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Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


Wildlife in the living room: This baby elephant would like you to change the channel. Credit: Francoise Malby Anthony/io9

Stray baby elephant wanders into living room, gets a snack. The Newscripts gang would like a baby elephant, please. [io9]

Scientists at England’s University of Leicester have run the numbers and determined that Noah’s ark could have held 70,000 animals. Stay tuned to future studies from the group, including “How badly did David beat Goliath?”, “Is a Jonah-rich diet good for whales?”, and “Can burning bushes actually talk?” [The Telegraph]

Scientists have determined that, aside from humans, only two animals can actually dance: parrots and Asian elephants. Then again, their strict definition of “dance” may exclude a lot of humans. [NPR]

How did engineers of the Ming dynasty move 100-ton stones to the Forbidden City 500 years ago? Ice paths, of course. [Seriously, Science?]

NASA is working on a surgical robotic device that would allow astronauts to operate on themselves in space. And we thought space ice cream was cool. [io9]

Check out this behind-the-scenes look at artists putting together an exhibit on pterosaurs. Says one scientific artist of his work: “It’s great at cocktail parties: a billionaire hedge-fund manager and a 5-year-old both want to talk to you with equal interest.” [New York Times]

President William Henry Harrison—whose death a mere month after he took office is commonly blamed on pneumonia developed after his numbingly long inaugural address—may actually have died thanks to a marsh of human excrement near the White House. So much for the perks of the presidency. [New York Times]

A dog from Texas has turned up in Cincinnati, four days after running away from home. The dog said he decided to make the trek to Cincinnati after a breeze rolled in from the north and he wondered, “What’s that smell?” [Cincinnati.com]

More olfactory news: Recycled vegetable oil can be used to pave dusty country roads, leaving behind a faint french fry smell. The discovery means there’s never been a better time than now to eat someone’s dust. [CBC]



Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Jeff Huber.


Spotlight stealer: Girl takes credit for the small egg her chicken laid. Credit: Cheddar Valley Gazette

A chicken may have laid the world’s smallest egg. Hungry Denny’s patrons hope the egg will be served with the world’s smallest strip of bacon. [Cheddar Valley Gazette]

A solar power plant near Las Vegas has received complaints that the glare from its panels is distracting pilots and poses a safety hazard. Thank goodness there aren’t any other potential distractions in the Las Vegas skyline for pilots to contend with. [Gizmodo]

Finally, science validates the five-second rule of dropped food. Now it’s society’s turn to accept the slovenly behavior. [Science Daily]

The mood of your friends on social media can affect your mood as well, researchers say. So maybe it’s time you stop following Grumpy Cat on Twitter. [NPR]

Study shows invertebrates might feel pain. Calamari consumers and lobster lovers everywhere cringe a little. [Washington Post]

Pee can actually be used to power a cell phone. “A urine-laced phone?!” the Newscripts gang scoffed. “That’ll never happen. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go back to using our cell phones, which we’ve accidentally dropped into the toilet three times.” [BBC]

Not to be outdone by sci-fi movies, surgeons reconstruct a man’s face with a 3-D printer. [iO9]

Seattle police authorized to use facial-recognition software. Criminals lining up to get new 3-D printed faces. [NBC News]

A bar in upstate New York has turned an ice-frozen parking lot into a field for turkey curling. It’s exactly the kind of sensible decision you would expect an establishment that sells inebriating beverages to make. [12 WBNG Action News]

No, professor, your lecture is so stimulating that I have to cool my brain! [Gizmodo]

Three tiger cubs were recently born in the ZSL London Zoo. Vladimir Putin says he can’t wait to pose with them for a photo-op. [The Telegraph]

Just How Scientific Were This Year’s Best Picture Oscar Nominees?


Oscar: It’s hard to argue that science isn’t fundamental to a statue that is covered in gold. Credit: Travis/Wikimedia Commons

The Oscars were last Sunday. It was a time for us, the moviegoing public, to take to social media and cattily comment on Zac Efron’s inability to read a teleprompter …

John Travolta’s mispronunciation of the name of “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel …

and Kim Novak’s bizarre spotlight-seeking behavior at an award show where she wasn’t even nominated …

But what about us members of the moviegoing public who are also science nerds? Where can we go to talk about how our favorite subject permeated this year’s nominated films? Why, to the Newscripts blog, of course! This year, we break down the science portrayed in each of the Best Picture nominees, ranking them from least to most amount of scientific material tackled. And if you think we missed some crucial science in the movies, sound off in our comments section. Also, be warned, spoilers are sprinkled throughout this post, so if you’re planning to catch up on these nominees sometime in the future, proceed with caution. Now, without further ado, the nominees are ...


