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Amusing News Aliquots

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


This batmobile looks like it’s got a pretty bad blind spot.
Credit: James Edition/AllStar

What you really need is this street-legal Batmobile. Only $1 million. [Short List]

Secret to living a long life? Good food and good sleep, says world’s oldest woman. Secret to happiness? Sheesh, what more do you want from her? [NBC News]

New app’s technology seeks to dramatically increase people’s reading speeds. No mention on how app plans to prevent people from skipping article entirely and scrolling to the tl;dr section. [33rd Square]

Turns out your taste buds can be tricked by juicy adjectives, familiar memories, and pleasing colors. Maybe we are in the matrix after all. [Popular Science]

Researchers find that caffeine dependence can lead to emotional problems. It’s distressing news, but thankfully the Newscripts gang always keeps a cup of joe at our sides to calm us down during moments like these. [Seattle Pi]

Study finds that a community in California experienced a decline in childhood obesity after it built a casino. The finding is leading many to believe that the casino’s all-you-can-eat buffet must not be that good. [Reuters]

A 13-year-old in England has become the youngest person in the world to ever build a nuclear fusion reactor. So stop holding your kid back, and start letting him play with nuclear technology already! [Daily Mail]

We like to see science tackling tough problems: Researchers develop tricks to get rid of that song that’s been stuck in your head. [Seriously, Science?]

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, lovingly compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

conversationheartsIt’s Valentine’s Day! What’s that – shut up?! Don’t worry, feeling lonely could be good for you and the survival of your genes. [Daily Mail]

It’s probably too late to get one of these boxes of anatomy chocolates for your sweetie, but they’re so cool we thought we’d make note of them anyway. [Visual Anatomy Ltd]

For your Valentine’s pleasure: A dozen romance-related research papers. [Seriously, Science?]

Construction workers in Seattle accidentally discovered a mammoth tusk during a digging operation. Workers said they were disappointed they didn’t discover the rest of the mammoth, as they would have been sure to compliment the mammal on its long legs. [Seattle Pi]

In other unearthed bones news, King Richard III’s remains that were found under a parking lot last year will be DNA sequenced. [Boing Boing]

Forget about tattoos and piercings. The best body modification by far has to be getting a magnet implanted in your fingertip. [Gizmodo]

Resource-strapped city bees are using cheap plastic waste to build their hives. It’s yet more proof that urban real estate costs are too damn high. [ScienceDaily]

If your cat bites the hand that feeds it, take that hand to a hospital right away. Dog people everywhere say, I told you so. [USA Today]

Finally, a chance to put to good use the knowledge gleaned from all those investigative news pieces on how to operate a black light in a hotel room: The hunt is on in Virginia for $250 worth of missing bull semen. [WTOP]

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]

Flame Challenge 2014

A love of chemistry burns deep in the heart of Robert E. Buntrock. So much so, the American Chemical Society emeritus member will be fanning the flame of his love for the central science in the 2014 Flame Challenge.

This annual challenge, which is entering its third year of sponsorship by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (CCS) at Stony Brook University, SUNY, and the second year of sponsorship by

This year's question for scientists to answer is "What is color?" Credit: Shutterstock

This year’s question for scientists to answer is “What is color?” Credit: Shutterstock

ACS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, asks scientists to answer a seemingly simple scientific question in such a way that an 11-year-old can understand. This year’s question is “What is color?”

“Color is very important to me,” Buntrock says. “It helped attract me to chemistry.” So composing his essay shouldn’t be too difficult. The twist: He’s having his grandson’s fifth-grade class prejudge his entry. “My draft has exactly 300 words. We’ll see how much survives my critics,” he says.

Patrick Allen, who teaches Buntrock’s grandson Brody at Asa C. Adams Elementary School, in Orono, Maine, has signed up his fifth-grade class to judge Flame Challenge entries, so they will be practicing, too, when Buntrock visits them next week with his entry.

