‘Lights-Out’ Manufacturing Hits Main Street

Robots toiling day and night assembling widgets and thingamabobs in pitch-black warehouses isn’t some mustache-twirling industrialist tycoon's fantasy. It’s here, it's the future of manufacturing, and it’s not just the multinational conglomerates that stand to benefit from the robot labor revolution. Main Street will, too. Voodoo Manufacturing, a small 3D printing farm in Brooklyn—OK, so not quite mom and pop "Main Street"— was running up against a problem every small business wants: They

Girl Scouts Think Like Citizen Scientists

By Sharon Karasick Girl Scouts are encouraged to try all sorts of new things in their scouting experience, a commitment reflected in their new motto: ”When she's a Girl Scout, she’s also a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.  While many troops still embrace the traditional three c’s of crafts, camping, and cookies, Girl Scouts are also exploring new civic engagement opportunities through innovative STEM programming. On the surface, civic engagement might not seem to have

Scaring Babies for Science

"Snakes, why'd it have to be snakes?" so sayeth Indiana Jones, and so, apparently, say babies too. In a study published Wednesday in Frontiers in Psychology, European neuroscientists determined that our instinctive fears of snakes and spiders are so primal, even babies become alarmed at the sight of them. How'd they figured it out? Well, they scared some babies. For science! Primal Fear Though not everyone is frightened of the two creepy crawlies, studies have shown more than a thi

Beluga Living with Dolphins Swaps Her Calls for Theirs

In November 2013, a four-year-old captive beluga whale moved to a new home. She had been living in a facility with other belugas. But in her new pool, the Koktebel dolphinarium in Crimea, her only companions were dolphins. The whale adapted quickly: she started imitating the unique whistles of the dolphins, and stopped making a signature beluga call altogether. "The first appearance of the beluga in the dolphinarium caused a fright in the dolphins," write Elena Panova and Alexandr Aga

When Wealth Inequality Arose

We’ve heard how great times used to be, and I don’t mean in 1950s America. For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy. Sure, it wasn’t all kumbaya and high-fives. But the fact that individuals had so few personal possessions took the bitter dish of economic inequality off the table. So how’d we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth? That’s a compli

New Zealand Songbirds Attack Rivals That Sing Pretty Songs

Birds are territorial creatures, and they'll passionately defend their chosen area from unwanted intrusions. For some songbirds, it doesn't even take a physical breach to draw their ire — if you're a lovely singer, they'll attack. New Zealand's tui songbirds certainly aren't doing the "jealous performer" stereotype any good. Males of the species will fend off rival males encroaching on their territory, and they're especially aggressive toward those with more intricate, some might say pret

Problematic Neuropeptides And Statistics (PNAS)

Back in May I discussed a paper published in PNAS which, I claimed, was using scientific terminology in a sloppy way. The authors, Pearce et al., used the word "neuropeptides" to refer to six molecules, but three of them weren't neuropeptides at all. The authors acknowledged this minor error and issued a correction. Now, it emerges that there may be more serious problems with the PNAS paper. In a letter published last week, researchers Patrick Jern and colleagues say that the statistics u

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

If you’re out enjoying the predawn darkness Saturday, you’ll likely see a number of bright streaks peppering the sky. These are Orionid meteors, which belong to an annual shower that peaks before dawn. Observers under a dark sky could see up to 20 meteors per hour shortly before twilight begins, when the constellation Orion the Hunter climbs highest in the south. (The meteors appear to radiate from a point in northern Orion.) With the Moon absent from the morning sky, viewing conditions c

Flashback Friday: Scientists identify the top 10 relationship deal-breakers.

Finally, an expression popularized by the TV show 30 Rock has made it into the scientific literature. In this study, the scientists used surveys to identify and rank the top 10 relationship deal-breakers for both short-term and long-term relationships. The table is reproduced below, and you'll note some interesting patterns--for example, "is bad in bed" and "smells bad" are only deal-breakers for short-term relationships. People also tended to weigh deal-breakers more heavily than "deal-make

A Giant Cave on the Moon Could Host Lunar Settlers

Turn-of-the-century science fiction posited the existence of aliens living deep within the surface of the moon. Someday, those subterranean creatures could very well be us. New data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has uncovered a 30-mile-long cave under the moon's surface, likely the relic of lava flows on the surface. Though the existence of lava tubes isn't something new, this latest find appears to be both mostly intact and sufficiently large enough to potentially

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