Google’s Driverless Cars Are Cruising the Streets of California

By Carl Engelking | June 30, 2015 11:52 am
(Credit: Google Self-Driving Car Project)

(Credit: Google Self-Driving Car Project)

Some say they look like koalas. Others say they’re the smiling face of the future. And if you live in California, you’re already sharing the road with them.

Google had told the world that its line of itty-bitty self-driving vehicles was poised to hit the roads in summer. Well, they’re here. Last week, a few prototype vehicles started cruising around Mountain View, Calif., and the folks at Google are eager to see how the public receives them. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: transportation

Fingerprints Change Over the Course of a Person’s Life

By Carl Engelking | June 29, 2015 3:13 pm


Fingerprints may not be the permanent biological signatures we’ve built them up to be.

Since the 1920s, fingerprints have been accepted as evidence in courtrooms due to their uniqueness and permanence. And their uniqueness has been scientifically validated. But what of their permanence? Do those ridges and swirls remain the same from birth to death? According to a new study, our fingerprints do slightly change as time progresses — which could have implications for everything from law enforcement to unlocking your iPhone. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

DARPA Is Supposedly Engineering Organisms to Make Mars Livable

By Carl Engelking | June 26, 2015 1:08 pm


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to create organisms that will turn the Red Planet a shade of green, at least according to a reporter who had access to their recent conference. As with most things DARPA does, there’s not a lot of publicly available details about the plan. DARPA denies that terraforming Mars in anywhere in their sights. But comments made by Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, seem to indicate that it is at least a hypothetical possibility. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts

Rats Dream About the Places They Want to Explore

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | June 26, 2015 12:02 pm

rat sleeping

Rats, like humans, have dreams about the future.

When they see a treat they can’t reach, rats’ later dreams depict them walking toward it, researchers have found. The discovery may one day provide some insight into what happens in the human mind during sleep.

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

Neutrinos’ Shape-Shifting Abilities Confirmed

By Andy Berger | June 24, 2015 1:21 pm
Neutrino interaction in a bubble chamber. Credit: Fermilab

Neutrino interaction in a bubble chamber. Credit: Fermilab

Neutrinos are often called “ghost particles,” and for good reason. Neutral in charge and tiny in mass, neutrinos are incredibly elusive and mostly pass unnoticed through ordinary matter, including you and me.

In fact, neutrinos, one of physics’ fundamental particles, were once thought to be completely massless. A recent observation from researchers in Italy, however, adds to mounting evidence however that neutrinos do have some – very tiny – mass.

Specifically, it was found that neutrinos, which come in three varieties or “flavors,” can spontaneously change their flavor in a process known as oscillation. And because of the nature of quantum mechanics, oscillation only occurs if the flavors have unique masses.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Ancient, Prickly Worm Finally Shows Its Face

By Carl Engelking | June 24, 2015 12:35 pm
A color reconstruction of Hallucigenia. (Credit: Danielle Dufault)

A color reconstruction of Hallucigenia. (Credit: Danielle Dufault)

If you think this ancient, spiky creature is bizarre, you’re not alone: For years, scientists have struggled to figure out exactly what it is, or was — until now.

Scientists recently unearthed spectacular fossil remains of Hallucigenia sparsa, a fierce-looking worm species that lived 508 million years ago. The fossils helped paint the most detailed picture to date of Hallucigenia, yielding important insights into the evolution of modern-day arthropods like insects and arachnids. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Half-Shelled Prehistoric Reptile Was Early Ancestor of Turtles

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | June 24, 2015 12:00 pm


Researchers have found a new species of reptile which they say is an ancestor of modern turtles.

The 240 million-year-old fossils were found in sediments of a Triassic freshwater lake in southern Germany. The species, named Pappochelys (“grandfather turtle”) rosinae, could help settle a long-running debate about how turtles evolved.

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

Racehorses Haven’t Reached Peak Speed Yet

By Carl Engelking | June 23, 2015 6:00 pm

horse racing

Scientists may have settled a long-standing debate in horse racing: Are thoroughbreds still getting faster, or have they reached their maximum speed?

Past studies examining this question concluded that racehorses have hit their biological speed limit, but researchers from Exeter University in the United Kingdom say those findings were based on data that didn’t tell the entire story. And although American Pharaoh wouldn’t stand a chance racing against 1973’s Triple Crown winner Secretariat, a new analysis of race times from 1850 to 2012 shows that racehorses, on average, are getting faster every year. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Water Was ‘Recently’ on Mars – And Will Be Again

By Susan Conway, The Open University | June 23, 2015 11:04 am
Istok crater on Mars shows signs of recent water flow.

Istok crater on Mars shows signs of recent water flow.

A hot topic in science over the past few decades has been whether liquid water is present or has been present on Mars in the past few millions of years. But despite a lot of research no conclusive answer has been put forward to date. Our international team has now hunted down another piece of evidence. By comparing satellite images of Mars with mud flows on Earth, we found that running water must have existed on the red planet relatively “recently,” in the past million years.

My (intellectual) journey to Mars when I first saw the beautiful high-resolution images of the surface of Mars in the early 2000s from Mars Global Surveyor and others. I thought they were from deserts on Earth. I was studying how the action of water, wind, ice, and volcanism form landscapes on Earth and realized that there was another planet out there remarkably like our own. Since then I have been drawn to Mars and in particular how flowing water has sculpted its surface.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Black Bears’ Amazing Rock-Climbing Skills, Caught on Camera

By Carl Engelking | June 22, 2015 2:33 pm


Black bears can snatch fish out of a raging river using their mouths, sprint 30 miles per hour and tear through meals with powerful jaws.

Oh yeah, they can also climb sheer rock faces.

You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it, and thanks to a kayaker who was in the right place at the right time, you can certainly see that bears have some killer climbing skills. A female Mexican black bear and her cub were seen scaling a canyon wall near Big Bend National park along the U.S. border with Mexico. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals


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