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

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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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
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iStock

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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