Australian Popular Science News news from, 22 Jan 2017 02:24:11 +1000103 weird ways we can remotely control animals and bacteria A gentle pulse of electricity can make bacteria dance (or rather, swim) to scientists' tune. Researchers <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">reported</a> on Tuesday in <em>Nature Communications</em> that electricity can flip certain genes in <em>Escherichia coli</em> cells on or off, making the microbes wave their limb-like flagella or relay info to their neighbors on command.,447886Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:02:57 +1000James Bond has been teaching kids to smoke for over half a centuryOver the course of six decades, James Bond dodged thousands of enemy bullets, averted global wars and deactivated some potent bombs. But he may have also encouraged kids to try smoking cigarettes.,447885Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:02:57 +1000Wyoming is basically trying to outlaw clean energyIt's often said that in New Zealand, there are more sheep than people. In Wyoming, there's way more energy than people.,447884Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:02:56 +1000ISIS is dropping bombs with drones in IraqThe latest bomber to make its debut over Iraq has four engines, no cockpit, and a flight time limited by the length of its battery. ISIS, the radical insurgent group holding territory in both Syria and Iraq, is fighting for its life in Mosul, the large city in Northern Iraq it has held since 2014. Most of the weapons ISIS uses are are familiar, if still horrific: rifles and mortars, artillery and suicidal car bombs. To that arsenal, ISIS recently added commercial drones, converted into tiny bombers.,447883Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:02:56 +1000That 'alien megastructure' star might actually be a planet-eaterTabby's Star probably isn't surrounded by an energy-sucking alien super-structure. But it may have eaten a nearby planet.,447882Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:02:55 +1000Fiat Chrysler may also have run an emissions scam It's deja vu all over again: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fiat Chrysler is the latest car manufacturer to use secret software to violate the Clean Air Act.,447345Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:52:59 +1000To understand the evolution of menopause, just look at family drama&#8212;in killer whalesWhile many animals become less fertile as they age, only three species&#8212;humans, pilot whales, and killer whales&#8212;have <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">females that regularly live well beyond their reproductive prime</a>. These are the only species where we see grandmas acting like grandmas: they've long stopped producing offspring of their own, so they pivot to helping care for their children's children.,447344Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:52:59 +1000These freaky baboon shrieks could push back the evolution of speechWe like to think that human speech is special. It defines our species and separates us from those animals that we'd rather think of as inferior. The trouble is that it's difficult to know when and how human speech arose because &#8220;language expressed via speech leaves no fossils behind.&#8221;,447343Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:52:58 +1000Want people to notice your climate research? Learn how to write.Pretend for a moment you are a climate scientist, or maybe a layperson curious about climate change research. Which of the following intro sentences would prompt you to keep reading a study?,447342Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:52:57 +1000Why the flooding in California won't end its three-year drought California is usually drenched with sunlight. But this week, it's just drenched. A series of storms have pummeled the state, dropping staggering quantities of rain and snow&#8212;leading to flooding, mudslides, and a whole lot of water pouring into reservoirs that were just about dried out. But is it enough to end the state's persistent drought?,447341Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:52:56 +1000Please, please prescribe me gluten-free foodI'm three and half years into a lifelong diet. It's not to lose weight or build muscle, and there are no cheat days&#8212;no, not even for a freshly-baked chocolate croissant that I can smell a block away. I get a metal probe put down my throat every year so my doctor can confirm that I'm really, truly, 100 percent adhering to my diet. As if that wasn't awesome enough, I also get to pay anywhere from 30-500 percent more for basic food.,447193Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:39:54 +1000Is urine actually sterile?It's a fact frequently shared at parties and across social media: urine is sterile, so you should drink it if you find yourself in a waterless pinch. But like so many cocktail party factoids, this one is <em>absolutely</em> not true. Urine ain't sterile, friends, and neither is any part of you.,447192Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:39:54 +1000This bumblebee is the first to become endangered&#8212;but it won't be the lastThe population of rusty patched bumblebees has declined by 87 percent since the 1990s. It is just one of many species suffering in the global pollination crisis.,447191Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:39:53 +1000Could you walk to the moon in a lifetime? Sunday marked the 70th birthday of David Bowie&#8212;the space-loving, gravity-defying pop star who died in 