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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.

Hans Asperger and the Nazis  

Big news this week as Hans Asperger, autism pioneer and namesake of Asperger's syndrome, is accused of having collaborated in the murder of children during the Nazi rule in Austria. The accusations come in the form of a long paper by historian Herwig Czech in the journal Molecular Autism. Czech presents an analysis of Asperger's activities as head of the Heilpädagogik Ward of the Pediatric Clinic at the University of Vienna, from 1935 to 1943. Here, Asperger was responsible for the evalu...

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2018-04-20 11:09:18

Fruit Flies Sure Enjoy Ejaculating  

Throughout history we've blushed and called it la petite mort, the sting of pleasure, the balsamic injection, the flood of bliss—the list continues. But let's cut to the chase: I'm talking about ejaculation. It's almost seems as if some deep-seated Puritanical modesty compels us to semantically sidestep addressing this perfectly natural function. Perhaps we're just a bit bashful that it feels really, really good. It's not polite to discuss such scrumptious pleasures publicly...

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2018-04-19 21:39:19

This Organ Helps Sea Nomads Dive Deeper for Longer  

When we think of the organs that help humans stay alive under the water, the heart and lungs top the list. But there's another organ that deserves recognition as well, though few of us would think to name it. It's the spleen. Mammals have a unique response to having our faces engulfed by water. Our heart rate slows and peripheral blood vessels constrict, shunting blood to vital organs where it's needed most. At the same time, our spleens release a cache of red blood vessels held for thi...

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2018-04-19 14:13:08

Hole-y Cow! Earliest Evidence of Cranial Surgery On Animals  

The average cow needs cranial surgery like it needs a hole in the head, but for one ancient bovine, it appears that's exactly what the doctor ordered. Researchers describing a hole in the skull of a Neolithic cow say it's possibly the earliest example of veterinary surgery — though it may have also been mere practice for performing the procedure on a human patient. Trepanation, or the act of intentionally making a hole in the skull, has a long history in our species (and it's sti...

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2018-04-19 08:28:39

A shark-shaped, climate-shifting blob of warm water — as wide as the Pacific Ocean — is rising from the depths  

The 'shark' will soon gobble up La Niña's cool surface waters. What might this mean for the climate later this year? It's not every day that you see an animated graphic like the one above hosted on the website of an ordinarily staid U.S. government agency. And yes, that is indeed an illustration comparing a complex Earth system phenomenon to, well, a shark. The comparison comes from the fabulous folks at the ENSO Blog, published under the aegis of the National Oceanic and Atmos...

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2018-04-19 01:05:01

One Simple Trick To Improve Credibility  

It's intuitive: We hear a message, think about it, and decide whether or not we believe it. We have to do it whenever we get a new piece of information in our lives, from politics to the news to gossip, so you'd think we'd be good at it by now. But studies constantly show that our squishy human brains don't make it quite so easy. Presenting information in different ways — whether there's a photo included, or changing the colors of the words — affects our interpretation of it, ...

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2018-04-18 11:21:17

Earth's climate went kind of schizo in March  

Earth has been taking a very slight breather this year from the seemingly unrelenting record-setting global temperatures observed in the previous two years. And this past month was no exception. By NASA's accounting, March 2018 was the sixth warmest such month in records dating back to 1880. In an independent analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pegged March as fifth warmest. And for the first quarter of the year (January through March), NOAA shows the period a...

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2018-04-18 07:49:06

At the Bottom of the Ocean, a Surprising, Gloomy Discovery  

Almost two miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, on a lonely outcrop of bare rock 100 miles from Costa Rica, researchers on a geological expedition found something odd. As their remotely controlled submersible sunk through the black waters toward the seafloor, they saw a collection of purple lumps dotting the rocky bottom. As they got closer, they resolved themselves into something resembling a bowling ball with suckers. It was a group of female octopuses, of the genus Muusoctop...

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2018-04-18 03:01:42

Your Next Pilot Could Be Drone Software  

Would you get on a plane that didn't have a human pilot in the cockpit? Half of air travelers surveyed in 2017 said they would not, even if the ticket was cheaper. Modern pilots do such a good job that almost any air accident is big news, such as the Southwest engine disintegration on Tuesday. But stories of pilot drunkenness, rants, fights and distraction, however rare, are reminders that pilots are only human. Not every plane can be flown by a disaster-averting pilot, like Southwest C...

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2018-04-18 01:44:41

No One Knows How Long the U.S. Coastline Is  

How long is the U.S. coastline? It's a straightforward question, and one that's important for scientists and government agencies alike. The U.S. Geological Survey could give you an answer, too, but I'm going to tell you right now that it's wrong. In fact, no one could give you the right answer, and if you look around, you'll find a number of estimations that differ by seemingly improbable amounts. One government report lists the number as 12,383 miles. The same report admits that a diffe...

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2018-04-17 17:40:57

This Flower May Make Multicolored Pollen Just to Please Bugs  

The trout lily is a North American spring wildflower that's cuter than its name suggests. Dappled leaves frame a little yellow blossom that keeps its face shyly toward the ground. Inside the bloom, the flower's anthers and pollen vary from bright yellow to dark red. Researchers could find no purpose for the different colors—except, maybe, to satisfy the whims of pollinating insects. Plenty of flowers come in multiple petal colors, and other research has explored the reasons, write...

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2018-04-17 03:01:27

100 Years Later: The Lessons of Encephalitis Lethargica  

In 1917, at the height of the Great War, a new and mysterious disease emerged into the world, before vanishing a few years later. Although it was to prove less destructive than the 1918 influenza pandemic which occured at around the same time, the new outbreak had a persistent legacy: some of the victims of the disease remained disabled decades later. The new syndrome was first reported by Constantin von Economo, a neurologist in Vienna. He dubbed the disease 'encephalitis lethargica', after

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2018-04-17 01:34:16

Drugs from Bugs: Bioprospecting Insects to Fight Superbugs  

Somewhat like looking down the barrel of a gun, antibiotic resistance is a looming threat to modern medicine. The rise of MRSA, super drug-resistant gonorrhea and other "nightmare" bacteria risk rendering our microscopic defenses useless. What to do when your last-last-last resort fails to kill these pathogens? Someday, perhaps sooner than later, we're going to need new antibiotics, not to mention medicines for cancer, depression, and other conditions that aren't readily treatable...

