Monthly Archives: June 2011
If you are an urban pigeon, the idea of hovering near a person for food is a bit of a gamble. For every person sitting on a park bench who will happily flick the crumbs of their lunch towards you, there will always be others who will angrily stamp their feet and scare you away.
Well, latest research suggests that it is not a gamble at all. According to researchers in France, pigeons have the ability to tell the difference between generous humans and unkind ones.
The team carried out two tests in an urban park. One person would feed the pigeons, while another would chase the birds away. “In both experiments”, the researchers noted, “the pigeons learned quickly to discriminate between the feeders.”
“The pigeons avoided the hostile feeder even when the two feeders exchanged their coats, suggesting that [the birds] used stable individual characteristics to differentiate between the experimenter feeders. Thus, pigeons are able to learn quickly from their interactions from human feeders and use knowledge to maximise the profitability of the urban environment,” they said.
Conclusion: Be nice to pigeons. They will remember who you are and forever hold a grudge against you otherwise.
Full story: BBC Nature News http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/13863523
Don’t you just hate it when you’re at a music festival and your phone battery dies?
Fear no longer. Scientists have invented a t-shirt that can recharge your mobile phone. (Yes, you read that correctly: a t-shirt that can recharge your mobile phone). The shirt contains a piezoelectric film panel, which absorbs compressed sound waves. The panel then converts these waves into an electric charge, which powers up the mobile phone. So all you need to do is plug your phone into your shirt, stand in the crowd, rock out to the band – and, hey presto, your phone will charge itself up.
The shirt, endorsed by Orange and called the Sound Charge, is set to be tested at this year’s Glastonbury festival. With average noise levels of 80 dB, Orange say the weekend sound will produce enough aural stimulation to charge even your smartphone.
Have you ever fantasised that you’re a Super Hero who can shoot laser beams out of your eyes? Well, this has been turned into a reality on the microscopic scale. In a triumph of genetic engineering, scientists from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have caused a living cell to emit laser light. They describe it as a “self-healing” laser, as the cell remains alive during and after the process, and if any light-emitting proteins are destroyed, the cell can simply produce more. It’s like giving a cell the superpower to be an invincible torch.
It all began when scientists took cells from a glowing jellyfish, individually placed them between two tiny mirrors, and flooded them with blue light. This caused the cell to emit a beam of green laser light. The scientists have now engineered human kidney cells to produce the same protein that can turn the cell into a living laser-maker.
What are the benefits to this? Well, the researchers behind this work, Malte Gather and Seok Hyun Yun, believe it could revolutionise microscopic imaging, and therapy.
They say that intracellular processes will now be able to be detected “with unprecedented sensitivity”, and, as far as light-based therapy is concerned, “we can [now] approach this problem in [a new] way: by amplifying light in the tissue.”
However, the application of turning us all into Super Heroes who can blast enemies with laser beams remains a long way off.
Full story: BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13725719
Julius Caesar, Leonardo Da Vinci and Jimi Hendrix all had one thing in common. As well as being regarded as either the most influential, intelligent, or talented people who have ever lived, all three were left-handed.
So can it be true that being left-handed makes you more skilful and intelligent? Apparently not. In fact, a new study from Flinders University suggests the exact opposite.
Professor Mike Nicholls has carried out research across the English-speaking world into cognitive ability and handedness. His conclusion is that left-handed people score consistently lower in aptitude tests than their right-handed counterparts. He even claims that being left-handed is cognitively equivalent to being born prematurely. All of this rather dismisses the “myth” that lefties are more likely to end up being gifted.
“The evidence, based on our analyses of very large databases of handedness and other attributes in people across Australia, the UK and the USA, doesn’t bear out that myth. Our study of members of the same family confirms that left-handed children will do worse than their right-handed siblings,” he said.
This is certainly a controversial theory. How and why should left-handedness be a sign of cognitive impairment? Well, the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right hand, and vice versa. And, according to Nicholls, the fact that the left hemisphere is responsible for more tasks than the right, puts left-handed people at a disadvantage. He describes it as being “most likely related to squeezing as many eggs as possible into one basket.”
Professor Nicholls is left-handed.
Full story: IO9 Science http://io9.com/5809813/is-being-left+handed-actually-a-form-of-cognitive-impairment?tag=science