Something unexpected happened when scientists at the University of California, Riverside, started stringing together nanoparticles of gold.
The gold wasn’t golden anymore. It changed colors.
"When we see these gold particles aggregate, we find out they have very, very beautiful blue colors," chemist Yadong Yin told me. That bright blue would dissipate like a sunset—morphing into purple, then red—when scientists warped the strings, breaking apart the nanoparticles.
The finding was one of those happy scientific accidents that turns into something bigger. “So after we found out the reason why they show blue colors and what the structure was, then we started to think what kind of use they could have,” Yin said.
What Yin and his colleagues came up with: Sensors made of gold nanoparticles that change colors as you press on them. Think of it as a Hypercolor—those color-changing T-shirts all the cool kids had in the ’90s—but for touch instead of heat.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In a typical month, the planet is shaken by an average of one or two medium-to-large earthquakes. This past month was not typical. Things were running on track up until the end of March, and then the ground went totally bonkers.
There was an incredible 13 quakes of magnitudes 6.5 or higher in April. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which issued bulletins for each one, says that is “easily a record for this institution.” Five of these temblors were powerful enough that the center also put out tsunami warnings. They include the massive quakes in northern Chile at the beginning of the month, as well as three more that shook the Solomon Islands in the following weeks.
The unusual spike in seismic activity is shown in this animation, which displays the locations and depths of quakes for the first four months of 2014.
A dead blue whale washed up on the shore of a small fishing town in Newfoundland last week. A bloated, beached, blubbery bomb of a blue whale. As of 3:30 pm Eastern Time today, the carcass is still intact, but onlookers are worried that it might soon explode. Literally.
HasTheWhaleExplodedYet.com. I kid you not.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
A new study shows that the “threatening” scent of male researchers can skew the results of animal tests.
Read more. [Image: Robert F. Bukaty/AP]
The deadly avalanche on Everest earlier this month wasn’t technically an avalanche. It was an “ice release”—a collapse of a glacial mass known as a serac. Rather than getting swept up by a rush of powdery snow across a slope, the victims fell under the blunt force of house-sized ice blocks tumbling through the Khumbu Icefall, an unavoidable obstacle on the most popular route up Everest. The worst accident in the mountain’s history has effectively ended the 2014 climbing season. And some see global warming as the key culprit.
"I am at Everest Basecamp right now and things are dire because of climate change,” John All, a climber, scientist, and professor of geography at Western Kentucky University, told me by email. “The ice is melting at unprecedented rates and [that] greatly increases the risk to climbers.”
"You could say [that] climate change closed Mt. Everest this year,” he added.
There’s a tiny but critical collection of neurons in your brain that tells you what to do and when to do it.
It’s only the size of a mustard seed, but the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, regulates when you eat, when you sleep, when you feel thirsty, along with a litany of functions related to social and sexual behaviors.
This little mustard seed is the master clock that keeps your brain and your body synced up. It’s what what makes one person a night owl and the next a morning lark. And those characteristics appear to be genetic, decided before you were even born, says Seth Blackshaw, an associate professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins.
Blackshaw is the author of a new study about the development of the SCN, and his team’s findings represent a major step toward better treatments for sleep disorders, even jetlag.
Sleep problems are considered a “public health epidemic,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And people’s sleeping habits change as they age, a fact that’s well established but little understood.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The first thing to know is that dolphins can be divided into two groups, and those groups are ”spongers” and ”non-spongers.” The non-spongers are the dolphins that are probably the ones you think about when you have occasion to think about dolphins: smooth, sleek, nimbly darting through the water.
But the spongers! The spongers are slightly less physically nimble, but possibly much more intellectually nimble, than their fellow cetaceans. And that’s because, as they swim, they carry sea sponges in their beaks—an activity that may help to protect their sensitive snouts from sharp rocks, stingrays, urchins, and other things that might plague them, particularly as they forage for food along the seafloor. Dolphin sponging is a recent discovery: In 1997, scientists observed a group of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins engaging in the practice in Shark Bay, off the coast of Australia.
The behavior, Justin Gregg notes in his book Are Dolphins Really Smart?, has since been traced back to approximately 180 years ago, to a single female who has been nicknamed “Sponging Eve.” Scientists now believe that more than 60 percent of all female dolphins in the area practice sponging. And while the behavior seems to be transmitted for the most part along mother-daughter lines, as many as half of the males born to “spongers” in the area grow up to become spongers, too.
Read more. [Image: Hugh Pearson/Naturepl.com]
That level of caution may sound absurd today, but a new study shows trips to outer space can still mess with astronauts on a physiological level.
New research from Johns Hopkins finds that long-term deep space missions can alter brain proteins and cause cognitive deficits like lapses in attention and slower reaction times. Researchers came to this conclusion by exposing rats to high-energy particles that simulate the conditions that astronauts would experience in deep space, then running them through a series of test that mimic the fitness assessments that astronauts, pilots, and soldiers are required to take.
But the strange thing scientists found is that deep-space conditions don’t affect everyone the same way.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Neurochemical research has shown that the hormone released when people are in love is released in animals in the same intimate circumstances.
Read more. [Image: tramod/Flickr]
A majority of Americans don’t believe in even the most fundamental discovery of 20th century physics, which 99.9 percent of members of the National Academies of Sciences do: that our universe began with an enormous explosion, the Big Bang.
51 percent of people in a new AP/GFK poll said they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that the statement “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang” was correct.
In fact, fewer Americans were confident in that statement that any other on the list, which covered topics like vaccines, evolution, and the Earth’s age.
Read more. [Image: NASA]