News, World Problems

Did climate change spark the Syrian Revolution?

syria-conflict1

The link between climate change and violent conflict has been thrown about often, but a recent study is the first to support this hypothesis with qualitative evidence. US researchers found that widespread droughts and increased temperatures amplified an already heightened state of unrest in Syria, which may have triggered the civil war still raging on today.

Genetics, Health & Medicine, News, Nutrition

Genetically modified apples don’t turn brown when sliced or bruised

gm_arctic_Apples

The US government approved a genetically modified apple that doesn’t turn brown when bruised or sliced. While most genetic alterations of plants involve making these more resilient to pests or yield more, the non-browning apples were made out of cosmetic considerations. Of course, the apples will still rot and eventually get brown, but in time and not so easily when stressed (cell rupture). But despite the government approval, voices run rampant against the genetically modified fruit from behalf of anti-GMO groups, as well as rivaling food companies.

Science

Dinosaurs might have been tripping on LSD-like fungus

trippy_dinosaur

Millions of years before rock and roll, LSD and the new age movement, dinosaurs were having a blast in the Cretacious, nibbling on ancient ergot – a parasitic fungus known for its poisonous and potent hallucinogenic effects. The idea is supported by a grass spikelet and ergot sample trapped in a 100-million-year-old piece of amber from Myanmar.

News, Space

NASA considers adding helicopter drone to next gen Mars rover

The next followup rover to Curiosity will feature a helicopter drone add-on. Image: NASA

The next Mars exploration rover will likely feature a helicopter drone, which is expected to act as scouting drone to improve navigation. According to officials at NASA JPL, the drone could help the rover cover three times the distance Curiosity drives on a daily basis. We have Curiosity to thank for loads of new insights concerning’s Mars’ past, present and

Animals, Biology, News

Garden spiders use electrostatic charged silk to catch unsuspecting prey

Uloborus plumipes is a species of Old World cribellate spider in the family Uloboridae. Common names include the feather-legged lace weaver and the garden centre spider, the latter name being due to its frequent occurrence of this spider in garden centres on the world. Image: Snip View

Most spiders weave sticky, wet webs to trap their prey, but the feather-legged lace weaver spider, Uloborus plumipes, employs a totally “high-tech” strategy. It spins an extremely thin nano-sized web, which becomes charge with electrostatic energy. Just like dust latches on to your sweater, insects are attracted and stuck to the the web. Biologists believe they’ve figured out how the spider does all of this in a newly reported paper which might help the industry design and develop ultra-strong nano filaments in the future.

Biology, Health & Medicine, News, Nutrition

GMOs on a leash: scientists engineer bacteria that can’t survive in the wild uncontrolled

GMO leash

Two teams of researchers from the US recoded the genome of the E. coli bacteria such that it dies when it runs out of synthetic chemical, unavailable in nature. This way, it’s impossible for the bacteria to spread into the wild uncontrolled. Effectively, this self-destruct measure puts GMOs on a tight leash!

Discoveries, News, Science

Ancient 420-million-year-old fossil hints of bony fish and cartilaginous fish common ancestor

The 415-million-year-old fish Janusiscus provides evidence of a common bony and cartilaginous fish. Credit: SAM GILES, MATT FRIEDMAN, AND MARTIN BRAZEAU

Based on fossil evidence and genome analysis, scientists know that the two groups diverged from a common ancestor around 420 million years ago, but we’ve yet to find actual fossil of it. Things are shaping up though after paleontologists have identified an Early Devonian fish from Siberia, approximately 415 million years old, which bears features of both classes.

Environmental Issues, News, World Problems

2014 was the 18th year straight warmer than the average in US, probably warmest yet worldwide

hottest year ever 2014

Right now the US is struggling with bone numbing chill, so it might be hard to digest this latest news: 2014 was the 18th straight year to have surpassed average 20th-century US temperatures, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Meanwhile, a preliminary report issued by the Japanese meteorological agency claims 2014 was the warmest year yet worldwide. Final and definite figures concerning this are soon expected to be released by NASA as well.

Nanotechnology, News, Technology

‘Pop-up’ method makes 3-D complex nano structures from 2-D, similar to a children’s book

Various examples of flower-like structures formed from a two-dimensional structure transferred onto a stretched elastic material. Credit: University of Illinois

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently demonstrated a new technique for building complex and very fine 3D micro and nano structures out of 2-D shapes. The whole process is very similar to how a children’s pop-up book works, starting as a flat 2D surface only to expand into a 3D shape when prompted. The authors note that the pop-up method has various advantages over 3D printing, including use of multiple materials during the fabrication process and integration with electronics.

News, Observations, Space

Kepler crossed the 1,000 discovered alien planets milestone

Kepler-11 is a sun-like star around which six planets orbit. At times, two or more planets pass in front of the star at once, as shown in this artist's conception of a simultaneous transit of three planets observed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft on Aug. 26, 2010. Image credit: NASA/Tim Pyle

Since it was first launched in 2009, the $600 Kepler mission has discovered more than 1,000 alien worlds. Arguably it’s one of the most successful space mission in history so far, further cementing its status as a legend. The milestone was breached after eight newly confirmed exoplanets were added to the tally, two of which are very similar to Earth and thus could support alien life.