What is it about dolphins? They have very, very big brains, and that makes we humans, whose brains are nothing to sniff at, nervous. We don't know what to make of them.
The latest example: On May 17 in India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an order to all Indian states banning dolphin amusement parks. No leaping out of pools to catch balls, no jumping through hoops. Forcing dolphins to entertain humans, the ministry said, was morally unacceptable.
Nature documentaries always go on and on about how fast a cheetah can run. Cats in captivity have been clocked at 65 miles an hour, the highest speed recorded for any land animal.
And yet, scientists know very little about how the animal runs in the wild, especially when on the hunt.
"You can look at it and say, 'Oh that's fast,' " says Alan Wilson, a veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary College, London. "But you can't actually describe what route it follows, or how quickly it's gone, or the details of [the] forces it has to exert to do that."
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the classic film, Jurassic Park. Michael Dhar, a science writer and contributor to the website Live Science, tells Melissa Block and Audie Cornish about how the science featured in the movie holds up to what we know about dinosaurs today.
The connected car promises voice-activated systems that let drivers dictate emails and texts, make a dinner reservation or update their Facebook page, all while behind the wheel. Some cars already have these options. Many more are on the way. Carmakers say it's safer than fiddling around with a smartphone.
When a kid lops off a fingertip with a cleaver or car door, there's a chance the end of the digit will grow back. The fingerprint will be gone, and the tip may look a bit strange. But the flesh, bone and nail could return.
Now biologists at New York University have figured out just how this lizard-like regeneration happens in mice. There's some secret sauce at the nail cuticle that makes it possible, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.
We think we know the real world; it's the one we perceive around us. All we have to do is open our eyes, sharpen our ears and we have a portrait of reality based on our senses. Most of us are perfectly happy with this construction, not knowing or caring that there is a whole lot of reality lurking beyond our senses, invisible and essential.
If you've felt smug and safe using built-in, voice-controlled technology for text messages, email and phone calls while driving, forget it. There are some sobering findings about the risk of distraction from the American Automobile Association and the University of Utah.
The proliferation of hands-free technology "is a looming public safety crisis," AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet says. "It's time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars."
The Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio, is as rural as it gets. You have to drive down a long, 2-mile rocky road to reach it. There's nothing nearby — no lights, no running water. The only thing you hear are the katydids.
The cave houses a massive bat colony, as it has for an estimated 10,000 years. Bat Conservation International, the group that oversees the Bracken Cave Reserve, wants it to stay secluded, but the area's rural nature could change if a local developer's plan moves forward.
A crowd of wildlife rangers gathered on a woody hillside in Nepal last year to try something they'd never done before. A man held what looked like an overgrown toy airplane in his right hand, arm cocked as if to throw it into the sky. As his fellow rangers cheered, he did just that. A propeller took over, sending it skyward.
The craft was an unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a drone, though not the military kind. Its wingspan was about 7 feet, and it carried only a video camera that filmed the forest below.
New technologies are not all equal. Some do nothing more than add a thin extra layer to the top-soil of human behavior (i.e., Teflon and the invention of non-stick frying pans). Some technologies, however, dig deeper, uprooting the norms of human behavior and replacing them with wholly new possibilities. For the last few months I have been arguing that Big Data — the machine-based collection and analysis of astronomical quantities of information — represents such a turn.