Nevada. Using drones to deliver life-saving automatic external defibrillators for restarting victims' hearts could have a huge impact. Cardiac arrest represents the leadin...

2017-10-16 23:36:53

In Makira, Flying Fox Teeth Are Currency...And That Could Save the Species  

On the island of Makira, hunters use the teeth of giant bats known as flying foxes as currency. Now, perhaps paradoxically, researchers suggest this practice could help save these bats from potential extinction. The giant tropical fruit bats known as flying foxes are the largest bats in the world. Of the 65 flying fox species alive today, 31 are under threat of extinction, and 28 of these threatened species live on islands. Makira is one of the Solomon Islands, which lie roughly a thou

2017-10-16 21:00:26

Gravitational Waves Show How Fast The Universe is Expanding  

The first gravitational wave observed from a neutron star merger offers the potential for a whole raft of new discoveries. Among them is a more precise measurement of the Hubble constant, which captures how fast our universe is expanding. Ever since the Big Bang, everything in the universe has been spreading apart. It also turns out that this is happening faster and faster — the rate of expansion is increasing. We've known this for a century, but astronomers haven't been able to get ...

2017-10-16 20:31:53

Astronomers Tally All the Gold in Our Galaxy  

Before "he went to Jared," two neutron stars collided. That's what scientists learned from studying the debris fallout after a cosmic explosion called a kilonova — 1,000 times brighter than a standard nova — which appeared, and was witnessed by astronomers, in earthly skies Aug. 17. For decades, astronomers debated the origins of the heaviest elements, which includes precious metals, rare Earth elements and basically everything on the bottom rungs of the periodic table, from plat...

2017-10-16 19:15:56

California Wants to Take Human Training Wheels Off Autonomous Vehicles  

You've read about self-driving cars cruising around California as companies try to prove and perfect their tech. A human sits in each car, but not because they want to joyride: it's the law. But that could change. Last week, California lawmakers proposed legislation that would make it legal for companies to test self-driving cars without a human watchdog in the vehicle, and for commercial operations to begin as early as 2018. Just over 40 companies have been issued California Auto...

2017-10-16 17:42:22

Dawn of an Era: Astronomers Hear and See Cosmic Collision  

For hundreds of millions of years, two city-sized stars in a galaxy not-so-far away circled each other in a fatal dance. Their dimensions were diminutive, but each outweighed our sun. They were neutron stars — the collapsed cores left behind after giant stars explode into supernovas. Closer and closer they spun, shedding gravitational energy, until the stars traveled at nearly the speed of light, completing an orbit 100 times every second. By then, dinosaurs reigned on Earth, and the...

2017-10-16 14:00:16

A Parade of Scientific Mice  

Recently I was reading a neuroscience paper and was struck by the cuteness of the two mice that formed part of Figure 1: So I decided to look further and collect a montage of scientific mice. All of these drawings are taken from peer-reviewed scientific papers. As you can see, the styles vary greatly. Some mice are little more than circles with ears, while others look ready to leap off the page in search of cheese: I should note that I didn't include mice found in Graphical Abstr...

2017-10-15 19:07:59

Is Parkinson's A Prion Disease?  

The Journal of Neuroscience recently featured a debate over the hypothesis that Parkinson's disease is, at least in some cases, caused by prions - misfolded proteins that spread from neuron to neuron. A prion is a protein that has taken on an abnormal shape and that can spread itself by making other, healthy molecules of the same protein adopt its abnormal configuration. The best-known prion disease is variant CJD aka "mad cow disease", but some researchers believe that Parkinson's is als

2017-10-14 19:45:36

Gravitational Wave Hunters Set to Make Big Announcement Monday  

The massive collaboration of scientists that's hunting gravitational waves—with a lot of success—is set to make another big announcement on Monday. A flurry of press releases this week have teased the news, which is set to break on Oct. 16, although they've been short on details. At 10 a.m. Eastern, a team from the groundbreaking gravitational wave detector LIGO will make an announcement at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. They'll be joined by researchers from Virgo, LIGO's ...

2017-10-13 17:19:12

Will Earth's Lava Flows Decipher Ancient Mars'?  

Lava flow: an unstoppable destructive force that burns pretty much everything in its path. When a volcano erupts, it's important that people in surrounding areas have adequate time to evacuate. To provide those crucial extra hours, or minutes, researchers are using drones to improve hazard predictions, and perhaps tell us something about life on ancient Mars. Drones allow volcanologists to map large areas quickly, cheaply and, most of all, safely using magnetometers and thermal camera...

