science: August 2010 Archives

275x250.jpgA bizarre substance known as "dry water," which resembles powdered sugar but is 95% 'wet' water could help fight global warming.

Scientists claim the powdered water will change the way chemicals are used and that it could even be used to soak up greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Each powder particle contains a water droplet surrounded by modified silica, which prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid.

This means it has an amazing ability to slurp up gases, which chemically combine with the water molecules to form what chemists term a hydrate.

Speaking of the find, Dr Ben Carter, from the University of Liverpool said: "We may see dry water making waves in the future" -- Oh Dr Carter, how long had you been working on that one?

275x250.jpgResearchers have discovered a new species of micro-frog on Borneo island which only grows to the size of a pea.

The tiny amphibians - catchily dubbed Microhyla nepenthicola - measure between 10.6-to-12.8mm long and were found in the Kubah National Park.

While specimens are already held by many museums around the world, they have previously been misidentified as juveniles of other species.

Now scientists say the frogs are a distinct micro-species and the smallest frogs found anywhere in found in Asia, Africa or Europe.

In fact they're so small the frogs were only found when researchers heard their "harsh rasping note" call at sundown -- much the same way Cheryl Cole was discovered.

275x250.jpg Scientists have discovered they can make the humble spud more healthy for you... by subjecting it to electric shocks and ultrasound treatments.

The boffins from Japan say the 'potato torture' improves the nutritional content of the spud by boosting antioxidant levels.

In the tests potatoes were blasted with up to 10 minutes of high frequency sound waves and then submerged in saltwater and zapped with a electrical charge for up to 30 minutes.

It's claimed this could eventually be used to turn spuds into a superfood capable of preventing things like cancers and diabetes… otherwise they will be water-boarded too.

275x250.jpgAncient birds once lived in South America which used their powerful beak to jab prey like an agile boxer, according to a new study.

Experts say the ninety-pound flightless bird used its unusually large, rigid skull—coupled with a hawk-like hooked beak—for to fight like Muhammad Ali.

The agile creature - dubbed terror bird - is said to have repeatedly attacked and retreated, landing well-targeted, hatchet-like jabs until it made a kill.

Paleontologists say the birds evolved 60 million years ago and grew up to 7-foot-tall but because they no close analogs among modern-day birds their life habits have been shrouded in mystery.

But after using CT scans and advanced engineering methods to study they bird they know how it operated… and are pretty glad the only had fossils to work with.

275x250.jpgExperts claim humans didn't hunt woolly mammoths into extinction, but that the hairy giants died out because of climate change.

It had been thought the last woolly mammoths died out 4,000 years ago after  years of over hunting by pre-historic humans and retreating to northern Siberia.

But now scientists from Durham University claim their demise was more to do with rising temperatures and loss of vegetation it lived on.

They claim that at the end of the ice age, the grasslands woolly mammoths lived on were replaced by forests as carbon dioxide levels increased.

This left the mammoths with nothing to eat and means trees effectively killed them off… why couldn't they just leaf them alone?

Scientists who analysed video footage of orangutans amassed over 20 years, claim the creatures are able to explain things to each other, and humans, via mime.

The boffins say they found 18 occasions in which orangutans used "elaborated gestures of pantomime" to get what they wanted.

Examples ranged from rubbing a leaf on their forehead and then passing it to a human as an instruction to clean them, to holding an object over their head because the want an umbrella passing to them.

Professor Anne Russon said the finding could offer new insight into the evolutionary origins of human language.

Which is all well and good… but what we want to know is when will the world's first inter-species charades tournament take place.

275x250.jpgResearchers looking at the mathematics behind the Rubik's Cube say that no matter how jumbled one is, it's only ever 20 moves from completion.

After a 30-year study (and borrowing a bit of computer processing power from Google) the boffins have calculated the secrets of the Rubik's Cube.

They have been trying to calculate the 'God Number' of the 1974 puzzle -- the optimal number of steps needed to solve the puzzle.

It's now claimed all 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible starting positions can be solved in just 20 moves.

Slightly worryingly (if you are as bad at Rubik's Cube as we are) this also means there are 43 billion billion ways of getting it wrong.

