Video: Thousands of Years of Human Migration in Five Minutes

By Lisa Raffensperger | July 31, 2014 2:00 pm

It’s enough to put an old-fashioned family tree to shame. A visualization of the migration routes of more than 150,000 people, from 600 BC to the present day, brings to life human history in the Western world in an engrossing and novel way.

The model, produced by Maximilian Schich, at the University of Texas at Dallas, along with collaborators from the U.S., Switzerland and Hungary, represents the birth and death dates and locations of individual people. These data came from community database Freebase, a well-known German encyclopedia of the world’s artists, and Getty’s online artist names database. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: history

How Chronic Pain Saps Your Mental Motivation

By Ben Thomas | July 31, 2014 1:00 pm

chronic pain

A sore back or sprained wrist makes your day-to-day life harder in more ways than one. Physical impairment is annoying enough on its own, but the chronic pain is its own distraction – one that makes it hard to focus.

It’s been known for a while that chronic pain saps people’s motivation. And now, a team led by Stanford University’s Neil Schwartz has pinned down, in mice, some of the chemical and neural changes by which aches lead to ennui.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: pain, personal health

In Shootouts, Goalkeepers Fall Prey to Flawed Logic

By Carl Engelking | July 31, 2014 12:37 pm


The recently-concluded 2014 World Cup yielded four knockout matches decided by the dreaded penalty shootout, a total reached just two other times in the tournament’s history. Few outcomes in sports are crueler than accepting defeat in such a fashion. But if teams are looking for a leg up in 2018, they’ll want to brush up on an old concept: the gambler’s fallacy, or the false belief that future outcomes will balance out past ones.

Cognitive scientists from the University of London analyzed every penalty shootout that occurred in World Cup and UEFA Euro Cup tournaments from 1976 to 2012. They found that goalkeepers were predictably vulnerable to the gambler’s fallacy, but kickers failed to take advantage of this weakness. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Got Milk? Northern Europeans Drank Dairy Much Earlier Than Thought

By Gemma Tarlach | July 29, 2014 6:00 pm
A modern dairy farm in Finland. Image by Taina Sohlman / Shutterstock

A modern dairy farm in Finland. Image by Taina Sohlman / Shutterstock

Farming, including raising cows and consuming dairy products, reached far northern Europe much earlier than thought, according to new research.

Agriculture first took hold about 11,000 years ago in resource-rich, mild climate lands stretching between the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Researchers agree farming and animal husbandry spread northwest through Europe from the Fertile Crescent. But they have long debated just how far north the practices reached before generally poor soil and a harsher climate would have made traditional Neolithic techniques untenable.

A new analysis of food residues in pottery from southern Finland, however, proves populations in the far north were processing and consuming dairy products 4,500 years ago. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Your Guide to Summer’s Best Meteor Showers

By Carl Engelking | July 29, 2014 4:27 pm


In May, skywatchers were let down after a new meteor shower, the Camelopardalids, failed to fulfill its stormy expectations and was a bit of a dud. But August could be a redeeming month for fans of cosmic fireworks.

The predawn nights from the end of July to mid-August are typically very rich in meteors, and the show has already begun. While August’s headliner is of course the Perseid meteor shower, there are also six additional minor showers that will light up the night sky over the next several weeks.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

First Impressions Are Mostly Based on Your Face

By Lacy Schley | July 29, 2014 9:00 am


We’ve all met someone and almost instantly thought, “I could totally be friends with this person.” We’re not quite sure why we think that, but all it took was a few seconds to make that first impression. We might even take pride in such gut instincts, in our ability to “read” a person at a glance.

But a new study finds that most of our first impressions are based simply on a person’s objective facial features — and that, in many cases a computer model can accurately predict the first impression a stranger will make.

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

Feathers More Common Among Dinosaurs Than Previously Thought

By Gemma Tarlach | July 24, 2014 12:59 pm
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus wanders the swampy lowlands of Jurassic Siberia in this artist's rendering. Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin.

New dinosaur Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus wanders the lake-dotted lowlands of Jurassic Siberia in this artist’s rendering. Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin.

A new dinosaur is ruffling a few feathers in the ongoing debate over when and why dinosaurs evolved plumage — and which dinosaurs were rocking the feathered look.

Feathers have been associated with several dinosaurs directly ancestral to birds. Additional studies have determined that some non-avian theropod dinosaurs — not directly ancestral to birds but still closely related — also had various types of plumage. Based on an older dinosaur not related to birds that was recently unearthed in Siberia, however, researchers believe many more dinosaurs — possibly all or most of them — had feathers. The newly described Siberian dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, also helps paleontologists understand why feathers evolved at all. Read More

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

Galaxy Orbits Betray Neatnik Universe

By Bill Andrews | July 23, 2014 8:00 am
The Andromeda Galaxy turns out not to be unusual in the fact that its dwarf galaxies orbit within an orderly circular plain. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Andromeda Galaxy turns out not to be unusual in the fact that its dwarf galaxies orbit within an orderly circular plain. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Usually, the progress of science leads to greater complexity — alas, Earth isn’t the only world; no, electrons aren’t tiny little balls; unfortunately, germs aren’t all good or all bad . But once in a while, scientists discover the universe likes a little order, too: Astronomers have just found out the hordes of dwarf galaxies that orbit big ones tend to do so within a nice, well-defined disk. Now the only question is, why?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

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

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