Francie Diep
at 15:14 PM Jul 23 2014
Phil P. Harris on Wikimedia Commons
Science // 

Late last month, something extraordinary happened at the edge of the rainforest in Acre, Brazil. Members of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe voluntarily approached scientists from the Brazilian government, Science magazine reports. This is the first time in decades that an uncontacted community chose to meet with outsiders.

Douglas Main
at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
Kevin Kohl, University of Utah
Nature // 

Desert woodrats are picky, but not in the way you might expect: several woodrat populations in the U.S. Southwest specifically eat a type of highly toxic creosote bush. Another group eats juniper, which is also toxic to many animals. This gives the woodrats (Neotoma lepida) a nice niche, allowing them to dine on a plant that others avoid. But how do they do it? A new study suggests that the microbes in their gut break down the toxic chemicals in the plants, which had been hypothesized but not clearly shown until now. 

Francie Diep
at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
City of Lincoln, Nebraska
Energy // 

One U.K. grocery store plans to power itself using biogas harvested from its own unsold, rotting produce. Yum.

Kelsey D. Atherton
at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
Edward L. Cooper, via Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, July 18th, Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 was struck by a missile. The United States believes the missile was a Soviet-designed Buk, and American infrared satellites pinpoint the location of that missile's launch to territory in Eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. Is it possible that, while Cold War technology launched the missile, and modern technology identified where it was launched, future laser technology could shoot missiles out of the sky?

Francie Diep
at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
Fernando Amat et al., "Fast, accurate reconstruction of cell lineages from large-scale fluorescence microscopy data," Nature Methods, 2014
Nature // 

What is this fuzzy creature? Sadly, it's not pettable. This is a microscope image of a fruit fly embryo, showing the individual cells within it. That's 2,458 cells, to be exact. The bottom image shows each cell in a different color, with lines to show how those cells moved around.

Douglas Main
at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
Wilson44691 via Wikimedia Commons

Research strongly suggests that camels carry Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a viral illness that has sickened nearly 700 and killed at least 209 people as of early June, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization. For this reason, the government of Saudi Arabia recently warned people to stay away from close contact with camels, at least those that appear to be sick, which prompted some to defiantly post photos of themselves kissing camels on various social media sites.

at 07:32 AM Jul 23 2014
Margie Turrin/LDEO
Science // 

Do you wonder what doing climate science in remote locations might be like? Read the Greenland Thaw blog, which is being updated regularly from the fjords of northwest Greenland, where the giant island's glaciers meet the ocean. With Greenland's ice sheets melting faster than ever, the study's scientists want to document and understand why the Alison Glacier, on Greenland’s northwestern coast, is flowing to the sea faster than other glaciers in the area.

Daniel Engber
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Illustrations by Jason Schneider
Science // 

Turns out, a few oral sunscreens already exist, based on the theory that antioxidants offer sun protection. Laboratory studies provide some evidence in support of this idea. When scientists feed vitamin E to hairless mice, the animals show less skin damage upon exposure to ultraviolet light. Dermatologist Salvador González Rodríguez has studied an extract made from a fern called Polypodium leucotomos. The substance, which is high in antioxidants, may decrease sun-related DNA damage in humans, he says. But as a consultant for a Spanish company that makes an oral sunscreen, Rodríguez has skin in the game, so to speak. And he admits that oral sunscreens don’t work that well when measured in the standard ways: “If we evaluate protection in terms of how conventional sunscreens are evaluated, then antioxidant-based oral sunscreens provide very low SPF.”

Flora Lichtman
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Photograph by Travis Rathbone
Nature // 

When it comes to thunderheads, lightning is the great equalizer. Essentially a giant spark, lightning relieves the charge differentials that build up in storm systems. But it’s also one of the greatest mysteries in atmospheric science. Recently, scientists have started to explore lightning’s lesser-known siblings, which appear in ash plumes, labs, and even on other planets.

Douglas Main
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the most advanced prosthetics--such as this crazy mind-controlled robotic arm--electronic hardware interfaces directly with nerves and muscles in the human body. But getting living tissue to play nice with a circuit board is anything but easy, for a number of reasons. One fundamental obstacle you may not have considered: electronics send signals via negatively charged electrons, whereas many of the communications carried out in living tissues take place through the movement of positively-charged particles, such as calcium and potassium ions. 

Francie Diep
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
From Kate Malachowski et al., "Self-Folding Single Cell Grippers," Nano Letters 2014

Gotcha! These little pyramids are actually microscopic traps designed to gently enclose single cells without killing them. The idea is that in the future, such traps could be a part of a system for capturing and analyzing individual cells, perhaps as a part of cancer monitoring.

Daniel Engber
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Illustrations by Jason Schneider
Science // 

If humans can indeed smell fear they wouldn’t be unusual in the animal kingdom. Sea anemones, earthworms, minnows, fruit flies, rats, mice, and deer, among others, have all been shown to signal unease through odor. Some responses are even more overt. For example, the offspring of one bird species vomits up a pungent, orange liquid when frightened by a predator; if a parent catches a whiff, it becomes warier in the nest. 

Dave Mosher
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Photograph by Ray Lego
Make // 

Fran Blanche’s workshop is more than a place to unwind. It’s home. “I put a bed in my office,” she says. Her fashion business is downstairs; upstairs is a music studio and a laboratory with 30 years’ worth of tools. A private collector recently asked Blanche to study part of his Apollo-era Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC), which NASA designed to fly a Saturn V rocket. “All modern boards would come to emulate it,” Blanche says. “Trouble is, there’s no information about how it was constructed.” 

Sarah Fecht
at 21:31 PM Jul 19 2014
David Goehring via Flickr CC 2.0

Eight years ago, doctors took nasal tissue samples and grafted them onto the spines of 20 quadriplegics. The idea was that stem cells within the nasal tissue might turn into neurons that could help repair the damaged spinal cord, and the experiment actually worked a few of the patients, who regained a little bit of sensation. But it didn’t go well for one woman in particular, who not only didn’t experience any abatement in her paralysis, but recently started feeling pain at the site of the implant. When doctors took a closer look, they realized she was growing the beginnings of a nose on her spine, New Scientist reports.

Kelsey D. Atherton
at 21:31 PM Jul 19 2014
Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons
Drones // 

Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.

 
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