Archives

March 13, 2014
Dasvidaniya, Tatanka

A new linguistic study claims to have found links between Siberian and Native American languages. It was my understanding linguistic techniques more or less fall apart after a few thousand years, but maybe they've come up with some new method.

Posted by scott at 08:46 AM eMail this entry!
March 06, 2014
Big Bones

Scientists have announced the discovery of the largest-known predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe. Torvosaurus gurneyi was much larger than its Jurassic contemporaries but still smaller than the big Cretaceous brutes like T. Rex.

Posted by scott at 07:30 AM eMail this entry!
February 24, 2014
Rock of Ages

Using new dating techniques, scientists have confirmed the oldest rocks yet found on Earth are in Australia. What's more, they're quite a bit older than previously thought, just 100 million years before the planet got rebooted when the Moon was formed. It indicates the planet was forming a crust much earlier than current theories predicted, and that water was present even then.

Posted by scott at 06:57 AM eMail this entry!
February 18, 2014
A Bony Smile

DNA testing is underway in an attempt to find the remains of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Yes, a bit creepy, but also a fascinating opportunity to get a look at how 16th century nobility lived, and died. Physical anthropology is an often under-appreciated window into how our ancestors lived. Hopefully this will throw some much needed light onto the field.

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February 12, 2014
Fossil Find

A new geological deposit that rivals the famous Burgess Shale has been found in Canada. In fact, it seems to be an extension of the Burgess formation, only it has more and better preserved fossils. Early history of life, FTW!

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
February 11, 2014
Ancient Death

Using new techniques, scientists have determined the Permian mass-extinction even happened 10x faster than previously thought. They've also go a more precise date as to when it happened, and some of the data is allowing them to make a more definitive tie-in to the Siberian Traps volcanic event. That's always been the #1 suspect, but the dates have never quite squared up yet. I think it's only a matter of time, though, before it all lines up.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
February 08, 2014
Old Feet

The oldest footprints found outside of Africa have turned up in a muddy estuary in the UK.

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February 06, 2014
Faster, Please

The field of prosthetic limbs seems to be progressing nicely. Right now the prototypes remind me of something a Terminator would use. Here's to hoping for long success and better miniaturization!

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM eMail this entry!
January 29, 2014
Old Bugs

A mass grave found in Germany is finally yielding insights into just what the Justinian Plague actually was. It's far less well known than its fourteenth century counterpart but may very well have killed more people in its day. It certainly helped create those darkest of the dark ages.

Posted by scott at 12:21 PM eMail this entry!
January 28, 2014
Old Farmer Ted

New technology has allowed scientists to sequence the DNA of the remains of an 8000 year-old man. The findings, as with most things of this nature, confirm some theories, invalidate others, and also pose new questions. Because SCIENCE!

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
January 23, 2014
Fun with Neutrinos

A simple change in filter rules has turned a dud into a success. Me, I'd think that particles traveling at energies a hundred times greater than the LHC would be a bit, well, "explodey." But I Am Not a Particle Physicist.

Posted by scott at 09:22 AM eMail this entry!
January 14, 2014
Deep Ditch

Scientists have announced the discovery of a canyon underneath the antarctic ice that dwarfs the Grand Canyon. I can't help but think this would probably end up filled with water, a-la Loch Ness, and so not be all THAT deep. Then again, who am I to stand between an editor and his juicy headline?

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Neither Fish nor Fowl

A new paper is finally detailing the rear portion of what's being called one of the most important fossil finds in the past decade. The creature, known as a "titkaalik," is a member of an extremely rare group called "tetrapodomorphs," creatures who are part of the transition from fins to legs. As usual, there's plenty of unexpected things that were found on the back end of this not-quite-fish.

Posted by scott at 06:23 AM eMail this entry!
January 08, 2014
Shocking Color

This just in: ancient critters that lived in the ocean were colored more or less the same as modern critters that live in the ocean. Because it's so weird that water has held the same properties, basically forever. Meh, I guess it would be interesting if this didn't hold true.

Posted by scott at 05:54 PM eMail this entry!
January 06, 2014
Superbang

A group of scientists has determined the presence of liquid magma is enough to trigger a supervolcano eruption. These super-massive eruptions are hundreds of times larger than any conventional eruption experienced in history. The good news is, apparently, that such an event would cause very noticeable changes in the vicinity of said supervolcano. Oh, and don't forget one of these things sits underneath Yellowstone. Sleep well!

Posted by scott at 09:43 AM eMail this entry!
January 02, 2014
Plastic Ticker

A new type of artificial heart seems to be doing well in its first use in a human patient. Apparently it's very large, fitting only 86% of men and 65% of people in general, but it also seems like it provides more freedom. There's no mention of wires or tubes leading from the device to external machinery.

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM eMail this entry!
December 27, 2013
Faster, Please

A pharma company has announced plans to 3D print a fully functioning human liver in 2014. Tons of testing is required before such things can be used in humans. In the meantime it and things like it will be invaluable tools for drug research.

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
December 20, 2013
Flower Power

A new study of a unique plant is providing insights into the evolution of flowers. It seems that about two hundred million years ago a "gene doubling" may have given the common ancestor of all flowering plants an extra tool kit to use for evolutionary experiments.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
December 18, 2013
Welcome to the 21st Century

I always figured we'd eventually work out how to make replacement organs. I just didn't count on them being, well, printed. Faster, please.

Posted by scott at 06:25 PM eMail this entry!
December 17, 2013
Old Men

Scientists have re-visited the iconic site where Neandertals first came to light and have confirmed they did indeed bury their dead. As far as I know, this was widely accepted since the 1950s when Shanidar was excavated, but confirmation is always nice.

Posted by scott at 07:45 AM eMail this entry!
December 11, 2013
We're All Stars Now

This just in: our universe is just a holographic projection. I think. Something about a lower-complexity connection to somewhere without gravity. Check, please!

Posted by scott at 08:48 AM eMail this entry!
December 08, 2013
Big Cousin

Newly analyzed post-cranial fossils has revealed that Paranthropus boisei was more strongly built than previously thought. Any time you find post-cranial remains of a hominid it's big news, because they are so incredibly rare.

Posted by scott at 10:33 AM eMail this entry!
December 04, 2013
Grandpa Mystery

Using brand-new techniques scientists have managed to recover DNA from a hominid fossil 400,000 years old. The results are, as expected, surprising and will likely force a complete re-think of human evolution. Or not. Hey, they have to keep that grant money flowing in somehow!

Posted by scott at 03:41 PM eMail this entry!
November 19, 2013
Meat Mummy

Well how else did you expect Tut to eat? Personally I think they don't have all that much evidence for exotic preservative techniques. And hooray for coating ribs with resin!

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
November 18, 2013
Hidden Heat

A new geologic study of Antarctica has revealed an active volcano buried deep beneath the ice. It's moving south at the rate of not quite 10 km per million years, and could erupt again at any time. Fun stuff!

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
Cone Head

Archeologists in France have announced the discovery of two new ancient and well-preserved burial complexes. The more modern one includes a female burial with a significantly remodeled skull. The archeologists claim this was a popular practice with European nobility of that era, but it's the first I'd heard of it.

Posted by scott at 05:59 AM eMail this entry!
October 25, 2013
Gear Up

You have to wade through a bizarre intro to get to it, but it seems that nature worked out how to evolve functional gears a very long time ago. Of course it'd be in a bug. Most everything really clever in natural engineering happens in insects, it seems.

Posted by scott at 07:11 AM eMail this entry!
October 22, 2013
Ancient Eats

A study of tooth enamel may be indicating that our ancient ancestors either used medicinal herbs, or ate the stomach contents of their kills. Nah, doesn't sound very tasty to me either. But I think one of the reasons people succeeded back in the day was they learned to eat absolutely anything that could be eaten.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
October 17, 2013
~ Spider Brain, Spider Brain ~

New imaging techniques are allowing scientists to reconstruct ancient life forms in ever-greater detail. Plus they get to create really nifty neural diagrams of critters so old nobody's sure who, if anyone, is directly related to them.

Posted by scott at 06:25 AM eMail this entry!
October 15, 2013
Robot Monkey

It looks like we're getting ever-closer to a real Six Million Dollar Man. I still say we all need to fine The Guardian every time they use the word "boffin." I mean, really.

Posted by scott at 06:27 AM eMail this entry!
October 14, 2013
Spidey Sense

Look, I'm just saying if "more prone to sexual cannibalism" is part of a personality profile, that's probably not someone I want to know.

Posted by scott at 04:11 PM eMail this entry!
October 11, 2013
Paint It, Black

It seems women have been in charge of what goes on the walls for a very, very long time. The claim is, of course, contested, and to be honest I'm not sure he really has adequately explained how this doesn't represent teenaged boys.

Posted by scott at 06:55 AM eMail this entry!
October 08, 2013
Milestone

Scientists have announced a nuclear fusion experiment has "broken even" for the very first time. No, it's still not putting out more total energy than it's putting in and yes, they're still saying "real" fusion is 20-50 years away, but HEY! Look at all those shiny toys!

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
October 04, 2013
Winkie Find

A relief carved into the base of an ancient tower has allowed archeologists to date the founding of an ancient Italian city right down to the day. Bonus: the reliefs are penises that connect (ha!) the city more closely to the emperor Augustus than was previously understood.

Posted by scott at 09:57 AM eMail this entry!
October 02, 2013
Old Plant

The discovery of ultra-rare fossilized pollen has pushed the origin of flowering plants back 100 million years. Flowers are widely seen as having evolved as a response to dinosaur predation. So, next time you see a pretty flower on a tree, remember it got there because of the dinos!

Posted by scott at 07:02 AM eMail this entry!
September 30, 2013
Tiny Gun

Scientists have developed a new "cheaper-smaller-faster" particle accelerator. A close read seems to indicate that no, you won't be able to build an LHC in your back yard with one of them, but it does seem to promise new kinds of x-ray scanners and other things like that.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
September 26, 2013
Old Air

Scientists have announced that the Earth's atmosphere was rich with oxygen far earlier than previously thought. The discovery implies that very complex metabolic systems like photosynthesis evolved very quickly in Earth's history.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
September 19, 2013
Universal Jewel

A new jewel-like geometric shape promises to vastly simplify quantum calculations. It may even provide the step needed to create a viable theory of quantum gravity, something that's eluded the field for decades. I think. Quantum physics is hard!

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
September 11, 2013
Dead Elephants

The everlasting tennis match that is the field of megafauna extinction in North America research has started another round. People showed up, all the big things died. This seems like a pretty straightforward equation to me, but simple and straightforward does not a good grant proposal make. And, really, when has nature ever been simple?

Posted by scott at 04:44 PM eMail this entry!
Faster, Please

The good: Scientists have regressed living adult tissue into stem cells.

The bad: Thing went all cancer-y after that

Cancer seems to be a common failure in stem cell research. Getting them to turn on isn't the problem, it's getting them to turn off.

Posted by scott at 04:39 PM eMail this entry!
September 05, 2013
Similar Genes

A new study has revealed the evolutionary phenomena of convergence has far deeper effects than previously thought. I guess there really isn't all that many different ways to screw together a bat.

Posted by scott at 06:25 AM eMail this entry!
August 30, 2013
Plonk!

Why go through complex finite element analysis when you can just pick one up and drop it? As with most big impacts, it doesn't look all that bad from the outside. It's the interior shots that bring the forces involved to life.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
August 28, 2013
Element 115

Scientists are accumulating more evidence that another element exists at the far end of the periodic table. Like most of the newer ones, it's very radioactive and very unstable, assuming it's not just some glitch in the sensors. From what I've read, they keep trying because eventually they may ramp up to a heavy element that sticks around for awhile, and who knows what it'll be good for?

Posted by scott at 09:19 AM eMail this entry!
August 22, 2013
That's-a Spicey Meat Ball

Scientists have found direct evidence that Europeans, at least, have been using spices to flavor their food for at least six thousand years. Yeah, this is one of those "common sense requires evidence, too" sort of studies. But, hey, even common sense answers usually yield interesting details.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
August 20, 2013
Old Metal

Scientists have now confirmed a necklace older than the pyramids is made up in part of meteorite. The necklace was created a full two thousand years before iron was in common use.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
August 13, 2013
Cave Tool

Scientists have announced the discovery of specialized bone tools that were used by Neandertals. One of the hallmarks of earlier hominids was their toolkits were based on stone. Even on the occasions they did use other materials, the tool was still the same shape. However, it seems quite possible they copied the tool instead of came up with it on their own. Bonus: We know what the bone tool does because, at least 50,000 years later, people are still using them.

Posted by scott at 06:15 AM eMail this entry!
August 08, 2013
Burial Bonanza

Hooray for big public works projects in first-world countries! The archeologists get to find all the cool stuff. And, unlike over here in America, I don't think there are any pesky repatriation laws in the UK. Dig 'em up and examine the heck out of 'em, boys! The medieval history geek in me wishes it was about five hundred years older or so, but then I remember people in the 17th century didn't really live THAT much differently than their ancestors in the 11th. With such a cross-section of people, the demographic information should prove fascinating.

Posted by scott at 09:08 AM eMail this entry!
August 03, 2013
Generations

A group of scientists have announced that our genetic "Adam" lived about 150,000 years ago. Unless you ask a different group of scientists, who think it was about 250,000 years ago. And then when you ask yet another different set, they say something like 500,000 years ago. In a nutshell, they're doing cool stuff you won't completely understand so you really should renew their grants. Because SCIENCE.

Posted by scott at 08:03 AM eMail this entry!
July 30, 2013
Anti-Kill

A new study has concluded that humans probably evolved social monogamy as a defense against male infanticide. Not just humans, but other higher primates as well.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
July 25, 2013
Dead Cats, or Not

Scientists have worked out how to manifest quantum effects on ever-larger objects. I think. Look, it's quantum mechanics. If it was easy to understand, we'd all be doing it.

Posted by scott at 08:11 AM eMail this entry!
July 15, 2013
Old Time

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest known calendar. The collection of holes was found on the grounds of an old Scottish castle, and provide a lunar calendar as well as a fix for the winter solstice. At ten thousand years, it's "thousands" of years older than any previously known calendar. Looks like even ancient man needed an alarm clock.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
July 08, 2013
Flat Head

Another day, another note that you need to keep your infant sleeping on its back. Normally, though, flat-spotting is caused by a brake bias problem.

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
July 05, 2013
Buried Flowers

The oldest definitive evidence of flowers being used to decorate a grave has been discovered in Israel. No, it's not the neandertal stuff you read about in high school. Instead, this representative of the "Natufian" culture, about 12,000 years ago.

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
July 03, 2013
Tasty Balls

Discovery: proteins responsible for our ability to taste are actually found throughout the body, and neutralizing the ones in mouse testicles (stay with me here) render those mice sterile. Headline? Testicles have Taste Receptors. Which, now that I think about it, is factually true, and it definitely got my attention. Geeze it's like these headline writers are good at their job or something.

Posted by scott at 07:01 AM eMail this entry!
July 02, 2013
Cosmic Brew

My God, Martha, there's booze up in them galaxies. There's some sort of quantum something involved, and they got it to work in the lab, and when I read the article it seems like maybe it's about alcohols getting destroyed rather than created. Physics is hard.

Posted by scott at 06:27 AM eMail this entry!
July 01, 2013
Toss It

A new anatomical study is claiming to have figured out why humans are so good at throwing things. Turns out our upper bodies didn't only evolve for holding tools. It also evolved to toss them. It's nice to see an article that talks about something we're good at, instead of how much better some other species is. Go humans!

Posted by scott at 04:00 PM eMail this entry!
June 21, 2013
Holes and Sound

Using (apparently) a drill and a bunch of plastic wrap, scientists have figured out how to make a wall nearly transparent to sound. What I'm interested in is just how many holes does it take, and how big are they? It's plenty easy to make a wall transparent to sound if, for example, there's a hole as big as a bowling ball in it. Doesn't do much for the decor, though.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
June 17, 2013
Heart of Darkness

Scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown Khmer city hidden in the jungle for the past 1200 years. I'm expecting a dark and hungry god to emerge from that vicinity shortly, but that's probably because I have friends who obsess over HP Lovecraft. Nah, it's ok. They're colorful friends!

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
June 15, 2013
Fast Cat

A decade-long study of Cheetahs using an innovative electronic collar is revealing all sorts of new facts about the world's fastest land animal. Even running at a "slow" 35 mph, it's impressive. Maneuvering at a speed half-again as fast is even more so.

Posted by scott at 07:26 AM eMail this entry!
June 14, 2013
Diver Down

A group of scientists are claiming to have finally figured out how marine mammals hold their breath for such incredibly long times. It seems the culprit is a special sort of oxygen-storing protein that in the rest of the mammal word gets too "sticky" to be of much use. In marine mammals, an adaptation allows this protein to leverage muscles as a kind of "oxygen battery."

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
June 10, 2013
Cold Spin

Those crazy scientists are at it again, playing with super-cold atoms and making them lean back and forth. Supposedly it all could have applications in super computing, but I think it's mostly just them mucking about with lasers. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by scott at 06:29 AM eMail this entry!
June 05, 2013
Frog Find

A frog species recently declared extinct has instead proved simply be living in a really awful neck of the woods. Living in a miserable place does seem to be a pretty effective strategy at keeping humans at bay.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
June 04, 2013
Home, Home on the Range

A new, wide-ranging study of fossil teeth is providing new insight into how our ancestors transitioned from forests to grasslands as their primary habitat. While the article makes it sound like this is all very new information, the transition from woodland to savannah has been widely acknowledged since at least the 1980s. What this mainly seems to have done is refine the timeline, give greater information on how many species were out there at any given time, and exactly what they ate.

Posted by scott at 08:14 AM eMail this entry!
May 22, 2013
Bird Food

A new study that combines engineering, anatomy, and CGI simulations has discovered that the dinosaur Allosaurus ate things in a way quite different than the younger, more famous T. Rex. In fact, its technique seems to most closely resemble that of modern small falcons. Birds of a... what am I saying? Dinosaurs are weird!

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM eMail this entry!
May 21, 2013
Spear Chucker

A new study on cut marks has pushed the date humans started throwing spears back to 90,000 years. Cut mark studies have been around a long time. I remember them back when I was an undergrad in the mid-80s. You'd think someone would've thought to do this sooner, but I guess not. At any rate, now that they know what to look for, I'll be the date gets pushed back even further as new finds come to light.

Posted by scott at 08:43 AM eMail this entry!
May 17, 2013
Old Monkey

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest known fossils of both apes and monkeys. The finds date to about 25 million years ago, which puts them much closer to the predicted split between the two genera than anything else found to-date. The fossils themselves aren't much... a jaw fragment and a single tooth. However, now that they know where to look for these sorts of fossils, I'll bet there will be better finds on the way.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
May 14, 2013
Ancient Ears

A new fossil study has revealed that even our oldest relatives had ears that resembled ours. No, not the fleshy bits on the outside, but apparently one (and only one) of the three ear bones quite strongly resembled our own. No, I don't know what it really means, either. I guess we'll get the answer file when they get their grant renewed.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
Veg Attack

A carnivorous relative of the tomato seems to be the most genetically "pure" living thing found to-date. In other news, the common tomato has a carnivorous cousin. Can Attack of the Killer Humped Bladderwort be far behind? I think not!

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM eMail this entry!
May 13, 2013
Bio-Burger

It seems the effort to grow meat in a vat has taken another step forward. Cattle take up a lot of space, and the whole business of the slaughterhouse makes me a bit queasy. If this ends up costing, say, .00001% of what it costs now, hell I might even try it.

Posted by scott at 06:27 AM eMail this entry!
May 10, 2013
The Shape of Things to Come

Most theories of the origin of the universe predict an equal amount of matter and antimatter was created. Explaining why it all didn't annihilate itself the very next instant just went all pear-shaped. Particle physics is, like, you know, hard and stuff. I'll take their word for it.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
May 09, 2013
Lost Land

Scientists using a new deep-diving submersible are claiming to have found an original piece of the long-lost continent, Pangaea. Which is a little strange to me. Just about any rocks that have, say, dinosaur fossils pretty much must be from Pangaea, right? Maybe I'm missing something. That's usually the case.

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM eMail this entry!
May 08, 2013
Garden Found

A British historian is claiming to have discovered the actual location of the hanging gardens of Babylon. If they're right, it should more properly be called "the hanging gardens of Assyria." Relying on new translations of old sources can be problematic, but it's not like this is the only person in the world who can translate that stuff. Someone else can take a close look, too.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
May 06, 2013
Binky Bash

A new study has found at least some evidence that sucking on your kid's pacifier can provide substantial protection against allergies and asthma. The findings are, of course, controversial and even the authors admit it's not conclusive. We would do this occasionally when Olivia was little, and she is mostly allergy-free. Of course, that could also have something to do with growing up in her very own petting zoo, so even we can't provide even anecdotal support for any of this.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
May 01, 2013
Chop Chop

Scientists have found clear physical evidence of cannibalism in England's first permanent settlement in the New World. And, if the reconstruction is accurate, they had pretty good taste, indeed.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week!

Posted by scott at 01:58 PM eMail this entry!
Crystal Time

A group of scientists has finally figured out a way to test whether or not a specific crystal formation vibrates through time instead of space. The "my little physicist" explanation seems to be: there's a mathematical construct that, if it can be built in the form of a crystal, will vibrate without expending energy or ever winding down. I think. Sounds cool, especially now that they can test it.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
April 30, 2013
Speaking of Dinosaurs

It seems that humans aren't the only creatures to have evolved in Africa. Of course, I'm pretty sure Africa wasn't actually Africa, in appearance or location, at the start of the Triassic. Also, it may not be that the creatures evolved in that spot. Rather, it may simply be a case of the right stratigraphy being exposed in that precise spot. Anyway, it's a damned old dinosaur, is all I'm sayin'...

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
April 29, 2013
The Color of Dinos

Canadian scientists are using a sophisticated light source to see if they can figure out what color a specific dinosaur was. I'm not so sure this is the only "3D dinosaur skin fossil." I distinctly remember that the natural history museum in New York has a fossil on display that has intact skin. Of course, that could be part of the same fossil.

Posted by scott at 06:18 AM eMail this entry!
April 26, 2013
Earth's Sun

New experiments are revealing that the Earth's core is much hotter than previously thought. As in, "hotter than the surface of the sun" hot. However, this is actually good news, since it allows the reconciliation of several otherwise good models with the observed data.

Posted by scott at 02:57 PM eMail this entry!
Mayan Mahem

A new archeological study is indicating that the origins of Mayan civilization are more complicated than previously thought. Turns out the earliest indicators of Mayan civilization pre-date the older and even more mysterious Olmec, but the influence of that civilization is undeniable.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
April 24, 2013
Making Europe

A new genetic study of ancient human remains in Europe has revealed important, and previously unknown, migrations in the distant past. One problem with using archeology alone is that a new population may replace the people but keep using their tech. DNA analysis will spot that change.

Posted by scott at 06:57 AM eMail this entry!
April 18, 2013
Old Anchorage

Egyptian archeologists have announced the discovery of the oldest port in the world. Because of our collapsed view of history, "old" to us usually means Greco-Roman, or the very last pharaohs of the New Kingdom. What's been found this time is something much older, going right back to the time the pyramids were being built. They know this because they found receipts for the stone that built them on the site. No, really!

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
April 17, 2013
Short People

A new study is providing more evidence that the Flores hominids were in fact a dwarf species. Which won't stop critics from a new round of "is too!" This is anthropology, after all. If it can't be argued endlessly until the proponents of each side are literally dead, what fun is there?

Posted by scott at 07:10 AM eMail this entry!
April 15, 2013
Paging Doctor McCoy, White Courtesy Phone Please

Scientists have announced the successful implantation of a lab-grown kidney in a rat. This is by far the most complex organ grown in a lab. The trick, apparently, is in the way the cells are introduced to the "scaffold" that they grow on. The next step will be scaling up the process to see if it can create human-sized (i.e., pig) organs.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
April 11, 2013
Dino Grow

A fossil formed when a flood washed out a group of dinosaur nests has revealed at least one species to be the fastest growing animal yet discovered. Bonus: they also seem to have found organic matter, by far the oldest example of such stuff found so far.

Posted by scott at 09:02 AM eMail this entry!
April 09, 2013
Big Ones

A new study has provided evidence that size does indeed actually matter. Radical feminists and their ilk will be outraged, I'm sure. Those of us who understand that a century or so of radical politics does not trump millions of years of evolution, not so much.

Posted by scott at 07:52 AM eMail this entry!
April 08, 2013
Abraham's House

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new archeology site with the ruins of a building Abraham himself could've walked through. Other good news: at least some parts of Iraq are now stable enough for Milquetoast scientists to poke around in.

Posted by scott at 09:37 AM eMail this entry!
Dog's Gate

Scientists have announced the discovery of the "Plutoneion," a cave entrance the ancients regarded as a gate to hell. It still works, too. The archeologists reported several birds dropping dead near it after it'd been excavated. Maybe they'll bring in a geologist next time to figure out what makes the thing tick.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
April 02, 2013
Rock On Wich Yo Pinniped Self

It took training and probably a whole helluva lot of fish, but biologists have manage to train a sea lion to "keep the beat." At first I thought maybe she was just shaking her head, but it does seem like she's responding to the music itself. Ellen and I were just talking about how research said it was just humans and parrots who were the only ones to perceive music. Now we know better.

Posted by scott at 12:39 PM eMail this entry!
March 29, 2013
Fairy Bugs

A German scientist is claiming to have solved an intriguing riddle about some geography you've never heard of. Well, I'd never heard of it, at any rate. And, really, that's all that important.

Posted by scott at 06:25 AM eMail this entry!
March 27, 2013
Copper Cloak

Scientists at the University of Texas have created yet another kind of invisibility cloak. It takes awhile for them to admit it, but eventually they come clean and explain it's a cloak against radar, not visible light. Still likely to be useful, but far from something Harry Potter would find handy.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
March 25, 2013
Player Capacity

It looks like your next super-battery may be made in a DVD player. Sort of. I remember hearing about graphene's capacity (ha!) to story electricity some time ago, but the article itself is quite recent. Cheap power storage, FTW!

Posted by scott at 06:00 AM eMail this entry!
March 22, 2013
Zircon Clock

A new study of volcanic rocks has confirmed at least one mass extinction event was caused by massive "flood basalt events". In other words, a metric buttload of lava. I think then going on to claim that all mass extinctions are caused by volcanism seems a bit much, but I'm not a geologist, or paleontologist. But, hey, if it keeps the grant money flowing have at it.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
March 19, 2013
Select This

Those of you occasionally confronted with someone who insists "evolution has never been observed" now have another arrow for your quiver. Those of you who think a 60 mph armadillo is inevitable will also be pleased.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
March 18, 2013
Anime Eyes

The latest idea for the extinction of Neandertals is (spins the wheel o' death)... big eyes. Me, I still think a gradual out-compete combined with interbreeding with modern humans did them in, but I'm no scientist.

Posted by scott at 06:29 AM eMail this entry!
March 17, 2013
Gold Flash

The more you know: gold deposits form when deep earthquakes rip the crust apart so fast the subsequent "flash boil" of fluid causes the mineral to fall. Which is to say, the Earth sharts, just like you and me.

Was that wrong? Should I not have said that?

Posted by scott at 04:48 PM eMail this entry!
March 12, 2013
Hossenfeffer Hell

A new study of animal bones in ancient homes is suggesting Nendertals may owe their extinction to an inability to "prey shift." It seems that, as megafauna gradually disappeared, early modern humans shifted to rabbits, but Neandertals didn't.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
March 06, 2013
Ancient Apocalypse

What better way to pass the day than with a brief summary of current thinking around the Permian mass extinction? Me, I'd put money on the "everything going wrong at once" square. It's the only way to be sure.

Posted by scott at 12:50 PM eMail this entry!
Frozen Humps

Not news: dead camel. News: an ancient, mummified camel found in the Arctic. The genetic analysis has revealed it was much more closely related to modern versions than expected, indicating the grumpy beasts likely evolved in freezing conditions, not blasted deserts.

Posted by scott at 07:17 AM eMail this entry!
March 04, 2013
Quantum Cat

If this report is to be believed, the mysteries of quantum mechanics may be getting at least a little less wacky. There's definitely something about light polarization in there, and the obligatory reference to that darned cat. You're smarter than me. Go look and tell me what it means.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
Super Layers

A new man-made material is pushing the bounds of high-temperature superconductivity. Just exactly how high, the article doesn't specify. In fact, a careful reading seems to indicate whatever they've made isn't directly superconducting, but rather provides insight into the behavior of magnetic fields which could lead to new superconductors. Oh, and the stuff sounds like it's really expensive, too.

Posted by scott at 06:23 AM eMail this entry!
February 27, 2013
Robobird

I think these guys are having way too much fun: scientists have figured out how to re-animate a dead sparrow using off-the-shelf electronics. They were studying male aggression, and needed something that could be angry on cue. Considering the robot eventually got its head bitten off, it would seem they succeeded. A robot with a shelf life. Whoda thought it?

Posted by scott at 07:11 AM eMail this entry!
February 26, 2013
The Drunken Ape

It looks like we've been boozing it up for a very, very long time now. I'll go a step further than the article and speculate that the ability to digest fermented fruit may very well have been what drew a specific set of apes down from the trees. Certainly the sudden appearance of a much more powerful digestion enzyme means SOMETHING.

Posted by scott at 06:58 AM eMail this entry!
February 22, 2013
Chemical Burn

A group of Ohio State scientists has developed a reactor that chemically burns coal, creating energy while capturing almost all the CO2 generated. You have to go all the way to the bottom of the article before they mention how expensive it is. "Beating" a 35% increase still means it's much more expensive than existing technologies. But then, that's always been the problem with almost all green power generation. Still, that's just engineering. If they can pull the costs down to the point it's competitive, I'm all for it.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
February 14, 2013
Mosh Madness

This just in: systems with broadly similar characteristics behave in roughly the same fashion. In this case, mosh pits seem to look a lot like gasses in "2D equilibrium." No, I'm not completely sure what that is, either. What it mostly proves is I'm old enough to be puzzled by the "heavy metal = mosh pit" assumption. All my metal gods are old enough now to get put in a hospital by such shenanigans.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
February 06, 2013
You Say That Like It's a Bad Thing

Watch out folks, they're doing science! Because everyone knows that, when your average American teenager figures out how to get drunker, faster, they're absolutely gonna stay away from it. The more you know!

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
February 04, 2013
Tales of Future's Past

Researchers at Microsoft are developing a software package that can predict the future. I think. It sounded impressive as hell, anyway. Isn't this sort of thing that made Asimov's Foundation series tick?

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
January 31, 2013
Worm Rock

A newly described fossil has pushed back the evolution of intestinal parasites by more than 100 million years. Because knowing just when horrifically nasty critters first showed up is important. Meh, ok, not really, but part of what makes science fun is how it can be interesting AND useless. Half the time, hell maybe more than half the time, someone eventually does find a use for it.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
January 29, 2013
Cold Genes

A new study of populations in Siberia has revealed previously unknown genetic adaptations to the cold. The thing about fat turning into heat has been known for quite some time. Maybe these populations are more efficient at it? Then again, since something like a third of all Eurasian people are related to Genghis Kahn (as I recall, anyway), maybe it's just that the genes have been distributed throughout the world's populations.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
January 27, 2013
Super Film

Scientists at IBM, of all places, has developed a new polymer that beats even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to the scientists, its action is something the bugs won't be able to defeat. Me, I think it'll result in bugs as tough as ball bearings. But that'll probably make them vulnerable to other things. Winning!

Posted by scott at 08:33 AM eMail this entry!
January 25, 2013
Good Thing Obi-Wan Disabled It

Scientists have developed yet another working version of a tractor beam. This one has the potential for many small-scale uses. Unfortunately it would seem this one would fry bigger stuff, so it's no use trapping that damned freighter that blasted its way out of Mos Iseley.

Posted by scott at 02:30 PM eMail this entry!
~ Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'~

Scientists have discovered that dung beetles can use the Milky Way itself to navigate. One of nature's most gargantuan constructs being used to help one of its most humble creatures to protect a ball of crap has a certain... symmetry to it. Humbling from both ends of the spectrum, sort of thing.

Posted by scott at 10:45 AM eMail this entry!
January 18, 2013
Stainproof

A group of scientists has developed the most fluid-resistant surface known. They're claiming it'll be useful for stain-resistant clothing and ultra-low drag paint for ships. After reading about how it's applied, I'm not sure how they'd get something like that to work over a really wide area. But I'm not a materials scientist.

Posted by scott at 06:28 AM eMail this entry!
January 17, 2013
Jew Fuel

A process invented by the person who would eventually become the first president of Israel may be providing us a diesel substitute soon. There were a lot of "once we do this" -es, which is usually a code phrase for "don't really expect much," so I'm not sure I will. Still, it's another team working the problem, and eventually SOMEONE will make it work. Will it make the greens happy? If all they were really interested in was improving the environment, I'd say, "yes." I'm not actually gonna say it, though.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
January 15, 2013
Chikka-Chikka-Ook

Ever wonder what would happen if you gave a chimp the remote to a full-access cable box? Pretty much what you'd expect. Brings a whole new meaning to the term, "spank the monkey," I'll give you that. I wonder if they'd be more interested in films with chimps in the... rmm... "lead roles?" One of the things you're forced to learn as part of an anthropology degree is such films most definitely exist.

Posted by scott at 06:04 PM eMail this entry!
January 13, 2013
Thermal Expansion

Geothermal technology seems to be moving in the right direction. I'm not sure it helps anyone who doesn't live next to an extinct volcano, but what do I know? Apparently "hydroshearing" is quite different from the better-known fracking, but it's not completely clear to me why this might be. It'd be nice to see my tax dollars (the DoE is in for half) get some positive alternative energy results, but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by scott at 09:45 AM eMail this entry!
January 11, 2013
Silent Running

Scientists have discovered that shark embryos are able to sense when predators are near, and hide from them. The real challenge: they do it while they're still inside the egg. It's suggested the observations may lead to more effective shark repellant. I don't quite understand how that might work but hey, this is science! If it had a practical application they'd call it engineering.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
January 04, 2013
Floating Genius

A group of scientists are using guppies in an attempt to prove that big brains are rare because of the price an animal must pay to get them. Bonus: It seems that a mathematic genius in the guppy world consists of the ability to count to four.

Posted by scott at 06:53 AM eMail this entry!
Cold Hearted

A team of scientists has announced they've figured out how to cool something below 0K. If you're thinking, "but nothing can go below zero Kelvin, that's the point!" you'd be right there with me. Apparently, as with most things I learned in science class, the truth is more complicated than that. I think. Look, I was told there would be no math...

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM eMail this entry!
January 03, 2013
Dragon's Ancestor

A team of Chinese scientists has revisited an iconic anthropological dig, and their findings could shed light on any number of riddles involving our ancestors. Or, in the particular case of Peking Man, our ancient cousins. Genetic study still seems to indicate that whatever species this hominid might end up being, it isn't in our direct line of descent. That said, they're still plenty close enough to provide information about how they, and by extension we, survived in such an incredibly harsh time.

Posted by scott at 11:37 AM eMail this entry!
January 02, 2013
Old Life

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest fossils found to-date. At some 3.5 billion years old, they represent a snapshot of the Earth taken when it was only a quarter of its present age. Unfortunately it's not fossilized critters that they've found, rather the remains of structures that they built. The finding is, of course, controversial but if it holds up it will provide much more information about what life was like in our remote past.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
December 20, 2012
Compassionate History

It would seem that, at least occasionally, we haven't always been complete bastards to each other. Fans of The Clan of the Cave Bear should recognize "Shanidar-1," who was the model for the character Creb.

Posted by scott at 05:54 PM eMail this entry!
Fist of Fury

A new anatomical study of the human hand is suggesting fighting may have influenced its shape as much as the need to manipulate objects. The article mentions some pretty interesting observations, but not any predictions to bolster the theory.

Posted by scott at 06:13 AM eMail this entry!
December 18, 2012
Tiny Terror

So now we need to add a single species of microbe to the list of things that may have caused the Permian mass extinction event. Me, I suspect there likely isn't a single cause for something so disruptive it killed off 90% of all the species on the planet. But it does make for an interesting idea.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
December 17, 2012
My Kingdom For A...

New, albeit unpublished, evidence discovered with a mysterious skeleton found buried under a parking lot apparently confirm that Richard III's body has been rediscovered. Apparently the release of the evidence is being held up pending the release of a documentary that, if I'm reading it correctly, was ultimately the source of funding for the whole project. Seems fair to me, but I have these wacky ideas that people who pay for things have a right to them. Such a silly belief in this day and age, I know...

Posted by scott at 06:01 AM eMail this entry!
December 12, 2012
Iron Snail

By studying a rare sea snail that incorporates iron in its shell, scientists believe they'll be able to create an entirely new class of more effective body armor. In other news, there's a snail out there with an iron shell, and boy is it UGLY.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
December 11, 2012
Still No Cure For... Oh, Wait...

Efforts to harness our own immune system to fight cancer appear to be proceeding apace. The side effects sound pretty gnarly, but apparently the current "last ditch" cancer treatment, bone-marrow transplant, is even worse. As is commonly said with these sorts of stories, "faster, please."

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
December 10, 2012
Pee Brain

A group of Chinese scientists has worked out a way to create neuron cells from ordinary urine. The cells did not turn cancerous, a big problem with stem cells, and were created in a significantly shorter time than other methods. To paraphrase Deng Xiaopeng, where the cells come from doesn't matter, as long as they fix the problem.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
December 09, 2012
Romani Roamin'

A new genetic study has shad new light on the origins of the Romani, better know to most of us as Gypsies. It seems they're originally from northwest India, and moved seemingly as a unit about fifteen hundred years ago.

Posted by scott at 09:27 AM eMail this entry!
November 24, 2012
Seaward, Ho!

New artifact finds on various Mediterranean islands may cause some of our ancient cousins to add the name "sailor" to their resumes. The emphasis here is "may." So far the new stuff doesn't seem to be older than the humanity that looked at you in the mirror this morning. One of the ways to differentiate hominid lines is the stone tools they make. In a strange way, it's as if technology was hard-wired into our earliest ancestors, whose toolkits varied little if at all in their history, sometimes for millions of years. I find it strange this aspect was not mentioned in the article. In other words, if there were Neandertal sailors, we should be able to spot that by the tools.

Posted by scott at 10:58 AM eMail this entry!
November 23, 2012
Vaporator Bottle

By using materials that mimic the structures found on the back of a desert beetle, MIT scientists have announced the invention of a self-filling water bottle. Strangely, it still seems to need a power source to work. I wonder how they'll manage to keep the bottle open to the air but closed to all the bugs?

Posted by scott at 08:05 AM eMail this entry!
November 16, 2012
Goliath? Is That You?

At 6ft 8in tall, he would have been easily eligible to compete amongst those giants of sport in the U.S. basketball leagues today.

In third-century AD Rome, where men averaged only about 5ft 6in, he would have been a giant the likes of which most people had never seen.

It's no legend - archaeologists believe have discovered the first complete ancient skeleton of a person with gigantism near the capital of the ancient empire.

Read then entire article here.

No... no word from David on this either.

Posted by Ellen at 03:18 PM eMail this entry!
Death on a Stick

A recent re-examination of 500,000 year-old stone weapons is forcing scientists to re-think the history of technology and our ancestors. Wear studies have revealed that hafted weapons like arrowheads have been around far longer than previously thought.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
November 15, 2012
Finding a Way In

By using advanced brain scanners, scientists have proven a man assessed as completely vegetative is in fact conscious and aware. Fortunately, unlike that old Metallica video and the movie clip it used, he's not tapping out "kill me" or anything like that. The findings will likely force a re-assessment in how patients are judged to be "completely nonresponsive."

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
November 14, 2012
Chords of Science

Ever wonder why certain musical chords just sound better than others? You're not the only one. That we hear music at all, and in a way that's mathematically so predictable and regular, is to me the larger mystery.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
November 13, 2012
Super Proof

The latest news from everyone's favorite doomsday device has put paid some of the more popular theories of supersymmetry. Most people think the Large Hadron Collider will spend its most productive days discovering new particles and proving new theories, but DIS-proving things is every bit as important. Falsifiability is, after all, at the core of science. If you can't somehow prove a thing wrong, it's simply not science.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
November 09, 2012
I Wonder if Netflix will Use It

NASA engineers have teamed with their European counterparts to create network technologies that can be used at interplanetary distances. I can't help but think the article may be oversimplifying things a bit. I'm reading the ultimate resolution as some sort of store-and-forward technology, which is a pretty huge "duh" for anyone who knows much about high latency environments.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
November 07, 2012
Tool Time

A new study of stone tools found in South Africa is pushing back the time scientists believe humans became "culturally" modern. The problem is that we seem to have reached our modern anatomy tens of thousands of years before we can find any evidence of (comparatively) advanced culture or technology. Some say this is just the result of a patchy fossil record. Others claim some other, so far mysterious, things needed to happen before we could achieve our full potential. The discovery of these "microliths" would lend credence to the "spotty record" camp.

Which, of course, will mean yet another slow-motion flame fest in the academic journals. Nobody in anthropology comes up with an original idea without a decades-long trial by fire.

Posted by scott at 03:39 PM eMail this entry!
November 06, 2012
Rare Bear... Rrmm... Whale

Specimens of a whale so rare it's never been seen alive have been found on the coast of New Zealand. The spade toothed whale was previously only known from a few skull fragments, the last of which was collected more than 25 years ago. The two whole specimens are the remains of a mother and calf who beached themselves two years ago. The find almost went unremarked because conservationists misidentified the remains at first.

Posted by scott at 07:30 AM eMail this entry!
November 04, 2012
Suck It!

British archeologists have found evidence that, while you and I think vampires are (at best) something scary that doesn't sparkle our ancestors took them all too seriously. It'd be nice to think all that happened to a corpse, and not someone who could still feel. It'll help me sleep at night, at least.

Posted by scott at 07:05 PM eMail this entry!
October 31, 2012
That's... Lovely...

Scientists have described nine new species of tree tarantula. Now there are 16 different kinds of terror that crawl in the trees. Of jungles. Which is yet another reason why I have no plans for visiting any rain forest anywhere. Ever.

Posted by scott at 07:38 AM eMail this entry!
October 30, 2012
Sight Sign

By using a giant genetic dataset, a group of scientists has determined that vision likely evolved around 700 million years ago. The conclusion was reached after comparing all the relevant genetic information responsible for the creation of opsins, a substance vital to vision. And by "all," they apparently mean creatures as diverse as sponges and, well, people.

Posted by scott at 07:16 AM eMail this entry!
October 26, 2012
Swingers

A new, exceptionally well-preserved hominid fossil is revealing new details about how our earliest ancestors may have lived. At first I stumbled over the idea that they could tell if a three year-old juvenile was female, because in humans there aren't any good tell-tales in the skeleton to reveal this. Then I remembered A. afarensis was actually not THAT human, so it probably matured a lot faster than we do.

Posted by scott at 02:36 PM eMail this entry!
More Feather Finds

A bird fossil found in an unexpected place has led to a re-thinking of why feathers evolved in the first place. I mean, something had to make those things look better. Couldn't get much worse!

Posted by scott at 08:19 AM eMail this entry!
October 25, 2012
Archer Inbound!

Funny, I always thought it was like when my kid spits water: scientists have, finally?, worked out how the archer fish manages to knock even firmly-attached prey into the water. It's an Italian study, so it's not like any of our tax dollars were used. Science is cool!

Posted by scott at 01:44 PM eMail this entry!
October 24, 2012
On the Way to Infinite Bandwidth

By using algebraic equations MIT scientists have figured out a way to increase bandwidth speeds ten-fold. The increase does not require more transmitters, power, or anything else but math. I was told there would be no math.

Posted by scott at 07:08 AM eMail this entry!
October 23, 2012
Parrot of the Sea

That's a mighty large parrot: scientists have discovered that "white whales" have the ability to mimic human speech. Didn't they used to call them beluga whales? At any rate, it seems the capability was documented more than thirty years ago, but the research was buried and forgotten until recently. Or, something to that effect. The article isn't particularly clear about that, IMO.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
October 22, 2012
Tablet Time

Using a new scanning system Oxford scientists are hoping to finally decipher and translate one of the last remaining caches of unknown ancient writing. The scanner allows them to see the more than five thousand year-old words far more clearly, and by posting the results online it's hoped "crowdsourcing" can provide a valuable resource to make the final translation.

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
October 19, 2012
Clock Set

By using sediments from a lake in Japan, scientists are planning on pushing carbon 14 "calibration" back much further than it was before. The initial theories around C14 dating assumed carbon absorption was constant, but it was later discovered this was not the case. Tree rings were used to account for variations but only went back about 14k years. The new data promises to push that marker back all the way to 50k+ years.

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM eMail this entry!
October 16, 2012
Crystal Time

A new scientific paper has described a specific sort of crystal that i symmetrical in time instead of space. I think. There's some sort of folderol about perpetual motion in there, and quantum computers, too. This sort of physics makes my head hurt.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
October 09, 2012
Laser Henge

A recently-completed laser scan of everyone's favorite enigmatic set of lumpy stones has revealed more previously undiscovered details about Stonehenge. This time, they were able to resolve hundreds of small decorations that have long since weathered away to invisibility to the naked eye. It also revealed which stones were the most heavily worked, which provided new insights into how the monument may have functioned.

Posted by scott at 03:23 PM eMail this entry!
October 05, 2012
Making Eggs

Using new techniques scientists have created healthy mice from eggs made from skin stem cells. The feat is (apparently) a technical tour-de-force, but practical applications in human medicine are still a long way off.

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
October 04, 2012
Tiny Dino

Scientists have announced the discovery of a very early, very small, VERY ugly kind of dinosaur. The fossil itself was collected nearly fifty years ago, and was examined by scientists nearly thirty years ago, but its significance wasn't understood until very recently. Slow scientist is slow.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
October 03, 2012
Drill Down

Scientists have announced their intention to retrieve fresh samples of the Earth's mantle for the first time. They'll have to figure out how to drill a hole not quite four miles deep using a ship floating who knows how high over a specific, as yet undetermined, spot in the Pacific Ocean. Who says big science is restricted to physics?

Posted by scott at 07:13 AM eMail this entry!
October 01, 2012
A Hole in the Jar

Scientists have worked out a way to create a black hole laser. The article almost certainly oversimplifies it and it still doesn't make complete sense to me. There seems to be some way to create teeny-tiny black holes and their time-reversed equivalent to create a channel that can be used to create laser light. I think. I'm gonna be over in the corner soaking my head.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
September 28, 2012
Regen

A small species of African mouse has a remarkable ability, not seen in any other known mammal. If it helps push us further down the "grow your own organs" path, I'm all for it.

Posted by scott at 07:05 AM eMail this entry!
September 22, 2012
Veg-Gene

A new genetic study is implying we only left Africa after a single mutation allowed our ancestors exploit plants as food more effectively. Which the author of the article naturally turns into "become vegetarian," because after that it's quite obvious we all turned to plants as our exclusive source of food, right?

