Anthropology, Archaeology, Feature Post

Mankind and its Relatives – Modern Homo Species

Places where Neanderthal fossils were found - most of them inhabited Europe. Image via Wiki Commons.

Homo is the genus of hominids that includes modern humans, as well as other species closely related to them… I mean us. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old and it features several species (though it’s still not clear how many). Here are the modern (<0.6 million years) Homo species described through fossils; however, it

Biology, News, Space

Ants surprisingly agile even in microgravity, ISS experiment shows

ant colony

Eight colonies of common ants were shipped to the International Space Station last December to study how microgravity might affect the creatures. So, how did the ants fare? Well, surprisingly good actually. The dexterous ants clung to the surface of the station and migrated freely (under supervision of course) despite weightlessness. Of course, their movements weren’t as coordinated as on Earth and since they rely on a sort of hive mind to coordinate the colony, researchers believe studying their mishaps in microgravity might aid in building better robots.

Animals, Biology, News

Awesome tiny birds cross the Atlantic in one go without stopping

The blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) in fall plumage. Image: Wikimedia Commons

More than half a century in question, scientists now confirm that the tiny blackpoll warbler flies nonstop over the North Atlantic Ocean each autumn from New England to South America. The trip takes three days, during which the bird foregoes any rest, sleep or meal. It also absorbs its own intestines.

News, Psychology

Ignoring the dress code can actually enhance status, but only if other people think you’re elite

Mark Zuckerberg clothes

There’s a fine line between being seen as a non-conformist (higher status) and sloppy dresser (lower status). But what sets apart people like Zuckerberg from regular people like you or me (apart from money, of course…)? Well, to get to the root of this silver line, the Harvard researchers studied the observers themselves to understand what are the boundary conditions and signals that make people confer higher status to nonconforming individuals over conforming ones.

Environment, News, Pollution

How glowing tampons help detect sewer leaks in your freshwater drain

glow in the dark tampon

Ironically enough, one male researcher from England used tampons to detect grey water contamination, or laundry system run off, that might be present in waterways. The tampons absorbed key signature chemicals that glow in the dark, making them easy to use and cheap. Moreover, it’s more reliable than consecrated and expensive methods.

Feature Post, Science

Spring is the season for citizen science – what you can do to have fun and help science!

soil-scoop

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and citizen scientists… do citizen science! In case you’re not familiar with the concept, citizen science are activities supported (or sponsored) by universities, organizations, institutes or governments through which everyone can provide meaningful scientific contributions. Activities can vary greatly (from counting birds to analyzing galaxy clusters), and you can do it outside,

Chemistry, News, Nutrition

Simple way of cooking rice could halve its calories

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I know, the title sounds like one of those scams that promise you’ll lose weight – but this is all science all the way. Researchers in Sri Lanka have found a simple way of cooking the rice that not only reduces calories by half, but also provides other health benefits. The key addition is coconut oil.

Animals, Biology

Colugo (flying lemur): the most accomplished and cutest mammalian glider

colugo

It seems like us mammals were never meant to fly. Sure, bats can fly, but that’s kind of it. Even so, some mammals have learned alternative means of skipping at an altitude: gliding (feather-tailed possums, sifaka) or parachuting (cats). Yes, cats parachute, but enough of them. Chances have it you’ve seen on average 17 cats already since morning. Today’s post is about a gliding mammal that’s in much more need of attention: the adorable colugos.

Health & Medicine, News, Nutrition

High-fat diet might put your mental health at risk

high fat diet

Mice that had gut bacteria transferred from other mice fed with a high fat diet changed their behavior in a negative way, exhibiting anxiety or impaired memory. The findings suggest that apart from heart disease and stroke, obesity might put people’s mental health at risk as well.

Chemistry, News

Sandwiching water between graphene makes square ice crystals at room temperature

In square ice (left) water molecules are locked at a right angle. This looks nothing like the familiar hexagonal ice (right).

In a most unexpected find, the same University of Manchester team that isolated graphene for the first time in 2003 found that water flattens into square crystals – a never encountered lattice configuration – when squeezed between two layers of graphene. The square ice qualifies as a new crystalline phase of ice, joining 17 others previously discovered. The finding could potentially improve filtration, distillation and desalination processes.