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December 20 2014

Fish Converts Oyster Shell Into Speaker, Blasts Noise


A clever fish has figured out that if it produces sounds in an oyster shell, the noises will carry over long distances, according to new research.

The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, is just the latest to show that fish are far from being silent. Many can produce sounds by vibrating their swimbladders and, like a fishy form of Morse Code, they can create different meanings based on the sounds.

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December 20 2014

Amazonian Chick Mimics a Poisonous Caterpillar


An Amazonian chick has evolved a crafty way to keep from being eaten: pretend you're a poisonous caterpillar by looking and moving just like one.

In a paper published recently in the journal American Naturalist, scientists report finding, in 2012 observations, an example of mimicry in birds so effective it went unnoticed until now.

The chick in question is the cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra).

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December 19 2014

How ‘mom’ plants teach seeds when to grow


Scientists have discovered how “mother” plants use their memory of the seasons to teach their seeds the best time to germinate.

A new study, using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model plant, shows the mother plant senses temperature and forms a long-term temperature memory. These memories then help progeny seeds figure out what time of year it is and modify their germination rates to ensure their growth and development is coordinated with the seasons.

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December 19 2014

Wolves discriminate quantities better than dogs


Being able to mentally consider quantities makes sense for any social species. This skill is important during the search for food, for example, or to determine whether an opponent group outnumbers one's own. Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna studied how well dogs can discriminate between different quantities and discovered that wolves perform better than dogs at such tasks. Possibly dogs lost this skill, or a predisposition for it, during domestication.

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December 19 2014

Serious Monkey Business: Linguistic Methods Uncover Sophisticated Meanings and Monkey Dialects


The same species of monkeys located in separate geographic regions use their alarm calls differently to warn of approaching predators, a linguistic analysis by a team of scientists reveals. The study, which appears in the journal Linguistics and Philosophy, reveals that monkey calls have a more sophisticated structure than was commonly thought.

“Our findings show that Campbell’s monkeys have a distinction between roots and suffixes, and that their combination allows the monkeys to describe both the nature of a threat and its degree of danger”.

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December 19 2014

Crows join human, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced relational thinking


Crows have long been heralded for their high intelligence - they can remember faces, use tools and communicate in sophisticated ways.

But a newly published study finds crows also have the brain power to solve higher-order, relational-matching tasks, and they can do so spontaneously. That means crows join humans, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced relational thinking, according to the research.

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December 19 2014

Birds detect approaching storm from 900km away


A group of songbirds may have avoided a devastating storm by fleeing their US breeding grounds after detecting telltale infrasound waves.

Researchers noticed the behaviour after analysing trackers attached to the birds to study their migration patterns. They believe it is the first documented case of birds making detours to avoid destructive weather systems on the basis of infrasound.


Alt: Birds 'heard tornadoes coming' and fled one day ahead

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December 19 2014

Gamma-ray bursts 'common in storms'


Scientists have shed light on a mysterious phenomenon that occurs in thunderstorms.

They have discovered that gamma-ray bursts - the most powerful explosions of energy in the Universe - are far more common on Earth than was thought.

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December 19 2014

Space plane that could carry people anywhere in four hours another step towards completion


A plane that could one day fly anywhere in the world in four hours, and carry spaceships out of the atmosphere without using rockets, is another step towards being built after it received approval from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ESA acted as an independent auditor for Reaction Engines’ Sabre technology, which works like a jet engine in the atmosphere and a rocket in space and could transform air travel.

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December 19 2014

These Dreamers Are Actually Making Progress Building Elon’s Hyperloop


When Elon Musk unveiled his idea for the Hyperloop in August of 2013, no one seemed sure what the next step would be. The Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO dropped a 57-page alpha white paper on us, noting he didn’t really have the time to build a revolutionary transit system that would shoot pods full of people around the country in above-ground tubes at 800 mph.

Fortunately for futurists and people who enjoy picking apart complicated plans, an El Segundo, California-based startup has taken Musk up on his challenge to develop and build the Hyperloop.


Alt: Hyperloop Reality Check: Elon Musk's High-Speed Scheme Is Alive And Kicking

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December 19 2014

Navy Deploys Robot Sharks. Yes, Really


Automatonophobia is the technical term for fear of robots. Fear of sharks is selachophobia. Psychiatrists will have to come up with a new term now that the U.S. Navy has deployed, yes, robot sharks.

The Navy's GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) -- a five-foot-long, 100-pound robotic shark -- has completed testing and will now join the fleet, according to naval researchers.

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December 19 2014

Giant robotic insect takes its first steps


A robot that looks like a giant insect is taking its first steps, advancing cautiously on its crutch-like limbs. The six-legged bot, known as Hector, can move each of its legs independently, which allows it to tackle a wider range of surfaces than other similar-bodied robots that typically walk by moving three legs at a time.

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December 19 2014

A Quadriplegic Woman Used Her Mind To Move This Robotic Limb In '10D'


For the first time ever, a quadriplegic woman has used her thoughts to move a robotic hand across 10 degrees of freedom. The remarkable system allowed her to pick up a variety of objects, including skinny tubes and oddly shaped rocks.


Related: Watch a man control two robotic prosthetic arms with his mind

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December 19 2014

Disabled Dog Runs on 3D-Printed Braces


An adorable Husky named Derby was born with malformed front limbs. With short forelimbs and no paws, Derby maneuvered the world by scooching around on his front elbows. He was limited to crawling around on soft surfaces as rougher areas, such as sidewalks, caused abrasions.

Luckily he came into the foster care of Tara Anderson, an employee of 3D Systems based in Rock Hill, S.C. The company specializes in design-to-manufacturing solutions for 3D printing and they decided to come up with a solution for Derby.

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December 19 2014

Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?


Cannabis oil, which requires an extra stage of preparation once the plant has been harvested, is basically made up of cannabinoids such as CBD and the psychoactive THC, the active chemicals found in the plant that cause the "high" sought by recreational users. Already forming the basic make-up of the pharmaceutical cannabis-based drug Sativex, which is used to treat MS, growing scientific research now suggests that cannabis oil may also possess anti-cancer properties that help stem the growth of malignant tumours.

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December 19 2014

Pot Smokers Show Less Inflammation


People who smoke marijuana may have lower levels of inflammation compared with people who have never smoked it, according to new research on one marker of inflammation.

In the study, researchers examined data from more than 9,000 people on their history of marijuana use and their levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), one marker of inflammation that is frequently linked with people's risk of heart disease.

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December 19 2014

What Forms of Creativity Turn You On?


It’s no secret: creativity is sexy. People all over the world rank creativity as a highly desirable quality in a partner, and people who are creative across a variety of fields report more sexual partners (similar results have been found in specific fields such as visual art, music, and humor).

But are all forms of creativity equally attractive?

According to evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, creative displays in humans are analogous to the peacock’s tail: they serve the function of attracting mates by serving as indicators of mental fitness (cognitive functioning and personality).

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