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D-brief

Lasers Could Generate Shields Out Of Thin Air

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 18, 2017 1:50 pm

Lasers could turn Earth’s atmosphere into a defensive, or offensive, tool in the future of warfare.

Proposed by BAE Systems, a defense and aerospace company founded in the United Kingdom, the conceptual Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) would use lasers to ionize and heat the atmosphere in a way that temporarily endows small pockets of it with useful characteristics. This could take the form of an aerial lens used to magnify objects far away, or even a kind of refractive shield to  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: weapons & security

Dead Things

Thylacines: Getting Inside the Head of an Extinct Predator

By Gemma Tarlach | January 18, 2017 1:00 pm

While I have mixed feelings about de-extinction, particularly for animals that have been out of the picture for thousands of years (I’m looking at you, woolly mammoth), I’d argue the species with the strongest case for giving it a shot would be Thylacinus cynocephalus, better known as the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine.

This fascinating marsupial, once found in much of Australia (particularly the island of Tasmania, as its name suggests), went extinct in the 20th century — though reports …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

The Crux

Chromosomes Aren't the Only Determiners of a Baby's Sex

By Kristien Boelaert, University of Birmingham | January 18, 2017 12:10 pm

The concept of being able to predict the sex of a baby during early pregnancy or even influence it by eating or doing certain things when trying to conceive has been the subject of public fascination and debate for many centuries. But surely the sex of a fetus is exclusively determined by the father’s sperm, carrying an X chromosome for girls and a Y chromosome for boys?

It turns out this is not the full story. Since the 17th century, it has been recognized that slightly more boys are b …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: sex & reproduction

Seriously, Science?

Eating spicy food might help you live longer.

By Seriously Science | January 18, 2017 9:35 am

We know from previous research that testosterone levels are correlated with spicy food consumption. But how does all that spicy food actually affect your health (if at all)? These researchers used a large population-based survey that took place from 1988 to 1994 to examine the relationship between chili pepper consumption and mortality. They found that chili pepper consumption is correlated with a statistically significant 13% reduction in “instantaneous hazard of death.” While this remains …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me

D-brief

Perception Can Change in a Single Heartbeat

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 17, 2017 3:08 pm

In tense situations, everything can change between beats of the heart.

And, it’s more than just the situation that changes — our own reaction to a potentially dangerous encounter can hang on something as simple as the contraction of our heart. In a small study, researchers from the United Kingdom looked at how participant’s perception of a threat changed with the beating of their hearts. The found that people were more likely to exhibit a reaction based on fear when their hearts were  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain

Neuroskeptic

Op, Op, Op. The Neuroscience of Gangnam Style?

By Neuroskeptic | January 16, 2017 3:29 pm

“Our results revealed characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with Gangnam Style”. So say the authors of a new paper called Neural correlates of the popular music phenomenon.

The authors, Qiaozhen Chen et al. from Zhejiang in China, used fMRI to record brain activity while 15 volunteers listened to two musical pieces: Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ and a “light music” control, Richard Clayderman’s piano piece ‘A Comme Amour’.

Chen et al. say that Gangnam Style was associated with ” …

D-brief

After a Cave Turns Deadly, Scientists Seek Answers

By Anna Bitong | January 16, 2017 2:04 pm

A deadly mystery lingers in a cave in northern Spain. A sign at the entrance warns visitors not to enter.

For decades, speleologists have trained inside CJ-3, a 164-foot-deep cave in Cañon del Río Lobos Natural Park in the Soria province. But in 2014, visitors to the cave experienced something new at the bottom: they nearly suffocated, and one person fainted. The oxygen levels had suddenly, and inexplicably, dropped.

The unusual incident prompted park officials to contact geologist …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

D-brief

Bulge in Venus' Atmosphere Likely Caused by Gravity Waves

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 16, 2017 1:56 pm

A massive, bow-shaped wave was spotted for the first time in the highest regions of Venus’ atmosphere, perplexing astronomers.

The structure was captured by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in some of the first images returned by their Akatsuki orbiter following a troubled orbital insertion in late 2015. Using both infrared and UV imaging, researchers spotted the prominent feature in the planet’s upper atmosphere, where winds whip by in excess of 200 miles per hour. Any feat …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: solar system

Seriously, Science?

Scientists perfect a microbiological recipe for artificial farts.

By Seriously Science | January 16, 2017 6:00 am

I don’t know about you, but after accidentally farting in a stranger’s face during a math lecture (don’t ask), I dream of a future where fart-neutralizing pants are readily available. But before we can design these desperately needed products, we must first develop realistic artificial farts with which to test them. That’s where these Danish scientists come in. They used common lab strains of different species of bacteria to develop a “recipe” that yields a realistic fart odor when grown an …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ha ha poop, Scat-egory

ImaGeo

A wimpy La Niña is on the way toward La Nada status

By Tom Yulsman | January 14, 2017 3:48 pm

La Niña typically cools the Pacific. But this time, large swathes of warmer-than-average sea temperatures have muted the cooling.

The surface waters of the Pacific Ocean have been considerably warmer than average lately — with one exception: a small spear of coolness along the equator that’s characteristic of La Niña.

Apparently, all that warmth has prevented the current La Niña — a cool phase in the Pacific that influences weather worldwide — from gaining much strength. In  …

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