Science, Wildlife

Urban foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst

In a famous ongoing experiment started in 1960, scientists turned foxes into tame, doglike canines by breeding only the least aggressive ones generation after generation. The creatures developed stubby snouts, floppy ears, and even began to bark. Now, it appears that some rural red foxes in the United Kingdom are doing this on their own. When the animals moved from the forest to city habitats, they began to evolve doglike traits, new research reveals, potentially setting themselves on the path to domestication — via Science

Science

The Hidden Rules of Conversation / Tom Scott

Gricean Maxims are a vital part of how we understand each other: a set of… well, maybe rules is a bit strong. They’re guidelines that we follow without realising it. And it’s the reason that asbestos-free cereal sounds suspicious.

Written with Molly Ruhl and Gretchen McCulloch — via Youtube

Science

Abso-bloody-lutely: Expletive Infixation / Tom Scott

There are rules in the English language that you’ve probably never been taught, but you know anyway: how to split apart words with infixes. But you’ve never been taught it because some of those infixes are words you probably shouldn’t use in front of your high school English teachers — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

Cuttlefish go light on lunch when there’s shrimp for dinner

A team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge has found that when cuttlefish know they’re getting shrimp for dinner, they’ll only have a light lunch of crabs. This ability to anticipate their favourite food is an indication of the cephalopod’s complex brain and cognitive abilities — via New Atlas

Science
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Rust offers a cheap way to filter arsenic-poisoned water

When water flows deep underground, it often dissolves inorganic substances from mineral deposits in the earth’s crust. In many regions, these deposits contain arsenic, a naturally occurring element that is colourless, tasteless and odourless. Although its presence is barely noticeable, prolonged exposure to arsenic-contaminated water can lead to gangrene, disease and many types of cancer, resulting in major loss of income for millions of people and even death.

Inspired by natural processes in soil that bind contaminants and filter them out, Case van Genuchten, a researcher in the Geochemistry Department of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been using iron oxides such as rust, which are abundant in soil, to filter out arsenic from groundwater. He leads experiments at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory that investigate low-cost methods of treating groundwater using only small amounts of electricity and steel or iron. The team’s most recent paper, which compares the arsenic-removing performance of different forms of rust has been published in Water Research — via Phys.org

Science

An Astronomer Explains Black Holes at 5 Levels of Difficulty

A research astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Varoujan Gorjian specialises in the structure of the universe. Which means the guy not only knows about event horizons and gravitational lensing but stuff like tidal forces, x-ray binaries and active galactic nuclei. His knowledge of black holes is encyclopaedic. And best of all, he’s good at explaining the stuff — via Youtube

Science

Scientists have trained rats to drive tiny cars to collect food

Rats have mastered the art of driving a tiny car, suggesting that their brains are more flexible than we thought. The finding could be used to understand how learning new skills relieves stress and how neurological and psychiatric conditions affect mental capabilities.

They constructed a tiny car out of a clear plastic food container on wheels, with an aluminium floor and three copper bars functioning as a steering wheel. When a rat stood on the aluminium floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws, they completed an electrical circuit that propelled the car forward. Touching the left, centre or right bar steered the car in different directions.

Six female and 11 male rats were trained to drive the car in rectangular arenas up to 4 square metres in size. They were rewarded with Froot Loop cereal pieces when they touched the steering bars and drove the car forward — via New Scientist

Science

Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls on This Reservoir? / Veritasium

Derek Muller took a boat through 96 million black plastic balls on the Los Angeles reservoir to find out why they’re there. The first time he heard about shade balls the claim was they reduce evaporation. But it turns out this isn’t the reason they were introduced — via Youtube

Entertainment, Science

New Horizons / Brian May

Celebrating the whole 12-year Journey of New Horizons probe. This is Brian’s personal tribute to the on-going NASA New Horizons mission, which on New Years Day 2019 will achieve the most distant spacecraft flyby in history — via Youtube

Health, Science

Melbourne researchers flag potential for new hearing loss treatment using nanoparticles

Scientists from Melbourne’s Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne believe they can use nanotechnology to deliver restorative drugs to deep within the ear to sufferers of neural hearing loss.

