Science

25 Airbag Rainbow Explosion in 4K / The Slow Mo Guys

Gav and Dan, the Slow-Mo Guys, are always looking for something to film with their high-speed cameras. Something that people will find interesting, but more important, things that will look good in a video. Explosions? Yeah! Pretty colors? Yeah! So they gathered bags of paint powder and vehicle airbag devices and headed out to a quarry, far from anyone who would be bothered — via Youtube

Craft, Science

This instructable documents makendo’s efforts to reimagine a 3D periodic table of the elements, using modern making methods. It’s based on the structure of a chiral nanotube, and is made from a 3D printed lattice, laser cut acrylic, a lazy susan bearing, 118 sample vials and a cylindrical lamp — via Instructables

Science, Wildlife

Octopus, squid and cuttlefish numbers boom in changing oceans

A surprising 60-year boom in global octopus, squid and cuttlefish numbers points to long-term changes taking place in the world’s oceans, scientists say.

Research published in Current Biology today shows a steady increase in the world cephalopod population — the class of molluscs comprising octopus, squid and cuttlefish — since the 1950s, at a time of increased fishing, growing pollution and ocean warming.

The data analysis, led by Dr Zoe Doubleday from Australia’s Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, has confounded previous expectations that cephalopod populations go through cyclical booms and busts.

Anecdotal evidence had suggested the population may experience cyclical booms and busts over time, but there is instead a very consistent increase, she said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Boaty McBoatface snubbed as name for UK research vessel

The British Government has chosen to name its now-famous polar research ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough, on the verge of the naturalist’s 90th birthday, in a snub to the popular choice, Boaty McBoatface.

In a media release and series of tweets, UK Science Minister Jo Johnson said that Boaty McBoatface will live on as the name of one of the high-tech remotely operated sub-sea vehicles — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Weird

Boaty McBoatface wins naming poll for Britain’s new polar research ship

The United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) may be regretting their decision to let the public name a polar research ship after the winner of the naming poll was revealed.

The name Boaty McBoatface, which caused an internet sensation during voting, was the runaway winner, beating entries honouring explorers and scientists.

The quirky name put forward for the £200 million ($369 million) Royal Research Ship received 124,109 votes, giving it a staggering lead over runner-up RRS Poppy Mai, named in honour of a young girl with cancer, which received 34,371 votes.

Coming in at third place was RSS Henry Worsley, a tribute to the British explorer. Fourth place was RRS It’s Bloody Cold Here, and RRS David Attenborough also made the top five.

Although Boaty McBoatface received overwhelming public support, the final decision rests with NERC, which may choose to ignore democracy for a less frivolous title — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Weird

RRS Boaty McBoatface could be the name of the newest British research ship

The public has been asked to name Britain’s newest polar research ship and the internet has really outdone itself.

The current frontrunner?

RRS Boaty McBoatface.

The Natural Environment Research Centre is probably regretting trusting the public and the internet with the responsibility of naming the £200 million Royal Research Ship.

So far nearly 6,000 voters have chosen RRS Boaty McBoatface, but the top ten also includes RRS Pingu and RRS Usain Bolt.

RRS Boaty McBoatface is also beating RRS David Attenborough and RRS Henry Worsley, named after a famous British explorer and following in the tradition of naming the ships after iconic adventurers — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Art, Science

Imagination is our window into the future. At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality. As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future — via Visions of the Future

Science

Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses, study finds

A leading scientist has declared homeopathy a therapeutic dead-end after a systematic review concluded the controversial treatment was no more effective than placebo drugs.

Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the treatment is valid.

A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions — and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any.

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine based on the idea of diluting a substance in water. According to the NHS: Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Science

200,000 fish bones suggest ancient Scandinavian people were more complex than thought

200,000 fish bones discovered in and around a pit in Sweden suggest that the people living in the area more than 9000 years ago were more settled and cultured than we previously thought. Research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests people were storing large amounts of fermented food much earlier than experts thought.

