This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about golden earthquakes; chaos and stereotypes; greener fireworks; virtual whiskers; and more.
Earthquakes with the Midas touch—Earthquakes have had a bad press lately, but Australian researchers think they might have a golden lining. The geologists suggest that the rock fracturing generated by quakes may well trigger laying down of gold and other minerals, and are hoping this knowledge will assist exploration.—Australasian Science.
A story on this topic can be found in the April 2011 issue of Australasian Science.
Stem cells form a ‘retina in a dish’—Japanese researchers have coaxed mouse embryonic stem cells into the precise 3-D assembly of a retina—far and away the most complex tissue engineered yet. The work could pave the way for treatments of human eye diseases, including some forms of blindness.—Nature
A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110406/full/news.2011.215.html
UN global warming goal is nearly impossible, researchers say—A Canadian Government climate modelling study suggests that the UN target of a rise in average temperature of less than 2° C by the end of the century is unlikely. Reaching that goal would involve ramping down emissions to zero immediately and a subsequent program of removing carbon from atmosphere, the study found.—Science
A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/04/un-goal-of-limiting-global-warmi.html?ref=hp
Chaos promotes stereotyping The idea that neglected environments encourage crime has been around since the 1980s. But Dutch researchers have now shown that messy surroundings also make people more likely to stereotype others, suggesting that local authorities could counteract social discrimination by removing public signs of disorder and decay.—Science
A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110407/full/news.2011.217.html
Virtual whiskers probe the sense of touch—A new American computer model of how rats use their whiskers could lead to a better understanding of how the brain processes the sense of touch, and speed the development of whisker-covered robots.—PLoS Computational Biology
A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/04/virtual-whiskers-probe-sense-of-.html?ref=hp
A tap on the arm switches music tracks while you run—You won’t even have to break stride to skip to your favourite music with a new Japanese device that allows users to control their iPod without touching it. The device is composed of two sports wristbands each embedded with a movement detector. It creates five buttons triggered by where you tap yourself on the arm or hand.—New Scientist
A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028075.100-a-tap-on-the-arm-switches-music-tracks-while-you-run.html
Ants mimic social media—Call it the ant version of Facebook. American researchers have found that, whereas most red harvester ants share information with a small number of nestmates, a few convey news to a much wider network. The work helps explain how ant colonies can rapidly respond to predators and other natural disasters.—Journal of the Royal Society Interface
A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/04/ants-take-a-cue-from-facebook.html?ref=hp
Algae biodiversity leads to cleaner streams—The more species a stream holds, the faster pollutants are removed from the water, according to rigorous work undertaken by US researchers. Their studies offer proof that biodiversity helps ecosystems withstand pollution.—Nature
A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110406/full/news.2011.216.html
Weeds down to their core—An international team of plant ecologists has discovered strong links between the number of sets of chromosomes a plant species has, and whether it is in danger of becoming rare or invasive. Weeds are more likely to have multiple sets of chromosomes, whereas endangered species usually only have two.—Journal of Ecology
A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110406/full/news.2011.213.html
Mapping touch to sight takes time to learn—Five Indian children, blind from birth, who then gained their vision through surgery, have helped solve a centuries old puzzle. Would they recognise objects only known previously by touch? US researchers have found the answer is “no”—they must learn to map touch to sight.—Nature Neuroscience
A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/04/formerly-blind-children-shed-lig.html?ref=hp
Cleaner, greener fireworks—A US Army team of pyrotechnics experts has discovered that boron carbide, a compound long considered inert, can replace the toxic barium-based compounds used in green-coloured fireworks. All of which will make life safer for people at fairgrounds and on the battlefield.—Angewandte Chemie, International Edition
A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110408/full/news.2011.222.html