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July 18 2014

You’d Be Happier If You Talked to Strangers More Often


Humans are some of the most social creatures on this planet, but step into an elevator, train or public bus and something strange happens: we fall silent, stare at the wall and ignore the strangers surrounding us. But in doing so, we might be missing out on an easy way to make ourselves happier people.

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July 18 2014

To change attitudes, don't argue — agree, extremely


What if the best way to change minds isn’t to tell people why they’re wrong, but to tell them why they’re right? Scientists tried this recently and discovered that agreeing with people can be a surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs.

Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed — not contradicted — their opinions on a deeply divisive issue actually caused them to reconsider their stance and become more receptive to other points of view.

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July 18 2014

What's Going On In There? How Babies' Brains Practice Speech


A baby's first words may seem spur of the moment, but really, the little ones have practiced their "Mamas" and "Dadas" for months in their minds.

Using what looks like a hair dryer from Mars, researchers from the University of Washington have taken the most precise peeks yet into the fireworks display of neural activity that occurs when infants listen to people speak.

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July 18 2014

Birdsongs automatically decoded by computer scientists


Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have found a successful way of identifying bird sounds from large audio collections, which could be useful for expert and amateur bird-watchers alike.

The analysis used recordings of individual birds and of dawn choruses to identify characteristics of bird sounds. It took advantage of large datasets of sound recordings provided by the British Library Sound Archive, and online sources such as the Dutch archive called Xeno Canto.

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July 18 2014

Larger animals are 'better' at eliminating cancer-causing viruses from their DNA


A scientific paradox that has baffled biologists for nearly 40 years may have been solved – at least in part– by a study that could explain why bigger animals do not suffer higher rates of cancer than smaller animals.

Larger species tend to live longer and have many more cells than smaller animals, which means they should in principle be at greater risk of developing cancer during their lifetimes.

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July 18 2014

Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac


In May 1950 Henry Hoyt and Frank Berger, researchers at a small pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, submitted a patent application for a substance called meprobamate. They were impressed with the way the drug relaxed muscles in mice and calmed their notoriously testy lab monkeys: “We had about 20 rhesus and java monkeys. They’re vicious, and you’ve got to wear thick gloves and a face guard when you handle them. After they were injected with meprobamate though, they became very nice monkeys—friendly and alert.

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July 18 2014

Scientists track gene activity when honey bees do and don't eat honey


Many beekeepers feed their honey bees sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup when times are lean inside the hive. This practice has come under scrutiny, however, in response to colony collapse disorder, the massive—and as yet not fully explained—annual die-off of honey bees in the U.S. and Europe. Some suspect that inadequate nutrition plays a role in honey bee declines.

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July 18 2014

Cutting down crop waste could feed 3 billion


Feeding the world sustainably is a global challenge. But reforming food production in only a few regions could increase crop yields enough to feed an extra 3 billion people and reduce damage to the environment, researchers report today in Science.

Ecologist Paul West of the University of Minnesota in St Paul and his colleagues used comprehensive calculations based on a cornucopia of disparate data and methods to estimate calories produced, used and wasted around the world.

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July 18 2014

Why the Amazon flows backward


Millions of years ago, rivers flowing westward across what is now northern Brazil reversed their course to flow toward the Atlantic, and the mighty Amazon was born. A previous study suggested that the about-face was triggered by gradual changes in the flow of hot, viscous rock deep beneath the South American continent. But new computer models hint that the U-turn resulted from more familiar geological processes taking place at Earth’s surface—in particular, the persistent erosion, movement, and deposition of sediment wearing away from the growing Andes.

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July 18 2014

Rainwater discovered at new depths, with high pressure and temperatures over 300 degrees Celsius


Researchers have found that rainwater can penetrate below the Earth’s fractured upper crust, which could have major implications for our understanding of earthquakes and the generation of valuable mineral deposits. It had been thought that surface water could not penetrate the ductile crust - where temperatures of more than 300°C and high pressures cause rocks to flex and flow rather than fracture - but researchers have now found fluids derived from rainwater at these levels.

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July 17 2014

Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?


Fifty-five million years ago, when scientists believe the Earth was in a near-runaway state, dangerously overheated by greenhouse gases, the Arctic Ocean was also a very different place. It was a large lake, connected to the greater oceans by one primary opening: the Turgay Sea.

When this channel closed or was blocked nearly 50 million years ago, the enclosed body of water became the perfect habitat for a small-leaved fern called Azolla. Imagine the Arctic like the Dead Sea of today: It was a hot lake that had become stratified, suffering from a lack of exchange with outside waters. That meant its waters were loaded with excess nutrients.

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July 17 2014

Genetically engineered worms that can't get drunk could lead to a 'James Bond' sobriety pill


Neuroscientists from the University of Texas have used genetic engineering to create worms incapable of getting drunk no matter how much alcohol they ingest.

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience this week, could be used to create drugs that treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and perhaps one day block intoxication altogether in humans.

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July 17 2014

Ancient People Achieved Remarkably Clean Teeth With Noxious Weed


The purple nutsedge is one of the world's worst weeds, spreading stealthily underground and shrugging off herbicides as if they were soda water. But new research shows that for one ancient people, this noxious plant may have served as a tooth cleaner.

A new analysis of skeletons reveals that people who lived in Sudan 2,000 years ago were eating the purple nutsedge. Those people had surprisingly sound teeth—and the antibacterial properties of the weed may deserve the credit, scientists say in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday.

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July 17 2014

Dodos and spotted green pigeons are descendants of an island hopping bird


The mysterious spotted green pigeon was a relative of the dodo, according to scientists who have examined its genetic make-up. The authors say their results support a theory that both birds are descended from 'island hopping' ancestors.

The only known example of the spotted green pigeon is the Liverpool pigeon, which is currently in the World Museum, Liverpool. The only other known specimen has been lost, and there are no records of the bird in the wild.

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July 17 2014

Dolphin attacks on Cardigan Bay porpoises baffle experts


Dolphin attacks on porpoises in Cardigan Bay have left marine scientists scratching their heads.

Three out of four attacks by bottlenose dolphins noted in recent weeks by volunteers from New Quay-based Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre were fatal.

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July 17 2014

Which Animals Can Differentiate Between Languages?


Talking to animals, including baby human animals, is a waste of time. They don't know what you're saying. But there has been an experiment that proves certain animals they do know what language you're saying it in.

Scientists at the University of Barcelona have figured out that animals can distinguish between different human languages. How did they do this?.

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July 17 2014

In Tanzania, ‘Living Walls’ Take Root to Protect Threatened Lions


Elvis Kisimir is a moon-faced and soft-spoken 31-year-old Maasai with a fondness for lions. That makes him the odd man out in the East African tribe of pastoralists whose conflict with the big cats is legendary.

But Elvis has a vision for the future that’s every bit as large as the history that precedes him. That vision is the Living Wall project — an effort to radically change not just his peoples’ interactions with lions but the very way they think of the animals, which are now critically endangered in the region.

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