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Bee Karaoke, Green Blood, and why Global Warming is causing kittens!

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Holy Alternative Energy Sources!: According to the BBC, Pope Benedict XVI is on his way to becoming the most eco-friendly pope ever by replacing the roof of the Paul VI auditorium with solar cells. The cement roof was due to be replaced next year anyway, but His Holiness took a tip from above and elected to go the green route. Amazingly, the cells will generate enough power to light, heat or cool the auditorium and will hopefully start a country-wide trend. No word yet on whether plans are in place to replace the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

floating light bulb.jpg The Incredible Floating Lamp: Last week, Ransom posted about the wireless light bulb. Well, Jeff Lieberman managed to one-up that not only by removing the wires, but also the effect of gravity! By using electromagnets, Lieberman (or the David Blaine of Inventors, as I like to think of him) was able to suspend a wireless light bulb more than 2 inches away from a surface. If only they could make it float a little higher from the surface I could solve the overhead lighting problem in my apartment .

It's not easy bleedin' green:
It sounds like something out of an episode of House...if it was some bizarre crossover with Star Trek. When operating on a patient in Vancouver, doctors were surprised that the man's blood was a dark greenish-black. The doctors pinned the cause of the Vulcan-like blood on sulfhaemoglobinaemia (say it five times fast), a condition that can result when sulfur atoms are introduced. They say it was likely cause by the medication he was taking for frequent migraines. The good news is that the condition is usually self-correcting with red-blood cell turnover, though he may need a transfusion. Anybody want to volunteer for that procedure?

Environmentally charged felines, insect karaoke and self-fixing windshields, all after the jump.

Who knew Global Warming was so Cute?

cute kitten.jpg It's a good thing Bob Barker retired from The Price is Right, because he'll have his animal-neutering hands full with this new global warming theory. Pets Across America, an animal adoption group, has reported a 30 percent spike in its intake of cats and kittens and says other groups have reported the a similar trend. They blame the increased kitten population on global warming. Since cats mate in the warm weather, the short winters mean that the felines have longer to breed, which means more kittens. Now if only we can prove that water pollution is creating more puppies, maybe we can stop this whole "Save the Earth" fad in its tracks.

Never worry about a cracked windshield again: Coolest character on Heroes? Claire. She can heal herself, whether its a splinter or a bullet wound. It's incredible. But she's not so unique now that researchers at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have designed a new regenerating polymer. The material can fill in any cracks in its outer layer by rushing a polymer epoxy from "blood vessels" inside. That amounts to the plastic being able to heal itself several times over by itself. It could revolutionize the material used in building airplanes, medical implants and microprocessors. If anything, though, they should use it in windshields- parents of little leaguers the world over would be pleased.

dead bee cropped.jpg Could bee karaoke save our food supply? Colony Collapse Disorder is the new Potato Famine. It's been killing entire colonies of bees, which means they can't pollinate the fruits and vegetables in our diet. Fortunately, Jerry Bromenshenk, an entomologist at the University of Montana, has come up with a solution. Like dogs or blind people, bees have a heightened sense of smell and will change the sound they produce when they detect a new chemical substance. So Bromenshenk is putting tiny microphones in bee colonies to detect the changes and rescue the bees. Presumably he's also listening to find the next Colony Idol.

The (enormous) fungus among us: Everyone knows that the biggest mammal is the blue whale, which can be up to 110 feet long. Unbelievably, that's like a flea to the world's largest living organism, a fungus in Oregon that covers 2,200 acres. Put in perspective, that's just about 1,600 football fields, which is roughly nine times what NFL career rushing leader Emmit Smith traversed in his career! The Armillaria ostoyae is largely underground and spends its days killing trees in the Blue Mountains. The U.S. Forest Service has decided just to let it be, resigned to the fact that there's no way to stop it. By some estimates, it's lived 8,000 years; there's no reason we'd be able to kill it now.

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Health
Growing Up With Headphones May Not Damage Kids’ Hearing
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A study published in the American Medical Association's JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery finds no increase in child and adolescent hearing loss despite a rise in headphone and earbud use.

"Hearing impairment in children is a major public health burden given its impact on early speech and language development, and subsequently on academic and workforce performance later in life," the authors write. "Even mild levels of hearing loss have been found to negatively affect educational outcomes and social functioning."

As portable music players continue to grow in popularity, parents, doctors, and researchers have begun to worry that all the music pouring directly into kids' ears could be damaging their health. It seems a reasonable enough concern, and some studies on American kids' hearing have identified more hearing loss.

To take a closer look, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), collected from 1988 to 2010. They reviewed records from 7036 kids and teens between the ages of 12 and 19, checking each participant's hearing tests against their exposure to noise.

As expected, the authors write, they did find a gradual increase in headphone use and other "recreational noise exposure." And they did see an uptick in hearing loss from 1988 to 2008 from 17 percent to 22.5 percent. But after that, the trend seemed to reverse, sinking all the way down to 15.2 percent—lower than 1988 levels. They also found no significant relationship between noise exposure and hearing loss.

The results were not uniform; some groups of kids were worse off than others. Participants who identified as nonwhite, and those of lower socioeconomic status, were more likely to have hearing problems, but the researchers can't say for sure why that is. "Ongoing monitoring of hearing loss in this population is necessary," they write, "to elucidate long-term trends and identify targets for intervention."

Before you go wild blasting music, we should mention that this study has some major limitations. Hearing loss and other data points were not measured the same way through the entire data collection period. Participants had to self-report things like hearing loss and health care use—elements that are routinely under-reported in surveys. As with just about any health research, more studies are still needed to confirm these findings.

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Weather Watch
NASA Figures Out Why When It Rains, It (Sometimes) Drizzles
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What’s the difference between drizzle and rain? It has to do with updrafts, according to new research by NASA scientists into the previously unexplained phenomenon of why drizzle occurs where it does.

The answer, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, could help improve how weather and climate models treat rainfall, making predictions more accurate.

Previously, climate researchers thought that drizzle could be explained by the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere. The microscopic particles are present in greater quantities over land than over the ocean, and by that logic, there should be more drizzle over land than over the ocean. But that's not the case, as Hanii Takahashi and her colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory found. Instead, whether or not rain becomes full droplets or stays as a fine drizzle depends on updrafts—a warm current of air that rises from the ground.

Stronger updrafts keep drizzle droplets (which are four times smaller than a raindrop) floating inside a cloud longer, allowing them to grow into full-sized rain drops that fall to the ground in the splatters we all know and love. In weaker updrafts, though, the precipitation falls before the drops form, as that light drizzle. That explains why it drizzles more over the ocean than over land—because updrafts are weaker over the ocean. A low-lying cloud over the ocean is more likely to produce drizzle than a low-lying cloud over land, which will probably produce rain.

This could have an impact on climate modeling as well as short-term weather forecasts. Current models make it difficult to model future surface temperatures of the Earth while still maintaining accurate projections about the amount of precipitation. Right now, most models that project realistic surface temperatures predict an unrealistic amount of drizzle in the future, according to a NASA statement. This finding could bring those predictions back down to a more realistic level.

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