Australian Popular Science News news from, 26 May 2017 08:06:20 +100010Logitech Harmony Elite Review: One remote to rule them allMost of the setup can be done through the app, which is a lot quicker than the process with older Harmony remotes.,462940Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:58 +1000The US is getting more and more days without frost In early March, D.C.'s famed cherry blossoms were ready to pop. An unusually balmy February had nudged the trees from the naked skeletal branches of dull dormancy into full flower production mode. Although most of the flowers were still young&#8212;little more than buds&#8212;some had reached a status worthy of peeping, with full &#8220;puffy white&#8221; blossoms. And then came a week of not wholly unexpected back-to-back hard freezes. It was early March, after all, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration doesn't declare Washington free from frost risk until the end of April.,462939Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:57 +1000Kickstarter has a plan to free products from manufacturing limboThe Coolest Cooler is often used as a cautionary tale in crowdfunding conversations. It was great at catching people's attention and raising money, but bad at actually delivering coolers.,462938Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:57 +1000What is botulism, anyway?Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent poisons on Earth&#8212;less than a millionth of a gram in your bloodstream would kill you&#8212;and is perhaps also the most lucrative. It generates over $3 billion in revenue every year for the pharmaceutical industry, where it goes by the name botox.,462937Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:56 +1000This micro-robot mimics the ingenious grasp of a Venus flytrapFrom Charles Darwin, who once called it &#8220;one of the most wonderful plants in the world,&#8221; to the man-eating Audrey II of "Little Shop of Horrors", the Venus flytrap has inspired artists and scientists for more than a century. Into that canon enters a new soft gripping robot, which as described in a study released today in the journal <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank"><em>Nature Communications</em></a>, uses the flytrap as its design inspiration for sensing and picking up objects.,462936Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:56 +1000Space sperm makes healthy mouse babies on EarthIf humankind ever sets up a colony on Mars, a lot of things will be different. There'll be less gravity, less oxygen, and more death if you go outside without a spacesuit. But at least one thing might remain the same: if we bring mice to Mars with us, we'll probably still have mouse infestations.,462935Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:56 +1000Do probiotics actually do anything? The supplement aisles of most grocery stores and pharmacies in the United States are bursting with probiotics. These billions of bacteria stuffed into once-a-day capsules claim to provide digestive relief, among other benefits. They're extremely popular, with sales of <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">$36.6 billion in 2015</a>. And for good reason. For many people, various gastrointestinal issues come and go pretty much forever, causing chronic discomfort or worse. But according to gastroenterologists and other scientists, these tiny bugs might not be doing the jobs they claim to do.,462934Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:55 +1000A fluke dinosaur tooth find could help us understand the history of North AmericaGeorge Phillips was not expecting to find any dinosaurs in the Northeastern Mississippi stream. But as he hunted for fossilized crabs and mollusks, he came across a strange specimen&#8212;a ridged object about the size of a quarter.,462933Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:55 +1000The training accident that almost ruined my chance to be an astronautOn my first day of spacewalk training in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, the future loomed in front of me as bright as the heavens I had hoped to reach. I wanted to master the fundamentals and, like all astronauts, I knew that spacewalk proficiency was the quickest path to that coveted first flight assignment.,462932Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:53 +1000MIT used bacteria to create a self-ventilating workout shirtMany rain jackets have zippers at the armpits that, when opened, let out perspiration and funk that would otherwise stay trapped inside. But researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a prototype of a wearable that vents itself automatically in response to sweat&#8212;and it does so using bacteria.,462931Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:53 +1000Microwaving mushrooms might be the healthiest way to eat them, but at what costIn addition to being delicious, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, the plant chemicals that may stave off cell damage. They're also stuffed with beta glucans, a