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Tornado Power, Shape-Shifting Planes and Why You Look Like Your Spouse

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Under my Thumbprint

On shows like CSI, detectives have to scour a crime scene to pick up seemingly insignificant clues about the criminal. But, if a new fingerprinting technique pans out, all those clues could be one place. Traditional fingerprinting techniques have a tendency to negate forensic clues and possibly damage the prints. However, a gelatinous tape designed by researchers in London will pick up the print and test chemicals from it, providing clues about diet, gender and lifestyle. For example, they could tell if the criminal smoked by traces of tobacco or if the criminal was male by traces of urine on the prints.

TORNADO.jpgHarnessing Tornadoes

Tornadoes are terrifying, but one engineer says he could tweak them to generate power. By funneling excess heat from power plants, Louis Michaud could create a twister that extends into the atmosphere. As it grows, it would power fans that act as wind turbines. In an added twist, the funnel clouds could even be used to pump hot air into the atmosphere, cooling the Earth. Sounds like a solid plan as long as the cows stay out.

Help Wanted: Design Transformers

Taking a cue from the classic toys, military researchers have made a good deal of progress on shape-shifting planes. These planes have the ability to morph from wide recon planes into narrow fighters, but apparently don't have the ability to stay powered during the transition. After trying out a gel that conducts electricity or tiny power pads (both failed), the Air Force has turned to the private sector for the solution to their power problems.

Get a Tonsillectomy

In high school, one of my friends announced her plans to get her tonsils and appendix out on her 18th birthday in order to prevent infections. We lost touch before the anticipated surgery date, but if she did go through with that rather aggressive vaccination technique, she may have helped protect her sexual health. New evidence shows HIV can spread orally through the tonsils. Besides showing that oral sex can cause an HIV infection, this also can explain how AIDS spreads from a mother to her children- breastfeeding.

talking_on_cell_phone_2.jpgCell Phone Disease Debunked

It sounds like something cooked up by a local news station during sweeps month, but 4 percent of people in the UK still claim to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which causes headaches and fatigue when the sufferer is around cell phones or microwaves. Some sufferers have even complained of skin rashes, resorting to covering themselves or their houses in tin foil. Too bad it's all in the mind, according to researchers in Essex. Double blind experiments showed that humans do not respond to electromagnetic signals, so you're safe to keep talking on your cell.

To Love, Cherish and Mimic

It's always been sort of an old wives' tale that married couples look alike, but now we've got evidence to prove it. Psychologist Robert Zajonc showed participants pictures of couples in their first year and their 25th year, asking participants to judge how similar they were and the likelihood they were married. Results showed that couples are perceived to look alike, even if the observers don't know they're married. The researchers threw around diet, environment and disposition as possible causes, but empathy seems to be the reigning theory. This idea states that couples will react facially the same way to incidents and sculpt their faces that way, proving once and for all that making that funny face really can get your face stuck.Mr_peanut.png

Aw Nuts

I don't have any food allergies, but I was once late getting back to school from spring break because I had to drive a friend to the ER after our Chinese food had peanut traces, so I'm pretty sympathetic to them. That's why I'm celebrating the news that a researcher in North Carolina has designed an allergen-free peanut. The production process negates the components that cause allergic reactions, keeping allergic patients safe in tests. Not only that, the scientists say no taste has been sacrificed. Of course, it's not like victims would be able to tell.

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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]
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Animals
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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