Posted by scott at 08:42 AM eMail this entry!
September 18, 2012
Paging Montgomery Scott, White Courtesy Phone Please

New tests of different geometric shapes has revealed that warp drive may not be as impossible as once previously thought. If I'm reading it correctly, it's still far more energy than we can easily generate nowadays, but at least it's not requiring the conversion of an entire large planet to work.

Posted by scott at 06:53 AM eMail this entry!
September 14, 2012
Tiny Things

Scientists working at IBM have announced the ability to image molecules in such detail that the properties of atomic bonds can be made out. The measurements are so sensitive even vibrations from temperature differences must be removed, and so they're taken at -268C, which is... really cold... in Fahrenheit. And then it gets REALLY complicated.

Posted by scott at 03:38 PM eMail this entry!
Biscuit!

A scientist is using a 7000 year-old technology discovered by ancient Egyptians to put the finishing touches on his new 3D ceramic printing technology. Right now it seems to turn everything an, admittedly nice, bluish color, which may limit the appeal. Then again, that's just engineering, so if the thing takes off I can't help but think the color limitation will go away.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
September 12, 2012
Long Live the King

British archeologists have announced they've discovered what they believe to be a strong candidate for the bones of Richard III. He was buried in a church near the field where he fell, but, like most monastery churches of the era, it was razed with its location long forgotten. The remains are consistent with contemporary descriptions of the king, although (predictably) nothing like the exaggerated descriptions found in Shakespeare's play.

Posted by scott at 06:54 PM eMail this entry!
September 11, 2012
We Can Remember it For You Wholesale

Neuroscience graduate students have discovered a technique that allows them to imprint short term memories directly onto a brain. For now, at least, it's done with hapless rat brain tissue, and it's not completely clear exactly what a living creature would experience "remembering" these things. Frankenmemories!

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM eMail this entry!
September 10, 2012
Tick Tock

Not content with the European Union kicking Greece in the nuts every few months, it looks like God is going to let nature have a few goes as well. Still, magma building up under Santorini is not the same as Santorini going kerplooey. Heck, it may even make trips over there cheaper. I think I'll give touring that specific island a pass, thought.

Posted by scott at 03:18 PM eMail this entry!
September 06, 2012
Spooky Distances

Scientists have announced a new distance record in transmitting quantum state information. I'm sure I'm getting this wrong, but I *think* it will mean we're one step closer to instantaneous communications that might be faster than the speed of light. Or some sort of confusing thing that'll put a cat in a box with a sandwich. HMmm... Sandwiches...

Posted by scott at 03:28 PM eMail this entry!
September 04, 2012
Smooth Foam

Sometimes tiny things can overturn large constructs. Like how three little photons are threatening to overturn entire classes of quantum gravity theory. I'm impressed they worked out how to probe Planck-scale phenomena without an infinitely powerful energy source. Controversial? Duh.

Posted by scott at 10:52 AM eMail this entry!
August 30, 2012
Feel Free to Scratch at Any Time

Well, it did turn out that ulcers were caused by bacteria: a new report claims a common facial disease is actually caused by mite poop. I have a few relatives who suffer from rosacea. This may make them squirm a bit (it makes me squirm a bit), but if it means more effective treatments, I'm all for it.

Posted by scott at 03:47 PM eMail this entry!
August 28, 2012
Monster Mystery Solved

By using DNA analysis techniques, scientists have finally solved the mystery of the "monstrous larva." First discovered in the guts of fish back in the 19th century, Cerataspis monstrosa was so weird looking nobody could figure out what, exactly, it was meant to grow into. Turns out, it's a shrimp.

Posted by scott at 09:32 AM eMail this entry!
August 27, 2012
Bug Zapper

By using bug traps enhanced with artificially intelligent programs, scientists are attempting to battle a well-known agricultural pest on a different playing field. When the damage caused by the oriental fruit fly is counted in the billions of dollars, it's a war well worth fighting.

Posted by scott at 12:01 PM eMail this entry!
August 24, 2012
Old Talk

By using tools more commonly applied to tracking disease outbreaks, a group of scientists now believe they have proof that all Indo-European languages evolved from something spoken in what is now Turkey, 9500 years ago. People have been trying to peg this sort of thing for generations, and I can't help but be surprised this specific technique hasn't been tried before. Expect a long, slow firefight in academic journals to commence oh, any second now.

Posted by scott at 01:26 PM eMail this entry!
August 22, 2012
A-Bomb of the Sea

By improving on a Japanese design created in the 1990s, scientists have been able to halve the cost of harvesting uranium from seawater. It's estimated there's enough of the stuff in the oceans to power all the world's nuclear power plants for more than six THOUSAND years. Yes, it's still five times more expensive than pulling it out of the ground, but that's just engineering. If we want it, it's there for the taking.

Posted by scott at 08:28 AM eMail this entry!
August 21, 2012
Dem Bones

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest known modern human fossils in Asia. The climate conditions in the area at the time of migration are very poor for fossil formation, so such finds are extremely rare. The location suggests an alternate route for our move from Africa to Asia, and could provide valuable DNA information as well.

Posted by scott at 08:25 AM eMail this entry!
August 18, 2012
It's a... Spee-eye-der!

Yet another reason to keep cave exploring to the guys on Animal Planet and the Travel Channel: scientists have discovered an entire new family of "large" cave spiders in an Oregon cavern. Large being, from eyeballing the photo, about two inches or so. Small by person standards but I'll concede large by a "holy-sh-t-it's-a-spider!!!" standards.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
August 16, 2012
Paging Dr. Evil, White Courtesy Phone Please

I'll see your giant optical laser and raise you a solid-state maser. Yeah, maser. Does for microwaves what lasers do for visible light. And with cheap materials, no less! Various comments seem to indicate this'll have a big impact in telecommunications, where large microwave towers have to overcome scattering and interference.

Posted by scott at 03:19 PM eMail this entry!
August 08, 2012
More Hominids in the Woodpile

Steve U. gets a no-prize that might look like his (and our) million-times-great grandpa for bringing us yet another possible hominid in our family tree. I think we're now up to something like seven bipedal hominids wandering the rift valley about 2 million years ago. There weren't much more ape species around at the time, as I recall. Controversy? Hey, these are Anthropologists we're talking about. The only time they stop bickering is when they die.

Posted by scott at 03:47 PM eMail this entry!
August 03, 2012
Elephant Buzz

Elephants have long been known to communicate with infrasonic sound, sound pitched so low it's below what a human can hear. However, the mechanism to generate the sound wasn't known, with theories of conventional vocalization competing with others that would have the sound generated in a way similar to a cat's purr. While the image of a multi-ton cat buzz is appealing, new evidence seems to indicate something else.

Posted by scott at 02:47 PM eMail this entry!
August 02, 2012
What's In The Box?

Some really cool CT scans of mummies!

Posted by Ellen at 05:35 AM eMail this entry!
August 01, 2012
Paging Sam Jackson, White Courtesy Phone Please

Scientists have announced the discovery of an idol cast down by a people made famous for the practice by the Bible. A less informative article that contains a picture of said statue is here. Sometimes it's important not to forget that the Bible also includes a chronicle of the Levant three thousand years ago. It can be hard to tease out sometimes, but it's there.

Posted by scott at 03:14 PM eMail this entry!
July 31, 2012
Stone Cold Poison

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest-known use of poison by humans. The discovery of the artifacts in a cave in South Africa also push back the start of the late Stone Age in Africa by about 20,000 years. As if that weren't enough, it also appears to fill a gap in the archeological history of the area. Pretty fancy for bits of wood and beeswax!

Posted by scott at 02:35 PM eMail this entry!
July 30, 2012
Your Thought for the Day

Posted by scott at 03:27 PM eMail this entry!
July 27, 2012
Pyramid Rises

Scientists have announced the discovery of a "dramatic" new Mayan temple. From the article: "Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar." Pretty neat!

Posted by scott at 12:13 PM eMail this entry!
Bug Bomb

Just when you thought the insect world had thought of everything, scientists discover a species of termite that "explode" when confronted with enemies. Though, after watching the brief video, I think it would be more accurate to say "extrudes poison," which is still pretty damned weird. For "exploding insect, actual," take a look at bombardier beetles.

Posted by scott at 08:12 AM eMail this entry!
July 26, 2012
A Scar of Ice and Time

Steve U. gets a no-prize that unfortunately comes with a bunch of shrieking greens attached to it for bringing us news that a Grand Canyon-sized rift has been found beneath the Antarctic ice. Since it's CNN, you probably already heard the "CLIMATE CHANGE OF DOOM!!!" soundtrack start up, but let's just sit and listen anyway. The trumpet part is quite nice.

Posted by scott at 02:58 PM eMail this entry!
July 25, 2012
Rat Grass

Newly discovered fossils have revealed that grasslands first appeared in South America, 15 million years before they appeared anywhere else. In other words, about 32 million years ago. Apart from one of the fossils being the oldest chinchilla found to-date, I'm not completely clear what the significance of the find really is. But they're scientists. They do cool stuff. That's good enough for me.

Posted by scott at 12:53 PM eMail this entry!
July 24, 2012
Flash Memory

Using special goggles, scientists have discovered that strobe lighting improves memory. So it seems all my goth friends really ARE smarter than I am, and for a reason.

Posted by scott at 02:47 PM eMail this entry!
July 23, 2012
Frankenjelly

Using polymers and rat cells, scientists have created an artificial jellyfish. The article includes an extra-creepy video. The ultimate goal is to produce artificial muscle tissue to do things like repair hearts. Best quote: "Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat."

Posted by scott at 08:04 AM eMail this entry!
July 22, 2012
Human Bottlenecks

One of those things I've known for awhile which other, less nerdy, people may not be aware of: "One study suggested that [humanity's ancient] population, worldwide, might have dropped as low as 40 adults. (The world record for fitting people in a phone booth is 25.)" The article includes a quick summary regarding why and how this conclusion was reached. Amazing coincidence, or divine intervention? Hey, the reason why the world's surviving religions have similar cores may be because only seven people originally thought them up.

Posted by scott at 06:23 PM eMail this entry!
July 19, 2012
Armed and Dangerous

By carefully examining fossil remains, scientists have been able to draw some interesting conclusions about what sort of activities our cousins the Neandertals engaged in. It turns out, I guess not surprisingly on reflection, their lives were a lot less about exciting big-game hunts and a lot more about boring, repetitive, incessant skin-scraping.

Posted by scott at 10:31 AM eMail this entry!
July 18, 2012
We Have the Technology...

Coming soon to a blind person near you: a laser-powered bionic eye. From the demo film, it doesn't seem to be very sharp and it's in black and white. Still, if it's the choice between a bad old black and white TV and complete darkness, well, that's an easy one for me.

Posted by scott at 10:19 AM eMail this entry!
July 17, 2012
Ye Olde Undergarmentes

A find inside an old castle wall is up-ending conventional wisdom about women's underwear in the Middle Ages. Textiles are the most fragile of all human artifacts, so the survival is remarkable. But, really, this is the first evidence of women's underwear from this period EVAR? I'm thinking maybe that has more to do with monks being the "persons of record" of the era than with anything regularly worn by, well, regular people.

Posted by scott at 04:00 PM eMail this entry!
July 16, 2012
Rare Nuclear Bomb Footage

But Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science at the American Institute of Physics, has shared a unigue video of a blast during America's testing of nukes in the Yucca Mountain area of Nevada during the 1950s.

The historian was sent the video below from a Russian colleague, and has now shared it on his blog.

Check out the article and video footage!.

Posted by Ellen at 06:41 PM eMail this entry!
Hot Sound

Those propeller-heads at DARPA are at it again, this time demonstrating how fire can be put out with sound. It seems it doesn't even have to be a particularly loud sound, either. Ha! My music isn't too loud, I'm putting out a fire with it!

Posted by scott at 07:25 AM eMail this entry!
July 13, 2012
Fossil Find

A rock excavated some three years ago has been discovered to contain one of the most complete hominid fossils found to-date. It's thought this example of Australopithecus sediba, itself a species only discovered in 2008, may contain parts of a hominid not previously preserved in any other known fossils.

Posted by scott at 01:19 PM eMail this entry!
I Shall Call It, "Holovision"

Scientists at MIT have developed a new TV technology that promises 3D without the glasses. The tech seems to be related to what drives a Nintendo 3DS... instead of altering the image, multiple images are created and interleaved on three stacked screens. Exactly how this will prevent the TV from being three times as expensive as a "normal" one isn't clear, at least from the article.

Posted by scott at 12:09 PM eMail this entry!
July 04, 2012
Higgs High

The worst-kept secret in physics has now been brought into the light. It's so early I haven't found any mainstream sources that are discussing the implications of finding the particle at around 125 GeV, but there will eventually be many. It should allow the elimination of any number of proposed models of particle interaction, as well as to confirm others. The ultimate result will probably be new technologies and inventions that'll do any number of magical things.

Posted by scott at 08:42 AM eMail this entry!
July 03, 2012
Feather Find

A new fossil discovery is forcing scientists to re-examine the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs. Previously, all feathered dinosaurs were from a specific family. Sciurumimus albersdoerferi (really? Really?), however, is a member of a completely different dinosaur family, and pretty far up the ancestry chain of that family to boot. In other words, feathers may have been far more ubiquitous than anyone had considered before.

Posted by scott at 08:05 AM eMail this entry!
July 02, 2012
Ancient Uncles

A pair of skeletons recovered from a cave in Spain have yielded the oldest intact DNA samples yet collected from a human body. Surprisingly, the evidence indicates these individuals were more closely related to Northern European populations, and not local Iberian ones.

Posted by scott at 08:46 AM eMail this entry!
June 29, 2012
Warm Birds

Scientists have found even more evidence that dinosaurs were warm blooded. I thought this particular bit of science had been settled long ago. I guess I underestimated the ability of academics to grind against each other arguing for decades over the smallest of disagreements. Beats having to work for a living.

Posted by scott at 11:11 AM eMail this entry!
June 28, 2012
Old Food

Scientists have discovered that a newly-found human ancestor ate a unique diet. It appears that Australopithecus sediba, which lived about two million years ago, fed on tree bark, and seems to be the only hominid yet found to do so. Remarkably, actual bark was found in between the fossilized teeth of some specimens.

Posted by scott at 08:29 AM eMail this entry!
June 27, 2012
Fresh Rock

Scientists examining a meteorite that fell to Earth more than forty years ago have announced the discovery of several new minerals contained therein. It's thought the compounds will provide important insights into the conditions of the early solar system.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
June 26, 2012
Well Howdee-Do

By cleverly leveraging info from elephant seals, scientists have discovered the Antarctic ice shelves aren't melting at all. It would seem that, until now, the computer models being used to "prove" they were had never actually been tested with real-world observations. Which we all know is completely OK since the science has been settled. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like when the other side coughs up the ball. Again.

Posted by scott at 09:54 AM eMail this entry!
June 25, 2012
Cow and Woman

Scientists have announced the discovery of a unique ancient burial. Fifth century AD would put it right in the heart of Britain's Dark Ages, as Rome's influence collapsed and barbarian hordes started pushing down roots. Apparently a burial of this sort is unique to all of Europe.

Posted by scott at 04:29 PM eMail this entry!
Henge Finds

And today's theory of what Stonehenge actually means IS... [spins wheel]... a hippie commune. Good as any other, I guess. However, the article (and, presumably, the book it's based on) does supply a nice catch-up summary of the latest findings on the site, which are quite numerous and interesting. They seem to have been pretty busy over there recently.

Posted by scott at 09:12 AM eMail this entry!
June 22, 2012
Fungi of DOOM

Scientists have discovered plants get a surprising amount of nutrients from deadly fungi in and around their roots. No, you're not going to drop dead in the garden tomorrow morning. But the insects you're fighting just might. Good, bad, the fungi's the one with the gun.

Posted by scott at 12:46 PM eMail this entry!
June 21, 2012
Legends Confirmed

A new genetic study has provided hard evidence that the Queen of Sheba was real. I only knew her as a name, even the biblical legends were beyond me. The study also revealed interesting information about our very ancient past as well.

Posted by scott at 03:21 PM eMail this entry!
Old Farmer Tedai

Archeologists have found evidence of dairy farmers in Africa 7000 years ago. Analysis of pottery sherds revealed evidence of dairy fats, indicating the Saharan Africans were processing the milk into a form that would make it more digestible to their (presumably) lactose intolerant systems.

Posted by scott at 07:51 AM eMail this entry!
June 20, 2012
Big Boson

Making the rounds: sometimes even physicists can act like kids the night before Christmas. Filling in the last of the blank spaces in the Standard Model will be every bit as revolutionary as it's being made out to be. Knowing exactly what the Higgs boson looks and acts like will eliminate a huge swath of theories while confirming others, and may even allow the development of things like antigravity plates. Floating skateboards, FTW!

Posted by scott at 02:24 PM eMail this entry!
Awkward for Eternity

Scientists have announced the discovery of the first-known fossils which capture vertebrates in the act of reproduction. The hapless victims were a kind of ancient turtle, with the working theory that some extraordinary event got a whole bunch of them at once. Well, if you gotta go, that would seem to be one of the better ways.

Posted by scott at 12:32 PM eMail this entry!
June 18, 2012
My Mother Will Buy This By The Crate!

Swill down a yoghurt-style drink which interacts with the food in your stomach and your excrement turns a variety of hues depending on how sick you are.

The scientists have so far only suggested it could detect the progress of e.coli - but they hope one day it could diagnose far more conditions.

Crazy thing is, she would make me do it and we would do manicures and pedicures at the same time.

Posted by Ellen at 07:35 PM eMail this entry!
Old Art

Scientists have announced the discovery of the oldest definitively dated rock art in Australia. Unusually for this sort of art, the work found in the Northern Territory rock shelter, known as Nawarla Gabarnmang, was made with charcoal, which allowed it to be accurately dated. While not as old as the ~40,000 year old art found in Spain, at 28,000 years the site is still on the far side of ancient.

Posted by scott at 08:46 AM eMail this entry!
June 15, 2012
Plunk!

Scientists have discovered that a certain type of carnivorous plant is able to catapult bugs into its gullet. A leaf covering the "pitcher" in a pitcher plant has a special coating on its underside. If a bug crawls on the underside of the leaf, that special coating ensures it can barely grip the surface. A water drop, a breeze, basically anything that causes the leaf to shake plops the hapless insect into the plant's waiting maw. Ain't nature grand?

Posted by scott at 12:35 PM eMail this entry!
Old Paint

New tests have revealed cave paintings found in Spain are the oldest known in the world. At 40,000 years, the oldest is right on the cusp of when modern humans were settling in Europe. This, of course, caused at least one of the scientists to imply neandertals were responsible. Since we've never found any other neandertal art anywhere and this IS still a time period modern humans could've done it, I'm thinking that is unlikely.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
June 13, 2012
Dead Ball

Scientists have announced the discovery of a rare, intact skeleton of a soldier killed during the Battle of Waterloo. The location of the individual and the artifacts found with him strongly indicate this is a British soldier, probably killed by the musket ball found in his chest cavity. It's hoped those artifacts will help identify him, allowing him to be buried in something other than an unmarked grave.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
June 11, 2012
Hehehe... Wood... HEHehehe

So, the next big thing, or another green boondoggle? Scientists have lofty ambitions for a new form of building material, laminated timber. If it makes buildings easier/cheaper/safer, heck I'm all for it. Costs a premium? Well, it's your money, your house. Enjoy!

Posted by scott at 05:53 PM eMail this entry!
June 09, 2012
Warped Ring

How sensitive can the Large Hadron Collider actually be? Sensitive enough that an object 235,000 miles away can cause the data to go jiggery. It's also thrown off by a TGV that runs nearby, and a host of other very minor effects. Ultimately, when you're using a machine that has gauges that *start* with nine zeros after the decimal, it don't take much.

Posted by scott at 09:14 AM eMail this entry!
June 08, 2012
Moar Powah!

Coming to a desktop near you: compact x-ray lasers. We'll just have to take them at their word that it's useful, since the article doesn't mention any explicit applications. But it's an x-ray laser, man, it can sit there and just be awesome.

Posted by scott at 09:19 AM eMail this entry!
June 07, 2012
Stake It

In other news, vampire bones are being dug up in Bulgaria. Well, ok, not actual vampires, but apparently whoever did the burying was wanting to make sure no funny business with fangs was going to happen. Apparently it's so common in that region that the scientists aren't sure what all the fuss is about.

Posted by scott at 03:19 PM eMail this entry!
June 06, 2012
Hot Day Meat Chaser

Yeah, yeah, we know. Physically, humans are pretty awful predators. We've got tiny teeth, no claws, poor smell and vision. But it turns out we are the absolute kings and queens of long distance running. Hey, we grew up on one of the greatest lawns on the planet. Being able to run something to death was probably a pretty damned useful thing to have back then.

Posted by scott at 08:33 AM eMail this entry!
Out of Asia

Scientists have found important new evidence in the quest to understand the evolution of apes. In spite of what the article implies, "out of Asia" for apes has been bandied about for at least thirty years or so, when I was an undergrad in anthropology. Back then, the problem was trying to figure out if all these ape fossils were in Asia because that's where apes evolved, or if it was because that's one of the very few places where sediments of the right date are accessible. This find definitely seems to point to the former conclusion.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
June 05, 2012
Big Bug, Dead Bug

Grateful that the biggest bugs you have to face in your daily life are nothing like the monsters that flitted around millions of years ago? Thank birds. Swoozie still doesn't get to screech any time she feels like it. She'd be a very noisy, very naughty bird otherwise.

Posted by scott at 12:59 PM eMail this entry!
Skeeter Splat

I don't know why, because the summary certainly sounds dry as dust, but this story about pelting mosquitoes with raindrops was just fascinating to me. Maybe it's just that growing up in SE Arkansas makes me almost professionally interested in things which can send those buzzy little bastards to an early grave. Unfortunately it turns out that drops of water, of any sort, won't do it.

Posted by scott at 10:07 AM eMail this entry!
June 01, 2012
Well THAT'S Comforting

Just in time to re-stoke 2012 doomsday hysteria: last month's solar flare caused a mysterious neutron "pulse" that shouldn't have happened at all. It's, naturally, not at all clear why it happened, or even how it happened. A press release in the never-ending quest for grant money, or yet another harbinger of DOOOOOOM? You decide.

Posted by scott at 03:42 PM eMail this entry!
Down We Go

Once you get past the author's purple prose of an introduction, it seems scientists have figured out some pretty cool stuff about the Earth's core. Includes the standard scientific plea, "Oh, the things we could learn, if only we had unlimited resources." Yeah, ain't that the troof?

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
May 30, 2012
Old Rain

Scientists have announced the discovery that it was the gradual migration of monsoon rains which allowed, and then devastated, an ancient Indian civilization. The Harappan civilization was, at its height, larger than Egypt and Mesopotamia combined. It had its own system of writing, big cities, and a distinctive culture which endured for some sixteen centuries only to almost literally dry up and blow away with the winds.

Posted by scott at 12:43 PM eMail this entry!
May 27, 2012
Ping!

A new study suggests that, not only does "gaydar" exist, it's actually very efficient. I guess mine isn't particularly good because I don't really care all that much about it.

Posted by scott at 07:25 AM eMail this entry!
May 25, 2012
Buried Treasure

Israeli archeologists have announced the discovery of rare ancient jewelry from the Biblical period. The pieces were found in a clay jar buried more than three thousand years ago near the ancient city of Megiddo, and are said to represent "the most valuable [items] ever found from [that] period."

Posted by scott at 03:01 PM eMail this entry!
May 24, 2012
Diff Sniff

Scientists have discovered a new sensory organ in whales. Found on a sub-group of baleen whales called rorquals, the grapefruit-sized mass is thought to help the whale decide if it's worth taking a big gulp of water to grab some food. When you're moving a body that big around in an apparently complex motion, I guess it's a good idea to make sure there's something to swallow.

Posted by scott at 08:00 AM eMail this entry!
May 22, 2012
Old Ink

By using an array of new techniques, scientists have determined that cuttlefish ink hasn't changed much, if at all, since at least the Jurassic. While in and of itself the find is interesting but not particularly ground-shaking, the techniques could open up a whole new field as they provide the tools to study soft tissue in fossils.

Posted by scott at 11:59 AM eMail this entry!
May 21, 2012
I Saw a Turtle

Scientists have announced the discovery of a turtle the size of a small car that ate alligators for lunch. Our own, comparatively tiny, tortoise Om pretty much defines "bloody-mindedness." When something is in her way, she pushes at it until it moves OUT of her way or she gets moved by it. I can only imagine the implications of that in something as big as a car.

Posted by scott at 03:16 PM eMail this entry!
May 17, 2012
Tube Evolution

A group of mathematicians has announced the discovery that large subway networks gradually converge on a common design, no matter where they're located. The design features distinct topological features which suggest underlining universal principles are at work. No, I don't exactly know what it means either. Maybe God really does ride the subway sometimes.

Posted by scott at 08:33 AM eMail this entry!
May 16, 2012
We Ain't Changed All That Much

Scientists have announced the discovery of the world's oldest rock art and, you guessed it, it's a cooter. Or pac-man. You pick. On reflection, though, I'm vaguely surprised our erstwhile caveman didn't immortalize his own junk in stone. That tends to be what gets put up on the bathroom walls, even in Pompeii.

Posted by scott at 12:01 PM eMail this entry!
Like Splicing a Wire

Using a new surgical technique doctors have allowed a previously paralyzed man to regain the use of his fingers. The injury the 71 year-old sustained crushed his C7 vertebra, at the base of the neck. He had arm function but only got the ability to use his fingers back when doctors almost literally rewired his nerves.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
May 14, 2012
Solar Eye

Using technology originally developed for solar cells, scientists are creating eye implants which could enable blind people to see. They're still most definitely in the "do-gross-things-to-rats" proof of concept stages, but the technology does seem to be promising. It'll probably disappoint cyber-punk fans, but apparently the idea is to make them as invisible as possible.

Posted by scott at 01:10 PM eMail this entry!
May 13, 2012
Glub Glub Glub

A project to recreate a bronze-age boat has had a set-back. Sinking will tend to do that.

Posted by scott at 12:08 PM eMail this entry!
Worse Than Watching Grass Grow and Paint Dry

A lump of the black substance, which can be broken with a hammer, was put into a glass funnel - and the waiting began. A decade after the late Professor Thomas Parnell, formerly from Cambridge University, began the process, the first of eight drops fell.

The viscous liquid continued its incredibly slow, but inexorable, journey downwards, and in 1947 the second drop fell.

The next drops occurred in 1954, 1962, 1970, 1979, 1988 and lastly in 2000 when the webcam that was trained on the experiment broke at the crucial stage.

Read then entire*YAWN* here.

Posted by Ellen at 06:06 AM eMail this entry!
May 10, 2012
Cheeky Monkey

A stone-throwing chimp in a Swedish zoo has started getting sneaky. The Little Rock Zoo has, or at least had, a chimp who'd fling whatever he could grab at the zoo staff, but leave everyone else alone. Well, everyone else who didn't wear a khaki shirt that made them look like zoo staff. Fortunately their arms and hands aren't strung for accurate throwing. But it did make for a fun bit of dodging!

Posted by scott at 03:09 PM eMail this entry!
Old Shrines

Archeologists have announced the discovery of the earliest-known evidence of a Biblical cult. Shrines discovered in the ruins of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city destroyed some three thousand years ago, seem to provide clear evidence of a distinct sort of religion being practiced in the region around the time of King David.

Posted by scott at 01:06 PM eMail this entry!
May 08, 2012
Soft Head

A new look at the iconic Taung Child fossil has caused one scientist to link unfused infant skulls with bipedalism. I think. The article throws a lot of quotes about increasing brain size around, but not about bipedalism. That unfused skulls are part of what makes it possible for a bipedal ape to have children with brains all out of proportion to their bodies was known and accepted when I was an undergrad in the late 80s, so (at least from what the article presents) I'm not completely sure what's new here.

Posted by scott at 03:13 PM eMail this entry!
Taming Insanity

Scientists using a new computer model have put forward a new theory on when and where the horse was first domesticated. It's not exactly a stunning find, but it definitely seems to answer nagging questions about previous theories.

Posted by scott at 08:20 AM eMail this entry!
May 07, 2012
Everyone Needs a Copy Editor

A new genetic study seems to indicate human intelligence is primarily the result of two distinct genetic copy errors. The timing of the errors seems to coincide with the emergence of Homo (shaddup, you) as a genus. The results will, presumably, be contentious and generate who knows how many slow-motion flamewars in the scientific journals. Still, it's interesting to know that the less than two percent of us that's not chimpanzee may be mostly encompassed in exactly two places on our genome.

Posted by scott at 02:11 PM eMail this entry!
May 06, 2012
Diamonds are a PC's Best Friend

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new technique which could increase the density and lifetime of sold-state computer storage. I think. Reading the article makes me think of a really advanced, presumably very small, record player. "Pressure using tools" definitely sounds like moving parts to me, at any rate.

Posted by scott at 06:58 AM eMail this entry!
May 04, 2012
Croatoan Cracked

Using a very old, patched map researchers have found new clues that may lead to the discovery of what really happened to the first English colony in the new world. Under one of the patches, never seen before, seems to be an indication that the settlers may have made a fort west of the original location of the colony. The land indicated is privately owned and may be partially covered by a golf course, so excavations won't be happening any time soon.

Posted by scott at 03:57 PM eMail this entry!
May 03, 2012
Pronoun Love

So, is there really some scientific way of reliably predicting who will end up dating a specific person, or who has more power in a given relationship? It would seem there is.

Posted by scott at 09:22 AM eMail this entry!
May 02, 2012
They Really Did Exist

Shades of the D&D Monster manual: scientists have announced the discovery of giant blood-sucking fleas! Well, hey, at least now we know your garden variety dinosaur probably itched as much as that stray dog that wanders the neighborhood. That said, it's not like dinosaurs are built to scratch. I wonder how they pulled it off?

Posted by scott at 10:21 AM eMail this entry!
May 01, 2012
Down in a (Icy) Hole

Looks like scientists are getting closer to tapping that vast lake sealed off for who knows how long under the ice of the antarctic. Drilling through two miles of ice in three days' time seems pretty darned fast to me. Didn't it take them months the last time? At any rate, I, for one, will welcome the mysterious icy overlords they will presumably unleash.

Posted by scott at 03:24 PM eMail this entry!
Carbon Carbon Everywhere...

Scientists have announced the discovery of yet another form of carbon. Called "Silicene," this new two-dimensional form may have the conductive properties of graphene but with the added bonus of compatibility with existing semiconductor technologies. They think. So far it seems they've only proved the stuff exists.

Posted by scott at 10:22 AM eMail this entry!
April 26, 2012
Head Time

Anthropologists studying a primitive tribe in New Guinea have discovered a mathematical construct thought of as basic and innate, isn't. They also discovered a different way of expressing the concepts of past, present, and future. Me, I've seen what New Guinea looks like in movies. The place is an absolute staple of cultural anthropology studies. It was one of the reasons I realized I had no desire to become a cultural anthropologist.

Posted by scott at 09:40 AM eMail this entry!
April 20, 2012
SuperBatt

IBM has announced a lightweight battery with an energy density approaching that of gasoline. This "air breathing battery" uses atmospheric oxygen and new lithium composites to create a reversible reaction that produces electricity. They're going on and on about green cars, but that's not really important. The really important question is, "what will the implications be for radio controlled helicopters when the batteries shrink to 1/10th their current size? Priorities, people. Priorities!

Posted by scott at 12:27 PM eMail this entry!
April 15, 2012
Crabby Computer

Japanese scientists have discovered a computer could be built using crabs. Yes, crabs. No, not THOSE crabs, the kind you turn into crab cakes. Although I bet this kind would itch, too.

Posted by scott at 01:50 PM eMail this entry!
April 11, 2012
Dead Photon Walking

Kevin T gets a no-prize that can walk two ways at once for bringing us the latest development in quantum computers. I can remember, back in the 80s, when people knew these sorts of effects existed but didn't know how to use them to transmit information. Last I heard, if anyone actually gets this stuff working the performance leap would represent a "significant discontinuity" in computer performance. Which, translated into regular-speak, means they can definitely be turned up to 11.

Posted by scott at 08:29 AM eMail this entry!
April 08, 2012
Collapse Cause

Scientists seem to have figured out what's causing the worrying epidemic of "colony collapse" in honeybees. The culprit seems to be high fructose corn syrup, a common sort of bee food, made from crops treated with a specific sort of pesticide. This would seem to indicate a pretty straightforward fix.

Posted by scott at 08:49 AM eMail this entry!
April 06, 2012
No, I Said Flashlight

Scientists have developed a flashlight-like device that uses plasma to quickly sterilize surfaces, including skin. Fortunately the plasma is cool enough not to damage skin. The device is powered by a 12 volt battery (must be custom, because it's too small for a car battery) and it's claimed it will cost less than $100 once in production. Better still, while plasma has been known to be an effective anti-bacterial, nobody's completely sure why.

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
April 05, 2012
That's Mister Cute n' Cuddly to You, Bub

Kevin T. gets a no-prize that's been teaching kids what cross-dressing means since 1940 for bringing us news of the discovery of one massive damned rabbit. Huge, and weird looking ta boot. It's thought this may be the first known example of "Foster's rule," which describes why large animals get small and big animals get large when they're trapped on an Island.

Posted by scott at 08:27 AM eMail this entry!
Robosquirrel!

Scientists are trying to figure out why squirrels avoid rattle snakes by shaking their tail. I, for one, welcome our robotic nut-eating overlords.

Posted by scott at 06:23 AM eMail this entry!
April 04, 2012
Maker's Mark

Scientists have discovered the first wooly mammoth carcass with obvious signs of those meddling kids. The carcass is so well preserved the tissue is still pink in some places, and the "strawberry-blonde" coat is still largely intact. Discovery Channel is funding the research, so we'll be looking forward to a show next year!

Posted by scott at 12:37 PM eMail this entry!
This Explains a Lot

Scientists have found evidence that "beer goggles" are real, and affect women's judgement more than men's. The standard line of thinking is that ancient humans invented intoxicants as an escape. With this evidence, I'm thinking it was probably more of a mating strategy.

Posted by scott at 08:16 AM eMail this entry!
April 03, 2012
I Was Told There Would Be an Earth Shattering Kaboom

A new research study has found that a massive explosion in the UK may have been made much worse by trees. Note to self: make sure the rocket fuel refinery is surrounded by pine trees. Even better, just tell the tree huggers to get a job and chop the damned things down. With video!

Posted by scott at 02:45 PM eMail this entry!
Quest for Fire

Scientists have discovered strong evidence that our ancestors were using fire some 300,000 years earlier than previously thought. The new evidence, found inside a cave in South Africa, pushes that time back to a million years ago, long before modern humans had evolved.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
March 28, 2012
Cousin's Foot

It seems Lucy's kind wasn't the only sort of hominid wandering around in Africa 3.5 million years ago. True, a fragmentary foot fossil isn't all that much to go on, but it can be enough to tell if they're looking at a different species. Considering we have quite a few A. afarensis fossils and (presumably) just this one of a different type, it may have been quite rare indeed.

Posted by scott at 02:06 PM eMail this entry!
March 27, 2012
Faster, Please

Scientists have announced promising research on a "one ring to rule them all" anti-cancer drug. I've seen a lot of promising mouse cancer cures not pan out into human cancer cures. Here's to hoping this one manages to make it through human trials.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
March 23, 2012
Dust and Crosses

An archeological dig has revealed what could be one of the earliest examples of Christianity taking over from paganism. The grave is pagan, the cross definitely is not, and the sixteen year old girl found in Cambridge may provide important and rare clues as to what life was like in the depths of the dark ages.

Posted by scott at 03:13 PM eMail this entry!
Grave Scanner

A wind farm developer has funded a new scan of ancient Scottish tombs. And when I say "ancient," I'm not talking "gee-wasn't-Bobby-Bruce-cool" old, I'm talking five hundred years before the pyramids old. Around the same time that Stonehenge was getting set up, if I'm getting the timing correct. The article doesn't make it clear if this was out of the goodness of the business's heart, or part of a requirement to enable an expansion.

Posted by scott at 01:27 PM eMail this entry!
March 22, 2012
Think of It Like a Really Slow Pink Floyd Song

Beware! Beware, I tell you! Beware the snails of war! I was wondering when the dawn of cybernetics was actually going to break. Not wondering any more.

Posted by scott at 01:10 PM eMail this entry!
March 20, 2012
Archeology... in... Spaaace...

A new custom software application is allowing archeologists to use satellite imagery to survey massive areas for signs of ancient human habitation. It's really quite surprising how much can be seen from space, and how little of it has been explored. Unfortunately the most promising sites seem to all be in Syria, which as we all know is not the most welcoming of places to do science at the moment. It's hoped that the improving situation in Iraq will allow further testing of this technology in that region.

Posted by scott at 12:04 PM eMail this entry!
March 19, 2012
Buzz Kill

Using what I presume to be the world's smallest MRI machine scientists have figured out which part of a Japanese honey bee's brain is used to cook predatory wasps to death. Yep, when a certain sort of wasp invades a hive of this sort of bee, they form a "bee ball" around it, cooking it until it keels over. This is the only sort of honeybee that's known to do this, so naturally they're going to be killing a whole bunch of wasps trying to figure out what makes it tick. I hate wasps, so I'm OK with this!

Posted by scott at 03:47 PM eMail this entry!
Farting Earth

A new study of marine sediments is revealing a surprising model for the atmosphere of the early Earth. Exactly how a planet much larger and closer to the Sun than a moon of Saturn can still end up with an atmosphere very similar to said moon's is, of course, a mystery. Ain't science grand?

Posted by scott at 01:07 PM eMail this entry!
March 16, 2012
Anime Eyes

Giant and colossal squid have long been famous for their gigantic eyes. Now scientists have figured out why they got so big. Structures evolve for a reason. Just because naked apes with delusions of grandeur can't figure those reasons out doesn't mean they don't exist. This, more than anything else, is why I know "social justice" is a pile o' steamin' crap.

Posted by scott at 01:17 PM eMail this entry!
March 15, 2012
Sharp Eel

By using a combination of advanced imaging and computer models, scientists have discovered the world's sharpest teeth. The choppers possessed by Conodonts, eel-like proto-vertebrates which lived 500 million years ago, had tips 2 microns across and despite their small size had biting power to rival much larger modern creatures. They also chewed left-to-right. Nature's weird.

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM eMail this entry!
March 13, 2012
Paging the Highlander, White Courtesy Phone Please

A new archeological exhibit in Manhattan is giving people a fresh look at ancient, enigmatic nomads from the steppes of Asia. Teeny-tiny men riding teeny-tiny horses, very fast. Bonus: the burial mounds are called "kurgans," and no I don't think that's a co-eenky-dink.

Posted by scott at 03:21 PM eMail this entry!
March 12, 2012
A Horse of a Different Bodysuit. Wait... What?

Leave it to the Aussies to think this up: a bodysuit for race horses is turning heads down under. It looks kinda goofy to me, but if it helps prevent injuries I'm all for it. Brave are the people who convince the horse to put it on, I'd wager.

Posted by scott at 10:50 AM eMail this entry!
March 11, 2012
Paging Dr. Evil, White Courtesy Phone Please

The propeller heads at DARPA are at it again, this time fielding a new combat laser system. This time the spec includes the magic words "solid state." All previous super-high-power systems were not only gigantic contraptions, they used heavy, expensive, caustic, and poisonous chemicals to turn the light on. Going solid state makes it smaller, cheaper, and more reliable. No word if it'll be quick/powerful enough to knock down mortars. That'd be a nice get.

Posted by scott at 02:27 PM eMail this entry!
March 09, 2012
That Pretty Much Defines "Cold Case"

By using advanced medical imaging technology scientists have finally figured out how a mysterious stranger died. Not a big deal, right? Well, turns out this particular stranger died not quite two thousand years ago and his body got tossed into a bog in Britain. Or Britannia, as it was known back then. Romans, gotta love 'em.

Posted by scott at 03:29 PM eMail this entry!
~ Black Dino Singing in the Dead of Night ~

Using a new technique with an electron microscope, scientists have determined the extinct dinosaur Microraptor probably had black, iridescent feathers. It also had long, ornamental tail feathers which may have impaired flight. It's thought the strange four-winged dinosaur may have developed these features more for display than for function.

Posted by scott at 12:53 PM eMail this entry!
March 08, 2012
New Scope

Scientists are expecting a revolution in microscopy with the development of a technique which completely does away with lenses. No more stains, no more special mounts, with a resolution limited only by the wavelength of energy used to create the image. It's a good thing!

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM eMail this entry!
March 07, 2012
Moon Over Tragedy

While a weird atmospheric inversion may have made the iceberg Titanic hit invisible, it seems the moon is the reason it was there at all. The finding would seem to vindicate Captain Smith, changing him from a reckless speed freak to a seasoned captain who was faced with a completely unexpected situation. Not that it much matters at this distance.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
March 06, 2012
Red Hurt

It turns out being "ginger" has its advantages. Watching a friend's very red-headed boy bounce impressively off the walls and floor as he grows up makes me think they're onto something there.

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM eMail this entry!
March 05, 2012
A Titanic Weather Disaster

New scientific research is suggesting a mirage may have been responsible for Titanic striking that iceberg. This "superior mirage" may also have prevented the nearby Californian from correctly identifying the stricken liner and coming to her rescue.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
March 01, 2012
Giggity. Ook.

It seems our close cousins have an affection for porn as well: Bonobo females will "advertise" their homosexual encounters, especially when they're with higher-status females, or the high status males are around. You can take the ape out of the jungle...

Posted by scott at 01:15 PM eMail this entry!
Old Wood

A fortunate need for maintenance on a dam is allowing scientists a new look at "the oldest fossil forest". The 384 million year-old field of stumps is located a few hours' drive from my in-laws house on (what I think is) the other side of the Catskills range. New discoveries are already helping scientists re-think how the rise of forests altered the planet's ecology.

Posted by scott at 08:45 AM eMail this entry!
Spycatcher

Using a re-engineered protein found in the infamous "flesh eating bacteria," scientists have created a new "ultimate" super glue. Reading the article, it sounds more like "super-velcro" to me, since the substance only sticks to itself. Anything making it less likely for me to glue my own fingers together is fine by me.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
February 29, 2012
That's a Comforting Thought

Scientists have announced the discovery of a distinctly "upsized" bug. The giant Mesozoic flea was ten times bigger than its modern descendants, probably because it had to chew on dinosaurs to survive. On the upside, it didn't have the legs a modern flea has, so it'd have to crawl on you instead of jump on you. Sleep well tonight!

Posted by scott at 02:43 PM eMail this entry!
Ice Man Info

Scientists have finished scanning the DNA of Oetzi, the 5000 year old "ice man," and have discovered a number of unexpected things.

Posted by scott at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
February 28, 2012
That's Mister Happy Feet to You, Bub

Scientists have reconstructed a previously undescribed species of giant penguin. Working from fossils collected in the 1970s, the "giant" lived around 25 million years ago and probably stood a little more than four feet tall, which is still more than a foot taller than the modern emperor penguin. Its build was quite different than existing species, and its hoped the fossil will provide insight into the evolution of that family of birds.

Posted by scott at 10:48 AM eMail this entry!
February 27, 2012
Dead Cousins

New evidence regarding the extinction of Neandertals is coming to light. DNA analysis seems to indicate that the species suffered a significant reduction in population thousands of years before modern humans encountered them. Now that I think about it, I seem to recall reading that there's evidence for a similar sort of population "crunch" in our own genes. It'd be interesting to see how, or even if, they're related.

Posted by scott at 04:12 PM eMail this entry!
February 24, 2012
Break Like the Wind

Scientists have measured the fastest winds in the universe. Not surprisingly, they're generated by a black hole. However, they're a lot faster than theories were predicting, so now they need to muck around with their theories again. Well, hey, it does give them something to do, ya know?

Posted by scott at 12:05 PM eMail this entry!
February 23, 2012
Dinobots!

Well, what else would you call miniaturized mechanical dinosaurs? I've always known that 3D printing technologies would lead to loads of awesome. Ooo... I bet they'll be radio controlled, too. How long until we have dino fights?

Posted by scott at 11:41 AM eMail this entry!
February 21, 2012
Rock Forest

Scientists have discovered an ancient rain forest entombed for three hundred million years by a gigantic volcano eruption. Now located in Mongolia, the find is so well preserved it's hoped to provide insight not only in what life forms were around at the time, but also what the climate may have been like as Pangea started to form.

Posted by scott at 03:48 PM eMail this entry!
Old Flowers

Russian scientists have used long-buried seeds to regenerate an ancient plant. The small flowering plant Sylene stenophylla grew from seeds planted by a squirrel about 30,000 years ago. It's hoped this technique can be used to re-create other forms of life from frozen remains preserved in the Siberian tundra.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
February 20, 2012
Test Tube Burger

A team of Dutch scientists have announced the intention to create the first lab-grown hamburger by the end of the year. No, they haven't built a big pen in their lab, they'll be using stem cells and (presumably) petri dishes. Me, I have a bit of an "ick" factor to overcome, but on the other side I've never been particularly happy with the way the existing meat industry works. If scientists come up with the same stuff without killing anything, I'd probably at least give it a try.

The article's pretty heavy-handed on the apocalyptic Green message, so it's got that going for it, too.

Posted by scott at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
February 14, 2012
Moar Powah!

Administrators of the Large Hadron Collider are set to increase the power of the device to improve the chances of finding the Higgs Boson, crazy guys babbling about Kit-Kats, and invoke the 2012 apocalypse. Well, one of those three, anyway. Definitely the first one. I think. Mmm... Kit-kats...

Posted by scott at 12:56 PM eMail this entry!
February 13, 2012
I Shall Call It, "Buttermometer"

Scientists have discovered that, with a little nano-help, butterfly wings make for excellent temperature sensors. It seems that the structures which make some butterfly wings iridescent are incredibly sensitive to heat, and coating them with carbon nanotubes makes them even more sensitive. It's thought a device based on the discovery could measure changes a small as .018 degrees.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
February 12, 2012
Weighted Hover

Using weights and pyramid-shaped objects, scientists have discovered top-heavy objects are actually the most stable configuration in a hover. This counter-intuitive result seems to help explain why insects are built the way they are, and may point the way toward more efficient vehicle designs.

Posted by scott at 07:23 AM eMail this entry!
February 10, 2012
Soldier's Pompeii

Engineers building a new road in France have discovered the bodies of 21 German infantrymen, buried alive 94 years ago. The WWI soldiers were victims of a tunnel collapse triggered by a massive shell which exploded over them in 1918. Strangely, the names of all the victims are known, but it's uncertain if any relatives remain to claim them. I'm disappointed the Mail chose not to run pictures of the remains themselves. Skeletons are interesting!

Posted by scott at 10:07 AM eMail this entry!
February 09, 2012
I Shall Call It, "Bugoflage"

It looks like the Zebra got its stripes to stop horse flies from biting. Horse flies and black flies were a bane of everyone's existence during summer breaks at the pool when I was a kid. If we'd know stripes would've helped, there would've been a whole lot of zebra-fied kids swimming around. Those would be some interesting tan lines, I tell ya!

Posted by scott at 02:00 PM eMail this entry!
Decoding the Cousins

Scientists have released the first-ever highly detailed genetic map of an extinct hominid. According to the article, they have sequenced every position of the genome at very high resolution. It's hoped that other scientists can use the data to learn much more about this distant cousin, as well as ourselves.