The annual competition began in 2012 when Alan Alda posed the question “What is a flame?” to scientists around the world because when he was 11-years-old he asked the question to his science teacher and wasn’t satisfied with the technical answer he received. The challenge question for the past two years has been decided by 11-year-olds across the world. This year, more than 800 questions were submitted by students.

Scientists can answer the question either in written form (no more than 300 words) or in visual or video format (less than 6 minutes), and entries are due by March 1.

In developing his entry, Buntrock has an extensive scientific background from which to draw. He is a semiretired chemist who does chemical information consulting and book reviews under the company name Buntrock Associates. He graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1962, and he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University in 1967. Before starting his company, Buntrock worked in industry for nearly 30 years at Air Products & Chemicals and Amoco Corp. A successful researcher, he holds three patents and has almost 200 publications.

With such an accomplished science career, Buntrock can’t wait to join in the Flame Challenge excitement. “I may have so much fun,” he says, “that I’ll enter again” next year.

Amusing News Aliquots

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


PB&J: Usually carnivorous, these jellyfish were fed only peanut butter. Credit: Zelda Montoya and Barrett Christie / Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, Dallas via NBC

Dallas aquarium creates peanut butter and jellyfish by feeding jellyfish a steady diet of peanut butter. Rhesus monkeys eagerly await a diet of peanut butter cups. [NBC]

Governor of Colorado renames state’s tallest mountains in honor of all 53 players on the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl roster. The gesture provides the NFL with yet another opportunity to not discipline players for getting high before a game. [Denver Post

Because we need more online distractions, now you can build with Legos on your computer. [Chrome]

It turns out there are snakes in the air. “Yeah,” say nonplussed travelers. “They’re called price-gouging airline executives.” [Discovery]

The latest in army technology? Chewing gum for better dental health. Take note, Violet Beauregarde. [Army Times/USA Today]

Snowy owl gets lost in Washington, D.C., hit by bus, rushed to zoo for care. Witch at Hogwarts still awaiting her mail. [NPR

Research shows that sit-down restaurants often serve meals with higher fat and calorie content than fast-food restaurants. So stop complaining the next time your boyfriend takes you to Taco Bell instead of a four-star restaurant, ladies. [Yahoo]

In allergy study, 88% of kids allergic to peanuts could tolerate eating the equivalent of five peanuts after treatment regimen. So, what about the 12%? [Popular Science]

Flatulent German cows start fire. Cows blame a long night of drinking heifer weizen. [Reuters]

Amusing News Aliquots

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

Credit: Photo by Lary Reeves

Credit: Lary Reeves

Spiders are capable of building statues of themselves. Which is cool, but let’s all admit that it’s a little narcissistic as well. [Wired]

Scientists show that people can detect levels of fat in food just by smell. Everyone who has ever smelled a juicy hamburger agrees. [Science Daily]

Remember those strawberry-scented fireworks that lit up London on New Year’s? Here’s a profile of their creators. [Wired]

Study finds that more than 50% of singles have difficulty discerning whether they’re on a date or not. So the next time you see a couple hanging out, think to yourself, “There’s a good chance one of those two people has no idea what’s going on.” [Time]

MIT students learn about heavy metal. And no, we’re not talking about the elements. We’re talking about the music. Lesson #1: “Always end with an explosion.” [Slice of MIT]

Japan’s space agency, JAXA, plans to trawl for space debris with a huge electrodynamic net. George Clooney fans cry that it’s too little too late.  [New Scientist]

Mystery of sloths’ tri-weekly poop pilgrimage may be more symbiotic than once thought. [National Geographic]

And when the sloths do come down to poop, someone may be combing their fur for drugs. [PLoS One]

Pot cultivator says classical music helps his crop grow better. Given that the cultivator managed a $500,000-a-year operation, the claim is certainly nothing to … Bach at. Wait, where are you going? Come back! [Fairfax New Zealand]

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]



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