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The Lead

How big data can be used to understand major events

March 4, 2015 11:38 am | by Joanne Fryer, Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

With the most unpredictable U.K. general election looming in modern times, how can big data be used to understand how elections are covered by the media? New research has, for the first time, analyzed over 130,000 online news articles to find out how the 2012 U.S. presidential election played out in the media.

Pennies reveal new insights on the nature of randomness

March 4, 2015 11:22 am | by Tien Nguyen, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

The concept of randomness appears across scientific disciplines, from materials science to...

Fighting parasites with their own genomes

March 3, 2015 7:47 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Tiny parasitic hookworms infect nearly half a billion people worldwide, almost exclusively in...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons...

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First ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave

March 2, 2015 8:34 am | by EPFL | Videos | Comments

Light behaves both as a particle and as a wave. Since the days of Einstein, scientists have been trying to directly observe both of these aspects of light at the same time. Now, scientists at EPFL have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of this dual behavior.

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, pipet and polymer

February 27, 2015 11:42 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought an efficient way to untangle DNA in order to study its structure under a microscope. Now, chemists and engineers at KU Leuven have devised a strikingly simple and effective solution: They inject genetic material into a droplet of water and use a pipet tip to drag it over a glass plate covered with a sticky polymer.

Study maps extroversion types in brain’s anatomy

February 26, 2015 12:43 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” and the ambitious “go-getters”. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

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How eyelash length keeps eyes healthy

February 25, 2015 7:53 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

It started with a trip to the basement of the American Museum of Natural History in New York to inspect preserved animal hides. Later, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers built a wind tunnel about 2 ft tall, complete with a makeshift eye. By putting both steps together, the team discovered that 22 species of mammals are the same: their eyelash length is one-third the width of their eye.

Why a latte is less likely to spill than a coffee

February 24, 2015 2:49 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Carrying a full cup of coffee from the kitchen to the dining room can be precarious for a sleepy-eyed caffeine addict who might accidentally send a wave of java sloshing over the rim. But add a bit of foam to the top and the trip becomes easier. Scientists have found that just a few layers of bubbles can significantly dampen the sloshing motion of liquid.

Garlic extract could help cystic fibrosis patients fight infection

February 24, 2015 12:31 pm | by Corin Campbell, Univ. of Edinburgh | News | Comments

A chemical found in garlic can kill bacteria that cause life-threatening lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis, research suggests. The study is the first to show that the chemical, known as allicin, could be an effective treatment against a group of infectious bacteria that is highly resistant to most antibiotics.

Igniting the air for atmospheric research

February 19, 2015 9:14 am | by Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Scientists have created a high-energy mid-infrared laser powerful enough to create shining filaments in the air. Such devices could be used to detect chemical substances in the atmosphere.

Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

February 17, 2015 12:17 pm | by Univ. of Gothenburg | News | Comments

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events. For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world's surface.

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Ancient rocks show life on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

February 17, 2015 9:13 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth. But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen; but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes, life on the early Earth would have been scarce. The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago.

Rivers can be a source of antibiotic resistance

February 13, 2015 2:43 pm | by Univ. or Warwick | News | Comments

Rivers and streams could be a major source of antibiotic resistance in the environment. The discovery comes following a study on the Thames river by scientists at the Univ. of Warwick and the Univ. of Exeter. The study found that greater numbers of resistant bacteria exist close to some waste water treatment works, and that these plants are likely to be responsible for at least half of the increase observed.

Water ice renders short-lived molecule sustainable

February 10, 2015 4:05 pm | by Wolfram Sander, Ruhr-Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

“Antiaromatic compounds” is what chemists call a class of ring molecules which are extremely instable. Because they exist for mere split seconds, they can only be detected by extremely demanding, ultra-fast methods. Researchers from the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV at Ruhr-Univ. Bochum have succeeded in isolating the antiaromatic fluorenyl cation at extremely low temperatures in water ice.

To make novel atomic properties, engineers change electron trajectories

February 10, 2015 2:23 pm | by Yale Univ. | News | Comments

How do you make nickel look and behave like copper? A team of scientists at Yale Univ. has done just that by developing a novel technique to artificially alter a material’s atomic properties by substantially modifying the orbital properties of electrons. The electrons can also be tunably configured in orbital patterns with unique magnetic, superconductive and optical properties.

