Category: Uncategorized

When Animals Take Revenge on Humans

By Melissa Lafsky | April 16, 2009 2:33 pm

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Metaphorical Information Superhighway Recycled Into Literal Superhighway

By Rachel Cernansky | February 12, 2009 3:01 pm

ewaste.jpgUsed rubber tires and discarded glass have been recycled into asphalt for some time. Now, add old electronics to the creative, eco-friendly ingredient mix for the production of new road materials.

Researchers in China have developed a process to recycle electronic hardware into a material that makes high-performance paving material that is cheaper, longer lasting, and more environmentally friendly than conventional asphalt.”

Where most people see a global environmental crisis, the research team in China saw opportunity. Electronics are discarded by the millions of tons every year, and they contain toxic metals that make disposal difficult, hazardous, and controversial. The researchers report in a new study, however, that electronic circuit boards also contain glass fibers and plastic resins that would strengthen asphalt paving.

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The New Genre Soon To Appear on iTunes: Neanderthal Music

By Boonsri Dickinson | February 12, 2009 2:21 pm

neanderthal.jpgOn the off chance that you’ve ever had a yearning to hear what Neanderthal music sounded like—assuming you’ve even considered whether they made music—you should absolutely click here to hear a sample of jazz composer Simon Thorne’s 75-minute-long reimagining of Neanderthal music. If you have the patience to listen to the nonsensical beginning, then you’ll get a chance to enjoy the ancient-style chanting towards the end. Thorne initially thought it would be impossible to imagine what Neanderthals listened to, but he took on the unusual project and did his best to create a song that would evoke sounds from a Neanderthal’s life.

While the National Museum Wales commissioned the song to accompany an exhibit featuring Neanderthal tools and teeth, it might actually serve a bigger purpose in knocking down the misconception that Neanderthals were dumber than early Homo sapiens. Thorne told the BBC, “Every culture has language and music, so we can probably assume that [Neanderthals] had some kind of music too.”

Later this year, the music will be performed live when four singers with stone instruments go on tour. Can you say, “Rock on”?

Related Content:
80beats: Neanderthal DNA Tests Say They Rarely Interbred With Us
DISCOVER: Who Killed the Neanderthals?
DISCOVER: Interview with Anthropologist Robert Martin

Image: flickr/ wallyg


Will Lucy Get Some Love In The Virtual World?

By Boonsri Dickinson | February 10, 2009 12:14 pm

lucy.jpgWhen Lucy the famous australopithecine was on the way over to partake in a multi-city tour around the U.S.—her first ever sojourn outside of Ethiopia—scientists thought moving the 3.2-million-year-old hominid was senseless because traveling would injure her bones. Now that she’s finally here, lounging in Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, hardly anyone’s coming to see her.

One researcher who isn’t complaining about Lucy’s journey is John Kappelman, a University of Texas anthropologist—Lucy’s 10-day layover in his Austin-based lab gave him the chance to grab the first high-resolution CT scans of her.

At the High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility, Kappelman placed all 80 bones onto “custom-built foam mounts” to hold them in place. Then he proceeded to run each of the bones through the high-energy X-ray scanner, working around the clock to scan all of Lucy’s bones to capture the microscopic details of her skeleton. The scans will help researchers answer some questions regarding Lucy’s lifestyle: Some think her bones—such as her long arms and curved toes and fingers—suggest she and her family spent time in trees, but others think the bones were just inherited from her tree-climbing ancestors, and that she spent more time on the ground. Kappelman will soon make his digital archive available to other researchers to search for the answers to figure out this period in pre-human history.

You can see Lucy too: Kappelman created a public Lucy Web site based on his detailed scan. And now that the pics are freely available online, will anyone get away with charging to see her live?

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Was Lucy A Brutal Brawler?
Discoblog: No Love For Lucy

Image: flickr/ MashGet

MORE ABOUT: CT scan, lucy, online, Seattle

The Science-Minded Frat Boy’s Dream: A PhD in Beer-ology?

By Boonsri Dickinson | January 8, 2009 3:23 pm

beer.jpgHave you ever tasted spoiled beer? Twenty-six-year-old Monique Haakensen once did. A few years ago, when the Canadian woman watched her brothers attempt to brew their own beer, the end result smelled like cheese and tasted awful.

To figure out what caused the beer to go bad, Haakensen, a University of Saskatchewan graduate student, bottled the beer and brought it into the lab. Using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, she was able to discover two new genes (hitA and horC) that hastened the growth of bacteria in beer.

Normally, bacteria don’t grow in beer, but when there’s a resistance-associated gene in the brew, certain strains can thrive. The most common bacteria that causes beer spoilage is lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Haakensen looked to see how LAB’s isolates, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, grew in beer. By using this new form of DNA testing, Haakensen can now tell breweries how quickly their beer will go bad by checking for the presence of either hitA or horC.

