Before a court of law this week, PepsiCo attested that the plaintiff—a man who found a mouse carcass in his Mountain Dew can—couldn’t be right: Mountain Dew would have turned the rodent into jelly before anyone popped the cap. Studies show that the drink can eat away bones and teeth (six times faster than colas). An entire mouse isn’t impossible.
The tsunami in Japan last year ruined tens of thousands of acres of farmland, and it’s time to start rebuilding. About 200 miles north of Tokyo, Japan’s agricultural ministry is constructing a robot farm. Humans aren’t necessary—robots will till the soil, plant seeds, and take care of the yields. It’s all experimental, of course, and is going to cost an estimated $52 million over the next six years.
Behold: chimeric primates. For the first time, scientists produced monkeys (rhesus) from three to six entirely different genomes. The separate embryos they’re made from never fuse; instead, they just stick together, working as a team to build a critter. Chimeric animals are helpful in genetic research because they easily show what genes do what.
After two years of testing his algorithm, Gary McGuire found that to solve a Sudoku puzzle you need at least 17 numbers to begin with—anything less and then there are multiple ways to complete it. Says Gordon Royle, a mathematician at the University of Western Australian in Perth: “It’s a challenging problem that inspires people to push computing and mathematical techniques to the limit. It’s like climbing the highest mountain.”
Puerton Rican and Antarctic octopi send nervous system signals at the same speed, which is odd since frigid temperatures drastically slow down relay times. Even weirder: The genes responsible for the rapid relay in the two species are the same. So how did the Antarctic octopi adapt to their icy environment? How did they make the signals faster without touching the DNA? A team of scientists at the University of San Juan found that the animals modify their RNA, rather than their DNA—the first to show that RNA editing may allow species to adapt.
[via Amber Williams]
A Hot Moment: First Measurement of Electrical Resistance’s Start
The onset of electrical resistance — the beginning of friction as electricity circulates through circuits — has been measured for the first time. German physicists caught the change in the movements of electrons with a fast-pulse laser.
Small Town Cops Ready to Kick Big Time A
“If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready,” writes Andrew Becker in the day’s best lede. With the help of billions of dollars in post 9/11-era government grants, law enforcement across the country has gone on a gear-happy buying spree. Do beat cops really need the assault rifles many of them routinely now carry? Not likely.
Microsoft Steps Down From Consumer Electronics Show Spotlight
For the first time in 14 years Microsoft will not deliver the opening address at the Consumer Electronics Show, held annually in Las Vegas. Other companies will now contend for the slot, signalling a shift in prominence within the electronics world.
Control Your Fetishes: Scientific Papers Aren’t Sacred
The academic communities reverence for publishing damages science and scientists. In an invited comment in the current Nature, the bloggers at Retraction Watch argue for more meritocratic metrics for researchers and, when publishing, an airing of information surrounding the paper: follow up work, commenting blog posts, media coverage and download stats. The article itself is behind a paywall, but you can get the gist at the link above.
Read A Chapter: Weirdest Post-Apocalyptic Novel in Ages
Blueprints of the Afterlife, coming out in January, is set in a bizarre, post-apocalyptic world where humans build models of Manhattan in the middle of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Not exactly news or science, but something light and pleasant (?) for the holidays.
What Do Exoplanets Really Look Like, I Mean Really?
They’re all over the news these days, run with images from NASA that many mistakenly think are photographs (Wired Science runs these images with the tag “bullshit artist rendering”). Dave Mosher explores how these newly discovered members of the cosmic family may actually appear.
[via Danielle Venton]
New Police Gear: Sound-based Shields Could Make Breathing Difficult
New riot shields could disperse crowds by producing low-frequency sound that incapacitates people by resonating in the respiratory tract. Defence firm Raytheon filed a patent for the device last year.
Goodbye Glaciers and Polar Bears, We’ll Still Have Grapes
As warming temperatures shift grape-growing regions, growers from traditional regions are struggling to adapt. Should appellations shift? Once it becomes too hot for one variety, which will be the next “right” grape? Meanwhile, invest in northern latitude property now if you’ve always dreamed of becoming a vintner.
