Science + Technology

Science + Technology
3:25 am
Mon January 28, 2013

No Mercy For Robots: Experiment Tests How Humans Relate To Machines

Could you say "no" to this face? Christoph Bartneck of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand recently tested whether humans could end the life of a robot as it pleaded for survival.
Christoph Bartneck

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 5:15 pm

In 2007, Christoph Bartneck, a robotics professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, decided to stage an experiment loosely based on the famous (and infamous) Milgram obedience study.

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Science + Technology
4:39 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Swinging From 140 Characters To Six-Second Videos, Twitter Launches Vine

Twitter announced its partnership with Vine, a video-sharing app that posts six-second videos onto a tweet, on Thursday, Jan. 24.
Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 11:02 am

If you thought 140 characters of text was too short, try grabbing your Twitter followers' attention with six-second videos. Six seconds.

Twitter on Thursday launched the video app Vine, which allows users to shoot brief videos and directly tweet them. The social media company acquired the video-sharing startup last fall, according to All Things D.

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Science + Technology
12:52 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

In Order To Live With People, Canines Evolved To Love Carbs

Got spaghetti? Dogs digest starch more efficiently than their wolf ancestors, which may have been an important step during dog domestication.
Lauren Solomon/iStockphoto.com/Nicholas Moore Courtesy of Nature

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 9:42 am

These days, a trip down the dog food aisle of your local pet store or supermarket can be a little overwhelming. There are hundreds of brands out there, catering to – let's be honest – every dog owner's taste: everything from generic kibble to organic nuggets.

There are even dog food cookbooks and specialty gourmet shops for people who want their pets to eat as well – or better – than they do.

How did we get here? The first step happened thousands of years ago, when meat-eating wolves evolved to tolerate people – and their more starchy, plant-based diet.

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Science + Technology
3:37 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Shall I Encode Thee In DNA? Sonnets Stored On Double Helix

William Shakespeare, depicted in this 17th century painting, penned his sonnets on parchment. Now his words have found a new home ... in twisting strands of DNA.
Attributed to John Taylor National Portrait Gallery

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 1:19 pm

English critic Samuel Johnson once said of William Shakespeare "that his drama is the mirror of life." Now the Bard's words have been translated into life's most basic language. British scientists have stored all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets on tiny stretches of DNA.

It all started with two men in a pub. Ewan Birney and Nick Goldman, both scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute, were drinking beer and discussing a problem.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:35 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Music, Multivitamins And Other Modern Intelligence Myths

Teacher Denise Severing leads a math lesson at a Head Start school in Woodbourne, New York.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 6:36 pm

Playing Mozart to young children will make them smarter, right?

Probably not. When it comes to media hype and intuitions about intelligence and early childhood, some skepticism is in order. A paper published just this month by John Protzko, Joshua Aronson and Clancy Blair at NYU reviews dozens of studies on a topic likely to be of interest to parents, educators, and policy-makers alike: what, if anything, one can do in the first five years of life to raise a child's intelligence.

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Science + Technology
3:41 am
Tue January 22, 2013

This Defense Contractor Has A Green Side

AeroVironment's Raven drone is used for military surveillance and can be launched by hand.
Courtesy of AeroVironment Inc.

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 10:06 am

Lots of companies make products that don't have much in common, but AeroVironment specializes in two products that are very different — electric vehicle chargers, which keep cars like the Nissan Leaf on the road, and military drones. The Los Angeles-area firm is a leading manufacturer of small unmanned aircraft.

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Science + Technology
12:28 pm
Mon January 21, 2013

Miss Piggy's Version Of Global Warming: What About Me?

Click to go to the New Scientist App.
New Scientist

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 12:14 pm

Here's a new, sly (and frankly selfish) way to think about global warming: Instead of worrying about the whole planet and all its oceans, how about asking a more personal question ...

What about me? What about where I live? Or where my grandma lives? Or the North Pole? Or Siberia? What if I could take my cursor, plop it onto any place on Earth and find out what's happened to temperatures right there.

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Science + Technology
5:01 pm
Sun January 20, 2013

Former Anti-GMO Activist Says Science Changed His Mind

Harvest wheat from a field near Wright, Kan. May 10, 2004.
ORLIN WAGNER ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 5:29 pm

For years, British environmental activist Mark Lynas destroyed genetically modified food (GMO) crops in what he calls a successful campaign to force the business of agriculture to be more holistic and ecological in its practices.

His targets were companies like Monsanto and Syngenta — leaders in developing genetically modified crops.

Earlier this month he went in front of the world to reverse his position on GMOs.

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Science + Technology
5:43 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Understanding Climate Change, With Help From Thoreau

Researchers in Massachusetts and Wisconsin are comparing modern flower blooming data with notes made by Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. The sight of irises blooming during a Boston winter helped spur the research.
Darlyne A. Murawski Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 12:35 pm

Modern scientists trying to understand climate change are engaged in an unlikely collaboration — with two beloved but long-dead nature writers: Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold.

The authors of Walden and A Sand County Almanac and last spring's bizarrely warm weather have helped today's scientists understand that the first flowers of spring can continue to bloom earlier, as temperatures rise to unprecedented levels.