It is the most common form of deafness, affecting people as they age, or if they’ve been exposed to prolonged periods of loud noise in industries such as music, mining, construction, manufacturing or the military — via ABC News

Science, Wildlife

Why Goats Have Strange Eyes / Science Insider

Just admit it, goat eyes look a bit unusual! They’re flatter and more elongated than ours and that actually might be a key towards their survival. A study out of the University of California, Berkeley looked at many different animal eyeballs and discovered a fascinating trend — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

World’s first domesticated foxes / Verge Science

Verge Science met the very cute and very bizarre result of an almost 60-year-long experiment: they’re foxes that have been specially bred for their dog-like friendliness toward people. They do a little behaviour research of their own, and discover what scientists continue to learn from the world’s most famous experiment in domestication. The fox experiment continues under the supervision of Lyudmila Trut at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. Her book How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog), co-authored by Lee Alan Dugatkin, details the history and science behind the experiment — via Youtube

Science

How To Stop Structures from Shaking / minutephysics

This video is about Tuned Mass Dampers, which can be used to reduce or avoid unwanted vibrations, swaying, swinging, bending, etc on engineered structures ranging from buildings, skyscrapers, electricity power transmission lines, airplane engines, formula one race cars, etc. TMD’s use damped coupled oscillators — via Youtube

Science

Hear the Otherworldly Sounds of Skating on Thin Ice / National Geographic

This small lake outside Stockholm, Sweden, emits otherworldly sounds as Mårten Ajne skates over its precariously thin, black ice. Wild ice skating, or Nordic skating, is both an art and a science. A skater seeks out the thinnest, most pristine black ice possible — both for its smoothness, and for its high-pitched, laser-like sounds — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

Why do animals have such different lifespans? / Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

For the microscopic lab worm C elegans, life equates to just a few short weeks on Earth. The bowhead whale, on the other hand, can live over two hundred years. Why are these lifespans so different? And what does it really mean to age anyway? Joao Pedro de Magalhaes explains why the pace of ageing varies greatly across animals.

Lesson by Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, animation by Sharon Colman — via Youtube

Science

Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature? / It’s Okay To Be Smart

Among living things, the color blue is oddly rare. Blue rocks, blue sky, blue water, sure. But blue animals? They are few and far between. And the ones that do make blue? They make it in some very strange and special ways compared to other colors. In this video, we’ll look at some very cool butterflies to help us learn how living things make blue, and why this beautiful hue is so rare in nature — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

If Australian animals don’t poison you or eat you, they’ll burn down your house

Already replete with sharks, crocodiles, snakes and poisonous jellyfish galore, Australia may also be home to arsonist birds that spread fire so they can feed on animals as they flee.

The belief that birds like the Whistling Kite, Black Kite and Brown Falcon spread grass fires goes back so far that it’s commemorated in indigenous ceremonial dances, according to Bob Gosford, a co-author of this paper in the Journal of Enthnobiology.

The paper posits that the behaviour isn’t accidental: Most accounts and traditions unequivocally indicate intentionality on the part of three raptor species and a handful provide evidence of cooperative fire-spreading by select individuals from within larger fire-foraging raptor assemblages, it notes.

And while the researchers’ main interest was to confirm and document those stories, Gosford told Vulture South the research is also important to understanding how fire spreads in Australia.

This may give us cause to re-examine fire history, and the conduct of fire in this country, Gosford said — via The Register

Craft, Science

Climate Change Data Visualisation Blanket / Lara Cooper

At first glance this crocheted blanket just looks like a pretty pattern. But it is actually so much more! The blanket maps out climate change over the course of the past 130 years. Each hexagon represents a single year and the colours represent the change from the mid century average.

This ingenious data visualization blanket is the brainchild of Lara Cooper. By day, Cooper is a wildlife conservation biologist. But when she isn’t in the lab she runs Level Up Nerd Apparel, an online store where she makes and sells nerdy apparel. This project was the perfect way for her to put both of those skills together — via Make: Zine

Science

‘Revolutionary’ super glue could treat wounds in car crashes, war zones

Australian researchers have developed a new superglue-like substance that can be squirted onto wounds — even internal ones — to seal them within seconds, potentially revolutionising treatment in war zones and at the site of car crashes.

