01 Oct

In the wild, animals have a way of signaling each other that it’s time to move. Most do this through vocalizing a sound, whether it’s a grunt or a call. But for African wild dogs, the signal to move as a group is a sneeze. It’s a fact that has fascinated scientists.

Known as “casting a vote,” this signaling behavior has long been documented, but scientists say this is the first time that sneezing has been observed as the trigger. For African wild dogs, this means that multiple sneezes occur in a short timeframe. Researchers found that the more sneezes among a group of wild dogs, the more likely the group will be to start moving. This is the same behavior exhibited in other species with their vote casting. Meerkats, monkeys, and other creatures try to reach a consensus before moving. This consensus is called a quorum.

29 Sep

Until recently, the medical community has only seen the Zika virus as something to fear. Transmitted through mosquito bites and intercourse, the disease has affected people across the globe since it was first identified in 1947. In addition to risk of illness and death, it also puts pregnant women in danger, causing fetal birth defects like microcephaly.

But new research shows that Zika could actually save lives. A team from the University of California, San Diego found that the virus kills brain cancer cells without affecting the normal brain cells around them.

27 Sep

Time was when the classic Sears catalog was considered more valuable for its uses in an outhouse than for perusing and selecting merchandise. This state of affairs was not altogether unwelcome in an era decades removed from the advent of the Internet, smartphones, and instant information.

No, the catalogs were still provided to shoppers because, even if the pages were to be used for purposes other than placing an order for a specific product, the general thinking was that the pages would still likely be read and their highlighted offerings given a chance to appeal to shoppers of all ages. And the possibility existed that those pages ripped out for potential use might be spared for another day or so, thus extending their advertorial shelf lives.

Not so, apparently, with the pages of the IKEA catalog, that wondrous collection of nifty furniture items, gadgets, and accessories that every person ought to flip through at least once.

25 Sep

An old music story, likely apocrypha, goes like this: Legendary maestro Fritz Reiner was rehearsing a major American orchestra (either Pittsburgh or Chicago, both of whom Reiner served as music director), and the famously temperamental Hungarian, as was his custom, provided his musicians with baton movements so subtle that they would have better served a band of playing fleas.

One bass player, relegated with the rest of his section to the customary place for basses in the very back row, decided to make a point of Reiner's tiny baton cues by holding up a spyglass as Reiner conducted. Reiner, the story goes, fired the man on the spot.

So far, there's no telling whether YuMi, a two-armed robotic conductor, will display any such mercurial personality traits. But if early performances with YuMi on the podium are any indication, the mechanical creation just might give Reiner's infamous nuances a proverbial run for their money.

23 Sep

Recent moon exploration has brought questions about whether there might have once been life on the planet. A Japanese spacecraft has discovered oxygen on the moon and have identified it as originating on Earth.

The discovery led one astrobiologist to theorize that there may be fossil organisms on the moon’s surface. The astrobiologist, Caleb Scharf, was not involved in the research into the discovery of oxygen, but he spoke following the oxygen discovery.

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