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2018-04-13 21:10:51

Your Weekly Attenborough: Electrotettix attenboroughi  

Last week I waxed mildly poetic on the ephemeral nature of living beings and the inorganic reality of a fossil. Fossils are just shadows, I said, or memories ... or something like that. Well, this week I've got something much more exciting and less poetic. It's an ancient pygmy grasshopper, Electrotettix attenboroughi, and it's no rocky fossil, no sir. This is a genuine, mint condition, honest-to-God organic grasshopper, encased in a shiny amber shell and preserved for something like 20 m

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2018-04-13 14:27:16

Yes, You Can Sweat Blood  

We've all heard of sweating bullets, but this is something else entirely. A medical case report from Italian researchers last year details a 21-year-old patient who began mysteriously sweating blood from her face and palms. The condition had been ongoing for about three years, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports, when she decided to check herself into a hospital — needless to say, the doctors were perplexed. Bloody, But Fine Strangely, the young woman was otherwise totally...

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2018-04-12 19:34:12

Climate Change Is Weakening a Crucial Ocean Current  

When you picture the rugged coastlines of Norway, tropical heat probably doesn't come to mind, but it should. Even in the country's Arctic reaches, the coast is typically free from ice and snow, and the weather is often more Seattle than Anchorage. How can that be? Residents can thank the Gulf Stream, an ocean conveyor belt that pushes warm water their way from the tropics. And Northern Europeans aren't the only ones who should be thankful, either. Much of Europe and the east coast...

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2018-04-11 19:20:05

Subglacial Lakes Could Offer Extraterrestrial Life Preview  

These days it's hard to find a place on Earth where humans haven't interfered in some way. Venture to the most remote jungle or the depths of the Mariana Trench and you've likely been preceded by some emissary of humanity, whether that's chemicals carried on the wind or something more tangible. But there are places where our long shadow has never reached, where the events of the past 100,000 years might as well have never happened. Locked deep below gargantuan sheets of ice thousands o...

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2018-04-11 16:04:01

Fossil From Arabian Desert, 85,000 Years Old, Challenges Our Timeline  

Well, well, could say a new and highly significant fossil is really giving the finger to the human evolution and migration timeline once considered all but carved in stone. A discovery in the Arabian desert confirms Homo sapiens had wandered far beyond our ancestral African homeland thousands of years earlier than previously thought. Over the past few years, a number of separate research teams have been turning up evidence, including fossils, artifacts and genetic data...

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2018-04-11 01:48:02

Our Ancestors Got High, Too  

The tales we tell — from Homer and Genesis to your friend's ninth recounting of that epic rave last summer — are rich with drug use. But studies show our ancestors were chewing, brewing and blazing long before they started to record their intoxicated escapades. Virtually all human societies use mind-altering substances. What's more, about 90 percent give drug-induced altered states of consciousness a role in their fundamental belief systems, according to a survey of 488 modern so...

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2018-04-11 01:46:30

Double Dose Of Ichthyosaur Updates: Big Daddy and Octomom  

Dinosaurs may hog the Mesozoic spotlight, but some of the neatest finds of recent note in paleontology come from under the sea: a very pregnant ichthyosaur and the partial remains of another that was a supersized specimen (think blue whale territory). A quick ichthyosaur refresher: these marine reptiles show up in the fossil record and explode in size and number during the Triassic, get smaller but are still plentiful in the Jurassic (201-145 million years ago) and then die out during...

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2018-04-11 01:40:16

Tiny Alcohol Monitor Sits Just Beneath the Skin  

A tiny chip implanted just under the skin could be the Breathalyzer of the future. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego reported today that they had created a tiny chip that can read levels of alcohol in the body and relay that information to a smartwatch. It could be an alternative to traditional means of detecting whether someone has been drinking, and offers users the ability to monitor their blood-alcohol levels in real-time. The chip, which hasn't been tested ...

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2018-04-11 01:34:10

Can CRISPR Feed the World?  

Biologists have a new tool to save oranges and other crops — if the public can stomach it.

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2018-04-11 01:29:29

Brains or Biofilm? Doubts Over Famous "Soft Tissue" Fossils  

Few things get armchair paleontologists as excited as the phrase "soft tissue preservation." But a new study is casting doubt on some of the most stunning of these finds: Researchers argue that claims of brains, nerves and blood vessels preserved in animals for 520 million years are just a bunch of microbial goo called biofilm. For the last decade, researchers working in Southern China have described a number of fossils from Stage 3 of the Cambrian Period, more than 500 million year...

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2018-04-11 01:16:12

Dinosaur Diet Tips: Surf OR Turf For Apex Predators  

You are what you eat. And if you're one of the apex predators that populated an unusual ecosystem 100 million years ago, researchers can determine both your meal plan and how your local food chain got so top heavy with giant carnivores, including dinosaurs and crocs. Paleontologists have long puzzled over why the ancient river systems of North Africa were home to multiple apex predators. A new study provides a meaty answer, though there's something fishy about its data on Spinosaurus,...

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2018-04-11 01:12:12

Half A Degree Celsius Could Make A Big Difference For Arctic Sea Ice  

Two independent studies show how much we need to limit warming to preserve the ice. But we're currently headed on a very different path. Almost every month now we get news of dramatic losses of Arctic sea ice due to human-caused warming — and last month was no exception. The ice extent in March 2018 turned out to be the second lowest for the month in the satellite record. The best estimates are that unless we significantly reduce our emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide, th...

