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Friday, October 31, 2014

ScienceDaily: Strange Science News

ScienceDaily: Strange Science News

Running robots of future may learn from world's best two-legged runners: Birds

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:41 PM PDT

With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature's most energy efficient bipeds -- running birds. Their skills may have evolved from the time of the dinosaurs and they may now be superior to any other bipedal runners -- including humans.

Plump turtles swim better: First models of swimming animals

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:37 PM PDT

Bigger is better, if you're a leatherback sea turtle. For the first time, researchers have measured the forces that act on a swimming animal and the energy the animal must expend to move through the water.

Scientists generate first human stomach tissue in lab with stem cells

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:56 AM PDT

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells to generate functional, three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory -- creating an unprecedented tool for researching the development and diseases of an organ central to several public health crises, ranging from cancer to diabetes. Scientists used human pluripotent stem cells -- which can become any cell type in the body -- to grow a miniature version of the stomach.

Planet-forming lifeline discovered in a binary star system

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Scientists have detected a streamer of dust and gas flowing from a massive outer disk toward the inner reaches of a binary star system. This never-before-seen feature may be responsible for sustaining a second, smaller disk of planet-forming material that otherwise would have disappeared long ago.

Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Mimicking natural evolution in a test tube, scientists have devised an enzyme with a unique property that might have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

Contamination likely explains 'food genes in blood' claim

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Laboratory contaminants likely explain the results of a recent study claiming that complete genes can pass from foods we eat into our blood, according to a molecular biologist who re-examined data from the controversial research paper.

Parasite-schizophrenia connection: One-fifth of schizophrenia cases may involve the parasite T. gondii

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:34 AM PDT

Many factors, both genetic and environmental, have been blamed for increasing the risk of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Some, such as a family history of schizophrenia, are widely accepted. Others, such as infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite transmitted by soil, undercooked meat and cat feces, are still viewed with skepticism. A new study used epidemiological modeling methods to determine the proportion of schizophrenia cases that may be attributable to T. gondii infection. The work suggests that about one-fifth of cases may involve the parasite.

Supersonic laser-propelled rockets: Hybrid approach may help power rockets, launch satellites, push future aircraft past Mach 10

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:34 AM PDT

Researchers have described a new system that integrates a laser-ablation propulsion system with the gas blasting nozzles of a spacecraft which can increase the speed of the gas flow out of the system to supersonic speeds while reducing the amount of burned fuel.

Projecting a robot's intentions: New spin on virtual reality helps engineers read robots' minds

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

In a darkened, hangar-like space inside MIT's Building 41, a small, Roomba-like robot is trying to make up its mind. Standing in its path is an obstacle — a human pedestrian who's pacing back and forth. To get to the other side of the room, the robot has to first determine where the pedestrian is, then choose the optimal route to avoid a close encounter. As the robot considers its options, its "thoughts" are projected on the ground: A large pink dot appears to follow the pedestrian — a symbol of the robot's perception of the pedestrian's position in space.

Why plants don't get sunburn

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

Plants rely on sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays, just like humans do. Recently, scientists discovered a group of molecules in plants that shields them from sun damage. Now scientists report on the mechanics of how these natural plant sunscreens work.

Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical and biological warfare agents

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

With fears growing over chemical and biological weapons falling into the wrong hands, scientists are developing microrockets to fight back against these dangerous agents, should the need arise. They have developed new spherical micromotors that rapidly neutralize chemical and biological agents and use water as fuel.

Liberal or conservative? Reactions to disgust are a dead giveaway

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

The way a person's brain responds to a single disgusting image is enough to reliably predict whether he or she identifies politically as liberal or conservative. As we approach Election Day, the researchers say that the findings come as a reminder of something we all know but probably don't always do: 'Think, don't just react.'

Cinema-like environment helps audiences become immersed in movies even when shown on cell phones

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 07:26 AM PDT

If the surroundings are designed to be sufficiently stimulating, even a simple computer screen is enough to generate an intense cinematic experience. After observing some 300 study subjects, researchers concluded that the angle of viewing does not play a vital role in the cinematic experience, thus disproving various hypotheses. According to the results of their study, the presence of so-called contextual visual cues plays a greater role in actually drawing viewers into a movie.

Gentle caffeine boost for premature babies

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:54 AM PDT

Researchers have developed a UV-activated membrane which releases a gentle dose of medication to the skin of a patient. In future those who fear injections will be able to sleep soundly, as will premature babies too, since the new dosing technique will spare them additional stress.

5g networks: Futuristic communications for today's users

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:36 AM PDT

Devices that learn from our habits and help us to "think better", connect us to a friend just by thinking about them, or ensure continuing medical monitoring, will be a reality in 2020, thanks to the 5G technology.

Why some butterflies sound like ants

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:33 AM PDT

Ant nests can offer a lot to organisms other than just ants. They are well-protected, environmentally-stable and resource-rich spaces -- in many ways everything a tiny creature could ask for in a home. For the insects that squat inside ant nests, though, survival means finding ways to live with the ants -- by foiling the chemical cues ants use to distinguish friend from foe, for instance.

A battle for ant sperm

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:38 PM PDT

New research shows that sexual conflict between two ant species can drive an evolutionary battle, leading to competing adaptations in which female ants of one species manhandle sperm away from the unwitting males of a different species.

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