Dreaming in Color
The ethnicity of the people in your dreams likely reflect that of those around you at work, school and even in your TV life. Perhaps SciFi fans dream more often of aliens?
Control Yourself Nanotech Journos
Journalists frequently get it wrong when reporting on nanoctechnology. There is no “shrinking down,” no alternate scales of reality and no (unfortunately) Fantastic Voyage in our future.
M.I.T. To Grant Certificates For Online Courses
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced plans to grant home learners a certificate once they prove mastery of material taught through OpenCourseWare, its online education site. OpenCourseWare will expand its offerings to give students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and discussion groups.
No Liquids, Gels or Radioactive Metal Please
Russia’s customs service confiscated 18 pieces of radioactive sodium-22 from an Iranian dental student on Friday. Worries that the metal was bound for a bomb are likely overblown. Sodium-22 is normally used in medical applications. Why the smuggling? Probably to avoid export costs.
Google+ Adds More, New and Better Stuff
The best thing about Google+ is that people don’t post narcissistic self-portraits. That remains unchanged. Google will be adding major improvements to it’s service, however, including new controls, notifications and a different photo layout, the company announced today.
[via Danielle Venton]
Bridge Over Troubled Web Waters
E-mail scams are becoming more targeted and trickier to avoid. Writer Simson Garfinkel tells you how to avoid getting hacked: be careful with your passwords, WiFi access, use authentication tokens and keep hard copies.
No Fear Pill
The Pentagon this week announced an $11 million grant for researchers at three institutions studying the ability of D-Cycloserine to treat PTSD. The drug is thought to target the neural pathways that regulate feeling fearful. DCS may one day help PTSD-affected military personnel recover.
Long Live Lovejoy
The comet astronomers were sure would meet a firey demise as it passed close to the sun has surprised us all. Only 10 percent of the comet survived, but Lovejoy lives. It did, however, lose its tail, which seems to be now stuck in the sun’s magnetic field.
Most Chimp Research Deemed Unnecessary, Funding Halted
Yesterday, Dec. 15, the National Institutes of Health decided the majority of biomedical research using chimpanzees is uncecessary. The NIH will not evaluate grant applications using chimpanzees in research until further notice. Projects already underway will continue to receive funding until they can be accessed by a panel.
Time for Single-Gender Alcohol Treatment Programs
Neurological damage affects heavy-drinking females more quickly than their male counter parts, new research suggest. This contributes to a growing body of research showing that men and women respond differently to alcohol. It may be time for single-gender alcohol treatment programs.
Sniffing: Drug Traces Found in Public Air
Traces of cocaine and cannaboids can be detected floating through public air space and corresponding to areas of high drug use, as recorded by the police. While it isn’t known if this poses a public health threat, air concentrations of illicit drugs could be a new way to estimate an area’s usage, according to chemists from the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research in Rome.
[via Danielle Venton]
The Ice Man Eateth
Ötzi, a 5,000 year-old-man found mummified by ice in the Alps, died on a full stomach of ibex, not hungry and exhausted as researchers had assumed. What examiners had thought was his empty stomach was, in fact, a section of his colon (whoops). His stomach has been forced upward, and is now lodged under his ribs.
Health Care Needs a Moneyball Moment
America spends money on health care like Yankee’s spend money on payroll, except the quality of our game is lousy. Here’s how to pay for value in health care, rather than quantity.
No Tweeting in Traffic: Feds Seek Ban
Our days of commute texting, tweeting and ‘Words With Friends’-ing may be numbered, not that they were ever a good idea anyway. The Department of Transportation is calling for a nationwide ban on using personal electronic devices behind the wheel.
Humpback Whales Lift Dolphins Out of Water
Of the coast of Kauai humpback whales have been spotted lifting bottlenose dolphins and out of the water, as the dolphins lay across their rostrum. It’s strange, unexplained, kind of glorious, and well worth a look.