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2018-04-11 01:02:49

Bad Science of the Havana Embassy "Sonic Attack"  

In late 2016, staff at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, began to report hearing unusual sounds. Over the coming months, some staff were struck down by hearing loss and concussion-like symptoms. The strange sounds were interpreted as the cause, perhaps even reflecting a sonic weapon of an unknown nature. The story of the 'Havana embassy attack' has been told in detail but, until recently, there were no scientific studies of the event or its aftermath. That changed on February 15th, w

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2018-04-07 13:47:57

How the USB Taught North Korea to Love K-Pop  

A seemingly cheap and ordinary technology may have paved the way for a cultural exchange breakthrough that saw South Korean K-pop idols receive an unprecedented welcome from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It was not the first time that democratic South Korea has sent music acts to North Korea as part of diplomatic overtures to the authoritarian regime. In 1999, two pioneering K-pop groups, including the girl group Fin.K.L. and the boy band Sechskies, performed in the North Korean cap...

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2018-04-06 09:38:55

This compelling visualization shows the inexorable buildup of climate-altering CO2 in the atmosphere, week by week  

CO₂ averaged about 410 parts per million in the atmosphere during the last week of March. Ten years ago, it averaged ~387 ppm in that week. I spotted the animation above on Twitter the other day. It illustrates the growth of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in a novel and particularly compelling way, so I thought I'd share it here. The animation shows how the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has changed week-by-week and year-by-year starting at the beginning of...

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2018-04-06 05:46:52

Phew! Researchers Aren't Torturing Octopuses  

Some cephalopod researchers have another job title: Octopus anesthesiologist. It sounds far-fetched, but it's an important task. Octopuses, and cephalopods in general, are the smartest invertebrates, and their complex, unique central nervous systems are studied by researchers interested in everything from motor control to visual processing to cognition itself. But that kind of research often involves invasive techniques that could cause the creatures significant pain. Can You Feel It? ...

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2018-04-05 18:44:11

Advertisers, Beware the Trendsetter  

Science isn't all about curing cancer and traveling to black holes. The big questions are important, but the scientific method is also useful for figuring out the best way to approach, and even solve, specific problems. Sometimes those specific issues involve engineering the perfect material for the job, or finding out which paint absorbs radar waves the best. Sometimes it's about making better ads. As you can imagine, a lot of money rides on knowing the answers, so it's a very b...

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2018-04-05 14:47:59

Do Older Brains Make New Neurons or Not?  

One of the most basic things our bodies do is make new cells. It's what allows tissues to grow and heal, and allows our bodies to continually rejuvenate themselves. When it comes to cellular replenishment, one of the places researchers are most interested in is the brain. The formation of new brain cells is of critical interest to researchers studying everything from brain injuries to aging to mental illnesses like depression. New Neurons Or No? But researchers might be experiencing a ...

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2018-04-05 12:51:34

You've Seen This Letter Everywhere, But Can You Write It?  

Most of us learn the ABCs in our youth. We see and say the letters so many times they eventually become etched in our minds. But researchers from Johns Hopkins University discovered that many people don't know what the most common lowercase print version of the sixth letter of the alphabet really is. Heck, some didn't even know there were two types. Can You Guess the Correct Version? There are two ways people write the lowercase letter G. The looptail, which we tend to read becaus...

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2018-04-04 12:39:40

Don't Blame Me, Blame My Brain Implant  

Mr. B loves Johnny Cash, except when he doesn't. Mr. X has watched his doctors morph into Italian chefs right before his eyes. The link between the two? Both Mr. B and Mr. X received deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure involving an implant that sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain to alter neural activity. While brain implants aim to treat neural dysfunction, cases like these demonstrate that they may influence an individual's perception of the world and...

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2018-04-04 08:50:08

Space Metal Has Captivated Humanity for Ages  

Legions of metal nuggets swirl about our solar system. Metallic asteroids number in the millions, but they're relatively quite rare—bits and pieces of lonely matter that never became planets. Occasionally, they find a home. A tiny fraction of these dull, misshapen hunks of metal have rained onto our planet for millennia, sparking briefly alight as they kiss the atmosphere before biting deep into the planet's surface—if they aren't incinerated first. An even smaller fraction make ...

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2018-04-04 02:59:45

Fastest Delivery Drone Starts Lifesaving Flights  

Delivery drones can be game changers if they go beyond merely offering convenience to becoming lifesaving technologies on a daily basis. That has already become reality in Rwanda, where a Silicon Valley startup called Zipline uses delivery drones to make timely drop-offs to hospitals and clinics across the country. Now Zipline has begun flying what it describes as the world's fastest commercial delivery drones in its expanding operations that could include the United States by th...

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2018-04-03 05:55:49

What Does It All Ketamine?  

Regular readers will know of my interest in the theory that ketamine is a rapid-acting antidepressant. I've blogged about developments in ketamine-depression research for several years now, my interest being spurred partly by my own struggles with depression. As I've said previously, the research on ketamine as an antidepressant is promising, but I do not think it is possible to say yet how ketamine works in depression. I think it is possible that ketamine's apparently powerful effects ar

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2018-04-03 02:02:50

From the Overview Effect to "One Strange Rock": A Conversation with Leland Melvin  

It's hard to think of any modern human activity that has had more of a multiplicative impact on the imagination than space exploration. To date, a grand total of 562 humans have left the Earth—a trivial fraction compared to the 7.6 billion people currently staying put. Yet the image of astronauts voyaging away from their home planet has transformed popular culture, education, even business and politics. Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin is a lead agent helping to advance that transforma...

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2018-04-02 21:38:10

The Fantastic Bionic Flying Fox  

Flying foxes — also known as fruit bats — have an elastic membrane that stretches from their fingers (they also have thumbs) to their toes, making them incredibly aerodynamic and agile while flying. For the engineers at Festo, a German automation company, bats are the perfect specimen for bioinspired drones. The Bionic Flying Fox has a wingspan of more than 7 feet, is almost 3 feet long and weighs a little more than 1 pound, according Festo's website. For comparison, living, breathi...

