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Amusing News Aliquots

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

Veggie view: MRI of broccoli. Credit: Inside Insides via OffBeat
Veggie view: MRI of broccoli. Credit: Inside Insides via OffBeat

Finally, the all-important medical techniques being used to create awesome Internet posts. Observe: MRIs of fruits and vegetables. [OffBeat]

How chemists help Cadbury create those crazy crème eggs and other Easter goodies. [Guardian]

Bad news, nappers. Not only are you missing out on life while snoozing, you’re also going to die young. [Gawker]

In a risky experiment involving voodoo dolls, snack deprivation, and couples therapy, researchers show that “hanger” (hunger-induced anger) exists. [NPR]

One way to avoid hangry prom dates? KFC corsages, of course. [NBC News]

Not really science news, but this Nebraska toddler who found his way into one of those claw machine things is some sort of genius, right? [Huffington Post]

Macro lens meets photogenic molluscs. These snail pictures almost make us want to invite these guys into our gardens. [Bored Panda]

When seeking treatment for rare genetic disorder, researchers go through the trouble of cloning goats. Why? “It is cheaper to feed goats than to feed cell lines,” they say. [Digital Journal]

Chemists Save King’s College Choir

The Newscripts gang had to carefully navigate the interwebs this week to find Amusing News Aliquots. That’s because plenty in the science and tech crowd posted April Fools’ stories–including one about a study that found scientists need to use more esoteric jargon when communicating with the public and another about how Google Fiber can also deliver you coffee via its network. You know, just like those dry, humorless scientists do every year.

But the clip below comes from King’s College, Cambridge, where Chaplain Richard Lloyd Morgan explains how his school’s world-famous choir is maintaining high male voices, thanks to the college’s chemists.

The whole story and video was an April Fools’ prank, and the Choir of King’s College YouTube channel later added that acknowledgment in the video title, lest people get too outraged in the Comments section.

And King’s College did trick quite a few people. Most impressive, the chaplain’s seriousness and the choir boys’ straight faces give nothing away.

“The complexity of the regulations involved mean that it really is no longer practical to have young boys singing in the choir,” Morgan deadpans.

And yet another solution was nixed: “After a lengthy consultation process, during which we learned that the surgical solution was surprisingly unpopular,” he says, “someone in the chemistry department came up with a very simple solution.”

Here it is:

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, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Drop it like it's hot: Frogs can't reproduce unless they get those pants off. Credit: Buzz Hoot Roar

Drop it like it’s hot: Frogs can’t reproduce unless they get those pants off. Credit: Buzz Hoot Roar

Ever wonder how scientists deciphered the mysteries of reproduction? Did you know frogs in tiny taffeta pants were involved? [Buzz Hoot Roar]

Study finds that couples who yawn together, stay together. It’s just the sort of motivation you needed to sit through another family slide show. [Mother Nature Network]

A dwarf planet has been named after Joe Biden. It marks the first time that the vice president has ever been characterized as having a small presence. [TPM]

“Cuddle Care” dolls let kids play doctor … but is being recalled for sending kids to the real doctor. [NPR

Golfers started the fire. Yes, they did light it. And 200 firefighters tried to fight it. [iO9]

Analytical chemist finds half of an ancient sea turtle bone in a stream in New Jersey. Turns out the other half has been sitting in a museum for nearly 200 years. [LA Times]

University of Pennsylvania scientist claims that sufficient sleep can diminish the likelihood of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. “But if we start sleeping more, that will cut into precious time that we could spend eating!” said everyone in America. [The Week]

In related news: The city that’s cracking down on sugary soft drinks now has a 24-hour ATM … for cupcakes. [Kitchenette]

Water–you know it as a solid, liquid, or gas. Now meet the water blob. [Fast Co.]

Danish zoo slammed for feeding unneeded giraffe to lions. Their response? Kill the lions. [Washington Post]


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.)

Continue reading →

Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV

Ozcan group member Steve Feng uses Google Glass to read a rapid diagnostic test. Credit: ACS Nano

Ozcan group member Steve Feng uses Google Glass to read a rapid diagnostic test. Credit: ACS Nano

When Google began releasing its new head-mounted computer to beta testers last year, technology enthusiasts were pumped. After all, the futuristic device, called Glass, might one day enable people to answer email hands-free or view driving directions projected onto the road in front of them. Others, though, have complained that Google Glass is a cool piece of tech that hasn’t yet justified its existence. (Still others have complained that Glass is creepy, but that’s a story for another day.)

Slowly but surely, though, beta testers in Google’s Explorers program have been making a case for the sophisticated eyewear by demonstrating its unique—sometimes scientific–capabilities. Physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel famously shared his visit to the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, with his students via Glass. Ohio surgeon Christopher Kaeding gave medical students a live, bird’s eye view of a knee operation he conducted while wearing the device.

And now, a research team led by Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles, is using Google Glass to help diagnose and track disease. The engineers designed an app for the wearable computer that images and reads rapid diagnostic tests such as pregnancy pee sticks. It also links the results to a scannable QR code, stores them, and tags them geographically.

“The new technology could enhance the tracking of dangerous diseases and improve response time in disaster-relief areas or quarantine zones where conventional medical tools are not available or feasible,” Ozcan says.

Among the first to be selected by Google as Explorers, Ozcan and his team demonstrated the capabilities of their new app by using it to read a few types of home HIV and prostate cancer tests—ones that require an oral swab or a drop of blood to work. They recently published their efforts in ACS Nano (2014, DOI: 10.1021/nn500614k). Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

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

Sriracha science. That’s hot! [ACS Reactions/YouTube]

A North Korea zoo welcomes a pack of Yorkshire terriers to its list of attractions. The zoo says to stay tuned for even more exciting additions, including an ant, a pineapple wearing sunglasses, and mold growing on a block of cheese. [Sky]

Scientists don’t need celebrities like Kimye and Brangelina to hook up in order to  to smash a couple of names together. Behold, the newly created particle “Dropleton,” a quantum droplet. [NBCNews]

Tired of making real molecules? Want to finally write that great novel? Well, use the elements in this Periodic Table of Storytelling to create “simple story molecules.” [Design Through Storytelling]

Finally, a genetic reason certain kids (and adults) poo-poo meals with cilantro, brussel sprouts, and kale. Now where’s the gene for not wanting to do the dishes? [iO9]

Female cat in France is being called a hero after saving 11 people from a burning building. The cat may have thwarted a house fire, but she has only stoked the fire in Pepé Le Pew’s heart for French felines even more. [Mother Nature Network]

Turns out the chickens laying the organic eggs are eating pricey imported food. They should probably just start laying golden eggs with those kinds of hoity-toity demands. [NPR]

More cat-fire news! Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered 500-year-old German manuscripts illustrating how to use a “rocket-cat” to set an enemy’s castle ablaze. Pentagon officials call it the purrrrr-fect way to launch a drone strike in the 16th century. [Philly.com]

They say, “one of the few pieces of art that can expand your mind and give you type 2 diabetes at the same time.” We say, “Sweet!” [Wired]

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]