Silicon Library To Lend Chromebooks
In a pilot project, the Palo Alto Library plans to lend Google Chromebooks to library patrons, along with the usual tomes.
How the Brain Perceives Art
We see beauty when we look for it, and enjoy a sip of wine when we expect to. As seen by fMRI machines, the underlying quality doesn’t seem to make much difference.
Logistics of Santa’s Ride
The Atlantic calculates Santa’s Christmas eve workload in exquisite detail. He’ll need to deliver about 6,100 presents every second, a rate allowing him, for example, to cover New Zealand in two minutes.
[via Danielle Venton]
Weighty Physics News: LHC Gets Whiff of Higgs
Big news in physics today: The Higgs particle, responsible for giving mass to matter, is revealing hints of itself. The main detectors of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva are (at last) spotting indications of the Higgs — the final piece of the Standard Model. We’re not at the end of discoveries, however. The Higgs looks to be lighter than expected. That would require new, to-be-discovered particles that provide stability.
3D Printing: Shaping Up Nicely
Innovations in printing are allowing for new, elegant and functional materials in industries ranging from medicine to fashion.
Next Up: “Whoa, I Know Kung-Fu”
Neuroscientists have taken the first steps toward downloading knowledge (Matirix style!) directly to the brain. In the future their technique may help patients learn new skills or regain past abilities.
Giant Stratolaunch Could Replace Space Shuttle
Tuesday Microsoft’s Paul Allen announced announced plans to build the world’s largest plane: a mammoth combo-craft capable of launching rockets into space. As an added bonus, the concept sketches look awesome.
What You Can Catch Sleeping With Your Pet
Fido loves sharing your bed, as do plague, hookworm, roundworm, MRSA, rabies, Chagas disease, Pasteurella, cat scratch fever, and the list goes on. Superbug gives a roundup.
Off-the-Charts Adorable: Baby Sloth Orphanage
And, on the off chance you missed it yesterday, baby sloths coming to a TV near you! “Too Cute! Baby Sloths,”a documentary filmed at a baby sloth orphanage in Costa Rica airs Saturday Dec. 17. As a special preview, Wired.com runs some exclusive images. Surrender to the adorability.
[via Danielle Venton]
Citizen Banking Rises From the Crowd
The momentum of the Occupy Wall Street movement rides on the ire of those who feel large banks are doing a crappy job. Can citizen lending, through online peer-to-peer sites, do better? Unfortunately for many, probably not.
Tiniest Steam Engine Sputters To Life
The world’s smallest steam engine, measuring mere micrometers across, works as efficiently as normal-sized versions, say inventors at the University of Stuttgart and the Max Plank Institute. It sputters, and doesn’t do any useful work yet, but may one day power tiny trains (if only).
How Candy Canes Are Made (With Video)
Candy canes have sweetened winters since the 17th century. This video from io0.com shows how to turn a massive vat of sugar into a long, crooked red and white diabetes pill.
The Universe In A Box
Today researchers in Seoul revealed the largest simulation of the universe to date. The computer model allows 374 billion particles to evolve in a simulated universe made mostly of cold dark matter. If the model arrives at structures we see in our own universe, such as galactic clusters and superclusters, it’ll confirm some of the latest cosmological theories.
Crank or Genius? In Physics, It’s Hard To Know
Every amateur physicist is convinced of his or her own brilliance (as are professional physicists). Many of them are also convinced they’ve found new physics, the unify theory of everything, and that a nobel lies just around the corner. While they’re usually dismissed as cranks, discerning the genuinely good ideas from the bad isn’t easy, as this physics writer laments.
Mac App Store Downloads Top 100 Million
Apple’s own App Store, launched in January, surpassed 100 million downloads, Apple announced today. Microsoft will launch it’s Windows Store for Windows 8 applications in late February and, with a larger user base than Apple, may top these numbers before long.
Coffee Pot Physics
If your morning caffeine jolt hasn’t woken you up, dry a dose of hard-core physics.