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
February 08, 2012
Amasia? Why No Asierica??

Using a new computer model a group of geologists is reporting one day the Earth will end up with a single giant continent. Again. This time, according to them anyway, it'll form over the Arctic Ocean as North and South America combine and meet up with Asia, Africa, and all those other continents I can't remember. You know, like Manhattan. That sort of thing. No word on just when it'll happen. I blame Dick Cheney.

Posted by scott at 02:47 PM eMail this entry!
Higgs Hope

A more detailed look at the results from November's LHC experiments has raised hopes that the Higgs boson has finally been discovered. Or not. It seems that a 99.996% likelihood gosh darn it just isn't good enough, since that's not hugely different from something to do with a coin toss. Includes uber-nerdy joke that went right past me.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
February 07, 2012
BioSolar

Scientists are claiming to have made a breakthrough in the manufacture of solar cells using otherwise worthless organic material. While still nowhere near the ballpark of generating useful energy, the new process is far less expensive, raising hopes that many more researchers will be able to examine, and hopefully improve, the technique.

Posted by scott at 08:38 AM eMail this entry!
February 06, 2012
Lake Landing

After a puzzling silence lasting more than a week, Russian scientists have announced they have successfully reached a deeply buried Antarctic lake. Lake Vostok is thought to have not been exposed to the outside world for millions of years, and may end up being a testbed for a wide variety of space probe technology, as well as providing a unique environment to observe and experiment on.

Posted by scott at 11:53 AM eMail this entry!
Back to the Future

A series of rigorous, double-blind tests seem to be proving humans can indeed predict the future. All that quantum business makes me think, "it could happen." However, other scientists have repeated at least one experiment and not repeated the result, so maybe it's a bug in the software?

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
February 04, 2012
Grandma's Jaw

Scientists have for the first time used 3D printing technologies to create an entire lower jaw. The custom-designed replacement was created with titanium, and took hours to make instead of days.

Posted by scott at 08:06 AM eMail this entry!
February 02, 2012
Predicting the Earth-Shattering Kaboom

By examining rock crystals on the Greek island of Santorini, scientists think they may be able to predict when a "supervolcano" will erupt years in advance. It seems the rising magma does so much more quickly than previously thought, creating visible, measurable changes which can be detected with modern instruments. Having a year to get out of a volcano's way sounds pretty handy to me.

Posted by scott at 12:49 PM eMail this entry!
Cancer Cures Cancer

Inspired by a sea food dinner, scientists have developed a crab-like micro-robot to treat stomach cancers. The device is mounted on the end of an endoscope and uses pincers to grasp and remove the tumor, then cauterize the wound, all in a fraction of the time a more conventional surgery would take.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
February 01, 2012
Typing Out of the Dark

A UC Berkeley team has successfully managed to decode the thought of words into the words themselves. While understandably crude and invasive now, the research would seem to point the way toward therapies and devices to allow people "locked in" by injury or illness to communicate. And, you know, probably enable that whole freaky "Scanners" thing.

Posted by scott at 02:28 PM eMail this entry!
January 31, 2012
The Stem of a Cure

As they say, "faster, please:" Scientists have figured out how to convert skin cells directly into the precursors of nerve cells. The technique avoids the problematic use of stem cells, which have a tendency to cause cancer when used to create other forms of cells. It's hoped the research will lead to mass-produced tissues from the patient's own body, opening up a new world of therapeutic treatment.

Posted by scott at 10:29 AM eMail this entry!
January 27, 2012
Moar Powah!!!

More then forty years after being predicted, scientists have successfully managed to make the first "atomic x-ray laser." Exactly what that really means is a bit unclear to me, but it sounds impressive as hell. Apparently the device will be used in atom-scale experiments.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
January 26, 2012
Where'd It Go?

Using a different class of "metamaterial" (whatever the hell that is), scientists have developed a cloak that can conceal a 3D object in free space. Of course, they're only cloaking against long-wavelength radiation like microwaves, and will probably only be able to cloak really small things against visible light, but dude. Cloaking technology!

Posted by scott at 02:24 PM eMail this entry!
January 25, 2012
But Did it Sing the Blues?

A new study on an ancient feather has revealed at least some of Archaeopteryx's feathers were black. Like, you know, a crow. I wonder if they squawked as loud as the dinosaurs that live in our house do?

Posted by scott at 12:08 PM eMail this entry!
January 24, 2012
Dead Dog

The discovery of a fossilized dog skull is forcing scientists to reexamine when, where, and how man's best friend was domesticated. The new evidence not only punctures the "single common ancestor" theory, it also pushes the date back several thousand years and scatters the event all over Eurasia.

Posted by scott at 02:55 PM eMail this entry!
Insert Austin Powers Joke Here

Scientists have worked out how to use lasers to cool semiconductors. It does this, somehow, by leveraging quantum effects and heat. The technique could help push along attempts at quantum computers, as well as create new cooling technologies for existing circuits.

Posted by scott at 10:31 AM eMail this entry!
Magic Soap

By combining simple iron filings with a combination of other harmless chemicals, scientists have created magnetic soap. The substance should make it much easier to safely clean up things like oil spills, and to purify water.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
January 23, 2012
Maps of Burnt Offerings

New technology is allowing detailed archeological surveys of Nazi concentration camps. More traditional methods that involve digging are forbidden due to the sensitive nature of the sites, so it's only recently that such surveys have even been possible.

Posted by scott at 12:22 PM eMail this entry!
Angling Terror

Scientists have found that, as with nearly everything else in nature, anglerfish have those wicked-looking teeth for a reason. I'm just happy these fish are all (as I understand it anyway) no bigger than a large goldfish, and live miles underwater. I definitely would never want to see a big one anywhere near the surface!

Posted by scott at 08:35 AM eMail this entry!
January 18, 2012
The Thinking Cave Man

So, did Neandertals tell jokes? Did they laugh? Cry? While we may never know with absolute certainty, there's enough evidence to allow some fascinating educated guesses. Of course, since they are just that, they'll provoke endless disagreements about each and every point, vehement to the point of bedrock certainty that one or the other is flat wrong. And that's what makes us human.

Posted by scott at 12:16 PM eMail this entry!
Splits and Combines

A pair of scientists decided to see if they could cause multicellular life to evolve in a lab setting. Not only did they manage to succeed, it happened a lot faster than anyone expected. Me, I want to know how it's been figured out that multicellular life evolved independently "at least 25 times." Some sort of molecular evidence?

Posted by scott at 08:37 AM eMail this entry!
January 16, 2012
Old Rock Star

Scientists have discovered the tomb of an ancient Egyptian temple singer. It seems she was interred in a much older tomb, who's original occupant is unknown. It represents the first non-royal tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings.

Posted by scott at 11:10 AM eMail this entry!
January 11, 2012
The Wonder of a Pencil Lead

Graphene, a new form of carbon discovered in 2004, seems to be taking the physics world by storm. I would take a bit of issue over the author's assertion that bucky balls and nanotubes have been non-starters. I read about various interesting practical applications involving them at least a few times a month. Still, this new stuff has pretty obvious implications in circuitry design, and that nearly always turns out well. Coming to a flat screen near you!

Posted by scott at 08:37 AM eMail this entry!
January 10, 2012
Nom Nom Nom

Scientists have discovered a new kind of carnivorous plant which uses its leaves to eat worms. Found on the tropical savannas of Brazil, Philcoxia minensis and its relatives actually buries its leaves into the soil in order to collect nematodes and other microscopic critters.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
January 09, 2012
Bring on the Inane Giggles

Scientists have discovered that RNA may not have been the primary molecule which formed in the earliest "soup of life" on Earth. It is, per usual, too early in the game to make even a preliminary call, but it does set up some tantalizing question. I just wish they'd come up with a better, less Beavis-and-Butthead-worthy name.

Posted by scott at 12:43 PM eMail this entry!
Family Pictures

A new exhibit in Germany contains reconstructed faces of 27 different human ancestors. Dang, our grampas were some homely folk, weren't they? Hopefully it'll go on the road and head out here, because that's an expensive commute for us.

Posted by scott at 06:29 AM eMail this entry!
January 08, 2012
Old Sound

By constructing an elaborate double-blind study, scientists have found evidence that new violins don't seem to sound better than really old ones. It seemed a lot less trivial while I was reading the article. At any rate, even the scientists are not claiming a definitive result. With something so subjective as what a human musician prefers when creating music, I'm not sure a definitive result is even possible.

Posted by scott at 07:23 AM eMail this entry!
January 06, 2012
Meanwhile, in Frankenstein's Lab

Scientists have announced the first successful creation of "Chimera monkeys". These are created by combining material from several embryos to create a single creature. Mice with a similar creation scheme are used in medical research because the technique allows researchers to "knock out" certain genes from an individual, so, while the article doesn't explicitly mention it, I think that's what these monkeys will be used for as well.

Posted by scott at 12:25 PM eMail this entry!
Soopa Ants

By using a specific hormone at a specific time, scientists are able to create "super soldier" ants in species which do not otherwise have them. The idea, apparently, is to provide insights into various aspects of evolution. I, for one, will welcome our new ant overlords.

Posted by scott at 10:51 AM eMail this entry!
January 05, 2012
Circular Camoflage

A new underwater film has captured a fish mimicking an octopus that mimics a different fish. Emergent complexity is a wonderful thing! It's still not clear if the octopus ever even notices his shadow companion.

Posted by scott at 02:24 PM eMail this entry!
Time Cloak

And for the very weirdest physics news of 2011, we have the development of a cloak that works with time instead of light. It's such a weird finding even the scientists who cooked it up aren't completely sure what, if anything, it'll be good for. Another grant at the very least, I'd wager.

Posted by scott at 10:26 AM eMail this entry!
January 04, 2012
Deep Black World

Another day, another antarctic ecosystem. I've always found it strange that, on land, the tropics are where all the biodiversity is, but at sea it's always some of the darkest, coldest places that have all the crazy critters. If the Burgess Shale and other similar formations are any indication, it's been like this a helluva long time. I'm sure there's a reason for it, I just can't ever recall one.

Posted by scott at 10:37 AM eMail this entry!
January 03, 2012
Who Put That There?

A form of crystal once thought to be flat-out impossible, and then thought only to be produced artificially, has now been found in nature. Science will always provide the right answer, until it is provided with new data. Then it will provide a different right answer. This is why science is great foundation for technology, but lousy one for morality.

Posted by scott at 12:43 PM eMail this entry!
Mongrels of the Sea

Scientists have reported the discovery of hybrid sharks found in the wild. The specimens are a hybrid of two closely-related species, the common and Australian black-tipped shark. It's believed this is a sign that the animals are adapting to warming ocean temperatures, and could herald the arrival of a stronger shark species.

Posted by scott at 10:10 AM eMail this entry!
December 29, 2011
Might Make Parting It a Little Easier

Scientists have confirmed fishermen's reports: there are new islands in the Red Sea. It's not clear if it'll last, and what with all the rocks being spat out at speed, it's not like you'll be visiting it any time soon. Volcanic activity seems to be on the rise in the region, so at least we all have something new to blame on Bush, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM eMail this entry!
December 26, 2011
Tortie Smarts

It looks like our tortoise Om may be a lot smarter than we give her credit for. She definitely seems to navigate the maze of our living room floor with relative ease. When, you know, she's not just sitting there, staring at the world.

Posted by scott at 04:09 PM eMail this entry!
December 23, 2011
Critter Mystery

Fossils which were once thought to show Cambrian-era life existing in the older, more mysterious Ediacaran period has, naturally, been challenged, and then challenged again. The current thinking is still just about as weird. Life that ancient is fascinating to me, because it's so incredibly different than what's around today, yet we are quite clearly related to it. Most of the time, anyway.

Posted by scott at 09:01 AM eMail this entry!
December 21, 2011
Particles in the Dark

Told ya: the data resulting from the search for the Higgs boson has already proved a few alternatives to the Standard Model wrong. Personally I'd be happy if the whole dark matter/dark energy thing went away completely, but I've read enough about them both to know that, if that were to happen, they'd have to be replaced with something. Because this is physics we're talking about, it'd likely be something even weirder.

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
December 20, 2011
Hot Metal

Scientists have discovered that, when under intense pressure and extremely high temperature, iron will change its electrical properties without changing its structure. This esoteric-sounding discovery has profound implications for what makes the Earth's core tick, and may reveal a new, previously undiscovered, type of metallisation. Yes, metallisation. That's how they spelled it!

Posted by scott at 01:31 PM eMail this entry!
December 13, 2011
Bird's Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Walk

A new examination of just how the African lungfish gets around may force scientists to re-write the evolution of land animals. The weird trackways which are a hallmark of vertebrates hauling themselves out of the muck my have in fact been made by fish, not their tetrapod descendants.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
December 12, 2011
Higgs Hunt Harvest

Turns out physicists aren't all that much different after all. Witness the sewing-circle excitement over what is presumed to be an announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson. In fact it is a big deal, since right now there are a range of theories vying to replace or supplement the current Standard Model of physics, and just where the Higgs is and what it really looks like will likely cull many members of that herd. Oh, it won't make any sense to the likes of us, but it'll still be cool!

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
December 09, 2011
Paging Remy, White Courtesy Phone Please

Scientists have discovered that, far from being the beastly creatures of nightmare, rats appear to have empathy, and co-operate with each other. Females seem to be more likely to do so than males, who occasionally "take a day off." Sounds about right. No, Ellen, you can't have one.

Posted by scott at 03:09 PM eMail this entry!
December 08, 2011
Big Bones

Apparently sick of being beaten like an NFC East team, North American paleontologists have taken the title of "largest dinosaur" away from their South American counterparts. More than just bragging rights are in play, as the new description could change the way we think about how these giant sauropods were related to each other.

Posted by scott at 10:26 AM eMail this entry!
It Had... Anime Eyes

Scientists have finally confirmed the very first apex predator had excellent vision. In a sea filled with creatures measuring no more than a few inches, the three-foot long Anomalarcus pretty much defined "giant."

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
December 07, 2011
Diamond Buzz

Scientists have demonstrated the ability to manifest what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance" by using lasers and diamonds. The current experiment has no commercial application and it's not clear if information can in fact be transmitted using this method. But it is pretty neat, if difficult to understand.

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM eMail this entry!
Dynamo Twirl

So, you want to model the Earth's core for magnetic experiments? Take 28,000 pounds of sodium and call me in the morning. Liquid sodium, no less. Definitely not something you'd want to have rupture, I'd warrant. And heck, they're not completely sure it'll even work. A scientist's dream grant, that.

Posted by scott at 12:26 PM eMail this entry!
Science, FTW!

Scientists have announced the creation of a new, more durable, vaccine for the Ebola virus. It's still in (what I understand to be) early animal trials, but the results seem promising.

Posted by scott at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
December 02, 2011
What's in a Name?

The scientific body responsible for naming elements has made its choice for the two newest discoveries, but if you act now you can suggest better ones. I would suggest "ScottIsAwsomium" and "Johnsonium," but I figure I'd let one of you guys win this one.

Posted by scott at 12:17 PM eMail this entry!
December 01, 2011
Gene Skeeter

A genetic engineering company is on the verge of granting every southerner in the United Sates their most fervent wish: the extinction of all mosquito-kind. This one's not just a lab experiment, it's been tested successfully in the wild. Oh, yes, there's the standard angst about "what can go wrong?" and "what hath we wrought?" but those are the worries of people who don't live with the little bastards. I will be the first to hold a party when the last of those critters hits the dirt.

Posted by scott at 06:25 AM eMail this entry!
November 30, 2011
This Is Not The Wall You Are Looking For.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Newly found coins underneath Jerusalem's Western Wall could change the accepted belief about the construction of one of the world's most sacred sites two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.

But archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority now say diggers have found coins underneath the massive foundation stones of the compound's Western Wall that were stamped by a Roman proconsul 20 years after Herod's death. That indicates that Herod did not build the wall — part of which is venerated as Judaism's holiest prayer site — and that construction was not close to being complete when he died.

Read the entire article here.

Posted by Ellen at 06:56 PM eMail this entry!
Bone Printer

Scientists have developed a compound which allows 3D printers to create bone scaffolds. The scaffolds are then implanted into an injury to facilitate regrowth and healing, eventually being completely absorbed by the body. It's thought clinical trials on humans are only a few years away.

Posted by scott at 01:50 PM eMail this entry!
Worms... in... Spaaace...

No, really, that's even what they called it: worms in space. You'd think anything that grew up in British garbage pits would be pretty immune to, well, everything. Except, you know, that whole teeth thing.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
November 29, 2011
Pit of the Ancients

A ground penetrating radar survey of Stonehenge has revealed even more undiscovered secrets. The site is enormous and now that archeologists have access to tools which allow relatively quick-and-cheap surveys like this I'd expect more of these kinds of discoveries to follow. The real bonus is it's completely non-invasive, which is a massive improvement over the old "dig a trench and poke around" method practiced back when I was an undergrad.

Posted by scott at 10:23 AM eMail this entry!
November 28, 2011
~ My Name is LUCA ~

And in the, "just when you thought science couldn't get any weirder" file, we find news that at one point in the distant past, life on Earth was characterized by a single, planet-spanning life form. It sort of sounds like the contents of an old jelly jar, spread over the whole globe.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
November 25, 2011
Brincicle On Film

Using timelapse cameras, specialists recorded the salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking to the sea floor.

The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it

Where the so-called 'brinicle' met the sea bed a web of ice formed freezing everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.

Run starfish! RUN!

Posted by Ellen at 07:39 PM eMail this entry!
November 23, 2011
Energetic. Dark. Different

By using the Earth's own magnetic field as a clever sort of telescope, scientists seem to have found a confirmation that dark energy exists. I think. Astrophysics is hard! For all I know the paper may actually say chocolate and peanut butter taste good together.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
November 22, 2011
Electric Eyes

Scientists have created electronic contact lenses. While at the moment they're only meant for rabbits, and can only display a single pixel, the goal is to create high-resolution displays for any manner of uses. I dunno. Sounds pretty expensive to me.

Posted by scott at 09:02 AM eMail this entry!
November 18, 2011
Persistence and Memory

Today leads us to two studies on memory: one which claims walking through doorways makes you forget, and another which claims you can remember things even when you think you can't. I'd talk more about it, but I need to remember where I put my keys last night.

Posted by scott at 07:01 AM eMail this entry!
Your Distant, Batty Cousin

Nestled inside this lightweight piece on bats is the startling assertion at least some of them might have evolved from primates. If the theory were based on genetics I'd be intrigued, but (according to the article) it's based on morphology, which is a lot easier to get wrong. Quick! Someone get that man a gene sequencer!

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
November 16, 2011
Wetwear

Scientists have for the first time created a complete biological synapse on a computer chip. The goal is to create neural analogs of whole sections of the human brain for study. It may also allow the construction of replacement sections to treat diseases. Cyber-spares, FTW!

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
November 14, 2011
Chicken McPetri

Efforts to develop in-vitro meat for human consumption seem to be proceeding apace. The point that this concept actually isn't as gross as how industrial meat packing works is well taken. Oh, and the "secret funder?" I'd dig around in PETA's closet first to find them.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
November 10, 2011
Smart Tapestry

Two words: cotton transistors. They sound expensive, and not particularly powerful, but having a carpet that can count the number of people standing on it is pretty neat. I'd be much more interested in one that'd zap a cat trying to pee on it, but that's just me.

Posted by scott at 10:54 AM eMail this entry!
November 09, 2011
Tiny Terror

The smallest arthropod fossil yet found has been successfully imaged by a UK university team. The 50 million-year-old mite, which was found on a fossilised spider, is just 170 millionths of a metre long.

Posted by scott at 01:51 PM eMail this entry!
November 08, 2011
Food Fight

So, how many of these 10 "food myths that just won't die" do you believe in? I'd never even heard of the "pregnant women shouldn't eat sushi" one but it's just as well. I mean, it's not like I'm going to be eating the stuff when I'm pregnant, ya know?

Posted by scott at 12:06 PM eMail this entry!
RoboBeer

Scientists have for the first time created a simple and effective way for computers to control yeast. Which at first sounds, well, not that big of a deal. According to the article, though, the tech will likely have applications in pharmaceutical production. In other words, cheap drugs.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
November 07, 2011
Candy Science

By using gummy bears and cellphones, scientists are trying to study the massive underwater waves that dominate the lower areas of the planet's oceans. Unfortunately one of the waves crushed the camera which was supposed to be filming the experiments, so they're going to start it all over again. Like it wasn't cool enough to begin with.

Posted by scott at 06:28 AM eMail this entry!
November 04, 2011
But What About the Sharks?

Scientists are planning to build a laser so powerful it can tear a hole in the universe. Presumably a very small, very safe hole, right? At any rate, the experiments are meant to prove, or disprove, various cosmological theories which predict exotic particles will appear at the energies the device will generate.

Posted by scott at 07:05 AM eMail this entry!
November 03, 2011
Tooth Time

By using new dating techniques, scientists have discovered modern humans may have been in Europe quite a bit earlier than previously thought. The find has implications for the continuing mystery of just what our ancestors did when they first encountered neandertals, and what they may have done in turn.

Posted by scott at 08:23 AM eMail this entry!
November 01, 2011
Paging Larry Niven, White Courtesy Phone Please

When I first read the news that scientists are finding evidence that our ancient ancestors interbred with other hominid species, I immediately thought, "Rishathra!" Since I know a significant minority of underprivileged readers are likely unfamiliar with Larry Niven's Ringworld series, I figured a link to the definition of the term would be in order. When I go there what do I find? Someone's already updated the entry to reflect the new science. Wikipedia. Such a wonderful thing.

Posted by scott at 01:54 PM eMail this entry!
October 31, 2011
A Specific Sort of Apocalypse

Let's just be glad they don't own teeny-tiny shotguns: Scientists have discovered a number of insects over the years which use a zombie-creation strategy as part of their reproductive cycle. Plus: they seem to be dedicated to zombie-fying pests like roaches and moths. Minus: seems to be mostly wasps doing the deed.

Posted by scott at 03:25 PM eMail this entry!
October 27, 2011
Dinosaur Walkabout

By studying fossil teeth, scientists have found conclusive proof that dinosaurs migrated. I know, I know, "captain obvious with a chisel," but if they can prove an obvious point, it should mean they can prove less obvious ones, like perhaps which particular types of plant-eating dinosaurs the predators were eating at any one time.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
October 26, 2011
Cracked It Like an Egg

Using modern algorithms and hardware, computer scientists have cracked a mysterious cipher from the 19th century. It seems it was all about a secret German society with a bizarre fascination with eyeballs. It's hoped the tools can be applied successfully to better-known but stubbornly intransigent ciphers like that used by the Zodiac Killer.

Posted by scott at 01:00 PM eMail this entry!
October 25, 2011
Old Bang

Scientists have finally figured out how the world's first recorded supernova got so big, so fast. Recorded by Chinese astronomers in 185 AD, the remnant was mapped in the 1960s and found to be much larger than expected. New data from the Spitzer space telescope finally provided the evidence necessary to explain the discrepancy.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
October 24, 2011
Lazy Shooter

New studies are indicating that playing video games assists in curing "lazy eye syndrome." Even better, the therapy works well after age 9, when conventional wisdom says the more traditional "eye patch and exercises" therapy stops working. More refined techniques using "perceptual learning" could provide even greater success.

Posted by scott at 10:35 AM eMail this entry!
October 23, 2011
Dino Find

A recently discovered dinosaur fossil is about to go on display in Germany. Thought to be as much as 98% complete, it represents the most intact fossil dinosaur in Europe and one of the most intact in the world. It's unsure which dinosaur it is or even how old it might have been when it died, but it's only a matter of time until that's all found out.

Posted by scott at 07:43 AM eMail this entry!
October 22, 2011
Common Cause

Scientists have announced the discovery of a common cause for all forms of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The key is a problem neurons of the spine and brain have recycling certain kinds of proteins. The discovery has implications for new treatments of most kinds of dementias, including Alzheimer's.

Posted by scott at 02:49 PM eMail this entry!
October 21, 2011
Bone Find

New dating techniques have been used on an old archeological find to push back the date of the first human settlements in North America some eight centuries. Doesn't sound like too much when you're talking about an event that was at least 13,000 years ago, but you know scientists... always looking to get their name in the paper about something. Well, that, and the fact that such a push means the "new" old people used a culture different from the "old" old people.

Posted by scott at 09:24 AM eMail this entry!
October 20, 2011
Hot Monkey Love

While (apparently) the idea that human females living close together synchronize their menstrual cycles is still controversial, it's now been proven a species of monkey synchronizes the sexual receptiveness of a troupe's females. It's thought this provides a reproductive advantage to the females, since it helps to prevent the dominant male from monopolizing them. Think "embarrassment of riches," that sort of thing.

I'm just glad I wasn't the one forced to watch monkeys go at it for hours on end and then pick at their poo after they're done.

Posted by scott at 10:37 AM eMail this entry!
October 19, 2011
Paging Led Zepplin, White Courtesy Phone Please

A "fully intact" Viking boat burial site has been found in the highlands of Scotland. It represents the best-preserved example of this type found so far in the UK. The find is part of a much larger archeological project who's objective is to chronicle changes in lifestyle from the earliest known traces of habitation right through to the modern era. I'll give them this, they don't lack for ambition.

Posted by scott at 12:23 PM eMail this entry!
Flapping Away

By using a tiny robot originally developed as a spy, scientists have gained new insight into the evolution of flight. The "trees-down" team gets a boost while the "ground-up" side gets something to argue about.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
October 17, 2011
Ancient Tours

And all this time, I thought it was the British museum that was old: a palace complex in ancient Babylon contained the world's first known museum. Built around 530 B.C., the museum contained exhibits still recognizable in the ruins when it was excavated more than two thousand years later.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
October 15, 2011
Particles Get Ticket, Law is Safe

It looks like relativity isn't going anywhere any time soon. It seems all that noise about particles going faster than light boiled down to a relativistic effect on the GPS clocks used to take the measurement. In other words, they found another proof of relativity figuring out the thing that might have been disproving it.

Posted by scott at 10:28 AM eMail this entry!
October 14, 2011
Paint Shop Pro

Scientists have announced the discovery of the earliest-known paint factory. The 100,000 year-old cave site contains artifacts used in just about every part of the process needed to turn ocher into red paint, pushing the time we first started creating art some 60,000 years.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
October 13, 2011
One Bitch of a Grandmother

A new study of the genome of the bacteria which caused the Black Death in the 14th century has revealed some surprising results. Not only has it not changed significantly in the past seven centuries, it appears that the plague of 1348 was in fact the very first caused by the bacterium we now know. Exactly why it was so virulent then, and what may have caused earlier less well-known plagues, is not clear.

Posted by scott at 09:42 AM eMail this entry!
Like They Needed to Be Any Bigger

By using actual skeletons instead of scale models, a team of scientists has determined T. Rex may have been nearly a third larger than previously thought. Which is neat as far as it goes, but those skeletons can have post-mortem "adjustments" over the eons which, I would think, may introduce the same sorts of errors that scale models often include. Unfortunately the article doesn't discuss how they controlled for this.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
October 11, 2011
Drill Deep

A UK team is preparing to drill into a deep lake in the Antarctic. Which just doesn't do justice to an effort requiring tons of gear to get a probe down through more than a mile and a half of ice to sample water sitting under 300 atmospheres of pressure at -20 degrees or more. All for a cup of water. Are humans a bunch of busybodies, or what?

Posted by scott at 02:33 PM eMail this entry!
October 10, 2011
The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea

A scientific team believes it has discovered evidence of a for-real "Kraken" that once swam in the Earth's Triassic seas. The evidence is, per usual, circumstantial and contested, but if it all pans out it means that some time in the past a monster twice the size of a colossal squid once swam the seas. I, for one, am very glad about the "once" part of that sentence.

Posted by scott at 03:10 PM eMail this entry!
October 06, 2011
Nanoboobies

Headline says it all: scientists are developing alternative breast implants using nanotechnology. Bonus: the tech can also be used as an alternative delivery vehicle for things like chemotherapy, reducing debilitating side effects.

Posted by scott at 01:34 PM eMail this entry!
Try Again

Scientists have announced the discovery of the first known reptile with a true placenta. While live birth is something that's evolved independently many times in the history of life on Earth, it was long thought that only mammals had figured out placental nourishment. Now it looks like perhaps as many as three skink species have done it as well.

Posted by scott at 10:29 AM eMail this entry!
October 05, 2011
Third Hands

Scientists are announcing a breakthrough in getting artificial limbs to provide a sense of touch as well as brain-powered movement. Tests with monkeys have been very positive (and surprisingly free of "let's chop up the monkey" procedures). It's hoped a production system can be fielded within the next three years.

Posted by scott at 05:24 PM eMail this entry!
Razorback Dinosaurs

Scientists have announced the discovery of a significant new set of fossilized dinosaur tracks in southwest Arkansas. The find, which was laid down in the early Cretaceous period, includes the tracks of a very large predator which may be Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, as well as various other dinosaurs.

Posted by scott at 10:10 AM eMail this entry!
October 03, 2011
Nose Clock

Headline basically says it all: the inside of the nose can help reveal the time of a person's death. It seems tiny finger-like projections called cilia continue to beat after death, and that they slow at a predictable and consistent rate. This should provide a more accurate estimation of time of death, especially in the first 24 hours. Sleep well tonight!

Posted by scott at 02:43 PM eMail this entry!
September 30, 2011
Paging Alladin, White Courtesy Phone Please

Using newly discovered electrical effects, a UK graduate student has created what can reasonably be termed a "flying carpet." Right now it's only a 10cm sheet of plastic which doesn't fly very high or go very fast, but it definitely proves the concepts are sound. Who knows where it'll end up next?

Posted by scott at 12:51 PM eMail this entry!
September 29, 2011
Robo Rat

Ok, on the one hand scientists using an artificial cerebellum to make a rat blink is creepy on all sorts of levels. On the other, if it leads to something which cures all the various ailments that are caused by a defective cerebellum... well, it's still creepy, but it's creepy with a purpose.

Posted by scott at 09:43 AM eMail this entry!
A Shot to Cure What Ails Ya

Scientists have announced a new HIV vaccine which has successfully completed its first round of human trials. The vaccine is based on an altered version of a smallpox vaccine, and first proved itself in earlier studies involving mice and primates. Two more human trials must be passed before it would be considered for production.

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
September 28, 2011
Port Find

Archeologists have announced the discovery of a huge ancient Roman shipyard. The appropriately named Portus contained the building, which was nearly five hundred feet long and two hundred feet wide.

Posted by scott at 12:00 PM eMail this entry!
September 25, 2011
Beyond

Today, De Santo has a name for what happened that night: "crisis apparition." She stumbled onto the term while reading about paranormal activities after the incident. According to paranormal investigators, a crisis apparition is the spirit of a recently deceased person who visits someone they had a close emotional connection with, usually to say goodbye.

Read entire article here.

Scott does not believe in the afterlife. He believes in reincarnation. I do not. I am an absolute believer of ghost and the afterlife because I have had few experiences like this that you simply cannot explain.

Don't even get into a discussion with an atheist over the subject. Even though the majority of them believe in zombies.

Posted by Ellen at 10:03 AM eMail this entry!
September 23, 2011
Speedy Bits

Scientists are actually rather worried they've found evidence of things moving faster than the speed of light. They're concerned because there's lots of evidence that this shouldn't happen. The idea is to get someone else to duplicate the (presumably expensive) experiment so they can figure out what the heck is going on.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
September 22, 2011
Faster... Than... Rabbits...

“We have collected over a thousand so far and we have only just begun,” said Denise Feiber, Public Information Director for Florida’s Division of Plant Industry.

Don't forget to watch the video!~

Make sure you click the link to see what this article is about!

Posted by Ellen at 07:36 PM eMail this entry!
Tiny Horrors

Just when you thought nature couldn't get any more macabre: scientists have finally discovered the mechanism which certain beetle larva use to feed on much larger amphibians. In other news, there are finger-sized beetle larva which can eat a whole frog all by themselves! The article helpfully includes shiver-inducing pictures and video of just what this means. Creepy!

Posted by scott at 11:50 AM eMail this entry!
You Are What You Eat

Scientists have discovered that not only do "just" digest food, the genetic information in that food can alter your own genes. Considering that we've been eating other things, well, forever, it's probably not as alarming as it would at first seem. Still, it may suggest new methods of treating diseases. A good thing!

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
September 21, 2011
Who Did It and Ran

Scientists have discovered that certain species of squid are will mate first, and never ask questions at all. By using unpiloted submersibles, scientists were able to observe clear indications that these squid do not bother to "check under the tail" to make sure they're mating with the opposite sex before they do the deed. The strategy may actually help increase the odds of a successful mating.

Posted by scott at 03:23 PM eMail this entry!
September 20, 2011
Captain Obvious, the Paleontologist

Scientists have found conclusive evidence that at least one raptor-like dinosaur used its talons as weapons. Because, you know, a giant razor-sharp claw attached to the foot of a critter that had feet just built for kicking things could be using it for something else. Shuffleboard, for example.

Posted by scott at 12:58 PM eMail this entry!
September 19, 2011
Thor's Perpetual Propulsion

A US company has announced it's developing a radioactive steam-powered car engine. According to the company, the engine would be a turbine powered with steam heated by lasers powered by the mildly radioactive element thorium. According to the company the engine would go decades between refuelings, and be perfectly safe.

According to me it sounds like a load of hooey, but I do wish whichever venture capitalists that are under-writing this venture loads of luck. I have a feeling they're going to need it.

Posted by scott at 02:35 PM eMail this entry!
September 16, 2011
~ Wheels From the Sky Keep On Turnin' ~

Most folks have heard of the mysterious Nazca lines, but have you heard of the stone wheels? They are just as strange, might be just as old, and there are thousands of them. I'm still pretty puzzled that, with so many, nobody seems to have done any research at all on them.

Posted by scott at 12:28 PM eMail this entry!
Feather Find

Making the rounds: scientists have discovered a wide variety of dinosaur feathers trapped in amber. The finds are so well preserved it's possible to figure out what colors they contain. It would seem our ancient giants could be every bit as colorful as a modern bird.

Posted by scott at 07:04 AM eMail this entry!
September 15, 2011
Big Croc

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new, very large, species of extinct fresh water crocodile. Acherontisuchus guajiraensis inhabited an ancient rainforest ecosystem some 60 million years ago, during Palaeocene times. It lived alongside an even bigger ancient snake, a 42 foot beast called Titanoboa. Fortunately, separate geologic eras mean Ellen actually can't have either of them. Not that she wouldn't try, mind you...

Posted by scott at 11:41 AM eMail this entry!
September 14, 2011
Lego V'Jer

One scientist is on a mission to prove life can evolve based not on carbon, but on metal. It seems like he's managed to generate most of the structures which life needs to function, but hasn't figured out how to knit them all together into a critter. Nobody, even the guy behind the work, is completely sure it's possible. I wonder if it'll shine like chrome?

Posted by scott at 10:29 AM eMail this entry!
September 13, 2011
FIsh Find

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of ancient toothed fish. Laccognathus embryi is thought to have been a bottom-dwelling ambush predator about six feet long, and lived in the late Devonian. While I'm thinking about ways to get away from something like this, I'll bet half of you are trying to figure out how you'd catch it.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
September 12, 2011
Bug Murder

By genetically manipulating a population of insects, scientists have created a "mutant army" that promises to be far more precise in destroying pest populations than any pesticide. The technique itself is not particularly new, but genetic manipulation allows it to be used more cheaply and effectively. If it helps kill mosquitoes, I'm all for it!

Posted by scott at 03:35 PM eMail this entry!
Talk Fast

Turns out there's a reason why it sounds like Spanish speakers are talking a thousand miles an hour. I'd read, in other books, that it was because languages like English have more sounds (consonants, in this specific case) than others like Spanish, but it seems there's more to it than that.

Posted by scott at 09:47 AM eMail this entry!
September 11, 2011
Missing Link Found?

Two primitive ape-like creatures, believed to be a mother and her young son, plunged through the roof of a cave and suffered a slow death from starvation.

Now scientists believe their fossilised skeletons show they could be our direct ancestors, the long-sought ‘missing link’ between apes and humans.

The things you find in caves. Amazing.

Posted by Ellen at 08:27 PM eMail this entry!
September 08, 2011
Kiss me, CATE

A new study using "crowdsourcing" techniques to spread traffic information at near-real-time to apps that then use that data to select the fastest route shows real promise in improving traffic flow any time, anywhere. Bonus: according to the article, less than half the vehicles on any road need to be using the system for it to provide maximum benefit. No, I don't completely understand it, either, but if it can help get me out of yet another Saturday morning traffic jam on the Beltway, sign me up!

Posted by scott at 02:27 PM eMail this entry!
Zap Bugs

A team of scientists has figured out exactly how a specific sort of microbe can generate electricity while it eats nuclear waste. They're hoping to use the knowledge to create a renewable energy source that cleans up toxic waste while it works. Everybody wins!

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
September 07, 2011
Quick! Call the Northwestern!

Giant king crabs have been discovered in large numbers in Antarctic waters. Since it's the BBC, the finding is treated as even more evidence of apocalyptic climate change. Fans of the Discovery show Deadliest Catch know that extermination of an undesirable king crab population is only a few seasons of unrestricted commercial fishing away. Predictably, this is illegal in the "threatened" waters.

Posted by scott at 10:02 AM eMail this entry!
September 06, 2011
MicroSpider

Scientists have developed a micromachine which could lead to incredibly small mechanical spiders that swim through blood vessels to deliver drugs or heal injuries. After reading the article, I think they're quite a long way from something that cool, but you gotta start somewhere, even if that step is very, very small indeed.

Posted by scott at 11:46 AM eMail this entry!
Aren't They Supposed To Screen The Blood?

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't they supposed to screen the blood before giving it to another person?

Of the 162 cases of Babesia infection caused by blood transfusions between 1979 and 2009, nearly 80 percent occurred between 2000 and 2009.

"Babesia microti has become the most frequently reported transfusion-transmitted parasite in the United States," CDC researchers wrote, far outpacing malaria infections, which accounted for 49 cases of transfusion-associated disease during the same period, including just five cases during 2000-2009.

Scary.

Posted by Ellen at 05:07 AM eMail this entry!
September 05, 2011
That Man Is Good At Spreading His DNA

Today there are 150 children, all conceived with sperm from one donor, in this group of half siblings, and more are on the way. “It’s wild when we see them all together — they all look alike,” said Ms. Daily, 48, a social worker in the Washington area who sometimes vacations with other families in her son’s group.

But...

Now, there is growing concern among parents, donors and medical experts about potential negative consequences of having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare diseases could be spread more widely through the population. Some experts are even calling attention to the increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.

Read the entire article.

Posted by Ellen at 03:56 PM eMail this entry!
September 02, 2011
I Shall Call It, "Cyborgeetle-inator"

"AMCGLTD," we hear you ask, "I've figured out how to turn insects into remote controlled spies ready to do my bidding, but I can't make the batteries small enough. My madcap plans for world domination cannot be held up because of that stupid Energizer Bunny! What can I do?"

Fear not, kind Doofenshmirtzian, DARPA is here to help!

Posted by scott at 10:47 AM eMail this entry!
September 01, 2011
Femtowha?

It seems the fate of the Standard Model may be decided before Thanksgiving. The Large Hadron Collider is collecting data so efficiently that the experiments designed to prove (or disprove) the existence of the Higgs particle, predicted by the Standard Model to be the transmitter of the force of gravity, may be completed much sooner than expected. This evidence will likely determine if the Standard Model, which has held up so well over the past 40 years, is complete, or if it must be discarded for another theory.

Posted by scott at 02:40 PM eMail this entry!
August 31, 2011
Diesel, with Chinese Characteristics

In the "never think any science is useless file" we found the discovery that poo from China's giant panda may end up being the key that unlocks efficient biodiesel production. It seems there's an enzyme in there that allows the panda to convert 95 percent of the plant matter it ingests into energy. It's hoped that, once the enzyme is synthesized, it will allow the creation of a cheaper process for converting plant matter into biodiesel.

Anything that puts hajji closer to the breadline...

Posted by scott at 02:08 PM eMail this entry!
Sing a Song

Scientists have discovered the specific area of the brain that keeps a Rick Astley song stuck in your head until you go mad. By studying volunteers with different kinds of dementia, as well as healthy people, an area of the brain called the right anterior temporal lobe has been discovered to have a primary role in musical remembrance.

Hang on a minute... "volunteers with different kinds of dementia"?

Posted by scott at 12:22 PM eMail this entry!
August 29, 2011
A Great Circle of Life

It's everything the shrieking chimps on my side of the peanut gallery ever wanted: scientists have discovered a microbe that eats newspapers and craps gasoline. Ok, not gasoline, but something really close to it. If we could only find one that ate columnists. Or, you know, at least Olberman. I kid, I kid...

Seriously, though. Gas has been so high for so long there are now, what, six, seven different groups chasing microbes that poop diesel or something like it? I desperately want one of these bunches to go public, because which ever one of them hits the jackpot will quite literally change the world.

Posted by scott at 08:03 PM eMail this entry!
August 28, 2011
Theory Evidence: Not Yours

Evidence from the Large Hadron Collider seems to be burying the simpler supersymmetry theories. In other worse, the bazillion dollar big science toy is actually starting to do its job.

Posted by scott at 11:32 AM eMail this entry!
August 27, 2011
I'm All For It

A scientist who was involved in cloning Dolly the sheep 15 years ago has started work on a new technique to clone rare Scottish wildcats.

Embryologist Dr Bill Ritchie said the project could help protect the species which is thought to numb>er about 400 cats in the wild.

Bring back the Scottish MEOW!

Posted by Ellen at 06:57 PM eMail this entry!
August 26, 2011
Deniers Gonna Deny

A report detailing scientific findings of a study on how cosmic rays interact with cloud formation is likely to force "substantial revision" of existing climate models. Science will always provide the right answer, until provided with new data. Then it will provide a new, right answer. Keep that in mind the next time a green proposes... well... anything.

Posted by scott at 06:53 AM eMail this entry!
Molecule You

By using a sophisticated imaging technique who's description made my head explode, scientists have directly imaged the orbits of a molecule's electrons. What good does it do? Who cares! They're taking pictures of molecules, man! The article does mention something about designer molecules, but by that point I was all, "vibrating wha???" Anyway, sounds good enough to me!

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
August 25, 2011
Furry Fossil Find

A spectacular fossil found in China is bringing the fossil record of mammals more in line with the DNA evidence of their, our, evolution. Juramaia sinensis was only a few inches long, but displays the unmistakable characteristics of a placental mammal 35 million years earlier than any other previous fossil.

Posted by scott at 10:54 AM eMail this entry!
Flipper Fun

Scientists believe a fishing technique known as "conching" is slowly spreading through an Australian population of dolphins. Considering how long dolphins have been around, you'd think they would've figured it out sooner.

Posted by scott at 06:12 AM eMail this entry!
August 24, 2011
Y Migration

A new genetic study is calling the conventional story of just how Europe was populated into question. Previously, it was thought farmers from the plains of central Turkey gradually displaced the hunter-gatherer tribes native to the region. A recent Y chromosome study seems to indicate that the hunter-gatherers stayed where they were, and just changed jobs.

Posted by scott at 08:23 AM eMail this entry!
The End of Swimmer Shaving?

Scientists have developed a wetsuit that promises to let swimmers go faster. The trick? Extra-long artificial "hairs" that go right through the thing, which, according to the guys who invented it, allows the swimmer to more effectively feel and therefore control the water flow around them. Thing is, last I heard the "in thing" was to shave the whole body for competition. Of course, that was more than twenty years ago. These kids, always thinking up new things!

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
August 23, 2011
Lager Lead

Important science find: the ancestor of the yeast responsible for lager has been found in the forests of Patagonia. It's thought the yeast managed to hitch-hike back over the Atlantic, where it was inadvertently hybridized and, eventually, turned into the species which is used by brewers the world over today.

Posted by scott at 07:56 AM eMail this entry!
August 22, 2011
Ancient Rotten Eggs

Scientists have announced the discovery fossils which may represent the oldest direct evidence of life on the early Earth. These sulfur-processing microbes lived a whopping 3.4 billion years ago, and their discovery may provide insights into if, how, and where Mars may have developed life as well.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
August 19, 2011
Bullet Bombs

Scientists have announced the development of an innovative warhead material. The substance is a combination of metal and polymers which is more destructive than a standard explosive and also strong enough to be shaped into the nose of, say, a missile or even a bullet. The result is said to be a much more destructive "kill," that also reduces collateral damage.

Posted by scott at 02:42 PM eMail this entry!
Dead Fabulous

A new survey of ancient Egyptian mummies has revealed they spent as much time preserving their hair as they did the rest of their bodies. Seems like priests and priestesses shaved their heads, but nobody else did. At least, 3000 years ago in Egypt it was like that, which was when their sample of mummies were created. It's important to keep in mind that, even at that date, the pyramids were already 1500 years old.

Posted by scott at 09:57 AM eMail this entry!
August 15, 2011
Better Than the Trainer in Honeysuckle Rose

An engineering team has developed an innovative trainer to help golfers improve their putting game. No pictures are provided, but the description makes it sound like an elaborate frame that uses wires to ensure the swing is correct and straight. Expensive, yes, but most things in golf seem to be. Me, I fly RC helicopters instead. You can't mow down dragonflies with a golf ball!

Posted by scott at 12:52 PM eMail this entry!
Dark Illusion

The on-again, off-again debate on whether or not dark matter even exists is now on again. I've read enough popular science books to become convinced the stuff probably does exist, but I must admit it all seems really kludge-y. Getting rid of it would make this place conceptually a bit more elegant, in my opinion.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
August 11, 2011
But What About the Sharks?

A new tech start-up is promising drones with infinite endurance using laser power. It's not the first time I've heard of such a scheme, indeed the article mentions a better-known instance when the company in question actually won a prize from NASA for powering a proof-of-concept space elevator prototype. I can't help but wonder how they plan on solving the "over-the-horizon" problem though. Lasers don't exactly bend with the curvature of the Earth, ya know?

Posted by scott at 09:52 AM eMail this entry!
Don't Treat it, Cure it

While it has only been tried on exactly three patients, a new drug treatment holds real promise for being an outright cure for a common form of cancer. Using a re-engineered HIV virus to customize white blood cells has been a technique I've read about for twenty years or more. It's nice to see it finally paying off. Assuming it continues to pay off, that is.

Posted by scott at 08:38 AM eMail this entry!
August 10, 2011
Big Bird

Scientists have found fossil evidence that very large birds once roamed with the dinosaurs. Prior evidence seemed to indicate that Cretaceous birds consisted almost exclusively of crow-sized creatures, but the lower jaw found recently indicates birds which may have stood taller than an ostrich also lived at that time.

Posted by scott at 11:40 AM eMail this entry!
August 09, 2011
Texas: It's Like A Whole Other Continent

Scientists have announced the discovery that Texas was once joined to Antarctica. Once joined 1.1 billion years ago, that is, which puts it so far back it predates just about all known multi-cellular life. Back then that whole part of the world was a blasted wasteland unfit for human habitation. Now that I think about it, Texas really hasn't changed all that much, has it?