9. “12 Years a Slave”

Synopsis: Freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sold into slavery and spends 12 years toiling in the fields of the antebellum South. Director Steve McQueen uses excruciatingly long takes to force his audience to confront the violence of the U.S.’s dark past. By not cutting away from such cruelty, the film captivates in its brutal honesty. This really is the best picture of 2013.

Is there science? Not really. By virtue of being a period piece, “12 Years a Slave” comes closest to touching the subject of science when it reminds its audience of the technological advances our current society enjoys over pre-Civil War America; one such reminder occurs when Northup struggles to write a letter home to his family using ink he made from crushed berries. But outside of such reminders of our advancements in technology, the film doesn’t offer much scientific fodder.


8. “American Hustle”

Synopsis: A team of professional swindlers (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation on corrupt politicians. Cowriter and director David O. Russell packs the movie with enough flashy costumes, big hair, and loud music to almost distract you from the fact that the movie’s glut of dialogue diminishes its coherence. Almost.

Is there science? Like “12 Years a Slave,” the science in “American Hustle” largely stems from the fact that the movie is a period piece, and no scene in the movie references science more overtly than the scene in which Bale’s bored housewife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, places an aluminum container with tinfoil in a microwave that was given as a gift to Bale’s character by Camden, N.J., mayor Carmine Polito. After the microwave bursts in flames, Lawrence berates her husband for bringing a “science oven” into their home that she believes “takes all the nutrition out of our food.” Surprisingly, concern over the nutritional content of microwaved food is something that we’re still debating today, although such worries are unfounded. Another point of contention with this scene in the movie? Apparently, metal can’t catch fire in a microwave. (Warning: Video contains not-safe-for-work language.)

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Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, lovingly compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


Modern Farmer magazine makes playlist for cows. Cows say the gesture really mooooooooves them. Credit: Keith Weller/USDA/Wikimedia Commons

Cows make more milk when listening to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” We thought they’d be more into the band’s hit “Stand.” [Grist]

The cold of this year’s winter has killed off more stink bugs than usual, which is unfortunate because we now all have one less animal to blame our farts on this spring. [Washington Post]

Foiling Generation Y’s plan to replace actual human emotion with emoticons, study shows that our brains don’t process emoticons the same way we process human faces. [NBC]

That said, dogs and humans share similar neural processing of voices and emotions, leading parents to wonder if they have more in common with their pets than with their texting tweens.  [Wired]

The next time you’re tempted to go to bed early at a scientific meeting rather than stay out drinking with your fellow conferees, remember that’s how Peter Higgs lost out on his first opportunity to win the Nobel Prize. [BBC]

This remote-control Nerf-firing robot could be fun at the next office party. [Gizmodo]

Most e-cigarettes let people smoke indoors, but the Supersmoker Bluetooth now lets people answer their phones between puffs. [Gizmodo]

Pet octopuses demand constant attention, expensive food, and tremendous amounts of upkeep. But those aren’t the only reasons to get one! [Mother Nature Network]

Study suggests that cats are more likely to bite depressed people. So the next time a cat bites you, don’t blame it, blame your ineffective antidepressants instead. [Popular Science]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Roach two

With their battery packs, cyborg cockroaches may even outlive Cher in the wake of nuclear fallout. Credit: K. Shoji et al/Tokyo University of Agriculture & Technology

Giving us Godzilla was, apparently, not enough. Japanese researchers unveil giant cyborg cockroaches. [PopSci]

Electronic tongue can distinguish between 51 types of beer. No word yet on whether it can wear plaid, grow a mustache, or ride a fixed-gear bike. [Seriously, Science?]

