Your Bacterial ‘Aura’ Follows You From Place to Place

By Bethany Hubbard | August 28, 2014 1:00 pm

home microbiome

Housemates may share more than a Netflix subscription and a mortgage – they also host an abundance of shared microbes, which significantly shape a home’s overall micro-environment, according to a new study.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago have found that the communities of microbes living in individual homes are unique and identifiable, meaning humans sharing a home have a similar microbial “aura.” And, these microbial passengers follow us wherever we go, swiftly populating new homes, and even hotel rooms, within less than a day of occupancy.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Finally! Secret of Death Valley’s ‘Sailing Stones’ Is Revealed

By Carl Engelking | August 27, 2014 1:00 pm

sailing stones

The Racetrack Playa — a barren lakebed in Death Valley National Park — is home to one of the world’s natural wonders: “sailing stones” that mysteriously meander across the dried mud, leaving tracks in their wake. Since the 1940s, these rocks have fueled wonder and speculation because no one had seen them in action — until now.

A team of U.S. scientists recorded the first observation of these boulders in motion, using GPS monitors and time-lapse photography. By meticulously tracking weather data, scientists also explained how these rocks slog across the playa. What was one of the world’s natural wonders now appears to be the perfect combination of rain, wind, ice and sun. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: earth science, geology

Researchers “Copy and Paste” Fear From One Memory to Another

By Ben Thomas | August 27, 2014 12:13 pm


We tend to think of our memories as dependable guides to the past — but the truth is, many studies have found that our memories change over time. Our brains constantly edit our memories to rearrange events and change dialogue; and our emotional memories of events are often colored by the way we feel about those events today.

Now, researchers studying mice have discovered that memories can be broken down into component parts — the emotional part separated from the factual part — and that the emotions associated with a memory can be transferred to a totally different memory.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: memory & learning

SpaceX’s Rocket Prototype Suffers a Setback

By Carl Engelking | August 25, 2014 2:34 pm

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches in July. (Credit:SpaceX)

In the process of revolutionizing space travel, there’s bound to be a few hiccups.

On Friday, SpaceX experienced one of those hiccups. During a test flight at their Texas development site, a three-engine version of the company’s unmanned Falcon 9 reusable (F9R) rocket self-destructed shortly after launching. Read More

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

Smart Shirts Debut at U.S. Open Tennis Tournament

By Carl Engelking | August 25, 2014 1:19 pm
Courtesy: Ralph Lauren Company

Courtesy: Ralph Lauren Company

If you want a peek at the future of fitness tech, keep an eye on the ball chasers at this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament, which opens today in Flushing, New York.

At select matches, ball boys will be sporting compression shirts embedded with sensors and circuits to relay health information to tournament officials.

The smart shirts are woven with a silver-coated, conductive thread and contain an ECG, a breathing sensor, an accelerometer and gyroscope. All of the data are fed into the shirt’s “black box” that will beam data to a smartphone app — from which the wearers’ heartbeat, breathing rate, stress levels and energy outputs can be displayed. Read More

Iceland Braces for Volcanic Eruption

By Robin Wylie | August 25, 2014 11:46 am

bardarbunga volcano

There are strong signs that one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes could be about to erupt, raising fears of an ash cloud which could ground international flights.

Alarms were raised last week, when an earthquake swarm struck beneath Bardarbunga — Iceland’s second-tallest volcano, situated in the center of the island nation. Worried that an eruption could be imminent, the government evacuated more than 300 people living in the vicinity of the volcano on August 20.

Since the crisis began, more than 8,000 earthquakes have hit in the region around Bardarbunga. These reflect the rise of magma from deep beneath the volcano. Yesterday, several quakes struck which were stronger than magnitude 5 — exceedingly large for volcanic earthquakes.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Watch As This Bird Divebombs Unsuspecting People From Behind

By Carl Engelking | August 22, 2014 3:32 pm

Angry Birds becomes a lot less fun when that bird is in real life, and it’s dive-bombing your head.

This aggressive blackbird was caught on camera unleashing volleys of sky-terror on unsuspecting passers-by in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The reactions are priceless: people shriek. People get mad. A little boy cries. Universally the look on their faces is “What the hell was that?!”

Angry Birds

But why was this blackbird so angry? It could all be in her head. In 2012 researchers reported that levels of a brain chemical, called VIP, could predict how aggressive certain species of birds were. VIP is secreted in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls basic functions like hunger, sleep and aggression.

By using a small piece of DNA that specifically matched to waxbills’ — notoriously aggressive birds — brand of VIP, scientists created an injection that stopped the birds’ neurons from producing the anger-inducing chemical. The waxbills’ reactions to intruders went from instant brawling to more sedate warning chirps. In birds that were less aggressive, like zebra finches, the injection made them even more peaceable.

Perhaps this bird has got sky-high VIP levels — or perhaps there’s another explanation. You’ll have to watch to the end to find out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Injured Koala Brought Back to Life by CPR

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 22, 2014 11:21 am

In a series of events that could only occur in Australia, an injured koala’s life was saved last week by quick-thinking firefighters who performed CPR on the animal.

The koala was hit by a car in Langwarrin, in Melbourne’s southeast, and was unconscious when firefighters retrieved it from the tree. But after heart massage, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and oxygen treatment, the koala was stabilized.

koala cpr

“First time I’ve done CPR on a koala,” said Michelle Thomas, the wildlife officer on hand during the emergency.

The koala is current being supervised by a vet and has been named Sean after the captain of the firefighting team that saved his life. He has recovered and will soon be released to a new home — further from the road.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Cyborg Moths, Wired From Birth, Could Serve as Living Drones

By Shannon Palus | August 22, 2014 10:15 am


In a lab at North Carolina State University, researchers have created moths that are a blend of wires and tissue. The eventual plan: to control a cyborg moth army. The biobots could be used to map ecosystems, spot survivors in search and rescue missions, or to carry out spy missions.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts

Pears Shaped Like Babies Are a Hit In China

By Carl Engelking | August 21, 2014 2:27 pm
Buddha pears growing on a tree after having their molds removed.

Baby pears growing on a tree.

Humans have a long history of tinkering with their fruits and vegetables; we can grow purple tomatoes, super bananas or the classic seedless watermelon. But in terms of customization, we haven’t done much to alter the shape of our fruits and veggies — until now.

Welcome to the new frontier of making fruits in the shape of baby people. You can buy these person-pears in markets in China, and it’s all thanks to the efforts of the Fruit Mould Co., which specializes in building custom molds that attach to fruits to give them a unique shape. From heart-shaped cucumbers to square watermelons, you can get your freaky fruits here.

Funky Fruits

So far, the company has molds for cucumbers, watermelons, pears, apples tomatoes and cherries.

The science is pretty simple: Molds are attached to small fruits as they grow on the vine or branch. As the fruit grows, it fills in the mold and takes on its shape. The watermelon, for example, takes about 18 days to turn into a square.

And apart from the novelty, shaped fruits may have some practical uses. A square watermelon, for instance, would stay put during a car ride home from the grocery store. Or be more easily gift-wrapped. Or… serve as a better paperweight? So next Valentine’s Day, be sure to impress your sweetie with heart-shaped cucumber.

Heart-shaped watermelon. Square applesHeart-shaped cucumbersSquare watermelonsThe Buddha pear mold. Pears grow into their molds. A watermelon grows into its mold.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

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