275x250.jpgPsychological scientists who turned their eye to humour claim they've come up with a formula which explains how immoral behaviour can be funny.

The boffins from the University of Colorado-Boulder say it is all to do with how a violation or threat to the way the world ought to be, can also being benign.

They tested their hypothesis by presenting various situations to volunteers including ones like a firm hiring a rabbi as spokesman for their new line of pork products.

It was found people tended to find situations "seen as wrong" as also being funny. But that this increased when people were not connected with the subject.

People found jokes the funniest when the moral violation seemed benign to them… though the researchers jokes could do with a bit of work.

275x250.jpgChildren who enjoy Popeye cartoons generally eat more vegetables than those who don't watch the classic show, it has been found.

Researchers at Mahidol University in Bangkok claim the type and amount of vegetables children eat can be directly linked to TV shows they watch.

Tests on four to five-years-olds found watching Popeye scoff spinach before beating up Bluto made kids want to eat more greens.

In fact the researchers claim the twenty six children in their study - which also saw them plant seeds and cook - doubled their vegetable intake as a result.

Next up the boffins will study the impact of watching Tom and Jerry on the level of infant frying pan attacks.

275x250.jpgScientists have discovered the 105 million-year-old fossil of a creature which looks like a cross between a cat and a crocodile.

Palaeontologists in Tanzania, who unearthed the previously unknown croc, say it had mammal-like teeth and lived between 144 and 65 million years ago.

It's claimed the find suggests crocodiles were once far more diverse than they are today and dominated ecological niches in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dubbed Pakasuchus kapilimai experts say the cat-sized croc also had a extremely flexible backbone and was much smaller than crocodiles of today

In fact they say it's head would have fitted into your hand… though we're not sure about experts who would suggest putting a crocodile's head in your hand.

275x250.jpgResearchers looking to answer a 100-year-old question posed by Charles Darwin about venus flytraps say the plants are not merciless killers.

Darwin had pondered why, when the carnivorous closed their traps, there were gaps between the 'teeth' at the edge of the trap, which a small creature could escape through.

Now experts think this is because the plant has developed to only kill victims which can offer it more energy than it will use digesting.

Scientists from Comenius University conducted tests on the toothy plants, using high-tech cameras to look at the amount of energy expended when closing a trap.

They had previously tried to make the calculation simply by watching Little Shop of Horrors, but those findings didn't hold up to peer review.

275x250.jpgScientists now believe the iconic Triceratops dinosaur - complete with three facial horns - 'never really existed' and was merely a young Torosaurus.

It had previously been thought the Triceratops and Torosaurus were two distinct types of dinosaur albeit with similar physical characteristics.

But now experts think dinosaur skulls underwent extreme changes throughout their life and that what's commonly known as a Triceratops was simply a juvenile form of a Torosaurus.

John Scannella and Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman say that as a Torosaurus aged its horns changed shape and orientation while its frill became longer and thinner.

However all is not lost for those who grew up as fans of the Triceratops (like most boys) -- as a result of the find Torosaurus will now be abolished as a species and specimens reassigned to Triceratops.

275x250.jpg Simply wearing the colour red makes a man more attractive and sexually desirable to women, it has been found by researchers.

Psychologists conducted tests by getting women to rate the attractiveness of a variety of men and state their willingness to date, kiss, and engage sexual activity with them.

They then digitally altered the colour of the T-shirts the men were wearing and compared the responses, finding men in red were consistently scored as being more attractive.

Those who have been wearing red were seen as more "powerful, attractive, and sexually desirable" said professor Andrew Elliot… who only wears red from now on.

275x250.jpgResearchers say they've discovered the world's oldest creature, the tadpole shrimp, which is the same now as it was 220 million years ago.

Two colonies of the tadpole shrimp 'Triops cancriformis' have been found in Scotland which experts say is a massive wildlife discovery.

The tiny crustacean had been thought to be extinct before it was found at Caerlaverock on the Solway Firth after heavy rain.

The tadpole shrimps live in temporary water pools and when the water dries up the adults die but leave eggs behind which can remain dormant for years.

Comparisons with fossil finds show the shrimp is almost identical now to how it was when dinosaurs roamed the Earth… and boffins double checked by asking Bruce Forsyth.

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