Exit, stage right!

Posted by scott at 02:55 PM eMail this entry!
Soopa Weed

Scientists are reporting the discovery of artificial genes in "escapee" weed plants. It seems that, once a crop plant gets out of its field it's then called a weed, and these weeds have been found not only all over the place, but with other artificial genes in their makeup that they could only have gotten through wild interbreeding. While not a doomsday proclamation in and of itself, the findings do provide worrying evidence that it is at least possible that fully wild weeds could one day acquire artificial resistance to widely used weed killers.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
August 08, 2011
~ Diamonds are a Nerd's Best Friend ~

Scientists have announced the ability to create basic computer circuits out of diamond. These new nano-material circuits should allow the construction of far more robust digital devices, able to operate in environments where normal circuitry would fail.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
August 07, 2011
Look What We Found!

Scientists have announced the discovery of a thin band of antimatter circling the Earth. There's enough out there that people are beginning to scheme ways to go out and harvest it. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by scott at 11:06 AM eMail this entry!
August 06, 2011
Tuna Time

Scientists have announced a significant positive step forward in farming blue fin tuna. It would be a massive step forward if aquaculture of this endangered and unfortunately tasty fish can be made economically viable.

Posted by scott at 05:23 PM eMail this entry!
August 05, 2011
~ Got a Condo Made of Stone-ah ~

A genetic study has found that about half of all European men "share king Tut's DNA", which is a classic MSM distortion of, "share a common ancestor with king Tut." The finding is still quite surprising, since Tut himself was a member of a (now) rare haplogroup.

Posted by scott at 07:35 AM eMail this entry!
August 04, 2011
Old Ape

Scientists have announced the discovery of a 20 million year-old ape fossil. It represents the first known instance of cranial remains of an ape of this age.

Posted by scott at 01:46 PM eMail this entry!
Multi-Test

Scientists have finally figured out some tests to see if we really do live in a "multiverse". As I understand it, a lot of conflict between relativity and quantum mechanics, particularly with regard to gravity, can be explained if our universe is just one of many "bubble" universes. And that's about as far as I can get, since the physicists who's books I've read sort of sputter out at that point because they can't use the right sort of math in a popular science book. Anyway, testing is good!

Posted by scott at 09:09 AM eMail this entry!
August 03, 2011
I Shall Call It, "BugDiesel"

More hurdles seem to have been cleared in the effort to get algae to poop diesel. Last I heard the stumbling block was in making sure regular algae didn't contaminate the engineered kind. That's not mentioned at all here, so either a) they've fixed it or b) they've got enough money to build some sort of big factory that'll put the critters in a white room. Bonus: the greens better damned well love it because it eats CO2 as part of the process. Double bonus: puts hajji that much closer to the breadline. Triple bonus: creates American jorbs!!!

Posted by scott at 09:33 AM eMail this entry!
Yoga. You Seek Yoga!

A new report published in the medical journal Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation is extolling the virtues of yoga-based therapy in treating many kinds of common injuries. Doesn't seem like it would be a big deal to just try it.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
August 01, 2011
Glow Dog

Scientists have announced the birth of a genetically modified beagle that glows in the dark. The modification is actually a rather routine proof-of-concept that should pave the way for more meaningful alterations which could help advance any number of medical research projects.

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM eMail this entry!
Bug Helmets

Just when you thought the insect world was done with surprises, someone comes along to explain something like an insect which uses a re-activated gene to alter a body part to look like an aggressive ant. It's actually uglier than the bug that imitates bird poo, which turns out to be a cousin. Nature can be a damned strange place, I tell ya...

Posted by scott at 11:38 AM eMail this entry!
July 29, 2011
Sub Cloak

Another day, another new technique to make submarines invisible. Covering something in a mesh that leaves water completely undisturbed after an object passes is all well and good, but if it only works for sugarcube-sized objects barely moving at all, I'm not sure how practical it will be. Still, gotta start somewhere.

Posted by scott at 09:06 AM eMail this entry!
U R So Cool!!! :)

Slashdot has a whole set of links regarding new research that attempts to predict gender based on twitter posts. I've got a much simpler rule: they're all male federal agents.

Well, thank you, but I already have a foil hat that fits better than this one. Maybe you should think about using it yourself?

Posted by scott at 06:27 AM eMail this entry!
July 28, 2011
The Billion Year-Old Zit

Scientists have announced the discovery that several of the most massive volcanic eruptions on Earth in the past 250 million years share the same magma source. Better still, this source seems to be made up of primordial material that's essentially unchanged since the planet was formed. If further investigations hold up the conclusion, it will fundamentally change how geologists look at the composition of the planet.

Posted by scott at 04:20 PM eMail this entry!
Tomb Time

Archeologists have announced the discovery of an apostle's tomb in south east Turkey. I'm not familiar with St. Philip, but (being a heathen) I guess I shouldn't expect to be. I'm always surprised at how many ancient Christian sites of such importance end up being completely lost to history.

Posted by scott at 08:53 AM eMail this entry!
July 27, 2011
When Extinct Chickens Attack

A new scientific study is proposing to boot Archeopteryx from the base of the bird family tree and replace it with a previously unknown chicken-sized dinosaur. Everyone seems to concede the idea has merit, but needs more data and examination. While women and minorities will of course be hardest hit by this revelation, Archeopteryxes (Archeopteryxii?) are expected to continue being important to science.

Posted by scott at 02:57 PM eMail this entry!
Owl Eyes

Scientists have found evidence that dark winters caused humans living in higher latitudes to evolve larger eyes. Brain size, presumably to process the extra optic information, also increased. Unfortunately the article doesn't specify by just how much, but, since humans have lived in such high latitudes for a comparatively short period of time, it does show how elastic our genes can be when confronted with new environmental pressures.

Posted by scott at 09:27 AM eMail this entry!
July 26, 2011
Dog Croc

Scientists have discovered a fossil crocodile which looks, and probably lived, more like a wild dog than a swamp king. I'm pretty much fine with this thing being extinct.

Posted by scott at 09:41 AM eMail this entry!
July 20, 2011
Footfall

A new look at some very old footprints is providing even more evidence that our ancient ancestors walked in a way nearly identical to our own. The evidence for bipedalism has been pushed back so far now it's my understanding some scientists are mulling over the idea that the ancestor we share with chimpanzees may have had this ability, and part of the chimp's evolution was its loss.

Posted by scott at 10:16 AM eMail this entry!
July 19, 2011
No More Complaining About Your Dry Spell

Scientists have determined that some species of stick insect have gone without sexual reproduction for more than a million years. The conclusion was reached after genetically analyzing stick insect species known to reproduce via cloning. It's thought the information will provide insight into various reproductive issues. Oh, and the bugs are damned ugly, too.

Posted by scott at 10:09 AM eMail this entry!
July 18, 2011
The Caveman in the Woodpile

Scientists have announced the discovery that all non-African humans have Neandertal DNA in their genes. It's thought the admixture was created mostly in the Middle East as our ancestors made their way out of Africa. The study confirms other evidence brought to light in the years since the Neandertal genome was sequenced.

Posted by scott at 03:09 PM eMail this entry!
July 14, 2011
Pill Prevention

Scientists have announced a breakthrough treatment which promises significant protection from the HIV virus. It's hoped this will provide another alternative for third-world prevention of the disease, since various other well-known techniques have proven stubbornly ineffective in the face of such traditional societies' values.

Posted by scott at 01:07 PM eMail this entry!
Definitely not a Prince

A toad not seen in the wild for more than 80 years has been found again, and boy, is it urgly!. No, Ellen, you can't have one.

Posted by scott at 09:43 AM eMail this entry!
July 13, 2011
Mind the Gap

Scientists think that a newly discovered dinosaur fossil has finally closed the "three meter gap." Seems that what we didn't learn in school was (until now) no dinosaur fossils had been found in the sediments laid down just before the KT boundary, leading many scientists to claim dinosaurs were on their way out long before the sky fell on them. Will it end the debate? Is a bear Polish?

Posted by scott at 03:33 PM eMail this entry!
July 11, 2011
That's a Crappy Way to Travel

Scientists have discovered tiny snails with the ability to survive a bird's digestive system and emerge intact and alive out the other side. The survival rate is still low, 15%, but represents a previously unknown method of snail distribution.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
Fish Tools

A scuba diver in Australia may have captured photos of the first known case of tool use... in fish. Banging things on a rock to make them do what you want may not constitute tool use to some people, but it represents a valuable technique for shade tree mechanics the world over.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
July 09, 2011
Sand...More Than Just Grit

Next time you walk on sand remember this!

Incredible!

Posted by Ellen at 11:17 AM eMail this entry!
July 08, 2011
Big Bite

UK Scientists have unveiled the skull of one of the largest predators ever to swim the seas. The "Dorset pliosaur" represent a new species or even genus, and is one of the best preserved skulls of the type yet found.

Posted by scott at 06:28 AM eMail this entry!
July 07, 2011
When Irish Bears are Smiling

A new genetic study has revealed extinct Irish bears are the maternal ancestors of all living polar bears. Article helpfully includes an "oh, hai!!!" picture of a bear.

Posted by scott at 03:08 PM eMail this entry!
NOS Parts for People

Scientists have announced the first successful transplant of a fully synthetic organ. By using an innovative new technique to create a "scaffold" for adult stem cells, an international team were able to fashion a completely new windpipe for a patient who's original was damaged by inoperable cancer. This definitely sounds more complex than something like a bladder. Can even more complex regeneration be far behind?

Posted by scott at 02:12 PM eMail this entry!
July 05, 2011
Sleep Light

Scientists are beginning to find evidence that the color of the lights we surround ourselves with and stare at can affect how well we sleep at night. The article is long on interesting implications we should all sit around in the dark, but short on emphasizing how preliminary the findings are. Still, it does suggest experiments anyone can do. Just shut the computer and smartphone off one hour before bed and leave them off.

Hang on. Someone go fetch smelling salts or something. Ellen just passed out at the very thought.

Posted by scott at 02:18 PM eMail this entry!
Hope of an Age

Scientists have announced a possible treatment for the remarkable, and cruel, genetic disease progeria. This disease, which causes children to develop the signs of rapid aging as toddlers and deadly age-related diseases as teenagers, is caused by exactly one genetic defect. Study and treatment of the disease holds the promise of wider applications in people who age normally.

Posted by scott at 08:55 AM eMail this entry!
July 01, 2011
A Distant Light

Scientists have discovered a "monster" driving a cosmic beacon. What I grew up knowing as a quasar has now been spotted so far back in the universe's history it is surrounded by a significant amount of the gas which is thought to have constituted the universe before stars were born.

Posted by scott at 09:47 AM eMail this entry!
~ Singin' in the Bowl / Just Singin' in the Bowl ~

By using high-speed photography, scientists have figured out the secret behind Tibetan singing bowls. The discoveries may help shed light on other fluid systems, such as fuel injection. Article helpfully includes a picture of what an old Englishman can do when one of these plays.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
June 30, 2011
Down on the Ant Farm

No, not the kind of ant farm that lives between plates of glass, I'm talking about an ant farm where the ants are herding livestock. It hasn't been conclusively proven that this specific species of ant actually is farming meat, but it seems likely.

Posted by scott at 09:49 AM eMail this entry!
June 29, 2011
Metal Power

Robert H. gets a no-prize that'll power a soon-to-be-extinct light bulb for bringing us news that scientists at the University of Minnesota have created a metal alloy that generates electricity when it gets hot. Exactly how much electricity is created, and how much this alloy costs to construct, isn't clear, but they gotta start somewhere.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
June 28, 2011
Lip Puff Pow

A new study claims the shape of a woman's lip can predict how likely a woman is to achieve orgasm. Ok, ladies, no problem, we'll wait. Done looking in the mirror? Good. And you all thought we were silly about that whole finger length thing.

Posted by scott at 01:05 PM eMail this entry!
June 27, 2011
~ 'Cause There Ain't No One for to Give You No Pain ~

Climate change, for the rest of us: the Sahara Desert is growing greener, at an unprecedented pace. The source? National Geographic News. Which is too bad, really. Hopefully the zealots will leave some trace after they're done punishing them for such heresy.

Posted by scott at 02:46 PM eMail this entry!
June 23, 2011
Paging Borat, White Courtesy Phone Please

A macabre discovery in an ancient well has provided scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to study life, and death, as a Medieval Jew in Britain. Includes gratuitous "everything looks like a nail" quotes from the lead scientist, who's quotes make it seem as if they're mistaking Norfolk for Kosovo.

Posted by scott at 12:44 PM eMail this entry!
Shell Game

A clever new experiment has confirmed a forty year-old prediction about quantum mechanics. The article starts out by saying it proves a particle can be in three places at once, but finishes by implying other things. Quantum mechanics is cool, but makes my head hurt. You go figure it out.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
June 21, 2011
That's One Way to Do It

Leave it to the Germans to solve the problem of an archeological dig by cranking the whole site out of the ground and carting it away. Definitely does away with the pesky bugs and occasional sunstroke often inflicted on the volunteers and scientists on your typical dig.

Posted by scott at 03:34 PM eMail this entry!
Compass Vision

So, do humans sense magnetic fields, and if so, how? The answer, it seems is all in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully needing glasses won't affect whatever this may be, because if it is I'm sunk.

Posted by scott at 12:17 PM eMail this entry!
June 20, 2011
Regen, Oo-rah!

By using a new hormone treatment and an innovative surgical matrix, doctors have developed a therapy which could substantially reduce the number of amputations required because of trauma. War is always the worst way to discover new technologies, but I'll take what it provides.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
June 18, 2011
Bodies of The Bog

Over the past few centuries, and likely before then, men harvesting peat in European bogs have struck upon remarkable and, to the peat cutters, no doubt frightening discoveries. More than a thousand bog bodies and skeletons have come to light, and scientists now have the means to study the remains in such detail that they can, in a sense, resurrect these ancient people.

See the map and the mummies themselves!

Also 10 ways to make a mummy.

Posted by Ellen at 10:07 PM eMail this entry!
I Put A Hissssss On You, and Now You Die

The man who mesmerized generations of paying customers from 1947 to 1984 by extracting venom at his Miami Serpentarium as a spine-tingling South Florida attraction is dead.

He died of natural causes on Wednesday in Punta Gorda, on Florida’s west coast, where he had made his home.

He was 100 years old.

The key to longevity here...play with snakes. Venomous ones.

Posted by Ellen at 07:36 AM eMail this entry!
June 17, 2011
Arrrr!!!

A new archeological expedition to the famed pirate Blackbeard's shipwreck has revealed insights into the tactics he used in attacking his prey. Improvised munitions such as bags of shrapnel and chained cannonballs indicate clever uses of limited materials. Still no word of the treasure, though...

Posted by scott at 09:17 AM eMail this entry!
Can't Be Any More Annoying Than the Original

Pleased to be welcoming Spongiforma squarepantsii, the latest in that oh-so-rare category of "named" fungus species. The article doesn't seem to mention if it's edible or not. Coming to a pineapple-shaped house near you!

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
June 16, 2011
Dances with Whales

Robert H. gets a no-prize that'll be embarrassed when it takes off its swim trunks for bringing us the story of the naked yoga instructor and the beluga whales. It seems the thinking is belugas do not like being touched by artificial stuff, so some folks in north-west Russia chucked the previously noted naked yoga expert into the (nearly freezing) water with them, to see if she had an easier time taming them. No, really! Article contains artsy-ish sort of "nud" pictures, so if that'll get you in trouble at work, wait 'till you get home.

Posted by scott at 05:35 PM eMail this entry!
June 15, 2011
Good Thing Only Prostitutes Live There

Scientists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were inspecting the Martis Creek Dam, which sits just outside Truckee, Calif., and about 35 miles upstream from Reno. It is one of 10 dams in the United States that has “urgent and compelling” safety concerns, according to the Corps, which owns the dam. Data from the most recent evaluation revealed that, not only does the dam have significant leakage, it also lies in close proximity to not two, but three fault zones.

Introducing the Polaris Fault.

Posted by Ellen at 07:31 PM eMail this entry!
June 14, 2011
Renaissance Darwin

How do I meete myne maker? Lette me counte the wase. People have been dying in amusingly macabre ways throughout history. I guess it's just the thought of all those elaborate clothes, coupled with the existence of actual records, that makes the Tudor era more informative in this respect than any previous time.

Posted by scott at 01:54 PM eMail this entry!
June 13, 2011
Cell Light

Scientists have announced the creation of cells which can create laser beams. By using a common genetic engineering trick to get specific cells to glow and then bathing them in a special sort of light, green laser light was detected emitting from them. Aside from the endless Dr. Evil imitations this enables, the development is also thought to hold promise for new types of light therapies and medical imaging.

Posted by scott at 11:53 AM eMail this entry!
June 08, 2011
Barefoot in the Park

So, is it really better to run barefoot? On the face of it, it's hard to argue that a few decades of running shoes would better the few million years of evolution on the savannah. As usual, human obstinacy can easily overcome both. It'd never occurred to me that shoes make you walk (or run) differently, but that's what a cyclist gets for thinking about running.

Posted by scott at 03:20 PM eMail this entry!
June 06, 2011
Anti-Bottle

By using new techniques and technology, scientists at CERN have massively increased the time antimatter can be held for study. It's still only 15 minutes, so we're not going to see the stuff powering a starship any time soon, but it should allow much more extensive experiments to understand the nature of this exotic stuff.

Posted by scott at 06:57 AM eMail this entry!
June 04, 2011
Quantum Nose

Theories that the sense of smell may be intimately related to quantum physics are gaining respectability. Most importantly, they seem to also be gaining testability. The research could lead to chemical sensors far more sensitive than anything available today. And, you know, a lot of head-crunchingly hard math.

Posted by scott at 01:58 PM eMail this entry!
June 03, 2011
Quantum Work-Around

Scientists have announced an experiment that seems to show a subatomic particle's location and it's speed at the same time. A closer reading reveals it's not really a violation of Heisenberg's uncertainty principal, but it probably does mean something important. Exactly what, I don't know. My head always gets all 'asplodey when it comes to quantum mechanics.

Posted by scott at 03:42 PM eMail this entry!
A Very Quick One-Way Ticket to Midnight

The heaviest elements yet discovered have now officially joined the periodic table. The as-yet-unnamed elements 114 and 116 exist for only fractions of a second before decaying into other stuff, but they do represent progress toward an "island of stability" which could see the creation of new super-heavy elements that can last for years or longer. Because nothing says safety like physicists creating artificial super-heavy, long-lived elements in the lab.

Posted by scott at 01:55 PM eMail this entry!
June 02, 2011
The Persistence of Memory

Scientists are making progress figuring out why it's so difficult to recall early memories of childhood. I believe I can recall events in my own childhood very far back, but it's very difficult to confirm this sort of thing nowadays.

Posted by scott at 02:46 PM eMail this entry!
Fish Gotta Swim, Hominids Gotta Move

By examining isotopes found in tooth enamel, scientists have discovered that our ancient ancestral sisters moved around, while our ancestral brothers stayed put. This is a pretty common pattern for human societies even today, although I'm not clever enough to beat Wikipedia into letting me know if it has a name. Using Australopethicids instead of a later species means the sample size is very small, so it will be interesting to see if the discovery holds up.

Posted by scott at 11:44 AM eMail this entry!
Gold Worm, Red Worm

Scientists have discovered complex multicellular life-forms living at depths in the Earth's crust far below what was previously thought possible. While nematode worms aren't much to look at, their survival in such inhospitable environs suggests that places like Mars may not be as uninhabitable as previously thought.

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June 01, 2011
No, You Cannot Spread Them On Biscuits

Posted by Ellen at 09:59 PM eMail this entry!
May 29, 2011
Shocking Trombones

Scientists have captured images of supersonic shock waves exiting a trombone. First predicted in 1995, these shock waves are a quirk of the instrument, and not something found with other instruments. I guess that's where the distinctive "blat" sound comes from. With video!

Posted by scott at 12:07 PM eMail this entry!
Pyramid Find

Scientists have announced the discovery of mysterious markings along the walls of an obscure passage inside Egypt's Great Pyramid. Bonus: It seems the magician who advised the pharaoh building the pyramid was named "Djedi." No, really!

Posted by scott at 07:39 AM eMail this entry!
May 26, 2011
Ancient Giant

A new fossil find has revealed the world's earliest-known giant critter got bigger, and lived longer, than anyone previously realized. In a world where "big" started at about six inches and went DOWN, the two (and now three) foot anomalocaridids must've been amazing, terrifying creatures.

Update: Fox News has a CGI model of the critter. It's OOOGLY!!!

Posted by scott at 08:42 AM eMail this entry!
May 25, 2011
Sandbox Lost & Found

By using new infrared imaging techniques, scientists have used survey satellites to find dozens of previously unknown archeology sites in Egypt. The finds seem to include a few (presumably smallish) pyramids. Every time I think Egypt couldn't possibly have more things to find, I'm proven wrong.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
May 24, 2011
Paging R2D2 White Courtesy... Rrmm... Phone?

By allowing robots to develop a language all their own scientists are finding they actually start having things to say. Doesn't seem quite like the "boop-beep" of our titular Star Wars character, but it may be close.

Posted by scott at 10:34 AM eMail this entry!
THUD

An archeological journal has published details of a recently discovered bronze-age battlefield in what is now Germany. It represents possibly the earliest-known evidence of warfare in European history.

Posted by scott at 07:09 AM eMail this entry!
May 23, 2011
Meso Vista Ahoy

Mark gets a no-prize on a boat that'll eventually cause a different set of loons to predict the end of the world for bringing us news that not only did the Maya have a strong seafaring tradition, they left behind enough of it for the modern world to study. Apparently Columbus's actually described the long canoes the Maya used to trade all manner of goods across the Western Hemisphere.

Posted by scott at 10:01 PM eMail this entry!
May 20, 2011
Triumph, Glory, Brutality

British archeologists have announced the grim discovery of what happens to the spoils after the victor is done with them. Such brutality is common in war, even today, which is yet another reason to avoid it whenever possible.

Posted by scott at 01:28 PM eMail this entry!
Stand, and Walk Again

A revolutionary form of therapy is promising unprecedented hope to spinal cord injury victims. By using a pacemaker-like device to send electric pulses at strategic points on the spine, at least one paraplegic has gained the ability to stand and control other body functions. Exactly how it all works isn't covered in the article, but that it does is in no doubt.

Posted by scott at 08:16 AM eMail this entry!
May 19, 2011
Sticky Life

Scientists have published a new study which describes an alternative, non-Darwinian, method of evolution. Chemical defects in protein structures make them more likely to stick together, and therefore begin to work together. It's not meant to replace evolution, but supplement it.

Posted by scott at 09:32 AM eMail this entry!
May 17, 2011
Hard Old Heart

Scientists have announced the discovery of the earliest known case of heart disease. The "patient" is a 3500 year-old royal Egyptian mummy scanned as part of a larger project to scan 52 mummies for various diseases. The finding provides evidence that these sorts of diseases are not limited to the modern era.

Posted by scott at 03:32 PM eMail this entry!
Revisions, Revisions...

Color me unsurprised: a new, more accurate model of how glaciers melt show that sea levels will not rise as high as previously predicted. I can already hear the shouts of "apostasy!" and "heretic!" from the left side of the peanut gallery. Attacking religious beliefs tends to do that, ya know...

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
May 16, 2011
Paging Mary Poppins, White Courtesy Phone Please

It looks like a spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine. It doesn't just make it easier to take; scientists have discovered it also helps antibiotics shut down infectious bacteria that otherwise is resistant to standard treatment protocols. So much for that whole, "sugar is poison!!!" meme that ran through the newsrooms a few weeks ago, eh?

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
May 13, 2011
Last Stand

Scientists have announced the discovery of what may be the Nenderthal's final refuge. The find consists of fossils and tool kits consistent with our cold-weather cousins dating to about 30,000 years ago. As with anything in anthropology, the findings are important but contentious.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
May 12, 2011
Holy Face!

From the BBC.

How A Fetus Gets A Face. From the show: "Inside the Human Body."

Posted by Ellen at 08:52 PM eMail this entry!
May 11, 2011
A Whole New Face

His injury happened in November 2008 when Wiens, now 26, was painting his church as a volunteer: His head got too close to a high-voltage power line, and he lost almost his entire face from the burns.

For 90 days, doctors kept him in a medically induced coma while they performed surgeries and he breathed through a ventilator. Many people didn't think he'd make it out of the intensive care unit, Janis said Monday.

But he did survive. Janis connected with Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Burn Unit director at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts, who had previously performed a partial face transplant. Pomahac became the team leader for more than 30 medical professionals who would take part in Wiens' surgery.

With video!

Science is an amazing thing!

Posted by Ellen at 05:58 AM eMail this entry!
May 09, 2011
Watch Out for Zombies

If this article is true, my daughter is the smartest person on the planet. So is every other kid out there. If the research leads to treatment, I'm ... oooh! Shiny!

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
May 05, 2011
Tales of Epic Sea Battle Found!

The size and spacing of the tooth marks on the specimen found do not match any potential predators or prey, but are consistent with bites from another ichthyosaur.
Check out the entire story with pixes here!

Posted by Ellen at 07:20 PM eMail this entry!
May 04, 2011
Bot Proof

By using a simulation of small robots (yes, simulated robots, keep up here) scientists claim to have found proof for a fundamental, and apparently controversial, evolutionary theory. Seems like there's been one of those classic slow-motion flame wars you sometimes get in academic journals about this theory recently. As with all such dusty-deadly book fights, the other side is sticking to their guns and not buying any of it.

Posted by scott at 10:25 AM eMail this entry!
Cat Dog

A new study of the famous "Tasmanian tiger" has revealed the creature probably hunted more like a cat than a wolf. It seems the unique environment in which it evolved lead to unique adaptations in the way it hunted.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
May 02, 2011
Sun Calling

Scientists have discovered the sun may be influencing the rate of radioactive decay of elements on the Earth. What was once thought to be a universal constant has turned out to not be so constant after all.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
April 30, 2011
Before and After- Tornado Style

Remember those tsunami before and after images you can play with?

Now you have just as much horrifying fun with the Alabama tornados!

It just goes to remind you to be grateful for what you have on a daily basis. Not only did people lose their lives, but their homes, businesses and their communities.

Posted by Ellen at 01:35 PM eMail this entry!
April 28, 2011
Dillo of DOOM!

Scientists have found proof armadillos can transmit leprosy to humans. Fortunately the disease is curable nowadays, although the damage it does can't be reversed. As if I needed a reason to stay away from the darned things...

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
April 22, 2011
Skintastic

Scientists have released a study which claims current synthetic skin products are every bit as good as the real stuff, at least when it comes to animal testing. Keeping Mr. Rat away from the makeup testing is all well and good, but I'm curious about the potential for burn victims. Oh, and the possibilities for complicating the lives of vegans with extra choices in footwear sound fun, too.

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
April 21, 2011
Frikken Combusters

Scientists in Japan have announced the development of lasers small enough and tough enough to replace the venerable spark plug in an internal combustion engine. Such devices should allow increases in power and fuel economy, along with reduced emissions.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
April 20, 2011
Spooky Computing

Scientists have announced the successful use of quantum entanglement to transmit information without loss. Use in quantum computers is all well and good, but I have to wonder if this also points the way toward a method of communication which is unaffected by the speed of light.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
Kites of Death

Scientists have, for the first time, confirmed that ancient structures known as "desert kites" were in fact used for the mass slaughter of gazelles. The emphasis on what an environmental disaster this practice was is a predictable anachronism. The regional population of gazelle fell, yes, but the world did not run out of them. People were far too busy with more important concerns, like not starving or getting slaughtered themselves by competing warlords.

Posted by scott at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
April 15, 2011
Natural Language

Scientists have released a new study of human language that reveals its evolution was more complex than previously thought. It seems that the idea that our brains are computers with language "chips" installed in them isn't supported by the data.

Posted by scott at 06:55 AM eMail this entry!
April 13, 2011
Not So Stone Age Fabulous

Per usual, other scientists don't think the "gay cave man" was, well, gay. Instead, they find the idea of a "3rd gender" more likely. Because that's a lot different from a guy who likes to kiss other guys or dress up like a woman. Much different.

Not that there's anything wrong with that (obligatory)

Posted by scott at 07:03 AM eMail this entry!
April 09, 2011
It's Taken Them This Long?

Scientists are now claiming going "cold turkey" by giving up a smart phone may produce withdrawal-like symptoms. I've seen Ellen panic, pure, wild-eyed panic, over only two things in her life... her child, and her phone. The time it takes her to get the former to the hospital compares favorably with the time it takes her to get the latter to the Verizon store.

Posted by scott at 08:52 AM eMail this entry!
April 07, 2011
Stone Age Fabulous

Scientists have announced the discovery of "the world's first gay cave man." The individual, a member of the "corded ware" society, lived about five thousand years ago in what is today a suburb of Prague. He was found to be buried in a way normally reserved only for women, right up to grave goods associated with getting a sammich.

Posted by scott at 06:27 AM eMail this entry!
April 04, 2011
Moo Cow Mom

Robert H. gets one of the less expected no-prizes for bringing us news that Chinese scientists have genetically engineered cattle to produce something resembling human milk. The "ick" factor is high with this one. Then again, if it keeps little kids from starving, how bad can it be? Added bonus: it gets the anti-GM crowd, purest of the pure green fanatics, in an absolute froth. That must be a good thing.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
April 02, 2011
Cranking the Nights Away

Every time I turn around, it seems like someone's made a new discovery about the Antikythera mechanism, that utterly unprecedented computer from the ancient world. This time, it turns out to have included the ability to vary the motion of the moon and the sun as it made its various calculations. Goodness only knows how much this thing really cost to build.

Posted by scott at 07:40 AM eMail this entry!
March 31, 2011
~ Because It's Only a Potato Earth / Sitting Under a Geoid Sky ~

Yeah, I guess when you exaggerate the Earth's gravitational field in a photo, it does sorta look like a potato. Personally, I'm wondering just why the variations are where they are.

Posted by scott at 03:13 PM eMail this entry!
March 26, 2011
That's An Old Brain!

A 2,500-year-old human skull uncovered in England was less of a surprise than what was in it: the brain. The discovery of the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain prompted questions about how such a fragile organ could have survived so long and how frequently this strange type of preservation occurs.
Pretty cool!!
Posted by Ellen at 12:10 PM eMail this entry!
March 25, 2011
Magical Mystery Life

By studying genetic material floating around in the ocean, scientists have discovered tantalizing evidence that a fourth domain of life may exist, previously undiscovered, on Earth. It may be some sort of virus. It may be something we've been mistaking for bacteria. Heck it might be the Obama administration's backbone. Nobody knows.

Posted by scott at 07:11 AM eMail this entry!
March 24, 2011
~ Power's To Become Cheap and Clean ~

Scientists have developed a new catalyst for fuel cells that is just as powerful but costs a fraction of platinum-based catalysts in current use. Even better: these carbon nanotube-based items don't "rot" the same way their platinum equivalents do, and can run on fuel that's easier to store than raw hydrogen.

Posted by scott at 02:53 PM eMail this entry!
March 22, 2011
Old Experiment, New Results

By examining 50 year-old leftover samples, scientists have discovered evidence that the primordial Earth may have had a much more sophisticated soup of organic compounds than previously thought. And that, folks, is why experimental evidence is seldom, if ever, thrown away on purpose.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
March 16, 2011
The Health of the King

A different group of scientists are proposing (yet another) set of reasons to explain why Henry VIII fell apart. This time, it's a genetic disorder combined with a rare blood type that did the deed. Ya know, it obviously won't kill the guy to maybe take a sample or two from his body. Yeah, I get it, "good luck convincing Queenie to dig up the floor of her personal chapel" and all that. Ah, well...

Posted by scott at 10:12 AM eMail this entry!
March 15, 2011
Evolving Cooperation

A new survey of existing hunter-gatherer bands has validated a new theory about how, and why, the human/chimpanzee split occurred. By confirming through genetic surveys that hunter-gatherer groups are actually not strongly related to each other, scientists have confirmed a prediction of the new theory that it was our ancestors' ability to recognize and cooperate with each other that started us on the road to humanity.

Posted by scott at 09:31 AM eMail this entry!
March 14, 2011
Laser Scribe

Scientists have announced the development of a scribing technique which could allow the creation of cheaper, more powerful solar power cells. The proof-of-concept project is set to run for 3 years, at the end of which we will presumably know if this will, well, actually work or not.

Posted by scott at 10:55 AM eMail this entry!
Lost and Found

A group of scientists are claiming to have discovered the iconic city of Atlantis. This time, it's buried under a mud flat in southern Spain. We missed the premiere of the documentary mentioned, but it's on the Tivo's schedule now. Makes for a nice idea, it'll be interesting to see just what they've found.

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM eMail this entry!
March 12, 2011
Lost World

Scientists have announced the discovery of a community the likes of which the world hasn't seen in perhaps sixty-five million years. True, crinoids aren't as glamorous as, say, a Tyrannosaur, but the find is remarkable nonetheless.

Posted by scott at 08:24 AM eMail this entry!
March 10, 2011
The More You Know...

I'm sure most folks in the audience are glad the 3% of our genetic make-up that isn't chimpanzee includes the bit that turns off spines on the male penis. Being humans, I'm sure there are some folks in the peanut gallery who are disappointed.

Posted by scott at 07:10 AM eMail this entry!
Bio-Break

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have announced the development of a more powerful biofuel which uses decaying grass instead of corn. Which is all well and good, until you remember the real reason we use ethanol is it provides a back-door subsidy for corn farmers. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
God's Fist

A National Geographic field team has announced the discovery of an impact crater in central Africa. It represents the first confirmed crater found in the area. Currently the impactor is thought to have been about half a mile across, but it's still unclear just when it happened.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
March 08, 2011
Spare Hose

Scientists are reporting successfully creating and implanting artificial urethrae into humans. No, it's not the most glamorous application, but if the alternative is a permanent catheter, I'm all for it.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
March 04, 2011
Which Comes First, the Chicken or the... Dinosaur?

Jack Horner's attempt to create a "chickenosaurus," a genetically modified chicken which expresses dinosaur traits, seem to be making progress. He still seems optimistic, well, as optimistic as Horner ever does, but it sounds like he's beginning to back away from the idea that they'll get a living, breathing example in a few years.

Posted by scott at 12:42 PM eMail this entry!
March 02, 2011
Waves on the Water

A new series of experiments has confirmed the unexpected mechanisms which cause ripples to form on icicles. The research may reveal new ways to, for instance, prevent ice from forming on the wings of airplanes.

Posted by scott at 07:15 AM eMail this entry!
March 01, 2011
I Can Haz Sarah Conner?

Darpa's at it again, this time awarding a contract to have a "cheetah-bot" built. This is the same company that brought us that freaky mule-bot, so I don't doubt they're capable of it. Bonus: they're also working on a Terminator look-alike.

Posted by scott at 07:16 AM eMail this entry!
February 28, 2011
Cranky Old Men Never Change

A new reconstruction of Oetzi, the world-famous "iceman" discovered twenty years ago this year, shows he looked like pretty much what you'd expect of a grizzled veteran of the late neolithic. Every time it seems like science is done with one poor old bastard unfortunate enough to drop dead on the ice, they go and find something new.

Posted by scott at 12:47 PM eMail this entry!
February 26, 2011
A Fungus Among Us

Scientists have announced the development of a genetically engineered fungus which goes after malarial mosquitoes. As someone who grew up in southeast Arkansas, where the mosquitoes would either eat you there or take you home, anything that makes life difficult for the beasties is OK by me.

Posted by scott at 10:41 AM eMail this entry!
February 23, 2011
Cell Boost

A new study has discovered prolonged cell phone use increases brain activity. If this really is true, Ellen and Amber must have the most active brains in human history.

Posted by scott at 07:10 AM eMail this entry!
February 20, 2011
Lost & Found

While the "convincing evidence" seems kinda slim to me, an answer to the mysterious disappearance of an ancient Roman legion may finally have been found. Looks like we've got a nifty fiction movie and another documentary about this coming out soon.

Posted by scott at 10:28 AM eMail this entry!
February 19, 2011
Zip Zappin' Away

US Navy researches have broken records with a new, more powerful version of a free electron laser. Currently the demo version pumps out 14kw, but the Navy has awarded a contract to develop a 100kw variant. Cruise missiles? What cruise missiles?

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM eMail this entry!
February 17, 2011
Just Don't Put It On a Sandwich

As if carbon didn't have enough to do already, scientists are predicting that under very specific conditions, carbon can be turned into a gel. This upends the conventional wisdom about gels, which previously were believed to require a solid and liquid component. Nobody's actually managed to make the stuff, yet, but that can't be far behind.

Posted by scott at 03:47 PM eMail this entry!
February 14, 2011
Paging the Bangles, White Courtesy Phone Please

By carefully re-creating artificial toes (no, really) found in Egyptian tombs, a scientist has found further proof these are not after-death decoration, but are instead actual, and ancient, prostheses. Unfortunately the artifacts weren't accompanied by an instruction manual, and no literary sources seem to reference them, so the jury still stays out.

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
February 11, 2011
Peak Oil Pops

So, the Canadians are becoming our most important source of foreign oil. New technologies have increased the potential of our own domestic oil fields a whopping 2,400%. Can we now put to rest the notions that "peak oil" will somehow doom us all? Secular people roll their eyes at creationists for their obstinate refusal to acknowledge basic facts. Funny, that...

Via Instapundit.

Posted by scott at 06:24 PM eMail this entry!
Foot Bone Find

A recently described hominid fossil is providing even more evidence that Lucy and her kindred walked upright almost exactly the same way we do. Yeah, you'd think by now everyone would be convinced, but anthropologists are a hard-headed bunch.

Posted by scott at 01:53 PM eMail this entry!
February 04, 2011
Yeah, but "Google-ana Jones" Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring

By using Google Earth, armchair archeologists are discovering thousands of sites in places difficult, if not impossible, to survey on the ground. I once went on an archeological "walkabout" in the Nile valley and was stunned at the number of obvious sites that neither I or Wikipedia knew anything about. Maybe there's an ancient library down there somewhere.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
February 01, 2011
*Sniff?!? CANCER! POINT POINT POINT!*

When smelling breath samples the dog's success rate was about 95 per cent and that figure climbed to 98 per cent when smelling stool samples.

Once again, a dog's nose is amazing!

Posted by Ellen at 07:32 PM eMail this entry!
Paging Led Zepplin, White Courtesy Phone Please

A series of experiments seems to confirm Vikings actually did use special "sunstones" to navigate the ocean on foggy days. The polarization of light seems to be the key.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
January 28, 2011
That's Not Natural

Scientists have announced the ability provide a hydrogen disguise for helium. Finding the Universe's Smallest Costume Shop was apparently the toughest part.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal!

Posted by scott at 06:14 PM eMail this entry!
January 27, 2011
Sawing the Peak Clean Off

Making the rounds: a British company has announced the development of a synthetic fuel which can be used in existing automobiles that produces no greenhouse gasses when burned, and could be had for as little as $1.50 per gallon. This has "pipe dream" written on it in titanic green neon letters, but if it DOES turn out to be true, there's at least one hard-left greenie in the peanut gallery who's going to owe me a pizza while he helps me shred all his "peak oil ZOMG! DISASTER!" literature.

Posted by scott at 08:43 AM eMail this entry!
January 25, 2011
Handshake Hell

Ever wonder who you're really talking to when you argue with yourself? Turns out, it may be your "other half." By studying patients who, for one reason or another, have had the hemispheres of their brain disconnected, scientists have determined that the two halves of our brain represent discrete, conscious, and potentially independent entities. This is all fine when everything is wired up properly, but when the wiring goes wrong the results can lead to "Alien Hand Syndrome."

Just when you thought consciousness couldn't get any weirder...

Posted by scott at 09:50 AM eMail this entry!
January 24, 2011
Twisted Firestarter

A new study on Permian-era sediments suggests giant coal fires may have contributed to the mass extinction that killed off as much as 96% of Earth's life forms. For once, the article even details a few of the predictions the theory makes, which means (funds pending) a definitive answer may actually be on the way.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
Yellowstone's Super Volcano

Scientists think a swelling magma reservoir four to six miles (seven to ten kilometers) below the surface is driving the uplift. Fortunately, the surge doesn't seem to herald an imminent catastrophe, Smith said.

Read entire article here.

With video!

Posted by Ellen at 05:53 AM eMail this entry!
January 22, 2011
Tricerawho?

It seems triceratops might actually not be triceratops. Scientists are, of course, arguing about it, but that is their job after all. Fortunately, the obscure rules that dictate species names mean the name won't be going away any time soon.

Posted by scott at 07:56 AM eMail this entry!
January 20, 2011
Giant Crawdads from Space!

Well, not exactly space, more like Tennessee. They literally found a previously unknown giant sort of crayfish hiding out under a rock in a river in the ol' Vol state. Unfortunately they don't go into enough detail to define how big "giant" is when talking about crawdads.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
That Sounds... Science-y?

Scientists have announced the discovery of an exotic state in an "unconventional superconductor" The article is chock-full of head-'asplodey goodness, but I think the basic point is it may point the way toward a kind of digital memory which can be used by quantum computers. Hey, it's 6:30. I'm not scheduled to actually start thinking for at least another hour.

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
January 17, 2011
Cloning The Mammoth

A team of scientists from Japan, Russia and the United States hopes to clone a mammoth, a symbol of Earth’s ice age that ended 12,000 years ago, according to a report in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun. The researchers say they hope to produce a baby mammoth within six years.

Ok, my question is this. WHY would you clone something just to keep it secret so the world cannot see?

Posted by Ellen at 08:45 PM eMail this entry!
January 14, 2011
What the Heck is That?

Scientists have announced the discovery that a certain type of crow will sometimes use tools to explore its environment. Go for the interesting discussion. Stay for the "wtf?!? What is that? Lemme poke it. WTF?!?!" crow videos.

Posted by scott at 01:54 PM eMail this entry!
Out in the Cold

A group of scientists have released a study which claims Neanderthal faces did not actually have any special adaptations to the cold. This was an absolute given when I was an undergrad. If it really were this obvious, you'd think someone would've noticed before now.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
January 12, 2011
Not The Crickets!! Anything But The Crickets!

Not the CRICKETS!

Posted by Ellen at 08:56 AM eMail this entry!
January 10, 2011
~ Why Do Birds / Suddenly Appear / Dead on Streets / and Cause Fear? ~

Color me unsurprised: Scientists are noting the frenzy over "mass bird death" is less about birds and more about selling newspapers. Or, you know, online ads, that sort of thing. Our media? Fueling hysteria? Say it ain't so!

Posted by scott at 08:40 AM eMail this entry!
Quick! Call the Weather Girls!

Because, wait for it... it's raining, rrm... magma! It seems the weird difference between earth rocks and moon rocks can be explained by the way certain elements precipitated out of the Earth's atmosphere after the collision with a Mars-sized body which caused the moon's formation.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
January 08, 2011
Lake Effect

Russian scientists are about to sample water from a lake that has been completely cut off from the rest of the planet for 15 million years. It's thought that any critters living in the hyper-oxygenated water will provide insight into metabolic processes, as well as provide information on what Enceladus and Europa, which are thought to have a similar environment, are like.

Posted by scott at 09:21 AM eMail this entry!
January 07, 2011
Nanoshirts!

Scientists have worked out new manufacturing techniques that promise smart clothing that can survive a washing machine. Not only that, it seems the material may also be useful as a stealth coating. That's right, the next fighter the air force buys may actually be wearing a sweater.

Posted by scott at 07:03 AM eMail this entry!
January 05, 2011
Hairy Hope

A group of scientists has announced significant progress in the discovery of the cause of male pattern baldness. Ok, all those women in the peanut gallery who just rolled their eyes? It may very well have implications for female baldness as well. The wigs we save may be yours, too!

Posted by scott at 10:27 AM eMail this entry!
January 03, 2011
Fud Haz Thumbs

It looks like our ancestors had to deal with more than one kind of sabretooth cat. And by "ancestor" I mean, "so far back it may have lived before the human/chimp split." Nice kitty!

Posted by scott at 12:26 PM eMail this entry!
January 02, 2011
What Pose Is That Called?

She broke her tibia and fibula in both legs after she was hit by a truck. It happened while she was at the BYU-Utah game on Thanksgiving weekend. She was leaving the tailgating lot where a lot of people were yelling and shoving as they were leaving the stadium. She said was forced off the sidewalk, right into the path of a truck.

The power of the human body.

Posted by Ellen at 07:41 AM eMail this entry!
December 29, 2010
The Gravity of Information

Technology Review's "best idea of 2010" is that gravity is an emergent phenomena generated by quantum mechanics. I think what they're saying is that by treating gravity as something that springs out of quantum interactions, a number models far simpler than those floating around today can be built of what makes the universe tick. Simpler models tend to mean cheaper experiments to prove them, so maybe we've finally found a new way forward toward the good ol' GUT.

Posted by scott at 03:48 PM eMail this entry!
December 28, 2010
Floss Daily

Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said that the find is "important," but that it was premature to say the remains are from modern humans. He said the teeth are more likely from ancient relatives of Homo sapiens, such as the Neanderthals or their ancestors, which are thought to have left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Read the entire article here.

Posted by Ellen at 06:14 AM eMail this entry!
December 27, 2010
Quick! Another Round of Cancun Climate Conferences!

Recent observations that the Earth's magnetic north pole has begun moving around much faster than before have triggered a revision in the ideas of just what, exactly, makes that happen. Seems like it might be related to the same forces that generate a whirlpool in a bathtub drain. I think. At any rate, I'm sure the Bush administration will (still) get blamed for it somehow.

Posted by scott at 01:26 PM eMail this entry!
December 24, 2010
I've Heard of "Dry Aged" Beef Before...

Scientists have announced the discovery of a "missing link" cattle species, with a fossil find some two million years old. Exactly how the scientists determined humans had anything to do with eating the beast is a little unclear from the article, but if nothing else it does prove that we were all wandering around the same area at the same time.

Posted by scott at 09:31 AM eMail this entry!
December 22, 2010
A New Cousin?

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new, genetically distinct, line of ancient humans. DNA testing reveals this population shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals, and interbred with early modern humans who'd taken up residence in the same area.

Posted by scott at 02:26 PM eMail this entry!
December 19, 2010
Meanwhile, at Apocalypse Central

Now that the future has decided to stop monkeying with the LHC, it's finally starting to refute some theories. Ellen will, of course, be vaguely disappointed that they haven't managed to create any black holes yet, but that's not going to stop them from trying!

Posted by scott at 10:19 AM eMail this entry!
December 17, 2010
Found King

After bouncing around various private collections for more than two hundred years, the head of the French king Henry IV has been found and identified. One of the things that still bugs me about the royal burials at St. Denis is how they were all piled into a few big boxes after the lunacy of the revolution because identifying the separate skeletons would be "impossible." Probably in the 19th century, yes, but even before modern DNA testing it has long been possible to reassemble disarticulated skeletons using modern osteological techniques. All they'd need to do was try. Politics. Bah.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
December 16, 2010
Deep Update

Everyone's favorite deep water submersible (and really, who doesn't have a favorite deep water submersible?) is getting an extensive refit which should allow it to explore more than 90% of the ocean's depths. Alvin's been around a long time, and has done some spectacular science. It's nice to hear it'll be around a good while more. I do, however, find it a little bit strange that the article completely failed to mention the sub is actually owned by the Navy.

