Monday, 21 January 2013


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Coolest Science Stories of the Week
Live Science, 20 January 2013.

Ancient finds after Scotland storms, cats become like their humans and the truth behind hyperspace travel are in our list of Cool Science stories this week. Check these out.

10. Fatty Find

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After storms lashed Scotland over the holidays, some strange World War II-era relics turned up on the country's chilly coast, including decades-old lard from a shipwreck and bunker blocks buried on a beach, local officials said.

At St. Cyrus Natural Reserve, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of Edinburgh, four large chunks of lard washed up after the storms. Though their wooden containers disintegrated long ago, the lard chunks retained their barrel shape, and they were still bright white under a thick crust of barnacles, local officials said.

9. Like human, like cat

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Cats really do become part of our families, to the point that they take on human habits - good and bad - and adapt their lifestyle with that of their owners, says new research.

The finding shows how profoundly captivity can affect certain animals. While genetics help to explain some aspects of personality and behaviour, an individual's environment clearly is a factor too.

8. To the moon

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Call it the ultimate in high art: Using a well-timed laser, NASA scientists have beamed a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, to a powerful spacecraft orbiting the moon, marking a first in laser communication.

The laser signal, fired from an installation in Maryland, beamed the Mona Lisa to the moon to be received 240,000 miles (384,400 km) away by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009. The Mona Lisa transmission, NASA scientists said, is a major advance in laser communication for interplanetary spacecraft.

7. Upending the original

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Fossilized track marks from a stampede of dinosaurs in Australia actually may have come from swimming animals, new research suggests.

The finding, published in the January issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, upends the traditional interpretation of the world's only dinosaur stampede.

6. Flower animal?

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An ancient sea animal that looked like a flower had its anus right next to its mouth, a new fossil study finds.

The research reveals that this odd marine creature was likely an ancestor of a group known as the entoprocta. Previously, the oldest fossil entoprocta came from the late Jurassic, about 145 million years ago. The new fossils date all the way back to the Cambrian, about 520 million years before the present.

5. Pimped-out Ride

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For parents who are really on the go, a British plumber has devised the ultimate in baby strollers: a steel-reinforced, twin-exhaust, 10-horsepower baby carriage capable of reaching highway speeds in less than 30 seconds. In fact, it holds the world's record as fastest stroller.

When Colin Furze, 33, learned he was about to become a dad, he decided an ordinary baby stroller simply wouldn't do, reports. So he welded a 125-cubic centimetre motorcycle engine onto the steel cage of what has to be the world's most seriously pimped-out pram.

4. A tricky situation

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For barnacles, which are stuck in one place, sex can be tricky. The shelled sea creatures have been known to use extra-long penises to fertilize their nearest neighbours. Now researchers have discovered that when those neighbours are too far away, barnacles will "broadcast" their sperm and wind up with long-distance mates.

The discovery of sperm broadcasting "challenges the widely held belief that some form of copulation is obligatory when crustaceans mate," the researchers write in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

3. Age-old find

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A series of storms that hit Scotland's Shetland Islands over the holidays revealed what archaeologists believe could be 2,000-year-old human remains.

Police were initially called to the scene when storms eroded a cliff at Channerwick and exposed the skeleton, but officials soon determined that they wouldn't have to open a homicide investigation.

2. A picture of warp speed

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The science fiction vision of stars flashing by as streaks when spaceships travel faster than light isn't what the scene would actually look like, a team of physics students says.

Instead, the view out the windows of a vehicle traveling through hyperspace would be more like a centralized bright glow, calculations show.

1. Impending doom

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The hands of the infamous "Doomsday Clock" will remain firmly in their place at five minutes to midnight - symbolizing humans' destruction - for the year 2013, scientists announced today (Jan. 14).

Keeping their outlook for the future of humanity quite dim, the group of scientists also wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to partner with other global leaders to act on climate change.

[Source: Live Science. Edited.]

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