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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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Big Questions
What Causes Sinkholes?
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

This week, a sinkhole opened up on the White House lawn—likely the result of excess rainfall on the "legitimate swamp" surrounding the storied building, a geologist told The New York Times. While the event had some suggesting we call for Buffy's help, sinkholes are pretty common. In the past few days alone, cavernous maws in the earth have appeared in Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and of course Florida, home to more sinkholes than any other state.

Sinkholes have gulped down suburban homes, cars, and entire fields in the past. How does the ground just open up like that?

Sinkholes are a simple matter of cause and effect. Urban sinkholes may be directly traced to underground water main breaks or collapsed sewer pipelines, into which city sidewalks crumple in the absence of any structural support. In more rural areas, such catastrophes might be attributed to abandoned mine shafts or salt caverns that can't take the weight anymore. These types of sinkholes are heavily influenced by human action, but most sinkholes are unpredictable, inevitable natural occurrences.

Florida is so prone to sinkholes because it has the misfortune of being built upon a foundation of limestone—solid rock, but the kind that is easily dissolved by acidic rain or groundwater. The karst process, in which the mildly acidic water wears away at fractures in the limestone, leaves empty space where there used to be stone, and even the residue is washed away. Any loose soil, grass, or—for example—luxury condominiums perched atop the hole in the ground aren't left with much support. Just as a house built on a weak foundation is more likely to collapse, the same is true of the ground itself. Gravity eventually takes its toll, aided by natural erosion, and so the hole begins to sink.

About 10 percent of the world's landscape is composed of karst regions. Despite being common, sinkholes' unforeseeable nature serves as proof that the ground beneath our feet may not be as solid as we think.

A version of this story originally ran in 2014.

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DNA Analysis of Loch Ness Could Reveal the Lake's Hidden Creatures
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iStock

Stakeouts, sonar studies, and a 24-hour video feed have all been set up in an effort to confirm the existence of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Now, the Associated Press reports that an international team of scientists will use DNA analysis to learn what's really hiding in the depths of Scotland's most mysterious landmark.

The team, led by Neil Gemmell, who researches evolutionary genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, will collect 300 water samples from various locations and depths around the lake. The waters are filled with microscopic DNA fragments animals leave behind as they swim, mate, eat, poop, and die in the waters, and if Nessie is a resident, she's sure to leave bits of herself floating around as well.

After extracting the DNA from the organic material found in the water samples, the scientists plan to sequence it. The results will then be compared to the DNA profiles of known species. If there's evidence of an animal that's not normally found in the lake, or an entirely new species, the researchers will hopefully spot it.

Gemmell is a Nessie skeptic, and he says the point of the project isn't necessarily to discover new species. Rather, he wants to create a genetic profile of the lake while generating some buzz around the science behind it.

If the study goes according to plan, the database of Loch Ness's inhabitants should be complete by 2019. And though the results likely won't include a long-extinct plesiosaur, they may offer insights about other invasive species that now call the lake home.

[h/t AP]

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