Posted by scott at 09:19 AM eMail this entry!
December 15, 2010
Assassin's Fingerprint

Scientists have speculated for years that the Siberian Traps, a featured formed by a massive volcanic event 250 million years ago, may have been involved in the Permian extinction, but nobody's worked out exactly how. Now a group of scientists are proposing exactly that. Having the lava pass through salt-rich rock, and thereby creating a much more poisonous event, would neatly explain why this eruption was so disruptive when other similar events, like the one which formed the Deccan Traps area, were not.

Posted by scott at 03:45 PM eMail this entry!
December 13, 2010
~ We Gotta Thing / And it's Called, Radar Lake ~

NASA scientists have confirmed the existence of a gigantic lake in what is now the middle of the Sahara. I've read in a few places that earlier radar mapping missions (STS-2 and -41G) were not really the pure science they were advertised as, but instead were subtle cold war demonstrations meant to prove we had the means to detect silos no matter how well the Soviets hid them. Dunno if that's true, but it makes for a neat story.

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
December 09, 2010
MMmm...People...

"Instead of briefly grabbing for testing or tasting purposes, this female apparently considers human swimmers as a potential food source," she said.

Oh calm down...it's about a shark.

Posted by Ellen at 09:02 PM eMail this entry!
The Oddities of 2010

Careful! There are many squee moments!!!

Posted by Ellen at 08:48 PM eMail this entry!
Dark X

A group of scientists are proposing (yet another) theory that explains dark matter and why the whole universe wasn't annihilated by anitparticles billions of years ago. This time they're proposing a super-dense particle that, due to its makeup, prefers to decay in a unique, asymmetrical way that would naturally lead to the universe we see now. Me, I think it sounds pretty convenient, but they do claim there are existing experiments which should be able to disprove the idea. Hey, why not?

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
December 08, 2010
Bug Oddity: Not Yours

I guess the internet really has sped even the most staid of discussions up. This time, instead of it taking months or even years for a tennis match of scientists to complete a volley, it only takes a few days. Even I thought the description of NASA scientists' discovery of an exotic type of bacteria sounded a little weird. Does it mean that they're wrong, or even that the science is bad? Only time will tell.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
December 07, 2010
You Do Know How We Treat Blasphemers

Robert H. gets the coveted Albigensian no-prize for bringing us evidence that the media frenzy about climate change has a long and rich history. Yes, yes, "This is a Crisis! You are a Dangerous, Greedy, Immoral, Evil, Stupid, Naive, Misguided Person! Denier! Apostate! Here's your yurt, we're off to Cancun!" Must always remember to post up those cautions. Don't want the plebes to get the wrong idea.

Posted by scott at 07:08 AM eMail this entry!
Paging Bing Crosby, White Courtesy Phone Please

Weatherman Joe Bastardi (no, really, that's his name. Stop giggling! I said stop it!) is predicting lots of snow for lots of people this Christmas season. And yes, the only real point to this is to poke fun at this guy's name.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
December 06, 2010
Ice Ice Baby

Robert H. gets a no-prize guaranteed to send die-hard greens into an apoplectic frenzy for bringing us news that we may all in fact be in the grip of a "mini ice age." Yes, I understand it's all about climate change and yes, "one-paper-does-not-make-a-trend-who-is-this-maniac-you-dangerous-denier-type-person!!!" The point is when regular folks like me see temperature trending consistently up, that's worrying. When we see the temperature trending up and down, well, that's just weather.

Posted by scott at 07:18 AM eMail this entry!
December 04, 2010
MOM!! Close The Door!

Along the warmth of the coast, this long, spindly-legged lizard deposits its eggs where they can fend for themselves. If a predator doesn't get them, they'll hatch into a whole new generation of yellow-bellied skinks. Up in the mountains, the eggs would have a rougher time of it. The temperature at higher altitudes drops, and the skink eggs don't have the same chance as their coastal siblings do. The yellow-bellied skink has found a solution to that; it disposes with eggs entirely and carries its young internally until it can give birth to them.

Is it a snake or a lizard!

Or...BOTH!

Posted by Ellen at 03:11 PM eMail this entry!
Now That Is Hot!

Researchers at Warwick University testing the Naga Viper found that it measures 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale, which rates heat by tracking the presence of a chemical compound. In comparison, most varieties of jalapeño peppers measure in the 2,500 to 5,000 range -- milder than the Naga Viper by a factor of 270.

Habanero take a step, no wait, several steps down from super hot!

Posted by Ellen at 03:04 PM eMail this entry!
December 02, 2010
It's Life Jim, but not as We Know It

Mark gets a no-prize that'll knock Klingons off the starboard bow for bringing us news of the discovery of a critter that might not even be based on the same chemistry we are. Discovered in a godforsaken lake somewhere in eastern Cali no less. When I read the article, it's also possible this just happens to be a bacteria you can't kill with a stick. It'll take a few more experiments, a lot more grant money, and a slow-motion journal-based flame fest to be sure. Hey, that's science!

Posted by scott at 10:24 PM eMail this entry!
Serial Immortality Isn't Something that Comes in a Box with a Toy

The world's first successfully cloned animal has been cloned once again. This time there are four "Dollies," and instead of needing hundreds of sheep embryos to produce a single clone, they only needed to use five. Me, I can't believe it's been fourteen years since the original Dollie was born.

Posted by scott at 06:30 AM eMail this entry!
November 27, 2010
Ptoooey!

The earth never ceases to amaze me.

Icelandic photographer Ragnar Sigurdsson captured the spectacular scenes as he documented the progress of the eruption - even bravely flying over the bubbling crater.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Posted by Ellen at 11:47 AM eMail this entry!
November 26, 2010
Squids, Departing

Scientists have finally confirmed reports that not only can some squid species jump out of the water, they can actually fly. Every time you think you've seen everything nature can cook up, out pops another dish of surprise.

Posted by scott at 08:56 AM eMail this entry!
November 25, 2010
It's A Girl! No Wait! It's A Boy!

The mummy, housed at Saffron Walden Museum in Essex, was shrouded in mystery after it was discovered in a private collection in 1878.

However, studies last year discovered it was wrapped in clothing adorned in feminine symbols, wearing girl’s breast cones and a female bracelet.

Ground-breaking CT scans carried out at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, have finally solved the mystery revealing the mummy is a boy dressed in girl’s clothing.

And cue Zahi Hawas...

Posted by Ellen at 07:20 PM eMail this entry!
November 24, 2010
I Can See! No, Not Really...

Science is amazing!

How artificial eyes are made.

Posted by Ellen at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
November 19, 2010
Demonic Energy

By using what seems to be a sophisticated electronic one-way valve, scientists have for the first time converted information directly into energy. The experiment proves a hypothesis proposed some 150 years ago by physicist James Clerk Maxwell that the second law of thermodynamics can be reversed without using energy.

As with most of these sorts of pure science... thingies... I don't completely understand what anyone is talking about, but they are all excited so I'll take their word for it that it's cool. Or hot, as the case may be.

Posted by scott at 02:40 PM eMail this entry!
November 16, 2010
Coming In At Number 9

At the age of 12, an intrepid Wernher von Braun loaded his toy wagon with some firecrackers and shot off across a crowded German street. It was a sign of things to come. The brains behind Hitler's V-2 rocket program arrived in the United States as a prisoner of war and went on to be its champion of space and lunar exploration. While putting people on the moon, von Braun also mastered scuba diving and philosophy.

Meet the other scientists.

Posted by Ellen at 05:58 AM eMail this entry!
November 15, 2010
You Have Already Read This Story

It seems that, after eight years of experiments, a scientist discovered the evidence parapsychologists have been claiming they had for years. By taking common psychology tests and simply reversing the order in which they're taken, Daryl Bem of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York seems to have produced repeatable evidence we are influenced by events before they happen. At least one attempt to duplicate the results have failed, but (if I'm reading the article correctly), this attempt used a different protocol. Regardless, this isn't someone bending spoons. The experiment is well-described and presumably makes even more testable predictions.

No, I don't know what it ultimately means, either, but it sure seems cool!

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
November 11, 2010
Golden Boughs

By using nanoparticles of gold, scientists have figured out how to make trees glow in the dark. The article is big on "ooh! ahh! pretty!" but short on the details that would convince me, at least, that this might be a viable substitute for street lights. I mean, what happens when the leaves fall off, and are eaten by a critter? Just how bright is it, anyway?

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
November 09, 2010
I'm Pretty Sure That'll Void the Warranty

A consortium of doctors and engineers are working together to create mobile phone kits that will diagnose STDs privately and discreetly. Yep, that's right, you pee on your phone and it'll tell you if you've got the clap. A more effective way of preventing someone from sharing said phone, I literally cannot imagine.

Posted by scott at 02:55 PM eMail this entry!
November 08, 2010
Bloodskin

Scientists have announced the development of a technique that turns human skin cells directly into blood. Not just the red cells, but several other types which make up this vital substance. What's not exactly clear is just how much blood is made in a particular batch.

Posted by scott at 06:29 AM eMail this entry!
November 01, 2010
Opfor Power Plant

So, does the internal combustion concept really have depths left to chart? This guy thinks so. As I first read the description, I thought, "two stroke flat four, dur." Then I watched the video, and things got much more interesting. Two pistons in the same cylinder, which complete a power stroke by pushing toward each other? I'll bet you a nickle the idea was worked out a hundred years ago, but material science couldn't come up with the alloys to make it practical. We've come a long way with material science, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 10:19 PM eMail this entry!
Grow-an-Organ

Scientists have announced the creation of a (very) small-scale human liver. They've got a long way to go before they can grow a whole liver from scratch, but they're making progress.

Posted by scott at 07:05 AM eMail this entry!
October 29, 2010
But What's the Fun in That?

Remember that "time traveler caught on silent film" segment? The one with the lady on the cellphone wandering around in a Chaplain film? Two words: hearing aid. Ah, well. It was fun to think about, that's for sure.

Posted by scott at 02:48 PM eMail this entry!
October 27, 2010
Distant Relatives

Scientists have announced the discovery of human remains which push back the date our ancestors were thought to have populated Asia by fifty thousand years. The find is, of course, controversial, but assuming all is well it poses interesting questions in the how and why of humanity's great eastward migration.

Posted by scott at 02:27 PM eMail this entry!
October 25, 2010
I Guess Someone's Got to do It

Scientists at Fermilab are building a "laser holometer" to find out if our 3-D universe really IS a 3-D universe. Boy, I bet you're going to feel sheepish about buying that 3-D TV if it turns out the whole dimension is a lie. Me, I'd blame Karl Rove.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
October 15, 2010
I Shall Call Them, "Spiderpillers"

Scientists have announced the development of a silkworm that spins a kind of spider silk. The resulting fabric is much stronger than normal silk, but not as strong as pure spider silk. However, the group says it's only started experimenting, and are confident the much stronger pure spider silk is not far off.

Posted by scott at 06:20 AM eMail this entry!
October 14, 2010
I See that SOMEONE Needs Some Busy-Work

At Livermore California, scientists are trying to create stars. Even better, they're using frikkin lasers! Where large research grants go, cool science tech is sure to follow.

Posted by scott at 07:03 AM eMail this entry!
October 12, 2010
Caring and Sharing

Scientists have announced the discovery of the earliest known example of a hominid that had to have received help from others to survive. This all may seem screamingly obvious to everyone, but physical anthropology has been burned numerous times by "obvious" conclusions that were eventually overturned when someone looked at the evidence. Nowadays if they don't find direct, incontrovertible evidence, they won't make the call, and even if they do the guys on the other sideline throw about a dozen red flags down for another replay. It's sort of like really, really slow-motion football that way.

Via Instapundit.

Posted by scott at 03:45 PM eMail this entry!
October 07, 2010
~ There's a Killer in the Hive ~

It seems that, with the help of the Army, the cause of the well-publicized domestic honey bee collapse has finally been found. Turns out it's a combination of a virus and a fungus, neither of which has the ability to destroy a colony on its own. Just why this happens is still unclear, but now that the cause is known it's hoped a cure will be soon to follow.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
October 04, 2010
Radiation Hawks

By using an "artificial event horizon," scientists seem to have found the first direct evidence for Hawking radiation. As with most really weird scientific experiments, the result is open to interpretation, not all of which confirm that black holes do in fact radiate energy.

Posted by scott at 07:05 AM eMail this entry!
Glasses? We Don't Need No Glasses!

Engineers at Toshiba have unveiled a 3D television which does not require glasses to work. Bonus: it also can transform "normal" broadcasts into 3D. New TV tech being what it is, prices start high... the equivalent of about $1500 in yen for a 12" screen. TV tech in general being what it is, I'd expect the price to drop steadily if it meets market success.

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
October 01, 2010
Dope Science

Ok, so it turns out Contador's failed drug test involved a substance that increases a person's metabolic rate, among other things. It's also just possible he really didn't take it intentionally. Me, I remember Floyd Landis was about as sincere as he could be professing his innocence, and look how that turned out.

Posted by scott at 07:18 AM eMail this entry!
September 29, 2010
Well of Course We're Gonna Link THIS Up

"As with the origins of so many great scientific discoveries, this story begins with a serendipitous chain of events. 'Our interest in the psychological properties of semen arose as a by-product of an initial interest in menstrual synchrony...'" Nah-ah-ah! It's in Scientific American. Respectable, even!

What's that? Well, of course we're staying classy. You don't have to keep saying it.

Posted by scott at 05:42 PM eMail this entry!
September 24, 2010
Proof and Quantum Puddings

By using clocks that pretty much define "hyper-accurate", scientists have demonstrated relativistic effects on Newton-level scales. I'm old enough to remember when many people thought Einstein's theory was too wacky to actually be true, mostly of the fundamentalist Christian bent. I wonder if they realize the GPS unit that guides them to their (now) grand-kid's birthday party at the local Chucky's wouldn't work at all if it weren't for Einstein's relativity theories?

Posted by scott at 12:49 PM eMail this entry!
September 23, 2010
Dino Tank

Scientists have announced, to the undoubted delight of headline writers everywhere, the discovery of the "horniest" dinosaur ever. This cousin of the more familiar triceratops had fifteen well-developed horns on its six foot long head. As usual, the likely purpose was to impress chicks.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
September 22, 2010
Soup of the Universe

Scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider think they may have seen evidence of a kind of matter present at the beginning of the universe. The implications for various cosmological theories are large, albeit largely incomprehensible to me. Giant machine smash tiny things, uhnk!

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
September 17, 2010
Printing the Future

It's looking like the first big 21st century "game changer" is turning out to be 3-D printers. I'll be happy when someone starts ginning up Milano spares for me. I never thought to be so ambitious as to try to print out a whole freaking house.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
Tractor Time

Scientists have announced a for-real, working tractor beam. Sure, it only moves tiny masses small distances, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere! Even with such modest capabilities, the scientists can imagine practical uses for the device, like atmospheric sampling or the manipulation of hazardous microbes.

Posted by scott at 06:29 AM eMail this entry!
September 16, 2010
Toka-wha?

Construction on the first full-scale fusion reactor has begun. Weirdly, the article does not mention what the scheduled completion date is. I think that may not be an accident, considering that fusion power has been "fifty years away" for a least the past thirty.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
September 15, 2010
A Zorse is a Zorse of Course

It seems genetic science has progressed to the point hybrid studies are more accurate, and lead to sometimes surprising results. It seems not all cross-species offspring are sterile, and some prove quite successful indeed.

Posted by scott at 07:15 AM eMail this entry!
September 14, 2010
Oh Great, There Goes the Only Thing Keeping Ellen Off the Darned Thing

Next up: cell phones powered by conversation. Now that I think about it, if Ron and I can figure out the right sort of harness, we'll likely be able to power our houses with the energy Ellen and Amber generate every day. Maybe we'll be able to sell it back to the power company!

Posted by scott at 08:19 PM eMail this entry!
I Like "Dry Hurricane" Better

Scientists have had to come up with a new name to describe a super-storm which swept across Kansas last year. I wish they would've provided a pronunciation guide for "super derecho." I don't need to add another word to my "most likely to mispronounce" list.

Posted by scott at 06:28 AM eMail this entry!
September 13, 2010
Good Luck with That

For just $150, you can take a positive step toward protecting yourself from the upcoming food supply crisis. Since I don't actually believe there is an upcoming food supply crisis, and eating something that grew in my pee which at best tastes like seaweed is sort of the opposite of what I consider appetizing, I'll give it a pass. But I'll be cheering anyone else who takes the (green, gooey) plunge.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
September 10, 2010
That's a Nice Scope Right There

It seems that the Hubble's replacement will be sophisticated enough to detect volcanoes and oceans on planets light-years away. At this rate, we'll be able to read the menu on the outside of McAndromedas before Olivia's out of college. I wonder if they'll have a McRib sandwich, too?

Posted by scott at 06:33 PM eMail this entry!
September 09, 2010
Vita-Memory

Scientists have announced the discovery of a vitamin concoction which significantly slows the mental impairment widely seen as a precursor to Alzheimer's. By using very large doses of three vitamin B compounds, the treatment helps neutralize homocysteine,which is thought to play a significant role in the progress of the disease. Best of all, it's cheap!

Posted by scott at 06:57 AM eMail this entry!
Jellitricity

Hot on the heels of the revelation of one new solar panel technology, comes yet another debut, this time using jellyfish goo at its core. Could solar power finally be on the verge of fulfilling the promises made for it for decades? Only time will tell.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
September 08, 2010
Brain Study

It would seem that not only is conventional "study" wisdom wrong, it's been wrong for at least twenty years. I sort of stumbled upon the fact that studying in different places and at different times yielded better results, back in college. Then again, I was so desperate to graduate and quite obviously outclassed I grasped firmly to every straw I could find. This will definitely inform how we help Olivia do her homework.

Posted by scott at 08:29 PM eMail this entry!
Brain Talk

Scientists have announced progress in electronically translating brain waves into words. The main innovation is the use of electrodes which are placed on the surface of the brain, avoiding the injury risks involved with implantation. Right now the device isn't particularly accurate, but does prove the concept is valid. It's hoped that with further development such a device could be used to liberate fully conscious people "locked in" by various diseases and injuries.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
September 07, 2010
Lego Panels

Scientists have announced the creation of a photovoltaic compound which will tear itself down, and build itself back up, based on the presence of a drop of a soap-like substance. Self-assembly of a system which turns light into energy was mastered by plants billions of years ago, but has been out of the reach of us humans, until now. The predicted efficiency is claimed to be twice that of existing solar panels, although no mention is made of the cost.

Posted by scott at 06:36 AM eMail this entry!
September 06, 2010
Bug Brain Bio Buster

Scientists have discovered that the brains of locusts and roaches contain powerful substances that stop so-called "microbial superbugs" in their tracks. At this stage, nobody's sure exactly what those substances might be, but since the world is not suffering a shortage of either critter, I'd expect further research is on the way.

Posted by scott at 01:05 PM eMail this entry!
September 03, 2010
It's About Damned Time

String theory seems to finally have found a practical test. It's been making promises for years, but testing those promises required science so big it made the Large Hadron Collider look like a cheese wheel. No, it won't prove everyone's favorite multi-dimensional cosmology, but it could disprove it, and in science the latter is just as useful as the former.

Posted by scott at 06:53 AM eMail this entry!
September 01, 2010
Special Memory

Scientists have announced the development of a new way of making non-volatile computer memory. By using nanowires made of silicon, the technique allows a density five times greater than current technology, at (presumably) a lower price. Solid state and it "remembers" even with the power off. A good thing!

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
August 27, 2010
Glacier Secrets

It looks like otzi, the famous "ice man," may not have been murdered after all. I'm a little suspicious it's taken this long for someone to examine the area the ice man was found in as an archeology site, and I know from the documentaries I've seen that the site was far from pristine. Still, it makes for an interesting discussion.

Posted by scott at 05:55 PM eMail this entry!
Hanging Time

By examining videos of hanging deaths both accidental and intentional, scientists think they have found both the mechanism that causes death, and aspects of that death which could provide important evidence criminal cases. I've seen one or two of these things myself over the years, and I definitely say they are incredibly sad. It's nice to know some small good may come from such a terrible thing.

Posted by scott at 02:50 PM eMail this entry!
August 16, 2010
I KNEW IT!

According to the latest research, the final proof that if there is a universal grammar of numbers in which all facets of their behaviour can be expressed, it lies beyond our ken has been discovered. Somehow, though, I doubt "Peano's rules have been debunked by Gödel's incompleteness theorems and boolean relation theory," would've gotten me very far when I brought home a D in math, back in the day.

Update: Link fixed!

Posted by scott at 07:07 AM eMail this entry!
August 12, 2010
Dino Chicken

The effort to turn a chicken into a dinosaur continues to progress. We first heard about this the last time Horner was in a documentary, say two years ago. It's interesting to see they haven't hit any dead ends with the project yet. That said, they also still just have a bunch of chickens. Something to keep an eye on, for sure.

Posted by scott at 06:03 AM eMail this entry!
August 11, 2010
Bone Slices

Scientists have announced the discovery of fossils which push the dawn of tool use in hominids back a full million years. That's Australopithecene territory right there, and represents the first conclusive evidence of that species using tools and eating meat. For a long time the conventional wisdom said our body plan got sorted out with the Australopithecene, with intelligence coming only with the rise of Homo (shaddup, Ron). Now that will all have to be re-thought.

Posted by scott at 07:12 PM eMail this entry!
August 05, 2010
I Shall Call it, "Croc-Cat"

Scientists have announced the discovery of a fossil crocodillian so weird, if all you saw was its teeth, you'd call it a mammal. I dunno, a crocodile of any sort limber enough to catch insects and our rat-like ancestors is still a bit intimidating. Fortunately it's long extinct, so Ellen can't have one.

Posted by scott at 06:45 PM eMail this entry!
But Where's the Platter?

Archeologists have announced the discovery of what may be the remains of John the Baptist. The evidence relies a bit too much on tradition and speculation for my taste, but they've definitely found something. Still, there have been pretty remarkable artifacts preserved in out-of-the-way places. Who knows?

Posted by scott at 07:02 AM eMail this entry!
And a River Runs Through it

Scientists have discovered what they're calling the sixth largest river in the world. The reason nobody's heard of it until now? It's flowing at the bottom of the Black Sea. Turns out there's a salinity gradient (I think that's what it's called anyway) that flows and meanders just like a surface river. The picture featured even seems to show banks on its "shore."

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
August 01, 2010
But of Course, We Still Spent $$$ to Fix it One Last Time

Now, it did take, what, twenty five years, but we now have a ground-based telescope publicly claiming to have exceeded what Hubble can do. I say "publicly," because I distinctly remember reading similar, and quite believable, claims when Mauna Kea got its first dynamic optics back in the early 90s. So any time you feel nostalgic about that giant wrapping paper tube twirling around, just keep in mind the danged thing is that old, and the next one will be a massive improvement.

Posted by scott at 07:14 PM eMail this entry!
July 31, 2010
Definitely Better than, "Kaboom"

Scientists have figured out how to use an exotic form of carbon to simulate very powerful electromagnetic fields. I think. There was stuff in there about electrons and chicken wire, I do know that. That's gotta be good for something, eh?

Posted by scott at 09:40 AM eMail this entry!
July 30, 2010
Alzheimer's Update

Scientists are using new imaging techniques to come up with better theories of how Alzheimer's works. Which, of course, is likely to lead the way toward effective treatments. There's even some indication it may ultimately be an autoimmune disorder.

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
July 26, 2010
Impact Fungus

It seems that the on-again, off-again idea that an impact caused the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna is off again. I'm always suspicious when a group of scientists claim they have found The Answer.

Posted by scott at 06:42 PM eMail this entry!
July 23, 2010
Dig-Dug

Scientists have discovered evidence of a dinosaur hunting small mammals. The fossil preserves both the burrows the mammals were living in, and the claw marks of the dinosaur that (presumably) dug them out.

Posted by scott at 07:14 AM eMail this entry!
Adapt and Conquer

Now that the human genome is well and truly mapped, scientists are discovering lots of evidence for very recent evolution in our species. No wonder Chinese people have a reputation for drinking everyone else under the table!

Posted by scott at 07:05 AM eMail this entry!
July 21, 2010
Think Small

It seems that, with nuclear power anyway, smaller may just very well be better. All honest players admit the only viable alternative to hydrocarbon energy is nuclear, and it's going to be that way for a very long time. Any development toward making it safer, cheaper, or easier to use is a net plus in my book.

Posted by scott at 07:25 AM eMail this entry!
July 19, 2010
RRrmmm.. Whut?

Ok, and in the, "I'll take your word for it, and no, I don't need the details of how you found that out" file, we have The Electrical Characteristics of Three Human Penises. Or should that be "Peni?" Yes, yes, ladies, I get it, ain't got nothing on what you have to go through on your yearly. That said, last I heard, electricity wasn't directly involved in your garden variety pelvic exam...

Posted by scott at 10:08 PM eMail this entry!
July 14, 2010
I'm Too Sad To Think Of This

Exposure to the antidepressant fluoxetine causes shrimp to radically alter their behavior. While normal shrimp are more likely to avoid swimming towards light because it's often associated with prey like birds or fishermen, those exposed to fluoxetine become five times more likely to swim towards light than away from it. That change in behavior places them in harm's way, and if enough shrimp are exposed to the antidepressant the entire population could be at risk.

So much for shrimp cocktail.

Posted by Ellen at 09:29 PM eMail this entry!
July 13, 2010
Cold Bugs

By using Arctic bacteria, scientists have come up with vaccines which trigger an immune reaction, but don't survive long enough to do harm in a warm mammal body. Well, a warm mouse body, at any rate. Mice are not people, but this approach seems general enough to perhaps work on just about any of us glorified moles.

Posted by scott at 07:16 PM eMail this entry!
July 07, 2010
Captain Obvious on the Sea

Scientists have discovered whales do exactly the same thing we do when background noise makes it hard for someone else to hear you. Way to keep those grant dollars rolling in there, son.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
July 05, 2010
Squashed Batteries

Scientists have announced the discovery of a material which could some day become the heart of a "battery of the future." By subjecting a common crystal mineral normally used to etch silicon conductors to gigantic pressures, they created a new substance which chemically stored all that energy in the bonds used to create it.

Me, I see two problems: 1) diamond anvils don't sound cheep, and the process required to produce the stuff doesn't sound very fast, and 2) getting energy out of something this power-dense without it getting all explode-y is going to be a neat trick. Still, it does seem to have potential.

Posted by scott at 08:18 AM eMail this entry!
July 01, 2010
And the Word of the Day is, "Fossil"

Scientists have announced the discovery of what is likely the oldest fossil evidence of multicellular life on Earth yet found. A "cookie-shape" sounds funny, until you realize it's two billion years old. For those of you not keeping score, that is a full 1.5 billion years before life forms you and I would recognize as a critter showed up. Our ancestor around that time? Yeah, you guessed it. Glorified worm.

Posted by scott at 08:31 PM eMail this entry!
June 30, 2010
Whale Killah

Scientists have discovered the sperm whale's really, really nasty great-grandfather. I'm struck by how similar the teeth look to its presumed, and as I recall contemporary, immediate rival, the megalodon. Which means it ate more or less the same thing. Which means, yeah, not a great candidate for SeaWorld right there, nope.

Posted by scott at 10:25 PM eMail this entry!
June 23, 2010
Tasteless Particle

The "sterile" neutrino, once dismissed out of hand as a good idea that just didn't pan out, may have some life left in it yet. When the predicted numbers are off by even the smallest amount, usually there's a new particle hiding out in the woodpile. No, I'm not completely sure what good this will do you and me, but so far no matter how hard physicists try, practical applications always seem to be found for even the most obscure discoveries.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
June 22, 2010
Me, I Think They Should've Named Him, "Desi"

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new A. afarensis fossil, and the "big man" seems to have a lot to say. Any post-cranial fossils from any hominid will always be a big deal, because, since our ancestors were mostly hunted by bone-crunching leopards and hyenas, by far the most common fossils we find are skulls (because the head has an annoying tendency to roll away) and the teeth inside them. That the fossil represents an adult male of the same species as the famous Lucy is an added, and valuable, bonus.

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM eMail this entry!
June 16, 2010
Minos Rules

A new experiment at Fermilab has revealed yet another chink in the Standard Model's armor. I'd try to explain it, but every time I take a shot at that I feel like a cave man trying to explain an Alfa Romeo to his friends, "Unkh. Shiny thing goes fast. Shiny thing falls apart. Is important. Unkh."

Posted by scott at 08:02 PM eMail this entry!
Stoned & Horney

It seems that your attitude toward casual sex is a strong predictor of your attitude toward recreational drugs. I'm not completely convinced. Then again, being a libertarian, I don't really care what consenting adults do behind closed doors. Stay out of trouble, pay your taxes, keep off my lawn, and we're all good.

Posted by scott at 06:17 PM eMail this entry!
June 15, 2010
Bouncin' Bosons

Scientists have discovered methods in quantum mechanics that break the equivalence principle. That being, according to Einstein (via the article), "the gravitational force we experience on Earth is identical to the force we would experience were we sitting in a spaceship accelerating at 1g." Turns out that with a clever combination of gravitational and electromagnetic boxes and oscillators, well, it ain't so.

No, I'm not sure what to make of it either, but usually when these propeller-heads come up with something really weird, eventually someone else figures out how to make a neat gadget using it. [Whisper]NEAT GADGETS.[/Whisper]

Posted by scott at 08:37 AM eMail this entry!
Shake That County!

A magnitude 5.7 earthquake erupted five miles east-southeast of the desert town of Ocotillo at 9:26 p.m. Monday, causing sharp shaking throughout San Diego County and beyond, the U.S. Geological Survey says. The quake, an aftershock to the 7.2 Easter Sunday quake near Mexicali, briefly caused a delay in the game between the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays at Petco Park in downtown San Diego.
And San Diego is one of my favorite places! :/
Posted by Ellen at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
June 14, 2010
Ancient Fuzz

Scientists are reporting the discovery of two hundred-million year-old mammal hairs trapped in amber. This is the first time scientists have been able to examine the structure in 3D. Turns out it has changed surprisingly little over such a very long time. Walking with dinosaurs, shedding on the landscape.

Posted by scott at 06:09 PM eMail this entry!
June 08, 2010
~ He isn't Always Evil, and He is not Always Wrong ~

Scientists have discovered that the hormonal counter-weight to the "trust everything" oxytocin turns out to be that bugaboo of all radical feminists, testosterone. Bonus: it seems to help the very sex who's radicals claim it victimizes.

Posted by scott at 06:26 PM eMail this entry!
Mystery Whale

The first gray whale known to have ever visited the Mediterranean sea has been sighted again. According to the article, scientists are trying to decide if this means the species has re-colonized the Atlantic after an approximately three century absence, or if this individual has managed to survive the longest known migration in history. I think it's one of two things: if the whale is male, it's obvious he never stopped to ask for directions. If female, well, hey, the Rivera won't shop itself, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 01:38 PM eMail this entry!
Gladiator Graves

British scientists have announced the discovery of the largest-known gladiator grave yard in the UK. The article includes the skeletal remains of someone who seems to have gotten a really close shave.

Even if it doesn't prove to actually be a bunch of gladiators, the find is still significant because Roman custom was to normally cremate their dead. Skeletal remains are rare, and can reveal a great deal about how people lived.

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM eMail this entry!
June 03, 2010
Ancient Nom

Scientists have found a massive cache of fossils and tools which indicate our ancestors were eating various kinds of meat at least 2 million years ago. As per usual, since they didn't find a hominid skeleton with a tool in one hand and a croc leg in the other, lying on top of the mound, they're not able to say exactly who was doing the butchering. More reasonable people will likely draw the conclusion this was Homo habilis's doing.

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM eMail this entry!
June 02, 2010
Possum of Poison

BBCnews is carrying this special report on the hunt for a mammal which likely hasn't changed all that much in 75 million years. For those of you keeping score at home, that means this critter, or one very much like it, was dodging for-real dinosaurs, back in the day. From such humble beginnings...

Posted by scott at 06:20 PM eMail this entry!
May 31, 2010
I'm Sure Dick Cheney's Still Behind it all. Just Ask Rahm!

A new scientific paper is claiming that early hunter-gathers may have been responsible for a cooling episode known as the "Younger Dryas event". The thinking goes that once human hunter-gatherers caused the extinction of North American megafauna like mammoths and woolly rhinos, the resulting drop in atmospheric methane triggered the shift. Sharp readers will note the author appears to have used one very controversial idea (that humans were the sole cause of megafauna extinction) to prop up a new controversial idea about climate change. This makes my, "smells like political spirit" detector go all itchy around the corners. Then again, I haven't showered yet, so it could just be, you know, fleas or something.

Posted by scott at 09:04 AM eMail this entry!
May 30, 2010
Bee-Gone

Scientists in India are claiming to have found strong evidence that cell phones are the root cause of the crashing honeybee populations in Europe and North America. The study seems to have been done correctly, and also appears repeatable enough, so further research should go a long way toward confirming or denying the hypothesis.

Posted by scott at 07:19 AM eMail this entry!
May 26, 2010
Black Crop Munching Cloud

"There is the potential for widespread outbreaks this summer," Brown said. "We could see grasshopper levels several times of what you would see in a normal year."

I must be very behind in the grasshopper news. The last time I read something about this was in one of the Laura Ingalls books.

Yuck.

Posted by Ellen at 05:34 AM eMail this entry!
May 24, 2010
Insert Vanilla Ice Reference Here

By using an unlikely combination of radiometric dating techniques, scientists may have finally unlocked the mysteries that start, and stop, Earth's ice ages. Bonus: the Atlantic overturning circulation - the great ocean current that carries heat north, then sinks and flows back along the bottom of the ocean - that most recent of go-to bugaboos climate chicken-littles enjoy waving in everyone's faces, plays a primary role in ending an ice age, not causing it.

Posted by scott at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
May 23, 2010
Tomb Time

Archeologists have announced the discovery of more than 50 intact tombs in Egypt. Unlike most recent Egyptian tomb discoveries, these aren't "just" a bunch of Roman-era wannabes, but are the real deal, one of which dates back to before the pyramids.

Posted by scott at 06:33 PM eMail this entry!
May 21, 2010
*BlOOp!*

Blockquote>"This mythical story began around the time of Aristotle that the argonaut female actually lived in the shell and raised those webs as sails as she sailed across the ocean," explained Dr Finn. "

With picture goodness!

Posted by Ellen at 07:17 AM eMail this entry!
May 12, 2010
May 11, 2010
~ Ella, Ella, Ay, Ay, Ay ~

The next-gen airborne laser program seems to be targeting the B-1 platform as its carrying vehicle. If memory serves, it's when you get beyond 100kw that lasers start getting useful as a weapon.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
Ook Ook... Giggity

So, what happens when a reporter is startled by a potentially sensational claim buried in a scientific article? Why, he takes that boring note about how the male members of a troupe of chimps sometimes use the sound of crinkling leaves to get a female's attention and slaps a "chimps use sex toys" headline on it. We're in the best of hands...

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
May 07, 2010
Cousins After All?

In a new study, scientists are claiming that 1-3% of Asian and European genes are Neandertal. Exactly how DNA evidence can be gleaned from fossil examination isn't clear to me, but that could be caused by Ellen rushing us all out the door early today. Further examination will follow later...

Posted by scott at 07:21 AM eMail this entry!
May 05, 2010
Tetra-Who?!?

Scientists seem to be spotting a new, exotic kind of matter. I think. Quantum mechanics makes my head hurt. Or does it?

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
Ancient Pipes

Scientists have found evidence of the earliest known plumbing system in the New World. It appears the Maya were building pressurized water systems well over a thousand years before the Spaniards arrived.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
May 01, 2010
Usefull!!!

"No, no, sir, I'm not breaking the seal, I'm recharging the battery."

Posted by scott at 10:36 PM eMail this entry!
Shut Up and Calculate

Every once in awhile a physicist takes a crack at explaining quantum physics, but since even the scientists still aren't sure how it ticks, they fail. That said, this guy fails in a pretty informative way. The important thing to remember is this stuff isn't just a physicist trying to be glib on TV... according to every experiment anyone's managed to cook up, this really is how it all works. If it wasn't, the experiments would fail. They don't.

Posted by scott at 09:53 AM eMail this entry!
April 30, 2010
My Kind of Shot

The FDA has approved the first vaccine for fighting cancer. Before all the guys line up outside the clinic, it should be pointed out this is a treatment meant for use after the cancer has been diagnosed. It also "only" extends life a few months, but I imagine when you're living every day like it was your last a few more week's worth of them would seem like a big bonus. And, hey, they gotta start somewhere.

Posted by scott at 06:32 AM eMail this entry!
April 29, 2010
Worm Sign

Scientists have discovered new specimens of an earthworm species thought to have gone extinct. Turns out the giant, spitting, flower-scented earthworm isn't any of those things. But it is rare.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
April 28, 2010
New Moth

A new species of "micro moth" has been officially recognized, and lives nowhere outside the UK. You'd think with a country full of English busy-bodies it would've been spotted before now. Nature is full of surprises.

Posted by scott at 01:53 PM eMail this entry!
April 27, 2010
Oh Noes!!!

Scientists have found evidence that chocolate consumption is linked to depression. Suddenly a whole raft of female behaviors has a rational explanation!

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
April 26, 2010
Sausage Solution

Australian scientists have come up with a novel idea to stop native species from eating poisonous cane toads: frog flavored sausages. Yep, that's the way the cute critters are supposed to feel when they eat them, too.

Posted by scott at 10:14 AM eMail this entry!
Pyscho Healing

Scientists are beginning to do research to see if psychedelic drugs can be useful in chemotherapy treatments. The idea seems to be that the powerful experiences these drugs create are meant to help the patient cope with what they're going through. It sounds an awful lot like some 60s hold-outs are still trying to legitimize their own personal experiments, but what do I know?

Posted by scott at 06:53 AM eMail this entry!
April 20, 2010
Invis Cloak Fail

Looks like there's a flaw in the cunning plan of invisibility cloaks. Still smells like an engineering problem to me, which just means they need to throw more money at it. That sound you're hearing is the sighs of various junior high principals, who've realized they have awhile yet to worry about cloaked boys sneaking into the girl's locker room.

Posted by scott at 07:21 PM eMail this entry!
Still No Cure for... Oh, Wait...

Scientists have announced the discovery of a compound which seems to completely stop cancer from spreading. History is strewn with drugs that work in mice but don't in humans, so this definitely needs more testing. Still, if nothing else it has opened up a new avenue for research.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
April 16, 2010
Pitch-Perfect Life

Scientists have discovered that a noxious lake of bubbling tar is actually teeming with life. There are many different implications for life on Earth, but it seems the biggest change is in how scientists view the chances of finding life on that famous ball of hydrocarbons, Titan.

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM eMail this entry!
April 14, 2010
Rehenge

Scientists have discovered a long-forgotten monument which may also be the work of the people who built Stonehenge. It seems every time someone decides to dust off a bit of the UK they end up discovering yet another ancient monument. Those people don't throw away anything.

Posted by scott at 06:12 PM eMail this entry!
April 13, 2010
I'm Sure This is Important

Nature's throwing another monkey wrench into our very carefully constructed view of the universe. Hyper-powerful astronomical objects that refuse to follow predicted rules make baby Jesus cry. The standard model now has so many cracks and fissures you could get a tan from what's shining through, but to-date nobody knows exactly what's making the light.

Posted by scott at 08:27 PM eMail this entry!
April 09, 2010
Sink Hole Surprise

Scientists have announced the discovery of two nearly-complete hominid skeletons. The two individuals, one a middle aged woman and the other a young boy, apparently fell into a sinkhole and were rapidly buried and fossilized. The finds are the first complete finds to fall between the dates of A. afarensis Lucy and H. erectus Turkhana boy.

Posted by scott at 06:45 AM eMail this entry!
April 08, 2010
Zapping to a Better Life

Scientists are slowly starting to figure out why a therapy involving high-frequency pulses of weak current works so well on a variety of brain disorders. It also explores the surprising discovery that this therapy is proving effective on a very wide variety of mental illnesses.

Posted by scott at 07:08 AM eMail this entry!
Tick-Tock

Scientists have proved that modern terrestrial clocks can be more accurate than their natural rival, pulsars. The achievement becomes more amazing when I think about just how accurate pulsars really are.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
April 06, 2010
Fun with Chemistry

The next element in a table nobody really remembers has been found. Element 117 seems to be proving the hypothesis that, as elements get heavier from here, they will become much more stable. Nobody knows exactly what it'll mean, but I bet it'll be way cool.

Posted by scott at 07:15 PM eMail this entry!
March 26, 2010
Dinosaur Find

Scientists have proven T. Rex ancestors once lived in Australia. The find disproves the theory that tyrannosaurs never lived on the southern continents, but provides no answers for the question why they grew so much larger in the north.

Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
March 25, 2010
Still No Cure for... Oh, Wait...

Scientists have announced the first successful clinical trial of nanoparticles as a cancer treatment. The trial was a complete success... the tumors were destroyed with no observable side-effects. The treatment is general-purpose, and has the potential to work effectively on a very wide variety of cancers.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
Surprise Cousin

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new human relative, previously unknown but living in the same place as humans and neandertals about 50,000 years ago. While the fossil discovery was that of a single bone, the conclusion is based on DNA analysis. The find has implications beyond that of the fossil itself.

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
March 20, 2010
Medieval Zombie Food

Scientists have published a detailed examination of the brain of a toddler who died some 800 years ago. The nearly perfectly preserved organ contained intact structures all the way down to individual neurons. It's hoped further study will provide more information about the robust nature of the brain and how it works.

Posted by scott at 07:11 AM eMail this entry!
March 19, 2010
Convergent Play

Turns out canid ethics put your garden variety leader's to shame. That a pack of wild dogs are roughly as "ethically intelligent" as a pack of wild 4 year-olds is darned interesting. That both put a pack of wild politicians to shame is merely expected. That we put the latter in charge and stick the former in managed care facilities says something quite complex about human society. And not a nice thing.

Posted by scott at 05:30 PM eMail this entry!
March 09, 2010
Brain Bullets

New evidence seems to indicate Alzheimer's may end up being yet another autoimmune disorder. The evidence is, of course, not totally accepted, and even if it proves true it's not clear if it will lead to any new treatment strategies. Still, anything that demystifies this terrible killer must have some net positive result, donchathink?

Posted by scott at 12:52 PM eMail this entry!
March 08, 2010
A Very Weird Matter

Scientists have announced the creation of particles so intensely complex and strange, they can only be termed "really weird." I've had a very cursory review of the math that goes on in high-energy physics land. I'll take their word for it.

Posted by scott at 11:25 AM eMail this entry!
March 05, 2010
Magnetic History

Scientists have published a new article claiming conclusive evidence for Earth having a strong magnetic field 3.45 billion years ago. This is about 200 million years earlier than previous evidence seemed to support. It's my understanding there aren't many rocks much older than that, so (in my extremely expert opinion) it's a good bet Earth has had a strong magnetic field for as long as it could have one.

Posted by scott at 04:40 PM eMail this entry!
March 04, 2010
Tar Conductor

Scientists have announced the creation of an organic superconducting material. This particular material is in no real way superior to existing ceramic materials, but it's hoped that now that it's been proved possible, other organic chemists can suss out higher-temperature combinations.

Posted by scott at 11:03 AM eMail this entry!
March 03, 2010
Old Words

Scholars recently discovered a long-forgotten English inscription on a wall in England's Salisbury Cathedral, and are now polling the public to see if anyone else wants a crack at deciphering it. Salisbury Cathedral is also, apparently, home to the oldest functioning clock in England, a 14th century device that was removed three hundred years later and then forgotten, until it was discovered in an attic during the 1920s.

In other words, Britain has so much history there's probably still a lot of it stuck up in people's rafters, just waiting for re-discovery.

Posted by scott at 10:49 AM eMail this entry!
Organ Factory

Scientists have announced the creation of a device that literally prints replacement human body parts. At heart (as it were), it's an inkjet printer that sprays both stem cells and a sugar-based scaffolding for shaping the result. At the very least, I'd think a device like this would give severe burn victims a very real chance of having a normal life again.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
March 02, 2010
Brain Switches

By transplanting fetal neurons into the brains of older mice, scientists were able to "re-activate" a brain's ability to rapidly, and significantly, re-wire itself. It's thought that if the mechanisms can be teased out and they prove to work in adults, the findings could open up an entirely new avenue of research for brain therapies.

Posted by scott at 10:02 AM eMail this entry!
March 01, 2010
Short & Curly Science

I don't care how gross it may at first seem, you'll still find this extensive scientific review of all the different ways human pubic hair, well, "stands out" fascinating reading. Well, I did anyway, and we all know how normal I am.

Ok, ok, the laughing is expected. The pointing's a little rude, though.

Posted by scott at 05:33 PM eMail this entry!
Mo' Bettah Sunshine

Scientists have announced a new manufacturing technique which promises to significantly reduce the cost of solar cells. They're not as efficient as current models, but if they're 30% less efficient and cost 90% less to make, well, that's math even a progressive greenie will likely understand.

Posted by scott at 12:34 PM eMail this entry!
February 23, 2010
Time Tomb

An incredibly well-preserved temple complex built a full seven thousand years before the pyramids is causing historians and archeologists to reconsider basically all the assumptions surrounding the rise of civilization. The best part is the site has been known for quite some time, but nobody had the guts to take it on, until very recently.

Posted by scott at 02:04 PM eMail this entry!
Mirror, Mirror, on the Ice

Scientists have now conclusively proven there are hundreds of cold-specialized species living at both poles of the planet. Sounds pretty "durp durp durp," you say? Well, the trick is they're identical but separated by several thousand miles of much warmer ocean. There are a few theories which attempt to explain how that can happen, but none seem to have made it much past the testing stage. Just when you think the planet couldn't get any weirder...

Posted by scott at 12:06 PM eMail this entry!
(Green) Power to the People

Remember all that buzz about innovative fuel cells and other types of energy production that would one day free us from "the grid"? It seems the first for-real product is here. It's very nice to see an actual, working example of one of these futurist's dreams. You want to know what The Next Big Thing that will drive US wealth, prosperity, and growth looks like? You just saw it. Stick that in your, "ZOMG!!1!! THE CHINESE ARE TAKING OVER!!!" pipe and smoke it.

Posted by scott at 08:16 AM eMail this entry!
February 21, 2010
Old Sailors

Scientists have found evidence that hominids may have been making sea crossings much earlier than previously thought. The Australian aborigine crossing has perplexed scientists for as long as people have known it happened 60,000 years ago. Having hard evidence for another crossing twice as old will just confuse things further. Ain't science grand?

Posted by scott at 08:45 AM eMail this entry!
February 16, 2010
King Tut Update

The newest tests paint a picture of a pharaoh whose immune system was likely weakened by congenital diseases. His death came from complications from the broken leg — along with a new discovery: severe malaria.

Bring on Zahi Hawass!