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MORE ABOUT: bacteria, beer, DNA test, genes, PhD

Health Hazard Alert: Head-Banging May Hurt Your Brain

By Boonsri Dickinson | January 6, 2009 1:38 pm

headbangingIt’s bad enough that loud music can potentially harm your hearing. But now it turns out that head-banging, a violent and rapid form of dancing, can put you at risk for brain injury, whiplash, and even stroke.

There have been isolated reports of head-banging injuries in the past: When guitarist Terry Balsamo of Evanescence had a stroke, his doctors attributed it to his on-stage thrashing. But until now, scientists really haven’t studied the effects of head-banging since it first started back in 1968 with Led Zeppelin.

According to Australian risk and safety researchers Declan Patton and Andrew McIntosh from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, head-banging is pretty much guaranteed to give you brain damage if you’re not careful. To test their theory, the researchers went to a variety of metal and hard rock concerts (the best way to test any scientific theory) and observed the head-thrashing techniques used by artists.

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MORE ABOUT: brain injury, music, risk


By ncbi rofl | January 1, 2009 9:20 pm

Q: What is NCBI? (and for that matter, what is ROFL?)
A: The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. The NCBI houses a number of databases including PubMed, an extensive index of biomedical research articles.
ROFL is an internet acronym that means “Rolling On the Floor Laughing”.

Q: Who are you people?
A: We’re a couple of UC Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology grad students who work in the same lab. We think we’re funny.

Q: Didn’t the article from [insert post name here] win an IgNobel prize in [insert year here] ?
A: To keep our content fresh, we do not go directly to the IgNobel prize website when looking for ROFLs. However, we also don’t make an effort to exclude them, so occasionally we overlap, either because we independently found the same article or because it was sent to us by a reader. We never claimed to be the first to read these articles (they were peer-reviewed, after all!)–we’re just posting what makes us laugh.

Q: Why didn’t my submission get used?
A: We prefer to use articles with abstracts. We also try to vary our content so as not to descend into complete raunchiness (except on the newly established Penis Fridays!), but we may be saving your article for later.

Q: Why so much potty humor?
A: Because it is funny. If you don’t think so, you probably need therapy because you are repressed. Seek help.


Can Scientists Use a Printer to Create a Human Heart?

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 30, 2008 6:21 pm

heart1.jpgGot a printer? Then you may someday be able to print out a new heart.

By packing a printer full of cells instead of ink, Japanese scientist Makoto Nakamura wants to construct a human heart. But don’t skip a beat just yet: Nakamura needs another 20 years to make what sounds like a science fiction dream into a reality.

The secret, he thinks, is bioprinting, a process that is used to create 3-D structures in the same way a printer uses ink to create words and images on a page. The process works like this: First the cells clump together and flow like liquid, then a printer drops the cells down onto a surface, layering the cells on top of each other until the desired object is created.

So far Nakamura has used this technique to create a tube that resembles a blood vessel, but he hasn’t gotten near anything resembling an entire beating heart.

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MORE ABOUT: medicine

Can Not Sleeping Erase Your Memories?

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 21, 2008 3:23 pm

sleeping-baby.jpgPeople are losing sleep over the Olympics, which could be a big problem if not getting enough sleep really does have the same effect as three to four drinks of alcohol. We know sleep helps improve procedural skills such as playing the piano, but now a new study says that sleep also helps determine what we remember and what we forget.

Harvard researchers tested 88 college students and put them into three groups—one that stayed awake all day, another that got to sleep for 12 hours and were tested in the morning, and a base group that was tested 30 minutes after images were shown. All groups were shown images of a car parked on a street in front of shops and a totaled car parked on a street to measure which had the greatest emotional impact, and how sleep affected how the subjects remembered details of the pictures such as the background and the street.

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We Call Bullsh*t on the Montauk Monster, the Goat-Sucker, Bigfoot, etc.

By Andrew Moseman | August 15, 2008 3:02 pm

cmonsterMaybe the new X-Files movie awakened all the hibernating conspiracy theorists. Maybe the cycles of the moon are making people crazy. Maybe everybody just wants to get an early start on Halloween this year. In any case, monster season is in full swing.

First came the “Montauk Monster,” the demonic-looking carcass that washed up on Long Island. We’ve been over this one before: It’s a raccoon, not a monster.

Then came the chupacabras—a deputy sheriff in Texas took video of what he believes to be the mythical goat-sucker. At the end of its excitement over the “vampire dog,” The Telegraph finally mentions that “Texan scientists who investigated the case said the animal was likely to be a coyote, potentially crossed with a grey fox.” Read More


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