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'Making Music May Improve Young Children's Behavior'

Making music can improve both pro-social behaviour (voluntary behaviour intended to benefit another) and the problem solving skills of young children according to a new study. (Credit: (c) Tyler Olson / Fotolia)British Psychological Society (BPS)

Sep. 5, 2013 — Making music can improve both pro-social behaviour (voluntary behaviour intended to benefit another) and the problem solving skills of young children according to a new study.

Building on existing research (Kirschner and Tomasello in 20102) which found that making music significantly improves pro-social behaviour in young children) the current study investigated not only the potential effects of music making (singing or playing an instrument) on pro-sociability but also its effects on problem-solving and whether there was a difference between boys and girls.

The study, carried out by undergraduate student, Rie Davies, and academics Dr Maddie Ohl and Dr Anne Manyande from the School of Psychology at the University of West London, explored the pro-sociability, co-operation and problem-solving abilities of 24 girls and 24 boys aged four.

Intricacies of Lying: False Descriptions Easier to Remember Than False Denials

How you remember a lie may be impacted profoundly by how you lie, according to a new study. (Credit: (c) Feng Yu / Fotolia)Louisiana State University

Sep. 4, 2013 — What happens when you tell a lie? Set aside your ethical concerns for a moment -- after all, lying is a habit we practice with astonishing dexterity and frequency, whether we realize it or not. What goes on in your brain when you willfully deceive someone? And what happens later, when you attempt to access the memory of your deceit? How you remember a lie may be impacted profoundly by how you lie, according to a new study by LSU Associate Professor Sean Lane and former graduate student Kathleen Vieria.

The study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Research and Memory Cognition, examines two kinds of lies -- false descriptions and false denials -- and the different cognitive machinery that we use to record and retrieve them.

False descriptions are deliberate flights of the imagination -- details and descriptions that we invent for something that didn't happen. As it turned out, these lies were far easier for Lane's test subjects to remember.

Technology News

Computers on the moon

Computer for ApolloPaul Rako

My pals just exchanged a great email thread about the computing technology NASA used to put folks on the moon back in the 1960s.

It started with Richard King, crack EE and the Altium guru over at STEM, sending out this video with a note: “At last a documentary film on the Apollo guidance computer that’s more in-depth than the usual talking heads about how ground-breaking it was and the marriages that were sacrificed to make it.”

Hard to go back that far and remember what did and didn’t exist and was or was not used for any type of electronics construction, even though I was alive back then.

Made-To-Order Materials: Engineers Focus On the Nano to Create Strong, Lightweight Materials

Three-dimensional, hollow titanium nitride nanotruss with tessellated octahedral geometry. Each unit cell is on the order of 10 microns, each strut length within the unit cell is about three to five microns, the diameter of each strut is less than one micron, and the thickness of titanium nitride is roughly 75 nanometers. (Credit: Dongchan Jang and Lucas Meza)California Institute of Technology

Sep. 5, 2013 — The lightweight skeletons of organisms such as sea sponges display a strength that far exceeds that of humanmade products constructed from similar materials. Scientists have long suspected that the difference has to do with the hierarchical architecture of the biological materials -- the way the silica-based skeletons are built up from different structural elements, some of which are measured on the scale of billionths of meters, or nanometers. Now engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have mimicked such a structure by creating nanostructured, hollow ceramic scaffolds, and have found that the small building blocks, or unit cells, do indeed display remarkable strength and resistance to failure despite being more than 85 percent air.

"Inspired, in part, by hard biological materials and by earlier work by Toby Schaedler and a team from HRL Laboratories, Caltech, and UC Irvine on the fabrication of extremely lightweight microtrusses, we designed architectures with building blocks that are less than five microns long, meaning that they are not resolvable by the human eye," says Julia R. Greer, professor of materials science and mechanics at Caltech. "Constructing these architectures out of materials with nanometer dimensions has enabled us to decouple the materials' strength from their density and to fabricate so-called structural metamaterials which are very stiff yet extremely lightweight."

