Deep sleep my save us from extinction, pretty birds can fight off avian flu, cheese could be an alternative source of ethanol.

REM = Out Of Time
In our battle against rapid climate change, humans have one advantage that dinosaurs did not: the ability to get a good night’s sleep. New research out of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology suggests that the reptilian sleep cycle may have contributed to the demise of T-Rex and company. During deep sleep, which occurs in both mammals and birds, new information and skills solidify in the mind. Since reptiles never achieve this state, the researchers say, it’s possible that they were unable to hone the skills necessary to efficiently adapt to a changing climate. If only they were able to conk out, they could have behaved a little more like humans and done something smart like increase fossil fuel emissions. That would’ve done the trick.
(source: Scotsman)

Monkey See, Monkey Do
The King of the Jungle does not bend to the will of the plebes. A new study out of Duke University shows that high-status macaque monkeys are slow to follow the glances of their low-status inferiors, while they readily follow the gaze of their peers. The researchers had suspected that when humans follow another’s glance the action isn’t a purely reflexive one, so they tested out their hypothesis on monkeys, observing how quickly each subject followed the gaze of an image of a monkey known to have a high or low status. While the alpha-monkeys only followed other leaders, underlings’ heads spun independent of the stimulus monkey’s status.
(source: Duke University School of Medicine)

In Contrast To Your Expectations
Showy sports cars aren’t just red to symbolize passion, excitement and bloodlust. Next to the green of a landscape, the bright red may create a contrast that makes the car look like it’s moving faster than it is, according to a recent study by an NYU computational neuroscientist. In high-contrast situations, people perceive cars as moving more quickly than they do with low-contrast visual input. The study found that when visual input is shoddy—such as when there’s low contrast—people’s perceptions tend to match their expectations instead of reality, meaning they expect cars to move more slowly than they do. So next time you’re planning on going 90 on the highway, pull that camouflage car out of the garage.
(source: ScienceNOW)

Spotting a Healthy Mate
Not too far into the future, when every person is on a perpetual quest to live another day without contracting avian flu, we will need to heed this advice: If you must spend time with birds, only spend time with sexy ones. A study out of Sweden’s Uppsala University shows that attractive male collared flycatchers, ones with large white spots on their foreheads, are both healthier than males with smaller spots and better at fighting off viruses such as avian influenza. The new study shows that males vaccinated against Newcastle disease virus, an avian viral infection, produce more antibodies if they have large forehead spots. This explains why female collared flycatchers are so turned on by those large, white spots: They’re a good indicator of health, both present and future.
(source: Uppsala University)

Sure Pay or More Pay?
Women are always complaining: “Wah-wah, we want to be in charge of our reproductive decisions,” or “Boo-hoo, sexual harassment is too common,” and the ever-popular “Moan-groan, we make less money than men do.” Well, luckily for male rights advocates, a new study out of Germany indicates the equal pay claim is not necessarily justified. (We’re still waiting for official word on the first two.) Researchers found that women tend to prefer jobs with fixed salaries over jobs with performance-based pay, even when the latter would earn them more money. Men have the opposite preference.
(source: University of Bonn)

No Whey!
Let the corn go to the hungry; there’s a new way to produce ethanol in town, and it doesn’t require our best crop. It requires cheese, nay, it requires a waste product from cheese. DuBay Ingredients, a Wisconsin company, has found a way to produce ethanol from cheese whey permeate, a waste byproduct of cheese manufacturing. The new technology will not only give us a source of alternative fuel, but it will also save dairy farmers millions of dollars a year in waste disposal. With cheese, everyone wins.
(source: treehugger)

The Wasabi Receptor
The kick from wasabi, the tang from garlic and the hideous sting of tear gas can all be blamed on a single receptor, according to a new study published in Cell. While researchers already knew that the TRPA1 receptor was at least partially responsible for the painful sensations of these substances, they had no idea of its magnitude. In a recent experiment, scientists removed these receptors from mice and found that their neurons were completely insensitive to these compounds. The mutant animals without the receptor didn’t even have the good reflexive sense to lick mustard oil off their paws.
(source: Cell Press)

Lie Still
It would be nice to have an easy way to tell when someone’s lying, but—aside from the inevitable flaming trousers—most of the gestures commonly associated with lying aren’t reliable indicators. According to a study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour, liars actually touch their noses and stroke their hair less than people who are telling the truth. Lead author Samantha Mann said people assigned to lie in her study consciously tried to stay still and look their questioner in the eye. Also, she said, people who are concentrating deeply tend to remain more still, and that liars had to think about their responses and actions more than the truth-tellers. Liars did, however, gesture emphatically to reinforce their false statements. I guess there’s only one way to tell if someone’s lying…
(source: BBC)

Thanks, Mr. Yuk!
This month, Mr. Yuk, the internationally recognized poison prevention symbol, turns 35. Since being created at the Pittsburgh Poison Center in 1971, the retching green face has been plastered on toxic household substances around the world, preventing millions of children from gulping down household cleaner (or at least distracting them for a few seconds). Childhood deaths from poisoning have declined sharply since Mr. Yuk made his debut: Prior to Mr. Yuk’s arrival, three to five children in the Pittsburgh area alone died annually from accidental poisoning. With containers of ammonia and detergent now sporting Mr. Yuk’s sour puss—and with educational poison prevention programs and the popularization of child-resistant caps—there have been fewer than five deaths from accidental poisoning over the last 30 years.
(source: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh)

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Originally published March 27, 2006


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