Australian Popular Science News news from, 15 Dec 2017 19:30:09 +100010Rats have been in New York City since the 1700s and they're never leavingSince the late 1700s, Norwegian rats have haunted New York City's alleys, parks, and basements. They came on ships from France and England, and then they never left.,478938Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:55 +1000AI can figure out a place's politics by analyzing cars on Google Street ViewGoogle Street View images are filled with cars. That is a simple and pedestrian truth, and one which artificial intelligence researchers have taken advantage of to do something surprising. By analyzing car type, they were able to make predictions about the demographic information of the people in the cities they studied.,478937Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:50 +1000Hospitals are scrambling to solve their air pollution issueAsk Jodi Sherman to identify a culprit in global climate change, and you'll get an unexpected answer. The anesthesiologist from Yale University doesn't name the usual suspects&#8212;carbon dioxide, like the kind that spews out of our cars, or methane, the gas packed into every cow burp. Instead, she points a finger at anesthesia, the tool most essential to her trade. &#8220;And it's just being released into the atmosphere with no control,&#8221; she says.,478936Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:49 +1000Does apple cider vinegar actually do anything?If something claims to be a miracle cure&#8212;for cancer, for overeating, for run-of-the-mill acne&#8212;you should start by assuming it isn't. Life is hard and long and there are no easy shortcuts, especially when it comes to your health. That includes the internet darling that is apple cider vinegar.,478935Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:49 +1000Neolithic women were probably a lot stronger than youOne would assume that many of the strongest members of our species are elite athletes. And if particularly strong arms are what you're after, collegiate rowers&#8212;who routinely exert many times their body weight in power to propel a boat forward as fast as humanly possible&#8212;are about as good as it gets. But according to a new study, even elite female rowers have nothing on the arms of prehistoric women.,478934Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:48 +1000Earthworms are thriving in Martian(ish) soilA Dutch scientist found two baby earthworms wriggling around in soil that is supposed to replicate the surface of Mars. But we're still pretty far away from gardening on the red planet.,478933Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:48 +1000Yetis are real, they just also happen to be Himalayan brown bearsIt would be easy to dismiss the myth of the yeti as just that: a myth. There's no conclusive evidence that a giant, ape-like creature lives in the Himalayas (or anywhere else, for that matter). But the beauty of science is that we don't just have to roll our eyes. We can test the hypothesis.,478932Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:47 +1000We are basically positive that the Russians did not find alien bacteria in spaceIt will be a glorious day when we finally get definitive proof of alien life. It's going to be absolutely amazing, whether we make contact with a species that rivals or exceeds us in intelligence or we accidentally squish an alien bug on a spaceship window.,478931Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:44 +1000Humans still rule drone racing, but NASA's AI pilot might change thatIn a California warehouse in October, quadrocopter drones zoomed and buzzed, racing through an obstacle course of black-and-white checkered arches. On one team: drones guided by software and AI, the work of a team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On the other: a drone steered by a human professional&#8212;Ken Loo, a Google engineer and Drone Racing League pilot.,478930Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:43 +1000What Meghan Markle's engagement ring can teach us about Southern Africa's ancient continental crustIf you have a very limited media diet, you may not have heard that Prince Henry of Wales (usually referred to as Prince Harry) recently proposed to American actress, model, and humanitarian Meghan Markle. Along with his hand in marriage and a place in the British royal family, she has accepted a glittering rock from Botswana. It formed hundreds of thousands of feet under ground, billions of years ago, only to be pushed upwards by subsurface plumes of burning magma on its fateful journey to Markle's ring finger.,478929Fri, 1 Dec 2017 11:22:42 +1000Here's even more evidence that you need to spend time enjoying natureTwentieth Century German social psychologist Erich Fromm first advanced the notion that humans hold an inborn connection to nature. Later, it was popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson as &#8220;the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.&#8221; In the ensuing years, support for the positive effects of nature has gained considerable traction, grounded in a growing body of research. In recent weeks, at least four new studies have emerged adding more validity to what science repeatedly has revealed: being around nature is good for us. The latest research shows that interacting with nature makes the brain stronger and soothes the psyche.,478412Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:49 +1000In 1964, Popular Science answered 'stupid' questions about what you eatIn November of 1964, Popular Science published "Stupid Questions About What You Eat" because "most [people] have many mistaken notions" about the digestive process. The article sought to answer "fundamental questions about what and why you eat&#8212;with digested answers." The text of the article (formatted for the web) follows below. It can also be read in its original format through the Popular Science archives, here.,478411Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:49 +1000Different kinds of alcohol might make you feel different emotionsHumans have been buddies with booze for thousands of years. Some scientists believe this love affair goes back even further. The so-called drunken monkey hypothesis speculates that our ancestors possessed