sciencehabit writes "Archaeologists have long debated when early humans began hurling stone-tipped spears and darts at large prey. By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it, humans could hunt buffalo and other dangerous game from a safe distance, with less risk of a goring or mauling. But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking. A new study of impact marks on the bones of ancient prey shows that such sophisticated killing techniques go back at least 90,000 years ago in Africa and offers a new method of determining how prehistoric hunters made their kills."
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sciencehabit writes "Whooping cough, or pertussis, has exploded in the United States in recent years. A new study (abstract) confirms what scientists have suspected for some time: The return of the disease is caused by the introduction of new, safer vaccines 2 decades ago. Although they have far fewer side effects, the new shots don't offer long-lived protection the way older vaccines do."
sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.
sciencehabit writes "From the human perspective, few events in evolution were more momentous than the split among primates that led to apes (large, tailless primates such as today's gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans) and Old World monkeys (which today include baboons and macaques). DNA studies of living primates have estimated that the rift took place between 25 million and 30 million years ago, but the earliest known fossils of both groups date no earlier than 20 million years ago. Now, a team working in Tanzania has found teeth and partial jaws from what it thinks are 25-million-year-old ancestors of both groups. If the interpretations hold up (abstract), the finds would reconcile the molecular and fossil evidence and possibly provide insights into what led to the split in the first place."
sciencehabit writes "The carnivorous humped bladderwort, found on all continents except Antarctica, is a model of ruthless genetic efficiency. Only 3% of this aquatic plant's DNA is not part of a known gene, new research shows. In contrast, only 2% of human DNA is part of a gene. The bladderwort, named for its water-filled bladders that suck in unsuspecting prey, is a relative of the tomato. The finding overturns the notion that this repetitive, non-coding DNA, popularly called 'junk' DNA, is necessary for life."
Dr. Mark Post hopes to bring the dream of cultured meat one step closer to reality when he unveils his high tech hamburger in London. The five ounce burger is composed of 20,000 strips of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory at a cost of $325,000 (provided by an anonymous donor.) From the article: "The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality."
pacopico writes "Every night, Netflix accounts for about one-third of the downstream Internet traffic in North America, dwarfing all of its major rivals combined. Bloomberg Businessweek has a story detailing the computer science behind the streaming site. It digs into Netflix's heavy use of AWS and its open-source tools like Chaos Kong and Asgard, which the Obama administration apparently used during the campaign. Story seems to suggest that the TV networks will have an awful time mimicking what Netflix has done."
sciencehabit writes "If you've ever cringed when your parents said 'groovy,' you'll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago. Indeed, some of the words we use today may not be so different than those spoken around campfires and receding glaciers."
sciencehabit writes "The Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly purchased several pounds of black powder explosive before the bombing. Used in fireworks and bullets, the explosive substance is both deadly and widely available. It's also very hard to detect. Now, researchers have modified one bomb-sniffing device to accurately spot very small amounts of black powder, an advance that could make us safer from future attacks. What has prevented detection of black powder by IMS in the past, however, is that sulfur and oxygen -- which composes 20% of air—hit the detector at almost the same time. A strong oxygen signal can thus mask a small amount of sulfur, like what a bombmaker's dirty fingers might leave on a luggage strap. A group led by chemist Haiyang Li at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China modified an IMS to eliminate the oxygen signal. 'We have tested the sensitivity of TR-IMS, and its limit of detection of black powder can reach as low as 0.05 nanograms,' Li says."
sciencehabit writes "If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. In the experiment, rats anchored to the top of a ball ran in place as movie-like images around them changed, creating the impression that they were running along a track. Their sense of place relied on visual cues from the projections and their self-motion cues, but they had to do without proximal cues like sound and smell. The rodents used half as many neurons to navigate the virtual world as they did the real one."
sciencehabit writes "An insect's compound eye is an engineering marvel: high resolution, wide field of view, and incredible sensitivity to motion, all in a compact package. Now, a new digital camera provides the best-ever imitation of a bug's vision, using new optical materials and techniques. This technology could someday give patrolling surveillance drones the same exquisite vision as a dragonfly on the hunt."
pacopico writes "Shortly after its 2011 IPO, LinkedIn's infrastructure almost collapsed. The company had been running on decade's old technology and needed a major overhaul to keep up with other social sites. As Businessweek reports, LinkedIn initiated Project Inversion to fix its issues and has since evolved into one of the poster children for continuous development and creating open source infrastructure tools. But the story also notes that LinkedIn's technology revival has come with some costs, including constant changes that have bothered some users."