type of soluble fiber that may improve immune system function and help control cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that foods rich in antioxidants and beta glucans are the foundations of a healthy diet (effects, researchers emphasize, that cannot be mimicked by taking supplements). And not only are mushrooms nutrient-rich, but these famously fun guys are high in protein while low in calories and in fat. In other words, mushrooms are a low calorie, highly nutritive food. Junk food and candy, by contrast, are highly caloric but low in nutrients.,462930Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:53 +1000Swimming pools are full of poop, but they probably won't make you sickLet's start with the gross stuff: up to ten grams of poop can wash off a little kid's butt in a pool. Ten grams is a pretty small amount, but now multiply that by the number of children in your average public pool. Think about how much poop that is. And now think about the last time you got an infection from swimming in a pool.,462929Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:53 +1000Scientists are spelunking for cave gunk to fight superbugsCaves are dark, dank, isolated, and home to very few plants or animals. At first glance they might seem devoid of life. But caves are full of microscopic creatures, bacteria and fungi at home in the gloom. These microbes, scientists are discovering, may be an untapped reservoir of new medicines to fight antibiotic-resistant germs.,462928Wed, 24 May 2017 15:39:53 +1000Turns out the Svalbard seed vault is probably fineA failure at a fail-safe vault. The irony is delicious (like many of the seeds), but that's not the whole story. On its website, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is described by Crop Trust&#8212;the nonprofit that runs it&#8212;as &#8220;a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time&#8212;and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.&#8221; It holds backups of seeds from seed banks around the world, with the goal of preserving a legacy of crop diversity in the face of changing climate, natural disasters, and human conflicts. It's operated for a little over nine years.,462590Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:21 +1000Meet the armored soldiers and nuclear artillery of a future war that never wasThe first half of the 20th century saw war unlike any that had transpired before. Elements were the same: people still fought over ideas and land, and it was still infantry on foot and civilians that did most of the dying. But the weapons! Fantastical, horrific weapons, like the machine guns that turned trench warfare from protracted stalemate to meat grinder, and fighters and bombers that burned through the skies. Or the armored tanks, which lumbered into history in the Western Front and then defined history from 1939 to 1945, changing centuries of prior thinking on how best to seize victory. From the vantage point of the middle of the 20th century, the coming decades of war seemed almost certain to be a new bloody spectacle, powered by technological marvels.,462589Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:21 +1000Rocket Lab may try to launch its Electron rocket for the first time this weekendRocket Lab's Electron rocket is only 55 feet tall. That's puny compared to SpaceX's 230-foot Falcon 9, but size isn't everything. The Electron could become a powerful system for putting small satellites into space for cheap&#8212;the company estimates each launch will cost $5 million compared to SpaceX's (already very cheap) $60 million. And on Sunday, it may fly for the very first time.,462588Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:21 +1000Scientists tweaked natural mutations to create a better tomato &#160; In genetics, sometimes one plus one equals zero. Genes that should work in concert with each other, each magnifying the other's effects, can in occasionally cancel each other out instead. A study released Thursday in the journal Cell Press looks at the genetic mutation that gave us the modern, domesticated tomato, shedding some light on how these cancellations happen &#8212;and how we can use them to create a more productive tomato.,462587Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:21 +1000That weird 'alien megastructure' star is dimming again right nowIn late 2015, astronomers noticed something absurd happening around a distant star. Something massive seemed to be blocking as much as 20 percent of the star's light.,462586Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:21 +1000We may have accidentally formed a protective bubble around EarthWhen the Navy wants to send a message to an underwater submarine, it sometimes uses very low frequency (VLF) radio waves. These long wavelengths, beamed from large towers on the ground, are unique in their ability to travel through salty water. But some end up in space instead. There, according to a <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">new report</a>, they may be forming a protective bubble around Earth's