Tags Science

Science says there’s a very, very good reason why you’re afraid of spiders

spider fear

If just the sight of a spider or snake is enough to send a shiver up your spine you already know you're not alone, but did you ever stop to think about where that fear comes from? You might imagine seeing the creepy critters throughout your life has conditioned you to fear them, but new research has completely blown the doors off of that notion, revealing that humans are afraid of spiders and snakes before they even know what they are.

The study, which was conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, identified a stress reaction in infants as young as six months old when presented with a spider or a snake, suggesting that we're built from the ground-up to fear them.

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Mike Wehner

October 20th

Uncategorized

Archaeologists find gates of Hell in Saudi Arabia

gates of hell

When researchers are searching for remnants of structures and settlements constructed by ancient peoples they typically focus on areas that are hospitable to human life. A new discovery in Saudi Arabia goes firmly against that notion, with archaeologists revealing the existence of hundreds of stone "gates" situated in and around ancient lava domes, in an area that is little more than a hellish landscape devoid of vegetation and water.

The structures, which measure anywhere from 40 feet to nearly 1,700 feet in length, are crude in their construction, built of rough rocks that have withstood thousands of years of wear and tear. What's most interesting is that it appears that the lava fields these structures were built upon was still active at the time, with hardened lava appearing to have flowed over some of the gates.

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Mike Wehner

October 20th

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Scientists shocked by 75 percent decline in flying insect numbers

insect population

Bees, moths, and other flying insects can be a bit of a nuisance when you're trying to enjoy a nice sunny day outside, but they're still incredibly vital links in the ecological chain. Now, new research out of Germany has caused a panic in the scientific community, revealing that the total biomass — that is, the total amount of flying insect life in the surveyed area — has plummeted by a whopping 75% over just the past 27 years.

The research, which was published in the journal PLOS One, was conducted by monitoring the insect biomass in 63 different protected nature areas within Germany, and paints an extremely dire picture. What makes the troubling trend even worse is that the researchers found the decline was universal across all habitats and was seemingly not affected by weather change or the type of land the insects call home.

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Mike Wehner

October 19th

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Scientists want astronauts to live in a lava tube on the Moon

moon base

A human settlement on the Moon — or at least some kind of lunar base that astronauts can hang out in — is a romantic idea that sci-fi movies and video games have made us think is as simple as getting some supplies up there and whipping out a hammer. Unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that, and the idea of any kind of shelter on the Moon's surface requires tackling some very difficult problems, such as incredible temperature swings and of course radiation from space.

Now, researchers from the Japanese space agency JAXA have proposed a possible solution: Using the naturally-occurring hollow lava tubes on the lunar surface as makeshift shelters. After some intense searching, a possible location was spotted on an area of the Moon known as Marius Hills. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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Mike Wehner

October 19th

Uncategorized

WTF is floating around Saturn?

science news

NASA Cassini spacecraft performed its final, fateful dive into Saturn several weeks ago, destroying itself in the planet's atmosphere and ending an incredible mission that spanned nearly two full decades. Today, even though its mechanical body has been vaporized, the information it sent back during its time in orbit continues to surprise scientists. The most recent example of this is a newly-discovered quirk with Saturn's atmosphere which researchers are struggling to explain.

During Cassini's daring trips between Saturn and its iconic rings, the spacecraft's powerful mass spectrometer picked up a puzzling mix of chemicals that made NASA's scientists scratch their heads. The most likely explanation? Saturn's gorgeous rings are shedding.

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Mike Wehner

October 18th

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Google’s AlphaGo AI is now teaching itself how to be smarter than humans

alphago zero

AlphaGo, the board-game-playing AI built by Google's DeepMind subsidiary, just got a huge update, making it smarter — and potentially creepier — than ever before. In a paper published in Nature, the company reveals that the newest version of the AI, called AlphaGo Zero, requires no human training in order to make itself better, and it's now so good that it can demolish even the past versions of itself.

The company approached AlphaGo Zero development much differently than that of its predecessors. Rather than making the AI smarter based on known, human-developed strategies, the team instead pitted the software against itself, with no prior advanced training. As the AI beat itself over and over, it continually updated its own knowledge of the game, it got better and better.

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Mike Wehner

October 18th

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We’ll all get a great view of Uranus tonight, and you won’t even need to pull down your pants

how to spot uranus

Uranus is a pretty awe-inspiring sight. It's big, pale, and packed with gas, but we rarely get a chance to actually see it without the use of pricey instruments. Tonight is another story, and thanks to the planet's positioning in relation to our Sun, everyone should be able to get a pretty clear glimpse of it... if that's something you're into.

Tonight, as the calendar flips from October 18th to the 19th, Uranus will be in opposition to the Sun, meaning that it'll be on the opposite side of the Earth in relation to our star. That positioning will bathe Uranus in light, and it should be just enough to make the distant planet visible to the naked eye.

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Mike Wehner

October 18th

Uncategorized

Google Maps goes interplanetary, adds Pluto, Venus, and a bunch of moons

google maps planets

When it comes to maps, Google has already conquered Earth. Whether you need a bird's eye view of your neighborhood or a street-level glimpse at a storefront half the world away, Google can deliver it in seconds. So it's no wonder that after doing pretty much everything it possibly can to map our home planet, it set its sights skyward, and today the company announced it has added a total of 12 new worlds to Google Maps.

The all-new destinations include a whole host of moons scattered around our Solar System, including Europa, Titan, and the frigid Enceladus. Also on the list are the nearby Venus and the once-planet Pluto, and you can explore all of them with nearly the same freedom as the more remote areas of the Earth. You'll have to excuse the lack of Street View support for now, but Google is probably working on that as we speak.

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Mike Wehner

October 18th

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Desert discovery: Lost temple of Ramses II uncovered by archaeologists

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered the remains of an ancient temple belonging to King Ramses II.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities says that the discovery was made by an Egyptian-Czech mission in the village of Abusir southwest of Cairo. The excavation site is near the famous step pyramid of Saqqara.

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Chris Mills

October 17th

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Robots will touch more tenderly when they wear this sensitive skin

 Robots increasingly have to interact with ordinary (that is to say, human-focused) objects and environments, and part of that is imitating the extremely delicate and complex human grip. A new type of electronic skin allows a robot to feel not just the pressure from its grip, but whether and in what direction an object is sliding or slipping. Read More

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Photo

Devin Coldewey

October 17th

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