The new paper reveals the earliest evidence of fermentation in Scandinavia, from the Early Mesolithic time period, about 9,200 years ago. The author of the study, from Lund University in Sweden, say the findings suggest that people who survived by foraging for food were actually more advanced than assumed — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

What every dictator knows: young men are natural fanatics

Young men are particularly liable to become fanatics. Every dictator, every guru, every religious leader, knows this. Fanatics have an overwhelming sense of identity based on a cause (a religion) or a community (gang, team), and a tight and exclusive bond with other members of that group. They will risk injury, loss or even death for the sake of their group. They regard everyone else as outsiders, or even enemies. But why are so many of them young males? — via Aeon

Science, Wildlife

Wolf species have ‘howling dialects’

The largest ever study of howling in the canid family of species — which includes wolves, jackals and domestic dogs — has shown that the various species and subspecies have distinguishing repertoires of howling, or vocal fingerprints: different types of howls are used with varying regularity depending on the canid species.

Researchers used computer algorithms for the first time to analyse howling, distilling over 2,000 different howls into 21 howl types based on pitch and fluctuation, and then matching up patterns of howling.

They found that the frequency with which types of howls are used — from flat to highly modulated — corresponded to the species of canid, whether dog or coyote, as well as to the subspecies of wolf — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

David Bowie: Astronomers pay tribute to Starman with his own constellation

After 69 years living among us, The Man Who Fell To Earth has returned home to space.

Belgian astronomers have paid tribute to late music legend David Bowie, giving him a seven-star constellation in the shape of the iconic lightning bolt seen across his face on the cover of his Aladdin Sane album.

Bowie died last week aged 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer.

The homage to Bowie, whose hits include Starman, Life on Mars and Space Oddity, sits — appropriately — in the vicinity of Mars — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or not knowing, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

A team of scientists from Brunel University London, UK has come up with a solar panel/heat pipe hybrid system, which basically turns the whole roof into a solar power generator. This makes the panels a lot more efficient, since this system is able to harvest more solar energy than just solar panels alone.

This system is made up of flat heat pipes and PV cells, which can heat water and generate electricity. The pipes measure 4mm x 400mm and are used to heat water to be used by the household, while at the same time transferring heat away from the solar cells. In the tests by the creators, they found that this hybrid system was able to cool the PV cells by 15 percent more compared to a traditional PV array installation — via Jetson Green

Science

Researchers accidently find industrial waste, orange peel material sucks mercury out of water

Researchers at Flinders University have accidentally discovered a way to remove mercury from water using a material made from industrial waste and orange peel.

Mercury is a dangerous pollutant that can damage food and water supplies, affect the human nervous systems and is especially poisonous for children.

Synthetic chemist Dr Justin Chalker said his team initially set out to make a useful type of plastic or polymer made from something widely available.

We ended up settling on sulphur because it’s produced in 70 million tonnes per year by the petroleum industry as a by-product, so there are not very many uses for it, and limonene is produced in 70,000 tonnes per year and so it’s relatively cheap, he said.

It literally grows on trees.

The plastic-like substance they created is made entirely from sulphur and limonene, industrial waste products that are widely available but unused around the world — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Science

Tony Abbott’s department discussed investigation into Bureau of Meteorology over global warming exaggeration claims, FOI documents reveal

Former prime minister Tony Abbott’s own department discussed setting up an investigation into the Bureau of Meteorology amid media claims it was exaggerating estimates of global warming, Freedom of Information documents have revealed.

In August and September 2014, The Australian newspaper published reports questioning the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) methodology for analysing temperatures, reporting claims BoM was wilfully ignoring evidence that contradicts its own propaganda.

With seven of Australia’s 10 warmest years on record being in the last 13 years and warnings climate change will bring disastrous impacts for Australia, the accuracy and integrity of temperature information is crucial.

The BoM strongly rejected assertions it was altering climate records to exaggerate estimates of global warming.

Nevertheless, documents obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information show just weeks after the articles were published, Mr Abbott’s own department canvassed using a taskforce to carry out due diligence on the BoM’s climate records — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Glass Paint That Can Keep Structures Cool / American Chemical Society

Sunlight can be brutal. It wears down even the strongest structures, including rooftops and naval ships, and it heats up metal slides and bleachers until they’re too hot to use. To fend off damage and heat from the sun’s harsh rays, scientists have developed a new, environmentally friendly paint out of glass that bounces sunlight off metal surfaces — keeping them cool and durable — via Youtube

Health, Science, Technology

World-first operation implants 3D-printed titanium ribcage and sternum

A Spanish cancer patient is the first person in the world to receive a titanium 3D-printed sternum and rib cage, designed and manufactured by an Australian company.