atmosphere.,462584Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:20 +1000A Chinese folk contraceptive could give rise to unisex 'molecular condoms'Imagine: You're a sperm cell just trying to complete your life's greatest seminal work&#8212;fertilizing an egg cell. You're swimming up a reproductive track, your lil tail steadily swishing back and forth as you finally approach your target. Now it's time to push through the final stretch.,462583Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:19 +1000Google Assistant won't replace Siri on the iPhone, but you should download it anywayAfter an announcement Wednesday at Google I/O, the Google Assistant is now available on iPhones in the United States. The tool shares space, with Siri&#8212;relegated to being a smart sibling who's not allowed to come out and play as much as you want it to.,462294Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:33 +1000Human attraction is weird and confusing&#8212;and it's about way more than looksTinder and Bumble would be a lot more effective if you could sniff your potential matches before swiping. Better yet, if you could smell them and hear them. Forget complex matching algorithms&#8212;just invent a way to spritz the person's scent while you listen to them talk or read aloud (pro tip: go for &#8220;May I Feel Said He&#8221; by e.e. cummings, especially if you sound like Tom Hiddleston).,462293Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:32 +1000These scientists made 2,879 tiny clay caterpillars and hid them all over the world Humans aren't the only creatures who flock to tropical areas. In general, biodiversity increases the closer you get to the equator. That's somewhat obvious&#8212;just think how many more plants and animals live in the rainforest than in the Arctic. But what's not obvious is how that latitudinal trend affects interactions between species.,462292Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:32 +1000ISIS video shows off "new" weapons based on old techISIS is, by all appearances, fighting a losing war. The ultraviolent pseudo-state in Iraq and Syria stunned the world with a series of victories in 2014, but since then it's been rolled back by a coalition of forces from Kurdish fighters to American airstrikes to a regrouped Iraqi Security Forces, and is losing territory daily. Beset on all sides, the embattled extremists are turning to technology for salvation.,462291Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:32 +1000Scientists tracked chickens and found they have their own daily routines, just like usIt looks like chaos inside a commercial aviary. In these cage-free barns, thousands of squawking chickens flap between perches, grabbing food on one level, rolling in dust on another, and laying eggs in the nesting areas.,462290Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:32 +1000Exclusive: House Science Committee members just sent a letter to President Trump insisting he stop relying on fake newsMembers of the House of Representative Committee on Science, Space &amp; Technology&#8212;including representative Don Beyer (VA), Jacky Rosen (NV), Mark Takano (CA), and a number of other Democrats&#8212;have signed and submitted a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the President's methods of receiving scientific information. The <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">letter states</a> that by failing to appoint a qualified director to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy or adequately staff the department, the President has left himself vulnerable to &#8220;misinformation and fake news,&#8221; noting that Trump has, &#8220;a tool at your disposal in this regard, should you wish to make use of it, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) which, under your administration, has been left largely unstaffed and without a director.&#8221;,462289Fri, 19 May 2017 10:35:31 +1000Some orangutans breastfeed their babies for over eight yearsIt is incredibly hard to observe an orangutan nursing its baby. Even without dedicated nursing rooms, these already reclusive animals manage to find privacy in trees and at night to nurse their young, making it difficult for biologists to tell how long and how often orangutan mothers breastfeed their offspring.,462148Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:58 +1000Here's all the new stuff Google announced at its I/O 2017 conferenceGoogle I/O is the company's annual developers' conference. It's meant for people who work to create things inside the Google infrastructure, but the keynote typically includes a few juicy bits that appeal to the general public. Last year we met Google Home for the first time, and there's no telling what we'll see here in 2017. So, follow along and we'll break down the important developments (get it? developers?).,462147Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:58 +1000Tyrannosaurus rex had a bone-crushing bite with a force of 8,000 poundsAnyone who's watched <em>Jurassic Park</em> has seen the imagined horrors of what a <em>Tyrannosaurus rex</em> jaw can do. (Love ya, <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">Rexy.