2017-10-13 16:54:39

First AI Learned to Walk, Now It's Wrestling, Playing Soccer  

Oh, artificial intelligence, how quickly you grow up. Just three months ago you were learning to walk, and we watched you take your first, flailing steps. Today, you're out there kicking a soccer ball around and wrestling. Where does the time go? Indeed, for the past few months we've stood by like proud parents and watched AI reach heartwarming little milestones. In July, you'll recall, Google's artificial intelligence company in the United Kingdom, DeepMind, developed an algor...

2017-10-13 16:41:39

Flashback Friday: An Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets  

Ever wondered what fast food chicken nuggets are actually made of? So did these researchers, and they actually went so far as to examine formalin-fixed sections of nugget under a microscope. If you enjoy eating these junk food favorites, we suggest you stop reading here. But if you really want to know the results, read on… The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads "Chicken Little" "PURPOSE: To determine the contents of chicken nuggets from 2 national food chains. BACKGROUND: Chicke...

2017-10-13 11:00:30

Supplies of a Rare Cancer-Killing Compound Were Dwindling...Not Anymore  

Bugula neritina is a rather inconspicuous marine organism. It looks like purplish seaweed, but it's actually a branching colony of individual, tentacled zooids (the technical term for individuals in a colonial invertebrate) that resemble badminton shuttlecocks. It's abundant, invasive and widely viewed as a pest as it accumulates on ships, dock sides, buoys and intake valves. It might also contain a cure to some of humanity's most devastating diseases: cancer, HIV, Alzheimer's. ...

2017-10-12 21:28:34

Tobacco Companies Snuff Smoke, But Health Benefits Still Hazy  

Smoking: It's bad for you. Take the smoke out of smoking, though, and you might be on to something. That, at least, is the thought process behind newly-emerging smokeless forms of nicotine, the most prominent right now being e-cigarettes. A vape pen just doesn't deliver the same sweet rush of nicotine and the satisfying "throat hit" smokers crave, though, leaving tobacco companies searching for a better option. Heat-not-burn tobacco products have stepped into that space, promising a nicot

2017-10-12 18:41:38

Motherese Is a Truly Universal Language  

Hang around any mom with a young child and eventually she'll break out her baby voice. You know the one — the pitch of her voice goes up, her words are simple and exaggerated. It's sometimes referred to as motherese, but researchers call it infant-directed speech. Whatever you want to call it, it's pretty vital to little ones' development. Says Elise Piazza, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, it "helps babies to segment this huge stream of words into the building blocks of l...

2017-10-12 16:00:57

Easter Island Ancient DNA Shoots Down One Rapanui Theory  

Thanks to its geography, the southeastern Pacific island of Rapa Nui — also known as Easter Island — has been in the center of a long-running debate about how early people may have sailed back and forth across the planet's biggest ocean. One theory suggested that, long before Europeans arrived, the island was a meeting point for Polynesians and Native Americans. Spoiler alert: a new study of ancient DNA from early residents of Rapa Nui says otherwise. Easter Island, known for ...

2017-10-12 16:00:19

Kirishima in Japan Erupts for the First Time Since 2011  

For the first time since September 2011, Kirishima in Japan has started erupting. On the morning of October 11, new ash emissions began from the Shinmoe-dake cone on the large, complex volcano on the north end of Kagoshima Bay. The eruption have been relatively small ash-and-gas plumes that reached less than 1 kilometer (~3,200 feet) over the volcano and spread shards of volcanic glass (aka ash) across the area. These new explosions have promoted the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) to...

2017-10-12 14:14:34

FOXSI Flights Could Reveal Why the Sun's Corona Is So Hot  

You have probably heard of solar flares before. These bright eruptions from the Sun's surface are triggered when knotted magnetic field lines within the Sun suddenly snap and reconnect, accelerating fireballs of plasma outward to distances up to 35 times the diameter of the Earth. But have you ever heard of nanoflares? In a study published yesterday in Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers led by Shin-nosuke Ishikawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) presented ev...

2017-10-11 19:52:27

Marie Curie: Iconic Scientist, Nobel Prize Winner...War Hero?  

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.) But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory in October

2017-10-11 19:32:48

We Almost Gave Up On Building Artificial Brains  

Today artificial neural networks are making art, writing speeches, identifying faces and even driving cars. It feels as if we're riding the wave of a novel technological era, but the current rise in neural networks is actually a renaissance of sorts. It may be hard to believe, but artificial intelligence researchers were already beginning to see the promise in neural networks during World War II in their mathematical models. But by the 1970s, the field was ready to give up on them entir...

2017-10-11 16:37:16

Think Like a Hacker  

Connected devices make our lives easier — and more vulnerable. We need white hats more than ever.

2017-10-11 03:38:37

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