Science!: Sperm Battles And Bad Fathers

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Make Water Flow Uphill With Lasers

Water flows downhill, that’s just a fact. It flows downhill because gravity forces it to, and to make water do anything but go downhill requires energy and work. Unless you’re made of silicon. Apparently, water likes silicon so darn much that it throws all the rules out the window and will travel up its surface without any persuasive force.

Using an ultra-powerful laser, researchers at University of Rochester have cut tiny but incredibly precise grooves into a silicon chip, and water can climb up its surface as if it were being sucked up by a straw. Somehow, the patterns cut into the chip are so attractive to water molecules that they will break their strong bonds with other water molecules and even climb over one another in order to be closer to the silicon.

Now, this may seem like free energy, but it’s not. When it costs zero energy to move water to a higher level, it raises the level of potential (and thus potentially “free”) energy that can be harnessed when water flows back down. However, because the bonds that hold water to silicon are at a lower energy level that the ones holding water molecules to other water molecules, no free energy is produced.

The laser incisions are so tiny and precise that if you run your finger over the silicon chip, it still feels smooth and undamaged. This development hints at exciting future applications for computing. “Heat is definitely the number one problem deterring the design of faster conventional processors,” explains Michael Scott a professor of computer science. Liquid coolants have been used to keep motherboards from overheating, but they’re often a risky and expensive method. If this technology could be harnessed, computers could forego the bulky, noisy fans and take liquid cooling to the next level.

Source: Eureka Alert

Thanks, megalomania

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Sperm Battles

Interesting fact: A leafcutter ant queen mates only one day during its entire lifespan. In that single day, the queen receives about 300 million sperm, which is all she will ever need to fertilize all of her eggs throughout her lifetime. And while the sperm waits to connect with an egg, they fight.

The seminal fluid of male ants has evolved to be harmful to rival sperm, likely an advancement to spread their own genetic line. Boris Baer and his team investigated the seminal warfare by turning a male ant’s seminal fluid against the sperm of rival male ants. During the sperm vs. sperm showdown, Baer found that 50 percent of the rival sperm was killed within fifteen minutes.

However, the queen can choose to protect her chosen sperm. She can secrete a fluid that will protect sperm from the toxic seminal fluid of rival males. However, the queen can let the rival sperm battle it out within her abdomen for as long as she likes, and then release the protective fluid to keep the survivors, and thus the strongest sperm, alive.

And before anyone asks, no, the same thing is likely not going on in human seminal fluid:

“To my knowledge women do not copulate with 90 mates in half an hour, so whether there is much room that this has evolved in humans as well, I have my doubts,” says Baeur. “[But] in the sperm world you must be prepared for everything.”

Source: Discover

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Male Pipefish Can Abort Their Children for Sexier Mate

The male pipefish is one of the few species that take over the burden of pregnancy for the female. However, he will willingly abort the eggs and absorb their nutrients in order to mate with a larger – and thus more attractive, female pipefish.

It had been previously believed that pipefish abandoned their brood for sustenance, and only during times of malnourishment. However, in a new experiment conducted by a research team at Texas A&M University, males were far more likely to keep the eggs that resulted from mating with a larger female. This is likely because larger females are able to produce higher-quality eggs. I guess when you’re carrying as many as 40 eggs on your body, you’d want to make sure they were worth the effort.

“When a male mates with a female that’s not necessarily all that ‘attractive,’ instead of investing a lot in those offspring, he’s recharging for the next pregnancy,” explains Adam Jones, thesis advisor on the project. “He’s absorbing nutrients or withholding nutrients from the brood so that he’s ready when he gets a more attractive mate to invest more in that particular female’s offspring.”

It sounds like the pipefish is playing a simple numbers game. Unlike in most species where the female gets to choose their mate, in pipefish, it’s the females who fight over the males. When the male pipefish has complete control over the development of the brood, it makes sense to mate with an undesirable female, just in case a better one doesn’t come along. But, if a larger, more desirable female does cross his path, it’s genetically sound to do away with the previous brood and try again.

Wait-we are still talking about fish, right?

Source:National Geographic

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This Just In: Boys Do Stupid Things Around Pretty Girls

Those movies of men throwing personal safety and dignity to the wind in order to win over the hot female lead may not be as far fetched as they seem. According to a recent study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, attractive women make men do stupid things. Tell us something we didn’t already know.

During the study, male skateboarders were asked to perform easy or difficult tricks in front of another male and then in front of a teenage hottie. Landing tricks isn’t as easy as simply deciding what trick you’re going to do. While in the air, skateboarders make split-second decisions about whether or not they’re going to change the trick or attempt a new one, depending on the input they’re receiving from their body and environment. It was this split-second moment that the researchers were trying to analyze, by measuring the levels of testosterone in gravity-defying skateboarders.

The results were as expected: The skateboarders tried riskier tricks when beautiful women were watching them, even at the expense of crashing into the pavement. Testosterone levels were checked after each trick, and were found to be significantly higher when they were performing in front of females, as opposed to when they were performing in front of males.

“This experiment provides evidence for an affect that has existed in art, mythology and literature for thousands of years: Beautiful women lead men to throw caution to the wind,” explained authors Richard Ronay and William von Hippel. “These findings suggest that, for men, the adaptive benefits gained by enticing mates and intimidating rivals may have resulted in evolved hormonal and neurological mechanisms that facilitated greater risk taking in the presence of attractive women.”

Source: Eureka Alert

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