science: May 2010 Archives

275x250.jpgResearchers have discovered some sharks can become invisible to their prey by creating an odd optical illusion.

Emitting light from their body, by regulating the photophores underneath the body, the sharks are able to match the light from the sun.

According to researchers from the University of Louvain, this means the already efficient killers don't stand out as silhouettes to their prey - making them even more deadly.

Lead researcher Julien Claes says that about 10 percent of known sharks are able to glow, and that this could also be used to attract a mate.

We've always worried about being attacked by a shark… but after hearing this will now be glancing even more nervously around the bathroom before getting into the tub.

275x250.jpgResearchers say rhythm and not genre is the key to discovering new music that you will enjoy.

A team from Brazil looked at the characteristics of 400 songs from four musical genres – rock, blues, bossa nova and reggae - specifically rhythmic sequences.

By using hierarchical clustering, a visual representation of rhythmic frequencies, they were able to come up with a new way of defining musical genres.

And they claim this could be used as a better way of predicting a song someone might like based on a list of tracks they also enjoy.

Of course you might like to think of yourself a heavy metal fan and suddenly find out based on you rhythm preference that you will enjoy Girls Aloud.

275x250.jpgFish get scared by looking at their own reflection and  try to fight themselves in a mirror, biologists have discovered.

Researchers compared the behaviour and brain activity of fish during one-on-one encounters with a mirror and another male of about the same size.

The team from Stanford University found male African cichlid were scared when they saw their reflection, and that this fear increased when they realised it was making the same movements as them.

It's said this means fish are actually smarter than most people give them credit for and their brains work in much the same way as humans.

I think we all know someone who gets confused by their own reflection and will pick a fight with it -- especially after a few drinks on a Friday night.

275x250.jpgBoffins have saved the world's smallest water lily - which had vanished from its only known growing spot in Africa - from becoming extinct.

Known as "thermal water lily" the plant, which has pads as little as 1cm in diameter, was discovered in the muddy edges of a freshwater hot spring in Rwanda in 1985.

But recently it disappeared from there, meaning it's only chance of survival was seeds which had been stored at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, but had been difficult to propagate.

However, horticulturist Carlos Magdalena has worked out how to grow the plant by altering the carbon dioxide levels in the water and says it could soon be growing in a cup on your windowsill… well plenty of other things manage that.

275x250.jpg Boffins have used the skeleton of a medieval knight which was discovered at Stirling Castle to reconstruct what he would have looked like.

Forensic anthropologists are now attempting to discover the identity of the warrior, who is thought to have been killed in the late 13th or 14th centuries.

His skeleton was one of 10 excavated from a site at Stirling Castle and it is hoped analysis could provide more information about life at that time.

Tests are now being done to work out whether he was a Scot, an Englishman or even French… and Scottish people are still trying to work out which of the last two would be worse.

275x250.jpgResearchers have found drinking coffee can help people working shifts to make fewer errors at work.

Scientists say those who work shifts disrupt their body clocks and tend to be more tired at work, as a result they suffer increased errors.

Looking at how to combat this they compared the impact of taking caffeine (by drinking coffee or energy drinks) with placebos or naps.

Work-related tests showed those on the caffeine suffered significantly less mistakes and had better memory, attention, perception and reasoning.

In that case we dread to think how many mistakes we would make if we didn't have an intravenous drip of espresso hooked up next to the desk.

275x250.jpgPatients undergoing operations at a Scottish hospital are being given the option of watching DVDs rather than receiving anaesthetic.

Docs claim watching a DVD like of Only Fools And Horses during an operation can distract patients from pain, meaning they need less anaesthetic.

Dr Nick Pace of Gartnavel Hospital had idea after being tasked with trying to reduce the number of people having knee surgery who opted for a general anaesthetic.

It's now suggested patients are numbed from the waist down and watch a portable DVD player to distract them from the surgery sights and sounds.

About half of patients now opt for watching a movie and a spinal anaesthetic rather than full body anaesthetic… but if they started offering popcorn they could get that number up.

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