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Longevity from Bees, Headgear that's cool, and Why Cavemen are Sexy

Bite Down to Change Songs

My least favorite part about the iPod is having to always stop running to pull it out to switch songs. The researchers at Osaka University must have had me in mind when they came up with a creative new way to control a music player- teeth. They've designed a piece of head gear that detects when the user is clenching their teeth, which can then be used to control a music device. Clenching on the left skips a song, while clenching on the right side makes a song start or stop. They say this dental technology could also be adapted for cell phones, slide presentations and wheelchairs. If it catches on, then temporomandibular joint disorder could be the new carpal tunnel.

Why Brad Pitt is hot

will-smith-400a314.jpgIt's commonplace for companies to use attractive people in their commercials; T-Mobile had Catherine Zeta-Jones, Coors Light had the Coors Twins and GEICO has those cavemen. What, you don't think the cavemen are sexy? Actually, it turns out that ancient cavemen had facial structures like those of attractive men today. A group of researchers studied dozens of skulls from southern Africa and found that the males with a relatively small upper face (upper lip to brow) lived on in evolution and attracted the most mates. Ironically, this accompanied a decrease in the size of the canine teeth, so they looked less threatening. Among today's men that fit the "hot caveman" facial structure: Kanye West, Brad Pitt, David Beckham and the granddaddy of the scrunched face, Will Smith.

Judge Not by the Color of One's Skin

Martin Luther King Jr. once dreamed of a day when we wouldn't judge people by the color of their skin, but I bet he never dreamed about the day when we would change the color of people's skin. Scientists discovered skin cells called keratinocytes that can control how much pigment is present in a person's skin. They think these cells can be manipulated to create more convincing cosmetics and skin grafts, making the new skin blend in well with a person's original skin. Feel free to toss in any Michael Jackson joke you choose.

PLUS: Speedy T-Rexes and Why bees will help us live forever, all after the jump!

Who would win in a race?

t-rex.gifI'll admit, I was never all that scared of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I always figured I could just run away, so the velociraptors were more frightening to me. It turns out I was wrong about that; a new computer model shows that a T-Rex could outrun a human pretty handily. By going back through simulated bone structures and measuring the speeds of those animals, two researchers at the University of Manchester in England managed to create a workable computer model of a T-Rex running, which they raced against similar bipeds and showed just how slow humans really are.

Could Bees Help us Live Forever?

Bees seem to make a lot of appearances in these weekly wrap-ups, but this may be their biggest contribution yet; they might hold the secret to reversing old age. An Arizona State University researcher found that some worker bees, whose life expectancy is four to six weeks, end up getting a second lease on life after they care for the queen, resulting in a refreshed immune system and a life span ten times their original expectations. The key is a protein that gets released into their body, which reverses most symptoms of aging. The researchers are studying the protein for use in humans and say its not unreasonable to think that we might someday be able to increase our lifespan tenfold, too.

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Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Ancient Poop Contains First Evidence of Parasites Described by Hippocrates
Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati
Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati

The long-held mystery of Hippocrates and the parasitic worms has finally been solved, and it’s all thanks to a few samples of ancient poop.

Researchers don’t know much about the parasites that plagued the Greeks thousands of years ago, and what they do know is largely from the Hippocratic Corpus, the medical texts that the father of medicine and his students put together between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Modern historians have spent years trying to figure out which diseases and parasites Hippocrates and his followers were referring to in their writing, relying solely on their descriptions to guess at what ailments the ancient Greeks might have suffered from. Now, they finally have concrete evidence of the existence of some of the intestinal worms Hippocrates mentioned, Helmins strongyle and Ascaris.

As part of a study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, an international group of researchers analyzed the ancient remains of feces in 25 prehistoric burials on the Greek island of Kea to determine what parasites the people were carrying when they died. Using microscopes, they looked at the soil (formed by the decomposed poop) found on the pelvic bones of skeletons dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze, and Roman periods.

A roundworm egg under the microscope
A roundworm egg
Elsevier

Around 16 percent of the burials they studied contained evidence of parasites. In these ancient fecal samples, they found the eggs of two different parasitic species. In the soil taken from the skeletons dating back to the Neolithic period, they found whipworm eggs, and in the soil taken from the Bronze Age skeletons, roundworm.

With this information, researchers deduced that what Hippocrates called the Helmins strongyle worm was probably what modern doctors would call roundworm. The Ascaris worm probably referred to two different parasites, they conclude, known today as pinworm (which was not found in this analysis) and whipworm (pictured below).

Whipworm under a microscope
A whipworm egg
Elsevier

Though historians already hypothesized that Hippocrates's patients on Kea had roundworm, the Ascaris finding comes as a particular surprise. Previous research based solely on Hippocrates’s writing rather than physical evidence suggested that what he called Ascaris was probably a pinworm, and another worm he mentioned, Helmins plateia, was probably a tapeworm. But the current research didn’t turn up any evidence of either of those two worms. Instead of pinworm eggs, the researchers found whipworm, another worm that’s similarly small and round. (Pinworms may very well have existed in ancient Greece, the researchers caution, since evidence of their fragile eggs could easily have been lost to time.) The soil analysis has already changed what we know about the intestinal woes of the ancient Greeks of Kea.

More importantly, this study provides the earliest evidence of ancient Greece’s parasitic worm population, proving yet again that ancient poop is one of the world’s most important scientific resources.

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Arctic Temperatures are Rising So Fast, They're Confusing the Hell Out of Computers
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iStock

This past year was a brutal one for northern Alaska, which saw temperatures that soared above what was normal month after month. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the numbers from the weather station at Utqiaġvik, Alaska. That's because the recent heat was so unusual for the area that computers marked the data as incorrect and failed to report it for the entirety of 2017, leaving a hole in the records of the Climate Monitoring group at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), according to the Huffington Post.

The weather station in the northernmost tip of Alaska has been measuring temperatures for nearly a century. A computer system there is programed to recognize if the data has been influenced by artificial forces: Perhaps one of the instruments isn't working correctly, or something is making the immediate area unnaturally hot or cold. In these cases, the computer edits out the anomalies so they don't affect the rest of the data.

But climate change has complicated this failsafe. Temperatures have been so abnormally high that the Utqiaġvik station erroneously removed all its data for 2017 and part of 2016. A look at the region's weather history explains why the computers might have sensed a mistake: The average yearly temperature for the era between 2000 and 2017 has gone up by 1.9°F from that of the era between 1979 and 1999. Break it down by month and the numbers are even more alarming: The average temperature increase is 7.8°F for October, 6.9°F for November, and 4.7°F for December.

"In the context of a changing climate, the Arctic is changing more rapidly than the rest of the planet," Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA's Climate Monitoring Branch, wrote for climate.gov. The higher temperatures rise, the faster Arctic sea ice melts. Arctic sea ice acts as a mirror that reflects the Sun's rays back into space, and without that barrier, the sea absorbs more heat from the Sun and speeds up the warming process. “Utqiaġvik, as one of a precious few fairly long-term observing sites in the American Arctic, is often referenced as an embodiment of rapid Arctic change,” Arndt wrote.

As temperatures continue to grow faster than computers are used to, scientists will have to adjust their algorithms in response. The team at NCEI plans to have the Utqiaġvik station ready to record our changing climate once again within the next few months.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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