Firefighting Beetles, Polite Phones and Even More Polite Primates
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
Levitation 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
Next 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
We 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.