Posted by Ellen at 09:44 PM eMail this entry!
February 15, 2010
No, Ellen, You Can't Have One

A New Zealand scientist is attempting to raise sea squids in captivity, starting with eggs. The ultimate goal is to raise giant squid, although the formidable challenges of the project make it seem such a goal will not be realized soon.

Posted by scott at 08:14 AM eMail this entry!
February 12, 2010
Captain Obvious, the Archeologist

Scientists have recently unlocked the genome of a Greenlander who died 4,000 years ago, and they determined he was probably some sort of native American. You know, Inuit-like. Ya don't say.

Actually, it's more complex than that, since apparently he wasn't related to any of the Inuit we know. I think it's more interesting they're able to afford to sequence such old DNA on an archeological grant. Now that price floor has been broken, all kinds of cool things should start coming to light.

Posted by scott at 06:34 PM eMail this entry!
February 09, 2010
Cellular Trash Belt

Scientists have discovered the mechanism which allows daughter cells to be created without any age-related damage from the parent cell. Turns out "conveyor belt" proteins once thought to act as a one-way method of getting items from the parent to the daughters is actually a two-way connection which allows those daughter cells to "back flush" damaged proteins into the parent.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
February 07, 2010
Climbing into the Black Box

Scientists in Belgium have developed a technique which allows them to communicate with otherwise vegetative patients. Anything that allows people to communicate is fine by me!

Posted by scott at 07:40 AM eMail this entry!
February 02, 2010
T. Rex Time

Scientists have unearthed another T. Rex ancestor in the American southwest. This one seems to be a real transition species between the smaller, earlier varieties with "shallower" snouts, and the later giant-eaters we're all familiar with. Oh, and as a dad who's daughter regularly picks paleontology books out for bedtime stories, I can only say, Bistahieversor sealeyi?!? Guys, it's easy to write those names, but have you ever actually tried to read them out loud? More than once?

Posted by scott at 07:39 PM eMail this entry!
January 28, 2010
And This is Bad BEE-CUZZ???

Seconded: "The fact that climate engineering is possible and affordable is why I do not expect south Florida, most of Bangladesh, and other large low lying places won't be submerged by melting ice from Greenland and Antarctica." And I also agree we need to be spending an appreciable amount of money on this as well. Others will likely disagree. I'm very interested to find out their reasoning.

Posted by scott at 07:17 PM eMail this entry!
January 27, 2010
The Color of Dinosaurs

Scientists have for the first time confirmed the color of a dinosaur. Everyone knew China held spectacular fossils out in the Gobi. I'm not sure anyone counted on just how spectacular they'd actually end up being.

Posted by scott at 08:06 PM eMail this entry!
January 26, 2010
Climate Change We Can Believe In

A set of scientists has announced the amount of entropy in the universe may be as much as thirty times higher than previously thought. The detail of the article makes it seem, to me at least, that they don't really know what such a conclusion might actually, you know, mean. Bah. Dick Cheney's behind it all. I just know it.

Posted by scott at 09:47 PM eMail this entry!
A Girl's Best Liquid

Scientists have created a theory which predicts oceans of liquid diamond, complete with solid diamond "bergs" floating in them, may exist on Uranus and Neptune. The evidence comes from two separate lines: the properties discovered when a proper small-scale technique for liquefying diamond were created, and the weirdness found at the magnetic poles of the two planets.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
January 21, 2010
Sun Power

Another company has announced it's "getting serious" about space-based power generation. I seem to recall the Japanese are mulling this over as well. Even ten years ago, all you heard about was talk of concepts. This definitely seems to be a step forward, although I'm not sure just how big of a one it is.

Posted by scott at 05:26 AM eMail this entry!
January 20, 2010
Insert Princess Bride Reference Here

Scientists believe they've found the earliest-known intact skeleton of an English royal. Princess Eadgyth was married to one of Europe's most powerful monarchs in the early 10th century. The body was found in a 17th century monument as part of a research project into Magdeburg Cathedral, located about 90 miles west of Berlin.

Posted by scott at 07:59 PM eMail this entry!
Ya Don't Say

It seems one of the more lurid predictions of climate change gloom, well, isn't going to work out after all. So, what you're saying is, reporters took an off-the-cuff remark, exaggerated it for effect, and used it to scare us all? Really? No way...

Posted by scott at 07:09 AM eMail this entry!
January 15, 2010
In Other News, Water Wet, Sky Blue

Scientists have announced that a simple morphine treatment shows promise in treating PTSD. By all accounts I've ever read, morphine is great for treating lots of stress-related problems.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
January 13, 2010
Something Beer Can't Do?

Scientists are reporting on evidence that green tea offers important protection against lung cancer. Of course, not smoking at all is the best strategy, but every little bit helps.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
January 01, 2010
A Devil's Cure?

Scientists have discovered that the devastating cancer that's killing off the Tasmanian devil likely came from a different species, and is spread by bites. It's hoped the discoveries will assist in the creation of a vaccine to stop the disease, which otherwise may threaten the iconic animals with extinction in the wild in as little as 25 years.

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December 30, 2009
Slip Slidin' Away

As with most things that seem stove-bolt simple in real life, measuring friction in a repeatable, neutral way turns out to be damned complicated. Considering my wife trips on level floors and my mom trips over, well, as far as we can tell... air, this is a subject of more than casual interest to me.

Posted by scott at 06:38 PM eMail this entry!
December 29, 2009
I *STILL* Blame Karl Rove

Movement of the Earth's magnetic pole has accelerated again. 40 miles a year, for something as big as, you know, the f'ing pole, seems pretty spectacular. I always love it when a natural phenomena has mysterious origins and unknown implications. Watching the MSM try to pin it on whoever they're unhappy with that week is always great sport. Global warming, anyone?

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December 28, 2009
Tiny Thunder

With the press focused on the search for the Higgs boson and the LHC ending the world, the search for the neutralino may end up being the science story of 2010. Confirming or disproving the concept of super-symmetry will definitely be high on the list of "crap we don't understand but physicists rightly think is real important." Unless the world ends.

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December 24, 2009
Power Winkie

"This isn't just bizarre voyeurism. Duck penises are a wonderful example of the strange things that happens when sexual conflict shapes the evolution of animal bodies."

With bizarre high-speed film of something that just shouldn't move that fast.

Posted by scott at 08:18 AM eMail this entry!
December 22, 2009
~ Doncha Know You Gonna / Shock the Dino ~

Scientists have discovered what appears to be conclusive evidence for a venomous dinosaur. Just because the critter was turkey-sized doesn't mean it wasn't dangerous to bigger critters. A dozen venomous, clawed turkeys would be enough to ruin anyone's day, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 07:26 AM eMail this entry!
December 21, 2009
Deep Boom

Scientists have recorded the deepest-known underwater volcano eruption. I think it's amazing that the pressure is so high even when flashed to steam the explosions only last a second or two before being collapsed back into water.

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December 16, 2009
Well That's a Comforting Thought

It seems Yellowstone's plumbing is a helluva lot larger than previously thought. Not only is the caldera some obscene number of miles across, it's hundreds of miles deep, and has layers scientists publicly admit they don't understand. You can have your damned grizzlies, my next vacation will be in the Bahamas.

Posted by scott at 08:03 PM eMail this entry!
December 15, 2009
But Does it Migrate?

An Australian scientist has discovered a species of octopus that uses coconut shells to build itself a shelter. This is said to be the first observed evidence of tool use in an invertebrate. Just as long as those tree-climbing octopus never make an appearance, I'll be fine.

Posted by scott at 08:19 PM eMail this entry!
Spooky TV

Scientists are figuring out how to make a regular LCD TV respond to gestures you make. That'd certainly relieve the regular rabbit hunt that happens every evening around here when it comes time to track down the remote. Still, it's one thing to think you're being watched, and quite another to know it.

Posted by scott at 08:12 PM eMail this entry!
December 14, 2009
Magic Tires

A group of scientists have announced the creation of artificial blood cells just as agile as the real thing. If the substance delivers on its promises, it could lead the way to a whole host of new drug delivery methods and trauma treatments.

Posted by scott at 07:25 PM eMail this entry!
December 11, 2009
Quantum Engine

Scientists have a new theory which predicts the possibility of an engine powered by the fields found in a quantum vacuum. Includes this bon mot: Of course, nobody is getting a free lunch here. "Although the proposed engine will consume energy for manipulation of the particles, the propulsion will occur without any loss of mass," says [Alex Feigel at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center, a government lab in Yavne Israel]. He even suggests, with masterful understatement, that this might have practical implications. Ya think???

Posted by scott at 11:09 AM eMail this entry!
Inconvenient Galciers

Turns out those Himalayan glaciers that are disappearing at an ever-more-rapid pace well, aren't. I know, I know, the guy practically drips reactionary denial. That said, I'm still going to refuse to beggar my country and others, while allowing other polluters to belch ever more nasty stuff into the air simply because they're "developing", over a catastrophe so fragile an Indian scientist can refute one of its more colorful assertions with ease.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
December 10, 2009
Sickle Triumph

Scientists have developed a new low-toxicity treatment for sickle cell anemia which appears to flat out cure the disease in 9 out of 10 adults. A similar, much more toxic, treatment has been available for children for some time, but the protocol was so nasty it either killed the adults outright or some time later gave them a nasty disease which would do the deed. The headline mentions stem cells, but it doesn't seem to make up a big part of the cure.

Posted by scott at 07:22 PM eMail this entry!
December 06, 2009
Which is More Proof I'm not an Average Guy

It would seem everyone perceives men to be smarter than women. Perception is, of course, quite different from actuality. Unless it's my house, then perception and actuality are dictated by the boss. Which, if you read this site long enough, you will rapidly realize is not me. :)

Posted by scott at 06:27 PM eMail this entry!
November 30, 2009
Lab Meat

Scientists are claiming to have created the world's first artificial meat. The first product is described as an extra-tasty sounding "soggy pork," but it's hoped that the product will improve as soon as they figure out how to "exercise" it. Which sounds pretty damned creepy, if you ask me. Then again, if they really can make it as tasty as the real thing, and get the price point close, it wouldn't bother me at all to at least give it a try.

Posted by scott at 08:09 PM eMail this entry!
Hammering Away

Scientists are claiming to have solved the mystery of the hammerhead shark's weird head. Turns out it provides significant advantages in binocular vision, as well as a widened field of view.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM eMail this entry!
November 29, 2009
Zap Your Wang

Israeli scientists have discovered that electro-shock therapy makes for an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. It seems very low-level electric shocks stimulate the growth of blood vessels in the treated area, which effectively treats the most common cause of ED.

Posted by scott at 11:42 AM eMail this entry!
November 27, 2009
Blue Power

Researchers in Norway have announced the opening of the world's first osmotic power plant. The plant works by using special membranes and the salt gradients between sea and fresh water. The current plant is meant for the validation of various ideas, models, and materials. A production plant will, presumably, follow if the tests are a success.

Posted by scott at 08:20 AM eMail this entry!
November 24, 2009
Cutting the Seams

Latest attempt at a new theory of gravity: cut space away from time. They're talking about "way-way-way-early universe" time and temperature here. The math is (obviously) beyond me, but other scientists seem to think the idea has merit. As a bonus, the theory could help do away with the whole concept of dark matter.

Posted by scott at 07:45 PM eMail this entry!
November 23, 2009
Odd Crocs

Scientists have reported the discovery of new and UNN-YOO-ZHYOO-ALL fossil crocodile species. Bonus: "I has a scientist nom" picture.

Posted by scott at 08:36 PM eMail this entry!
Strange Universe

Bah, I don't think these 10 facts are weird, I think they're cool. Science is fun!

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
November 21, 2009
Smoke Shot

A pharmaceutical's effort at creating a nicotine vaccine has entered (what I understand to be) its final set of trials. Everything I've ever read says smoking is by far one of the worst things people do to themselves, so anything that helps them quit seems fine by me.

Posted by scott at 09:17 AM eMail this entry!
November 19, 2009
I Have A Bigger Brain Than You!! Neener Neener Neener!!!

A National Institutes of Health study from November 2007 found that in youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the brain matures in a normal pattern. However, it is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared with youth without the disorder. The researchers used a new image analysis technique that allowed them to pinpoint the thinning and thickening of sites in the cortex of the brains of hundreds of children and teens with and without the disorder. The findings bolster the idea that ADHD results from a delay in the maturation of the cortex.

This has got to be caused by the crap we eat today.

Posted by Ellen at 06:14 AM eMail this entry!
November 18, 2009
So Much for Ancient Health

Conventional wisdom has long held ancient peoples ate healthier than we did and died too soon for it to matter anyway, so they never had to worry about things like heart disease and arteriosclerosis. Conventional wisdom is, as usual wrong.

Posted by scott at 06:58 AM eMail this entry!
Glow Mine

Scientists have created a strain of bacteria which fluoresces in the presence of explosives. The idea is to turn mine hunting from a slow, deadly-dangerous chore into a glorified gardening project. Of course, the military can and will use this just as quickly as an NGO, so perhaps this spells the end of mines as an effective weapon? Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
November 16, 2009
Peppers of DOOM

Scientists are beginning to find evidence that cocaine and pepper spray may be a deadly mix. Seems like every time I turn around they've figured out another way cocaine can kill you.

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
November 12, 2009
Shark Survey

By using special satellite tracking devices attached to the fish via darts, scientists have discovered great white sharks congregate in large numbers quite near the central and north California coasts during certain times of the year. Considering some of their primary prey items are seals and sea lions, which northern California has in abundance, I'm surprised it's taken them this long to make the discovery. Then again, it speaks well for just how small the danger is of humans being attacked by one of these sea-going predators.

Posted by scott at 08:54 AM eMail this entry!
November 11, 2009
Exotic Prediction

It would seem that a mundane gravitational boost has all eyes watching for a predicted error. By very closely examining the velocity of NASA's comet-bound Rosetta probe, scientists hope to test if an explanation of tiny but very significant velocity deviations of other probes is true.

Posted by scott at 12:53 PM eMail this entry!
November 10, 2009
Army? What Army?

Mark gets a long-lost no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of one of the first recorded "lost armies" in history. There's nothing that gives an anthropologist like me, trained in the acid sands and clays of the south, quite the geeky buzz as seeing perfectly preserved skeletons just sitting there, out in the open. The fact that they're more than 2000 years old...

Ok, sorry, had to have a lie down there. Anyway...

Posted by scott at 08:41 PM eMail this entry!
That Sounds... Interesting?

An MIT graduate student has used game theory to prove that the Nash equilibrium of complex games belong to problems of PPAD complexity, which is a subset of FNP problems which is a subset of NP problems. Somehow this all leads to the obvious conclusion that, if you can generalize a solution to poker, you can discover the Nash equilibrium of the national economy. The only person in the world I know that any of this would make sense to is now nodding his head sagely, and coming up a with a reply that'll just make my head explode a second time.

Ain't science grand?

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
November 07, 2009
Who Ordered *That*?

Scientists have detected antimatter in terrestrial lightning. Apparently the guys who run the Fermi Gamma-ray telescope had enough free time to point the thing Earth, and PoInK!, got a signature for antimatter in a thunderstorm. Just when you thought weather couldn't get any weirder...

Posted by scott at 07:13 PM eMail this entry!
Super Solution

By using an innovative technique involving two low-powered lasers, scientists appear to have cracked the fundamental problem of using crystals as an information storage medium. Various groups have been promising "huge-abyte storage the size of a sugar cube" for as long as I can remember, but this time they might mean it.

Posted by scott at 07:37 AM eMail this entry!
November 06, 2009
Cry Accent

A new study reveals infants cry with their parents' "accent". By analyzing exactly how an infant cries, scientists found strong correlations between things like pitch and modulation and the language of their parents.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
When the Future Attacks... Maybe

This time the Large Hadron Collider was damaged by (spins the Wheel o' Doom) a baguette dropped by a bird. No, really!

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM eMail this entry!
November 05, 2009
Lego Sky

Ok, according to a certain set of scientists, clouds, and the weather that creates them, can be reduced to modest, definable quantities, if you use the right formulas. College friend Bobby will probably nod his head sagely and gasp at how simple it is. I only ask he brings along a broom and a dustpan to sweep up the bits of my head after it 'asploded. I'll take both their words for it.

Posted by scott at 08:13 PM eMail this entry!
November 04, 2009
Giggidy

Like the Fark headline says, it would appear it is possible to frak someone's brains out. At 59, no less. If freaking out the teenager by doing the nasty upstairs with the wife isn't a benefit of middle age, I'm not going.

Posted by scott at 07:13 PM eMail this entry!
~ Fermi Haze / All in My Brain ~

Scientists are now speculating that the mysterious haze recently discovered at the center of our galaxy may be caused by dark matter. Per usual, this is not without controversy, but the predictions made should help figure out just what, exactly, is going on out there.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM eMail this entry!
November 03, 2009
Clever Critter

By genetically engineering a rat's brain, scientists have created what is perhaps the smartest rat on the planet. At the end of the predictable and rather long aside into Flowers for Algernon comes the news that this particular alteration seems to last well into old age.

Posted by scott at 05:47 PM eMail this entry!
November 02, 2009
Eye Bird

Scientists believe they've found that the key to avian navigation lies in their eyes, not their noses. Not much else to say about that.

Posted by scott at 06:50 AM eMail this entry!
October 30, 2009
Well that's... Interesting...
Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
October 27, 2009
Monsters of the Deep

To close up a rainy night, we have this nice summary of where marine reptile research is nowadays. The first dinosaur book I ever had talked as much about these beasts as it did about their land-based cousins. It seems kind of interesting that such an amazing variety of reptiles existed so long ago, while today the world is dominated by what was then a rare and insignificant sort of reptile primarily designed to live in buried warrens.

Posted by scott at 09:53 PM eMail this entry!
Rishathra for Real

A scientist has announced he has found conclusive proof modern humans and Neandertals had sex with each other. Just exactly what his evidence is remains to be seen. The guy says he's managed to sequence the whole Neandertal genome. We'll see...

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
October 26, 2009
Squeaky-Clean Honesty

It seems something as simple as a clean smell promotes moral behavior. I guess that explains why cats are such horrid little creaters, especially whenever they get close to a litter box.

Posted by scott at 08:23 PM eMail this entry!
October 22, 2009
A Kind of Blue

Engineers at IBM are attempting to simulate a for-real brain in silicon. Since it's not Microsoft, The Blue Screen of Death will likely be held at bay. This being IBM, the next version will have a different label stamped on the case and cost 3x as much.

Posted by scott at 06:58 PM eMail this entry!
October 21, 2009
Crater Time

Looks like Chixalub may have a competitor. Giant volcanoes, now it would seem multiple impacts, geeze... God must really have had it in for those critters.

Posted by scott at 06:34 PM eMail this entry!
October 20, 2009
Evolving Chicks

It would appear we have seen the woman of the future, and she's shorter. And heavier. But not by all that much.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
October 18, 2009
New Growth

Scientists have developed yet another use for stem cells: creating new bone. It's hoped the technique will benefit accident victims, cancer patients, and anyone else who needs bone growth to heal an injury.

Posted by scott at 08:31 AM eMail this entry!
October 16, 2009
F'ing with Flies

By using frikkin lasers, scientists are now able to modify a fruit fly's behavior. Just what it means, I'm not sure. They seem to think it'll give insights into human memory. Now where'd I put that laser pen?

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM eMail this entry!
October 15, 2009
Mind the Gap

Scientists have discovered new fossils which seems to fill an important gap in pterosaurs evolution. Not surprisingly, the fossils pose nearly as many questions as they answer. But hey, if it didn't work that way science wouldn't be any fun!

Posted by scott at 03:50 PM eMail this entry!
October 14, 2009
Foil Hat Science

Making the rounds: some scientists are speculating the LHC keeps failing because the future doesn't want it to work. Unlike most other kooky theories, this one makes testable predictions. See you in December. If I haven't already, that is.

Posted by scott at 07:15 AM eMail this entry!
October 08, 2009
Bloody Glaciers

Scientists have discovered a population of bacteria in Antarctica that appear to have been isolated, and evolving, for the past 1.5 million years. They seem to have been trapped by moving glaciers in a briny lake, and evolved to "eat" sulfur and iron.

Posted by scott at 06:47 AM eMail this entry!
October 07, 2009
Turin Time

Another year, another scientist teasing out the solution to another "mystery" of the Shroud of Turin. What seems to be ignored by all the people who so desperately want this thing to be real is the scientists would have no problem if it was real either. I mean, how cool would that be? Unfortunately that just isn't the case. I imagine it will take the development of some sort of non-destructive dating process before everyone else really accepts this thing came from the thirteenth century.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
October 06, 2009
I Have Seen the Future, and Its Name is VASIMR

A private company has now completed full-power testing of an ion engine that may be used to keep the ISS in the proper orbit. Ion engines are orders of magnitude more efficient than are chemical rockets, and may eventually be powerful enough to make huge differences in interplanetary travel times.

Posted by scott at 06:23 PM eMail this entry!
Algae Bounce
Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
October 05, 2009
Old Henge, New Henge, Stone Henge, Blue Henge

Scientists have uncovered what appears to be a smaller version of Stonehenge just a few miles from the original. It's thought this henge was contemporary with its more famous companion, and was eventually dismantled as part of an expansion of the larger site.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM eMail this entry!
October 02, 2009
The Six Million Dollar Bug

Scientists have managed to remotely control a beetle in flight. They did it pretty much how you'd expect... Frankenbug-like electrodes in the brain. They can make the bug take off, land, climb, dive, and even turn.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM eMail this entry!
October 01, 2009
Ancestor Update

Scientists have announced a new hominid fossil with extensive post-cranial remains that's even older than Lucy. Like it, the extensive study reveals surprising things about what genetic evidence suggests really is our last common ancestor with chimpanzees. Theories have been moving toward "doesn't look like a chimp OR a human" for probably ten years now, by my reckoning at any rate. It's nice to see the fossil record confirming these predictions.

Update: Much more information is here...

Posted by scott at 06:45 PM eMail this entry!
September 30, 2009
~ And the Table Goes Round and Round ~

Mark gets a circular no-prize for bringing us news that yet another grand artifact from Nero's Golden Palace has been found. This time, it's the famous rotating dining room, which used water to slowly turn a whole room to impress guests and ensure their comfort. I guess it speaks well to just how huge this bloody place was that, even after doing their level best to destroy it, Romans still left amazing bits of the Golden Palace intact.

Posted by scott at 11:35 AM eMail this entry!
September 29, 2009
Ancient Fate

Ok, all of you folks who think Archeology and Physical Anthropology can't hold a candle to history are pleased to be sitting down and shutting up now. I'm not saying any of you are like that. Almost everyone I know is downright fascinated with the fields I made my academic career in, especially when it involves the discovery of a pit of 50 decapitated Vikings. That said, there's definitely a sneaky minority of history majors out there who would do with the occasional reminder. I'm just saying...

Posted by scott at 07:11 PM eMail this entry!
Ghost Fish
Posted by scott at 06:33 AM eMail this entry!
September 28, 2009
Ship Slime

A scientist is working on a device which will make ships slimy. The thinking goes this will radically reduce the bacteria populations which form the basis for barnacle and plant infestations that regularly cause ships to be taken into dry dock to be cleaned. It doesn't sound particularly practical to me, but if it eventually makes transport cheaper, it'll be a good thing!

Posted by scott at 07:10 AM eMail this entry!
September 24, 2009
Have Metal Detector, will Travel

I guess it's just proof positive if you hunt around with a metal detector long enough, you will find something cool. I think the best I ever did with one was a beat up quarter. Then again, I never stuck to it anywhere close to 18 years.

Posted by scott at 06:28 PM eMail this entry!
September 22, 2009
And the Dinosaur Goes, "Chomp Chomp"

Mark gets a toothy no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of a T-rex fossil with unmistakable evidence of being munched on by another tyrannosaur. Exactly why this one got chomped on is unclear, but it does seem that the wound was fatal.

Posted by scott at 01:14 PM eMail this entry!
Radioactive Scrub

By using a bacteria and a cheap compound that's a byproduct of of feedstock production, scientists have created a way to safely recover uranium from abandoned mines and nuclear waste dumps. Put that in your, "there's only a limited amount of vital element X in the Earth's crust oh noes apocalypse!!!" pipe and smoke it.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM eMail this entry!
September 21, 2009
Brings a Whole New Meaning to "Sleeps with the Fishes"

Looks like the east river's going to be a lot more colorful, and informative, than in previous years. I mean, aside from letting you know which collection of goombas happens to be running the... "waste management" duties that week.

Posted by scott at 07:18 PM eMail this entry!
September 17, 2009
Plastic Gas

A new bio tech company is claiming their factory can turn plastic waste into $10/bbl fuel. Something tells me there's more to it than that, but regardless it's still nice to see one of these high-tech alternative fuel ideas made real. Me? I'm waiting on those guys who're teaching algae how to poop diesel. But this will do for now.

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
September 16, 2009
It's a Good Thing

Making the rounds: scientists have determined it actually is possible for adults to grow new brain cells. It all started, strangely enough, with the study of bird songs.

Posted by scott at 06:52 AM eMail this entry!
September 15, 2009
Timing Oxygen

Scientists have announced the discovery that Earth seems to have become free-oxygen rich much earlier than previously thought. The findings are, of course, controversial, and even the authors of the study admit they're not quite sure what to make of the data. Chemistry is hard enough when it's happening in the lab, it's no wonder trying to piece together what happened some 2.5 billion years ago is quite a bit more difficult.

Posted by scott at 08:23 PM eMail this entry!
Big Damned Bird

After re-examining the fossils, scientists have determined Maori legends of a giant killer bird are likely to be true. I've seen film of golden eagles power-gliding away from hills after snatching baby goats. A bird from the same species but twice as big would almost certainly have been able to do the same to a human child.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
September 14, 2009
Just Floatin' Around

Scientists have developed a new device which levitates mice in the lab. The system uses a superconducting magnet which creates a magnetic field so powerful it causes the water molecules inside the mouse to lift, creating a zero-G effect on the animal. The scientists want to use it to study the effect of bone loss in zero-G environments. I think it's at least as interesting to find out these mice, which are exposed to truly massive magnetic fields, so far show no tendency toward cancer. All those scientists studying whether cell phones and the like cause cancer should likely take note.

Posted by scott at 12:13 PM eMail this entry!
September 11, 2009
I Shall Call it, "Bleach Bug"

Scientists are trying to develop a bacteria that can turn dangerous radioactive metals into inert substances. The trick is that the existing bacteria doesn't particularly like oxygen, and trying to breed one without that restriction could lead to one that eats our cars. Like my spider needs another excuse to rust...

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
September 10, 2009
Gray Matter Efficiency

It looks like mammalian brains may have another advantage besides size and structure. Armchair biologist that I am, I'm convinced the reason why dinosaurs won out after the Permian extinction was because of a metabolic efficiency our kind just didn't, and doesn't, have. After all, to this day one can easily predict the rough lifespan of a mammal just by its body mass, but when birds are judged by the same metric they live twice as long as they "should."

Did we end up on top because our brains are more efficient? It'd make for an interesting hypothesis to test!

Posted by scott at 09:14 PM eMail this entry!
September 08, 2009
Fanged Frogs and Giant Rats, oh My!

Scientists rooted around in the crater of an extinct volcano and discovered something like 40 species nobody's ever seen before. These the critters described in the title, as well as monitor lizards and several different kinds of fish.

Update: I shall call it, "pip squawk."

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
August 31, 2009
Fish: Not Yours

Ok, I get that sperm whales can be a nuisance to fishermen. But after watching this video, I'm flummoxed as to exactly what can be done about it.

Posted by scott at 07:38 AM eMail this entry!
August 27, 2009
Heart Patch

Scientists have developed a new technique for "patching" damaged hearts. Healthy heart cells are taken from a patient, allowed to grown on an organic "scaffold", and then implanted in the abdomen, where they grow and develop blood vessels. When the result is implanted in the heart, it integrates and synchronizes its beating, effectively healing the damage.

At least, that's the way it works in mice. It's hoped the technique will also work in humans, providing hope for millions of heart attack victims.

Posted by scott at 07:10 AM eMail this entry!
August 24, 2009
Let's Just Say I'm Glad Plants Don't Move Very Fast

Presenting Nepenthes attenboroughii, a pitcher plant so big it eats rats for dinner. Do not miss the time-lapse film of these things growing and then blooming. I especially liked the monster sound effects.

Posted by scott at 10:11 PM eMail this entry!
Blocking Practice

Turns out that, if you want to help people get out of a room quickly, you should block their way. As with most counter-intuitive science discoveries, it's the details that make the difference.

Posted by scott at 07:04 PM eMail this entry!
Ancient Brew

Being scientists, a group of men resurrected some 45 million year-old yeast just to see if it could be done. Being men, they then used the result to make beer. No, really!

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
August 17, 2009
~ Touch My Man Again and Ima F-- You Up ~

It would seem there's a reason Ellen growls at those cute checkout girls when we go grocery shopping. Me? I'm clueless. The only way I know the cute chick thinks I'm cute is when Ellen's hackles go up. Otherwise I'm the same ol' clueless computer nerd I always have been.

Posted by scott at 01:58 PM eMail this entry!
August 12, 2009
I Shall Call it, "Greencrete"

By using a different base for its cement, a British company has created a concrete that "eats" carbon dioxide. I think. The article looks a bit spin-tastic to me, but whaddoIknow?

Gee. If only there was a phrase to describe what happens when entrepreneurs are given incentives to meet a growing demand. Oh, wait...

Posted by scott at 06:55 AM eMail this entry!
Rain Rain Go Away

Scientists in China are claiming to have discovered a strong link between rain an flower evolution. Seems creating a solution to the problem of grazing dinosaurs (which is, as I understand it at any rate, the most widely accepted explanation for flower evolution in the first place) also created a vulnerability to rain, which flowering plants have been working to solve ever since. Their solutions are as many and varied as anything else you'd expect from nature.

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
August 10, 2009
I Shall Call it, "Holotouch"

Making the rounds: scientists have created a "touchable" hologram that uses ultrasound to reproduce the "feel" of an item. Oh, don't worry, people are already talking about what it might all imply for the obvious application.

Posted by scott at 05:31 PM eMail this entry!
August 07, 2009
But will it Work with Porn?

By using innovative new techniques and devices, scientists have created a new technique to induce "out-of-body" experiences. The idea is that this sort of thing can be used in therapy to help physically disabled people more easily and successfully incorporate prosthetics into their daily lives. I think. Once they started talking about mirrors and vibrators I sorta lost my concentration.

Oh shaddup, you. That wasn't what I was talking about.

I think.

Posted by scott at 01:19 PM eMail this entry!
August 06, 2009
Old Bugs

By using sophisticated new x-ray techniques, scientists have been able to create 3-D models of long extinct spiders. Turns out, they were just as creepy 300 million years ago as they are today.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
August 05, 2009
Electric Bugs

By using various new breeding techniques, scientists have created a bacteria which generates 8 times as much electricity as its "wild" ancestors. Yep, you hear right, bacteria which creates electricity. And all this time I thought bacteria that pooped diesel oil was a neat trick. These new guys just saved a step!

Posted by scott at 11:37 AM eMail this entry!
Brain Buzz

Scientists claim to have discovered a structural difference in the brain which appears only in those qualified as "psychopathic." Will this be a valuable new diagnostic tool, or yet another example of a new, more expensive sort of phrenonlogy? Only time will tell.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
August 04, 2009
We Live In a Mentally Ill Country

WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Use of antidepressant drugs in the United States doubled between 1996 and 2005, probably because of a mix of factors, researchers reported on Monday.

About 6 percent of people were prescribed an antidepressant in 1996 -- 13 million people. This rose to more than 10 percent or 27 million people by 2005, the researchers found.

Sad really. Many of them are misdiagnosed too.

Posted by Ellen at 07:02 AM eMail this entry!
August 02, 2009
I Shall Call it, "Jogbot"

Japan's fascination with robotics seems to have made another step in bringing us a genuine C3PO. It sorts looks like a person trying to run across ice, at least to me.

Posted by scott at 08:52 AM eMail this entry!
July 30, 2009
Your Inner Victorian

New Scientist is featuring these highlights from The Welcome Collection in London called Exquisite Bodies, which lays claim to "exploring the often bizarre Victorian approach to medical teaching and public titillation." Ellen will likely click through it three or four times.

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM eMail this entry!
July 29, 2009
Road Jerks

Science is proving that, once again, when you analyze human behavior, even "bad" behavior, it's often done for a good reason even when that reason isn't always clear. Case in point: people are jerks in traffic because being a jerk works, and, surprisingly, it works for everyone. At least until the tail-gaters get involved. Ellen. :)

Posted by scott at 02:14 PM eMail this entry!
July 28, 2009
Bug Gas

A new company is claiming to have created an algae-based technique for biofuel with yields which could make it competitive with common dino-juice. Two years ago this stuff was all in labs, and the scientists were saying, "five to ten years." Now they're saying things like "three to five years," and are scouting sites to build farms. Now, that's my kind of progress!

Posted by scott at 06:58 AM eMail this entry!
The Power of Blue

Scientists have discovered the compound used to make M&M shells blue can also be used to help reduce the damage of spinal injuries. Bonus: you turn blue when you're treated with it. Hey, IMO looking like a smurf is a small price to pay to stay away from a wheelchair!

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM eMail this entry!
July 27, 2009
~ Whoa oh oh it's MAGE-ic ~

Scientists have developed a new technique which may rapidly decrease the time it takes to engineer bacteria that create desirable substances. The key is a system which allows a massive number of bacteria to be created with slight, but significant, genetic differences in each one. This "shotgun" approach seems to be a bit like the lottery... if you play enough numbers, what you want is bound to show up eventually.

Posted by scott at 11:46 AM eMail this entry!
Wreck Find

Mark gets a no-prize shaped like an amphora for bringing us news of the discovery of even more ancient Roman ship wrecks. Apparently looters are getting better gear, and are now able to pick apart even comparatively deep wrecks like the ones featured in the article. It always will be a race between science and profit.

Posted by scott at 10:18 AM eMail this entry!
July 24, 2009
Glow People

It would seem people actually emit visible light. As in, "glow in the dark," albeit very, very faintly. Who knew?

Posted by scott at 06:59 AM eMail this entry!
July 23, 2009
Um... that's Kinda Freaky

Chinese scientists have announced the ability to create viable and fertile mouse pups from adult mouse skin cells. Cloning whole critters is all well and good, but I'm looking forward to the day they can clone spare parts.

Posted by scott at 01:52 PM eMail this entry!
Just Don't Tell the Feminists

It would seem fathers really aren't dispensable. Certain females in my life, who once harped quite often on how women could do without men but not vice-versa, will be ever so disappointed.

Posted by scott at 09:43 AM eMail this entry!
July 22, 2009
Laser Spark

It would seem the next endangered auto technology is the spark plug. Great. Yet another part that will eventually become impossible to find for the cars I drive. Ah, well...

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM eMail this entry!
July 21, 2009
~ Shake Shake Shake / Shake Your Building ~

Engineers have created an apartment block made of wood which can withstand a 7.5-strength earthquake. Kind of a shame, in a way, since I think the only way to get rid of those bums in downtown San Francisco would be to drop buildings on them.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM eMail this entry!
July 20, 2009
The Few, the Proud, the Neandertals

A recent genetic study has concluded Neandertals likely went extinct because there just weren't that many of them. Perhaps as few as 3500, even. Such a precise, and precisely small, number would seem to make them far less likely to be fossilized. That said, perhaps the neandertal practice of burying their dead made them much more likely to be fossilized?

Posted by scott at 12:56 PM eMail this entry!
July 19, 2009
Early Intervention Needed

A MOTHER has made public the plight of her son who became a teenage alcoholic and is now dying because he is not allowed a liver transplant.

Now you feel you need help?

Sorry dude. Karma sucks.

Posted by Ellen at 04:49 PM eMail this entry!
Why Am I Not
Posted by Ellen at 04:28 PM eMail this entry!
July 17, 2009
Faster, Please

Remember those scientists who were working on a way to get algae to poop fuel? They seem to be progressing nicely. 100k gallons of fuel in a year is quite a lot of gas, but it's less than a drop of what the whole country uses in a day. Still, ya gotta start somewhere, and this also seems to demonstrate the technique is not just a whole lotta hype.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
July 16, 2009
Skin, in a Jar

Scientists in Germany have created a new technique to grow artificial human skin at a much lower price than other existing techniques. It seems the process is much faster as well. It's a little creepy to me, but I'm sure my squeamishness would disappear quickly enough were I to need a skin graft of some sort.

Posted by scott at 10:13 AM eMail this entry!
July 15, 2009
Pee Power!

No, really, pee power:

Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.

Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel."

"No, officer, I was drinking beer because I ran out of gas!"

Posted by scott at 08:19 PM eMail this entry!
Not That There's Anything Wrong with That

A British museum has discovered one of the mummies in its collection claims to be a she but is in fact a he. Seems quite strange to me, since I can't recall ever hearing about trans-gendered folks in antiquity. By the time this mummy was made, Greek culture was ascendant and they quite famously had no problems with sexuality of any sort.

Via Violins and Starships.

Posted by scott at 02:05 PM eMail this entry!
Light Crane

Scientists have discovered a "repulsive" side of light which should enable more sophisticated micro-manufacturing techniques. It all works because out-of-phase light beams repel each other. Not only does the discovery have implications for building very small things, it also could be used to create light-based circuits as well. Anything that'll make a laptop run cooler is fine by me!

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM eMail this entry!
July 13, 2009
Digging Dinosaurs

Scientists have discovered evidence that some dinosaurs who lived in Earth's polar regions burrowed in the ground to survive. I'd think with such a ready-made opportunity for fossilization, there'd be more of these to find. Then again, what do I know?

Posted by scott at 08:28 AM eMail this entry!
July 11, 2009
That's Just Too Easy

Scientists have developed a new technique which, in mice at least, allows mammals to convert fat in to CO2 and exhale the result. Wasn't there a fad diet that claimed to be able to do this?

Posted by scott at 08:11 AM eMail this entry!
July 09, 2009
July 08, 2009
I Know...I'm Not Allowed One Either...

The 3-foot-long (0.9-meter-long) Cretaceous creature had a boxlike skull and beaklike jaw that resemble those of modern parrots, which have beaks that can crack open nuts, a new study found.

That's one big parrot!

Posted by Ellen at 06:24 AM eMail this entry!
Don't Forget To Wipe!

But it was still an uphill battle to get the public to openly buy the product, largely because Americans remained embarrassed by bodily functions. In fact, the Scott brothers were so ashamed of the nature of their work that they didn't take proper credit for their innovation until 1902.

Do you fold or crumple?

Posted by Ellen at 06:15 AM eMail this entry!
July 05, 2009
Key To Your Brain

I guess this fits in this week since Scott is in San Francisco for his yearly work convention!

Scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people.

Previously doctors had assumed that the two conditions were quite separate. But new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses.

Don't miss out on this read!
Posted by Ellen at 09:08 PM eMail this entry!
July 04, 2009
Taking that Whole "Eye Teeth" Thing Way Too Far

A blind man is able to see for the first time in years via what is effectively a tooth implanted in his eye. It would seem the quality of sight is quite high; unfortunately the article doesn't seem to detail just how high it might be.

Posted by scott at 07:38 AM eMail this entry!
July 01, 2009
It's the Incredible Shrinking Genome!

No, really:

So it seems that mammalian genomes have been purging themselves from mobile DNA elements just around the KT boundary, give or take a couple of million years. (Or rather: not taking in new elements).

Predictably, nobody's really sure why this is, or what it means.

Posted by scott at 02:54 PM eMail this entry!
Paul Presents

Mark gets a no-prize that'll complain with impressive theological arguments any time it feels disrespected for bringing us an update on just what, exactly, the Vatican has found buried underneath its altar. To anyone else, the carbon dating results of the human remains found simply do not exclude that they could be of Paul. The rest, as I guess is intended, must be taken on faith.

Posted by scott at 11:50 AM eMail this entry!
Buzz, Buzz... Nom, Nom...

Making the rounds: an artist has created a "carnivorous clock" which eats bugs to get its power. In the South, we call these "bug zappers."

Posted by scott at 07:04 AM eMail this entry!
June 29, 2009
Ancient Elephant

Scientists have discovered fossil evidence of the earliest-known ancestor to the modern elephant. It apparently weight not much more than 25 pounds, and lived just five million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.

Posted by scott at 06:54 AM eMail this entry!
June 28, 2009
Damned Sky Rats

And now, seagulls attacking full-grown whales. Like they need something else to worry about.

Posted by scott at 08:44 AM eMail this entry!
June 27, 2009
Two Words...

... drunk monkeys. And not the "Hey Hey We're the" kind either.

Go for the wobbly primates. Stay for the lunatic who dressed up their cat.

Posted by scott at 08:58 AM eMail this entry!
June 26, 2009
When Chicken Little Fails

Remember all those deformed frogs scientists were finding? You know, the ones who were a solid harbinger of climate change, the "smoking gun" that was going to force all us luddites to finally agree to strangling the economy to save them? Yeah, not so much.

Scientists have been claiming the imminent destruction of every princess's favorite amphibian for at least the past thirty years. Like most eschatological predictions, this was has the infuriating habit of not happening!

Sic semper balatro.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM eMail this entry!
June 25, 2009
The Tot Who's a Teen

Meet Brooke Greenberg, the child who does not appear capable of aging:

"My system always has been to turn years into months," [Brooke's mother] said. "So, if someone asked today, I might say, she's 16 months old."

Scientists think figuring out just what's wrong with Brooke may provide insights into aging.

Posted by scott at 06:39 AM eMail this entry!
June 22, 2009
Shark Smarts

Scientists have found that great white sharks are very particular about the sorts of places they choose to hunt. Seems pretty basic to me, but I guess if you grow up thinking a shark is just a big, nasty, dangerous goldfish, it would be a bit of a revelation.

Posted by scott at 12:01 PM eMail this entry!
June 18, 2009
Tomb Time

Scientsts have discovered a 6000 year-old complex of tombs near Stonehenge. I'm not sure which is more remarkable... the complex itself, or the fact that it took the famously heritage-minded Brits until now to find it.

Posted by scott at 07:06 AM eMail this entry!
June 17, 2009
Like the Hole in Your Head

The on-again, off-again saga of modern trepanation, the practice of drilling holes in the head to relieve diseases, now appears to be "on" again. This time, research seems to be indicating a leading cause of dementia may be restricted blood circulation through the skull and brain, which strategically placed holes may help alleviate.

Posted by scott at 08:47 AM eMail this entry!
June 15, 2009
Color Me Classic

Using special lights and cameras, scientsts have for the first time direct evidence of exactly what color was used on the Parthenon, and where. I'm holding out for the 3D virtual reality that'll let me walk around and view these things as they appeared in their heyday.

Posted by scott at 06:35 PM eMail this entry!
Water Magnet

A new theory holds that it's Earth's oceans that are responsible for the planet's magnetic field, not the core. It's hard to tell from the article, but the theory appears to account for recorded variations in the planet's magnetic field over time. Things like pole reversals, and strength fluctuations, which core-centered theories haven't been able to account for. It'd be interesting to find out what sort of predictions the theory makes.

Posted by scott at 06:37 AM eMail this entry!
June 13, 2009
Stone Chef

An anthropologist has written a popular science book which claims what really made us human was cooking.

Like most "absolutely everything can be explained by X" theories, this one likely won't last all that long either. Still, it does seem to introduce important, and original, ideas in the study of human evolution. That said, I could swear I've read elsewhere that cooking was considered an important part of our evolution.

Posted by scott at 07:19 AM eMail this entry!
June 10, 2009
DNA Doctor

Scientists have created a new compound which holds promise both as an anti-cancer drug and an antibiotic. The new iron-based substance disrupts the function of a cell's DNA, and was able to kill "virtually all" bacteria in a culture 2 minutes. How it manages not to affect the DNA of "good" cells is unclear, but presumably this is not a problem.

Posted by scott at 07:25 AM eMail this entry!
June 08, 2009
Rat Research

It would appear wild rats are every bit as interesting as their lab-based brethren. They have to be. They have to fight Baltimore junkies and homeless people for the same living space.

Posted by scott at 06:43 AM eMail this entry!
June 04, 2009
Stem Sight

Scientists have used stem cells to repair corneas of three different patients in Australia. The results are far from "bionic", but it beats the s- out of being blind I'm sure. And hey, you gotta start somewhere, eh?

Posted by scott at 09:47 PM eMail this entry!
Witch Bottle

Archeologists have unearthed the first intact "witch bottle" from the 17th century. Filled with nails, wire, sulfur, and urine, the devices were meant to protect the owner from witch's spells. This one even sloshes.

Posted by scott at 07:17 AM eMail this entry!
June 02, 2009
Diver Down

Scientists have developed a new robotic submersible that's strong enough to plumb the depths of the Challenger Abyss. The real innovation would appear to be the craft does not need any sort of tether, substantially increasing its mobility and, thereby, its ability to do research.

Posted by scott at 07:33 PM eMail this entry!
Paging Elton John, White Courtesy Phone Please

While a bit long on the "entertaining anecdote" and short on the "hard science", this brief essay on "The 'Bitch' Evolved: Why Girls are So Cruel to Each Other" was still of interest, and even provided some predictions! Since I'm raising one of these monsters-to-be, I have a particular interest in the subject. Quite well taken was the point that parents may not respond as actively to instances of social violence as they do to physical violence.

Posted by scott at 12:39 PM eMail this entry!
May 29, 2009
Stem Cell Update

This sounds darned promising:

Researchers at Harvard and Advanced Cell Technology are reporting that they have been able to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells by dousing them with the proteins made by four specific genes.

Of course, then the scientist has to go and ruin it by getting all enthusiastic:

"After a few more flight tests -- in order to assure everything is working properly -- it should be ready for commercial use," [Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell] said by e-mail.

I'll believe it when I see it, but it sure does sound hopeful!

Posted by scott at 04:06 PM eMail this entry!
Invisi-Sub

Scientists have developed a sonic "ultra-lense" which does all sorts of neat things to sound. The two mentioned in the article are making a ship invisible to sonar and improving the resolution of ultrasound devices without upping the energy they use. Personally, the latter sounds more do-able in the short term than the former, but wtf do I know?

Posted by scott at 10:12 AM eMail this entry!
May 28, 2009
Sometimes, all You Need is the Title

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Female Ejaculation but were Afraid to Ask. It's a science article, and so completely SFW.

And won't you have an entertaining topic for the dinner table tonight, eh?

Posted by scott at 03:32 PM eMail this entry!
May 27, 2009
Personally, I Think "Bone Spackle" is a Better Name

Scientists have announced the creation of a new medical compound that could help people with nasty bone fractures be up and around in a matter of weeks. Called "bone putty", the substance is a mold-able lattice that encourages new bone growth to span severe bone injuries. If the substance works as advertised, it sounds like it'll make the current "rods-screws-and-bolts" look positively medieval.

Posted by scott at 01:07 PM eMail this entry!
May 21, 2009
Chicken Little in a Soda Can

Ruh-Roh:

Doctors have issued a warning about excessive cola consumption after noticing an increase in the number of patients suffering from muscle problems, according to the June issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

So says the admirably scare-mongering headline. A close reading reveals that an undisclosed number of people who drank two to nine liters of soda a day suffered a variety of ailments one would presumably expect from a population consuming orders of magnitude more sugar and caffeine per day than the general population.