The gel works like the regular bathroom sealant commonly used for tiling, but is made from a natural elastic protein.

You can just squirt it onto a wound site, zap it with light and the whole thing sets in a matter of seconds, University of Sydney biochemistry professor Anthony Weiss said — via ABC News

History, Science

Scientists uncover Ancient Roman recipe for world’s most durable concrete

Ancient Roman concrete marine structures built thousands of years ago are stronger now than when they were first built.

So how has Roman concrete outlasted the empire, while modern concrete mixtures erode within decades of being exposed to seawater?

Scientists have uncovered the chemistry behind how Roman sea walls and harbour piers resisted the elements, and what modern engineers could learn from it.

Romans built their sea walls from a mixture of lime (calcium oxide), volcanic rocks and volcanic ash, a study, published in the journal American Mineralogist, found.

Elements within the volcanic material reacted with sea water to strengthen the concrete structure and prevent cracks from growing over time.

It’s the most durable building material in human history, and I say that as an engineer not prone to hyperbole, Roman monument expert Phillip Brune told the Washington Post — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Art, History, Science

History’s deadliest colours / JV Maranto

When radium was first discovered, its luminous green colour inspired people to add it into beauty products and jewelry. It wasn’t until much later that we realized that radium’s harmful effects outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn’t the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but turned out to be deadly. JV Maranto details history’s deadliest colours — via Youtube

Science

Forensic scientists overwhelmed by number of donors to NSW body farm

Forensic scientists say they have been overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to donate their corpses to the southern hemisphere’s first body farm.

The secret bushland facility on the outskirts of Sydney is being used to study how human bodies decompose.

It was established in early 2016 by Professor Shari Forbes, a forensic scientist from the University of Technology Sydney.

We’re not CSI, we don’t solve investigations in an hour, but we can solve investigations through the research that we do, Professor Forbes said.

The facility is currently the only body farm outside the United States and Professor Forbes said the public interest had been higher than anyone had expected.

The level of interest has definitely surprised us, she said.

We already have 30 of our donors who have arrived at our facility, and that’s in just over a year.

We weren’t expecting anywhere near that number.

More than 500 people have now said they will also donate their bodies to the cause once they die.

We do have a slight bias towards seniors and the elderly, thankfully because they live long and healthy lives and intend to die from natural causes, Professor Forbes said.

We don’t hope to see young people out there, but the few that arrive are really beneficial to the work that we do for the police — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too

When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: They organize their lives around their work, but not their days.

Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest working hours.

How did they manage to be so accomplished? Can a generation raised to believe that 80-hour workweeks are necessary for success learn something from the lives of the people who laid the foundations of chaos theory and topology or wrote Great Expectations?

I think we can. If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they laboured but how they rested, and how the two relate — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science

Why is Greenland an Island and Australia a Continent? / Today I Found Out

There are several different ways of thinking about how many continents there are, with models ranging from 4 to 7 continents. However, in most English speaking countries, as well as other nations around the world, the 7-continent model is taught. Using this model, the continents of the world in order of size (descending) are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

How a simple implant could make native animals toxic to feral cats

A new approach to target and kill destructive feral cats is being developed in South Australia, in a bid to help save threatened native animals.

The task of reducing the feral cat population has been difficult due to the lack of effective and humane broad-scale control techniques.

In a lab at the University of South Australia, researchers have created a rice-sized implant that can be injected into native animals, making them toxic to feral cats.

Anton Blencowe, polymer chemistry expert at the university, said it was a unique approach that could help safeguard a range of endangered species.

It’s got a toxin in the middle, and then it’s got a special coating around the outside so that we can make the animals toxic to cats, he said.

But at the same time make sure the implant is not toxic to native animals.

The implant contains a natural poison from seeds of native plants and is covered by protective coating.

It remains inert until it comes into contact with the feral cat, and while it’s harmless to the native animal, to the predator it’s highly deadly once ingested — via redwolf.newsvine.com