an unusual knack for consuming ethanol without keeling over dead, allowing them to access the sweet, sweet caloric payloads of rotting, fermenting fruit. But we've come a long way from merely tolerating overripe apples. These days, alcohol factors into our social interactions, our most cherished cultural ceremonies, countless classic poems, songs, paintings, and plays. And save for some occasions when we sip an elixir to fulfill a religious rite, we drink alcohol for one main reason: it makes us feel good.,478410Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:49 +1000Cult leaders like Charles Manson exploit this basic psychological needCharles Manson, who died November 19, famously attracted a coterie of men and women to do his bidding, which included committing a string of murders in the late-1960s. Manson is undoubtedly a fascinating figure with a complicated life story. But as someone who studies human cognition, I'm more interested in the members of the Manson &#8220;family&#8221; like Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, and how they become drawn to leaders of cult-like organizations in the first place.,478409Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:48 +1000Tiny license plates could help us steer clear of our space junkBefore owning a car became typical, roads and highways (the few that existed) were never crowded. It was only after everyone started purchasing and driving their own vehicles&#8212;to work, school, even the grocery store around the block&#8212;that streets grew congested, rush hour became an everyday occurrence, and car accidents became an inevitability.,478408Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:46 +1000Will the world shake with more large earthquakes in 2018? Time will tell.Amidst panic over planets that don't exist and conspiracy theories about the moon landing on Google News this morning, one headline announced a more down-to-Earth sort of doom. &#8220;Deadly earthquakes could hit a BILLION people next year because of Earth's slowing rotation,&#8221; warned The Daily Mail.,478407Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:44 +1000Dandelion fluff makes a surprisingly effective parachuteDandelions and their relatives are pretty seasoned voyagers. Their seeds can sometimes travel 100 miles on the wind, and even drift over the sea to repopulate islands decimated by volcanoes.,478406Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:03:42 +1000The ozone hole is at its smallest size since 1988, thanks to hot air and a massive international effortOne of the layers of atmosphere that protects all life on our planet is the <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">width of two pennies</a>, and hangs out six to ten miles above the Earth's in an environment that human activity made extremely hostile. Every year when winter ends and warmer weather returns to Antarctica, chemicals that we put into the air rip a hole in the layer. But this year, that hole is smaller than usual.,476989Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:07 +1000How do those internet balloons over Puerto Rico work?It's been over six weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving millions without power or access to reliable communication.,476988Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:07 +1000We may have a new cousin in this orangutan species&#8212;but it's in big trouble&#160; Not every announcement of a newly discovered species feels like a huge deal. Thousands of new critters get their names in print every year as they are catalogued and confirmed by scientists. But most of those are insects, or tiny frogs, or blobby, mysterious creatures from deep below the sea. Most of the organisms that have eluded scientific detection are, well, elusive, so most of them are small or incredibly alien in their habitat.,476987Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:06 +1000You don't need an Xbox One X, but you'll probably like itForza has long been a showpiece for the Xbox system. If you like shiny surfaces and bright colors, you're in for a treat.,476986Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:05 +1000Senility, storms, global domination, and other possible reasons an army of octopuses showed up on a Welsh beachA beach in Wales recently faced an eight-armed invasion. Over 20 octopuses were <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">reportedly seen</a> crawling up New Quay beach on the west coast of the country, with many later being found dead after failing to make it back to the sea.,476985Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:05 +1000There's apparently a giant void in the Great Pyramid. Here's why we don't know what's in there.In the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, a rain of high-energy radiation slams into the thin air. The impact creates a second shower of charged subatomic particles, like <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">muons</a>, which fall towards Earth, and then fall into it. They drift down through <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">clouds</a> and then through stone, with most halting in the sculpted, lithified skeletons of long-dead sea creatures. Others press on, passing again through air, through rock once more, <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">and then through a photographic film</a>.,476984Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:04 +1000Razer designed its first smartphone to make holding it sideways suck lessMost of the time you hold your phone, you position it vertically. That makes sense for most apps that require scrolling or swiping, but we do it even when it's crazy&#8212;like when we're shooting video. Razer, however, designed its first smartphone with horizontal holding as a priority. The sideways orientation is better for gaming, watching content, using augmented reality, and shooting video that isn't a nightmare to watch, but is it enough to help Razer stand out in the wilderness that is smartphone competition?,476983Mon, 6 Nov 2017 14:47:04 +1000A strange object from outside our solar system just zoomed past the sunTravelling between the stars has been a dream of humanity for generations. But while our species might not be able to make that trek for a long