The 54-year-old needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced.

The CSIRO said chest prosthetics were notoriously tricky to create due to the complex customised geometry and design for each patient.

Thoracic surgeons typically use flat and plate implants in the chest, but they can come loose over time and create complications, the CSIRO said.

A 3D-printed implant was a safer option for the patient because it can identically mimic the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs.

Almost a fortnight since the surgery, the CSIRO confirmed the patient was discharged and had recovered well — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Obituary: Oliver Sacks

British neurologist Oliver Sacks has died at the age of 82, it has been confirmed.

The acclaimed author, whose book Awakenings inspired an Oscar nominated film of the same name, reportedly died of cancer at his home in New York.

In February he wrote about his illness — and being face to face with dying.

His publicist Jacqui Graham paid tribute to Dr Sacks, saying he was unlike anybody I have ever met, while JK Rowling said he was inspirational — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Australia’s first body farm aims to answer forensic questions

Any fan of Patricia Cornwell’s crime fiction novel The Body Farm will have a reasonably good idea of what goes on in one.

For those in the dark, a body farm is a large expanse of bushland where donated human bodies are buried for the purposes of scientific study. There are several in the United States, but up until now there haven’t been any in Australia.

Some of them may be placed on the surface, some may be placed in burials, there may be other concealed environments that we’ll mimic and then we’ll just start studying the decomposition process. Shari Forbes, Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research

The country’s first body farm, the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research is due to officially open early next year. It’s come about after an exhaustive search for the right patch of land and the right partners.

It has to be a remote location but still accessible to police, to forensic investigators. It also needs the support of a university with a body donation program, says Shari Forbes, a forensic chemist and the farm’s coordinator.

Forbes can’t reveal the exact location but can say that it’s at the base of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Unhealthy Fixation

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

Second, the central argument of the anti-GMO movement — that prudence and caution are reasons to avoid genetically engineered, or GE, food—is a sham. Activists who tell you to play it safe around GMOs take no such care in evaluating the alternatives. They denounce proteins in GE crops as toxic, even as they defend drugs, pesticides, and non-GMO crops that are loaded with the same proteins. They portray genetic engineering as chaotic and unpredictable, even when studies indicate that other crop improvement methods, including those favored by the same activists, are more disruptive to plant genomes.

Third, there are valid concerns about some aspects of GE agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents. But none of these concerns is fundamentally about genetic engineering. Genetic engineering isn’t a thing. It’s a process that can be used in different ways to create different things. To think clearly about GMOs, you have to distinguish among the applications and focus on the substance of each case. If you’re concerned about pesticides and transparency, you need to know about the toxins to which your food has been exposed. A GMO label won’t tell you that. And it can lull you into buying a non-GMO product even when the GE alternative is safer.

If you’re like me, you don’t really want to wade into this issue. It’s too big, technical, and confusing. But come with me, just this once. I want to take you backstage, behind those blanket assurances about the safety of genetic engineering. I want to take you down into the details of four GMO fights, because that’s where you’ll find truth. You’ll come to the last curtain, the one that hides the reality of the anti-GMO movement. And you’ll see what’s behind it — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Wildlife

Octopus Adorabilis? / SciFri

What do you call an tiny octopus with big eyes, gelatinous skin and is cute as a button? Nobody knows quite yet! Stephanie Bush of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute aims to classify and name this presently undescribed deep-sea cephalopod using preserved specimens and a clutch of eggs hatch housed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — via Youtube

Science

Microwave oven to blame for mystery signal that left astronomers stumped

The mystery behind radio signals that have baffled scientists at Australia’s most famous radio telescope for 17 years has finally been solved.

The signals’ source? A microwave oven in the kitchen at the Parkes observatory used by staff members to heat up their lunch.