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2018-04-02 20:16:26

What If Your Blood Could Kill Mosquitoes?  

A commonly used anti-parasite drug could be the next weapon in the fight against malaria. Researchers from Kenya and the United Kingdom report that dosing people with ivermectin, commonly used in heartworm pills, makes them deadly targets for the mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Nearly all of the mosquitoes in the experiment died after drinking ivermectin-laced blood, they say. Deadly Blood While malaria rates have been dropping historically, the disease still afflicts over 200 million

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2018-04-02 10:38:46

Let's Ditch the Boring Bunny! The Scientific Case for the Easter Echidna or Pasch Platypus  

It's time to have a serious talk about the Easter Bunny. I know, the long ears and twitchy nose are super cute. But it makes no sense for them to bring eggs for Easter. As members of the family Leporidae—which includes all hares and rabbits—bunnies bear live young. In fact, having lots of squirming babies is one of their most quintessential traits. We don't have the saying "breed like rabbits" for no reason. They're so prolific that over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle suggested th...

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2018-04-01 05:28:36

This may be as close as you can come to going on a spacewalk 240-ish miles above Earth  

The vertiginous video also offers an opportunity to consider theories posited by two of the giants of science While on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station over Mexico, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik captured this spectacular, vertiginous video with a GoPro camera. I spotted it in a NASA Tweet yesterday, and when I watched it, I really did have the sensation that this would be as close as I'll ever come to experiencing free-falling around the Ear...

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2018-04-01 04:19:41

Pigment of Our Imagination  

The story of human evolution is written in ochre.

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2018-04-01 03:43:01

Your Weekly Attenborough: Euptychia attenboroughi  

Small, spotted and dun flash of wings in the Amazon sun. Cloaked in mystery until 2015 Euptychia attenboroughi does not mean to be seen. Plucked from tangles of jungle undergrowth to a pin-speckled board, the lepidopterist's oath. Attenborough's black-eyed satyr, a forest god, a butterfly, it doesn't really matter. Black spots spark fear when danger's near or just sow confusion, it's not quite clear. Its range is limited, the numbers may be low so keep an ...

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2018-03-31 10:01:49

Dramatic satellite images reveal thick palls of dust choking Beijing and blowing across 2,000 miles of Asia  

About a week ago, dust sweeping north from the Sahara blanketed parts of Eastern Europe, turning snow-covered ski slopes a strange shade of orange. Now, another far-ranging pall of dust — exacerbated by nasty air pollution — is in the news, this time in northeast Asia. Starting on March 26th, China's northern regions were hit with their fourth round of sandstorms this year, according to the Xinhua news agency. By the 28th, Beijing was choking on heavy dust mixed with air polluta...

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2018-03-31 02:41:39

What Happens When a Blind Person Takes LSD?  

How do blind people experience psychedelic drugs? This is the topic of an interesting, but unusual, paper just out in Consciousness and Cognition. The paper's authors are University of Bath researchers Sara Dell'Erba, David J.Brown, and Michael J.Proulx. However, the real star contributor is a man referred to only as "Mr Blue Pentagon". Blue Pentagon ("BP") is the pseudonym for a 70 year old blind man who reports taking large quantities of LSD and other drugs during his career as a roc

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2018-03-31 01:02:30

Orchid Mooch Steals Nutrients From Mushroom And Uses It To Fake Out Fly Pollinators  

It comes as no surprise to regular readers of mine that I have a special place in my heart for parasites. I have waxed poetic about their global dominion, but usually, I focus on the animal kingdom's most malicious moochers. Today, though, is all about plant parasites. Specifically, this lovely orchid:

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2018-03-29 20:35:08

Wall Street Could Benefit from Classic Physics  

Some things may just be unknowable. How does the mind really work? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? What's really going on with the stock market? While we may never truly learn all the answers, we've at least got a little more to go on with that last question, thanks to a paper out this week in Physical Review Letters that finds a surprising "real life" model for financial markets. And, happily, it's one that scientists have used and understood for over a century: Browni...

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2018-03-29 13:47:12

Why Do Knuckles Crack? Engineers Calculate the Answer  

Love it or hate it, knuckles crack. For some the noise signals a welcome release, while others cringe at the thought of joints shifting about in their sockets. The sound itself, though, is still a bit of a mystery. Snap, Crackle, Why? Researchers have debated the source of the sharp pops for over a century now, and actually thought they had it cracked in the 1970s. The event was simply the sound of bubbles in the sinovial fluid between our joints collapsing, researchers concluded, th...

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2018-03-29 13:22:03

This cyclone almost became the East Coast's fifth nor'easter. What accounts for its beautiful comma shape?  

I first spotted a still image of this striking comma-shaped storm on Twitter. Captured by the GOES-16 weather satellite, the storm had already blown across part of the United States, dropping rain and snow along the way, and out into the Atlantic. Had it hugged the coast instead of pushing farther eastward, it would have been the fifth nor'easter in a row for the battered East Coast. Luckily, it did not. So now we can simply marvel at this meteorological wonder. Here's that still im...

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2018-03-29 12:47:17

When It Comes to Robots, Science Is More Creative Than Hollywood  

The movies Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Uprising are chock full of robot-versus-monster fights. Inside those massive bots are humans controlling every step, punch and kick — these are incredibly outdated assumptions about the future of ass-kicking robots. It is assumed that as a robot gets bigger it gets harder to control, so more operators are needed.But science shows that's not really how it works, argues Robin R. Murphy, the Raytheon Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at...

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2018-03-29 05:51:42

Hagfish Take Weeks to Recover from Sliming Someone  

If you see this animal, don't anger it. A hagfish under attack releases thick, clear slime in astonishing quantities. Now scientists have learned that this mucus is a precious resource for a hagfish. After sliming a predator, the fish can take nearly a month to refill its slime glands. Hagfish live on the ocean bottom, where they're opportunistic scavengers and hunters. The fish's potential predators back off quickly after getting a faceful of slime, which clogs their gills. Hagf...

