Archive by date | July 2009

Blimey! Betcha never saw a bird like that before

Blimey! Betcha never saw a bird like that before

A new species of song bird has been found in Asia, and from the pictures of it it’s quite clear why it’s been shy for so long – it’s not a very pretty polly.

The bird is bald, and sports what the National Geographic calls a wispy Mohawk. Its name? The bare-faced bulbul. The baldy is the first new bulbul to be found in Asia in 100 years.

Swimsuit science shenanigans

Swimsuit science shenanigans

Professional swimmers have been getting themselves in a right tizzy recently over what to wear.

A second generation of high-tech body suits has sent swimming times tumbling less than a year after records were smashed at the Olympics by those wearing similar garments. Some think science has created a monster in these new polyurethane suits and the world’s governing body has just banned them.

Betelgeuse: super sharp shots

Betelgeuse: super sharp shots

The European Southern Observatory has released what it claims are “the sharpest ever views of the supergiant star Betelgeuse”.

One team of scientists detected a plume of gas erupting into space from the surface of Betelgeuse on their image, which was created by combining several exposures into one super-sharp-shot.

Fighting fat with fat

Fighting fat with fat

It seems counterintuitive, but a paper published in Nature raises the possibility of losing weight by injecting fat cells.

In the paper American researchers describe using a molecular switch – two proteins PRDM16-C/EBP-beta – to turn mouse and human skin cells into brown fat cells (paper, press release).

White fat cells store fat, while brown fat cells use those stores to produce heat. Heavier people seem to have more white fat but less brown fat than slim people, so one idea for treating obese people is to increase stores of the energy-burning fat. Until now this could not be done since making brown fat was a mystery.

On Nature News

Malaria becoming more drug resistant

Artemisinin-based medicines fail a growing number of patients in Cambodia.

Deforestation emissions on the rise

Amazon study suggests denser forest yields will mean more carbon release.

Israel’s space industry facing staff cuts

Decline in government funding precipitates cash crisis.

Pregnant women hit hard by swine flu

Pregnant women hit hard by swine flu

Pregnant women who get swine flu are at an increased risk of serious illness and death. Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have analysed the first 34 cases of pandemic H1N1 infections in pregnant women in the US, including 6 deaths, and found that expecting mothers were four times more likely to be hospitalized than other people with the virus.

Oceania and the ‘worst extinction record on earth’

Oceania and the ‘worst extinction record on earth’

Australia’s government is being taken to task over its environmental record as a new paper reveals the extinction risk facing the south pacific region.

In the lead-up to the Pacific Island Forum in Cairns, Australia, next week a recently published review of more than 24,000 conservation papers regarding the region warns that “Oceania will require the implementation of effective policies for conservation if the region’s poor record on extinctions is not to continue.”

Ones that got away

“The government’s official experts on illegal drugs have been asked to look at whether intelligence-enhancing drugs, such as those used by students to boost performance in exams, should be banned.”

The Guardian reports on the latest in the cognitive enhancers debate in the UK.

“There is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.”

Researchers report on a major meta-analysis of food in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (related news article from the Times).

“The blood is pale green and rather acrid smelling. I couldn’t bring myself to actually taste it fresh but it leaves an acidy, tobacco-like taste on your fingers if you do not wash it off.”

Bill Bateman, of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, has been researching the armoured ground cricket, which defends itself by squirting out toxic blood (BBC).

“It’s an irritant that causes them to try to come up to escape it. It works on other worms, so probably it’ll work on the Palouse.”

Jodi Johnson-Maynard, of the University of Idaho, tells Wired why mustard may help her catch specimens of the giant Palouse earthworm.

“Manufacturing is one of our biggest exports and it is growing, but it will only grow if we keep ahead, using our science based research.”

UK business secretary Lord Mandelson unveils £150m of support for high-tech manufacturing (Daily Mail).