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The Disappearing Lake, Gecko Tape and the 5-Second Rule Debunked

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Lake: Scientists are on the hunt for a five-acre lake in the Andes (or not in the Andes, perhaps?) that's gone missing. The lake was last seen in March, but in May scientists only found a 100-foot crater with sheets of ice that originally used to float on the lake's surface. Some think the water from the lake may have leaked through cracks in the bottom of the lake into underground fissures, but they don't know where the fissures would have come from. My theory: David Copperfield. Just a hunch.

riverglow.jpgA Whole New Red Tide: It was 38 years ago this week that, in one of my city's proudest moments, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire, providing a startling visual reminder of how polluted the water had become. Now the WaterGlow project is giving us a more aesthetic and safe way to see how polluted our water is. Project creators Soo-in Yang and David Benjamin are installing pods in bodies of water to monitor how polluted the water is. The pods then signal LED lights to shine red if the water is unsafe or green if it checks out. The lights appear to float above the water and allow anyone to see how safe their H2O is. Not to burst their bubble, but I usually run when I see green water. Maybe that's just me, though.

Cow Dung alternative energy, reinventing the (intelligent) wheel, and how to walk on walls all after the jump!

More Fun Alternative Energy Sources: While the rest of the world works on generating energy from such drab sources like the sun and wind, some scientists are creating more innovative ways to power our lives. A few examples:
Cow Dung: Scientists are researching how to purify the methane gas present in cow excrement to turn feces into a feasible energy source. The theory simply proves that BS even has uses beyond writing papers.
Fruit: It turns out fuel made from fructose is actually better than fuel from ethanol.
Your Workout Routine: A gym in Hong Kong is placing generators in some of its machines, harnessing the power created when people worked out to power the fluorescent lights. It's only a little bit like being in a hamster wheel.

Reinventing the wheel: Speaking of wheels, it's not enough that cars can parallel park themselves now, butherbie.jpg a research team at University of Portsmouth in England is working on wheels that learn the routes you take and adapt to them. The microcomputers in each wheel communicate with each other and adapt to road conditions, tightening for familiar turns or adjusting the shocks for bumps in the road. The creators estimate that by 2012, a quarter of cars will be equipped with the technology. By my estimates, that means that by 2025, we can all be driving my dream car: Herbie.

Eat off the floor!: The 5-second rule, that old standby of nutrition, is off by at least five times, according to student researchers at Connecticut College. They tested a variety of foods to see how long it took for bacteria to infiltrate and found that wet foods took 30 seconds to attract bacteria, with dry foods taking even longer. Skittles are apparently a magical repellent, since it took at least five minutes for bacteria to show a bacterial presence. I'm still not sure this justifies me munching on the stray ones I just found under my bed, though.

Fighting Cancer, Fantastic Voyage-style: Chemo may be a thing of the past, as researchers have devised a new system of gold-coated glass nanospheres that can destroy tumors with bursts of heat. The nanospheres work like tiny Death Stars traveling through the blood stream and congregating near tumors. They then emit heat to destroy the tumors, reducing the time and toxicity of cancer treatments.
astaire.jpg

Geckos do more than just hawk car insurance: By imitating the nano- and micro-scale structures on gecko's feet, scientists have created an adhesive that's strong enough to allow robots to walk on walls. The "gecko tape", which could also be used to create gloves for astronauts, is reusable because it doesn't use glues. Instead, the microtubes conform to the molecular gaps on a surface. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to hold off for a bite from a radioactive spider for my wall-climbing abilities.

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science
What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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