An Elephant’s Sense of Smell May Be Better Than Yours

By Bill Andrews | July 22, 2014 12:00 pm
You guys smell that? Credit john michael evan potter / Shutterstock

You guys smell that? Credit: john michael evan potter / Shutterstock

Next time you’re deciding whether to throw out some questionable produce, you might want to turn to an elephant. That’s because the lumbering pachyderms turn out to have more genes coding for olfactory receptors (which detect smells) than any other known mammal — more than twice that found in dogs, and almost five times more than humans. Sorry, Fido, you’ve been genetically outsmelled.

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

The Beefy Environmental Cost of Eating Steak

By April Reese | July 22, 2014 10:57 am

beef cattle

A top cut of sirloin at your local grocery store will cost you about $7. But behind the price tag is a hidden cost: its beefy environmental impact.

To carnivores, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a thick, juicy steak. But how many of us think about what resources it consumed on its way to our plate? Cattle, along with other livestock such as dairy cows and chickens, typically fatten up on grains and hay grown with fertilizers that can pollute waterways. And the animals need water to drink and land to live on, some of which is cleared of trees or native grasses for pastureland or to grow feed. But just how much of an environmental impact do these tasty protein sources have? And is one “greener” than the other? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

How Stress Creates Landforms Like the Delicate Arch

By Lacy Schley | July 22, 2014 8:40 am

delicate arch

Many of us can think back on beachside memories of playing architect and trying to build the perfect sand castle only to watch that sand fall to the shore, knocked down by wind and water.

But civilians and scientists alike have looked at natural landforms made from sand like the Delicate Arch or the Double Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park and wondered just how that sand managed to form something so massive and durable. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: geology

10 Surprising Secrets From Apollo 11′s Historic Moon Landing

By Carl Engelking | July 18, 2014 12:08 pm
apollo-11-

(Credit: NASA)

This year is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the first time humans walked on the moon. The iconic imagery and audio from the mission is certainly seared into humankind’s collective consciousness, but there are a handful of side stories from the mission that are often overlooked. Here are some of the historical anecdotes that will change the way you remember man’s first foray on the moon. Read More

MORE ABOUT: moon, space exploration

Sunflowers Sway to Their Own Beat [VIDEO]

By Carl Engelking | July 16, 2014 3:34 pm

It’s no secret that plants will grow toward the sun to maximize the amount of energy they can absorb. But while the sun itself drives this process in most plants, it appears that sunflowers have their own internal timekeeper to help them soak up maximal rays throughout the day.

In the video above, you can see how growing sunflowers tilt back and forth each day as the sun rises and sets. But the fascinating part came when researchers from the University of California-Davis brought sunflowers from the field into the lab, under unchanging light: the plants continued their dance for several days.

Therefore, the scientists conclude that some sort of internal mechanism drives sunflowers’ daily motion in addition to the sun, Nature News reports.

Researchers also demonstrated how these sunflowers bend: one side of the stem grows faster than the other. Researchers believe that by examining gene expression on each side of the plant, they may be able to explain how the sunflower’s internal clock works.

They presented their findings this week at the American Society of Plant Biologists meeting in Portland, Ore.

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

You’d Be Happier If You Talked to Strangers More Often

By Carl Engelking | July 16, 2014 9:42 am

crowded subway

Humans are some of the most social creatures on this planet, but step into an elevator, train or public bus and something strange happens: we fall silent, stare at the wall and ignore the strangers surrounding us. But in doing so, we might be missing out on an easy way to make ourselves happier people.

Through several experiments, behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder demonstrated that we view solitude as a better option than engaging a stranger, not because we like being alone, but because we mistakenly think others don’t want to talk to us. As a result, we miss a chance to make our morning commutes more pleasurable, or even make a new friend.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: emotions, psychology

How Pandas Survive on a Diet of Only Bamboo

By Brenda Poppy | July 15, 2014 11:13 am

panda

Being a vegetarian is no easy task: The difficulty of maintaining a balanced diet is enough to drive an herbivore back to the land of hamburgers and chicken wings. And human vegetarians aren’t the only ones who have to get creative with their diet — giant pandas do the same.

Until now, scientists have been uncertain how pandas fulfill their dietary needs through the consumption of only one, highly fibrous plant – bamboo. The new study answers this question: Pandas consume a mix of two bamboo species, as well as several parts of the plant, in order to meet their dietary needs.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

You And Your Friends Share Similar Genes

By Carl Engelking | July 14, 2014 3:18 pm

friends

If anyone has ever said you and your best friend are like “two peas in a pod,” they were definitely on to something. It turns out that we have a lot more in common with our friends than just our hobbies and outlook on life: we also share similar genetic code.

In a genome-wide analysis, scientists from University of California-San Diego and Yale found that we are far more genetically similar to our friends than we are to strangers of the same population. In fact, researchers say our friends are as “related” — genetically speaking — as fourth cousins. Their findings suggest that, in addition to our physical and biological environment, our social networks also play an important role in human evolution.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: evolution, genetics

Earliest Americans May Have Hunted Elephant-Like Mammal

By Gemma Tarlach | July 14, 2014 2:37 pm
Knight_Gomphotherium

An artist’s depiction of a gomphothere. Credit: Charles R. Knight

The site is called the “end of the world,” but for archaeologists, it’s just the beginning of a new chapter in understanding the origin and activities of the earliest Americans.

Located in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert, the excavation site of El Fin del Mundo (Spanish for “the end of the world”) has yielded a number of artifacts identified as Clovis — considered the Americas’ first indigenous culture — and remains of elephant-like animals called gomphothere (Cuvieronius sp.). Although gomphothere were once spread over large areas of North America, it was thought they predated the arrival of humans to the continent. El Fin del Mundo, dated to about 13,390 years ago, is the first site to hint that humans may have hunted the animals. Read More

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

World’s First Climate-Controlled City Planned for Dubai

By Carl Engelking | July 11, 2014 2:59 pm
The Mall of the World as seen at night in a simulation. (Credit: YouTube, Dubai Holding)

The Mall of the World as seen at night in a simulation. (Credit: YouTube, Dubai Holding)

Imagine a city where the temperature is always perfect and you never have to worry about a rainy day ruining your day’s plans. Sound like fiction? If you live in Dubai, a city-state already known for ambitious feats of engineering, a mini-metropolis with a thermostat is poised to become a reality.

Officials in Dubai last week announced plans to build the world’s first climate-controlled city. Dubbed the Mall of the World, the 48 million-square-foot complex will feature 100 hotels and apartment buildings, the world’s largest indoor theme park and the world’s largest shopping mall. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: urban environment
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