Simon Johnston, head of astrophysics at the CSIRO, the national science agency, said astronomers first detected the signals, called perytons, in 1998. The signals were reasonably local, say within 5km of the telescope.

Originally researchers assumed the signals — which appeared only once or twice a year — were coming from the atmosphere, possibly linked to lightning strikes.

Then on 1 January this year they installed a new receiver which monitored interference, and detected strong signals at 2.4 GHz, the signature of a microwave oven.

Immediate testing of the facility microwave oven did not show up with perytons. Until, that is, they opened the oven door before it had finished heating. If you set it to heat and pull it open to have a look, it generates interference, Johnston said.

Astronomers generally operate the telescope remotely and do not reside at Parkes. There were, however, a number of operational staff members who maintained the facility and used the microwave oven to heat their coffee or lunch.

Johnston said the suspicious perytons were only detected during the daytime and as they now knew, not during the evening when all the staff had finished their shift.

The signals were rare because the interference only occurred when the telescope was pointed in the direction of the microwave oven. And “when you only find a few it’s hard to pin them down”, Johnston said.

The findings have been reported in a scientific paper — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Transparent Armour from NRL

Imagine a glass window that’s tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn’t get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn’t break when dropped. Except it’s not glass, it’s a special ceramic called spinel {spin-ELL} that the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has been researching over the last 10 years.

Spinel is actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate, says Dr Jas Sanghera, who leads the research. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments — so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.

As a more durable material, a thinner layer of spinel can give better performance than glass. For weight-sensitive platforms-UAVs [unmanned autonomous vehicles], head-mounted face shields—it’s a game-changing technology.

NRL invented a new way of making transparent spinel, using a hot press, called sintering. It’s a low-temperature process, and the size of the pieces is limited only by the size of the press. Ultimately, we’re going to hand it over to industry, says Sanghera, so it has to be a scalable process. In the lab, they made pieces eight inches in diameter. Then we licensed the technology to a company who was able then to scale that up to much larger plates, about 30-inches wide.

The sintering method also allows NRL to make optics in a number of shapes, conformal with the surface of an airplane or UAV wing, depending on the shape of the press — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Science

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki backs away from ‘flawed’, ‘political’ Intergenerational Report

The man promoting the Government’s Intergenerational Report, ABC science commentator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, has backed away from the document, describing it as flawed.

Released every five years, the report provides a snapshot of how the nation might look in 40 years, covering everything from population size and life expectancy to public spending and the size of future budget deficits.

Dr Kruszelnicki appears in a number of advertisements promoting the report on television and radio, in newspapers and on social media, but he is now criticising the report’s reduced focus on climate change.

I did it on the grounds that it would be not for any political party but for the Government of Australia as a non-political, bipartisan, independent report, he told the ABC’s AM program.

He said he was only able to read parts of the report before he agreed to the ads as the rest was under embargo.

Despite assurances otherwise, Dr Kruszelnicki now believes he put his name and reputation to a report that is highly political and which largely ignores the impact of climate change — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Science

Alan Turing’s notebook sold for $1m in New York auction

A scientific notebook compiled by World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing has sold for $1m in New York.

It is one of very few manuscripts from the head of the team that cracked the Germans’ Enigma code.

The handwritten notes, dating from 1942 when he worked at Bletchley Park, were entrusted to mathematician Robin Gandy after Turing’s death.

The notebook was sold at Bonhams for $1,025,000 (£700,850) to an unnamed buyer — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Technology

Aluminum battery from Stanford offers safe alternative to conventional batteries

Stanford University scientists have invented the first high-performance aluminum battery that’s fast-charging, long-lasting and inexpensive. Researchers say the new technology offers a safe alternative to many commercial batteries in wide use today.

We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames, said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. Our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it.

Dai and his colleagues describe their novel aluminum-ion battery in An ultrafast rechargeable aluminum-ion battery, which will be published in the April 6 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

Aluminum has long been an attractive material for batteries, mainly because of its low cost, low flammability and high-charge storage capacity. For decades, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to develop a commercially viable aluminum-ion battery.  A key challenge has been finding materials capable of producing sufficient voltage after repeated cycles of charging and discharging — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

How far down would you have to dig before you came to the centre of the Earth? And what would you find along the way? BBC Future descends into the depths

Science

Homeopathy not effective for any medical condition: review

After a years-long review of hundreds of studies, Australia’s top medical research agency has concluded that homeopathy is essentially useless for treating any medical condition.

