Recent Interesting Science Articles (July 2012)Thursday, August 2, 2012 13:33
Posted in category Science
July 2012 has been a less awesome, insofar as science articles go. I guess things do slow down in the summer.
- This isn’t the first article about empathy for humans as displayed in dogs that has appeared in this blog, and it won’t be the last! This article from The Economist covers experiments performed to see if dogs can really perform actions out of empathy for the perceived suffering in humans, as opposed to acting out of curiosity. This was done by observing the behavior of dogs when alternately encountering a human crying and exhibiting other signs of distress or merely humming. They also alternated between using a trusted human for the dogs and a complete stranger. The results were that the dogs could indeed recognize distress in humans and react by whining, nuzzling, licking, and fetching toys for the human perceived to be suffering. They did this to the suffering human even if he or she was a stranger and their master was in the same room, indicating that it was the comfort of the suffering human that they sought rather than their own comfort.
- Just last month I had an article talking about how more modern pop music is getting sadder and sadder while becoming more emotionally ambiguous. This month I have a new article from Reuters making a different claim: that pop music is getting louder and louder, while at the same time becoming less diverse with a more limited variety of sounds. They’re not directly contradictory but they are odds enough that the two teams should probably have a good long discussion with each other about just what is going on.
- This next one is cheating a bit as it’s more of a demonstration video than a science article. Its about the color shifting abilities of a species of cuttlefish in Australia, Sepia plangon. Nothing new, you say? Except that this one is not only capable of shifting its colors, it can apparently shift each side of its body to a different color scheme, in this case, mimicking a female with half of its body and a male with the other half. This demonstrates not only as astounding level of control over its own colors but also an awareness of just who is looking at it from each direction.
- Ever wondered while walking in the rain if it would be more effective to run through the rain or walk steadily through it to minimize wetness. I did and judging by the contents of this Washington Post article, I’m not the only one. Intuitively, running is better to minimize your time spent in the rain but at the same as you travel fast, you run into more raindrops in your path. Walking steadily increases your exposure time, but you present a small target and you don’t walk into raindrops. The paper summarized in this article concludes that for most cases, running is best but the true answer really depends on your body shape, the direction of the rainfall (vertically or at a lateral angle), the angle of the path you are traveling across and so forth. It is truly a profound topic.
- Finally, no rundown would be complete without the biggest scientific news of the month: the confirmation of existence of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider. There are many articles about it on the web but I’m partial to this one from the BBC. There are no practical applications for this but it is pretty solid confirmation of the Standard Model of physics.
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