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2018-03-29 03:33:23

The Interstitium Is Important, But Don't Call It An Organ (Yet)  

Humans might have a new organ, and the press is all over it—again. In brief: It's called the interstitium, or a layer of fluid-filled pockets hemmed in by collagen and it can be found all over our bodies, from skin to muscles to our digestive system. The interstitium likely acts as a kind of shock absorber for the rest of our interior bits and bobs and the workings of the fluid itself could help explain everything from tumor growth to how cells move within our bodies. The authors stop ...

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2018-03-29 03:28:43

TRAPPIST-1 Might Be Too Wet to Sustain Life  

The science community rejoiced when researchers discovered that three of the seven Earth-size planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a cool red dwarf about 40 light-years from Earth, are within the star's habitable zone and could have flowing water on their surfaces. But while the presence of water undoubtedly increases the likelihood of habitability for these planets, it doesn't automatically make them safe havens for life. In fact, an overabundance of water suggests just the opposite, and n...

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2018-03-29 02:59:17

Human Footprints Off Canadian Coast Pre-date End Of Last Ice Age  

Nearly 30 human footprints from at least three different individuals, found at a remote island off Canada's Pacific Coast, could be the latest evidence that people arrived in North America by sea. At about 13,000 years old, the tracks pre-date the end of the last ice age. Ancient trackways have provided valuable information about the presence and physical traits of humans and other hominins, and they've occasionally stirred up controversy. Today, researchers describe 29 human footprin...

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2018-03-29 02:06:19

Cheetah Hitches a Ride During African Safari  

People go on safaris in Africa to see wildlife and experience the wonders of nature. One safari group, however, got uncomfortably close with nature. Curious about the vehicle, a cheetah jumped on the hood of the group's vehicle. While everyone focused on that one,  another cheetah decided to jump into the SUV.. "The sheer tension of sitting in a vehicle thinking, 'I'm going to die,' and then living. We just, everyone in the car just looked at each other, we paused for 10 seconds as t...

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2018-03-29 01:13:03

Triassic Park: A Decade-Long Labor To Recreate A Lost World  

You've probably heard about The Great Dying, more formally known as the End-Permian mass extinction, when more than 95 percent of species worldwide went extinct. This darkest hour in the story of life on Earth occurred some 251 million years ago, most likely the result of monstrous, region-wide volcanic activity in Siberia that acidified the oceans, wrecked the climate and may have even ripped open the ozone layer to allow in rather nasty levels of ultraviolet radiation. But...what happen

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2018-03-28 04:41:40

WWII Warship Lost with Five Sullivan Brothers Has Been Found  

One of the most well-known stories of family sacrifice in wartime is the loss of the five Sullivan brothers aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau during World War II. That story resurfaced after an expedition headed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen discovered wreckage from the USS Juneau lying on the ocean floor in the South Pacific. Serving together aboard the USS Juneau, the Sullivan brothers were all lost at sea after their battle-damaged warship received a torpedo hit that blew the Ju

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2018-03-27 10:24:40

How to Discover New Cloud Species  

Clouds form in a multitude of different shapes and sizes, their infinite combinations and position across the sky offering a visual drama in response to the light conditions. But despite their apparent randomness, a detailed naming convention is in place to categorize them. When a cloud ultimately can't be fitted into one of the many existing categories, it can be nominated for a classification of its own. In 2017, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) added 12 new types of c...

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2018-03-27 03:31:18

Mobile MEG: Will New Technology Change Neuroscience?  

An improved method for recording brain activity could prove a major asset to neuroscience, according to a Nature paper just out: Moving magnetoencephalography towards real-world applications with a wearable system The new device is an improved version of an existing technique, called magnetoencephalography (MEG). MEG scanners detect magnetic fluctuations caused by the brain's electrical activity. Existing MEG devices, however, are bulky, expensive installations, because they rely on liqui

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2018-03-26 16:44:31

Should We Worry About Computer Algorithms' 'Mental Health'?  

Is my car hallucinating? Is the algorithm that runs the police surveillance system in my city paranoid? Marvin the android in Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had a pain in all the diodes down his left-hand side. Is that how my toaster feels? This all sounds ludicrous until we realize that our algorithms are increasingly being made in our own image. As we've learned more about our own brains, we've enlisted that knowledge to create algorithmic versions of ourselves. T...

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2018-03-26 13:13:15

Military Weapon Uses Lasers to Produce 'Voices'  

Are you hearing voices? Say yes and many people might question your sanity. But hearing voices is exactly what the United States military hopes will happen with a weapon it's currently developing. The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD) is building a weapon called the Laser Induced Plasma Effect. Here's how it works according to Patrick Tucker of Defense One: "The weapon is composed of two parts: first, a femtosecond laser, which shoots a burst of focused light for 10−15 seco...

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2018-03-26 09:10:39

Sustainable Paper, Brought to You by Elephant Dung  

Scientists may have found a way to generate environmentally friendly paper from poop—cow and elephant poop that is. Although this may seem strange and unconventional, this poo-per actually offers a more simple and sustainable alternative to the traditional, resource-intense papermaking process. The cows and elephants streamline the papermaking operation by taking up a good chunk of the pre-processing duty in their digestive system. In traditional paper production, non-wood pulp and w...

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2018-03-26 08:16:32

Better Diet Data Via Tooth-Mounted Sensors  

In First World countries, where famine is unheard of, people are instead eating themselves to death. Surrounded by wealth and access to health care, non-communicable diseases are responsible for roughly 38 million deaths each year. Apart from sedentary lifestyles, smoking and alcohol abuse, our daily diets are also a primary driver of poor health. Food-related pathologies such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are all ticking upward along with people's standard of living. So how ...