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Science + Technology
5:38 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Bump On The Road For Driverless Cars Isn't Technology, It's You

Car companies are picking up automobile concepts such as this Lexus SL 600 Integrated Safety driverless research vehicle, shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January in Las Vegas.
Julie Jacobson AP

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 1:07 am

When you watch science fiction movies, you notice there are two things that seem like we will get in the future — a silver jumpsuit and driverless cars.

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Science + Technology
11:20 am
Thu January 17, 2013

A Mysterious Patch Of Light Shows Up In The North Dakota Dark

Suomi NPP Satellite/NASA Earth Observatory

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 1:57 pm

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Science + Technology
5:11 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Could Some Midwest Land Support New Biofuel Refineries?

Vegetation like the kind growing here at Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station could one day be used to feed small biofuel refineries spread throughout the Midwest.
J.E.Doll Michigan State University

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:16 am

Millions of acres of marginal farmland in the Midwest — land that isn't in good enough condition to grow crops — could be used to produce liquid fuels made from plant material, according to a study in Nature. And those biofuels could, in theory, provide about 25 percent of the advanced biofuels required by a 2007 federal law.

But there are many ifs and buts about this study — and, in fact, about the future of advanced biofuels.

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Science + Technology
1:18 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Beijing's Pollution, Seen From Space In Before And After Photos

NASA Earth Observatory

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 6:54 am

We wrote earlier this week on the stifling pollution in Beijing that's being called "airpocalypse." According to an air monitoring station located at the U.S. Embassy there, particulate pollution was literally off the charts — with readings well into the 700s on a 0-500 scale.

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Science + Technology
4:15 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

The Kraken Is Real: Scientist Films First Footage Of A Giant Squid

A giant squid stars in this still image taken from the footage Edie Widder shot. It's the first-ever video of these giant squids, and it'll debut in a Discovery Channel documentary airing in late January.
Edie Widder Discovery Channel

Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 7:25 pm

For thousands of years, sailors have told stories of giant squids. In myth and cinema, the kraken was the most terrible of sea monsters. Now, it's been captured — on a soon-to-be-seen video.

Even after decades of searching, giant squids had only been seen in still photographs. Finally, in last July, scientists filmed the first video of a live giant squid swimming some 2,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

Edie Widder is the ocean researcher who shot the footage, which is slated to be released in a Discovery Channel documentary later this month.

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Science + Technology
5:53 pm
Sat January 12, 2013

From Corn Belt To Main Street: The Drought's Far-Reaching Grasp

The sun shines above a farm near White City, Kan., in November.
Orlin Wagner AP

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 7:37 pm

The U.S. had its hottest year on record last year. That heat, combined with the relatively dry winter that came before, has brought a historic drought.

From forest fires and low crop yields, to infrastructure and recreation, the drought has been costly, with early estimates putting the cost at between $50 billion and $80 billion.

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Science + Technology
10:08 am
Fri January 11, 2013

The Oldest Rock In The World Tells Us A Story

Steve Munsinger Photo Researchers Inc.

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 1:51 pm

It's hard to imagine how this teeny little rock — it's not even a whole rock, it's just a grain, a miniscule droplet of mineral barely the thickness of a human hair — could rewrite the history of our planet. But that's what seems to be happening.

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Science + Technology
3:57 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Agreed, Baby Pandas Are Cute. But Why?

Tai Shan and his mother, Mei Xiang, enjoy frozen fruit treats at the National Zoo in 2006.
Avie Schneider NPR

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:57 am

Xiao Liwu made his public debut Thursday at the San Diego Zoo. Fans crowded around the exhibit, their camera lenses extended, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 5-month-old giant panda cub. If they're lucky and actually do see the 16-pound panda (his Chinese name means "Little Gift"), there'll be much oooing and aaahing.

You'd have to be heartless not to agree that pandas, especially the youngest of them, are as cute as all get-out. Right? But why?

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Science + Technology
3:28 am
Thu January 10, 2013

In Video-Streaming Rat Race, Fast Is Never Fast Enough

Tommy Ingberg iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 1:55 pm

On average, YouTube streams 4 billion hours of video per month. That's a lot of video, but it's only a fraction of the larger online-streaming ecosystem. For video-streaming services, making sure clips always load properly is extremely challenging, and a new study reveals that it's important to video providers, too.

Maybe this has happened to you: You're showing a friend some hilarious video that you found online. And right before you get to the punch line, a little loading dial pops up in the middle of the screen.

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Science + Technology
5:50 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Under Construction: The World's Largest Thermal Solar Plant

The three solar fields and their respective towers. October 2012.
Jamey Stillings

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 4:48 pm

According to photographer Jamey Stillings, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will be the "world's largest concentrated solar thermal power plant" when complete at the end of this year. That's if we want to get all technical.

In plain terms: There's a huge solar plant under construction in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and Stillings has been documenting the process since the very beginning. Did you know this was happening? I didn't.

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Science + Technology
3:31 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Elite Colleges Struggle To Recruit Smart, Low-Income Kids

Top schools like Harvard, seen here in 2000, often offer scholarships and other financial incentives, but they are finding it hard to increase the socioeconomic diversity on campus.
Darren McCollester Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 6:26 am

Across the United States, college administrators are poring over student essays, recommendation letters and SAT scores as they select a freshman class for the fall.

If this is like most years, administrators at top schools such as Harvard and Stanford will try hard to find talented high school students from poor families in a push to increase the socioeconomic diversity on campus and to counter the growing concern that highly selective colleges cater mainly to students from privileged backgrounds.

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