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Seriously, Science?

Want to learn Chinese? Read this first!

By Seriously Science | April 23, 2014 6:00 am

If you have ever struggled to learn a tonal language like Cantonese, you are probably (painfully) aware of how difficult it can be. In tonal languages, the same syllables can have different meanings if spoken with an increasing, neutral, or decreasing pitch. But xenoglossophobes, fear not — these researchers are here to help! They guessed that learning words in Cantonese would be easier and faster if students were first taught to distinguish different tones. To test this idea, they compared stu …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: rated G, told you so

D-brief

'Minecraft' Helps Residents Remake Developing Cities

By Carl Engelking | April 22, 2014 4:17 pm

For the most part, video games are simply another form of entertainment like movies, television and books; rarely will a video game serve a purpose other than to provide a leisurely pastime. But Minecraft is breaking that mold. The critically acclaimed video game is now democratizing the planning and design of run-down public spaces around the world.

Minecraft is an open-ended game that allows players to construct anything they can imagine using textured cubes as their building material.  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: computers

D-brief

Biofuel Made From Corn Waste Less 'Green' Than Gasoline

By Carl Engelking | April 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Biofuel created from corn waste may not be the clean, eco-friendly oil alternative the United States government is hoping for. A new study has found that fuel generated from harvested corn leftovers creates more greenhouse gases than conventional gasoline — at least in the short term.

The fuel under study, called cellulosic ethanol, has been touted in recent years as a promising successor to current corn-based ethanol. Unlike the ethanol now mixed into gasoline, cellulosic ethanol is mad …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: energy, sustainability
Draper_Herbert_James_Mourning_for_Icarus

But Not Simpler

Forget Icarus, Fly As Close To The Sun As You Want!

By Kyle Hill | April 22, 2014 10:30 am

Then he caught sight of the feathers on the waves, and cursed his inventions. He laid the body to rest, in a tomb, and the island was named Icaria after his buried child. —Metamorphoses Book VIII

In a mythology beset by monsters created by malice (and sometimes bestiality) shines one crafted out of hope and ultimately hubris—the ill-fated Icarus. Though his fatal flight was mentioned only in passing over 2,000 years ago, Icarus remains an enduring symbol of human folly. The fate of Ic …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Inkfish

Frogs Survive Subzero Temperatures by Living as Ice Cubes

By Elizabeth Preston | April 22, 2014 9:22 am

No matter how rough a winter you think you had, it was nothing compared to what a wood frog survives every year. Some of these little amphibians are still waiting for spring, when they’ll thaw out and turn from frog-shaped blocks of ice back into animals. Recently, scientists took a close look at wood frogs living deep in the Alaskan woods and learned that they’re even more impressive than we’d imagined.

Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) are known for their skill—more like a superpower …

Seriously, Science?

The purpose of yawning might be to cool your brain.

By Seriously Science | April 22, 2014 6:00 am

Wondering what’s been going on lately in the field of chasmology (the scientific study of yawning)? Well, we still don’t really understand why people yawn, but we can add another contender to the list of theories: brain cooling. In this study, the authors showed subjects photos of people yawning to determine their susceptibility to “yawn contagion.” They found that the subjects were more likely to “catch” yawns in the summer compared with the winter. Although there are a number of things tha …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: holy correlation batman!, WTF?
spacex-launch

D-brief

SpaceX Rocket Launch Looks Stunning From Drone's-Eye View

By Carl Engelking | April 21, 2014 3:19 pm

We’re used to seeing rockets launch and disappear into the sky, but things are a little different at Elon Musk’s SpaceX facility in Texas. On Friday, the company launched its first test flight of a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket, which reached over 800 feet in altitude and then made a controlled landing.

Later that same day, SpaceX capped that momentous achievement with a bird’s-eye video of the test flight, courtesy of a hexacopter drone. The drone provides an up-close look as the  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

D-brief

Powdered Alcohol To Be Sold in U.S. This Fall

By Carl Engelking | April 21, 2014 2:36 pm

Update: If you were looking forward to enjoying Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product, this fall, you may need to wait a bit longer. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8, but rescinded its approval April 21 after this article was published. A representative with the bureau told the Associated Press that the original approvals were issued in error. Palcohol’s parent company Lipsmark will need to resubmit its labels for approval. [This up …

MORE ABOUT: alcohol, food science

D-brief

Lead in Ancient Rome's Water Was 100 Times Natural Levels

By Gemma Tarlach | April 21, 2014 2:02 pm

Everything from northern barbarians to the spread of Christianity has been blamed for the collapse of ancient Rome. But researchers have new evidence for another contributor: There was something in the water.

A study has found that “tap” water in ancient Rome — supplied to the city via lead pipes called fistulae — contained 100 times more lead than water drawn directly from local springs. That amount of lead in the water may have been a “major public health issue,” according to the ne …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology, pollution

Collide-a-Scape

Showtime, Syria, and the Faces of Climate Change

By Keith Kloor | April 21, 2014 1:44 pm

Twenty years ago, a hugely influential article by Robert Kaplan titled “The Coming Anarchy,” was published in The Atlantic magazine. Kaplan argued that the environment would be the “national security issue of the early twenty-first century.” He predicted that resource scarcity and ecological degradation would be destabilizing forces in the developing world, “making more and more places like Nigeria, India, and Brazil ungovernable.”

Such predictions have not come to pass, as one reappraisal o …

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