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. When they mutated this gene in mice, the rodents developed brains that look more like ours (abstract). The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. The findings go against a common conception that 'dumber species will have different genes' for brain development than more intelligent species, Borrell says. He adds that the mechanism could help explain how New World monkeys, with their small, smooth brains, could have evolved from an ancestor with a bigger and more folded brain."
sciencehabit writes "Citing an increasingly bleak outlook for federal research funding, Harvard Medical School is shutting down its major primate center, which has recently experienced the departure of several key scientists and an investigation into its handling of animals. In the announcement, which surprised many primate researchers, the school said it will not seek to renew the New England Primate Research Center's (NEPRC's) 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will 'wind down operations' at the center in Southborough, Massachusetts, over the next 2 years. The center, which has a nearly 50-year history, had done groundbreaking work on an AIDS vaccine and developed animal models for diseases such as Parkinson's, among other accomplishments."
sciencehabit writes "When Superstorm Sandy struck the United States on 30 October, it didn't just devastate the Eastern Seaboard, it shook the ground as far away as the West Coast, producing tiny vibrations in Earth's crust that were picked up by seismometers there. Scientists can use this activity to track the path of the storm. Now, they say that analyzing past records of these vibrations may help them discern whether climate change has influenced the amount of storminess over the world's oceans in recent decades."
cylonlover writes "It hasn't even been released yet but the Leap Motion could already be considered something of a success – at least with PC manufacturers. Following in the footsteps of Asus, who announced in January that it would bundle the 3D motion controller with some of its PCs, the world's biggest PC manufacturer has joined the gesture control party. But HP has gone one step further, promising to build the Leap Motion technology into some future HP devices." (See this video for scenes of users scrabbling with their hands in empty air, and get ready for more of it.)
sciencehabit writes "Put a fruit fly larva in a spacelike vacuum, and the results aren't pretty. Within a matter of minutes, the animal will collapse into a crinkled, lifeless husk. Now, researchers have found a way to protect the bugs: Bombard them with electrons, which form a 'nano-suit' around their bodies. The advance could help scientists take high-resolution photographs of tiny living organisms. It also suggests a new way that creatures could survive the harsh conditions of outer space and may even lead to new space travel technology for humans." Work is also being done on electron "suits" that protect against radiation.
alphadogg writes "Hackers could use vulnerable charging stations to prevent the charging of electric vehicles in a certain area, or possibly even use the vulnerabilities to cripple parts of the electricity grid, a security researcher said during the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam on Thursday. While electric cars and EV charging systems are still in their infancy, they could become a more common way to travel within the next 10 years. If that happens, it is important that the charging systems popping up in cities around the world are secure in order to prevent attackers from accessing and tempering with them, said Ofer Shezaf, of HP ArcSight. At the moment, they are not secure at all, he said."
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have developed a camera system that shoots untouched flakes 'in the wild' as they fall from the sky. By grabbing a series of images of the tumbling crystals—its exposure time is one-40,000th of a second, compared with about one-200th in normal photography—the camera is revealing the true shape diversity of snowflakes. Besides providing beautiful real-time 3D snowflake photographs from a ski resort in Utah, the goal is to improve weather modeling. More accurate data on how fast snowflakes fall and how their shapes interacts with radar will improve predictions of when and where storms will dump snow and how much."
sciencehabit writes "Europe's best-known mummy wasn't just a medical mess; he also had terrible teeth, according to a new study. Ötzi, a Stone Age man who died atop a glacier about 5300 years ago, suffered from severe gum disease and cavities. When Ötzi was discovered atop a glacier on the Austro-Italian border, his frozen corpse was intensively studied. But no one took a close look at his teeth until now. Using 3D computer tomography (a CAT scan), the hunter's mouth could be examined for clues as to the life he led. A fall or other accident killed one of his front teeth, still discolored millennia later. And he may have had a small stone, gone unnoticed in his whole-grain bread or gruel, to thank for a broken molar. That gruel may be the culprit behind Ötzi's cavities and gum disease, too. The uptick in starches, the researchers suggest, could explain the increasing frequency of cavities in teeth from the time—a problem that's been with us ever since."