I know it cost $279 million, but that seems really cheap compared to lots of other things we spend money on, and it's way bigger than the Eiffel Tower, as the illustration shows. "Bert" and "Ernie" are the names of the first two cosmic neutrinos they think have been discovered.
IceCube. Not just a rapper or a way to cool your drink. Discovering the Big Bang one Sesame Street Character at a time. (Or for the older folks, the taxi-driver and the cop from "It's a Wonderful Life.)
Over in China, researchers decided to test the theory that dogs can predict earthquakes. So they housed four dogs at the Nanchang quake center and waited for them to show signs of "abnormal" activity, such as barking a lot.
They soon discovered that dogs (and apparently these dogs in particular) often bark a lot. According to local residents "every night at 11pm they start barking over and over." After fielding multiple complaints from angry neighbors, the researchers "offered to muzzle the dogs, but accepted later that this might impede their skills as quake-prognosticators." Finally, the experiment was shut down.
So maybe dogs can predict earthquakes, or maybe they can't. But until we learn to speak dog language better, it doesn't look like our canine friends will be much use to us as official quake predictors. [London Times]
On his 1925 Arctic expedition, Admiral Donald B. MacMillan used singing eskimos to test the effectiveness of short wave radio as a communication tool for the world's navies. His experiments are credited with helping to open up previously "useless" radio frequencies.
In the picture, MacMillan is second from right. The guy standing behind him is Eugene McDonald, founder of Zenith Radio Corporation. His company built the special short wave radio gear used on the expedition. All others in the picture are the singing eskimos.
Although modern science has been able to send a man to the moon, it has not been able to make cows poop on command. An effort to solve this shortcoming is described in a recent issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
The thing is, it would be really nice, for the purpose of general hygiene, if farmers could convince cows to stop pooping wherever they felt like it. So researchers devised a series of tests to see if prompts such as walking through a footbath, or being exposed to blasts of air or water, could stimulate bovine defecation. No such luck. The researchers concluded, "None of our tests reliably stimulated defecation, which seemed to occur most when cows were exposed to novelty."
Researchers at the University of Southampton and Sun Yat-Sen University collaborated to explore whether feelings of nostalgia help protect people against the cold. They conducted various experiments (published in the Journal Emotion) such as 1) putting people in a cold room, asking them to recall a nostalgic event from their past, and then asking them to guess the temp; and 2) asking volunteers to recall a nostalgic event while their hand was dunked in ice-cold water. [nbcnews.com]
The researchers concluded that overall recalling nostalgic events "evinced greater tolerance to noxious cold." So instead of turning up your heater this winter you could save some money by wistfully remembering the good old days instead.
Why would nostalgia keep you warm? The researchers suggest that "the nostalgia-warmth link derives from a universal mental association between interpersonal affiliation (which nostalgia fosters) and warmth, which is rooted in infant-caregiver interaction."
But, of course, more research is necessary. For instance, the researchers propose that future investigations will explore whether "nostalgia functions in a different capacity for individuals reared in warm (compared to colder) climates. Conceivably, in colder climates nostalgia could primarily serve to ameliorate thermoregulatory (cold) discomfort, whereas in warmer climates it could primarily serve to ameliorate thirst."
Durian is reputed to be the stinkiest fruit in the world, so researchers at the German Research Center for Food Chemistry recently set out to find out exactly what makes it so malodorous. They write in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:
The sensory properties of fresh durian combine a pleasant creamy consistency, a pronounced sweet taste, and a strong, penetrating odor, not comparable to that of any other kind of fruit. The aroma profile can be best described as a combination of an intense sulfury, roasted onion-like odor with fruity, sweet, caramel-like, and soup seasoning-like notes. In Southeast Asia, durian is deeply appreciated and often referred to as the “king of fruits”, whereas some people in the Western hemisphere regard the durian odor as offensive and nauseous. The unique odor properties of durian have repeatedly attracted the attention of chemists... Despite the quite high number of studies on durian volatiles, it is still unclear which odorants predominately contribute to its aroma. Therefore, our aim was to systematically assess the odor contribution of individual durian volatiles.
Their investigation involved a) shipping Durian by air freight from Thailand to Germany; b) extracting pulp from the fruit; and then c) analyzing the pulp by means of a "Trace GC Ultra gas chromatograph" equipped with a "tailor-made sniffing port":
The sniffing port consisted of a cylindrically shaped aluminum device (105 mm × 24 mm diameter) with a beveled top and a central drill hole (2 mm) housing the capillary. It was mounted on a heated (200 °C) detector base of the GC. During a GC-O run, the panelist placed her/his nose closely above the top of the sniffing port and evaluated the odor of the effluent. If an odor was perceived, the retention time was marked in the FID chromatogram printed by a recorder and the odor quality was noted.
This effort yielded "several new aroma compounds with interesting odors," but the authors of the study caution that further investigations are still required in order to "unequivocally assess the contribution of individual odorants to durian aroma."
Rats use whiskers to feel around in the dark. They navigate by "whisking" — moving their whiskers rapidly back and forth. Humans, however, don't have whiskers. But could people learn to navigate in the dark using artificial whiskers? That was the question posed by a recent experiment published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The researchers attached plastic whiskers to the fingers (not the cheeks, unfortunately) of blindfolded volunteers. These volunteers were then asked to try to identify the relative position of several poles on either side of them. The researchers discovered that the volunteers skill at this task improved significantly over time. So they were learning to use whiskers just as a rat would. The practical value of all this is that the researchers hope to develop finger whiskers for blind people.
Incidentally, if you read the abstract of the experiment, you would never know it had anything to do with rats and whiskers. The researchers describe their experiment as a study of "motor-sensory interactions in humans using a novel object localization task that enabled monitoring the relevant overt motor and sensory variables."
Back in Jan 2009, I posted a video showing the decomposition of a pig. Here's a similar video, also showing the decomposition of a pig, but underwater this time. It was an experiment conducted in Feb 2012. The pig was in a cage to stop sharks from getting to it. Watch to the end to see the surprise visitor.
Star Trek fans rejoice. A small scale demonstration moved a particle toward the tractor beam when two scientists focused a pair of Bessel beams at it. I'm already in over my head, so don't look for any further explanation here. But I can post a great graphic.
Large scale tractor beams of this type would probably destroy the object trying to be moved. Here's the link to the abstract at phys.org:
University of Queensland PhD student Eduardo Santurtun is conducting research into whether sheep get seasick. Or rather, the effect of "ship motions" on sheep. But he's not studying the sheep on an actual ship. Instead, he's created a contraption (a modified flight simulator) that replicates the roll, pitch, and heave of a ship. His subjects spend hours a day inside this thing being gently see-sawed up and down, back and forth. This is all being done to help the sheep, not hurt them. His research is supported by the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, which is concerned about sheep getting seasick and dying as they're transported from farms in Australia to consumers around the world. [qt.com.au, abc.net.au]