After 17 Years, Billions of Cicadas Are Ready to Emerge

By Carl Engelking | April 18, 2016 5:32 pm

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Summer is going to be a little noisier this year on the East Coast.

Once the soil temperatures rise sufficiently, billions of cicadas are expected to emerge after spending 17 years underground. The soon-to-emerge cicadas were born in 1999 and spent the years feasting on secretions from plant roots. After toiling in the dirt for close to two decades, the cicadas will climb a tree, shed their nymphal shell, and proceed to get dirty — in the figurative sense. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: unusual organisms

Scientists Find Link Between Genes and Virginity

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 18, 2016 5:31 pm
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(Credit: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock)

In a new study, a team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Iceland and the United States claims to have isolated a set of 38 genes that they say play a role in determining the age at which people lose their virginities.

The study builds on previous research that established a link between genetics and loss of virginity. This most recent study highlights the link between genetic factors influencing the onset of puberty and losing your virginity, as well as genes responsible for personality traits, such as risk-taking, which were also found to be correlated with the age at which people first had sex. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes, genes & health

Were Dinosaurs Doomed Before the Asteroid?

By Eric Betz | April 18, 2016 3:21 pm
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Sauropod species, including large plant-eaters like Brontosaurus and Alamosaurus, shown here, may have started dying off more than 100 million years before the Chicxulub asteroid impact. Yet Alamosaurus fossils are found just below the worldwide layer of impact debris, indicating they were among the last surviving dinosaur species. (Credit: rDiBgd/Wikimedia Commons)

The age of the dinosaurs was growing stale long before that infamous impact.

A new study claims that dinosaurs were doomed to extinction before a city-sized space rock abruptly ended their reign some 66 million years ago. The analysis, published online Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows many species had already been dwindling for tens of millions of years. Read More

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

Stuttering Mice Could Reveal New Clues About the Speech Disorder

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 15, 2016 4:04 pm
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(Credit: lassedesignen/Shutterstock)

For those who stutter, a simple conversation can be a frustrating experience.

The mechanism that underlies stammering is unclear, although a telltale genetic mutation was recently pinpointed as the culprit. How this mutation causes fits and starts in speech is unknown, but researchers from Washington University say they have taken an important step toward building a genetic understanding of stuttering. Read More

The Hidden Messages in a Laugh

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 14, 2016 4:30 pm
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(Credit: Uber Images/Shutterstock)

From hearty belly laughs to polite chuckles, laughter underpins our more enjoyable social interactions. And just like body language and facial expressions, laughter, too, is a physical reaction that’s loaded with subtext.

There are many ways to laugh out loud — some giggles are more heartfelt than others — and discerning the difference is a key social skill. For example, the way we laugh sounds very different when we are at a bar with friends versus a meeting at work. And, a new study shows, the different shades of laughter often hold enough information by themselves for us to discern key facts about the people yukking it up. Read More

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

Drink Too Much? It Depends on Where You Live

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 13, 2016 1:06 pm
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One drink, two drinks, half a drink? Who knows. (Credit: TasiPas/Shutterstock)

Alcohol can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a very bad thing, and the line between the two is, well, blurry.

Knowing when enough is enough is something of an art, but establishing where to draw the line is made more difficult due to the myriad intoxicants at our disposal. And, as a new study shows, the official guidelines for what actually constitutes an alcoholic drink, which should presumably provide sober advice on our drinking habits, aren’t much help either. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: personal health

A 26-Million-Year-Old Whale Song

By Jon Tennant | April 12, 2016 6:14 pm
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Comparison of inner the inner ear bone (cochlea) of a xenorophid, left, and a modern-day dolphin, right. (Credit: Museum Victoria/Ben Healley) 

Modern whales and dolphins navigate in the oceans using echolocation, a system that bounces sounds off objects to reveal their details and distance.

These magnificent marine mammals use their distinctive, high-frequency sounds for communicating with each other and hunting prey. The development of this important sensory system was a crucial factor in the evolution of odontocetes, the group that includes toothed whales and dolphins. Now, an international team of researchers has discovered when this key adaptation evolved in their now extinct ancestors.

Read More

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

This Is Your Brain on LSD

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 11, 2016 5:39 pm
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This image shows how much more of the brain contributes to the visual experience under LSD than under placebo. (Credit: Imperial/Beckley Foundation)

The psychedelic drug LSD is known for the wild hallucinations it conjures, and its effects have been portrayed by Hollywood in movies like Easy Rider and The Big Lebowski.

But actual studies of LSD and its effect on the brain have been few and far in between, due to its classification as a Schedule I drug. But a new study from researchers in the United Kingdom delves into the science of an LSD-enhanced trip using bran scans to observe 20 patients under the influence of the drug. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Prepare for an Explosion of Gravitational Wave Detections

By Eric Betz | April 11, 2016 4:20 pm
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An illustration of merging black holes. (Credit: NASA)

In the time it takes you to finish your lunch break, several pairs of black holes will merge somewhere in the universe. That’s the incredible picture emerging from early insights by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.

In February, LIGO announced the first detection of gravitational waves, confirming a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. That historic wave reached Earth at light speed on September 14, 2015, from a pair of black holes that collided 1.3 billion light-years away.

But LIGO heard another suspect gravitational wave signal that got less attention. Though it wasn’t as strong, it looked promising. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

6 Perspectives of SpaceX’s Historic Launch and Boat Landing

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 11, 2016 1:17 pm
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(Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX reached a remarkable milestone on Friday when it successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean, the fifth time it had attempted to do so. The historic event has already generated plenty of buzz, and has been immortalized from multiple perspectives.

Here are some of the best photos and videos from that game-changing accomplishment. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
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