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September 4 2014

Greenery power: Charge your phone using a plant


The way we power our towns and cities is changing. Solar, wave and wind energy are just some of the renewable sources that could, with time, make our current reliance on fossil fuels a thing of the past.

But what about clean, renewable energy from the planet's lawns, plants, paddy fields and wetlands? It sounds a little outlandish, but for nearly a decade researchers in the Dutch town of Wageningen have been painstakingly working towards that very goal.

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September 4 2014

New technology could help make deforested land fertile once again


A new technology being developed by Wake Forest researchers could help reverse the devastating effects of deforestation and mining on the world's largest rainforest.

Few people grasp the importance of the Amazon. It drives the world's climate and weather patterns and annually absorbs 1.5 billion metric tons of C02.

This priceless resource is nevertheless being destroyed at an alarming rate. Since 1978, over 289,000 square miles of Amazon Rainforest has been lost across South America.

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September 4 2014

To Save A Species, Scientists Trick Jays With An Egg Bait-And-Switch


Portia Halbert is hiking through a quiet redwood forest in Butano State Park, an hour south of San Francisco, when she spots a blue egg on the ground — generally a very bad sign.

The blue eggs are laid by marbled murrelets, a small, endangered bird that eats out at sea and nests in the forest here.

But this egg is a bait and switch: It's not a murrelet egg at all.

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September 4 2014

Shut up and pet me! Dogs prefer petting to vocal praise


It’s probably no surprise that dogs like to be petted. But do they prefer petting over other types of attention? Here, two scientists from the University of Florida tested whether dogs would prefer to be petted or given vocal praise, and whether it mattered if the petting/praise came from an owner or a stranger. Turns out that dogs love pets, regardless of who is doing the petting, and they never seem to get tired of being petted.

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September 4 2014

Pigeon Gamblers Treat Risk Just Like Humans Do


If you watch poker coverage on television, you probably won’t hear the commentators compare players to pigeons. Maybe they should. The birds don’t play a great game of hold ‘em, but the way they think about risk might be strikingly similar to the way we do.

Researchers discovered this by putting humans and birds through a basic study of risky behavior.

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September 3 2014

Cockatoos go to carpentry school


Goffin's cockatoos can learn how to make and use wooden tools from each other, a new study has found.

The discovery, made by scientists from Oxford University, the University of Vienna, and the Max Planck Institute at Seewiesen, is thought to be the first controlled experimental evidence for the social transmission of tool use in any bird species.

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September 3 2014

Study shows wild monkeys can learn new tricks from watching training videos


A trio of researchers working in a South American jungle has shown that wild monkeys are able to learn how to perform an activity by watching videos of other monkeys performing the task. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Tina Gunhold, Thomas Bugnyar and Andrew Whiten of the Universities of Vienna and St Andrews, respectively, describe how they trained monkeys to perform tasks, videotaped them doing it and then showed the results to wild marmosets living in Pernambuco Brazil, and what they learned as a result of doing so.


Related: Should Monkeys Go to School?

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September 3 2014

Monkey leaders and followers have 'specialised brains'


Monkeys at the top and bottom of the social pecking order have physically different brains, research has found.

A particular network of brain areas was bigger in dominant animals, while other regions were bigger in subordinates.

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September 3 2014

Propane made with renewable process for the first time


A gas which can power cars and heat homes has been made using a renewable process for the first time.

Propane, which makes up the bulk component of liquefied natural gas (LPG), has previously only ever been produced from fossil fuels.


Related: Scientists use E.coli bacteria to create fossil fuel alternative

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September 3 2014

Growing mushrooms in diapers


Mexico is the third largest consumer of disposable diapers globally, which led to a Mexican scientist to design a technology capable of degrading the product materials by the mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus.

"The idea came after considering that mushrooms feed on cellulose, material present in diapers, but they also possess non-biodegradable synthetic elements such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and superabsorbent gel (sodium polyacrylate) which collects fluids".

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September 3 2014

SoftBank to Sell World's First Humanoid Robot 'Pepper' in US Next Year


The world's first personal robot named "Pepper" will be sold in US stores next year, Japanese technology company SoftBank has announced.

The 1.2m robot, which is equipped with a laser sensor and 12 hours of battery life, can dance, make jokes and even interpret human emotions based on facial expressions.

Originally designed for families and the elderly, it increasingly appears as though the robot has captured the imagination of big business.

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September 3 2014

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations


Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations, previously believed that only the brain could perform. This is according to a study from Umea University in Sweden published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

A fundamental characteristic of neurons that extend into the skin and record touch, so-called first-order neurons in the tactile system, is that they branch in the skin so that each neuron reports touch from many highly-sensitive zones on the skin.

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September 3 2014

Too Much Screen Time May Worsen Kids' Ability to Read Emotions


Too much face-to-screen time and not enough face-to-face interaction could degrade kids' ability to read other people's emotions, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers from UCLA discovered that a group of sixth graders who didn't use a phone, TV or computer for five days were much better at reading other people's emotions correctly than a group of sixth graders who spent those five days engrossed with their phones and other electronic devices for their normal amount of time.

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September 3 2014

Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest


Efforts to improve what children eat should begin before they even learn to walk, a series of nutritional studies published on Tuesday has found. Taken together, the data indicate that infant feeding patterns persist far longer than has been appreciated.

“Our early taste preferences, particularly for fruits and vegetables, and on the flip side for sugary beverages, are lasting”.

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September 3 2014

Benefits for babies exposed to two languages found in Singaporean birth cohort study


There are advantages associated with exposure to two languages in infancy, as team of investigators and clinician-scientists in Singapore and internationally have found. The findings reveal a generalized cognitive advantage that emerges early in bilingual infants, and is not specific to a particular language.

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September 3 2014

Economic success 'drives language extinction'


Economic development is driving the extinction of some languages, scientists believe.

A study has found that minority languages in the most developed parts of the world, including North America, Europe and Australia, are most at threat.


Related: From marvellous to awesome: how spoken British English has changed

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September 3 2014

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse


The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on.

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