Science news of interest...


24 January 2016

Gaian bottleneck means alien life never persists, say Oz astrobiologists


Life on other planets would likely be brief and become extinct very quickly, according to a new paper by Australian astrobiologists. In research aiming to understand how life might develop, the scientists realised new life would commonly die out due to runaway heating or cooling on their fledgling planets...


15 January 2016

Could suicide be a variant of an evolutionarily adaptive set of behaviors?


In a new paper, researchers argue that a tendency towards self-sacrifice among humans is adaptive in some situations - for instance, a firefighter willingly risking his or her life to save someone from a burning building. But when individuals mistakenly view their own deaths as being worth more than their lives, the results can be needlessly lethal...


16 December 2015

fMRI data trove yields new insights into consciousness and abstract thought


Using 20 years of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from tens of thousands of brain imaging experiments, neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts have created a geometry-based method for massive data analysis to reach a new understanding of how thought arises from brain structure...


20 November 2015

Brain inflammation linked to compromised reward circuits in depression


Intriguing new research suggests that by blocking inflammation (or its effects on the brain), it may be possible to help depressed individuals who fail to respond to antidepressants...


20 October 2015

Sunscreen killing coral reefs


Oxybenzone, a UV-filtering compound used in sunscreens, has been found in high concentrations in the waters around popular coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean. According to new research, the chemical not only kills coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly...


6 October 2015

Placebo response growing over time - but only in America


A new study finds that rising placebo responses may play a part in the increasingly high failure rate for clinical trials of drugs, but the authors of the study say that the increase in placebo responses occurred only in trials conducted in the United States...


29 September 2015

Electronic implant bypasses brain damage by re-encoding memories


Designed to help individuals suffering from memory loss, a new prosthesis which includes a small array of electrodes implanted into the brain has performed well in laboratory testing in animals and is now being evaluated in human patients...


23 September 2015

Study identifies recipe for Goldilocks quantum phase transitions


Researchers have found that crossing a quantum phase transition at just-the-right speed generates the richest, most complex light-matter entanglement - a characteristic evident in our Universe...


10 September 2015

"Molecules" made of light may be possible, say physicists


"We're learning how to build complex states of light that, in turn, can be built into more complex objects. This is the first time anyone has shown how to bind two photons a finite distance apart."


7 September 2015

Zoloft appears to alter brain structures, say U.S. researchers


Experiments with monkeys showed that the antidepressant sertraline (marketed as Zoloft) significantly increased the volume of one brain region in depressed subjects but decreased the volume of two brain areas in non-depressed subjects...


3 September 2015

Magnetic wormhole connecting two regions of space created by Spanish physicists


Scientists at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have created a metamaterial tunnel that transfers a magnetic field from one point in space to another...


30 August 2015

"Intraterrestrial" life found in rocks below the seafloor


The discovery that ancient rocks harbored microbial life deep below the seafloor confirms a long-standing hypothesis that interactions between mantle rocks and seawater can create potential for life...


18 August 2015

How climate change created the modern dog


A new study of dog fossils as old as 40 million years suggests that the evolutionary path of whole groups of predators can be a direct consequence of climate change...


13 August 2015

Marine organisms evolving in response to ocean acidification


Researchers at Plymouth University have found that polychaete worms living in acidified waters exhibit a tendency to nurture their offspring to a greater extent than those in more regular conditions...


4 August 2015

Bonobo communication similar to that of human infants, suggests new study


Researchers have found that wild bonobos (our closest living relatives in the primate world) are able to produce vocalizations in a wide range of emotional states and situations. The findings challenge existing theories about the evolution of communication and potentially move the dividing line between humans and other apes...


31 July 2015

New technique for thought-controlled data input almost as accurate as one-fingered typing


A "brain dynamics" algorithm that continuously corrects brain readings to give people with spinal cord injuries a more precise way to enter commands by using a thought-controlled cursor is being tested in a clinical trial...


29 July 2015

New definition of chaos proposed


University of Maryland scientists hope the concept of "expansion entropy" will become a simple method to identify (sometimes hidden) chaos in a wide range of systems - and could help distinguish which chaotic systems could be subject to some measure of control...


23 July 2015

NASA discover Earth's twin 1,400 light-years away


The Kepler mission has found the first near-Earth-size planet in the "habitable zone" around a Sun-like star...


20 July 2015

Could solar flares be triggering birth defects?


It's known that airplane crews at high altitude are exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation from cosmic rays, but could these cosmic rays pose hazards even at sea level?


17 July 2015

Innovative lightweight metal foam set to protect astronauts


Lightweight composite metal foams are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, say researchers from North Carolina State University who believe their discovery holds promise for use in nuclear safety and space exploration...


14 July 2015

Stimulant drug abuse appears to reduce brain volume in women but not men


Using MRI to study the brains of cocaine and meth users, researchers found that while the women demonstrated widespread brain differences when compared to their healthy control counterparts, the men demonstrated no significant brain differences...


7 July 2015

Reusable shopping bags trigger junk food purchases


Bringing reusable bags to the grocery store can mean you're an environmentally friendly shopper. But data analysis in a new study shows it also influences the things you buy. Specifically, bringing your own bags makes you more likely to purchase organic food - and junk food...


6 July 2015

Physicists map conductivity change in transition from 3 to 2 dimensions


Scientists have for the first time described the behavior of electrons in a previously unstudied analogue of graphene, two-dimensional niobium telluride, and, in the process, uncovered the nature of two-dimensionality effects on conducting properties...


2 July 2015

Universe may be less crowded than we think


New research suggests there may be far fewer galaxies in the far reaches of the Universe than previously thought...


29 June 2015

Key element of human language discovered in Australian bird


Stringing together meaningless sounds to create meaningful signals was previously thought to be the preserve of humans alone, but a fascinating new study has revealed that Australian babbler birds are also able to communicate in this way...


24 June 2015

Could our beliefs about human consciousness and the notion of self be completely wrong?


"People confuse what consciousness is for with what they think they use it for," claim researchers in a radical new assessment of what consciousness actually is...


22 June 2015

Robots get micro-tentacles to handle delicate objects


Using a transparent elastomer, Iowa State University scientists have created tiny tentacles that robots can wrap gently around delicate objects to handle them safely...


21 June 2015

New photosynthesis-mimicking technology could enable round-the-clock solar power without batteries


Developed by chemists at UCLA, a new photosynthesis-like technology is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks without the use of batteries - an advance that could change the way we think about photovoltaic solar cells and energy storage...


11 June 2015

Latest images of Ceres show detail of bright spot


New images of the dwarf planet Ceres, taken from 2,700 miles above by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before...


9 June 2015

Water droplet computer can algorithmically manipulate physical matter


Researchers at Stanford have built a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets. The droplet processor is significantly slower than an electronic computer, but the research team says that speed is not their aim; rather, they want to develop a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter...


3 June 2015

Missing link found between brain and immune system


In a discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist...


2 June 2015

Researchers find link between cannabis use and fewer parasites


The more that hunter-gatherers in the Congo smoke cannabis, the less they are infected by parasitic intestinal worms, according to U.S. researchers who say that the tribe may unconsciously be, in effect, smoking medical marijuana...


28 May 2015

New paper shows how spacetime is built from quantum entanglement


A new paper has made a significant step toward unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics by explaining how spacetime emerges from quantum entanglement...


25 May 2015

Blind human echolocators can recognize the shape, size, and material properties of objects, according to new study


New Canadian research suggests that as well as being able to locate objects, some blind people can also discern the shape and texture of those objects. Intriguingly, these highly developed echolocation skills appear to use the regions of the brain normally associated with visual perception...