Firey Criticism: Amazon Promises Updates
Many early users of the Kindle Fire are complaining loudly about the tablet’s speed and design. Some usability experts are believe the device will be a failure. But, since the success of the Kindle line is vital for Amazon’s future, it probably won’t go away anytime soon. The first update is promised in less than two weeks.
[via Danielle Venton]
MythBusters’ Cannon Lands In House
Rhett Allain, of Dot Physics, explains what went wrong Tuesday when MythBusters sent a cannon into a residential neighborhood in Dublin, Calif.
Pavillion, Wyo.’s Water Is Fracked Up
EPA officials linked water contamination to frack fluids for the first time in a report released today. The report directly contradicts arguments the drilling industry has long used to convince consumers and regulators that the practice is safe.
Clinton Speaks Out For Digital Freedom
Government and industry and government should fight against the attempts of repressive countries to restrict Internet access, said Hillary Clinton on Thursday. Stifling online expression, she said, threatens human rights and international commerce.
Lost From Space: Missing Moon Rocks
This AP story gets my nomination for the day’s best lede: “Astronauts may have had the “right stuff” to go to the moon, but when it comes to keeping track of what they brought back, NASA seems to have misplaced some of that stuff.” Brilliance. More than 500 pieces of space stuff — including rocks, comet bits and meteorites — have been lost or stolen from the agency since 1970.
What You Need to Know About the Lunar Eclipse
The Earth’s shadow will pass in front of the moon tomorrow, the last lunar eclipse visible from North America for more than two years. Bad Astronomy, over at Discover blogs, gives a quick explanation of the event, and Cosmic Log tells you where and when to catch the action.
The Email You’re Probably Missing: Facebook’s ‘Other’ Messages
In your ‘other’ message folder in Facebook, you probably have unread email from people trying to contact you. Like this author, I did.
What Will People Say? The Science of Psychopathy
Concern for our reputation keeps society glued together. In his new book John Whitfield argues that understanding the roots of this concern could cut greed and crime, and make people more ethical. SciAm offers an excerpt from his book, People Will Talk: The Surprising Science of Reputation.
[via Danielle Venton]
What Is, “Your Latest Prescription” for 20 Alex
After beating two human “Jeopardy!” champions, the technology behind Big Blue will now be used as a cloud-based service to look for new drugs.
Red Cross Questions If Video Gamers Should Follow Geneva Conventions
Tens of millions of people are possibly violating international humanitarian law, virtually. Gamers are not about to be prosecuted, however the International Committee of the Red Cross would like developers to incorporate the laws of armed conflict into their games.
Rumor Mill: ‘Origin of Mass Particle’ Possibly Announced Tuesday
The physics buzz is getting louder: CERN scientists are expected to share compelling, though not conclusive, evidence for the Higgs particle at a press conference next Tuesday. The Higgs boson, a particle who’s existence was predicted decades ago, is expected to be the source of matter’s mass.
Brain Grows From ‘the Knowledge’
London cab drivers must pass a notoriously difficult test called the Knowledge, requiring them to memorize the 25,000 streets in a six-mile radius of Charing Cross (which, on a map, resemble a plate of spaghetti). After passing this test drivers have enlarged hippocampi, a brain region that deals with memory, researchers have found.
Need a Legal Place to Launch that Illegal Rocket?
Dying to launch that DIY space rocket, but not sure where to do it? Kristian von Bengtson has got you covered. Head for the coast!
The Strange Business of Cord Blood Banking
Each year, over 100,000 families decide to store their newborn’s stem cell rich umbilical cord blood in one of dozens of private banks scattered across the country. Promotional campaigns lead parents to believe that the stem cells loaded in the cord blood could one day save their child’s life. But in reality, there’s scant scientific evidence to justify the procedure and its associated cost. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that parents donate their child’s umbilical cord blood. (Full disclosure: I wrote this story.)
Hit Equations: New Algorithms for Composing
A Finnish artist and computer programmer is crowd sourcing the electronic music composing process.
[via Danielle Venton]