There’s nothing like taking the scenic route while vacationing in a new city, but the always-efficient GPS programs we navigate with simply plot the shortest route to reach a destination. But now there’s hope for the aesthetically oriented wayfarer: Researchers have designed an algorithm that charts the most beautiful route from point A to B.
Yahoo! researchers used crowd-sourced data to build a program that automatically identifies the most alluring pathways through a city. What’s more, the application plotted a course that was on average just 7 minutes longer than the shortest route — a small sacrifice for a more pleasurable journey.
Ever stumble off an all-night flight and wonder whether you should be eating breakfast or dinner? Your biological clock may be highly adaptable, but when it’s thrown off-balance, nothing else feels quite right.
Our bodies’ circadian clocks – which regulate our hunger, tiredness, digestion and dozens of other biological processes in response to the time of day – are kept in balance by a delicate dance of hundreds of chemicals; each of them influenced by a specific type of environmental factor.
And now, a new study suggests that we may be able to set our biological clocks back or forward – a kind of self-induced daylight savings time – depending on what we eat.
Everyone knows it’s not always cool to follow the rules, and even less cool making sure everyone else does. So it’s not surprising the International Astronomical Union has a bit of a bad rap. First they take away Pluto’s planetary status, then they started grumbling about groups trying to give exoplanets and Martian craters cool new names.
Well, it seems the ol’ IAU’s taken a bit of a chill pill, because it’s just announced a new contest that will allow the public to vote on a set of up to 30 such popular names for exoplanets and their stars.
When it comes to wild ape communication, it’s not just monkey see, monkey do — it’s also monkey smell, monkey do. A new study finds that gorillas use odor signals to communicate.
The study — the first analysis of chemical signaling in wild gorillas — may also shed light on how odor signalling between humans evolved.
With a wingspan double that of today’s largest flyers, Pelagornis sandersi was truly the Big Bird of its day.
Researchers describing fossil remains of P. sandersi for the first time say the bird had a wingspan of up to 24 feet, qualifying it as the largest flying bird ever to take to Earth’s skies. Its size exceeds some estimates for the limits of powered flight, though computer models based on the well-preserved skeleton suggest the animal was an excellent glider. In a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers theorize the bird flew long oceanic distances in search of prey, similar to today’s albatrosses. Read More
Just as we Americans are heading into a long weekend, astronomers have given us a little something extra to celebrate: a new exoplanet discovery! “Sigh, another one?” you might think to yourself. But this one is special. It’s the first known planet similar to Earth that orbits its star at an Earthlike distance, all with a relatively nearby companion star in orbit! The never-before-seen arrangement isn’t just cool on its own, either — it also tells astronomers something about the nature of planetary distributions and how to look for other Earths.
The planet in question has a mouthful of a name — OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb — but let’s call it Tatooine, after another famous planet in a binary system. An international team of astronomers found it in data from the OGLE (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) telescope, using a planetary detection system known as microlensing. Unlike other methods, microlensing doesn’t depend on how much light its targets emit, instead focusing on the gravitational warping effects they have on a more distant object’s light.
We all know the early bird gets the worm, but apparently it also gets a fabulous set of feathered “trousers.”
Extensive feather preservation on a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, is giving researchers an unprecedented look at how both feathers and flight may have evolved among theropod dinosaurs, the ancestors of modern birds. The fossil’s plumage also challenges previous theories about why feathers evolved.
With 7 billion people now inhabiting the planet — more than at any other time in history — you’d think we’re having more babies than ever before. But a millennia ago, birth rates were actually higher in the Southwest than they are anywhere in the world today, researchers have found. Back then, the regional population soared — and then crashed eight centuries later. Can modern-day humans learn anything from the ancient Puebloans’ downfall?
Indeed we can, says a team of anthropologists at Washington State University, who report surprising population trends in the first millennial Southwest in as study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read More
The closely related guenon monkey species of Central and West Africa have a lot in common: they’re neighborly creatures that will travel, feed and even sleep together. But take an inventory of their faces, and you’ll see that no two species are alike. From Mohawks to colorful muttonchops, guenons use these distinguishing features to avoid mating with the wrong monkey.
Using facial recognition technology, researchers from New York University and the University of Exeter have proven a decades’ old theory: guenons evolved facial features to stand out from the crowd. Their findings provide the best evidence to date for the role visual cues play in preventing breeding across species. Read More
In the battle against cocaine overdoses and addiction, say hello to scientists’ little friend: a mutated enzyme with an appetite for coke.
Roughly 500,000 people visit the emergency room every year as a result of cocaine overdoses in the United States, but there isn’t a single Food and Drug Administration-approved medication to treat cocaine toxicity — yet. Researchers have discovered a promising therapy by molecularly strengthening cocaine esterase, a natural enzyme that powers bacteria found near the roots of coca plants, into a form that flushes out toxic levels of cocaine in the event of an overdose.