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2018-03-26 08:11:51

To Scare Off Predators, Caterpillar Whistles like a Kettle  

It's hard to yell "BACK OFF!" when you have no lungs, but this caterpillar has figured out a way. Under attack, the Nessus sphinx moth caterpillar emits a sort of crackling buzz from its mouth. Scientists compare the unusual mechanism to a whistling teakettle. Or a rocket. Lots of insects make noise, of course, as opening a window on a summer evening will remind you. Conrado Rosi-Denadai, a graduate student at Carleton University, and his coauthors write that sound-making tools in...

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2018-03-23 20:44:55

Future Cities Could Be Designed for Drone Delivery  

When you think of drone delivery, what comes to mind? Pizzas falling from the sky, crowded skies or maybe you just don't think it'll ever happen? No matter the case, a new video shows what a future with delivery drones might look like. PriestmanGoode, an industrial design agency based in London, released the trailer for "Elevation" — a film of a drone delivery concept — at the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong earlier this week. The delivery system, called Dragonfly, is ...

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2018-03-23 15:11:48

Ancient Flood Left Its Mark in the Mediterranean Sea  

One of the largest floods in Earth's history may have deluged the Mediterranean Sea more than 5.3 million years ago, leaving behind a mass of debris roughly the size of Greece's largest island, Crete, researchers say. Scientists investigated a roughly 640,000-year span of time starting nearly 6 million years ago when the Mediterranean became a hyper-salty lake. This so-called Messinian salinity crisis "was the most abrupt environmental change, at a planetary scale, since the end of the Cr

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2018-03-23 10:49:46

The Arctic sea ice max for this winter was second lowest on record, thanks in part to an "extreme heat wave"  

The maximum extent of sea ice after a winter of growth was well below average — an area of lost ice about two-thirds the size of Alaska After expanding all winter, the Arctic's floating lid of sea ice has now reached its maximum extent — and it has continued an unsettling trend. The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced today that this year's maximum extent is the second lowest in the 39-year record of satellite observations. "The four lowest maximum extents in the satellit...

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2018-03-23 09:37:57

WATCH: Tropical Cyclone Marcus marauding through the Indian Ocean, as seen in this beautiful satellite video  

Marcus is the world's strongest storm so far in 2018 After strengthening into the year's first Category 5 storm, Tropical Cyclone Marcus has weakened. At it strongest, the storm attained maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour as it swirled off the northwestern coast of Australia on Wednesday. As I'm writing this on Thursday (Friday morning in Australia), Marcus has settled down to 120 mph, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. It is fo...

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2018-03-23 03:56:08

Solar System Still Reels From Ancient Star Intrusion  

When 'Oumuamua passed by our neck of the woods last fall, it got everyone talking. Sure, some of your Facebook friends were likely eager to speculate on the rock's possibly extraterrestrial origins. But as the first known interstellar visitor, it got scientists curious too. Maybe there are other intergalactic interlopers among us? Perhaps it would be possible to study the orbits of known, weirdly orbiting objects in the solar system, and divine any extrasolar origins simply by tracing...

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2018-03-22 18:59:32

Atacama "Alien" Update: DNA Details Of Six-Inch Skeleton  

Smaller than a Barbie doll, with an elongated skull and other anomalies, the mummified skeleton known as "Ata" was found in an abandoned mining town in Chile's Atacama Desert in 2003. And since then, there has been no shortage of theories about the individual, many of them suggesting an otherworldly origin. A study out today answers several of the questions swirling around the remains. You may have become acquainted with the Atacama "alien" through 2013's Sirius, which focused on ass...

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2018-03-22 17:05:01

Let's Journey Through the Mind of a Dog  

Inside a dog's furry head are millions of neurons firing away, passing chemicals to one another and generating thoughts. We may guess at what our canine pals are thinking about: food, a walk, their loving owners. But for all the time humans spend interacting with dogs, their thoughts largely elude us, and it's easy to see why: dogs can't speak their minds (at least in any language we know). But we still are curious about our best bud's mindset, and scientists have devised creative m...

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2018-03-22 15:52:17

Video Shows Self-Driving Uber Inaction in Pedestrian Death  

A self-driving Uber accident that killed a homeless woman represents a somber milestone in the development of self-driving car technologies. Now a video of the accident may raise more questions about why the Uber vehicle failed to react to the woman and thereby claimed the life of the first pedestrian victim in self-driving car history. The video released by police shows two views of the accident that took place in Tempe, Arizona on the night of March 18. An outside view of the front ...

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2018-03-22 04:19:38

Solar Silliness: The Heart-Sun Connection  

On Twitter, I learned about a curious new paper in Scientific Reports: Long-Term Study of Heart Rate Variability Responses to Changes in the Solar and Geomagnetic Environment by Abdullah Alabdulgader and colleagues. According to this article, the human heart "responds to changes in geomagnetic and solar activity". This paper claims that things like solar flares, cosmic rays and sunspots affect the beating of our hearts. Spoiler warning: I don't think this is true. In fact, I think the

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2018-03-22 03:14:42

New Brain Scanner Fits Right Atop the Head  

When it comes to observing the inner workings of our brains, there are a few ways we can do it. But, for most, bulky machines and carefully controlled environments are the norm. The traditional trade-off researchers face for a glimpse inside the mind is a mind that's constrained in some fairly unnatural ways. It can make doing research on how the brain works during basic human activities difficult. Researchers from the U.K., however, have found a better way to get inside our heads. They'v

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2018-03-22 01:06:53

Theoretically, Recording Dreams Is Possible...Scientists Are Trying  

Dreams can feel awfully real when you're deep in sleep. Perhaps you find a hidden doorway in your home that leads to entirely new rooms and passageways. Maybe you went to work in your underwear—yikes. When you wake up, you check your closet for that mysterious doorway; maybe you jolt awake in a cold sweat, instantly relieved you still have plenty of time to properly clothe yourself before leaving the house. Regardless, whatever you were experiencing felt very real just moments ago. ...

