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February 25 2015

'Gerbils replace rats' as main cause of Black Death


Black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe, a study suggests.

Scientists believe repeat epidemics of the Black Death, which arrived in Europe in the mid-14th Century, instead trace back to gerbils from Asia.


Alt: Asian tree rings explain historical plague outbreaks in Europe

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February 25 2015

Rats Remember Who's Nice to Them—and Return the Favor


Rats can remember acts of kindness by other rats—and treat them accordingly, a new study says.

In experiments, Norwegian rats were most helpful to individuals that had previously helped them—perhaps to try and secure their assistance again, scientists suggest.

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February 25 2015

Longer Eyelashes May Be Sexier, But Not Always Better


Sure, eyelashes are good for batting. But the delicate hairs have a serious purpose: protecting the eyes and keeping them moist.

What's more, a recent study—perhaps the most rigorous study of eyelash aerodynamics ever conducted—found the optimal lash length for protecting the eye and discovered a number of animals that have it.

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February 25 2015

How the length of a woman's fingers reveals her career


A woman’s choice of career is linked to the length of her fingers, according to a study.

Women whose index finger was short compared to their ring finger were more likely to have what was regarded as a traditionally male job, such as a lawyer or a manager in industry, the researchers found.

And those whose index finger was longer than their ring finger were more likely to be employed in a stereotypically female career, such as nursing or primary school teaching.

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February 25 2015

Gut feeling key to fingerprint matching


Forensic experts rely on a surprising level of gut instinct to accurately match fingerprints to catch criminals, according to a new study

"Gut feeling is responsible for a lot more of the accuracy than many people think, even the experts themselves," says Dr Matthew Thompson of the University of Queensland School of Psychology.

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February 25 2015

Why Don’t You Want to Sing and Dance in Public?


Picture two birthday parties: one for 4 year olds, and one for 14 year olds. The former conjures kids bellowing “Happy Birthday” and putting their left feet in during the “Hokey Pokey”; the second conjures slump-shouldered teens huddled in corners furtively glancing at each other—even as loud music blares in the background. Why the difference?


Related: Your subconscious is smarter than you might think
Related: Newborn neurons in adult brain may help us adapt to environment

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February 25 2015

Sound of mom’s voice boosts brain growth in premature babies


Infants born prematurely are more than twice as likely to have difficulty hearing and processing words than those carried to full-term, likely because brain regions that process sounds aren’t sufficiently developed at the time of delivery. Now, an unusual study with 40 preemies suggests that recreating a womblike environment with recordings of a mother's heartbeat and voice could potentially correct these deficits.


Related: Breastfeeding, other factors help shape immune system early in life

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February 25 2015

Pregnancy Has an Odor that Reveals Unborn Baby's Sex


It’s long been suspected that males of many species, including humans, can sniff out whether a female is pregnant, and now new research suggests that some — if not all — female primates release a natural “pregnancy perfume” that males can probably detect.

What’s more, such scents appear to broadcast whether the mom-to-be is carrying a boy or a girl.

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February 25 2015

Three-parent babies: Britain becomes first country to allow technique


The UK has become the first country in the world to legalise so-called three-parent babies after the House of Lords backed the idea despite objections from church leaders and pro-life groups.

Opponents had warned that the change has been brought about too hastily and marked the start of a “slippery slope” towards designer babies and eugenics.

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February 24 2015

I’ve Just Seen a (DNA-Generated) Face


The faces here, which look a bit like video game avatars, are actually portraits drawn from DNA.

Each rendering was created by plugging an individual genetic profile into a predictive tool created by Mark D. Shriver, a professor of anthropology and genetics at Penn State University. Dr. Shriver and his colleagues have studied the ways that genes influence facial development.

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February 24 2015

Dogs Can Spot People Who Are Trying To Fool Them, Study Shows


Dogs are certainly no dummies when it comes to understanding humans. Now a study from Japan suggests that dogs can tell when a human is trying to dupe them.


Related: What is this dog thinking? Scientists now have some fascinating answers
Related: Dog Escapes From Home, Sneaks Into Hospital 20 Blocks Away To Comfort Sick Owner

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February 24 2015

Rarest Big Cat on Earth Starting to Make a Comeback


Things are starting to look up for the rarest big cat on the planet: The critically endangered Amur leopard, which is indigenous to southeastern Russia and parts of northeastern China, has doubled in population since 2007, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Census data from Russia's Land of the Leopard National Park, which covers about 60 percent of the Amur leopard's habitat, puts the number of these wild cats at 57. That's up from the 30 leopards counted in the area in 2007.

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February 24 2015

Plants found to alter soil types


Exciting research has revealed some plants have the ability to alter soil types, suggesting opportunities may exist to re-engineer WA's hostile soils to better suit agricultural purposes.

The study is at odds with previous scientific research advocating that vegetation occurs in certain environments only as a direct result of soil type.


Related: Huge, hollow baobab trees are actually multiple fused stems

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February 24 2015

British 'chocolate greenhouse' saving the world's cocoa


Chocolate lovers take heart: a steamy greenhouse near London is helping to ensure that cocoa crops globally remain disease-free and bountiful to cope with the growing appetite for sweet treats.

The centre's aim is to reduce the amount of disease affecting cocoa plants by quarantining them before sharing them with different countries to produce new, more resistant varieties.


Related: New Anti-Aging Chocolate May Make Skin Look 30 Years Younger

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February 24 2015

Mummy Hair Reveals Ancient South American Diet


The hair of 2,000-year-old mummies, long locks adorned with embroidered textiles, is helping researchers determine what these ancient people ate in the weeks and months before their deaths, a new study finds.

A chemical analysis of the mummies' hair suggests these ancient individuals, who once lived on the southern coast of modern-day Peru, likely ate corn, beans, and marine plants and animals, the researchers found.


Related: Healers Once Prescribed Chocolate Like Aspirin

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February 24 2015

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say


Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.


Alt: No, smoking pot will likely NOT make you psychotic

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February 24 2015

Feeding Babies Foods With Peanuts Appears To Prevent Allergies


Babies at high risk for becoming allergic to peanuts are much less likely to develop the allergy if they are regularly fed foods containing the legumes starting in their first year of life.

That's according to a big new study released Monday involving hundreds of British babies. The researchers found that those who consumed the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting when they were between 4 and 11 months old, were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday.

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