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Science news, features and blogs on all the latest research.
If you’re planning on having a cup of coffee in 68 years time, then you might want to think again. Research published in Plos One suggests that by 2080, wild populations of the world’s most popular coffee species, Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), could be extinct due to climate change.
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Davis AP, Gole TW, Baena S, & Moat J. (2012) The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities. PloS one, 7(11). PMID: 23144840
You wouldn’t think that the sex life of the horseshoe crab would be that complicated, but you’d be wrong. Like every red blooded guy out there, horseshoe crabs have to think long and hard about the best way to attract a mate (even though horseshoe crab blood is actually blue). While human males have many options to choose, from say writing a romantic poem, or buying a lovely bunch of flowers for their sweetheart, crabs are generally limited to two different options.... Read more »
Smith, M., Schrank, H., & Brockmann, H. (2012) Measuring the costs of alternative reproductive tactics in horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus. Animal Behaviour. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.10.021
Not many animals could legitimately claim to having a super power. But two little sea creatures, living deep in the dark blue ocean, have an ability many of us have fantasised about possessing – they can turn invisible at will. The heroes of this story are two cephalopods - an octopus called Japetella heathi and a cuttlefish called Onychoteuthis banksii – henceforth known as the supersquid.... Read more »
Zylinski, S., & Johnsen, S. (2011) Mesopelagic Cephalopods Switch between Transparency and Pigmentation to Optimize Camouflage in the Deep. Current Biology, 21(22), 1937-1941. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.014
Men actually get stupider when given the possible chance of interacting with a woman, study finds... Read more »
Nauts, S., Metzmacher, M., Verwijmeren, T., Rommeswinkel, V., & Karremans, J. (2011) The Mere Anticipation of an Interaction with a Woman Can Impair Men’s Cognitive Performance. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-011-9860-z
One of the greatest insecurities many men have is that their lady might not be as pleased in the bedroom as she actually seems. In essence – she might be faking it. It is the women, however, who are the insecure ones , as new research shows faked orgasms are much more likely to occur when the women is afraid her partner might leave her.... Read more »
Old oil and gas wells might soon be reborn as environmentally friendly geothermal power generators. Over $36,000 of electricity could be generated from each retrofitted well. ... Read more »
Bu, X., Ma, W., & Li, H. (2011) Geothermal energy production utilizing abandoned oil and gas wells. Renewable Energy. DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2011.10.009
Yes, I know its only got 4 legs, but you can’t say it doesn’t look a little bit spidery. Built by scientists from the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, this quadruped robot scans and analyses its immediate surroundings. Like a daredevil rockclimber, each surface is scrutinised for the potential to be the next foot or handhold. While one wrong move could mean certain death for a climber 1000ft up, the robot’s actions are a little less hardcore. In the video above, you ........ Read more »
Loc, V., Koo, I., Tran, D., Park, S., Moon, H., & Choi, H. (2011) Improving traversability of quadruped walking robots using body movement in 3D rough terrains. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 59(12), 1036-1048. DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2011.08.007
Animal behaviours can sometimes jump out at you by their similarity to the kinds of things humans do. Most recently, I came across this video of golden orb-web spiders. Dominating the picture is a large speckled black and white female, confidently waiting for her next unsuspecting meal to arrive. What might not be so obvious is the weedy orange male, running scurrilously on her back. Not exactly a very human-like behaviour, I hear you say. Well, I answer back, you don’t know what he’........ Read more »
Shichang Zhang, Matjaž Kuntner, & Daiqin Li. (2011) Mate binding: male adaptation to sexual conflict in the golden orb-web spider (Nephilidae: Nephila pilipes). Animal Behaviour. info:/doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.09.010
Our bodies are the most personal thing we have. Every living thing on the planet has its own unique combination of DNA. Our DNA, interacting with the environment, creates an organism that will never be seen again in the universe. The cloned sheep Dolly was not the same as her doppelganger. Not even the most identical of identical twins are the same. In humans, our genes not only control how we look, but how we think too. Contained in our DNA is the recipe that governs the development and organis........ Read more »
MARTINEZ, J., FLEURY, F., & VARALDI, J. (2011) Heritable variation in an extended phenotype: the case of a parasitoid manipulated by a virus. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02405.x
A genetically modified virus that can make hidden tumours light up may lead to a new and more effective way of screening for cancer. Some cancers are helpful enough to give off obvious clues to their existence. Prostate cancer, for example, can be detected as it raises the levels of a protein called PSA in the blood. Many, however, leave no such trace. Sufferers of these diseases can, therefore, remain in the dark about their condition, delaying treatment and lowering their chances of survival.... Read more »
Browne, A., Leddon, J., Currier, M., Williams, J., Frischer, J., Collins, M., Ahn, C., & Cripe, T. (2011) Cancer Screening by Systemic Administration of a Gene Delivery Vector Encoding Tumor-Selective Secretable Biomarker Expression. PLoS ONE, 6(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019530
This amazing video by Mark Rigler demonstrates the beautiful complexity that exists throughout the natural world. Like a Bach fugue, patterns emerge and fade, interweave, and are exquisitely modified to form an endless variety of beautiful structures. The end result seems too complicated, too ordered, too apparently designed to have appeared by chance. But, like... Read more... Read more »
Hemelrijk, C., & Hildenbrandt, H. (2011) Some Causes of the Variable Shape of Flocks of Birds. PLoS ONE, 6(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022479
Scientists can be utter bastards some of the time. Not content with letting us unwashed masses revel in our ignorance, they systematically poke and prod the world around us, looking for answers to questions best left unanswered.... Read more »
Juliane Kaminski, Martina Neumanna, Juliane Bräuera, Josep Calla, & Michael Tomaselloa. (2011) Dogs, Canis familiaris, communicate with humans to request but not to inform. Animal Behaviour. DOI: http://dx.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.06.015
Spin, as anyone who has ever heard Alistair Campbell speak, is a tricky thing to figure out. Quantum spin – a property many subatomic particles have – is equally confounding, but, if understood, could lead to a powerful new breed of computer technology called spintronics.
Despite its name, quantum spin does not actually refer to a rotating ball such as the Earth. “The electron is not physically spinning around but it has a magnetic north pole and a magnetic south pole,” ........ Read more »
Göhler B, Hamelbeck V, Markus TZ, Kettner M, Hanne GF, Vager Z, Naaman R, & Zacharias H. (2011) Spin selectivity in electron transmission through self-assembled monolayers of double-stranded DNA. Science (New York, N.Y.), 331(6019), 894-7. PMID: 21330541
Carbon sequestration and geothermal energy could be combined together in a system that could produce electricity with a negative carbon footprint.... Read more »
Randolph, J., & Saar, M. (2011) Combining geothermal energy capture with geologic carbon dioxide sequestration. Geophysical Research Letters, 38(10). DOI: 10.1029/2011GL047265
It’s 3am. The cold light of my computer screen illuminates my face, highlighting the bags that are forming under my eyes and casting disturbing shadows around my bedroom. You might think that I was engaged in something incredibly important to keep me up so late. But no, the truth is, I am unable to sleep and resign myself to touring the bizarre offerings the internet presents only early in the morning.... Read more »
Cajochen C, Frey S, Anders D, Späti J, Bues M, Pross A, Mager R, Wirz-Justice A, & Stefani O. (2011) Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 110(5), 1432-8. PMID: 21415172
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