Researchers with the National Health and Medical Research Council conducted a review of published studies on homeopathy and report that they could not find any good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy works any better than a placebo or sugar pill.

Homeopathy is a centuries-old form of alternative medicine that has been dismissed as pseudoscience by many sceptics. It’s based on a premise that like cures like. Practitioners believe that herbs and extracts that cause symptoms such as headaches in healthy people will also cure headaches if they are given in highly diluted forms.

Although several studies have shown that homeopathic remedies have no detectable amounts of the original substance left, homeopaths believe the tinctures retain a memory of the original substance and are thus effective.

The Australian researchers involved in this review sifted through 1,800 research papers from around the world on homeopathy, finding only 225 that were large enough to be worthy of more thorough inspection.

They say they found no reliable evidence that any homeopathic treatment led to health improvements that were any better than a placebo.

And the researchers say the studies that did find homeopathic remedies effective were either so poorly designed, or so poorly conducted, that they were too flawed to be considered reliable — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Health, Science

The Horrible Things That Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sodium

In the 1930s, it was generally accepted that the body needed sodium to function, but no one had studied what broke down when the sodium in a person’s diet was removed. One researcher researcher and four volunteers decided to find out. It was awful.

The body’s need for salt wasn’t hard to establish. Anyone with a tongue noticed that the sweat and tears which came out of the body tasted the same as the little crystals leftover when sea water evaporated. Later research confirmed that it’s the sodium that makes sodium chloride so necessary to us, but, well into the twentieth century, no one quite knew what would happen when sodium levels dropped. Doctor Robert McCance wasn’t about to let that kind of ignorance persist. He recruited four volunteers and desalinated them — via io9

Science, Wildlife

How do dogs see with their noses? / Alexandra Horowitz

You may have heard the expression that dogs see with their noses. But these creature’s amazing nasal architecture actually reveals a whole world beyond what we can see. Alexandra Horowitz illustrates how the dog’s nose can smell the past, the future and even things that can’t be seen at all.

Lesson by Alexandra Horowitz, animation by Província Studio — via Youtube

Health, Science

Peanut allergies: Australian study into probiotics offers hope for possible cure

Australian scientists say a particular strain of probiotics could offer a possible cure for people with potentially fatal peanut allergies.

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne gave 60 children who are allergic to peanuts either a probiotic along with a small dose of peanut protein or a placebo.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Mimi Tang said more than 80 per cent of children who received the protein and probiotic were able to tolerate peanuts without any allergic symptoms at the end of the trial.

This is 20 times higher than the natural rate of resolution for peanut allergy, she said.

Twenty-three of the 28 children who received the probiotic with the peanut protein were able to eat peanuts after the study.

The effect lasted for two to five weeks after treatment.

The strain of probiotic used in the study was Lactobacillus rhamnosus — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

New hope for rape kit testing advocates

Five years after more than 11,000 unprocessed rape kits — some dating back to the 1980s — were discovered in a police warehouse in Detroit, cities across the US are working to eliminate their own huge backlogs of untested evidence. Thousands of sexual assault cases are beginning to be resolved.

When Detroit prosecutors and state police toured a large storage warehouse in 2009, they made a startling discovery — more a huge cache of untested rape kits, each representing a report to the police and a lengthy hospital visit to collect evidence.

Armed with a large grant by the National Institute of Justice, prosecutors and Detroit police have now completed testing of 2,000 of those kits and are in the process of testing another 8,000.

The testing, as of October, had produced more than 750 DNA matches to a national database managed by the FBI known as Codis.

Investigations of these matches continue, but so far the Wayne County prosecutor’s office — which includes Detroit — has produced warrants for 23 alleged rapists and convicted 14 of them, with three awaiting trial.

