Archive for February, 2012

Opposites Don’t Actually Attract

February 29, 2012

Despite of what you may have heard, opposites actually don’t attract. Despite what most people say about seeking a wider circle of friendship (say, in a large college setting, where there are a lot of different types of people available), they typically befriend only those most similar to themselves.

In an ideal world, being able to meet lots of different people at college would lead to a diversity of friends; we’d take advantage of the human variety on display.

Instead of learning from people who were extremely different – who disagreed with their stance on abortion, or didn’t like ultimate frisbee, or never attended football games – students obey the similarity-attraction effect, sifting through the vast population to find the most homologous possible circle of friends. As the researchers put it, “the larger social contexts afford better opportunity for finegrained assortment.” Learn more here or here.


A Forgetting Pill

February 28, 2012

Memories are not exact recordings of our experiences. Science finds that the act of remembering something changes that memory. This finding has led to the development of drugs that, when administered in conjunction with the act of recalling a specific memory, can modify or even erase that memory! The applications of this research could mean a cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PKMzeta is an enzyme that is produced around brain synapses when memories are recalled. An enzyme inhibitor called zeta-interacting protein, or ZIP, reduces the production of PKMzeta.

In addition to PTSD, erasing certain memories could aid therapies for chronic pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and drug addiction. But is it right to erase memories? Medical ethicists are divided. Some say that the memory of pain is educational, and it’s wrong to mess with what makes us who we are. Others are excited about the possibility of helping those who suffer. Learn more here.

3D Printer replicates a wrench

February 27, 2012

3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. See:


Single atom transistor to offer billion times faster computer

February 26, 2012

Scientists have built the world’s tiniest transistor by precisely positioning a single phosphorus atom in a silicon crystal.

The nano device is an important step in the development of quantum computers – super-powerful devices that will use the weird quantum properties of atoms to perform calculations billions of times faster than today’s computers.

Learn more here, here or here.

Is time travel possible? Ask an expert.

February 25, 2012

Steven Hawking does not know how to time travel:

Or at least, if he does know how to travel through time, he certainly is keeping tight lipped about it. He does have a good point though.

Mushroom Eats Indestructible Plastics

February 24, 2012

We use polyurethane to make just about everything — garden hoses, furniture, the entirety of a local 2 dollar shop. It’s easy to produce, durable, and dirt cheap. What it isn’t is recyclable — there isn’t a single natural process that breaks it down … That is until a newly-discovered Amazonian fungus takes a bite.

Pestalotiopsis microspora is a resident of the Ecuadorian rainforest and was discovered by a group of student researchers. It’s the first fungus species to be able to survive exclusively on polyurethane and, more importantly, able to do so in anaerobic conditions — the same conditions found in the bottom of landfills. This makes the fungus a prime candidate for projects that could finally provide an alternative to just burying the plastic and hoping for the best. Learn more here.

Shark-eating shark photo

February 23, 2012

It’s a shark-eat-shark world out there. Or so researchers found out while diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

They discovered a tasselled wobbegong shark (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) tucking into a meal of another shark.

Wobbegongs usually lie in wait on the sea floor for a passing fish or a tasty invertebrate to swim by and then ambush their prey. This one got lucky with a brown-banded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum), and was in the process of swallowing it whole and head first. The wobbegong’s appetite for large meals is helped by its dislocating jaw, large gape and rearward-pointing teeth. Learn more here.

World’s Tiniest Chameleons

February 22, 2012

Researchers have recently discovered four new chameleon species, which rank among the world’s tiniest reptiles. Adults of the smallest species are just over an inch from snout to tail.

The four new species belong to the genus Brookesia, also known as the leaf chameleons, which live in remote rainforests in northern Madagascar. The genus is already known to contain some very small species, with members typically resembling juvenile versions of larger species. Learn more here, here or here.

“Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star

February 21, 2012

A planet in a two-star, or binary system can end up in a gravitational ping-pong match that can last for millenia before the planet gets ejected into interstellar space, a new study suggests.

Scientists had previously theorized that gravitational interactions among multiple planets orbiting a star can sometimes cause a world to get ejected from its system, leaving the rogue planet to wander alone.

Now a complex set of computer simulations shows that certain types of binary star systems might not let go of wayward worlds so easily.

Instead, when a planet gets tossed out by its binary parent, the world can bounce over to the stellar companion. The hapless planet then begins to orbit wildly, only to end up being tossed back to the original star.

This gravitational bouncing can go on for as long as a million years, until ultimately the planet gets flung completely out of the binary system. Learn more here.

A Tornado on the Sun

February 20, 2012

This video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows plasma spinning around on the surface of the sun, looking a lot like what we’d call tornadoes. Except these whirls are as large as our entire planet and move with gusts up to 300,000 miles per hour!