Science

4:31pm

Thu May 2, 2013
Research News

Of Flybots And Bug Eyes: Insects Inspire Inventors

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 5:49 pm

These robotic flies, which were built in a Harvard lab, can flap their wings independently of each other and fly around while tethered to a power and control wire.
Kevin Ma, Pakpong Chirarattananon AAAS/Science

A smartphone can tell you where to get a cup of coffee, but it can't go get the coffee for you. Engineers would like to build little machines that can do stuff. They would be useful for a lot more than coffee, if we could figure out how to make them work.

But the rules of mechanics change at small scales. Friction becomes dominant; turbulence can upend a small airplane.

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3:42pm

Thu May 2, 2013
The Salt

Can Salmon Farming Be Sustainable? Maybe, If You Head Inland

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 6:43 pm

These sockeye salmon were raised at a land-based fish farm in Langley, British Columbia.
Courtesy Willowfield Enterprises

Is salmon farming ever sustainable?

For years, many marine biologists have argued that the floating, open-ocean net pens that produce billions of pounds of salmon per year also generate pollution, disease and parasites.

In some places in western Canada, the open-ocean salmon farming industry has been blamed for the collapse of wild salmon populations in the early 2000s — though other research has challenged that claim.

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1:33pm

Thu May 2, 2013
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Diaperless Babies: 'Lunatic' Or 'Positive' Parenting?

Hats: yes. Diapers: maybe we should rethink that.
iStockphoto.com

It's not a national craze; it may never become one. But for an anthropologist, this micro-trend is fascinating to note: some parents, mostly in one area of New York City, as far as I can tell, are raising their children from birth without diapers.

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3:00am

Thu May 2, 2013
Shots - Health News

Imagine A Flying Pig: How Words Take Shape In The Brain

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 6:20 pm

Although a flying pig doesn't exist in the real world, our brains use what we know about pigs and birds — and superheroes — to create one in our mind's eye when we hear or read those words.
iStockphoto.com

This is a story about a duck. More precisely, it's a story about what your brain just did when you read the word "duck."

Chances are, your brain created an image of a web-footed waterfowl. It also may have recalled the sound of quacking or the feel of feathers. And new research suggests that these mental simulations are essential to understanding language.

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7:10pm

Wed May 1, 2013
The Salt

Who Paid For Last Summer's Drought? You Did

Corn plants dry in a drought-stricken farm field near Fritchton, Ind., last summer.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Say the words "crop insurance" and most people start to yawn. For years, few nonfarmers knew much about these government-subsidized insurance policies, and even fewer found any fault with them. After all, who could criticize a safety net for farmers that saves them from getting wiped out by floods or drought?

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6:23pm

Wed May 1, 2013
The Salt

Bones Tell Tale Of Desperation Among The Starving At Jamestown

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 7:48 pm

The four cuts at the top of this skull "are clear chops to the forehead," says Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley. Based on forensic evidence, researchers think the blows were made after the person died.
Donald E. Hurlbert Smithsonian

"First they ate their horses, and then fed upon their dogs and cats, as well as rats, mice and snakes."

So says James Horn of the historical group Colonial Williamsburg, paraphrasing an account by colony leader George Percy of what conditions were like for the hundreds of men and women stranded in Jamestown, Va., with little food in the dead of winter in 1609.

They even ate their shoes. And, apparently, at least one person.

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4:56pm

Wed May 1, 2013
Shots - Health News

A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 10:33 am

Bates experienced migraines as a child. She made this painting to depict how they felt to her.
Courtesy of Emily Bates

Mutations on a single gene appear to increase the risk for both an unusual sleep disorder and migraines, a team reports in Science Translational Medicine.

The finding could help explain the links between sleep problems and migraines. It also should make it easier to find new drugs to treat migraines, researchers say.

And for one member of the research team, Emily Bates, the discovery represents a personal victory.

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2:58pm

Wed May 1, 2013
The Two-Way

NASA Details Space Telescope's Cosmic Near Miss

This diagram shows Fermi and Cosmos 1805 on a collision course.
NASA

A new video reveals just how close NASA came last year to losing its $500 million Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in a narrowly averted collision with a defunct, Cold War-era Soviet spy satellite.

On March 29, 2012, Julie McEnery, the project scientist for Fermi, received an automatically generated email warning that the two satellites were due in just a few days to pass within 700 feet of one another as their respective orbits crossed.

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1:45pm

Wed May 1, 2013
Monkey See

Discovery's 'Big Brain Theory': Not That Kind Of Nerd TV

Alison Wong, a contestant on Discovery's new The Big Brain Theory, does the math.
Jason Elias Discovery

Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about Discovery's nifty new science series The Big Brain Theory, hosted by Kal Penn, is how ordinary it is.

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1:22pm

Wed May 1, 2013
Author Interviews

Criminologist Believes Violent Behavior Is Biological

iStockphoto.com

Twenty years ago, when brain imaging made it possible for researchers to study the minds of violent criminals and compare them to the brain imaging of "normal" people, a whole new field of research — neurocriminology — opened up.

Adrian Raine was the first person to conduct a brain imaging study on murderers and has since continued to study the brains of violent criminals and psychopaths. His research has convinced him that while there is a social and environmental element to violent behavior, there's another side of the coin, and that side is biology.

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