</a>),462145Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:58 +1000Trees aren't an insta-fix for city air pollutionTrees were supposed to be the urban jungle's salvation. After all, trees provide sweet, beautiful shade which helps cool the metropolis, a place prone to overheating thanks to a proliferation of surfaces like asphalt and concrete. And by pumping oxygen into the air&#8212;the same oxygen humans need to breathe&#8212; while also filtering out harmful air pollution, trees were supposed to help the eighty percent of Americans who live in urban areas breathe easy. But a new study out today in the journal <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank"><em>Environmental Science &amp; Technology</em></a> has found that planting trees while doing nothing about underlying air pollution is a bit like putting spinach on your double bacon donut burger: you're still going to die of a heart attack.,462144Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:57 +1000How the first broad-spectrum antibiotic emerged from the Missouri dirtHere's an excerpt from <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank"><em>Miracle Cure: The creation of antibiotics and the birth of modern medicine.</em></a> by William Rosen, about how antibiotics began to save the world...,462142Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:56 +1000It's easier than ever to die of a caffeine overdoseA large diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte, and some kind of energy drink&#8212;that's the caffeine cocktail that apparently killed 16-year-old Davis Allan Cripe last month in South Carolina, according to <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">news reports</a>.&#160;,462141Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:55 +1000If that asteroid had been 30 seconds late, dinosaurs might rule the world and humans probably wouldn't existLocation is everything, for both homeowners and dinosaurs. When you're buying a house, it's better for your long term happiness to find a neighborhood you like that's close to work instead of having that extra living room. And when you're a Cretaceous period dinosaur, it's better for your long term survival to have a giant asteroid hit in the middle of the ocean instead of just off the coast of Mexico.,462146Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:00 +1000Five things we learned from WanaCryptor, the biggest ransomware attack in internet historyRecently, some hospitals in the United Kingdom were struck with a peculiar attack: computers taken over, data inside encrypted and held ransom, all for the measly payment of just $300. The attack spread rapidly, hitting 150 countries and shutting down everything from telecoms in Spain to the Interior Ministry in Russia. And then, through a stroke of luck, the WanaCryptor attack was stalled in its tracks, a killswitch discovered by happenstance just in time for the weekend. What, exactly are we to make of the largest ransomware attack in history?,462143Thu, 18 May 2017 08:50:00 +1000We just got an up-close look at the largest lava lake in the solar systemLava lakes on Earth are vast cauldrons of molten rock that you should definitely not throw your trash into. (PSA: You should also not jump into a lava lake. You would die.),461327Thu, 11 May 2017 11:07:02 +1000Desert critters avoid noisy wind farm turbinesIn preparation for war in 1940s, U.S. Army tanks crunched across the wild deserts of Southern California, leaving tracks that will remain for thousands of years. Jeffrey Lovich, a U.S. Geologic Survey research ecologist, has trekked through these harsh desert environs for decades, and sometimes comes across the tank- imprinted past. &#8220;It's a consequence of history,&#8221; he says.,461326Thu, 11 May 2017 11:07:02 +1000What actually causes body odour? BO is a nearly universal human experience. As such, we as a species put a lot of time, money, and effort into finding ways to eliminate unpleasant natural stenches. But most of us put less time, if any, into understanding what actually causes our malodorous condition. But understanding the processes that create b.o. is the first step to creating a less smelly future.,461325Thu, 11 May 2017 11:07:02 +1000The smart hubs have eyes: Why the Amazon Echo Look should have you asking questions about privacyBy now, we've grown accustomed to our devices listening to us. Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, and every other disembodied virtual taskrabbit has been hearing our commands&#8212;and who knows what else&#8212;for years. But, with its last two smart hub devices, Amazon has pushed one step beyond the microphone, asking users to install cameras in their homes. Yesterday, with the announcement of the Echo Show, Amazon reaffirmed its plan to have Alexa see you in addition to hear you. It's a small step forward in terms of usability, but a major can of worms when it comes to our security and privacy.,461324Thu, 11 May 2017 11:07:00 +1000Cassini spotted some breezy summer methane clouds on TitanIt's summer in the northern hemisphere, and you know what that means: clouds of methane. Temperatures will soar to a balmy -292&#176;F, a full six degrees warmer than the south pole, and lakes will swell with hydrocarbon rain. Welcome to summer on Titan. You better like it, because it'll last 7.5 years.,461322Thu, 11 May 2017 11:06:56 +1000Ring Video Doorbell reviewLike most other smart doorbells, Ring lets you see who's at your door and interact with your guests before letting them in. Unlike its competition, however, Ring doesn't require dedicated electrical wiring; instead, it can work off of rechargeable battery power.,461151Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:23 +1000A tunnel collapsed at the Hanford nuclear waste site on Tuesday. Here's what you need to know.Yes, there was a tunnel collapse at a former nuclear processing facility on Tuesday. No, you don't need to panic. Knowledge is power:,461150Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:22 +1000This giant feathered dinosaur had nests the size of monster truck tiresBig Bird is eight feet, two inches tall. That's big. The ostrich, the <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">largest living bird</a> is bigger, topping out around nine feet tall. But neither fictional nor factual birds can hold a candle to a new species of bird-like dinosaur called <em>Beibeilong sinensis</em>, which was likely around 26 feet long and weighed about 3 tons when fully-grown.,461149Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:18 +1000Caffeine and a good night's rest could help treat chronic pain (at least in mice)No, that was not a typo. It might seem counterproductive to take caffeine when you need to sleep, but some mice at Boston Children's Hospital would beg to differ.,461148Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:17 +1000Lizards might lose their gut bacteria to climate change&#8212;and that's not greatThe common lizard, as its name suggests, is common. Its range begins to the west in Ireland and stretches as far east as Japan, with an expanse that reaches as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far South as northern Italy. With so much of its range unoccupied by humans it's no surprise that <em>Zootoca vivipara</em> is a species of "least concern". But humans don't actually have to encroach upon the common lizard's habitat to cause the critter harm. We just have to turn up the heat.,461147Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:17 +1000Facebook created a faster, more accurate translation system using artificial intelligence Facebook's billion-plus users speak a plethora of languages, and right now, the social network supports translation of over 45 different tongues. That means that if you're an English speaker confronted with German, or a French speaker seeing Spanish, you'll see a link that says &#8220;See Translation.&#8221;,461146Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:16 +1000Amazon's Echo Show smart hub has a built-in touchscreen for video calling, selling you stuffJust two weeks ago Amazon introduced the $200 Echo Look, a smart-home hub that includes a built-in camera to help evaluate your outfit before leaving the house. Now, the company has taken another step, introducing its flagship hub, the $229 Echo Show, which has both a 5-megapixel camera and a 7-inch touchscreen display.,461145Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:15 +1000The language you speak changes your perception of timeIf you speak about time in terms of a container being filled, you might have a tougher time gauging how much time it's taking for this cup to fill.,461144Wed, 10 May 2017 10:43:14 +1000Facebook is hiring 3000 new content monitors for a job AI cannot doYesterday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to work on its community operations team, which reviews images, videos, and posts that users report. These new hires will join the 4,500 existing employees in an effort to minimize the reach of future events like the shooting of Robert Goodwin. It's a considerable-but-essential investment for Facebook, but it leads us to a basic question: Can't this job be automated?,460557Fri, 5 May 2017 08:48:21 +1000This is what New York City sounded like over 400 years agoTime travel is usually only possible in one direction: plodding ever-forward at the pace of a ticking second hand on a clock. We can't make leaps into the past or future, however much we'd enjoy the break from our present.,460556Fri, 5 May 2017 08:48:20 +1000Pillsy is the latest smart pill bottle trying to solve a massive healthcare problemIt's a big deal when people don't take the medications prescribed to them. In fact, studies estimate that patients failing to pop their pills&#8212;a problem known as non-adherence or noncompliance&#8212; costs the American health care system as much as $289 billion each year, and leads to roughly 10 percent of hospitilizations.,460554Fri, 5 May 2017 08:48:20 +1000