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Neural Cells Don’t Always Express Mom and Dad’s Genes Equally

Posted: February 24, 2017, 7:24 pm |
We’re all the product of genes from both parents. But in the brain, neurons may favor genes from mom or dad far more than previously thought, which is an effect that could impact one’s risk for mental disorders.

Everybody generally receives two versions, or alleles, of each gene, one from each parent. The fact that each person has a spare copy of a gene in case the other is defective is one reason why scientists think sex evolved in the first place, says study senior author Christopher Gr

Gooooal! Bumblebees Learn to Play Soccer

Posted: February 23, 2017, 7:00 pm |
If scoring a goal is the only way to earn a sugary treat, a bumblebee will summon its inner Messi.

Indeed, rolling a ball into a goal—soccer, sort of—is the latest puzzle solved by Bombus terrestris after training with scientists/bee trainers at Queen Mary University of London. In October, scientists from the same lab—the Chittka Lab—taught bees to tug strings for treats. There are no plans to start a traveling carnival; instead, scientists are pushing bees’ to their cognitive limits to

Tuataras and The Question of Living Fossils

Posted: February 22, 2017, 9:35 pm |
New Zealand’s tuataras prove the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” like few other animals on the planet (coelacanth, I’m looking at you). While paleontologists have long differed over the animal’s “living fossil” status, new research suggests the tuatara lineage got its groove some 240 million years ago and never lost it.

Sphenodon punctatus, commonly known as the tuatara, has been puzzling science as long as science has been aware of it: Back in 1831, the animal was initial

4 Thumbnail-Sized Frog Species Discovered in India

Posted: February 22, 2017, 7:25 pm |
Four frogs tinier than an average adult thumbnail are among seven new species identified in India’s Western Ghat mountain range.

The new frog species all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. As the name suggests, they usually come out after dark and prefer to hide out under damp vegetation on the forest floor. Unlike their stream-dwelling cousins, they don’t have webbed feet. All of the species found appear to be fairly common in the region, but the frogs’ si

7 Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting a Tiny Star

Posted: February 22, 2017, 6:01 pm |
TRAPPIST-1 has a solar system like no other. The tiny, tiny red dwarf is just barely big enough to be considered a star, and is, radius-wise, a hair bigger than Jupiter. When it was announced last May, there was some excitement: the system had three Earth-sized planets, and they might all be habitable.

We’re going to have to revise that, though. It has seven planets. The results of an intensive study were published today in Nature.

TRAPPIST-1 is so small that it resembles Jupiter and

Suicide Robot Boat Blamed for Attack on Warship

Posted: February 22, 2017, 3:48 am |
A suicide boat attack that killed two sailors aboard a Saudi warship was apparently carried out by an unmanned, remotely-controlled boat. The U.S. Navy says the incident likely represents the first ever use of a suicide robot boat as a weapon on the high seas.

Suicide boat bombings carried out by human crews willing to die in the attacks are nothing new. Such an attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others aboard the U.S.S. Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer refueling in the port of Aden, Yeme

What Does a Meteor Sound Like?

Posted: February 21, 2017, 10:57 pm |
When a meteor screams through our upper atmosphere, it’s a silent show for us here on the ground. Most meteors burn up dozens of miles above the surface, and even if a sonic boom reaches us it comes minutes after the visual spectacle.

However, reports of meteors have for years been accompanied by reports of strange sizzling sounds filling the air, as if someone was frying bacon. Sound travels too slowly for the meteor to be directly responsible for the phenomenon, so such reports are usua

Kennewick Man’s Bones Reburied, Settling a Decades-Long Debate

Posted: February 21, 2017, 10:47 pm |
Unearthed in 1996 after part of his skull was found along the shores of the Columbia River in Washington, Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old Paleoamerican, would soon be regarded as the most important human skeletal discovery in American history.

A Crisis of Ancient Identity

When two college students reported that they had found a skull fragment in the river, scientists responded quickly. After searching for and collecting nearly 300 other pieces of bone, they were able to determine that

The Brightest Pulsar Has a Complex and Powerful Magnetic Field

Posted: February 21, 2017, 8:27 pm |
The supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies are known for their extreme X-ray emission. This emission is associated with the massive hot disks of gas and debris that circle these monstrous black holes before it is consumed.

However, X-ray observations of distant galaxies have also uncovered additional luminous X-ray sources that aren’t associated with the galactic centers (where supermassive black holes are found). These are ULXs, or ultraluminous X-ray sources. ULXs hav

In Ancient Chacoan Society, Women Ruled

Posted: February 21, 2017, 6:03 pm |
Before they disappeared in 1130, the Chacoans of New Mexico were a society on par with the Mayans.

Without a writing system to speak of, they maintained complex trade partnerships with nearby populations. They lived in sprawling, complex stone mini-cities called “great houses”—the largest of which, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, boasted 650 rooms. They Chacoans were one of North America’s earliest complex societies, but archaeologists still aren’t sure why they disappeared—climate change

What Causes a ‘Butterflies in the Stomach’ Sensation?