2016&#8212;and NPR's Skunk Bear has come up with a fantastic tribute.,447066Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:13:58 +1000#DoesItFart is the burning science question you never knew you hadEveryone poops, but not everyone farts. Or at least, not every <em>thing</em> farts. You probably didn't know that soft-shell clams do not fart (though they do puke), but that hedgehogs do. Thanks to the science-side of Twitter, all of this knowledge is now at your fingertips.,447065Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:13:58 +1000Certain kinds of vaginal bacteria can actually boost HIV risk Scientists are just starting to figure out how the bacteria that live in, on, and around us can influence our health&#8212;and the vagina remains one of the most mysterious human microbiomes. Now, research suggests that certain vaginal bacteria can actually their hosts more vulnerable to HIV.,447064Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:13:56 +1000New research might explain why you get so hungry when you're drunkIt's Friday night (well, maybe Saturday morning) and you're drunk. Like, <em>really</em> drunk. No shame, dude, it's the weekend. But even though you pre-gamed on pizza and beer before starting your downward spiral of an evening (which, we might add, included about a thousand calories worth of alcohol), you find yourself craving food at 1 am. Like, a lot of food. <em>All</em> of the food.,447063Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:13:56 +1000Cramming in all your exercise on the weekend is still good for your healthLet's face it, working out during the week is a struggle. Few full-time jobs leave time for exercise during the workday itself, so that leaves two options: Waking up way too early in the morning or going to the gym right after work&#8212;and getting home way too late at night. Add family responsibilities, sleeping, and commuting to the equation, and the prospect becomes nearly impossible.,446911Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:56 +1000Warmer oceans are now linked to dangerous neurotoxins in shellfish A mysterious, potentially deadly neurotoxin that poisons humans by way of shellfish has now been linked to warming ocean waters. The new findings could help fisheries predict spikes of this substance in their catches, allowing them to protect human consumers and mitigate their own financial losses. But one question remains unanswered: as climate change edges ocean temperatures higher and higher, will blooms of the dangerous neurotoxin follow suit?,446910Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:56 +1000These adorable birds are sexual nomads&#8212;and that helps protect their species For a pectoral sandpiper, <a href=";v=ZW0DfsCzfq4" target="_blank">summer lovin'</a> means a sexual escapade around the Arctic circle. New research suggests that their risqu&#233; mating seasons&#8212;which generally include at least one snowy romp per night&#8212;require male birds to flit far and wide to find a wide variety of partners.,446909Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:55 +1000We might get to watch a new star explode into the sky in 2022To look up into the night sky is to gaze deep, deep into the past. Light moves fast, but not fast enough for us to get an instantaneous peek at the cosmos. So when we look at some of the glowing balls of plasma that light up our sky, we're actually seeing them as they looked thousands of years ago. <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">Even the light from our own sun is eight minutes old before it reaches Earth</a>.,446908Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:55 +1000The iPhone was announced 10 years ago. Here's how Twitter reacted back then.10 years ago on 10 January 2007, Steve Jobs dazzled the world with the very first iPhone. Despite the fact that the presentation could have gone <a href=";pagewanted=all" target="_blank">very wrong</a>, it went off without a hitch. How did the world react to that historic day? Let's take a look back in time, when tweets looked like old-school Facebook statuses and Apple keynotes went online as Quicktime presentations:,446907Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:55 +1000Why is the smog in China so bad?Earlier this week, a thick layer of smog rolled into China's capital city, turning skyscrapers into shadows and clear air into a yellow fog. Caught on a time lapse by Chas Pope, the smog rolls in like a dust storm in a desert, billowing into the streets of Beijing.,446906Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:55 +10006 body parts that hid from science in plain sight&#160; The human body has just upped its official organ count. Researchers have recently proposed that the mesentery, a membrane in the digestive system, deserves to be considered an organ in its own right. This means that humans are stuffed with a total of 79 organs.,446905Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:52 +1000Here's the cutest tech of CES 2017Every year, tech companies unleash their latest and greatest gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of it is impressive, some of it is stupid, and most of it is not very cuddly. But with the rise of A.I. assistants and social robots, a few new products stood out as things we might want to hug.,446904Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:52 +1000How to keep your kid from ordering four pounds of cookies with Amazon's AlexaHanding over purchasing power to a six-year-old is probably unwise. If I could talk to a magical voice in my