science: July 2010 Archives

275x250.jpgResearch into the psychological well-being of pigs has found they are capable of feeling optimistic or pessimistic about life.

Boffins from Newcastle University say the environment a pig lives in can have a massive impact on how they feel.

They came to this conclusion after devising an experiment in which pigs were split into two groups, one half in plush surroundings, the others in basic environmemnt.

Each group were then repeatedly played a note on a glockenspiel with those in the better surrounding given a treat each time, and the others something less pleasant.

Both sets were then played a new sound and those who had lived better lives expected another treat while the others shied away pessimistic about what might happen to them… like find themselves in another scientific study.

275x250.jpg British astronomers have discovered the biggest star ever seen in the universe - a whopping 250 times the mass of the sun.

Using the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope which is located in in Chile they say the star R136a1 is a massive find, in more ways than one.

The gargantuan star is said to shine millions of times brighter than the sun, burn seven times hotter and goes beyond what was thought to be physically possible.

Spotted in the R136 cluster around one hundred thousand light years away it is twice the size of any object ever seen -- which makes you wonder how they missed it for so long.

275x250.jpgScientists have discovered what is thought to be the world's oldest doodle, carved into a rock by a bored caveman over 4,500 years ago.

The etching - which probably bares a striking resemblance to your doodles when you're on the phone - was etched into the rock.

The crude concentric circles can clearly be seen on the 17cm sandstone slab which was unearthed in the Cambridgeshire village of Over during an archaeology 'fun day'.

Experts think the Neolithic rock art could date back to 2,500 BC and might have belonged to a prehistoric Picasso, or it could just be an aimless inscription.

Okay, we are going to say it, does anyone else think the "concentric circles" could be an early caveman attempt at drawing boobs?

275x250.jpgWomen are consistently better at multitasking than men, it has been claimed by psychology experts.

Boffins from the University of Hertfordshire say they've conducted a study into multitasking ability and found women come out top.

While men and women performed equally when they multitasked on simple maths and map reading tasks - as the tasks became harder the women far excelled the blokes.

In one test where people were asked to 'search for the lost key' by drawing on a piece of paper how they would search a field 70 per cent of women performed better than the average male.

However, this could just be because women have had much more practice looking for lost keys... and they know they are actually always in the bottom of their handbag.

275x250.jpgResearchers claim they have discovered a formula for perfect handshake... and it's much more complicated than you would think.

Despite shaking hands nearly 15,000 times in the average lifetime, 70 percent of people say suffer a crisis of confidence every time the lock hands.

As a result experts from the University of Manchester set out to calculate the perfect handshake and a way of repeatedly recreating it.

Professor Geoffrey Beattie came up with a mathematical formula which takes into account 12 aspects of a hand-shake including vigour, eye contact, hand temperature and positioning.

Beattie then converted this to a five-step process and claims his findings mean everyone can now enjoy worry-free hand shaking… if they have a mathematics degree.

275x250.jpgWomen who struggle losing weight and have pear-shaped bodies are predisposed to suffer from poor memory, scientists have found.

Researchers say women with wide hips are significantly more likely to experience memory loss and mental decline as they get older.

The team from Northwestern University in Chicago conducted a study of 8,745 women aged 65 to 79, testing memory and brain function along with weight.

A connection between brain function and body-shape was found, with each increase in BMI resulting in a loss in memory score points.

At least the study give those women with pear-shaped bodies a reason their diet isn't working -- they probably keep forgetting they are on it.

Researchers have discovered gorillas often play games of tag, in much the same way as school-children in a playground.

Experts say they observed the games - where the apes would hit a playmate and then run away - between infant and teenage gorillas in a series of German zoos.

During the hit-and-run games the apes would swap roles, with the chaser becoming the chased and trying to get away.

Behavioural biologists from the University of Portsmouth say this shows how apes test the limits of what is acceptable behaviour and to test their peers and even their parents.

However, we think it shows our dreams inter-species games of tag could yet become a reality.

275x250.jpgArchaeologists say they have uncovered the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem, dating from the 14th century BC.

The tiny clay fragment is believed to be part of a tablet from a royal archives and was found in excavations outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

Experts from the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology say the 2-by-2.8cm document contains symbols in ancient Akkadian and predated the previous 'oldest' document by 600 years.

Assyriology scholar Wayne Horowitz - who has been trying to decipher the text - says it was in all likelihood prepared tablets for the royal household of the time.

However, so far they've only managed to interpret the symbols for the words "you," "you were," "later," "to do" and "them" -- which could also make this the world's oldest "to do" list.

275x250.jpgTiny telescopes designed to be implanted in the eye to help solve vision problems have been approved for use in the US.

The 'implantable miniature telescope' can be used on people with a specific macular degeneration problem which causes blind spots in their central vision.

It works by magnifying the central part of what a person can see onto a healthy portion of their retina, improving their vision.

But makers say the implant can only be used in one eye because the other will still be needed for peripheral vision.

They added it can take a while before users are able to make a coherent image out of their new vision… which normally coincides with they getting bored of making cyborg jokes.

275x250.jpg Feeding sheep curry spices could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help save the planet, claim experts.

Boffins from Newcastle University say a trial has shown the level of methane produced by sheep can be reduced by 40 percent if they eat certain spices.

It's said munching coriander and turmeric – traditionally used in curries – works like an antibiotic killing off methane producing bacteria in the stomach.

The impact could be huge when considering Defra say there are currently 30 million sheep in the UK, each producing around 20 litres of methane a day… and you wondered what that smell was in the countryside.

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