science: June 2010 Archives

275x250.jpg Felix Baumgartner - who plans to do a free-fall skydive from the edge of space - has tested his pressurised space suit by doing bungee jumps.

During his Red Bull Stratos mission Baumgartner will use a helium balloon to float to the edge of space before plummeting back to Earth at speeds of 690mph.

To make sure he is comfortable in his suit, which needs to protect against temperatures of -56C, his team are now conducting a series of tests which have included stepping-off from the actual capsule, high-altitude skydives and the bungee jumps -- carried out in a deserted fairground.

But at just 200ft fall per bungee jump, Baumgartner will have to do 600 to match the 120,000ft he will fall during the actual jump.

275x250.jpgA 245-year-old mummified man has been given a CT scan at a US hospital -- to see what illnesses he might have suffered when alive.

The remains are currently on loan from the Hungarian Natural History Museum to the California Science Center in LA and due to go on show to the public.

But while he's there, experts wanted to conduct a computerised tomography scan to get a 3D record of his condition and insight into the way he lived.

It's hoped the non-invasive scan will show if Michael Orlovits - born in 1765 - suffered from tuberculosis like his wife who was also preserved by the cool, dry air of the family crypt.

There was us thinking hospital waiting lists were a new thing. This poor guy had to wait 245 years -- including the time it took for the tech to be invented.

275x250.jpgCutting edge science is being used to reveal the hidden secrets of some of the world's most famous paintings and uncover fakes, it has been revealed.

The National Gallery has teamed up with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to cast a scientific eye over the Gallery's priceless works of art.

They are now using a high-tech device called a gas-chromatography-mass-spectrometer to reveal how images have changed over time… and uncover the fakes which tricked experts.

An exhibition called "Close examination: fakes, mistakes & discoveries" will now display 40 painting which have had something revealed about them.

The public airing of mistakes includes a painting acquired as a 15th-century work proven to be a 20th-century forgery… you'd have thought the digital watch would have given it away.

275x250.jpg Scientists have created underwear which has sensors printed directly on the elastic and can detect the blood pressure and heart rate of the wearer.

The team from University of California San Diego say their electronic biosensor innovation could lead to a range of life saving smart underwear.

Professor Joseph Wang says the system looks at the biomarkers in human sweat and tears to make autonomous diagnoses.

In the future it's thought the clever pants could even administer drugs -- and maybe say when they need to be changed.

275x250.jpgBoffins have developed a complex mathematical formula which they claim reveals the secret to riding a bicycle.

The formula - which includes 31 numbers and symbols - explains the motion of a bicycle by combining a variety of forced.

For anyone with their maths head on, it states: Inertia forces + gyroscopic forces + the effects of gravity and centrifugal forces = the leaning of the body and the torque applied to the handlebars of a bike.

Or put more simply: If you don’t peddle fast enough to keep moving while keeping the bike straight, you fall over.

Our advise is to just peddle and hope for the best, the last time we got out the calculator and started doing maths while riding, we ended up in a ditch.

275x250.jpgResearchers claim women are more likely to agree to a date with a man if they've been listening to romantic music before he asks.

The French boffins (yes, they even research romance) set up a scenario where 87 women each met an 'average' looking man as background music played.

He then asked them out on a date and it was found those women who'd been listening to 'Je l'aime à mourir' by Francis Cabrel were significantly more likely to say yes.

52% of those listening to romantic music say yes to the date compared with 28% who had been listening to 'neutral' tunes.

In odd news there is now a French psychologist with a very busy social life -- by our reckoning he now has 32 dates lined up.

275x250.jpgThe faeces from Southern Ocean sperm whales removes the same amount of carbon as emissions from 40,000 cars each year, scientists have claimed.

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia say their discovery highlights the important role of whales in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

While it had been thought whale respiration would increasing atmospheric carbon levels, it turns out this is more than offset by their poo, which is rich in iron.

The iron-rich poo stimulates phytoplankton to grow in turn trapping carbon. When the phytoplankton dies the trapped carbon sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

It's hoped the research will create enough of a stink to renew calls for a ban on whaling.

275x250.jpgFrench psychiatrists have diagnosed Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars - who later became Darth Vader - with borderline personality disorder.

Eric Bui of the Toulouse University Hospital says he made the diagnosis after watching the prequel movies and comparing Anakin to diagnostic criteria of mental disorders.

He says the young Jedi matched six out of the nine borderline personality disorder criteria, thanks to his separation from parents, his impulsiveness, violent outbursts and anger management issues.

His illusions of invincibility and crises of identity are also said to have made him a classic example of the disorder.

Suggesting they may be in need of a stint one the psychiatrists couch themselves, the experts even claim with psychotherapy the fictional character may not have turned to the dark side.

275x250.jpg A 5,500-year-old leather shoe - the world's oldest - has been discovered in a cave in Armenia perfectly preserved, and complete with laces.

Archaeologists say the cow-hide shoe dates back to 3,500 BC (Chalcolithic period) and was made of a single piece of leather and was shaped to fit the wearer’s foot.

The shoe is the equivalent of a current size 4 (or EU 37) and it's thought the cool and dry conditions in the cave resulted in exceptional preservation.

Experts say the shoe could have belongs to a man or a woman… though if it belonged to a woman, we would expect them to find another 14 pairs at the back of the cave.

275x250.jpgAnimal experts say lions, tigers and cheetahs have a strange 'obsession' with Calvin Klein aftershave.

Zookeepers from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo in New York claim CK Obsession stimulates the curiosity of big cats.

Tested against 23 other fragrances - by spraying it on objects in an cheetah enclosure - Obsession was found to hold attention for longest.

In fact, the cats spent over 11 minutes nuzzling up to a tree sprayed with Obsession for Men, compared to a couple of minutes with other sprays.

The results were so compelling Obsession is now used in zoos and wildlife areas around the world… and quite a few nightclubs too.

275x250.jpgSix volunteers have begun 18 months of isolation in a Russian research centre - to see what a mission to Mars would be like.

The men - an Italian, a Frenchman, three Russians and one Chinese man - will spend 520 days in the sealed facility to see if they could cope psychologically.

While in there they will have to survive on the limited rations that would be available on a mission to Mars, and their only contact without he outside world will be email.

The study will recreate a real mission as much as possible, with the centre mimicking the size and shape of a space craft and the team will be given daily roles.

However, given they will not leave Moscow the chances of them encountering aliens it considerably slimmer.

275x250.jpgResearchers have found 80 percent of poker players around the world use drugs and other substances to enhance their performance.

Cocktails of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, valium and caffeine are said to be used by players to get an edge over their opponents.

A team from Nova Southeastern University say that while the substances allow people to play for longer and concentrate more - they can be harmful too.

After conducting hundreds of interviews with professional, semi-pro and amateur player the researchers said short-term and long-term side effects were also being caused.

73% of players had said they used drugs to focus and concentrate better, while the rest used then to calm their nerves and stay awake. Some just wanted to make poker interesting.

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