Using such an observation to preach a back-handed sermon on our bourgeois lifestyle makes for admirable watermelon-rolling, but not particularly informative journalism.

Posted by scott at 11:48 AM eMail this entry!
May 19, 2009
Critter Gallery

Those not satisfied with Space Shuttle pictures may find this collection of newly-discovered animal oddities of interest. No, Ellen, you can't have any.

Posted by scott at 12:42 PM eMail this entry!
May 18, 2009
Neandertal Nom

It would seem at least one of the causes of Neandertal extinction was that they were tasty, and good with BBQ sauce. All jokes aside, it's my understanding from the various Discovery documentaries I've seen that there is strong evidence for cannibalism in ancient H. sapiens of all sorts. In other words, our ancestors were pretty much like any other animal, willing to eat absolutely anything that wasn't poisonous or trying to eat them first.

Posted by scott at 10:18 AM eMail this entry!
May 14, 2009
More Invisible Fun

Those kooky scientists at Hong Kong University are at it again, this time coming up with a cloak that makes one object look like another. In their example, it involves making an elephant look like a mouse, and visa-versa. Personally, I've had it with all these neat descriptions. To paraphrase, Products, or GTFO!

Posted by scott at 11:48 AM eMail this entry!
May 13, 2009
Blue Return

Blue whales are returning to northern grazing areas they'd been hunted out of decades ago. The reasons behind the move are unclear. Surprisingly, this lack of data meant blaming climate change came in second to "that's where the food is." The first crack in the watermelon's armor? We'll see...

Posted by scott at 11:42 AM eMail this entry!
May 11, 2009
Funny Spider

Today's "clever bit of nature iddinit?" comes from the Hawaiian Islands. "Happy face" spiders are all well and good, but can they dance?

Posted by scott at 03:30 PM eMail this entry!
Prime Patterns

Mathematicians have discovered a new pattern in prime numbers. Turns out there's another way that they're not random. What does it mean? I dunno, math never was one of my strengths. It does sounds pretty neat though, in a "ahhhuuah??" way

Posted by scott at 11:31 AM eMail this entry!
May 08, 2009
Organ Growth

Scientific American is featuring this in-depth look at how growing organs is progressing. Don't have time to go through it here at work (shocking, I know), but it's definitely on the list for tonight.

Posted by scott at 11:48 AM eMail this entry!
Now That's a Science Project

So, do you think relativity's a bunch of hooey now? Took me two run-throughs just to figure out what the guy was trying to accomplish. Oh, and leaving a car idling for two days? Yeah, he knows physics a lot better than auto mechanics.

Posted by scott at 08:56 AM eMail this entry!
May 07, 2009
Hobbit Update

Hard to believe it's been 5 years since the Flores "Hobbits" were discovered. Fortunately, the science keeps rolling on. The article passes over it only briefly, but it would seem the hobbits not only had small brains, they also had big feet.

Posted by scott at 03:01 PM eMail this entry!
"Trapping" the Dinosaurs

In the ongoing tennis match between volcanism and impact theories about the extinction of the dinosaurs, it would appear today's serve comes from the Deccan Traps. The article's not particularly good at summarizing just what the scientist means by all this, Wikipedia's entry is, naturally, more informative.

Seems to me the most likely explanation would be the dinosaurs barely struggling through this awful millenia-long volcanic disaster, only to have the sky fall on them in the end.

Posted by scott at 08:43 AM eMail this entry!
May 06, 2009
Past Sequences

Scientists have sequenced the proteins of another dinosaur. This time, it's a hadrosaur species from a fossil much older than that which produced the T. Rex sequences last year. It sounds like they're a very long way indeed from getting an entire genome, but who would ever have thought they'd be able to sequence any organic matter from 65 million-year plus rocks?

Posted by scott at 05:43 PM eMail this entry!
May 05, 2009
Winkie Clarification

While we missed the originating article, this rejoinder to criticisms about why the human penis evolved into its present shape was still pretty interesting. The original article is linked in the reply, so it's easy to get caught up. Heheheheh... I said, "up."

Posted by scott at 02:53 PM eMail this entry!
Nuclear Whiskey

Scientists are using a rather interesting test to determine if expensive vintage whiskey really is, well, expensive vintage whiskey. The hook? Turns out all the open-air nuclear testing back in the 50s and 60s flung enough radioactive crap into the air to detectably alter whiskey distilled after that time. So now it would appear to be very easy to tell if, for example, a whiskey advertised as distilled in 1856 was actually made in 1956. There may or may not be a difference in flavor, but it definitely makes a difference in the price.

Which also answers a question I've had for years. Beer and wine will age to a certain point, but after that they spoil or go to vinegar. It would appear whiskey, at least, does not have this problem.

Posted by scott at 09:26 AM eMail this entry!
May 04, 2009
Bring Out Your [Teeny Tiny] Dead

It would seem ants have a particularly stinky sort of "dead man's switch" which allows them to move their dead compatriots out of the nest before the corpses can cause harm. No, I'm not completely sure what good finding this out does for us, but hell I thought it was interesting. Science is funny that way, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 07:13 PM eMail this entry!
April 29, 2009
Sole Surviors?

A US paleontologist is claiming to have found a population of dinosaurs which survived the K-T extinction event. What puzzles me a bit is the location. I would think the Arizona-New Mexico area would've been way too close to the impact for anything to survive. Then again, I'm not completely sure that bit of continental shelf was actually all that close to the impact 65 million years ago.

The finding is, of course, controversial.

Posted by scott at 10:29 AM eMail this entry!
April 28, 2009
Quantum Efficiency

It's beginning to look like living systems like plants, birds, and insects use quantum effects for a variety of biological functions. Strong proof is still to be discovered, but the evidence is mounting. Most heartening is that, unlike the previously cited sexual study, this one is making concrete, testable predictions that will lead to further evidence, either for or against.

And wouldn't it be spooky to ultimately define life as "systems which manipulate quantum states through carbon-based chemical processes"? I wonder what it would mean for consciousness?

Posted by scott at 03:04 PM eMail this entry!
A Specific Sort of Bias

So, it seems women are supposed to be hard to bring to orgasm. To me, the whole thing sniffs of postmodern feminist doctrine disguising itself as science, but the basic premise seems interesting enough. I just wish they'd make more (any?) testable predictions with their hypothesis.

Posted by scott at 12:56 PM eMail this entry!
April 27, 2009
I Shall Call it, "Gecko Bot"

Experimental products using the mechanism geckos use to climb walls are literally starting to crawl out of the lab. They're still a long way from production, but it's nice to finally see some tangible results from the discovery of the surprisingly sophisticated method geckos use to sneak up on bugs.

Posted by scott at 12:30 PM eMail this entry!
April 23, 2009
Mini Find

Sometimes "frozen mammoth find" means an undifferentiated lump of mud and fur. This is not one of those times. I wonder how long it'll be before they dig up one of the people who hunted these things?

Posted by scott at 04:14 PM eMail this entry!
GlowPup

I'm surprised it's taken this long for scientists to create a fluorescent puppy. It's hoped this proof-of-concept will lead the way toward better fertility treatments and other new disease treatments. No, I don't immediately see how either, but they seem to. Beats finding them in soup, I guess.

Posted by scott at 01:51 PM eMail this entry!
I Shall Call it, "Fart Cart"

Leave it to the Japanese to make a big deal about methane powered golf carts. I guess any press release containing the words "cow" and "dung" will attract attention but really, alternative-fuel carts have been around for decades. Maybe the factory that produces the methane is the real innovation here, but (of course) that's not what everyone's focusing on.

Posted by scott at 09:58 AM eMail this entry!
April 20, 2009
Turns Out It's True

The goggles, they do nothing:

"Another interesting finding was that overall participants who drank alcohol actually rated all the women in the photos as less attractive, compared to the participants who hadn't drunk alcohol. This seemingly flies in the face of the commonly held notion of 'beer goggles'."

I can't remember a time I was so lit an ugly chick suddenly became pretty. Then again, it's been a very long time since I was single, and I wasn't particularly good at it even back then.

Posted by scott at 12:43 PM eMail this entry!
April 17, 2009
~ Are We Breathing Out, or Breathing in? ~

Scientists have developed new devices and techniques which allow human lungs to survive for up to 12 hours outside the body. The developments are allowing lungs that would previously have been unsuitable for transplant to be used, very successfully. The article includes an "Airplane-joke-waiting-to-happen" picture of the device.

Posted by scott at 01:30 PM eMail this entry!
But What About the Asp?

Jeff gets a no-prize with its face painted red* for bringing us news that Cleopatra's tomb may have been found. So far it's only an interesting radar return. It remains to be seen if there will be any digging to confirm the team's suspicion.

Article includes a quote from everyone's favorite Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass. Heyy-ya-HUP!!!

----
* Oh go look it up.

Posted by scott at 12:31 PM eMail this entry!
Quantum Decisions

Scientists have created a theory which uses quantum mathematical techniques to more accurately predict human behavior. If a strong link between human consciousness and quantum mechanics can ever be established... well, I'm not sure what it'll mean, but it'll be profound. It'll be quantum!

Posted by scott at 10:05 AM eMail this entry!
April 16, 2009
Cannonball!

Ok, well, that's nice: a small-to-medium sized asteroid hit won't cause massive tsunamis. It will send several hundred thousand tons of water into the air. I agree with the scientists... bad idea all around to be anywhere near one of these things.

Posted by scott at 01:46 PM eMail this entry!
April 14, 2009
Diabetes Development

More studies seem to indicate a stem cell treatment for diabetes works. The studies are still small, and the treatment doesn't seem to work for everyone, but any progress toward a more permanent fix for this very debilitating disease would be welcome.

Posted by scott at 12:45 PM eMail this entry!
April 08, 2009
Transplant Touchdown

Scientists may have finally cleared the final, toughest hurdle of organ transplant: immune system rejection:

Professor Jonathan Sprent and Dr Kylie Webster from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research focused on a different type of T cells – known as regulatory T cells (Treg) – in this study. Tregs are capable of quieting the immune system, stopping the killer T cells from seeking out and attacking foreign objects. Usually, these cells live in basic equilibrium, allowing the killer T cells to destroy what needs to be destroyed, but stopping them once the infection is over. The idea was to boost the number of Tregs in the system, quieting the killer T cells for a period of time sufficient for the body to accept the new tissue. After that point, the immune system would return to normal activity.

Sorta sounds like burning a new BIOS for your immune system, eh? Here's to hoping it works as well in humans as it does in mice!

Posted by scott at 01:38 PM eMail this entry!
April 03, 2009
Warp Drive: Not Yours

It seems that quantum mechanics is ruling out warp drives. Again. I think. Actually, assuming they can keep it turned on without exploding and it doesn't suck the Earth into a black hole, the Large Hadron Collider is set to significantly revamp the standard model in the next five years or so. This definitely isn't the last word.

Posted by scott at 09:40 AM eMail this entry!
April 01, 2009
Tobacco Sheild

Ron gets a no-prize he can smoke for bringing us news that, by using a genetically engineered virus, scientists have turned a specific sort of tobacco plant into a natural drug factory. Wouldja lookit that... a cause various leftist Luddites and suspicious tobacco farmers can get all up in arms about together!

Posted by scott at 01:30 PM eMail this entry!
Vampire Power

Scientists have created a yeast-powered fuel cell which can use human blood as its fuel. They are apparently quite a ways from creating a usable product, but its hoped that if the research pans out the devices will be used to power a number of micro-devices inside the human body, like pacemakers or pumps.

Posted by scott at 11:40 AM eMail this entry!
March 31, 2009
Mind Control

Honda has developed a system which allows an individual to control one of its ASIMO robots with thought alone. Notwithstanding all the "big brother" and "I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords" issues everyone will likely bring up, I wonder if this development could be used to help people with catastrophic mobility disabilities in any way? In my own opinion, having a disability which completely immobilizes the body but leaves the brain fully functional is one of the worst of human fates. It would seem that Honda's creation could one day promise at least a small, and potentially a very large, amount of relief to such people by providing them with a helmet and a robot helper.

Posted by scott at 12:40 PM eMail this entry!
March 24, 2009
Big Science

Nothing like a monstrous chamber of hyper-pure water to start your day. I wonder how they keep it that pure and still let people in? Those must be some interesting dive suits!

Posted by scott at 10:54 AM eMail this entry!
March 23, 2009
Here We Go Again

Cold fusion appears to be poised for yet another comeback. This time around, it seems scientists are taking the data more seriously. This is, what, the third or fourth time another cold fusion discovery has been made? Sooner or later I'll bet they find something...

Posted by scott at 12:40 PM eMail this entry!
March 16, 2009
Somebody Wrote the Bloody Things

Jeff gets an enigmatic no-prize for bringing us news of a new study who's author claims the Dead Sea Scrolls were not, in fact, written by the Essenes:

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian, Josephus Flavius, and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact through the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend."

I'm not sure a more contentious area of scholarship exists than historic biblical criticism. This has the smell of a politically-motivated attack, or a bomb-thrower looking for some publicity. However, in this particular contest I'm merely sitting on the top row of the bleachers, waiting for the rest of the People's Front of Judea to show up. WTF do I know?

Do you have any change? I could really use a bag of those otters' noses...

Posted by scott at 02:18 PM eMail this entry!
March 10, 2009
Ima Git U... *OOK*

A zoo chimp's bad behavior seems to provide proof our closest cousins can also plot long-term strategies. The chimp troupe at the Little Rock zoo had (perhaps still has) a member who would flip out whenever anyone wearing a shirt like the one the staff wore showed up. Which, of course, one day I did. Let's just say I'm quite happy the only thing in the world even worse at throwing a ball than I am is a chimp.

Posted by scott at 09:53 PM eMail this entry!
It'll Certainly Make Trips to the Bathroom More Interesting

Scientists are now experimenting with hookworms as a treatment for MS. The reactions of the medical professionals in my family, who've spent their entire careers fighting such things, should be instructive.

Posted by scott at 02:57 PM eMail this entry!
March 09, 2009
Gauging Loops

A team of scientists has modified a "dark horse" theory of gravity, enabling it to account for at least some gauge transformations. The only reason I could follow the article at all was I just recently read Warped Passages (highly recommended!). Even then it made my head crack, instead of explode like this sort of thing normally does. I guess it would suffice to say this is important, and, if the predictions this new theory is presumably making pan out, could represent the revolution required to integrate gravity with quantum mechanics.

Posted by scott at 01:52 PM eMail this entry!
March 08, 2009
As If Guys Don't Smell Already

Research leader Professor Giuseppe Cirino said: “We found that hydrogen sulphide is involved in human penile erection. That was proved in this study.” He added that the discovery would help treat erectile dysfunction in future.

What?

Posted by Ellen at 09:44 PM eMail this entry!
March 06, 2009
Domestic Dating

They're not transportation, they're self-propelled breweries:

Horses were domesticated much earlier than previously thought, according to a team of researchers.
...
Writing in Science, a team from the UK's Exeter University suggested that the community in Kazakhstan rode their horses 1,000 years earlier.

They also ate them and drank their milk, possibly as an alcoholic brew.

I've heard enough rumors about fermented horse milk to continue to hope all I ever know about the stuff is rumors.

Posted by scott at 08:43 AM eMail this entry!
March 03, 2009
OOlllldddd... Brainsss...

Scientists have discovered the earliest known intact brain fossil ever found. The technique could lead to a re-examination of huge numbers of fossils, with the potential for greatly increasing our understanding of the evolution of the brain.

Posted by scott at 09:45 AM eMail this entry!
Some Secrets are Better Left Unrevealed

And in the, "don't you have anything better to do?" category, we have a new entry giving a scientific explanation for why belly buttons collect fuzz. I've heard of "contemplating your navel" before, but that's ridiculous.

Posted by scott at 07:16 AM eMail this entry!
February 26, 2009
Design-a-Kid

It would seem the future is now, at least where designer babies are concerned.

To ensure my child is not afflicted by some horrible, life-ending genetic problem? Sure! To make sure it's a certain type, with a specific eye color? Bah. When they come up with a check for, "learns 'get daddy a beer'" faster, maybe I'll call.

Posted by scott at 03:35 PM eMail this entry!
February 19, 2009
Molecular Face

At least one scientist thinks it may soon be possible to glean facial details from DNA. While not exactly a full reconstruction from a strand of self-important protein, it still seems enough to, say, narrow down a list of suspects, sometimes significantly. Who knows, perhaps ten years from now we'll be able to reconstruct what someone looks like just from a fingernail clipping. The implications for historical reconstruction are pretty exciting.

Posted by scott at 12:50 PM eMail this entry!
February 17, 2009
Waitaminute... I'm Married?

Scientists have discovered a common high blood pressure treatment may be useful in treating disorders caused by traumatic memories. It doesn't appear to be a pill that makes you forget, but rather a pill that allows you to remember.

Posted by scott at 12:26 PM eMail this entry!
February 16, 2009
Bank Shot, Corner Pocket

Instead of coming up with "mo' bettah" antibiotics to fight superbugs, one group of scientists has discovered a compound which seems to act like kryptonite. As long as the little bastards end up dead before I do, it's all good to me!

Posted by scott at 10:26 AM eMail this entry!
February 13, 2009
BioBugs

Scientists appear to have discovered that parasitic wasps gained the ability to "zombify" caterpillars by harnessing a viral disease some 100 million years ago. I guess if life is given enough cracks at it, just about anything's possible... even internal genetic engineering!

Posted by scott at 10:31 AM eMail this entry!
February 11, 2009
E-Smoke Up, Charlie

When engineering meets addiction, the e-cigarette is born. If it makes clubs less polluted, I'll call it a good thing.

Posted by scott at 07:56 PM eMail this entry!
February 10, 2009
Ancient Box, Virtual Opening

Ah, the joys of non-destructive archeology. One of these days we'll have to travel to Chicago and see all of these things. I was last there I think in 1998. Too long.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure 3000 years ago places Ms. Sealed Sarcophagus in the new kingdom.

Posted by scott at 03:57 PM eMail this entry!
[Marvin Martian Voice]Delays... Delays...[/MMV]

Due to a lack of competent trumpet players, the end of the world has been postponed seven months:

The Large Hadron Collider could be switched back on in September - a year after it shut down due to a malfunction and several months later than expected.

We apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause.

Posted by scott at 02:11 PM eMail this entry!
February 09, 2009
Practical Science

Well, who wouldn't want to know if someone can swim faster in syrup than they can in water? If it's safe to pour down the sewer, why's everyone wearing breathing masks?

Posted by scott at 01:13 PM eMail this entry!
February 05, 2009
Why Warm?

A new scientific theory is postulating warm-bloodedness was a response to the conditions of plant eaters, not predators. The theory is still quite new and therefore strong on predictions but short on evidence. However, it does seem to neatly explain why both mammals and (presumably) dinosaurs selected what would otherwise be considered a quite wasteful metabolic strategy.

Posted by scott at 11:05 AM eMail this entry!
February 03, 2009
Hybridize Hold-Up

Scientists seem to have discovered that creating human-animal hybrid embryos is much more difficult than previously thought. Has there ever been a time when something's turned out to be easier than previously thought? The entire US government would seem to be a gigantic counterfactual to the very idea.

Posted by scott at 12:47 PM eMail this entry!
February 02, 2009
Old Tool Time

Scientists have found evidence of human ancestors traipsing around South East Asia far earlier than previously thought. In fact, the tool evidence, which has been dated to 1.8 million years ago, pre-dates all other evidence of hominids in that region. It's so old it can't possibly be evidence of Homo sapiens, since we didn't show up most of the rest of history (200,000 years ago). What sort of hominid did create the tools is, of course, a matter for speculation.

Posted by scott at 12:39 PM eMail this entry!
February 01, 2009
Double Invention

Scientists have found evidence that nervous systems were developed at least twice in the history of life. Good ideas get copied in nature no less often than they do in business, it would seem.

Posted by scott at 09:26 AM eMail this entry!
January 29, 2009
LED Breakthrough

UK scientists have discovered a way to make LED lights comparable in price to compact fluorescents (CFs). Considering LED lights last 10 times longer and are generally considered to provide a superior light source, it's a good thing! Bonus: this one comes just after the UK instituted all sorts of legislation to encourage CF usage. Remember, folks, the market cannot be trusted to provide superior solutions in shorter time frames. Only government can provide!

Posted by scott at 12:38 PM eMail this entry!
January 28, 2009
The More You Know...

Yes, children, it is indeed possible for men to break their wangs. This is something that will always and forever sit on the very top of my "must never ever ever try to do" list.

Posted by scott at 04:30 PM eMail this entry!
January 26, 2009
When 111 Years Old You Become, Look as Good Your Offspring will not

Mark gets an old, scaly no-prize for bringing us news of a 111 year old reptile successfully reproducing. The "gee, ya think?" quote:

Henry's keepers have put his newfound vigour down to a recent operation to remove a tumour from his bottom.

The mind boggles.

Posted by scott at 03:01 PM eMail this entry!
January 24, 2009
(Squid) Tooth Time

Ron gets a horrible yet strangely useful no-prize for bringing us news that "jumbo" squid teeth may be useful for more than just flaying your garden variety helpless starlet. I've always thought humbolts were nifty critters. As long as I can admire them from the comfort of my couch, that is. Having them eye my boat like it's the gravy variety, maybe not so much.

Posted by scott at 11:03 AM eMail this entry!
January 23, 2009
Polynesian Origins

Using genetic studies of a human parasite and new linguistic studies, scientists have determined it was the Taiwanese who colonized the South Pacific. It's nice when two completely different lines of research come together.

Posted by scott at 12:08 PM eMail this entry!
January 22, 2009
Tiny Machines

Slashdot linked up two stories about advances in super-micro electronics: news of a motor which could be used to power tiny robots which would swim through the human body, and a tiny boat that uses only surface tension and small electrodes to move around. Of all the codgery "I remember when there wasn't any..." things I was going to tell Olivia about, "robots that swim in your veins" just wasn't on the list.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
January 21, 2009
It's Like Sputnik, for Your Innards

A biomedical company in California is developing a "digestible" sensor device for medical diagnosis. You swallow the pill (colored, one would hope, red) and a patch on your arm picks up the telemetry while the unit cruises your digestive tract. If it turns out to be something other than vaporware, I mean.

Posted by scott at 10:32 AM eMail this entry!
January 19, 2009
Invisible Update

Scientists appear to be getting closer to a true invisibility cloak every day. And on that day, should it ever come, high school women's locker rooms will never be the same.

Posted by scott at 07:36 AM eMail this entry!
January 15, 2009
But will They Help Search for Sarah Conner?

Australian engineers have developed a retrofit kit for refrigerators that will allow them to network and coordinate power use to minimize peak draws. The article doesn't make it clear if they're using power lines as the interconnects. If they are, it's all good. If not, setting up the internet connections will be a pretty significant hurdle.

Oh, and quote FTW: "A lot of people don’t realise [sic] that fridges cycle on and off regularly, which means you’ve got a bit of discretion about when they use power."

Posted by scott at 12:57 PM eMail this entry!
January 13, 2009
Dust to Dust, Gas to Gas

Scientists have discovered a microbial enzyme which can generate hydrogen from water much more efficiently than other similar biological processes. No, unfortunately it's not the breakthrough that will allow us to put Hajji on the bread line, but it is a step in the right direction.

Posted by scott at 02:22 PM eMail this entry!
It's Life, Jim, but not as We Know it

Depending on who you ask, scientists either have or have come mighty close to creating primitive forms of life in a laboratory. If nothing else, their work provides new insight into abiogenesis, the theories which describe and predict how life formed on this planet.*

----
* And no, abiogenesis is not Darwinism or evolution. It's quite different. Which is a useful thing to know when you need to poke a rhetorical stick in a creatonists' eye. Not that I would ever do something so rude. My story, sticking to it.

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM eMail this entry!
January 12, 2009
A Special Set of Ants Marching

By using a special implant which emits a specific sort of cell-signaling molecule, scientists may be able to use a patient's own immune system to battle diseases and even cancer. The immune system of any multicellular creature represents the culmination of literally millions of years of research in battling various sorts of nasties. It's subtle and flexible beyond belief. Harnessing it successfully could unlock a staggering toolbox of treatments and cures.

Posted by scott at 03:35 PM eMail this entry!
January 09, 2009
Paging Moses, White Courtesy Phone Please

After years of talking about it, it seems manufacturers are getting serious about producing insect-analog electronic sensors for the field. Personally, I just like the image of a swarm of not-quite-insects descending on every house hajji tries to turn into a bomb factory. Got a biblical feel to it, no?

Posted by scott at 10:28 AM eMail this entry!
January 08, 2009
Mirror, Mirror, on the Fish

Scientists have discovered a fish which uses mirrors that are a part of its eyes to see. The brownsnout spookfish has been known for quite some time, but apparently it took catching a live specimen before this unique quirk of biology was discovered.

Oh, and they look really weird too.

Posted by scott at 11:44 AM eMail this entry!
January 07, 2009
Graveyard Find

What's being termed "the world's largest dinosaur graveyard" has produced evidence that ceratopsids like triceratops did indeed roam beyond what is now western North America. They've already dug out something like 7600 fossils from this Chinese fossil bed. Who knows what they'll find next?

Posted by scott at 10:32 AM eMail this entry!
January 06, 2009
Not Quite a Cadillac, but it'll do

Mark gets a coral-colored no-prize for bringing us news of new discoveries about the Galapagos iguanas:

A spectacular pink type of Galapagos iguana promises to rewrite the family's evolutionary history in the islands.

Rosada was missed by Charles Darwin during his 1835 visit, but appears to indicate the earliest known divergence of land animals in the archipelago.

Even better... the date of the split is well before the date the island these critters live on appeared.

Posted by scott at 01:38 PM eMail this entry!
Paging Mr. Teatime, White Courtesy Phone Please

It would seem that dentists will be able to grow replacement teeth for patients in the next 1-5 years. See, Ellen! I told you holding out for a ridiculously long time between dentist visits would pay off!

Posted by scott at 12:41 PM eMail this entry!
January 05, 2009
Roman Find

Mark gets an eagle-shaped no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of a major Roman-era battlefield in Germany. The kicker? According to the article, it's too late and too far north to agree with existing histories.

Posted by scott at 03:49 PM eMail this entry!
Well Lookit That

As with most apocalyptic predictions, the chicken-little forecast of arctic ice disappearing completely in 2008 ended up flat wrong. The stuff actually increased during the year, for reasons scientists only puzzled out after the fact.

Now, tell me again, and slowly because I guess I'm just that retarded, why I should support inhibiting the economic growth of my country on the predictions of, presumably, these exact same scientists?

Those who think global warming is a) mostly man-made and b) a dire and immediate threat to civilization would do well to remember an axiom about science: "we love science because it can find The Ultimate Answer to any particular question. We hate science because it will change The Ultimate Answer whenever conflicting data is found."

That sound you hear is the True Believers moving the goalposts. Again.

Via No Pasaran.

Posted by scott at 02:37 PM eMail this entry!
December 31, 2008
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Posted by scott at 08:57 AM eMail this entry!
December 29, 2008
Well, at Least it's Official
Posted by scott at 03:22 PM eMail this entry!
December 28, 2008
Self Control Surrenders

Headline: Black women are shrinking. Actual article summary: poor and "middle income" black women are losing height, while higher income black women are catching up and will most likely pass their white counterparts some time in the next few decades.

Article conclusion: people are helpless, prostrate before the monstrous consumer culture we have accidentally created.

GTFOML* explanation: poor people now have the opportunity to eat themselves to death with cheap, tasty food. For some weird reason, probably cultural, poor black women are more susceptible to eating themselves to death than others. Certain scientists and their liberal handlers are trying to pin this on the rest of us. Especially the white rest of us.

My solution: there is no "solution" per-se. If a certain subset of people wish to eat themselves to death, that's their business. Of course, poor women are typically poor because they got knocked up before they got a driver's license. This makes the "if they want to, let 'em die" policy heartless instead of libertarian. Which is why I get to be a gadfly, instead of actually make policy.

More likely solution: Let the policy makers do what they want, as long as it doesn't cost any more of my tax dollars.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

-----
* Get the F- Off My Lawn

Posted by scott at 06:31 PM eMail this entry!
December 24, 2008
Like a Time Machine, for Wine

Need to turn a $2 bottle of trash into something that would please the most difficult sommelier would enjoy? Zap it with a little electricity. Will this make Ripple a valid choice for the table? Only time will tell.

Posted by scott at 07:54 AM eMail this entry!
December 23, 2008
(Mosquito) Busted
Posted by scott at 08:04 AM eMail this entry!
December 22, 2008
For the Discerning Cephalopod, Nothing Else Will Do

Octopus enjoy watching TV, as long as it's in hi def, and don't seem to express distinct personalities in a specific set of experiments. I've read elsewhere that many animals may ignore TV because it doesn't "look right" to them. Seems we've got another set of critters to add to the list.

Posted by scott at 07:42 AM eMail this entry!
December 19, 2008
Who's a Warm and Fuzzy Console Now?

Scientists are exploring using the "WiiMote", Nintendo's innovative controller for the Wii console, to control combat robots. The idea is the remote is much more intuitive than the current laptop-based system, which sometimes requires a hazardous amount of attention to operate.

Bah. Just introduce break-away wrist straps, and start the soldiers to playing bowling. They'll be flinging wiiMotes through hajji's head in no time.

Posted by scott at 01:37 PM eMail this entry!
December 18, 2008
Great. Just What I Needed. Another Excuse.

Scientists in the UK are setting up to play Christmas pop tunes at sharks to see if they respond to them. It would seem that fish in general recognize melody, so this would seem a sort of "spaghetti against the wall" experiment just to see what sharks will think of the music.

No speakers around the goldfish tank, Ellen. No! Bad!

Posted by scott at 12:09 PM eMail this entry!
December 17, 2008
I Can Has A New Face?

A woman being treated at the Cleveland Clinic has an almost entirely new face following the most extensive facial transplant ever performed, the medical center said Tuesday. The surgery was the first face transplant in the U.S. and the fourth in the world.

Few details about the patient have been released in advance of a news conference scheduled for today. About 80% of the patient's face was replaced with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver.

Read entire article here.

Posted by Ellen at 08:27 PM eMail this entry!
Rrmm... Ahh... Oops?

Drill for thermal energy, find an undiscovered magma chamber instead. They say the magma only rushed up the bore hole a few dozen feet before solidifying, but I bet the pucker factor was pretty high until they were certain of it. And why wait 3 years before telling anyone? Mighty suspicious, I say...

Posted by scott at 03:29 PM eMail this entry!
December 15, 2008
Death Climb

Wanna survive climbing Everest? Be on your guard on the way down. Ellen wants to go to take pictures of all the mummified corpses.

Posted by scott at 11:18 AM eMail this entry!
December 12, 2008
Pushing Back the Line

Scientists have discovered evidence that Homo sapiens may have evolved some 80,000 years earlier than previously thought. They must be employing some new radiocarbon dating techniques. Back when I was an undergrad, 80k was the margin of error in most of the ones in use at that time.

Posted by scott at 01:10 PM eMail this entry!
December 11, 2008
... and the Particle Accelerator Goes, "Boom!"

Sometimes big science leads to big accidents. They're not expecting to re-open the LHC until some time next summer. Considering the expense of these one-of-a-kind systems, I can understand the delays involved ensuring it doesn't go "kerplooey" again.

Posted by scott at 12:13 PM eMail this entry!
Ant Arm

Scientists and engineers appear to have created a superior artificial limb which may hit the market as early as 2011. They used the behavior of ants to model algorithms which (apparently) closely mimic how nerve impulses travel across the human body. The result is a limb which can be controlled with the same neuron paths as the original. In other words, according to these guys anyway, if an amputee can still feel a phantom limb, this new system will use those impulses to control an artificial one.

Posted by scott at 09:03 AM eMail this entry!
December 09, 2008
Not So Easy After All

It appears building a space elevator will likely be even more complex than one would at first think. The complicating factors? Coriolis, solar wind, and gravitation system effects combining to destabilize the whole system.

Still, what we're talking about here are engineering problems, not ones of material strength or basic physical laws. Engineering problems always (eventually) respond to blood, sweat, and treasure, and something tells me these will be no different.

Well, eventually.

Posted by scott at 03:10 PM eMail this entry!
Ancient Secrets Revealed

While still in rough draft form, the Neandertal genome sequence project is already making important discoveries. Right now, it seems to mostly involve what's not there... i.e., no "smoking gun" clearly pointing to interbreeding. The project is expected to take several more years before a complete sequencing is finished.

Posted by scott at 09:18 AM eMail this entry!
December 07, 2008
Bone Goo

Scientists have developed a new "bone scaffold" polymer which helps hold fractured bones together without the undesired heat of other, previous substances. If the patient has a really spectacular fracture they'll still need the requisite rods, screws, and pins to hold things together, but this new substance could obviate the requirement for bone grafts that are often required to heal such severe fractures.

Posted by scott at 10:46 AM eMail this entry!
December 05, 2008
Bright Stuff

Mark gets a no-prize shaped like a you-know-what for bringing us a study that appears to link intelligence with a higher quality of sperm in human males. The association isn't a very strong one, but it does seem to be statistically significant.

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM eMail this entry!
Big Not-Bird

Scientists have announced the discovery of the largest Pterasaur ever found. It's estimated the creature had a wingspan of not quite 17 feet, and stood about 3 feet tall. The fossil also represents the first chaoyangopteridae species found outside of China.

Posted by scott at 12:19 PM eMail this entry!
December 04, 2008
Self-Powered Phone

All I can say is, if scientists really do figure out how to power a cell phone with the speech of the user, they better include a power-out on the one Ellen gets. That way I'll be able to use it to power the whole house.

Posted by scott at 11:38 AM eMail this entry!
December 03, 2008
Looks Like a Great Way to Get Sick to Me

Ever the busybodies, scientists in Switzerland have cooked up a rig which seems to be able to convince your brain it's living in someone else's body. I think that whole bit about being convinced you're a chair would've been easier with a bottle of vodka or two.

As hokey as it seems, even I can see it has futuristic implications for people with profound mobility disorders. Living sci-fi indeed!

Posted by scott at 12:09 PM eMail this entry!
December 01, 2008
Neutralizer!

Scientists from the University of Akron have patented a process that would use supersonic aircraft to disrupt hurricane formation. Hugo Chavez raging about how El Norte was steering hurricanes south to get him would, presumable, follow.

Posted by scott at 12:08 PM eMail this entry!
November 26, 2008
I See You

Another day, another video of some wacky new type of large squid. Sometimes, well, most of the time, working on a oil rig doesn't sound like much fun. But on days like those...

Posted by scott at 08:42 AM eMail this entry!
November 24, 2008
Your Next Car Cover?

Chemists have developed a fabric coating which provides the ultimate in water protection. The result? The most waterproof clothing-suitable fabric ever created. If it's cheap enough, and really as durable as they say, the idea of a "suit bag" for your classic car may one day soon be a reality.

Of course, it could also be used for other, less important applications like self-cleaning clothes, permanently dry swim wear, and who knows how many medical items, but hey, let's stay focused on what's important... protecting quirky old Italian cars tossed out of their garage by other quirky old Italian cars!

Posted by scott at 01:20 PM eMail this entry!
November 21, 2008
Big Ball

Scientists have discovered that a modern single celled organism as big as a grape leaves trails identical to those found in 600 million year old fossil beds. The implication being these critters, or something very like them, have been around longer than just about anything else we know of, and that the Cambrian explosion may not in fact simply be a gap in the fossil record.

In other news, there are single celled organisms out there as a big as a grape!

Posted by scott at 03:30 PM eMail this entry!
Crypt Find

Scientists have announced they've found and identified the grave and remains of famed scientist Nicolaus Copernicus. The grave was discovered in a 14th-century Polish cathedral under floor tiles near one of the side altars. The findings were authenticated using DNA samples taken from the remains and from a hair sample found in a book used by Copernicus.

Ain't science grand?

Posted by scott at 10:37 AM eMail this entry!
November 20, 2008
Cave War

Scientists using a clever sort of bone analysis have determined that early modern humans were throwing weapons during the early paleolithic, and neandertals were not. It's always better to be the spear thrower than the spear catcher.

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM eMail this entry!
Say Hello to My Little Friend

The pygmy tarsier, long thought to have gone extinct in the 1920s, well, isn't. My anthropology adviser back in college said tarsiers in general were amazing jumpers, so fast they were almost impossible to follow. I'm not completely sure they can be kept in captivity.

Posted by scott at 10:13 AM eMail this entry!
November 19, 2008
November 17, 2008
Gutting the GUT

A team of scientists seem to have proven it will be impossible to experimentally verify the possibility that at one point, far in the distant past, all the forces that make our universe tick were once one. I'm just about done with Warped Passages, by Lisa Randall, which discusses this exact situation. It seems that there is definitely a problem verifying any theory which relies on Planck-scale forces. However, if the universe contains more dimensions than the four we perceive, and they act in the way that modelers (string theory and otherwise) think they do, then it's quite possible we'll be able to concoct experiments to test unification that won't require obscene amounts of energy to work.

Hey, man, don't look at me. My head explodes every time I read a chapter of that thing. I sorta like it. :)

Posted by scott at 11:12 AM eMail this entry!
November 14, 2008
I Wonder Where They Put the Worm?

Mexican (natch) scientists have developed a method of making diamonds out of tequila. As expected, the diamonds produced aren't something that will go in a ring, but they do seem to represent a new, cheaper method of generating industrial diamond. Considering the number of uses already figured out for the stuff, this should be welcomed.

Posted by scott at 08:04 AM eMail this entry!
November 13, 2008
As Long as I Get to Throw a Snowball at Al Gore

Mike J. gets a white, creamy no-prize covered in chocolate syrup for bringing us news that at least some scientists think the next ice age may be soon and it may be quite long indeed. Boy, all those people who bought Nevada scrubland betting it'll one day be beachfront are gonna be pissed!

Posted by scott at 05:20 PM eMail this entry!
Tug-o-War

Two scientists have come up with a novel theory of brain development that makes autism and schizophrenia two sides of the same coin. Even if proven wrong, the predictions the theory makes should provide much more insight into how the brain develops, and how it breaks down.

Posted by scott at 11:14 AM eMail this entry!
November 12, 2008
I KEEL YOU!!!

Scientists have created genetically engineered "assassin" T-cells which seem to be better able to tackle HIV. Engineering "supercells" to fight "superbugs" would seem to me to introduce a real risk of cancer, but my knowledge about such things wouldn't fill a sheet of paper. In other words, waddoIknow?

Posted by scott at 12:20 PM eMail this entry!
November 11, 2008
The "NOM" That Changed History

Scientists have uncovered even more evidence that all plants which have ever lived have one common ancestor:

The bacterium was probably intended as prey but instead it became incorporated into its attacker’s body – turning it into the ancestor of every tree, flowering plant and seaweed on Earth. The encounter meant life on the planet could evolve from bacterial slime into the more complex forms we see today. “That single event transformed the evolution of life on Earth,” said Paul Falkowski, professor of biogeochemistry and bio-physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “The descendants of that tiny organism transformed our atmosphere, filling it with the oxygen needed for animals and, eventually, humans to evolve.”

On such small things a world can turn.

Posted by scott at 09:26 AM eMail this entry!
November 10, 2008
"Spotting" Rainfall

One group of scientists are now reporting the discovery of very strong evidence that sunspot activity affects rainfall on Earth. To what extent, the article does not say. Note the omission of (to me, at any rate) the rather obvious issue that global rainfall very strongly affects global climate and therefore sunspots do in fact affect climate change. Reminds me a lot of those medieval chroniclers in Europe neglecting to mention a supernova everyone else saw because it contradicted the core teachings of the church to which they belonged.

The more things change...

Posted by scott at 02:11 PM eMail this entry!
November 07, 2008
Warm Up Wonders

Making the rounds: at least some of the stuff you learned about exercising when you were a kid is wrong. Specifically, "static stretching", the standing stretches done as a part of exercise warm-up, actually weaken the muscle instead of strengthening it.

Posted by scott at 12:00 PM eMail this entry!
November 06, 2008
Oxyclean: Is There Anything it Can't Do?

That chick who killed her partner in their garage with a phillips screw driver used the wrong bleach:

There are two types of bleach found in household cleaning products. Chlorine-based bleaches are known to make bloodstains invisible, but applying chemicals such as luminol or phenolphthalein will still reveal the presence of haemoglobin - crucial for identifying blood - even after up to 10 washes. In contrast, oxygen bleach, which contains an oxidising agent such as hydrogen peroxide, erases all trace of haemoglobin. Its effect seems to have been untested until now.

It seems to me cleanup isn't the biggest problem... it's that 150+ lbs of dead body that needs to be got rid of that seems the main stumbling block.

Well, that and, you know, killing is wrong and stuff.

Posted by scott at 01:02 PM eMail this entry!
November 05, 2008
Ancient Bug

The first fossil from the mysterious Ediacarn period has been described. This is the final period before the Cambrian explosion, who's fauna is far better known because of formations like the Burgess shale. It's been known for some time something was wandering around the ocean floor during the Ediacaran, because tracks have been found. This is the first time (as far as I know) we've found a complete fossil of one of the critters that might have been doing the walking.

Posted by scott at 01:16 PM eMail this entry!
November 04, 2008
Hand Bugs

Well, if this study of the bacteria found on human hands is accurate, I've got interesting news and f'd up news:

Interesting: women have a more diverse set of bugs living on their hands

F'd up: It appears washing one's hands doesn't do much to change said diversity.

Let's shake on it!

Posted by scott at 01:46 PM eMail this entry!
November 03, 2008
Chicken Little is Hungry

Another day, another "giant swath of humanity's going to DIE Unless We Do Something About Climate Change NOW!!!" report. Unspoken is the glaring assumption that, when presented with a commodity with a decreasing supply and a rising price, human beings do not change their behavior. That assumption forms one of the deepest foundations of progressives and liberals of all stripes, which is why they never question it and why they always end up bitten on the ass by it.

Which is, in essence, another way of stating the old axiom: "Republicans disagree with Democrats because the former think the latter are wrong. Democrats disagree with Republicans because the former think the latter are stupid."

Which is why, even when they win, they lose.

Posted by scott at 12:06 PM eMail this entry!
October 29, 2008
But Where are the Plumbers?

It would seem that, like certain 20th century politicians, chimpanzees keep an "enemies list" in their head. Yeah, it's a kind of "sky is blue, water is wet" sort of observation, but it does rule out that chimpanzees don't keep track of who is nice to them and who is mean.

Posted by scott at 11:36 AM eMail this entry!
October 23, 2008
Green Timing

It seems the Earth turned green later than previously thought. Exactly how they figured this out is just a little beyond me. Never go from reading about quantum physics to reading about the Archaean period in less than 5 minutes. Your brain will thank you.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
October 22, 2008
Science Fiction Medicine

Scientists have developed a device that allows a surgeon to operate on a beating heart. It works by using scanners and computers to move the operating platform exactly in time with the beating heart, providing the surgeon with a stable working area.

Posted by scott at 01:41 PM eMail this entry!
October 20, 2008
Super Paper

Jeff gets a light but strong no-prize for bringing us the latest development in nano-tech production. It's still not a production-grade material, but they seem to have high hopes of getting there within a year.

Posted by scott at 02:50 PM eMail this entry!
October 17, 2008
Cascade Failure

It looks like Hubble is experiencing even more problems. When a race car manages to break something new every time it's used, that's usually a sign it's time to get a new race car. Unfortunately I'm not sure the sentimental politics surrounding everyone's nearly 20 year old space telescope will allow the obvious conclusion to be drawn.

Oh well, it could be worse. We could've spent all that money and taken all that risk and then it could've failed.

Posted by scott at 02:10 PM eMail this entry!
October 16, 2008
Tomb Time

The tomb of the person who's life inspired the movie Gladiator has been found. It seems it had the good fortune to be buried under river floods, and seems to be fairly complete.

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM eMail this entry!
October 14, 2008
Closing the Loop

An environmental sciences company has announced they've developed a system that economically turns CO2 into hydrocarbons. Announcing you can do something and actually doing it are, of course, two different things. It'd be nice to find out this wasn't some sort of vaporware, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Posted by scott at 09:15 AM eMail this entry!
October 10, 2008
Accidental Age

A team of scientists at Stanford have discovered that, at least in some organisms, aging is driven by genetics, not by "rust". If it's a gene getting turned on that causes us to grow old, it's possible to figure out a way to turn it off.

Posted by scott at 08:17 AM eMail this entry!
October 08, 2008
Great. Something Else to Break

Engineers at the University of Tokyo have created a system that renders objects in a car that would cause blind spots invisible. Back in my old sim days, this was called cheating. Of course, since it's the real world, "cheating for safety" actually works. Not too sure about the giant hat you have to wear to get it to work. Then again, this is only a prototype.

Posted by scott at 09:43 AM eMail this entry!
October 06, 2008
Giving 'em a Hand

Scientists have long known that organic chemistry is made possible on Earth by the quirk that the molecules required are all "handed", in this case, left, on this planet. Yet nobody knew why, or why that particular direction. Until now.

Don't look at me. I barely got out of high school Chemistry with a C-. I just thought the whole concept was neat.

Posted by scott at 01:37 PM eMail this entry!
October 05, 2008
Birth of an Ocean

It's official... the great rift valley will one day soon become a brand-new ocean. The region that gave birth to humanity will eventually be submerged and lost to time. Seems appropriate, somehow.

Posted by scott at 04:45 PM eMail this entry!
October 04, 2008
Skin Vision

An Israeli scientist is claiming people can see with their skin. Unfortunately, exactly how this is supposed to work is not explained in the article.

Posted by scott at 07:24 AM eMail this entry!
October 02, 2008
Old Virus

Scientists have determined the AIDS virus is probably 100 years old. I can remember when Time reported the entire epidemic could be traced to a single male flight attendant in, as I recall, 1979. Sorta puts the kibosh to that one, eh?

Posted by scott at 01:26 PM eMail this entry!
September 30, 2008
M-Drive

A British scientist claims to have invented a drive system that has no moving parts and only needs electricity to work. It started out sounding like snake oil, but eventually at least seemed possible. Requiring superconducting materials to make the concept work on a scale big enough to power a car would, to me, seem like a deal breaker. It's not like you can buy the stuff out of a JC Whitney catalog, ya know?

Posted by scott at 10:25 AM eMail this entry!
September 29, 2008
Great Find...

... lousy location:

Archaeologists are racing against the little time left to salvage a fortune in coins and items from a 500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found recently off Namibia's rough southern coast.

You know, the place where they shoot people over diamonds? Indiana Jones, indeed.

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM eMail this entry!
September 25, 2008
Point & Shoot

Scientists are finding that many of the perceptual problems caused by zero-g have a physiological basis:

Humans orientate in 3D by using otoliths, small crystals of calcium carbonate and protein that shift on hairs in the inner ear. Forces acting on these grains as a person moves mean they can sense acceleration and gravitational pull.

Who knew?