Posted: February 21, 2017, 1:00 pm |
If you have ever been nervous about something that is about to happen, then you may have felt the sensations of nausea and “fluttering”—the recognizable and odd sensation deep in your gut known as having “butterflies in the stomach.”

Perhaps you were about to give a speech to a large audience, were in the waiting room for a big interview, were about to step up and take a key penalty shot or about to meet a potential love interest. Rather than actual butterflies bouncing around your large

Atmospheric Rivers Bring Record Winds, Torrential Rains

Posted: February 20, 2017, 10:02 pm |
Rivers in the sky may be responsible for up to 75 percent of the largest, most extreme wind and rainfall events that ravage the coasts.

The streams of moisture, called atmospheric rivers, originate in the tropics and often stretch for thousands of miles across the ocean in a thin band. They deliver a deluge of rain that causes major floods, landslides and a rash of insurance claims. In addition to soaking us, a new study shows that atmospheric rivers are also responsible for bringing powe

This Squid Gives Better Side-Eye Than You

Posted: February 20, 2017, 7:30 pm |
Yes, this cephalopod is looking at you funny. It’s a kind of cockeyed squid—an animal that looks like some jokester misassembled a Mr. Potato Head. One of the cockeyed squid’s eyes is big, bulging and yellow. The other is flat and beady. After studying more than 25 years’ worth of undersea video footage, scientists think they know why.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California has been dropping robotic submarines into the ocean for decades. The footage from those

The Science of the Rorschach Blots

Posted: February 20, 2017, 3:56 pm |
When the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach blotted ink onto paper to produce a series of abstract patterns, could he have known that nearly 100 years later, the Rorschach test would be a household name?

Although the use of the Rorschach to diagnose mental illness is mostly a thing of the past, research on the test continues. Last week, two new papers were published on the Rorschach blots, including a fractal analysis of the images themselves and a brain scanning study using fMRI.

The

When US Navy Suicide Drones Went to War

Posted: February 18, 2017, 9:13 pm |
During the Korean War, a life-or-death race took place between a U.S. Navy Hellcat fighter aircraft and a group of North Koreans on a railroad handcar. Apparently believing that the fighter was preparing to attack with its machine guns, the North Koreans frantically pumped the railroad handcar’s arm as they headed for the safety of a railroad tunnel. They made it inside just before the aircraft crashed into the hillside near the tunnel entrance.

The strange incident marked one of the U.S. Nav

Gore Verbinski Diagnoses His Own “Cure for Wellness”

Posted: February 17, 2017, 10:24 pm |
If you feel like there is something deeply unhealthy about the modern world, director Gore Verbinski has just the movie for you. If you roll your eyes at New Age cures, he’s got you covered, too. And if some mornings you wake up wondering if you sleepwalked into the wrong corner of the multiverse…yes, he’s on top of that one as well. Verbinski’s new A Cure for Wellness is a rich stew of psychological themes, mythologies, medical musings, and surrealist flights of fancy. It is utterly bonke

Watch a Record 104 Satellites Tumble Into Orbit

Posted: February 17, 2017, 8:18 pm |
An Indian rocket delivered a record-setting 104 satellites into orbit Tuesday night.

A camera on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle captured the spacecraft, most of them tiny CubeSats, as they tumbled into orbit—the most placed into orbit by a single vehicle. A majority of the satellites belong to a U.S.-based company called Planet which hopes to establish a network of tiny satellites to provide near-real-time imaging of Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0BpjPUT5FE

An In

The Fantasy of Connecting Two Spinal Cords

Posted: February 17, 2017, 8:03 pm |
A peculiar new paper proposes the idea of “connecting two spinal cords as a way of sharing information between two brains”. The author is Portuguese psychiatrist Amílcar Silva-dos-Santos and the paper appears in Frontiers in Psychology.

Frontiers are a publisher with a troubled history of publishing dubious science. But this paper is unusual, even by Frontiers’ standards, because it contains virtually no science at all.

In a nutshell, Silva-Dos-Santos suggests that it would be interest

Facial Recognition Software: The Next Big Thing in Species Conservation?

Posted: February 17, 2017, 6:35 pm |
How do you care for the creatures you love? You shoot them with tranquilizer darts, capture them in cages, embed microchips, pierce their ears or make them wear funny collars.

For scientists who monitor endangered species, these are tried-and-true methods to count and track individuals in a given population—along with photography and experts’ sharp eyes. But capturing or sedating an animal can be stressing (and could cause physical harm), and boots-on-the-ground counts can be inconsistent

Rebirth and Recovery in the Shadow of Chernobyl

Posted: February 17, 2017, 8:29 am |
Regular readers of this blog know that I normally focus on cosmic topics: comets, exoplanets, dark matter, the search for alien life, and the like. I don’t tangle so much with the everyday challenges of life here on the ground. I enjoy taking a break from the quotidian. But the truth is, the two sides are never very far apart. They are both–all–part of one universe, governed by one set of physical laws. The nuclear reactions that regulate the afterglow of a supernova explosion are the exac