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2018-03-21 16:02:55

Dual-Venomed Assassin Bugs Store Their Chemical Arms Separately  

In one of his journal entries from his time aboard The Beagle, Charles Darwin told of a "great black bug" and how it boldly sucked blood from his finger through its large mouthpart. The creature was likely Triatoma infestans, a kissing bug—one of the almost 7,000 species of assassin bug that are now described. Like its kin, it's armed with an ominous looking proboscis which it uses to slurp up its meals. But the kissing bug is one of only a few assassin bugs with vampiric tastes....

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2018-03-21 08:27:32

New research documents a counterintuitive impact of global warming: sea-ice hazards to shipping  

Human-caused warming is popping the frozen corks that normally bottle up thick sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, allowing it to pour south Ships plying the North Atlantic Ocean in spring are facing increased hazards from floating Arctic sea ice as a result of human-caused global warming. That might seem counterintuitive, but here's what's happening, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters: Warming temperatures are causing ice that normally blocks na...

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2018-03-21 06:40:33

Sexual Signaling, Dino-Style  

Triceratops to potential mate: "Hey baby, check out my frill and big know what they say, big horns, big everything, awwwww yeahhhhh..." Apparently, that's how hook-ups went down in the Mesozoic, at least for the famously horned and frilled ceratopsians. Paleontologists have long debated the purpose of the animals' elaborate headgear, but a study out today, based on a new approach, says the animals' fabulous flair was all about the sexy time. The ceratopsians, one of the m

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2018-03-20 20:06:47

What Stephen Hawking's Final Paper Says (And Doesn't Say)  

Before he died, renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking submitted a paper, with co-author Thomas Hertog, to an as-yet-unknown journal. The paper deals with the concept of the multiverse and a theory known as cosmic inflation. Though the paper currently exists only in pre-print form, meaning it hasn't completed the process of peer-review, it's received a significant amount of coverage. "Stephen Hawking's last paper," after all, does have a bit of a mythological ring to it. Stephen Hawking wro

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2018-03-20 13:40:31

Hold Off Dyeing Your Hair With Graphene Nanoparticles  

Graphene is something of a celebrity in the world of nanoscale materials. Isolated in 2004 by Nobel Prize winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, these ultrathin sheets of carbon atoms are already finding novel uses in areas like electronics, high-efficiency heating systems, water purification technologies and even golf balls. According to recent research published in the journal Chem, hair dyes can now be added to this list. But how safe and responsible is this new use of the c

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2018-03-20 13:26:22

Move Over Hops, Yeast Can Give IPAs Their Signature Flavor  

The craft brew revolution is fueled by an earnest pursuit of hoppiness. Many craft beer enthusiasts are drawn to the potent, bitter, aromatic flavors of a primo India Pale Ale (IPA), and brewers take pride in delivering a roundhouse kick to mouth in every bottle. Indeed, the names of IPAs often connote a cataclysmic struggle between man and beer: Hoo Lawd, Hopslam Ale, Pound Town, Hoptrocity, Ruination. You get the point. As the names suggest, hops—the flowers of Humulus lupulus—ar...

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2018-03-20 11:24:31

Uber's Self-Driving Car Involved in Fatal Pedestrian Accident  

Uber's self-driving car hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, overnight, according to the Tempe Police Department. The car was in autonomous mode with a human operator behind the wheel with no passengers, police told Discover in an email. The pedestrian, a 49-year-old woman, was walking her bicycle near a crosswalk, but not within the lines, at about 10 p.m. Sunday when she was struck by the vehicle, according to Tempe police officers. She died of her injuries at a local ho...

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2018-03-19 20:36:16

Are Airplanes Really a Microbial Playground?  

Crying babies, chronic snorers — they're the usual targets of our displeasure when we fly. But, the real villains of the sky might be germs. Flyers are packed into a cramped metal tube for hours on end where movement is limited. It seems like a microbe's playground. But research on the topic is a bit inconclusive, despite worrying cases involving SARS and an aggressive type of influenza. Studies suggest that caution is warranted, but researchers have so far had trouble saying exactly...

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2018-03-19 15:02:01

Rediscovered US Carrier Sank in Historic WWII Duel  

When the aircraft carrier USS Lexington sank beneath the surface of the Coral Sea, it represented a significant casualty of history's first clash between carriers during World War II. 76 years later, an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced that it had rediscovered wreckage from the carrier known as "Lady Lex" lying on the seafloor about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. The loss of the USS Lexington took place during the Battle of Coral Sea: a battle...

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2018-03-19 03:34:08

The Selective Skepticism of Lynne McTaggart  

Lynne McTaggart is an author and leading alternative health proponent who was the foil for my first ever Neuroskeptic post, nearly 10 years ago. Ever since then I have occasionally been following McTaggart's output. McTaggart is believer in things like a "Zero Point Field (ZPF), a sea of energy that reconciles mind with matter", an opponent of vaccines, and someone who thinks that spiritual and psychological change can cure advanced cancer. Since my first post, I haven't written mo

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2018-03-17 11:58:18

Your Weekly Attenborough: Blakea attenboroughii  

Plants, they're just like us. We begin our lives as, really, parasites. A baby may bring some joy into the world, but it's not contributing much beyond that. It takes feeding, cleaning, protecting, teaching and money to polish a human being into something approaching societal worth. After all, David Attenborough wouldn't have been Sir David Attenborough without Frederick and Mary.Blakea attenboroughi shares at least one thing with its namesake — they both needed a bit of help to get off...

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2018-03-16 08:18:26

Worn-Down Tusks Show Most African Elephants Are Righties  

You don't need hands to be right- or left-handed. Many kinds of animals have shown a preference for using one side of their body or the other. They include apes, whales, dogs, cats, cows, toads, fish and even honeybees. Now, with data from a rather unsavory source, researchers have found evidence for "tuskedness" in elephants. Although humans aren't alone in having handedness, we do seem to have the most extreme bias as a species. Other animals seem more evenly divided between righties ...