Serotonin-deficient brains more vulnerable to social stress

February 10, 2015 8:48 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Mice genetically deficient in serotonin, a crucial brain chemical implicated in clinical depression, are more vulnerable than their normal littermates to social stressors, according to a Duke Univ. study. Following exposure to stress, the serotonin-deficient mice also did not respond to a standard antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac), which works by boosting serotonin transmission between neighboring neurons.

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DNA strands on end of chromosomes hint when we will die

February 6, 2015 1:17 pm | by Todd Hollingshead, Brigham Young Univ. | News | Comments

Brigham Young Univ. biologist Jonathan Alder has a startling secret he doesn’t freely share: he knows when most of us are going to die. Okay, he doesn’t know exactly the day or time, but he has a pretty good idea, thanks to his research on tiny biological clocks attached to our chromosomes. These DNA end caps, called telomeres, are the great predictors of life expectancy: the shorter your telomeres, the shorter your lifespan.

Scientists predict Earth-like planets around most stars

February 6, 2015 11:32 am | by The Australian National Univ. | News | Comments

Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life. The new research, led by The Australian National Univ., made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea to the thousands of exoplanets discovered by the Kepler space telescope.

Hubble captures rare triple-moon conjunction

February 6, 2015 10:11 am | by Ray Villard, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Firing off a string of action snapshots like a sports photographer at a NASCAR race, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare occurrence of three of Jupiter's largest moons racing across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto and Io.

A closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote “low-carbon” biofuels

February 6, 2015 8:56 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Nearly all studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a Univ. of Michigan researcher. Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

Scientists identify nature of candy sculpture

February 6, 2015 8:45 am | by James Devitt, New York Univ. | News | Comments

A team of scientists has identified the complex process by which materials are shaped and ultimately dissolved by surrounding water currents. The study, conducted by researchers at New York Univ. (NYU)’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Florida State Univ., appears in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

Pigeon power

February 5, 2015 7:50 am | by Sara Agnew, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

The more scientists study pigeons, the more they learn how their brains operate in ways not so different from our own. In a new study from the Univ. of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

Noncommittal material could make for hypersensitive magnetic direction detector

February 4, 2015 11:07 am | by Mark Esser, NIST | News | Comments

While the mysterious, unseen forces magnets project are now (mostly) well understood, they can still occasionally surprise us. For instance, thin films of cobalt have been observed to spontaneously switch their poles: something that typically doesn’t happen in the absence of an external magnetic field. Physicists at NIST and the Univ. of Maryland have measured this phenomenon on the largest scale yet.

Industrial pump inspired by flapping bird wings

February 4, 2015 8:26 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Birds are unwitting masters of fluid dynamics: They manipulate airflow each time they flap their wings, pushing air in one direction and moving themselves in another. Two New York Univ. researchers have taken inspiration from avian locomotion strategies and created a pump that moves fluid using vibration instead of a rotor.

Penta-graphene: A new structural variant of carbon, discovered

February 4, 2015 8:17 am | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called "penta-graphene", a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal pattern of tiles found paving the streets of Cairo.

Getting yeast to pump up the protein production

February 3, 2015 11:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From manufacturing life-saving biopharmaceuticals to producing energy-efficient biofuels, the cost-effective production of proteins will be essential to revolutionizing the future of health care and energy. For years, scientists have turned to yeast as a quick and inexpensive way to mass-produce proteins for a variety of useful products. Now Northwestern Univ. has found a way to gather more protein without making the yeast produce more.

Wrinkle predictions

February 3, 2015 8:20 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As a grape slowly dries and shrivels, its surface creases, ultimately taking on the wrinkled form of a raisin. Similar patterns can be found on the surfaces of other dried materials, as well as in human fingerprints. While these patterns have long been observed in nature, and more recently in experiments, scientists have not been able to come up with a way to predict how such patterns arise in curved systems, such as microlenses.

Why moderate drinking might be healthy for some

February 2, 2015 10:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with health benefits in some, but not all, studies. Researchers at the Yale Univ. School of Medicine may have found an explanation, in part, for why non-smokers might benefit from a glass of wine.

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