Science Sunday: Mysterious hum explained, Eucalyptus leads to gold

Hey there! If it’s Sunday, it must be time for Science!

Space News

NASA’s Cassini probe finds lakes of hydrocarbon liquid on the surface of Titan. They’re thawing as Saturnian spring progresses.

The Opportunity rover on Mars — the rover that’s been there for nearly ten years — is now climbing its tallest hill ever, 130-ft (40m) high Solander Point. Originally designed to function for just three months and drive a few miles at the very most now has 22.22 miles on its odometer.

A story on asks “Should We Remake Mars in Earth’s Image?” Why yes, of course we should.


Should we terraform Mars? Heck yeah.

A canyon of fire rips across the sun:

Psychology News

A study examines why and how people are able to give up Facebook (and other social networking media). The key? A threshold realization that putting one’s entire life onto a website where a company can access and marketize every last bit results in a loss of privacy and self-identity, and risks ‘Internet addiction.’

Hey gals? Want to know if that new boyfriend is really into you? Go for a walk. Research shows that males will slow their pace by as much as 7% if they’re falling in love with you.

Washing hands via Shutterstock

Washing hands via Shutterstock

Washing our hands makes us more optimistic…but optimism also makes us less inclined to apply ourselves. Two groups were given an impossible task. One was told to wash their hands afterwards — and expressed more optimism about their results. When asked to do the test again, the optimistic ones didn’t try as hard as those who didn’t wash their hands.

In a story that repeats the somewhat obvious: Humans invented rituals and superstition in an effort to feel in greater control over their natural environment.

Medical News

A child born with HIV infection apparently cured by early, swift treatment with anti-retroviral medication. Still virus-free 18 months after stopping treatment.

Weekend cooking – buttermilk fried chicken

Saturated fats may actually be good for us after all. One of the many reasons my own philosophy in foods is “moderation in everything.”

Nicotine isn’t the only addictive ingredient in cigarettes. Which explains why the patch and gum aren’t as effective as advertised.

Climate News

Ice cores and tree rings can provide us data on yearly changes in climate and weather for a given location. Well, using an x-ray microscope, researchers have found a way to examine fossilized plankton shells and, at the nanometer scale, see daily fluctuations, based on magnesium layering.

‘Smart windows’ could lead to both temperature control and electricity generation, all without moving parts. Polycarbonate panels sandwiching vanadium oxide becomes more opaque to infrared (heat) energy the hotter the window becomes — and scattered light from the vanadium can be collected by an ordinary photovoltaic cell.

The Antarctic ozone hole is smaller this year, but scientists say it’s still to early to say whether it’s healing or not. At least it doesn’t seem to be getting worse, now that we’ve begun limiting the use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

2013 Antarctic Ozone Hole - graphic from NASA's Goddard Flight Center

2013 Antarctic Ozone Hole – graphic from NASA’s Goddard Flight Center

Tech News

Believe it or not, 3D printers now cost about what laser printers did just a couple years after they first came out.

“Glow in the Dark” roads? On company in the U.K. has developed a photo luminescent coating that is non-reflective, anti-slip, and gives off an “ethereal glow” at night.

Pro-Teq's 'Starpath' glow-in-the-dark road coating

Pro-Teq’s ‘Starpath’ glow-in-the-dark road coating

Self-driving vehicles might just be the answer to ending the vast majority of traffic deaths and accidents — while simultaneously reduce traffic jams and save vast amounts of energy.

Weird News

How to ‘farm’ salmon: Throw them into flooded rice fields. Actually the experiment was to see if rice fields could serve as nurseries for juvenile salmon, which could then be collected later for release into California’s rivers. Result? Huge success. The fields are so rich in foods and nutrients, the baby salmon grow big and fat in a matter of mere weeks.

The ‘Hum’ explained. There are many places around the world where a small percentage of residents complain of an unceasing low-frequency background ‘hum’ noise, especially at night. An explanation may have been found in one locale: Hythe, near Southampton Docks, England.  The source? The male Midshipman fish, using its inflatable air bladder to make sound to attract mates. The males build and defend a territory, then set to humming as loudly as they can. Here’s a link to a video where you can hear the sound for yourself.

Eucalyptus trees in Australia can show where there are traces of gold in the soil in which they’re growing.

An ancient magician’s “curse tablet” was found by archeologists in Jerusalem. Apparently a woman named Kyrilla hired a professional curse-monger to invoke the names of six different gods — four Greek, one Babylonian, and one Gnostic — inflict a bad fortune on a man named Iennys over a legal case. Kyrilla was clearly quite teed-off, as part of it reads: “I strike and strike down and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the ire, the anger, the procrastination, the opposition of Iennys.”

How to Make Zombies

How to Make Zombies

And finally, how to make a zombie. A researcher in Haiti thinks he’s cracked the secret, powerful nerve toxins known as tetrodotoxin, harvested from the pufferfish. In sub-lethal doses, it creates the appearance of death — slow heart rate, imperceptible breathing, awareness but complete paralysis. After re-exhumation, the zombie master or bokor administers regular doses of jimson weed extracts (datura stramonium) to keep the ‘zombie’ victim in a constant state of delirium and disorientation. (It is illegal in Haiti to create zombies, by the way, and the act of attempting to do so is considered murder, even if the victim lives.)

As ever, consider this an open thread.

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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