The office, run by the county’s top prosecutor, Kym Worthy, has also identified 188 serial rapists from the processed kits who have committed crimes in 27 other states — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Wildlife

On Monday this week The Conversation published a story under the headline What’s killing Tassie devils if it isn’t contagious cancer? The article suggested evidence that the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a transmissible cancer is inconclusive and instead, environmental chemicals could be to blame. This misrepresents the state of the science.

All the latest research points to the fact that the deadly DFTD is a transmissible cancer that originated in a female Tasmanian devil. A single cell in this devil (patient zero) developed into a cancer cell.

This is nothing unusual as cancers, whether they are devil or human, originate from a single cell. This single cell divided uncontrollably to produce a tumour (mass of cells).

DFTD developed mechanisms to avoid being killed by the devil’s immune system. Again, nothing unusual — cancer cells usually develop such strategies.

What is unusual about DFTD, though, is that it is transmitted between devils. The same cancer cells from patient zero have spread throughout most of the Tasmanian devil population, killing every devil infected — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Photo: Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrissi) – Flickr/roger smith

Science

Physicists build reversible tractor beam

Laser physicists have built a tractor beam that can repel and attract objects, using a hollow laser beam that is bright around the edges and dark in its centre.

It is the first long-distance optical tractor beam and moved particles one fifth of a millimetre in diameter a distance of up to 20 centimetres, around 100 times further than previous experiments.

“Demonstration of a large scale laser beam like this is a kind of holy grail for laser physicists,” said Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering.

The new technique is versatile because it requires only a single laser beam. It could be used, for example, in controlling atmospheric pollution or for the retrieval of tiny, delicate or dangerous particles for sampling.

The researchers can also imagine the effect being scaled up.

The work is published in Nature Photonics — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

The 2014 Ig Nobel Awards

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

REFERENCE: Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin, Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151.

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia, Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

REFERENCE: Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits, Peter K Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlí?ek and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

REFERENCE: Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis, Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.

REFERENCE: Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?, Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Ji??? Klose, Jan Havl???ek, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.

REFERENCE: Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585.

BIOLOGY PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, ZAMBIA]: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika N?mcová, Jana Adámková, Kate?ina Benediktová, Jaroslav ?ervený and Hynek Burda, for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

REFERENCE: Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field, Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika N?mcová, Jana Adámková, Kate?ina Benediktová, Jaroslav ?ervený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 2013.

ART PRIZE [ITALY]: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.

REFERENCE: Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds, Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

REFERENCE: Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010, ISTAT, 2014.

REFERENCE: European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010), Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating uncontrollable nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

REFERENCE: Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia, Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.

REFERENCE: Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya, Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.

NUTRITION PRIZE [SPAIN]: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, for their study titled Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.

REFERENCE: Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages, Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Health, Science

Artificial Spleen Removes Ebola, HIV Viruses and Toxins From Blood Using Magnets

New Bioinspired Approach to Sepsis Therapy from Wyss Institute on Vimeo

Harvard scientists have invented a new artificial spleen that is able to clear toxins, fungi and deadly pathogens such as Ebola from human blood, which could potentially save millions of lives.

Blood can be infected by many different types of organ infections as well as contaminated medical instruments such as IV lines and catheters.

When antibiotics are used to kill them, dying viruses release toxins in the blood that begin to multiply quickly, causing sepsis, a life-threatening condition whereby the immune system overreacts, causing blood clotting, organ damage and inflammation.

It can take days to identify which pathogen is responsible for infecting the blood but most of the time, the cause is not identified, while the onset of sepsis can be hours to days. Broad-spectrum antibiotics with sometimes devastating side effects are used and currently over eight million people die from the condition worldwide annually.

Even with the best current treatments, sepsis patients are dying in intensive care units at least 30% of the time, said Dr Mike Super, senior staff scientist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, which led the research. We need a new approach.

To overcome this, researchers have invented a biospleen, a device similar to a dialysis machine that makes use of magnetic nanobeads measuring 128 nanometres in diameter (one-five hundredths the width of a single human hair) coated with mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a type of genetically engineered human blood protein.

The study, An Extracorporeal Blood-Cleansing Device For Sepsis Therapy, has been published in the journal Nature Medicine — via redwolf.newsvine.com