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Firefighting Beetles, Polite Phones and Even More Polite Primates

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Superdad

Every roving bachelor has the fear that he's got a son out there. But hey, it could be worse. Just look at Genghis Khan, who spawned enough children that he is now related to 16 million men in Central Asia. The great warrior was legendary for having his way with women, but the scope of his exploits was never fully realized until now. A team of geneticists studying Asian men found that a number of them had similar DNA, which they managed to pin on Khan. From this they realized that 1 in every 200 Asian men is related to him. Just imagine that family reunion.

I'm floating on air

ulevitate.jpgLevitation has long been the stuff of magic shows and wild imaginations, but a group of scientists at the University of St. Andrews says it may soon be reality. They've managed to reverse the Casimir force, which normally attracts objects on one another on an atomic level. For now, the scientists say the discovery can be used on a small scale to create machines with frictionless moving parts, but could, in effect, be strong enough to lift large objects, even a person.

Sobering statistic of the week

Second Life is a virtual world, where people can spend (and lose) real money and make real friends. Unfortunately, network also uses real power, and a lot of it. Blogger Nicholas Carr crunched the numbers supplied by Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, and figured out that a Second Life avatar burns as much power as the average Brazilian. And people wonder why we're having conservation problems.

The phone that says 'excuse me'

Isn't it embarrassing when you're on the phone with your boss when an incoming call from a bored friend interrupts you? Well, scientists at Intel are working to make sure that doesn't happen by studying speech patterns to detect important conversations. They've tracked conversations for tone and length only to figure out what styles indicate importance. For example, a talk that's largely one-sided and serious likely indicates a professional discussion, while one that's casual and punctuated by laughter would be a friendly one. They say that this technology could be adapted to direct a phone to not interrupt during important calls, but for now we'll just have to stick with the stone-age method of screening our own calls.

Firefighting Beetles, Chivalrous Chimps and more after the jump!

Chivalry in Chimpanzees

chimpanzee-picture.jpgNext time you're in a pickle, you could count on a chimp to help you out. A study at a chimpanzee reserve in Uganda showed that chimps are inherently nice to each other and to other humans. They were willing to pick up a stick for a human who struggled to reach it, even when the chimp had to go as far as eight feet to pick it up and hand it over. This finding casts kindness in a whole new light- it's genetic rather than a culturally-learned custom. I guess that means chivalry never died; maybe it just skipped a generation.

Mission to sleep on Mars

Instead of counting sheep when you can't sleep, why not try going to Mars? Researchers in Boston successfully synced up the sleep cycles of some Earthlings to the 24.65-hour day of Mars, resulting in long-term changes in the biological clock. This proves for the first time that our sleep cycles are actually flexible and could spark some breakthroughs in curing some sleep disorders. At the very least, that's one less thing to worry about when we decide to colonize Mars.

Meet the Beetle

beetle.jpgWe may be the only ones who can prevent forest fires, but a plexiglass beetle may soon be able to help fight them once they start. The OLE is a device that looks like it came from some Star Wars/Harry Potter hybrid and can extinguish fires. Plans are for an army of 30 of the heat-resistant bugs to patrol the Black Forest, finding and putting out fires before they get out of control. Besides shooting flame retardant, the devices also move like real beetles and can even roll into a ball, if the need ever arose for them to stop, drop and roll.

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The Delicious Chemistry of Sushi
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iStock

The secret to sushi's delicious taste is invisible to the human eye. Chefs spend years training to properly prepare the Japanese culinary staple, which consists of fresh fish and seasoned rice, either served together or wrapped in seaweed. At its most elemental, as the American Chemistry Society's latest Reactions video explains below, the bite-sized morsels contain an assortment of compounds that, together, combine to form a perfectly balanced mix of savory and sweet. They include mannitol, iodine, and bromophenol, all of which provide a distinctive tang; and glutamate, which adds a savory, rich umami flavor (and turns into MSG when it's combined with a sodium ion).

Take a bite of science, and learn more fun facts about the Japanese culinary staple's long history and unique preparation method by watching the video below.

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Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder
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Fossilized Poop Shows Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Loved a Good Crab Dinner
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Lead author Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder

Scientists can learn a lot about the prehistoric world through very, very old poop. Just recently, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Kent State University studying fossilized dinosaur poop discovered that some herbivores weren't as picky about their diets as we thought. Though they mostly ate plants, large dinosaurs living in Utah 75 million years ago also seem to have eaten prehistoric crustaceans, as Nature News reports.

The new study, published in Scientific Reports, finds that large dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period seem to have eaten crabs, along with rotting wood, based on the content of their coprolites (the more scientific term for prehistoric No. 2). The fossilized remains of dinos' bathroom activities were found in the Kaiparowits rock formation in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a known hotspot for pristine Late Cretaceous fossils.

"The large size and woody contents" of the poop suggest that they were created by dinosaurs that were well-equipped to process fiber in their diets, as the study puts it, leading the researchers to suggest that the poop came from big herbivores like hadrosaurs, whose remains have been found in the area before.

Close up scientific images of evidence of crustaceans in fossilized poop.
Chin et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

While scientists previously thought that plant-eating dinosaurs like hadrosaurs only ate vegetation, these findings suggest otherwise. "The diet represented by the Kaiparowits coprolites would have provided a woody stew of plant, fungal, and invertebrate tissues," the researchers write, including crabs (Yum.) These crustaceans would have provided a big source of calcium for the dinosaurs, and the other invertebrates that no doubt lived in the rotting logs would have provided a good source of protein.

But they probably didn't eat the rotting wood all year, instead munching on dead trees seasonally or during times when other food sources weren’t available. Another hypothesis is that these "ancient fecal producers," as the researchers call them, might have eaten the rotting wood, with its calcium-rich crustaceans and protein-laden invertebrates, during egg production, similar to the feeding patterns of modern birds during breeding season.

Regardless of the reason, these findings could change how we think about what big dinosaurs ate.

[h/t Nature News]

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