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2018-03-16 07:08:45

Radical Revision To Timeline Of Human Behavior Evolution  

Three papers, published together in Science today, add up to a paradigm-shoving conclusion: Key aspects of what we think of as modern human behavior evolved more than 300,000 years ago, a radical revision to the evolutionary timeline. To understand the significance of the trio of studies, let's take a brisk walk through recent changes in our understanding of human evolution. For decades, the consensus was that Homo sapiens evolved around 200,000 years ago in Africa, with anatomically ...

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2018-03-15 19:51:37

Scientists Record Volcanic Thunder For the First Time  

When a volcano erupts, it can spew a cloud of ash miles into the stratosphere. It makes for an impressive sight, and an even more impressive amount of sheer material — large eruptions can loft cubic miles of rock and ash skyward. And, to add to the wow factor, the clouds sometimes spawn their own lightning. As the cloud swirls chaotically in its journey skyward, the jagged ash particles are rubbed against one another, causing static electricity to accumulate. Static electricity in na...

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2018-03-15 06:23:43

This Optical Illusion Could Help to Diagnose Autism  

You probably see a cylinder when you look at the illusion above. But how our brains translate two intersecting sheets of moving dots into a 3D image reveals telling differences in visual perception that could perhaps help diagnose autism spectrum disorder. It's been shown that people with autism are better at picking out the details of complex images, at the cost of understanding what all those details mean when put together. This can mean seeing the trees, but not the forest, or the str...

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2018-03-15 05:23:12

Is Human Adult Neurogenesis Dead? And Does It Matter?  

Does the human brain continue creating new neurons throughout adult life? The idea that neurogenesis exists in the adult human hippocampus has generated a huge amount of excitement and stimulated much research. It's been proposed that disruptions to neurogenesis could help to explain stress, depression, and other disorders. But a new study, published in Nature, has just poured cold water on the whole idea. Researchers Shawn F. Sorrells and colleagues report that neurogenesis ends in humans so

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2018-03-15 04:38:04

Drones Get Grabby With an Origami Arm  

We all know drones offer unique views from above, but give 'em a hand and they can do a whole lot more. With a functioning arm they could better enter tight areas or lend a hand in gathering samples. Taking inspiration from origami, a team of researchers from Seoul National University in Korea created a deployable arm that easily attaches to a drone and unfurls when needed. In the past, origami-inspired designs were limited because they aren't exactly structurally sound. Researchers,...

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2018-03-15 04:07:36

Finding Stephen Hawking's Star—And Finding Your Own  

When I look at the night sky, I often view the stars not just in space but also in terms of their places in time. Light moves at a finite speed (299,792 kilometers per second, to be precise), so the journey from star to star is a very long one even for a beam of light. When astronomers talk about light years of distance, they are literally describing the number of years it takes for light to travel from those distant stars to your eyeball. And so when I heard about the death of Stephen Ha

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2018-03-15 03:03:52

Avoiding Pitfalls in Paleontology: A Couple Case Studies  

In 2015, astrophysicist and science commentary go-to guy Neil Degrasse Tyson, flubbing an answer on a quiz show, quipped: "I love being wrong because that means...I learned something new that day." That's my favorite of Tyson's many memorable lines, and it's one that I wish I heard other researchers express more often. Science at its best is about constant refinement and being willing to learn new things — even when the new evidence or hypotheses contradict what some researchers, out ...

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2018-03-15 02:35:14

Interbreeding Surprise! More Denisovans In Our Family Tree  

Hey, sex happens. And apparently, whenever our ancestors met up with other members of the genus Homo, it happened a lot. New genetic analysis published today reveals previously unidentified evidence of interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Denisovans, a branch of our family tree not even known to science until a decade ago. You remember the Denisovans, right? Researchers uncovered a piece of pinky finger and a few other fossil fragments in Denisova Cave, in the Altai Mountains of Sibe...

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2018-03-15 01:44:31

Goodbye, Professor Hawking  

Well, if you're on the internet today, you've probably already heard: Stephen Hawking died this morning at the age of 76. Almost every single news and science-based website (are there any others?) have stories on the physicist and his amazing life and achievements — chief among them, perhaps, being famous enough to deserve all those headlines. He was almost certainly the world's most recognizable living scientist, and one of the most famous of all time. If people know him for anyt...

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2018-03-14 03:07:05

A Brilliant Life: Stephen Hawking Defied All Odds  

Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking. He had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and it was thought that he might not survive long enough even to finish his PhD. But he lived to the age of 76, passing away on March 14, 2018. It really was astonishing. Astronomers are used to

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2018-03-14 01:06:18

Scientists Link Arctic Heat and Northeast Blizzards  

In late February, an invasion of warm, southern air sent temperatures surging above freezing across the Arctic and toward the North Pole. In the two weeks since then, three nor'easters have smacked New England and the surrounding areas. As the Arctic warms, this trend has become common in recent winters, and it's drawn new attention to links between the polar vortex — a constant mass of cold, dense air rotating over the north pole — and weather patterns farther south. When the ...

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2018-03-13 19:56:04

The Glorious Twilight of Pterosaurs  

While dinosaurs have a healthy hold on our imagination, their sky-sailing relatives the pterosaurs don't get nearly as much attention as they should. Maybe that's because researchers thought the flying reptiles were already declining in numbers and diversity well before the infamous End-Cretaceous mass extinction. New research out today says hold on: It appears pterosaurs were actually enjoying a heyday 66 million or so years ago, when a space rock and massive volcanic activity created a

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2018-03-13 14:35:57

NASA's Next Stop: A Space Station Orbiting The Moon  

The International Space Station is entering its twilight years. As such, NASA is making plans for the space station of the future — one that would orbit the moon. This new lunar outpost will be smaller and more remote than the ISS — orbing beyond Earth's protective magnetic field. And the station's goal would be to serve as a transit hub for deep space missions and exploration past low-Earth orbit, while continuing all the science that can be done in zero gravity. It would also be...

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2018-03-13 11:17:53

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