while, there are some seasoned travelers whizzing around the galaxy, and one of them stopped by our solar system this week.,476446Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:44:59 +1000Buildings of the future might be constructed by swarms of robotsThanks to recent advances in robotics, computing, and other technologies, a small but growing number of scientists and engineers think robot-made housing might finally be possible. In fact, not only is it possible, it may be far better. Robotic construction may increase the speed of construction, improve its quality, and lower its price.,476445Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:44:59 +1000The first genetically engineered humans might not have their DNA tweaked at allHacking the human body is all the rage these days. A few years back, scientists made waves by developing a technique (dubbed CRISPR) that literally cuts DNA at specific locations to edit out the genes that lead to disease. The implications for this are as enormous as they are diverse. However, the approach is far from perfect. And you'd really rather not have <em>any</em> errors when messing with something as permanent as the human genome.,476444Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:44:58 +1000'HDR' is the most confusing term in consumer tech right nowThis simulation of HDR vs. non-HDR playback comes from Dolby. The difference isn't always as pronounced.,476443Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:44:56 +1000Can the Apple TV 4K be a cord-cutter's only streaming device?&#160; I cut the cable cord roughly three years ago and I've never regretted it. I have, however, accumulated a small village of set-top boxes, media sticks, Chromecasts, gaming consoles, and just about any other HDMI-connected rectangle that can spit out a Netflix stream. For the past two weeks, however, I put all of them on hold and committed fully to the Apple TV 4K. At $179 (for the 32GB model, the 64GB box pushes the price to $200), it costs almost twice as much as the excellent Roku Ultra, which means it should do just about everything the average cord cutter desires.,476142Wed, 25 Oct 2017 11:54:57 +1000Can you really die from a broken heart?When someone loses a loved one or endures a terrible loss, people might say they have a broken <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">heart</a>. But that's a figure of speech, of course, typically meant to describe the mental pain associated with losing someone extremely close to you. But a proverbial broken heart can cause physical symptoms, too. And sometimes, in rare cases, those physiological changes&#8212;often accompanied by other underlying conditions&#8212;can be life threatening.,476141Wed, 25 Oct 2017 11:54:55 +1000How artificial intelligence could help spies do their jobsConsider the job of an intelligence analyst&#8212;someone who has to sift through vast amounts of information and figure out the bigger narrative. The raw data this hypothetical analyst looks at could be anything from a report on the ground, to government statements, to items in the local media. The analyst's job&#8212;looking at data, synthesizing it in a report&#8212;is rich territory for artificial intelligence to help out, according to a new company called Primer.,476140Wed, 25 Oct 2017 11:54:55 +1000Pollution kills nine million people a yearIt isn't just air pollution that's a problem&#8212;water pollution like that pictured here in Bangladesh accounts for more than a million deaths per year.,476139Wed, 25 Oct 2017 11:54:55 +1000Great tits aren't the only things evolving to adapt to humans. Here are 12 others.You already know about antibiotic and pesticide resistance. You've heard that mice and rats evolve immunity to poisons. But there are other, sneakier ways that the rest of our planet's ecosystem has adapted to humanity's presence.,476138Wed, 25 Oct 2017 11:54:55 +1000We might have better lab mice if we paid more attention to their gutsBefore any medication, vaccine, or other drug therapy reaches human use, it goes through extensive testing in the lab&#8212;often in animals, and typically in mice. This step in the evaluation process is extremely important. The way a drug affects a cluster of cells in a Petri dish often has little to do with the way it will behave inside a living organism, where multiple organ systems are at play.,475969Mon, 23 Oct 2017 11:03:12 +1000From The Department of the Bleeding Obvious: Gun research could save lives, but America won't fund itWhen Stephen Paddock opened fire Oct. 1 on concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 59, the city became the unfortunate host of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Investigators are still trying to piece together the events that took place that evening, and why.,475968Mon, 23 Oct 2017 11:03:12 +1000Mosquitoes evolved to fly away with a belly full of your blood&#8212;without you ever noticingMosquitoes are weird fliers. Your typical air-jackey &#8212;a sparrow or a fruit fly, for instance&#8212;takes flight by jumping into the air. Only once aloft do they begin to flap their wings.,475967Mon, 23 Oct 2017 11:03:11 +1000Yes, your dog is making puppy eyes at youThe problem with dogs is that they're a lot like babies that never grow up. This is both a great strength and a huge annoyance, mostly because they can't talk. Researchers who study infant learning and behavior have to rely on other cues, like how long subjects look at an object, because asking them questions is just a big waste of time. Dogs are the same, and that makes it very difficult to come to definitive conclusions about their behavior and what it means.,475966Mon, 23 Oct 2017 11:03:11 +1000'Geostorm' is a very silly movie that raises some very serious questionsHollywood's latest disaster flick, &#8220;Geostorm,&#8221; is premised on the idea that humans have figured out how to control the Earth's climate. A powerful satellite-based technology allows users to fine-tune the weather, overcoming the ravages of climate change. Everyone, everywhere can quite literally &#8220;have a nice day,&#8221; until&#8212;spoiler alert!