University of Utah scientists interested in learning how religion impacts the brain will be studying MRI scans of Mormon missionaries. Scientists say they found missionaries for their study after engaging in an extensive door-to-door recruitment campaign. [Salt Lake Tribune]

We never thought of putting THAT in our eyes. [Improbable Research]

In an attempt to attract volunteers, a donkey sanctuary in Northern Ireland is offering potential volunteers access to “unlimited donkey cuddles.” The sanctuary, however, remains mum on whether or not volunteers will have to buy their donkeys dinner after cuddling. [UTV]

It’s like those magic foam toys that expand in water. But for gunshot wounds. [PopSci]

Don’t you hate it when your orange rolls away? Well, here’s one solution. [Inventor Spot]

Border collie eats part of her owner’s Aston Martin. In the dog’s defense, she did have a need for speed. [Yahoo News]

And just in time for tonight’s Winter Olympics debut: the physics of ice skating. [Huffington Post]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


The purrr-fect book. Credit: prideandprejudiceandkitties.com

Finally, a book that explores the proper etiquette for spitting up a hair ball in public: “Pride and Prejudice and Kitties.” [Mother Nature Network]

More feline news: Looks like U.S. prisons are too posh. After all, cats looking for a comfortable home are now breaking into them. [Glens Falls Post-Star]

Think your graduate work was tough? At least you didn’t have to attach a camera to an alligator’s back. [Seriously, Science?]

Study suggests MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” might be driving down teen pregnancies. Next up, “Teens Who Don’t Do Their Homework”? [USA Today]

While the Newscripts gang was bundled up and hiding from the polar vortex, this Canadian fellow created a colored ice fort. [BoingBoing]

Did we all just assume that the flying V formation gave birds an aerodynamics push? Turns out it was just scientifically shown for the first time. [NPR]

Police arrest man for insobriety after his parrot tells police that he is drunk. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the man. He thought he had a parrot for a pet, but it turns out his pet was really a rat. [United Press International]

In the real-life Japanese version of “Good Will Hunting,” the university janitor creates a gorgeous, unsolvable maze in his spare time. [Viralnova]

Skip the plug-in night-lights, now you can buy bioluminescent house plants for all your nighttime low-light needs. [Popular Science]

When those pesky moral dilemma tests are presented in virtual reality–complete with carnage and screams–turns out people get more emotionally riled, but also more utilitarian. Sorry, best friend. [Time]



Merry Christmas From Newscripts!

C&ENtreeStraight-on View_DSC_8885 As Chemistry World reminded us this year, the holidays aren’t really the holidays unless you’re basking in the glow of a chemistree. Lucky for us, Newscripts has two this holiday season! The chemistree to the left was built at Caltech by Douglas L. Smith, a legacy content producer at the school, who shared his picture with Newscripts. The image certainly warmed our hearts: Chemical Christmas trees are a tradition here at Newscripts.

And on the right is a Christmas tree made up of C&EN covers. The decoration comes courtesy of our magazine’s printer, Brown Printing.

Newscripts is about to open the gifts underneath our C&EN tree, but before we do, we want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year! Thanks for a great 2013.

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Combine your favorite pastimes of gardening and shooting with Flowershell—a 12-gauge shotgun shell loaded with seeds. Lest you think this is a new invention from the Swedes, a Missouri man patented the idea in 1976. [Improbable Research]

Study finds that a region’s birth rates may be directly proportional to the success of local sports teams. Further proof that there’s nothing more romantic than watching a man receive a Gatorade bath. [ScienceDaily]

What were the baddies of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” really missing? Vitamin D, obviously. [AFP]

Ni hao, kitty. New evidence suggests cats were domesticated in China 5,000 years ago. [USA Today]

Researchers find that moderate drinking may improve immune system responsiveness. So step up your game, you minimal drinkers! [Mother Jones]

Worried that you might turn into your worrywart mother? Turns out it’s epigenetic. [The Atlantic]

Great, just what we need—worms engineered to live five times longer than normal. Can probably still squish them though … [iO9]

Some people are self-conscious about their cankles. This Chinese man had his hand surgically attached to his ankle—and it wasn’t just for kicks … okay, okay. No more puns. We promise. [Huffington Post]

Policeman rescues dog after it eats a pot brownie. Might we suggest a name for the dog? Bud-dy. Wait! Where are you going!? Come back! [Oregon Live]