Posted by scott at 08:52 AM eMail this entry!
September 24, 2008
September 18, 2008
U-Brew Plastic

Scientists have created a strain of bacteria which excretes an important ingredient in many plastics. While not quite to the point of pooping out a soda bottle, it definitely seems to represent yet another step away from oil reliance. A good thing!

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM eMail this entry!
September 17, 2008
I Wonder if There are Teeny-Tiny Cows Too?
Posted by scott at 03:54 PM eMail this entry!
September 11, 2008
Superstitious Genes

It would seem there's a reason people tend to believe in things like astrology and "the power of threes." To me, it looks like the old, "probability of something happening vs. the consequences of it happening" axiom in play. If being superstitious makes you less likely to get killed, then superstition will be selected for.

In other words, a smug assertion that rustling grass is caused by the wind will not impress the natives when a lion jumps out and eats you.

Posted by scott at 12:22 PM eMail this entry!
September 10, 2008
We're All Still Here

As with all previous apocalyptic predictions, the world keeps stubbornly refusing to end. Black hole: NOT YOURS.

Posted by scott at 08:53 AM eMail this entry!
September 09, 2008
Forest Find

Mark gets an ancient upside-down no-prize for bringing us an update on those gigantic fossilized forests found in the coal mines in the border area between the states of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. As noted in the article, fossilized forests aren't particularly remarkable. Fossilized forests the size of a large city are.

Posted by scott at 12:38 PM eMail this entry!
September 08, 2008
Not So Junky After All

Researchers seem to have discovered evidence that at least some changes in the human species have been caused by so-called "junk" DNA. I've read rumblings that junk DNA, well, might not be, a few times before, but this is the first article that seems (to me anyway) to provide direct evidence for it..

Posted by scott at 01:02 PM eMail this entry!
Mammoth Find

Mark gets a trunk-shaped no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of a rare mammoth fossil in France. The species, Mammuthus trogontherii, also known as the steppe mammoth, is thought to represent a transitional type between an even earlier creature called a southern mammoth and the more familiar wooly sort.

Posted by scott at 10:57 AM eMail this entry!
September 04, 2008
First The Prarie Dogs, And Now The Ferrets! Not The Ferrets!

"The deadly disease sylvatic plague was discovered in May in a huge prairie dog town in the Conata Basin. The black-tailed prairie dog is the main prey of ferrets, and the disease quickly killed up to a third of the area's 290 ferrets along with prairie dogs."

Check It Out!

Posted by Ellen at 09:57 PM eMail this entry!
Romans Being Blamed For HIV

"According to genetic research published on Wednesday, when Julius Caesar made his first exploratory visit to our shores in 55BC he triggered a chain of events which may have lowered our resistance to the virus which leads to Aids."

"The theory is that as the Roman Empire spread so did an unknown illness that killed those carrying a gene that would one day give their descendants resistance to the virus."

"As a result, today's inhabitants of nations once conquered by the Romans tend to lack the gene and so are more susceptible to HIV."

Interesting...

Posted by Ellen at 09:20 PM eMail this entry!
September 03, 2008
Gaming BPD

I've always been a bit chary about even accepting the existence of borderline personality disorder. It always seemed to me to be a band-aid to cover up people who were just monstrous pains in the ass. I'm sure you'll all be as shocked as I was to find out I was wrong. Scientific and repeatable study FTW!

Posted by scott at 12:19 PM eMail this entry!
August 29, 2008
Rain Forest Re-Set

It seems the "ancient, pristine, and untouched" landscape of the Amazon is anything but. It's becoming increasingly clear that native Americans altered the western hemisphere nearly as much, if not equally so, as their Eurasian counterparts altered the eastern one. White explorers failed to see it because native populations were scythed away by disease long before Europeans penetrated the interior of the far more populous central and southern parts of this half of the world.

Put that in your "man as scourge of the pristine parts of the planet" pipe and smoke it!

Posted by scott at 12:24 PM eMail this entry!
August 27, 2008
The Sick Seabed

Ever wonder why there were so few critters running around at the bottom of the ocean, even though there's plenty to eat down there?

Ok, you're not playing this game correctly. Now nod and say, "Why yes, Scott, I have wondered that several times."

Well, you may not have wondered about the question, but I'll wager you'll wonder at the answer:

Danovaro's team collected dozens of samples of sediment from sites around the world. Everywhere they looked the top centimetre of sediment contained large quantities of viruses. The average gram of sediment contained 1 billion viruses, which is the equivalent of 8 trillion viruses per square metre of ocean floor.

I wonder if perhaps the development of the nucleus, which distinguishes prokaryotes from eukaryotes, was driven by the need to escape from what presumably is this most ancient of arms races?

Posted by scott at 04:14 PM eMail this entry!
August 26, 2008
NeanderTech

A recent study has made the claim that neandertal stone toolkits actually weren't any less efficient than those created by their contemporary Homo sapien competitors. The "dumb neandertal" conventional wisdom takes another hit.

Posted by scott at 12:33 PM eMail this entry!
Insert "Life of Brian" Reference Here

Mark gets a no-prize with a characteristic lisp for bringing us news of more developments surrounding that Roman bath complex discussed in a previous article. This time, they've found a giant head of Marcus Aurelius. The find has caused them to rethink what was going on inside that bath house when it collapsed. Now, instead of theorizing that the statues were there in preparation for their destruction for quicklime, it's thought they were part of the decoration of the place, and were lost outright when it collapsed.

Posted by scott at 10:22 AM eMail this entry!
August 24, 2008
It's Dangerous to Go Alone. Here, Take This

Ron gets a no-prize that would normally stay attached for bringing us one of the more extreme examples of sexual dimorphism and mating behavior, aka the Blanket Squid:

If a male does chance across a female, it uses all its resources in an attempt to mate, "as he's unlikely to encounter another one," said Tregenza. A male blanket octopus fills a modified tentacle with sperm, tears it off, presents it to its prospective mates, and then drifts off to certain death.

OUCH!!!

Posted by scott at 02:20 PM eMail this entry!
August 21, 2008
Indentify U

Ron gets a no-prize that'll be impossible to mistake for any other for bringing us news that full genome sequencing just got a lot cheaper. If this keeps up, people will be able to get sequenced just for the f- of it some day. Although I think Ron will most likely be the first one in line.

Posted by scott at 03:12 PM eMail this entry!
But are They Free if They're 30 Minutes Late?

An Australian PhD candidate has created a method of making solar cells requiring common materials and a pizza oven. The article doesn't mention the efficiency of the panels she produces, which is unfortunate because that's what's really holding solar tech back. If it's at or beyond what the more expensive processes can provide, well, there's another shovel of dirt on dirty power's grave.

Posted by scott at 01:34 PM eMail this entry!
August 19, 2008
Yeah, Right

Men who want to live longer apparently need to get more wives. I have my hands full with just the one.

Posted by scott at 03:36 PM eMail this entry!
Warp Speed!

Today's "It's is easy if you can turn the entire mass of Jupiter into energy" faster-than-light travel strategy is brought to you by the Telegraph online.

Just how long this might take may depend on your view of man's handling of energy over time. If water wheels or even fire counts as man's first successful effort at controlling outside energy, it took thousands or even tens of thousands of years for us to make much progress increasing that amount. However, if you start the clock at steam, it only took about a century to go from controlling the equivalent of a few dozen horses to controlling the equivalent of several million*. If we take that sort of progression and project it forward, maybe converting 2000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms of matter into energy isn't completely out of the reach of the near future.

Via Instapundit.

----
* Or whatever the hell the aggregate shaft horsepower is from a nuclear reactor's power plant.

Posted by scott at 12:52 PM eMail this entry!
August 15, 2008
Head Find

Mark gets an ancient and strangely beautiful no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of a giant statue head in the remains of a Roman bath house. It would seem later residents were breaking up these statues to burn them for cement when an earthquake buried everything. A loss for one age is a gain for another, I suppose.

Posted by scott at 10:28 AM eMail this entry!
August 13, 2008
Maybe We Should Call it, "Paleolithic Chef"?

A group of scientists have revealed a theory which says cooking is what allowed our ancestors to develop efficient brains. The thinking (as it were) goes that after long use, the evolution strategy of getting bigger and bigger brains had run up against physical limitations related to birth. In other words, human heads just couldn't get any bigger and still have women able to walk around. However, by processing our food externally using tools and fire, we greatly reduced the amount of energy required for digestion, freeing it up to be used to power faster metabolic processes in our already quite large brains. In a funny sort of way, it really did amount to "we are what we eat."

Or, perhaps, what we ate allowed us to become what we are.

Posted by scott at 10:45 AM eMail this entry!
August 12, 2008
Mystery Woman

One of the more entertaining aspects of science is when something shows up that has no right to be there:

Scientists are baffled after carbon dating showed the skull, a woman's which was found near [New Zealand's] capital, Wellington, dates back from 1742 – decades before Cook's Pacific expedition arrived in 1769.

I'd like to know the precise dating technique used. Back when I was studying such things, radio carbon dates usually had margins of error much larger than 20 years.

Posted by scott at 12:49 PM eMail this entry!
August 08, 2008
Dem Bones

Ah, for a ticket to London:

A new London exhibition gives visitors a chance to see for themselves the traces left by disease and diet on 26 skeletons recovered from beneath London.

I bet the slide show is interesting. Unfortunately I can't get the @#$#$@ player to work. Ah well.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM eMail this entry!
July 30, 2008
Crossing the Goal Line?

Further trials appear to be needed, but it would seem someone has finally come up with an effective treatment for Alzheimer's. It's not known at this time if the drug can reverse damage, but it does seem to halt the progression of the disease. A good thing!

Posted by scott at 10:40 AM eMail this entry!
July 29, 2008
A Different Sort of Pot

By mapping distinctive geologic features known as "mud pots", scientists have discovered the San Andreas fault extends much further south than previously thought. Fortunately the new extension does not seem to be seismically active. Because we all know California doesn't need a better excuse to fall into the sea, eh?

Posted by scott at 01:14 PM eMail this entry!
July 26, 2008
I Have Seen the Face of Godzilla...

... and it is strangely mushroom-shaped. It would seem to me that, if this fungus really is using the energy given off by ionizing radiation, it might even end up a candidate for biological shielding? What a strange thought!

Posted by scott at 07:16 AM eMail this entry!
July 24, 2008
Dino Find

A Japanese/Chinese science team has announced the discovery of a nearly-complete juvenile Tarbosaurus. Related to the better-known T. Rex, the fossil itself lacks only the next bones and the end of the tail. It's thought the creature died around the age of 5, making it a valuable addition to the study of dinosaur development.

Posted by scott at 02:28 PM eMail this entry!
July 21, 2008
Old Asian

Mark gets a no-prize in an unexpected place for bringing us news of evidence that a hominid once thought to be exclusive to Asia, well, wasn't. The field is in the late stages of an oversplitting period, so what I learned of as "Homo erectus found in Asia" is currently considered a "separate hominid species found solely in Asia not related to anything else." Will this fossil of an "Asian-only" hominid found in Germany herald the return of the "clumpers?" We'll just have to wait and watch.

Posted by scott at 08:27 AM eMail this entry!
July 20, 2008
Pickin' it Apart

I knew it was only a matter of time before someone thought to put a giant squid dissection on-line. Haven't you been expecting one?

Posted by scott at 09:25 AM eMail this entry!
July 17, 2008
Chicken Little in the Bathroom

So now it would seem we can even chalk up kidney stones to global warming. I always thought the bedrock of science was a firm understanding of cause and effect. It seems I was wrong.

Posted by scott at 11:34 AM eMail this entry!
July 15, 2008
But What about the Sharks?

By using only off-the-shelf hardware, Raytheon intends to field and test a working laser defense system by November. This is not like the other laser projects you've heard about lately... this system is solid-state. No nasty chemicals to handle or run out of at an embarrassing time. It's being pitched as a point-defense system against small targets like mortar shells and (presumably) rockets.

If it works as advertised, I would imagine the Israeli government will want to buy them by the dozen. Were it me, I'd then paint a big ROCKET TARGETS: NOT YOURS every 100 yards or so on the Pali side of that wall they're building. Hasta la vista, baby.

Posted by scott at 08:14 AM eMail this entry!
July 14, 2008
Color Me Dino

By examining their fossils with a scanning electron microscope, it just might be possible to determine the color of feathered dinosaurs. And, it stands to reason, just about anything else with feathers on it. Apparently the technique might even work with marine fossils. Do we even have any fossilized marine critter skin?

Posted by scott at 02:49 PM eMail this entry!
Rare Bugs

Fans of the lobster in all its varied forms should find this collection of rare and unique lobsters worth a look. They still creep me out, but I know I'm in a minority in that respect.

Posted by scott at 10:26 AM eMail this entry!
July 13, 2008
Ear to the Ground

While it's still very unclear just when exactly language evolved in humans, it would seem our ears, at least, were preparing for it for a very long time. The finding is interesting, but definitely seems to have a chicken-or-egg problem in my opinion. Do our ears have a unique sensitivity to maximize our ability to understand language, or are human speech sounds concentrated in that range because that's where our ears are maximally sensitive?

Posted by scott at 08:31 AM eMail this entry!
July 11, 2008
Loopy Lupa

It would appear what is thought of as the oldest bronze statue of Rome's founding she-wolf may be nowhere near as ancient as previously believed. The evidence does seem a bit weak, at least from what's related in the article. You know, in my expert opinion and all that.

Posted by scott at 02:41 PM eMail this entry!
Clean up on AisleThree

Problem: Invasive seaweed species are choking off environmentally important (and tourist-drawing) coral reefs.

Solution: Hoover 'em up.

No, really!

Posted by scott at 12:11 PM eMail this entry!
July 10, 2008
Four Footed Find

Scientists are reporting the discovery of a fossil tetrapod older than anything found to-date. While the animal probably is not a direct ancestor of every living four-legged creature today, the fossil does provide insight into just how, and perhaps why, a certain group of creatures transitioned from sea to land.

Put that in your "no transitional fossils ever found" pipe and smoke it.

Posted by scott at 10:26 AM eMail this entry!
July 09, 2008
Just Don't Open that Bag!

Problem: how do you quantify the amount of methane given off by your typical cow?

Solution: Plastics.

Every time I think the global warming crowd has hopped over the wall of rationality and into the green, well-padded fields of hysteria, they go and jump a little higher.

Posted by scott at 02:44 PM eMail this entry!
July 08, 2008
That'll be One Toothy Kid

A group of Brazilian scientists claim to have developed a technique which creates human sperm cells from tooth cells. Their idea is to help infertile men by allowing stem cells created from other, more common cell types to be turned into sperm cells. The research is apparently far from well documented, so it's unclear whether the technique has any real clinical applications.

Smile!

Posted by scott at 01:33 PM eMail this entry!
July 03, 2008
New Shooz

New evidence has been uncovered that seems to date the habitual wearing of shoes back to at least 40,000 years ago. Just what that evidence is, the article doesn't really say. Just about the only thing it can be is some sort of skeletal change in the foot which is characteristic of wearing a shoe.

Posted by scott at 11:48 AM eMail this entry!
July 01, 2008
Now Those are Some Smooth Balls

The metric standards police are taking another crack at re-defining the kilogram. Sometimes I wonder if our inability to unify gravity and quantum physics may be somehow linked to our inability to precisely define a unit of measurement for what gravity most directly affects.

Rrm... ah... sort of thing, eh?

Posted by scott at 03:24 PM eMail this entry!
Doin' it to Death

Scientists have discovered a species of chameleon who's life cycle is more like an insect's than a vertebrate's:

Over four years, [Kris Karsten at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, US] and his colleagues marked 400 chameleons and followed seven with radio tags to study their growth patterns, lifespans and behaviour. They discovered that juveniles hatch in synchrony in early November, grow into adults within just seven weeks, mate, and all die without exception by April, just before the harsh dry season settles in.

Just when you thought nature couldn't get any weirder...

Posted by scott at 11:49 AM eMail this entry!
June 30, 2008
Still No Cure for... Oh, Wait!

Scientists who have developed an innovative cancer treatment have now moved to human clinical trials. By using a specific sort of white blood cell, called a granulocyte, taken from healthy young mice and transferring them to mice with cancer, researchers were apparently able to affect a 100% cure rate. Whether or not the technique will work with humans is another matter, but previous lab-based tests seem to be promising. A cure in our time? Probably not, but it definitely sounds like a new weapon is about to be brought to bear on the problem.

Posted by scott at 11:42 AM eMail this entry!
June 27, 2008
Paging Algernon, White Courtesy Phone Please

Scientists have discovered a drug which is already on the market for a completely unrelated treatment may be useful in reversing certain forms of autism. Scientists realized that since rapamycin, a medication doctors prescribe to patients who have had transplants to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organs, works on the same gene affected by tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare genetic disorder that causes brain tumors, seizures, learning disabilities, skin lesions and kidney tumors, it might be a useful treatment for that disease. Sure enough, in mice at least, affected subjects exhibited a complete turnaround in less than three days.

A human trial is already underway in England, although no word on the results of that are in the article.

Posted by scott at 10:08 AM eMail this entry!
June 25, 2008
Sea of Time

By using a technique called "time reversal", scientists have created devices that can transmit data under water many times faster than existing technologies allow. However, at 20kb per second, I don't think it's going to worry our current broad band providers very much.

Posted by scott at 12:33 PM eMail this entry!
June 24, 2008
When Reality Attacks

Whodathunkit? Free-ranging "organic" pigs end up with lots more nasties inside them than farm-raised pigs given antibiotics. If a more obvious conclusion could've been drawn, I don't know what it might be. Then again, this is the environmentalist movement we're talking about here. It's much more important to stick it to the kulaks and prols every way we can than to let things like facts and reason cloud our judgment, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 10:04 AM eMail this entry!
June 16, 2008
Burnable Bug Poop

It would seem the race for biologically-generated oil has another contestant. This is, what, the third company we've linked that's doing this? Suddenly this is changing from a pipe dream to a "matter of time" sort of thing. If it puts Hajji and his Merry Band of Detonating Dervishes that much closer to a bread line, I'm all for it!

Posted by scott at 07:12 AM eMail this entry!
June 09, 2008
Feets Don't Fail Me Now

British engineers are considering deploying "micro generators" in tube stations. The result? Power big enough to light 6500 light bulbs. Something tells me, however, that the tech is a lot more expensive than they're letting on. What good does powering 6500 light bulbs do if it required 30 years to pay off the investment?

Posted by scott at 11:40 AM eMail this entry!
June 04, 2008
RoboTongue

Scientists have developed a "tongue display" to help people with balance problems stay up and those bound to wheel chairs avoid pressure sores. The idea is to use small electrical pulses on the tongue to substitute for lost sensations in the affected areas. The device would appear to be very small, easy to learn, and (one would hope) affordable. What will they think of next?

Posted by scott at 11:38 AM eMail this entry!
Conducting Supers

Remember that new superconducting material we linked up awhile ago? It's still providing surprises:

[Frank Hunte, a postdoctoral associate at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's Applied Superconductivity Center] and his colleagues thought the world-record [45-tesla Hybrid] magnet would be more than sufficient to test the field tolerance limits of the new material. They thought wrong: The iron oxyarsenide kept superconducting all the way up to 45 tesla, far past the point at which other superconductors become normal conductors.

Magnetic resistance is one of the three elusive requirements for making large-scale use of superconductors practical. Will this new material provide the other two as well?

Posted by scott at 07:58 AM eMail this entry!
June 03, 2008
Toothy Hearts

A company has announced the development of a heart stent coated with a substance found in tooth enamel. The hope is the new device will offer superior protection and fewer side effects when compared to metal-only stents. If it keeps the ticker tickin', I guess it's allright with me.

Posted by scott at 01:32 PM eMail this entry!
May 30, 2008
Speaking of Archeology...

Zahi Hawass & co. are at it again, this time announcing the discovery of an ancient city in the Sinai peninsula. Thought to be about 3500 years old, it represents the most ancient citadel found in that area to-date.

Posted by scott at 12:50 PM eMail this entry!
Stonehenge Update

That new excavation project of Stonehenge we've occasionally linked articles on has produced what appears to be a definitive summary of their findings. According to the report, it would seem the place was a ceremonial burial ground for perhaps a single family for something like 30 generations. Then, about 3500 years ago, it was abandoned and eventually forgotten. To provide a different time fix for just how ancient this place is, consider that when this place was abandoned after five centuries of use, the pyramids were just being built. Even more tantalizing are remains that seem to indicate the site was in use more than 10,000 years ago.

Posted by scott at 10:54 AM eMail this entry!
May 29, 2008
Flapjack Follies

Ron gets a no-prize that's burnt on one side for bringing us news of the development of a bacteria-based computer which can solve the classic "pancake problem". As with most bio-based computer designs I've read about lately, they've got it solving extremely simple problems right now. It would seem that, while this technique has a lot of promise, practical applications are still in the "after I retire" time frame.

Posted by scott at 10:32 AM eMail this entry!
May 23, 2008
Deep Life

If one scientist's theories prove correct, the largest biomass in the world may not be in the oceans, but under them. Perhaps 111 million years old to boot. Stephen Gould once said evidence seems to indicate that as soon as life could exist on Earth, it did. It now seems increasingly likely that, barring something that destroys the planet outright, it always will.

Heck something like that may even be able to tolerate the Sun's future expansion into a red giant.

Posted by scott at 08:33 AM eMail this entry!
May 15, 2008
Hail Theesar!

Mark gets an ancient no-prize with a special oak leaf cluster (for providing a great title to this post) for bringing us news of the discovery of the most ancient bust of Julius Ceasar found to-date. I've always thought it's remarkable that we have a very good idea what a particular set of elites looked like between about 500 BC and 300 AD, and have no idea what anyone else really looked like on either side of that window for thousands of years. I do not doubt I would recognize any of the Julio-Claudians were they to walk down a street.

Posted by scott at 08:56 AM eMail this entry!
May 13, 2008
Lego Brain: Not Yours

Looks like some doctors are getting a little frisky with the ol' fMRIs. Any time someone says "brain structure" and "political party" in the same sentence, I get damned suspicious.

Posted by scott at 01:00 PM eMail this entry!
May 12, 2008
Robo Boat

I'll see your fancy flying robots and raise you a fancy floating robot. Hopefully they'll have some telemetry devices on their shiny robotic sailing vessel, otherwise if it fails to cross the Atlantic all by itself they may never know for sure what happened.

Posted by scott at 12:56 PM eMail this entry!
May 08, 2008
Duck Duck Duck Genome!

Annie gets a weirdly intriguing no-prize for bringing us the results of a recent genetic survey of everyone's favorite egg-laying mammal, the platypus. As the article notes, it would seem they're just as weird on the inside as they are on the outside.

Posted by scott at 10:32 AM eMail this entry!
May 06, 2008
Beaten to Death

Scientists seem to have found a link between early childhood abuse and adult suicide. The finding may not be as "duh" as you think. The link is physiological, which means it can be tested for and potentially treated.

Posted by scott at 01:50 PM eMail this entry!
Beak Bash

Ron gets a really weird looking no-prize for bringing us the story of Beauty, a bald eagle with most of the top of its beak gone, presumably due to a gunshot. Her caretakers are going to try to build an artificial upper beak so she can eat and drink more normally.

Posted by scott at 11:34 AM eMail this entry!
May 05, 2008
Hungry Hungry Squiddy

Ron gets a no-prize the size of a small car for bringing us the latest on that colossal squid dissection. It would appear the thing got caught because it was hungry. The downfall of many of us, I would guess.

Posted by scott at 03:33 PM eMail this entry!
May 01, 2008
Maybe You're Not What You Eat

A team lead by a University of Arkansas* professor have found strong evidence that "Liem’s Paradox" applies to hominids just as much as fish. Oh don't worry, I didn't know what it was either. Go read, you'll get it.

Egypt studies, hominid research... boy, the anth department at my alma mater is sure a helluva lot more interesting than it was when I was an undergrad. I guess getting a billion dollar endowment from three or four of the richest people in the country will do that for ya!

----
* Go Hogs Thankyouverymuch!

Posted by scott at 07:06 PM eMail this entry!
April 30, 2008
Finding Grandpa

DNA from a recently uncovered corpsicle shows a direct link between the victim and 17 living descendants. Which wouldn't be all that remarkable, except the "victim" was a native American who lived several hundred years ago. Ain't DNA testing grand?

Posted by scott at 11:49 AM eMail this entry!
Squid Update
Posted by scott at 08:39 AM eMail this entry!
April 28, 2008
Colossal Cut-Up

Ron gets a no-prize on the end of a hook for bringing us news of an upcoming colossal squid dissection. You remember the one they caught a few years ago? Yeah, it's that one. And it's going to be covered by the Discovery channel, so it'll be coming soon to a TV screen near, well, us anyway. Woot!

Posted by scott at 03:44 PM eMail this entry!
Breakfast Boys

UK researchers would appear to have found a link between what a woman eats for breakfast and what sex her unborn child will become. It would seem breakfast cereal consumption increases the chance a woman will have a boy. I'm not sure if this explains anything, but it's an interesting thought.

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM eMail this entry!
April 25, 2008
Human Split

A new genetic study seems to indicate humanity experienced a profound population split about 100,000 years ago. The findings have implications not only for population studies but also for cultural development, as the timing of the "reunification" seems to match the era when human culture exploded in diversity.

Posted by scott at 12:53 PM eMail this entry!
Brewed Fuel

Scientists at the University of Texas have created a microbe which produces a type of cellulose which is much cheaper to turn into biofuel than the type produced by plants. Of all the new processes announced this year, this one definitely seems the most promising. It would seem to change the problem of biofuel creation from one of expensive enzymes and complex processing to one of simple brewing. Could this be the first step in "microbrew" fuel stations? Well, we can always hope!

Posted by scott at 10:12 AM eMail this entry!
April 24, 2008
Superlens

Scientists have announced the invention of a microelectronic "super lens" capable of beating the diffraction limit by a factor of ten. Unlike far more exotic examples, this device is simple to produce, and has potential uses as varied as microprocessor creation and wireless power transmission.

Posted by scott at 03:14 PM eMail this entry!
April 23, 2008
Wake Up! Time to Die!

Scientists have discovered that providing certain kinds of bacteria the right combination of nutrients defeats one of their important antibiotic resistances. Bacteria which can go dormant for long periods of time often avoid antibiotics entirely. Using the discovered technique, scientists were able to destroy 99% of these bugs by first giving them just enough food to "wake up" (but not reproduce), and then immediately nuking them with antibiotics. It's not clear if this technique will be useful outside a lab, but it does provide a new line of research.

Posted by scott at 02:17 PM eMail this entry!
April 22, 2008
At Least it Wasn't Egg Noodles

The headline says it all: Terracotta army has egg on its face. It would appear the paints used on the famous Chinese terracotta army were egg-based, which made them far more durable than ancient water-based colors.

When you see things like this, don't gasp in wonder. Gasp at the waste. Yes, it's amazing, but in a very real sense these emperors and kings were spending bread money to put men on the moon. Except the Apollo program never came close to a majority share of this country's budget. The ancient world was so poor follies such as mountains of stone pointing nowhere, and clay pot armies buried for no reason, almost certainly were.

Little wonder no ancient society ever survived them.

Posted by scott at 07:27 PM eMail this entry!
Old Man of the Woods

The oldest living tree yet found has been discovered on a windswept plain in Sweden. At 9500 years old, it most likely represents one of the first trees to ever take root in that area, since before then the place was covered with glaciers.

Posted by scott at 12:21 PM eMail this entry!
April 19, 2008
Hobbit Feet

It would seem the Flores 'hobbit' walked more like a clown than a regular person. The more they examine these things, the stranger they seem to get.

Posted by scott at 09:14 AM eMail this entry!
April 18, 2008
Has to be Better than 'Superbad'

Scientists have developed a new class of superconducting materials which could help explain how other, similar, materials really work. The new types appear to superconduct around 55K, which is far below the record holding 134K that so-called "cuprate" materials can achieve. However, it's hoped these new materials will provide insight on what makes the older ones tick, which until now has been quite a mystery.

Posted by scott at 02:10 PM eMail this entry!
More Than Just Kissing Cousins

Scientists have announced the discovery of some interesting genetic patterns between ourselves and our closest living cousins, the chimps and bonobos. While the discovery that some bonobo and chimp genes are more closely related to us than they are to each other is all well and good, if I read this book correctly, it doesn't necessarily mean interbreeding. I can't recall the details just from memory, but there are definitely simple inheritance patterns which could lead to such a thing without needing a bunch of semi-sentient primates boinking each other every chance they get. Sort of thing.

Posted by scott at 09:11 AM eMail this entry!
April 15, 2008
Neanderthal Speak

Using reconstructions based on recent fossil finds, scientists claim to have created a model of what a Neanderthal human would've sounded like when they spoke. If the model is correct (no guarantees there), it appears they could in fact form words but their sound range was limited, making their language less nuanced than that of modern humans.

Posted by scott at 11:38 AM eMail this entry!
April 14, 2008
Stonehenge Breakthrough

Pat gets an ancient and mysterious no-prize for bringing us news that the recently-begun excavation around Stonehenge is already producing results. You'd think as many times as this thing has been investigated over the centuries, it'd be picked clean by now. Never underestimate the persistence of human trash!

Posted by scott at 01:59 PM eMail this entry!
April 07, 2008
Nature's First Bedding?

Scientists claim to have found definitive evidence of when sexual reproduction developed on Earth. Target date: 565 million years ago. No word on when the first cigarette was smoked, nor first snores heard.

Posted by scott at 08:18 AM eMail this entry!
April 02, 2008
Bug Scan

By using a special sort of x-ray machine, scientists have developed the ability to image insects trapped in opaque amber. Even better, they're able to create models of their finds using 3D "printers."

Posted by scott at 11:53 AM eMail this entry!
March 31, 2008
~ It's a Hard Knock Life / for Us ~

A new study shows that life in ancient Egypt was nowhere near as fun as it seemed, at least for the common people. My old undergrad adviser Jerry Rose was co-author of the study. Go Hogs!

Posted by scott at 01:42 PM eMail this entry!
March 28, 2008
Flexi Chip

Scientists have announced a new technique which allows the creation of flexible silicon chips. It's hoped these new items will be useful in a whole raft of applications which previously could not use electronics due to form factor issues.

Posted by scott at 10:30 AM eMail this entry!
March 27, 2008
Clone Cure

Scientists have used therapeutic cloning techniques to cure mice of Parkinson's disease. While interesting as a proof of concept, it's unclear if the research could be applied to people, economically or otherwise.

Posted by scott at 01:15 PM eMail this entry!
March 26, 2008
"Gorging" on Disaster

It would seem those who predicted that the Three Gorges Dam would be courting disaster may have been right. I think. I can only get the first page of the article, but that bit does seem interesting.

Posted by scott at 02:48 PM eMail this entry!
March 21, 2008
BuckyGas

A group of scientists are claiming to have discovered a means of storing hydrogen using buckminsterfullerene, better known as "bucky balls." The soccer-ball-like molecules appear to be able to strong enough to hold a hydrogen at a density approaching that of the depths of Jupiter. At least, that's what the press release says. If it actually pans out (and that's a big damned if), we may some day be able to power hybrids using something that will vaguely resemble plastic sand.

I'm pretty sure it would Be Bad to hit a bag full of that stuff with a hammer. But wtf do I know?

Posted by scott at 05:24 PM eMail this entry!
March 20, 2008
Dino Find

Pat gets an amazingly well-preserved no-prize for bringing us this look at only the forth "mummified" dinosaur ever found. I think the earliest mummy dinosaur ever discovered is on display at the American Natural History Museum in New York, and it was pretty darned amazing. This one seems to be even better preserved.

Posted by scott at 05:38 PM eMail this entry!
I Shall Call it, Micro-cool

Scientists have invented a tiny cooling fan with no moving parts. Calling something that doesn't move a "fan" seems a bit of a contradiction, but if it can give me a laptop that doesn't require a big ol' external fan to be comfortable to use, as my current one does, I'm all for it.

Posted by scott at 08:15 AM eMail this entry!
March 14, 2008
Well, that's Different

Scientists have discovered that the common sand dollar larvae clone themselves when confronted with threatening predators. There is a price: cloned larvae do not grow to be as big as non-clones. I wonder what happens if both survive?

Posted by scott at 02:28 PM eMail this entry!
March 13, 2008
Hobbit Hopping

Anthropologists have found another island very recently inhabited by very small humans. This time it would seem folks are in agreement that it's some form of dwarfism. I think.

Posted by scott at 02:09 PM eMail this entry!
March 09, 2008
Ancient Days

Mark gets an ancient and beautiful no-prize for bringing us news that August's house on Palatine hill has been re-opened to the public. Yet another thing to put on my sightseeing list.

Posted by scott at 03:33 PM eMail this entry!
March 04, 2008
Shocking Traffic

Researchers in Japan have come up with experiments which seem to confirm the "shock wave" theory of traffic jams. Which may explain why my commute takes 20 minutes longer than it should for no damned apparent reason, but unfortunately it doesn't help much with those homicidal urges I get in the middle of them.

Life's funny that way, I guess.

Posted by scott at 02:18 PM eMail this entry!
Buggy Snow

Scientists are reporting a connection between the life cycle of bacteria and, of all things, snow flake creation. It's even hypothesized this process could strongly influence rain and snowfall patterns. Busy little bugs!

Posted by scott at 11:35 AM eMail this entry!
March 03, 2008
Monster of the Deep

Scientists have announced the discovery of the largest marine reptile ever found. The specimen is a whopping 20% bigger than the next largest discovery, and appears to be some sort of pliosaur.

Posted by scott at 03:23 PM eMail this entry!
February 27, 2008
petard.Owner = them; Hoist(petard);

Mike J. gets a no prize he can stare at whilst being burned at the stake for bringing us even more evidence that climate change is something that can be conclusively proven in both directions. Think about this one the next time some Democrat watermelon greenie proposes economy-strangling regulations in the name of the environment.

Posted by scott at 10:42 AM eMail this entry!
February 25, 2008
Rainquake

It would appear it's much harder to trigger an earthquake via rainfall than was previously thought. Turns out such events are heavily influenced by the type of geography on which the rain falls.

Why the media haven't been trumpeting "RAINFALL HAS POTENTIAL TO DEVASTATE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA" headlines all this time I'll never know.

Posted by scott at 12:58 PM eMail this entry!
February 23, 2008
Drumming Arks

At least one man claims to have finally solved the mystery of the Ark of the Covenant. The evidence seems rather tenuous to me, but wtf do I know? Time to put the upcoming History Channel special on the ol' Tivo to-do list!

Posted by scott at 09:24 AM eMail this entry!
Rapturous Circle

Six pages of well-written, "Moses-puzzled-but-bringing-down-the-tablets-anyway" science writing, and what do slashdotters lock onto? A single sentence that mentions Jedi Knights. Ah well, if it gets you to read the article, I suppose it was worth it.

Posted by scott at 09:07 AM eMail this entry!
February 22, 2008
Stem Cell Adance
Posted by scott at 12:47 PM eMail this entry!
February 20, 2008
I've Always Known Mine Were Much More 'Idiot' Than 'Savant'

It would seem animals really aren't a kind of autistic savant. Just what they are is, obviously, still a point of contention. The ones around my house seem to mostly be stomachs with variously shaped clothing on. The cats even come with a convenient "reverse" button, which they press often and with abandon, much to the detriment of our carpet.

Posted by scott at 01:44 PM eMail this entry!
February 19, 2008
A Horned Something-or-Other

Scientists have discovered a new fossil which provides more evidence that Madagascar and South America were once connected in the distant past. The real puzzler for me is that, since this thing is supposed to be related to the modern horned lizard, why the BBC reporter never once mentioned the creature is actually a reptile, not an amphibian.

Posted by scott at 01:14 PM eMail this entry!
February 15, 2008
Paging Jerry Lee Lewis, White Courtesy Phone Please

It appears that weak flames behave differently in space than they do on Earth. "Paging Ric Romero," you say? Well, it turns out the reasons are more subtle, and less well understood, than you'd think.

Posted by scott at 08:21 AM eMail this entry!
February 14, 2008
Talk About Your Weather Delays...

Ron gets a damned cold no-prize for bringing us the latest discoveries regarding the migration of humans from Asia to America. Turns out, at least according to this research, the people in question may have had to wait up to 5,000 years before they were able to complete the passage.

Posted by scott at 11:39 AM eMail this entry!
February 13, 2008
Bat Bones

Scientists have discovered new evidence that bats first developed flight, then the echolocation system common to all extant species. The fossil evidence dates back 53 million years, and seems to show all bat species alive at that time were already proficient fliers. Perhaps they developed flight during the age of the dinosaurs?

Posted by scott at 01:41 PM eMail this entry!
February 10, 2008
Think of it as a Teeny-Tiny Cup

Scientists have announced the ability to create three-dimensional structures using DNA as the constructor. The article touts it as a 'Holy Grail' for nanotech. I'll have to take their word for it. Now, bring on the stuff!

Posted by scott at 10:19 AM eMail this entry!
February 07, 2008
Jump, Jive, & Glide

Problem: "it’s hard to measure things about an animal that moves around at night, lives 30 metres up a tree, and can glide 100 metres away from you in an arbitrary direction in 10 seconds."

Solution: Wii remotes.

Is there anything it can't do?

Posted by scott at 08:30 AM eMail this entry!
February 06, 2008
Mining Words

A new study seems to indicate children learn language through a process very similar to computer data mining. It's hoped the findings will point toward more effective techniques for teaching languages to children and adults. Considering the horrific time I had learning German in college, anything that provides a different technique would be welcome, to me at least.

Posted by scott at 01:28 PM eMail this entry!
February 05, 2008
I'm My Own Grandpa, and So is He

Scientists have combined the genetic information of three people to create a single embryo. The idea is to help women with mitocondrial DNA diseases by using that specific sort of genetic material from another, unaffected, woman. There's a huge creep-out factor in this for me, but if it leads to healthy kids, and it's not being done using my tax dollars, well, I wouldn't agree to legislation that stopped it.

I think.

Posted by scott at 03:26 PM eMail this entry!
~ Skylab is Falling Down on Us, Hurrah, Hurrah ~

Desperate to drum up some sort of interest in what is clearly a government conspiracy to rain spy satellite bits down on us, the New York Times is reduced to interviewing guys who like to watch said satellites zip across the sky.

My dad's place is dark enough at night to see these things as they go by. I'll admit it's pretty interesting, at least looking up from a pool raft whilst holding a beer. They're fast enough I can't imagine tracking them with a telescope, but who knows?

Pat gets a no-prize John Belushi once used as a prop on Weekend Update (oh go look it up) for bringing us news of one of the more unique hobbies in the sky watching field.

Posted by scott at 08:30 AM eMail this entry!
February 04, 2008
Paging Vanilla Ice, White Courtesy Phone Please

Some scientists are proposing that the origin of life may not lie in soupy puddles, or squishy clay, but instead may reside inside the most unlikely of things, ice. The basis of the theory is a process called "eutectic freezing," which causes certain sorts of chemical reactions, in particular certain sorts that give rise to organic molecules, to actually increase as temperature decreases.

Posted by scott at 08:24 AM eMail this entry!
February 01, 2008
Cracking Water

Mike J gets a no-prize of the purest green for bringing us news of new developments related to fuel cells. This time, it's not about making the cells themselves more powerful or efficient, but rather it's about a fundamentally different (and, according to the inventors) cheaper way of creating what powers the fuel cell... namely, hydrogen.

If it moves us closer to strangling radical Islam's primary source of funding, I'm all for it!

Posted by scott at 01:45 PM eMail this entry!
January 31, 2008
Bone Song

Scientists studying mass graves of the time have made some interesting discoveries about Black Death victims of the middle ages. One of the best-kept secrets of historic archeology is the almost complete neglect of human remains. An enormous amount of information can be gleaned from skeletal analysis: demographics, diet and disease, migration patterns, even a surprising amount of life history. Yet time and again you'll find no mention whatever of such examinations. As an undergraduate, I and a few of my fellow anthropology majors took some classical studies courses. Time and again we were surprised that some of the best-known archeology sites were known to have substantial human remains which had never been studied. It would seem that, twenty years later, nothing much has changed. The thesis potential alone is staggering, let alone what contributions could be made to general knowledge.

I guess it just takes getting someone to open up the bone boxes.

Via Instapundit.

Posted by scott at 11:46 AM eMail this entry!
January 28, 2008
Soft Sound

Scientists have found evidence that the Earth's center may be "softer" than current theories predict. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep in mind that the bits of the planet I'm most familiar with represent something akin to wet paper wrapped around an orange.

Posted by scott at 01:24 PM eMail this entry!
January 25, 2008
Big Rat

Ron gets a gigantic hamster-wheel no-prize for bringing us news of the discovery of a 2,000 lb. ancient rodent. Well, those saber-toothed cats had to eat something, donchaknow?

Posted by scott at 12:16 PM eMail this entry!
January 23, 2008
Tree Pruning

A group of geneticist are making the claim that one whole branch of the "tree of life" should be pruned. Since I'm (obviously) not a geneticist, I'll have to defer to the peer reviewers and the *shudder* reporters on this one. Ancient biology fascinates me, but the details tend to make my head 'asplode.

Posted by scott at 02:31 PM eMail this entry!
January 21, 2008
Coffee: Not Yours

Scientists are reporting two cups of coffee a day can double a woman's risk of miscarriage. No booze, no cigs, no coffee... no wonder pregnant women are so cranky.

Posted by scott at 09:07 AM eMail this entry!
Like a Boil on the Earth's Butt

It's pretty hard to worry about global warming melting the Antarctic ice sheet when Antarctica is busily trying to melt it via more direct means. A "sub-glacial" volcano is just another reason why screwing around with glaciers is bad.

Posted by scott at 08:24 AM eMail this entry!
January 19, 2008
Paging Dave Matthews, White Courtesy Phone Please

While I'd seen a few previous examples of "concrete-cast ant colonies," it took this video to show me one in-situ. It's amazing how far the tiniest of critters can get if they work hard enough, long enough.

Posted by scott at 07:14 AM eMail this entry!
January 18, 2008
Grandpa = Me; Label1.Text = Whois(Grandpa);

Ron gets a no-prize that'll clone itself for spare parts for bringing us news that scientists have created apparently viable embryos from adult skin cells. It's unclear if the embryos would've been able to be brought to term, since nobody wanted to try. Regardless, it would definitely seem we are getting much closer to being able to create perfect replacement parts.

Posted by scott at 08:26 AM eMail this entry!
January 15, 2008
Syphilitic Science

Genetic research seems to have settled once-and-for-all where syphilis originated.

That syphilis originated in the Americas and was transported to Europe by early Spanish explorers was conventional wisdom at least as far back as the mid-80s, when I learned about it in college. Of course, as with any social science, there's nothing so conventional that some powerful anthropologist can't challenge, so there was always this grinding background of "did not / did too / did not / did too" in the various journals of the time.

Now that an independent line of research has confirmed the prediction, you'd think all these old coots would sit down and shut up about it. No way Jose! The only reliable way to get an entrenched academic to change their opinion is to let the Grim Reaper escort them off the stage. Otherwise there's nothing quite as pleasing to them as arguing with the tide (and, of course, ruining the occasional grad student's career in the process).

Via Instapundit.

Posted by scott at 01:18 PM eMail this entry!
January 14, 2008
Because I'd Rather be Stinky Than Dead

Scientists are reporting garlic is an effective tool to combat arsenic poisoning. A solution in search of a problem, you think? Tell that to the millions of Bangladeshi and Indian residents whose water supplies are full of the stuff. Tasty!

Posted by scott at 12:25 PM eMail this entry!
January 11, 2008
AIDS List

Ron gets a no-prize could put Rent completely out of business for bringing us news of new developments in AIDS research. If it leads to new treatments it's great, but I bet the grad students who had to test every single thing one at a time probably weren't having much fun.

Posted by scott at 04:53 PM eMail this entry!
January 10, 2008
Skinning a Dino
Posted by scott at 10:25 AM eMail this entry!
January 09, 2008
Wheelchair B Gone

Scientists are for the first time reporting evidence that the central nervous system can re-route functionality around spinal injuries. The findings are already pointing the way toward new therapies for paralysis victims. Too late for Reeves, but I wonder if the publicity and funding he brought had anything to do with advancing this discovery?

Posted by scott at 01:04 PM eMail this entry!
January 07, 2008
Closing the Loop

Scientists are working on technologies which promise to use everyone's favorite "poisonous gas that is not actually a poison" to create fuel. Scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere and then jiggering with it until it becomes gasoline sure as heck sounds like a neat idea, but the "ten to fifteen years" to a deployable technology tends to translate to "after I retire" in science-speak. In other words, in my experience the phrase is a red-flag indicating they know they have a great idea, but have clue zero as to how it can be made to work cheaply. Of course, with demand rising as various third-world countries beaver their way forward to the first world, cheap may end up being a relative thing.

Posted by scott at 11:39 AM eMail this entry!
January 02, 2008
Gene Trace

Scientists have traced a rare genetic defect that greatly increases the risk of colon cancer to perhaps a single married couple who immigrated to the US some time around 1630. Two populations, one in Utah and one in New York, have been discovered to possess this defect, but it's possible others have yet to be discovered. While the defect seems quite rare, it increases the risk of cancer from 1 in 25 to a whopping 2 out of 3. If a test can be developed, it would at least eliminate that indication (or provide an early warning sign for extra vigilance.)

Posted by scott at 01:06 PM eMail this entry!
December 31, 2007
A Snake, for the Rest of Us

It's like Roto-rooter, for your heart. A surgical instrument that works inside your arteries, leading to bypass operations without the tremendous trauma. We're living in science fiction, I tell ya.

Posted by scott at 09:10 AM eMail this entry!
December 25, 2007
Speciation Start

Scientists are reporting on the discovery of no fewer than six genetically exclusive populations of giraffe. To me it would seem they're seeing the very start of a speciation event, but what do I know?

Posted by scott at 10:18 AM eMail this entry!
December 14, 2007
Minding the Difference

Scientists have discovered yet another way we differ radically from our closest living relatives. This time up, menopause. Seems both chimp and human females lose their reproductive abilities at around age 40, but the chimp drop off is caused by, well, chimps dropping off. Those which manage to survive are actually more successful at raising the kids than the younger ones, and are preferred by male chimps perhaps because of this. The long post-reproductive survival period seems to be one of the most biologically distinguishing things about us.

Posted by scott at 04:00 PM eMail this entry!
December 11, 2007
Something Everyone's Desk Needs

Scientists are reporting the development of a "desktop" synchrotron. I'm pretty sure this is a Good Thing, but my head 'asploded about half way through the article. "Ugh. Scientist say is good. That good enough for Thag."

Posted by scott at 02:26 PM eMail this entry!
December 10, 2007
External Memory

Slashdot linked up news of the development of a camera system which appears to help folks with minor dementia remember things. The camera is worn by the person in question, and it takes a special stabilized photograph of the person's surroundings every 30 seconds. The pictures can then be uploaded to a playback device, which the person can use to review what they did that day. Studies are showing this seems to significantly improve recall in test patients.

Personally, I think it'd be pretty useful in bars too. At least then you'd know the exact sequence that lead to your losing an arm in a "coyote" encounter.

Posted by scott at 12:21 PM eMail this entry!
December 06, 2007
Reminds me of Very Tiny Six Pack Holders