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Peanut Butter Diamonds, Air-Conditioned Shirts and On-Demand Amnesia

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Tiffany's? More like Jif-any's!: Researchers at Edinburgh University have created a way to make diamonds out of most carbon-based materials, including peanut butter. They create an oddly-named "stiletto heel effect" by squeezing material between the tips of two diamonds, creating pressure greater than at the center of the earth. Besides making diamonds out of sandwich dressings, the scientists also say they could turn oxygen into red crystals. Kind of makes me wish I had held out for more than a cupcake when trading away my peanut butter sandwiches in the lunch room.

Forgive and Forget: The next time you want to forget something, you won't need a bottle of tequila. Scientists at McGill University in Montreal and at Harvard have devised a method to erase or manipulate memories. By injecting a drug known to cause memory problems while a patient is recalling a specific memory, the scientists were able to disrupt the biochemical pathways that make the memory permanent. The scientists say it has already helped lessen the symptoms in victims of PTSD. As of yet, it doesn't appear to have been used Charlie Kaufman style, but there's still time.


One Mammoth Discovery: In another case of life imitating awesome science-fiction movies, National Geographic reports that researchers are close to piecing together the genomes for extinct species like Neanderthals or mammoths. Once the genome is completed, many think that we could be close to reviving the ancient species. It's a matter of getting the DNA from these species, whether it's from fossils or frozen bodies. It makes me wonder if resurrected Neanderthals will be anything like those GEICO cavemen.
teeth.jpgBuilding a better mouth-trap: Dental materials can be hard to test, since long-term teeth models work quickly and hardly mimic the real human mouth. But researchers in England are working on a better dental robot. The device, known as Dento-Munch, can rotate on three axes, better showing the versatility of the mouth to test the effects on long-term wear on dental products. I'm sure its only a matter of time before Wrigley's gets their hands on it to develop a longer-lasting chewing gum.

Give 'em a Hand: More artificial body parts: A Japanese firm last week unveiled an artificial hand with a more sensitive touch. The prototype weighs only 14 ounces (about three ounces less than a human hand) and uses air pressure to control the movements of the fingers. The hand is so delicate that it can pick up a pen and a raw egg without breaking it, a big step up from the heavier models.

acshirt.jpgIt's like Sleeping on Air (Conditioning): In my dorm room, I had to struggle to coordinate three fans around the room to maximize the air cooling me while I slept. If only I had had Kuchofuku's new air conditioned bed. The bed uses two fans to circulate air under you while you sleep, creating an air conditioning system. As if that weren't enough, they're also selling a shirt that uses similar technology, so you can feel cool at the office. I'm sure its comfortable, but the giant fan on the side doesn't exactly scream high fashion.

Heard it through the Grapevine: We've all heard of the supposed "Mozart Effect," but who new it worked at vineyards? One researcher has applied that logic to plants, and found that classical music helps grapevines grow. The full results aren't in, but leaf area and growth were improved in plants exposed to music. The tests were all conducted in Tuscany on vines that produce Chianti, making this the swankiest research project I've ever heard of.

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Live Smarter
Trying to Save Money? Avoid Shopping on a Smartphone
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Today, Americans do most of their shopping online—but as anyone who’s indulged in late-night retail therapy likely knows, this convenience often can come with an added cost. Trying to curb expenses, but don't want to swear off the convenience of ordering groceries in your PJs? New research shows that shopping on a desktop computer instead of a mobile phone may help you avoid making foolish purchases, according to Co. Design.

Ying Zhu, a marketing professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, recently led a study to measure how touchscreen technology affects consumer behavior. Published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, her research found that people are more likely to make more frivolous, impulsive purchases if they’re shopping on their phones than if they’re facing a computer monitor.

Zhu, along with study co-author Jeffrey Meyer of Bowling Green State University, ran a series of lab experiments on student participants to observe how different electronic devices affected shoppers’ thinking styles and intentions. Their aim was to see if subjects' purchasing goals changed when it came to buying frivolous things, like chocolate or massages, or more practical things, like food or office supplies.

In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to use a desktop or a touchscreen. Then, they were presented with an offer to purchase either a frivolous item (a $50 restaurant certificate for $30) or a useful one (a $50 grocery certificate for $30). These subjects used a three-point scale to gauge how likely they were to purchase the offer, and they also evaluated how practical or frivolous each item was. (Participants rated the restaurant certificate to be more indulgent than the grocery certificate.)

Sure enough, the researchers found that participants had "significantly higher" purchase intentions for hedonic (i.e. pleasurable) products when buying on touchscreens than on desktops, according to the study. On the flip side, participants had significantly higher purchase intentions for utilitarian (i.e. practical) products while using desktops instead of touchscreens.

"The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers' favor of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers' preference for utilitarian products," Zhu explains in a press release.

The study also found that participants using touchscreen technology scored significantly higher on "experiential thinking" than subjects using desktop computers, whereas those with desktop computers demonstrated higher scores for rational thinking.

“When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, [you crave] excitement, a different experience,” Zhu explained to Co. Design. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.”

Zhu’s advice for consumers looking to conserve cash? Stow away the smartphone when you’re itching to splurge on a guilty pleasure.

[h/t Fast Company]

Elusive Butterfly Sighted in Scotland for the First Time in 133 Years

Conditions weren’t looking too promising for the white-letter hairstreak, an elusive butterfly that’s native to the UK. Threatened by habitat loss, the butterfly's numbers have dwindled by 96 percent since the 1970s, and the insect hasn’t even been spotted in Scotland since 1884. So you can imagine the surprise lepidopterists felt when a white-letter hairstreak was seen feeding in a field in Berwickshire, Scotland earlier in August, according to The Guardian.

A man named Iain Cowe noticed the butterfly and managed to capture it on camera. “It is not every day that something as special as this is found when out and about on a regular butterfly foray,” Cowe said in a statement provided by the UK's Butterfly Conservation. “It was a very ragged and worn individual found feeding on ragwort in the grassy edge of an arable field.”

The white-letter hairstreak is a small brown butterfly with a white “W”-shaped streak on the underside of its wings and a small orange spot on its hindwings. It’s not easily sighted, as it tends to spend most of its life feeding and breeding in treetops.

The butterfly’s preferred habitat is the elm tree, but an outbreak of Dutch elm disease—first noted the 1970s—forced the white-letter hairstreak to find new homes and food sources as millions of Britain's elm trees died. The threatened species has slowly spread north, and experts are now hopeful that Scotland could be a good home for the insect. (Dutch elm disease does exist in Scotland, but the nation also has a good amount of disease-resistant Wych elms.)

If a breeding colony is confirmed, the white-letter hairstreak will bump Scotland’s number of butterfly species that live and breed in the country up to 34. “We don’t have many butterfly species in Scotland so one more is very nice to have,” Paul Kirkland, director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said in a statement.

Prior to 1884, the only confirmed sighting of a white-letter hairstreak in Scotland was in 1859. However, the insect’s newfound presence in Scotland comes at a cost: The UK’s butterflies are moving north due to climate change, and the white-letter hairstreak’s arrival is “almost certainly due to the warming climate,” Kirkland said.

[h/t The Guardian]


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