&#8212;things do not go as planned.,475964Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:57 +1000This entourage of weirdos hangs out in Earth's cosmic neighborhoodEarth is a planet of habit. It rigorously adheres to a whirlwind of a daily schedule, spinning through its tasks (mostly: spinning.) In terms of long-term plans, it has those down too. It orbits the Sun every 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds, thank-you-very-much.,475963Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000Adobe is training AI to be a better photo and video editor than youEvery year at its Max conference, Adobe gives "sneak peeks" at new tech that will one day make its way into apps like Photoshop, and its video editing software Premiere. These demos gave us our first look at Adobe's seemingly magic Content Aware Fill tool, which automatically replaces objects when you Photoshop them out. This year's tech demos show off some truly impressive image editing feats, all of which is powered by the machine learning tech Adobe calls Sensei. Here are some of the most impressive.,475962Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000When you get a stitch in your side, what's really going on?Before the mile run each year in middle school, on the dreaded walk down from the classroom to the course, my classmates would argue over the best way to prevent a side stitch. More so than turning an ankle or coming in last, that repetitive stabbing pain is what the majority of us dreaded most. Our cures ranged across the map from taught techniques, like breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and not eating for three hours prior, to my favorite: Punching yourself in the stomach at the slightest hint of pain (don't try it, it doesn't work).,475961Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000You can now navigate Windows 10 by walking around a virtual mansionThe $400 Lenovo Explorer headset is built for Mixed Reality with front-facing cameras to integrate the environment.,475960Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000Your memories are less accurate than you thinkEarlier this year, the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">reported</a> that a cold case of nearly 14 years had finally been cracked. In 2015, a woman who was attacked by her Air Force instructor in 2000 had been able to describe a family portrait she noticed in his home. The instructor denied that it had ever hung on his wall&#8212;until the prosecution projected a photo of his family sitting on their living room sofa with the portrait visible behind them.,475959Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000Bugs are buzzing off, and that's very badBugs, well, bug a lot of people. There's nothing quite as irritating as a fly buzzing around a room (except, perhaps, the constant itching of a bug bite). It's hard to look at a mosquito, with its habit of spreading diseases like malaria and Zika, and not think we'd be better off without them.,475958Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:56 +1000Meet the most important part of your smartphoneYour smartphone is powered by a chip. The new iPhones, including the upcoming iPhone X, use one called an A11 Bionic, and other handsets, like the Pixel 2, pack a Snapdragon 835. But chips in modern phones are not homogeneous pieces of silicon&#8212;they have specialised components, or hardware blocks, on them. Because of these multiple elements, processors like these are referred to as a &#8220;system on a chip.&#8221; One of those blocks is the image signal processor, which takes the data from your camera and makes it into a photograph. Another part of the chip is the graphics processing unit, or GPU, and it's responsible for an increasing number of your phone's fanciest features.,475957Mon, 23 Oct 2017 10:57:55 +1000Neutron star collisions may have created most of the gold in the universe&#160; Two city-sized orbs dance through their galaxy. Their dense mass, each equivalent to a star, spins the partners as they get closer and closer together, grazing the outer limits of their other half's being. For 100 breathless seconds, their pas de deux of anticipation sends gravitational shivers through the universe.,475759Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:10:01 +1000California's wildfires could make 2017 a very unusual wine vintageThis month, Northern California <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">experienced some of the worst fires it's ever had</a>, killing dozens of people and leaving thousands without homes. The ongoing fires started in Napa and Sonoma counties and spread to Mendocino and Solano, all regions world-renowned for their wine. While it's certainly far from the biggest concern in the midst of such tragedy, some are wondering how the local grapes&#8212;and the local <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">wine</a> industry&#8212;will fare in the wake of the fire.,475758Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:10:01 +1000Google developed its own mobile chip to help smartphones take better photosBack in the film photography days, different films produced distinct &#8220;looks&#8221;&#8212;say, light and airy or rich and contrasty. An experienced photographer could look at a shot and guess what kind of film it was on by looking at things like color, contrast, and grain. We don't think about this much in the digital age; instead, we tend to think of raw digital files as neutral attempts to recreate what our eyeballs see. But, the reality is that smartphone cameras have intense amounts of processing work happening in the background. Engineers are responsible for guiding that tech to uphold an aesthetic. The new Google Pixel 2 phone uses unique algorithms and a dedicated image processor to give it its signature style.,475757Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:10:01 +1000What Star Wars taught scientists about spermWhen Charles Reilly and Donald Inger set out to make their short film&#8212;In the Beginning, an homage of sorts to Star Wars that (spoilers) tells the tale of a single sperm's triumph in a literal life or death race to fertilize an egg&#8212;they had just one goal.,475756Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:10:01 +1000Marie Curie mobilized an army of women to help win World War IAsk people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.),475755Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:10:00 +1000