house that would send me anything I asked for, I would have abused that power as a child. Heck, I probably still would. But that's exactly what Amazon's Alexa does, at least by default.,446903Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:52 +1000Is NASA launching too many asteroid missions?NASA has been on a bit of an asteroid kick lately. First, in 2015, the Dawn mission arrived at Ceres, the biggest rock in the asteroid belt. Then came plans for OSIRIS-REx, a mission to scoop up some asteroid dirt and carry it back to Earth.,446902Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:34:52 +1000How to survive the great whipped cream shortage of 2016 There's nothing like a dollop of whipped cream to kick a sweet treat&#8212;especially holiday fare like hot chocolate and pumpkin pie&#8212;up a notch. And let's be honest: Who here hasn't squirted Reddi-wip directly into her mouth? But we may have to bid farewell to the carefree days of squirting whipped cream out of a can. Nitrous oxide, the gas that aerates this type of topping, is facing a shortage&#8212;which means that whipped cream will be in limited supply until at least February.,445129Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:02:00 +1000It's official: All major carriers will auto-brick the Samsung Galaxy Note 7It's already happened in Australia, and now in the US as of Thursday, all major US cellular carriers have announced plans to remote-brick fire-catching Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. Verizon, the final holdout will issue an over-the-air software update on January 5 that will prevent the devices from both charging and connecting to cellular networks.,445128Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:02:00 +1000Moonlit snow, water on Ceres, and more It was a week of images, so here are the images of the week!,445127Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:01:58 +1000The Arctic just got its 2016 climate 'report card'&#8212;and it's flunkingWhen the Arctic flunks, we all lose. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">"Arctic Report Card"</a> on Tuesday, and the outlook is grim.,444778Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:45 +1000Glowworms trap dinner in fishing line made of water and urineGlue from a salamander. Glowworms aren't the only animals to make their own adhesives, but most of these glues are more complex and will take longer for scientists to characterize.,444777Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:44 +1000The year's best videos starring really, really small thingsWonders of the world come in all sizes, and to see the smallest, you'll need access to a microscope&#8212;or some truly incredible videos. With Nikon's annual Small World in Motion video competition, science buffs get a chance to experience theater on a microscopic stage. Onward, for the winners.,444776Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:43 +1000Gifts that grow (even without a green thumb)Giving somebody a plant is special; you're essentially telling them that you think they're responsible enough to support another living thing. Not only that, plants have been proven to boost your mood and filter your air. Some people give things, but you give experiences. Like the experience of growing a little bean sprout,444775Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:43 +1000Pokemon Go probably didn't make its users more active after all In July 2016, when Nintendo unleashed its Pokemon GO game (which uses augmented reality to let players find Pokemon in the real world), many <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">salivated</a> over an <a href=";src=syn#17a8ef0d7ff2" target="_blank">enticing</a> <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">idea</a>: at long last, a video game&#8212;a <em>video game</em>&#8212;had successfully convinced people to get more exercise. After all, Pokemon GO was immediately popular, downloaded some <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">100 million times</a> in less than a month, and the mechanics of the app require exploring (and, more to the point, taking steps in) the real world.,444774Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:42 +1000The US Department of Transportation wants to make cars talkHuman drivers are imperfect pilots, placed in command of a couple thousand pounds of fast-moving metal. We're just not equipped for the task: The eyes that evolved pointing forward (to better navigate our <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">ancestral home in the trees</a>) mean a smaller field of vision. Even with well-positioned mirrors, a human driving a car in three-dimensional space is bound to have blindspots. But what if the car itself didn't? What if cars could sense where they were, and then communicate that information to other cars? Suddenly, a dense road of imperfectly piloted vehicles would become a smart, safe network, with the cars themselves constantly pinpointing one another in space and time.,444772Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:41 +1000Apple AirPods should come in sets of threeToday, the last&#8212;and somewhat controversial&#8212;piece of Apple's iPhone 7 launch finally went on sale. The <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">$159 AirPods are available</a> online now and will be in stores next week. The earbuds are identical to the ubiquitous EarPods, save for one notable exception: They have no wires. Instead, the untethered earbuds connect to phones via Bluetooth.,444771Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:40 +1000How to sharpen your kitchen knives Your knife is too dull. How do I know this? For one, you clicked on this article. For another, you're supposed to be sharpening (or at least honing) your knife every few weeks&#8212;and, well, most of us don't do that.,444770Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:40 +1000SpaceX won't launch astronauts until 2018It's official: SpaceX is not going to meet its 2017 deadline to carry its first astronauts into space. The first crewed flight of the Dragon capsule has been <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">pushed back</a> from August 2017 to May 2018.,444769Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:39 +10008 gifts to prepare your friends for the robot apocalypse,444768Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:39 +1000Homeopathy doesn't work for cows, eitherLet's get this out of the way now: the weight of the scientific evidence says that homeopathy doesn't work. Its use in humans has long been derided as quackery. The <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">FDA says</a> that it is &#8220;not aware of scientific evidence to support homeopathy as effective.&#8221; The <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">World Health Organization warns against using it</a> to treat disease. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">found no evidence</a> that it works.,444767Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:38 +1000Iran revealed an anti-drone rifleAntennas are the latest weapon in the war on drones. Small, unmanned flying robots can scout the locations of troops, help artillery commanders aim attacks, and sometimes even carry explosives themselves.,444766Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:37 +1000Surprising stuff you can bring on a plane (without ticking off the TSA)TSA officers are, at least at face value, the demographic most profoundly unaffected by holiday cheer. As a traveler, it's hard not to feel like these agents exist to make your travel experience as unpleasant as possible. It's the Friday before Christmas and you didn't even really want to visit your uncle in the first place, but here you are, standing in the security line being yelled at by a bunch of surly folks in blue. Take your shoes off! Remove laptops from bags! And for god's sake, take everything out of your pockets!,444765Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:37 +1000Climate war on Christmas: Global warming is causing reindeer to shrinkA lack of food due to global warming could be causing reindeer to shrink, according to new research. The weight of the average adult reindeer in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic, has gone down by 12 percent in the last 16 years.,444764Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:37 +1000We've spotted cloudy weather on a giant exoplanetHumanity has gotten pretty good at tracking down planets in other solar systems. Between 2009 and 2013, the Kepler telescope discovered thousands of worlds orbiting distant suns. But finding out what those exoplanets are like has been more of a challenge. Luckily, we're getting better at it.,444763Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:24:37 +1000New Cassini photos show the hexagon on Saturn's north poleCassini just entered the second-to-last phase of its mission, where it will perform so-called ring-grazing orbits (shown in yellow). The blue loops represent orbits that it made previously in its nearly 20-year mission. Next year, it will enter the grand finale phase, which will end with Cassini's destruction.,443988Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:30:35 +1000This is what happens inside a battery right before it explodesFrom the fiery Note 7 debacles to exploding hoverboards, lithium-ion batteries aren't doing so hot lately. A new study helps to explain how these popular power sources can turn into safety hazards.,443987Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:30:35 +1000Good news: It's safe to use drones to fly blood around Delivering objects via drone is a tempting notion bound by hard constraints: drones are small, so the cargo has to be small. Drones need power to fly, and any additional weight requires more power to cover the same distance, which further limits the size of the cargo. For a drone delivery to make sense, then, the small cargo has to justify both its weight and the urgency of a drone flight. Pound for pound and ounce for ounce, few cargoes match that limitation better than blood.,443986Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:30:34 +1000New device would use electricity to plug gushing woundsFor centuries, if a doctor wanted to stop a bleeding wound, he would use the tourniquet method: Tightly wrap a piece of cloth around the area, which would essentially cut off blood flow to and from the wound. That ancient practice is still the go-to method today, and works well for most bleeding areas that are outside the body. But internal bleeding is much trickier to stop, and it can be just as life-threatening.,443985Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:30:34 +1000A crack in Antarctica is forming an iceberg the size of DelawareAn iceberg the size of Delaware is starting to break away from Antarctica. It began with a small crack, but has now grown 70 miles long and more than 300 feet wide. When it reaches the edges of the ice sheet, the state-sized chunk will drift away into the sea.,443984Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:30:33 +1000