Video Games May Have Negative Effects on the Brain

By Ben Thomas | May 20, 2015 4:06 pm

video games

Video games are a favored target for various kinds of hand-wringing, about things as diverse as obesity, ADHD, and violence. In many cases the evidence is scant. Now, another item has been added to that list.

A small study has found that people who play action games on a regular basis may undergo brain changes associated with certain kinds of neurological and psychiatric disorders. If this linkage holds up under scrutiny, it could mean that gamers are putting their minds at risk.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Young Blood Heals Fractures in Older Bones

By Carl Engelking | May 20, 2015 3:22 pm

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The mythical “Fountain of Youth” isn’t in some far-off land; it’s flowing beat-by-beat inside every single young person.

Young blood, it turns out, contains special healing properties that seem to fade away as we get older. Scientists in a new study showed that old mouse bones healed faster after a fracture when they were enriched with fresh blood from a young mouse. The findings indicate that, rather than old bones themselves being the problem, fractures in the elderly could be addressed by targeting blood proteins. Read More

World’s Oldest Stone Tools Predate Humans

By Carl Engelking | May 20, 2015 12:31 pm
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Tool unearthed at excavation site. Credit: MPK-WTAP

This is an updated version of our post from April 2015.

Archaeologists say they’ve unearthed the world’s oldest stone tools made by human ancestors at a dig site in Kenya.

The set of 149 stone flakes, hammers and anvils, found off the shores of Lake Turkana, appears to have been crafted more than 3.3 million years ago — 500,000 years before our genus Homo, designating the first fully fledged humans, came to be. The implications, if the evidence holds up, will be far-reaching, since it has long been believed that tool-making was a skill exclusive to Homo. Read More

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

Genetically Modified Yeast Can ‘Home-Brew’ Morphine

By Carl Engelking | May 19, 2015 3:11 pm

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In the near future, amateur basement brewers mulling over their next batch may struggle to choose between concocting an IPA or an opioid.

Scientists have recently announced that they’ve genetically engineered brewer’s yeast to convert common sugars into pain-killing opioids like codeine and morphine. The process is simple enough that hobbyists could easily brew morphine with a run-of-the-mill brewing kit — if they get their hands on yeast with the right genetic tweaks.  Read More

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

Scientists Identify the World’s First Warm-Blooded Fish

By Carl Engelking | May 15, 2015 2:39 pm
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This opah was caught during an NOAA Fisheries survey off the California coast. (Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Southwest Fisheries Science Center)

All fish are cold-blooded.

Just a week ago, that statement would have been true. But on Thursday, scientists announced they discovered the world’s first warm-blooded fish, the opah, forcing us to rethink some of the most basic biological concepts we learned back in elementary school. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Something Strange Happened to U.S. Honeybee Colonies

By Carl Engelking | May 14, 2015 2:56 pm

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A new survey outlining honeybee colony losses in the U.S. has scientists scratching their heads: For the first time, beekeepers watched more of their colonies disappear during the summer than in winter.

Summer colony losses reached 27.4 percent, exceeding winter losses that came in at 23.7 percent, according to preliminary results from an annual survey of roughly 6,100 beekeepers released Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a research partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, colony losses during the 12-month period that ended in April reached 42.1 percent — the second-highest annual loss to date. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts

WATCH: Trap-Jaw Ants Use Their Chops to Backflip Out of Danger

By Carl Engelking | May 13, 2015 1:28 pm

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When trap-jaw ants find themselves in trouble, they’ll literally flip out.

Trap-jaw ants have specialized, spring-loaded jaws that snap shut at some of the fastest speeds ever recorded for animal movement. They deploy those powerful mandibles primarily to attack and throw enemies, but trap-jaws, scientists recently discovered, also use their chops defensively to fling themselves away from predators by executing a maneuver called the “jaw jump.” Read More

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

Rats Forgo Treats to Rescue a Distressed Cage Mate

By Carl Engelking | May 12, 2015 1:45 pm
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A dry helper rat (left) works to pry open a door to liberate a soaked rat in a distressing pool room. (Credit: Sato, N. et al./Springer)

Somewhere along the way, “rat” became the operative term for a double-crossing, backstabbing person who betrays their friends. But in reality, rats — the cheese-loving kind — won’t hesitate to help a fellow rat in dire straits.

In a new study, researchers placed two rats in a cage divided in half by a wall with a small door. On one side of the wall, a rat sat high and dry. But on the other side, a second rat was soaked and left to sit in a pool of water; rats hate getting wet. When the dry rat noticed the distressed and drenched cage mate, the dry rat consistently opened the door to liberate the comrade. Researchers say their findings suggest that rats may experience empathy. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts

Your Poop Is the Latest Privacy Threat

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | May 11, 2015 2:00 pm

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Be careful who you trust with that stool sample; it could be used to identify you. Researchers say they’ve found a way to tell people apart based on the population of bacteria in their poop. They say it works about 86 percent of the time, at least among a relatively small group of test subjects.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: microbiome

Dawn Images Reveal New Details About Ceres’ Bright Spots

By Carl Engelking | May 11, 2015 1:14 pm
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New images show that Ceres’ pair of bright spots is actually composed of many smaller spots. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

The mystery behind Ceres’ bright spots only deepened Monday with the release of new higher-resolution images of the dwarf planet’s surface.

On May 3 and 4, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft crept within 8,400 miles of Ceres — its closest approach yet — to snap more detailed photos of the intriguing surface. As it turns out, the two bright spots are actually composed of many smaller splotches, but scientists still don’t know what these spots are made of or how they got there. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
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