Quiz: Whaddya Know About Water Bears?

By Carl Engelking | March 11, 2015 3:40 pm
Color enhanced scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a water bear feeding. Credit: Eye of Science/Science Source

Color enhanced scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a water bear feeding. Credit: Eye of Science/Science Source

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: unusual organisms

Prehistoric Jumbo Shrimp Grew To Be 6 Feet Long

By Carl Engelking | March 11, 2015 1:00 pm

An artist’s reconstruction of a newly discovered prehistoric sea creature that swam the oceans some 480 million years ago. (Credit: Marianne Collins, ArtofFact)

Life in prehistoric oceans could be pretty terrifying. Take for instance the predatory jumbo shrimp that roamed the oceans 480 million years ago.

But a newly discovered species of the giant arthropods is more of a gentle giant. Aegirocassis benmoulae, identified from fossils found in Morocco, was a 6-foot-long filter feeder that supported its massive heft by skimming the oceans for plankton. That makes it one of the biggest arthropods ever found, and also the first-ever giant filter-feeder.

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

A Promising Drug for Disease That Took Leonard Nimoy’s Life

By Carl Engelking | March 10, 2015 11:00 am


The world mourned the recent death of Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, who had revealed in 2014 that he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The disease, a persistent inflammation of the lungs’ airways, is most often caused by smoking; Nimoy had quit decades prior to his diagnosis. There’s no existing treatment for the disease, and it’s the third leading killer in the U.S.

But this week scientists announced they’d found a drug that successfully treats COPD in mice. The drug, when inhaled, could be a way to reverse the inflammation that leaves COPD sufferers struggling to breathe. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Cloud Seeding Guarantees Perfect Wedding Weather

By Bethany Hubbard | March 9, 2015 4:36 pm


Outdoor weddings are inherently unpredictable. But now even weather can be pre-arranged, for a price.

London luxury travel company Oliver’s Travels is guaranteeing couples a sunny day for their nuptials courtesy of their Cloud Bursting service. The company will “pop” clouds prior to your big day through a process more commonly known as cloud seeding. The service, which costs about $150,000 and is currently only offered in France, promises to clear up cloudy skies with a little help from atmospheric science.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: earth science, weather

Hermit Crabs Line Up By Size to Exchange Shells

By Carl Engelking | March 9, 2015 1:08 pm


Anyone with an older brother or sister knows that clothes “shopping” often meant begrudgingly sifting through hand-me-downs rather than perusing the latest fashions at the mall.

But for hermit crabs, the hand-me-down system isn’t second-best, it’s a matter of life and death. And as a new clip from the BBC show Life Story shows, the swapping process is remarkably orderly. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

NASA’s Dawn Probe Has Arrived at Dwarf Planet Ceres

By Sarah Scoles | March 6, 2015 10:27 am

An artist’s concept of the Dawn spacecraft arriving at Ceres.

Today, dwarf planet Ceres became the first such planet to have company over. The visitor is NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which reached its final destination — an orbit around this 590-mile-wide ball of ice and rock — after more than seven years in space.

And now that Dawn is finally all up on this space rock, astronomers can take sharp snapshots of its surface and learn about what makes Ceres Ceres, which they’ll do for the next 16 months. In the process, they will investigate why some planet-like objects didn’t quite grow into planets (sorry, Pluto — we’re looking at you), what the solar system was like billions of years ago, and what that tells us about Earth today.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Praying Mantises are Expert Acrobats in Mid-Air

By Carl Engelking | March 5, 2015 1:56 pm


Praying mantises, with their twiggy limbs and long bodies, lack the look of agility, but we all know looks are often deceiving.

These lanky insects, as wingless juveniles, leap from twig to twig faster than the blink of a human eye, and they stick their landing with the precision and grace of Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci. Researchers, intrigued by mantises’ aerial mastery, filmed hundreds of leaps by these insects and discovered the secret behind their athleticism, and it’s far from simple. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Handshakes’ Purpose Could Be to Send Scent Signals

By Ben Thomas | March 4, 2015 1:20 pm


Shaking a person’s hand is so routine it seems meaningless. But as it turns out, this gesture could be more than a social courtesy: it could be humans’ way of coming into contact with another person’s smells.

Just about every mammal sniffs newcomers to find out who they are and where they’ve been  but for humans, an introductory sniff is clearly taboo. And yet, as a team led by Noam Sobel, Chair of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has just found, we may sniff out newcomers too  except that we do it on the down-low, by checking out the scents left behind by a handshake.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Lots of Cases of Synesthesia Are Based on Alphabet Magnets

By Carl Engelking | March 4, 2015 12:56 pm

alphabet magnets

They are a ubiquitous childhood toy: alphabet fridge magnets. You may remember some from your own childhood, though they probably weren’t your most beloved of games.

But for some people, especially those growing up in the late 70s or 80s, one particular set left a deep impression — it forever changed the colors they associate with letters. That’s the conclusion of a new study on synesthesia, a condition where sensory stimuli overlap.

The study finds that more than 6 percent of American synesthetes have color associations that match a particular Fisher-Price fridge magnet set. And that finding will force scientists to rethink how synesthesia works. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Math Explains Why Hipsters All Look the Same

By Sarah Scoles | March 4, 2015 9:53 am


The skinny jeans, the progressive politics, the Instagram photos: Hipsters, like goths and punk rockers before them, have become a cliché. And we’ve all become more like them as well.

Now math has shown the reason why. A new mathematical model shows that our collective strivings for individuality end up accomplishing the opposite, even if we’re aiming toward different points of “weird.”

It’s just math, says, Paul Smaldino in a paper just published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. Smaldino created a model of how human behavior adds up into collective conformity, precisely because we want to be individuals. Yet the takeaways contain a morsel of hope for how radical individuals can still change the broader society.

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

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