21 June, 2012 – This Week in Science


Space Madness, Clicking Plants, Sensitive Birds, Counting Bears, LHC Excitement, Drones Against Poaching, TWIWRD, Ancient Cowherds, And Much More…

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This Week in Science… coming up next

Space madness!!!
A big step for China
China has sent its first expedition to a space station, including their first woman astronaut in space. The station should be complete by 2020 and is set to weigh around 60 metric tons. This might be a reason for the US to get back in the space race!
Shackleton’s Ice Mystery
A crater’s surface on the moon’s south pole could be made up of as much as 22% ice! Lasers detected parts of the crater to be far brighter than the rest of the moon’s surface, at wavelengths consistent with what you would expect from ice. Maybe Newt’s moon colony is closer than we thought!
Sounds of the universe
Dark matter, baryonic matter, and light interacted at the origin of the universe to make the universe itself very lumpy and clumpy, according to new simulations. Uh oh. Nobody likes lumps in their universe…

Plants can talk to each other by clicking!
We know that plants respond to sound, but new research suggests that plants can also communicate with each other with clicking sounds that emanate form their roots. Corn saplings have been shown to produce clicking sounds from their roots at around 200 Hz, and grew towards the clicking when it was reproduced in a water suspension. What will we discover that plants can do next?!

Birds don’t like noise
A baby songbird tends to learn the songs that are the most clear, and therefore the easiest to pick up on. It’s no surprise then, that birds can be influenced in which songs they learn, and therefore which they sing, by noise pollution. Sparrows in noisy areas near human populations have a shorter songbook that those in nature, and we humans are therefore creating fragments in sparrow culture. This takes animal dialects to a whole new level!

Blair’s Animal Corner!
Counting Bears, you say?
Three captive black bears recently performed amazingly well on touch screen number-based tests at Oakland University. This is the first touch screen based study with large carnivores, and scientists were impressed by the bears’ ability to recognize the relative size of clusters of dots. The bears were able to pick the larger or smaller group of dots, depending on which they were trained to identify, even when the size of the area the dots were in varied, indicating that they bears were doing something analogous to counting.

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Scientists have discovered something that “looks like a Higgs is supposed to look.” What’s more, the Large Hadron Collider has already collected a huge amount of data that could further indicate a Higgs boson, it just needs examining. Fingers crossed, people!

Nepal launches drones to reduce poaching:
Conservationists in Nepal have recently developed drone aircrafts to monitor populations of endangered species for poaching activity. They successfully piloted two “unmanned” conservation drones in Chitwan National Park earlier this mont. The drones are equipped with GPS and a camera, and the WWF hopes to use them to guard Indian Rhinos and Tigers, for starters. Now if only we could fit them with lasers…

World robot Domination!!! –
Robots get touchy feely
A new specially designed robot can detect different natural materials according to their textures. This appendage has a soft malleable texture over a liquid filled center, much like a real finger, and in fact performed better than humans at identifying things by touch. This could pave the way for prosthesis or even commercial enhancement, or lead to sensitive robots that could take over the world!!!

Humanoids milked cows 7,000 years ago in Saharan Africa!
Fatty acid analysis of some pottery excavated in Libya indicates that dairy fat was present. This is astonishing due to the fact that it is the first instance of milk use found in Africa, and perhaps helps us to connect the dots as to when our ancestors gained the enzyme that allows us to process lactose.

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