Science!: iPads and Dolphins


Relocating Too Often as a Kid Makes You Neurotic

If you are one of those kids whose family relocates constantly, this study is for you. The next time your parents claim “Don’t worry honey, you can always make new friends,” just reference this article. A recent study has shown that relocating often as a child can make you more introverted and neurotic as an adult.

“We know that children who move frequently are more likely to perform poorly in school and have more behavioral problems,” said lead author, Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, of the University of Virginia. “However, the long-term effects of moving on well-being in adulthood have been overlooked by researchers.”

Oishi conducted a study on 7,108 adults between the ages of 20 and 75, surveying them on their general well-being and the number of times they had moved as a child. Those adults who had moved more often as children reported feeling less satisfied with their lives and well-being. They also had fewer genuine social relationships than other adults who did not relocate as much.

Further, introverts suffered more from frequent moves than extraverts. “Moving a lot makes it difficult for people to maintain long-term close relationships,” explains Oishi. “This might not be a serious problem for outgoing people who can make friends quickly and easily. Less outgoing people have a harder time making new friends.”

Even more foreboding: Adults who moved frequently as children were more likely to die early. “We can speculate that moving often creates more stress and stress has been shown to have an ill effect on people’s health,” said Oishi. “But we need more research on this link before we can conclude that moving often in childhood can, in fact, be dangerous to your health in the long-term.”

Source: Science Daily

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Scientist Uses iPad to Communicate With Dolphins

The iPad might be getting flack for being nothing more than a glorified iPhone, but scientists now believe it could be used to successfully communicate with dolphins.

Scientists have been trying to communicate with cetaceans for years. Unfortunately, dolphins and whales have broad vocal ranges, and researchers have perpetually had trouble translating it to a language humans could understand. What scientists needed was a translator – a babelfish that spoke dolphin. It looks like the iPad might just be what we were looking for.

Jack Kassewitz, a dolphin researcher, explains: “For several years, we’ve recognized that part of the problem in creating an artificial language between humans and dolphins has been the speed of acquisition of the human brain; it’s just not up to competing [with that of the dolphin]. [The dolphins] acoustic range is so broad and ours is so limited, and our speed to react to their sound is so slow, I think we were just plain boring.”

Kassewitz has been trying to narrow down a selection of possible dolphin to human interfaces, and has decided to test both the iPad and the Panasonic Toughbook 19. Using a waterproof pouch, a dolphin can interact with the iPad or Toughbook screen and use it to communicate basic ideas.

The results from the iPad trials are promising. In one trial, Kassewitz shows an image to a dolphin using the iPad. If the dolphin recognizes the object, he taps the screen with his nose, and then moves towards the same object that has been placed nearby. As it performs this task, the dolphin makes various noises, and these sounds are recorded using the iPad’s SignalScope app.

SignalScope isn’t the only app that appeals to dolphins. Kassewitz has talked to other computer programmers who are on board to create even more apps that would be helpful in deciphering dolphin code. I wonder, once we figure out what they’re saying – will they say “So long, and thanks for all the fish?”

Source: Red Orbit



Earth’s “Fractal Haze” Allowed Life to Develop

Got a few minutes? Try cracking this conundrum:

Three billion years ago, life began to arise on Earth. However, the sun was nearly 30 percent dimmer than it is today, meaning that our planet was likely covered in ice. These conditions aren’t too favorable for the first signs of life to emerge, so there must have been another factor at work to make sure that life as we know it didn’t freeze.

Carl Sagan tried solving this puzzle – twice, in fact. The first time, he proposed that an ammonia atmosphere could have trapped heat, only to find out later that UV radiation would have broken down ammonia. His second guess – a thick nitrogen-methane mix that also trapped heat, but blocked the UV rays – also failed, since the haze particles would have blocked visible light as well, effectively leading to a dead Earth.

Now, new scientists have stepped up to the plate and suggested a hydro-carbon haze, where particles protected potential life from harmful UV rays but also allowed visible light to come through. The result is a fractal haze, “an aerosol haze opaque enough to block the shortwave ultraviolet radiation that would have hindered or prevented life from arising,” explains researcher Eric Wolf. “At the same time, it would have proven transparent enough in longer, visible wavelengths to let them keep the atmosphere warm and the planet wet enough for life to emerge. “It’s surprising that molecules with complex shapes could make such a difference.”

If this theory flops as well, there’s another to take its place. In April, scientists suggested that Earth had fewer landmasses than previously believed. Fewer land masses means less reflected light, which means more heat absorption.

There’s no reason that the two theories can’t work together, though:

“Rather than being an alternate explanation to last month’s theory about how Earth stayed warm under a faint young sun, the newly proposed haze layer may actually be a complement to it,” says Wolf. “Researchers who conducted that study didn’t include a haze layer, which probably would have helped keep their darker world warm enough to prevent water at Earth’s surface from freezing. Future research could clarify the issue.”

Source: Discover Magazine



Canadian Island Proves Life Could Exist on Mars

The question of whether or not there is life on Mars may have just been answered. Theoretically, at least. Dr. Lyle Whyte, a microbiologist at McGill University has been studying what survives in the Lost Hammer spring of Canada’s Axel Heiberg Island. Bacteria exist in these springs, despite the fact the temperatures are sub-zero and there is no consumable oxygen. Bubbles of methane float to the surface, however, and these bacteria love them some CH4.

“We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer,” Whyte said. “But we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms – organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen.”

We’ve found out that Mars harbors methane and frozen water on its surface. The hoopla surrounded what was making them – bacteria often produce methane as a byproduct, but it seems that we missed an even more interesting assumption: if bacteria can exist in a super cold, super saline solution on Earth, couldn’t it exist in the same environment on Mars?

“There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0ºC,” states Whyte, “and on Axel Heiberg it gets down to -50, easy. The Lost Hammer spring is the most extreme subzero and salty environment we’ve found. This site also provides a model of how a methane seep could form in a frozen world like Mars, providing a potential mechanism for the recently discovered Martian methane plumes.”

Source: Eureka Alert


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