The Boldest Ideas Scientists Tested On Themselves

To be human is to be curious. Our constant interrogation of the world around us has led to pretty much every bit of knowledge we hold as a species. This is what scientists do, through carefully controlled experiments and quantitative data collection. Some questions, though, have been deemed too dangerous, or too foolish to pursue. What's a passionate scientist to do when society frowns upon their research? Put themselves under the microscope, of course. For centuries, researchers have bee

A New Twist on Invisible Ink

With many of us spending our time online, we tend to be laser-focused on preventing our personal information from falling into the hands of nefarious hackers. But let's not forget about the security of print-based communications. Remember how the ink appears and disappears on the Marauder’s Map that appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Basically, scientists are trying to recreate this bit of magic to protect information. But instead of using a password to make the invisibl

New Data on Relativistic Jets, Nature’s Own ‘Death Star Beams’

The mysteries surrounding black holes make for some fascinating research. Whether consuming dead stars or anchoring baby galaxies, black holes are one of the most perplexing astronomical phenomena. Especially when they shoot out jets of supercharged plasma akin to Star Wars’ world-destroying Death Star superlaser. These streams of plasma are known as relativistic jets, and they form when a ravenous black hole siphons off and consumes matter from the star. Some of the stellar material gets

Real Halloween Horrors: Corpse Cosplay by Zodarion Spiders

Humans in North America only spend one night a year in costume with the hopes of feasting on tasty treats. For Zodarion spiders, that's just called Tuesday. These clever mimics pretend to be ants to sneak close to their prey. And if in danger, they'll use the corpse of their latest capture to complete the charade. The spiders in the genus Zodarion are ant specialists—which is a pretty dangerous lifestyle for a small spider. After all, ants are armed with strong mandibles and sometimes sti

Ford Uses a Robotic Butt to Test Seats

Ford is using a robot dubbed “Robutt” to test the comfort and durability of its car seats. The butt-bot sits up and down 25,000 times in about three weeks, simulating 10 years of driving. It’s based on an average-sized large man and made to move just like you as you get in and out of a vehicle. The company analyzes how human drivers get in and out of vehicles using pressure mats. Then the Robutt tests the durability of the seats, while robotic metal buttocks assess for comfort. Ford cars

Boo! Lost Salamander Reappears, Dressed for Halloween

Earlier this month, a guard patrolling a Guatemalan wildlife reserve photographed a young salamander. Its glossy orange-and-black skin made it look like a Halloween decoration. But the salamander's appearance wasn't just seasonally appropriate—it was the first time anyone had laid eyes on the species in 42 years. Two Americans first discovered Jackson's climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) while hiking in the cloud forests in 1975. Its name came from one of the pair, Jeremy Jackson

Astrophysics, Bible Confirm Earliest Recorded Eclipse

In 1207 BCE, as an army of Israelites waged a bitter conflict against soldiers from Canaan, the sun all but disappeared. The event had all the markings of divine intervention, and the auspicious occurrence would go on to be recorded in the Old Testament. Today, eclipses have lost the aura of religious significance, but this particular occasion was special. It's the first time we can confirm that an eclipse was ever recorded for posterity, say researchers from Cambridge University. Their w

Lordotic Curve: Bringing Sexy Backs

When the new release accompanying a science paper immediately alludes to lap dances and twerking, attention must be paid. That doesn’t happen all the time. And, incredibly, the study in question, which appeared last week in Evolutionary Psychological Science paper, actually lived up to the hype! It really does mention “female erotic lap dancers” and “twerking, which appears to be a simulated copulatory act, performed while dancing,” all in the service of mathematically determining just ho

The Flying Car Future Is Leaving Wheels Behind

A prototype flying car that supposedly does the job of both a helicopter and a truck went up for sale on eBay a few days before Halloween. That privately-developed AT Black Knight Transformer represents a vision of the flying car future that has seemingly fallen out of favor as new startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere pursue the idea of flying cars without wheels. But flying car enthusiasts or companies with specialized missions in mind may still find something to admire in the Black Kni

The Voodoo Curse of Circular fMRI Analysis

Remember the 'voodoo' fMRI controversy? Well, I just came across a new voodoo-ish paper - just in time for Halloween. The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, comes from Franziska Plessow and colleagues of Boston. The main claim is that a dose of oxytocin reduced the response of "reward-related food motivation brain regions" to pictures of high-calorie foods, suggesting that the hormone might be of use in the treatment of obesity. However, I have some questions. In their key

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