Fake tweets, ant bullies and sponge genes

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites discusses fake tweets; ant bullies; sponge genes; oceans of plastic; and more.

Computer worm shows up weaknesses in infrastructure—The success of Stuxnet, the computer worm designed to target Iran’s nuclear program, has highlighted weaknesses in the software that controls critical processes in our manufacturing industries and utilities.—New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20298-stuxnet-analysis-finds-more-holes-in-critical-software.html?full=true

Fake tweets fool hundreds of followers—Three anonymous teams of researchers have used software that pretends to be human to gather followers on Twitter. Over a two-week period the three “socialbots” were able to integrate themselves into a group, and gained close to 250 followers between them.—New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928045.100-fake-tweets-by-socialbot-fool-hundreds-of-followers.html

Look into my eyes to predict the risk of amputation—A look at an eye through a corneal confocal microscope may be enough to diagnose the nerve damage experienced by up to half the people who have diabetes. Researchers in Brisbane have shown that those with nerve damage have a lower density of nerve fibres in the cornea and that the nerves are generally shorter.—Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20290-look-into-my-eyes-to-predict-my-amputation-risk.html

Hold planes at the gate to cut greenhouse gases—US researchers have found that holding planes at their gates for about four minutes longer than usual can reduce congestion on busy runways, saving significant amounts of fuel and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.—MIT Technical Report

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928053.300-hold-planes-at-the-gate-to-cut-greenhouse-gases.html

Spinning the Sun’s rays into fuel—US researchers have created a potentially cheap, practical artificial leaf that can split water into oxygen and hydrogen which can be used for fuel. It’s basically a silicon wafer impregnated with catalysts. If it can be turned into rugged, real-world technology, it could provide an inexpensive, limitless source of energy that’s easy to tap. —Science

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/03/spinning-the-suns-rays-into-fuel.html?ref=hp

Wasps bully ants by getting physical—When yellow jacket wasps want to bully something smaller—they just pick them up and fling them away. New Zealand researchers have filmed them at work, and found that when confronted by a swarm of small ants the wasps put away their fancy stinger, and either back down or get physical.—Biology Letters

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/03/watch-out-below-wasps-battle-ant.html?ref=hp

Sponge genes show how we evolved—The genome of the most ancient
‘multicellular animals on Earth is helping us piece together how we arose. The genes of a
sponge from the Great Barrier Reef are providing clues as to how single-celled organisms
formed into complex multi-cellular animals-how our parts fit together to form a whole.—
Australasian Science

A story on this topic can be found in the March 2011 issue of Australasian Science

Research voyage finds an ocean of plastic soup—American marine scientists
who have been probing the giant ocean whirlpools known as gyres have found particles of
plastic wherever they trawl. They are concerned that fish are ingesting them leading to
tumours, weight loss and liver damage.—New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20295-pollutiontrawling-voyage-finds-oceans-plastic-soup.html

Frightened birds grow longer wings—Female birds exposed to predators while
they are laying eggs produce smaller offspring whose wings grow faster and longer, Swiss
ecologists have found. The researchers suggest this might  make them better at avoiding
predators in flight.—Functional Ecology

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110325/full/news.2011.187.html

Fruiting-eating fish disperse seeds—Amazonian fish seem to play an important role
in seed distribution. They can carry seeds up to five kilometres across forest flood plains, US
researchers have found—Proceedings of the Royal Society B

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110323/full/news.2011.177.html