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The Crux

Why Our 'Procrastinating' Brains Still Outperform Computers

By Parashkev Nachev, UCL | October 21, 2016 3:56 pm

Automated financial trading machines can make complex decisions in a thousandth of a second. A human being making a choice – however simple – can never be faster than about one-fifth of a second. Our reaction times are not only slow but also remarkably variable, ranging over hundreds of milliseconds.

Is this because our brains are poorly designed, prone to random uncertainty – or “noise” in the electronic jargon? Measured in the laboratory, even the neurons of a fly are both fas …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Citizen Science Salon

GAO cites ECAST: "Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives"

By acrall | October 21, 2016 2:48 pm

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the investigative arm of Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds.  This week, the GAO published a new report on ways federal government agencies can engage and collaborate with multiple entities and individuals external to these agencies to address existing and future challenges facing the nation.  The report identifies and provides examples of best strategies for open innovation defi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Space & Physics


Why We Shouldn't Call Exoplanets 'Earth-like' Just Yet

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 21, 2016 12:28 pm

Every time astronomers discover another exoplanet, the first question is,”Does it look like Earth?” Finding an Earth-like exoplanet would certainly increase our chances of finding life, as we know it, on that distant world. We could finally prove that we’re not all alone in this big, cold universe.

But, when we see planets described as Earth-like, we should be skeptical. With our current instruments, it’s hard for us to even find other planets out there (although it’s gotten much easier), …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Seriously, Science?

Flashback Friday: Why do wet things feel wet?

By Seriously Science | October 21, 2016 9:43 am

At first glance, this may seem like a completely moronic question. I mean, wet stuff feels wet because… well, it’s wet. Duh! But when you stop to think more deeply about it it, it quickly becomes a very profound question. That’s because, unlike heat or touch, we don’t have any sensors in our skin capable of directly detecting wetness. Therefore, scientists believe that we rely on other senses, like temperature or touch, to indirectly sense when something is wet. To test this idea, scientis …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, super powers


With a Whiff, Mice Can Transmit Pain to Each Other

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 20, 2016 3:57 pm

What hurts one mouse, hurts every mouse.

That’s the conclusion of a new study examining the social transfer of pain in mice. When one group of mice was exposed to a painful stimulus, a completely unaffected group displayed the same kind of heightened sensitivity as the first. Given that mice are mammals like us, the effect could also exist in humans, as well as informing future pain research.
Testing for Pain
In their study, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University wor …

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


Why Pluto 'Is the New Mars'

By Nola Taylor Redd | October 20, 2016 1:09 pm

Thanks to all the information pouring in from NASA’s New Horizons mission, Pluto is making a comeback. As New Horizons principle investigator Alan Stern says, “Pluto is the new Mars” – and that’s not just because of its rising popularity.

The nickname, which Stern credits fellow New Horizons team member Jeff Moore with bestowing, comes in part from several intriguing similarities the distant icy world shares with the famous red planet. Both boast an array of surface and atmosphe …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: pluto, solar system

Dead Things

Handedness: Has Human Evolution Always Been Right?

By Gemma Tarlach | October 20, 2016 12:00 pm

Right-handedness is very much a human thing. About 90 percent of Homo sapiens are right-handed. On the other hand, literally, about 50 percent of apes are southpaws, similar to most other primates.

Researchers believe that right-handedness may be linked to other traits, such as the development of language. They have long sought to find the point in hominin evolution where the right hand became dominant for the vast majority of a species.

Previous research identified right hand dominan …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Seriously, Science?

The next miracle antibiotic could come from Tasmanian devil milk.

By Seriously Science | October 20, 2016 11:06 am

When it comes to finding novel chemical compounds that act as antibiotics, scientists have to look in increasingly unusual places. Like sloth hair. And now, according to this study, Tasmanian devil milk. Apparently, this milk contains a class of antimicrobial peptides called “cathelicidins” that can even kill the dreaded superbug MRSA. Tasmanian devil milkshake, anyone?

Cathelicidins in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

“Tasmanian devil joeys, like other marsupials, are born at a …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: diy medicine, fun with animals

Dead Things

Dinos Down Under: Titanosaurs in Australia

By Gemma Tarlach | October 20, 2016 8:00 am

Meet Wade and Matilda, the newest superstars from Australia: Bigger than the Hemsworth brothers, these two titanosaurs are more than the sum of their fossilized parts. Their discovery helps us piece together how the biggest and brawniest dinosaurs ended up Down Under.

Paleontologist Stephen Poropat and colleagues, publishing today in Scientific Reports, describe Wade and Matilda from Queensland’s Winton Formation. The fossiliferous deposits have offered up a number of other dinosaurs, i …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


With three presidential debates in the can, the loser is...

By Tom Yulsman | October 20, 2016 12:07 am

Earth was hardly mentioned, and that means the loser is actually . . . us

The pundits will no doubt be yammering on for days about who won and who lost the final U.S. presidential debate.

But I’d say that we don’t need the pundits to tell us who the overall loser was. I think it was humanity.

During the debates, we heard a lot of shouting, but almost nothing about the most profound, long-term issue all of us confront: How 7 billion of us, probably growing to 9 billion in relative …


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