Environmental News

Novel Method to Identify Suitable New Homes for Animals Under Threat from Climate Change

Emperor penguins. (Credit: Copyright Dr. Paul Ponganis, National Science Foundation)Zoological Society of London

Sep. 5, 2013 — Scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have devised a novel method to identify suitable new homes for animals under threat from climate change.

Conservation scientists used their knowledge on species ecology to create habitat suitability maps and correctly identify sites that will remain viable in the future regardless of changing climate. However, the key for success is to understand, and account for, the link between variation in species population size, climate and how the climate may change.

Almost half of all bird and amphibian species are believed to be highly vulnerable to extinction from climate change. Species in extreme or rare habitats such as the emperor penguin in the Antarctic and American pika in the USA have already experienced drastic declines in populations due to the impact of climate change on their home.

Scientists Confirm Existence of Largest Single Volcano On Earth

This 3D image of the seafloor shows the size and shape of Tamu Massif, a huge feature in the northern Pacific Ocean, recently confirmed to be the largest single volcano on Earth. (Credit: Image courtesy Will Sager)University of Houston

Sep. 5, 2013 — A University of Houston (UH) professor led a team of scientists to uncover the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth. Covering an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, this volcano, dubbed the Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.

William Sager, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at UH, first began studying the volcano about 20 years ago at Texas A&M's College of Geosciences. Sager and his team's findings appear in the Sept. 8 issue of Nature Geoscience, the monthly multi-disciplinary journal reflecting disciplines within the geosciences.

Located about 1,000 miles east of Japan, Tamu Massif is the largest feature of Shatsky Rise, an underwater mountain range formed 130 to 145 million years ago by the eruption of several underwater volcanoes. Until now, it was unclear whether Tamu Massif was a single volcano, or a composite of many eruption points. By integrating several sources of evidence, including core samples and data collected on board the JOIDES Resolution research ship, the authors have confirmed that the mass of basalt that constitutes Tamu Massif did indeed erupt from a single source near the center.

Medical News

Device offers promise of no brain tumor left behind

New technique might allow surgeons to identify edges of cancers
A new technique generates colored images that differentiate tumor tissue (blue) in a mouse brain from surrounding healthy tissue (green). The technique may eventually improve brain surgery.By Nathan Seppa

A tiny probe equipped with a laser might reveal what the human eye doesn’t always see: the difference between a tumor and healthy tissue. A new study suggests the device might provide brain surgeons with a roadmap as they go about the delicate business of removing tumors.

Surgeons try to excise as much of brain tumors as possible, but they risk harming the patient if they remove healthy tissue. “This problem,” says surgeon Daniel Orringer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, “has vexed brain surgeons for as long as they have taken out tumors,” since the first half of the 20th century. “Basically, we do it by feel — the texture, color and vascularity of the tissues. Tumors tend to bleed a little more than normal brain.”

Although removing and testing tissue samples, or biopsies, can help to characterize the tissue at the tumor margins, it’s a cumbersome and time-consuming process. In the new study, Orringer and his colleagues instead exposed such borderline brain tissues to a weak laser. Then they used Raman spectroscopy, a technique that reveals vibrations of specific chemical bonds in tissues. The revved up form of Raman spectroscopy that the researchers used is sensitive enough to distinguish between proteins and lipids. Since tumors are higher in protein than healthy brain tissue, the authors designed the technique to present protein signatures as blue images on a screen, and lipids as green.

A gut infection can keep mice lean

Bacteria can invade one rodent from another, preventing both from getting fat
Skinny miceBy Meghan Rosen

Skinniness could be contagious. Gut bacteria from thin people can invade the intestines of mice carrying microbes from obese people. And these invaders can keep mice from getting tubby, researchers report in the Sept. 6 Science.

“It’s very surprising,” says molecular microbiologist Andreas Schwiertz of the University of Giessen in Germany, who was not involved in the work. “It’s like a beneficial infection.”

But the benefits come with a catch. The invading microbes drop in and get to work only when mice eat healthy food. Even fat-blocking bacteria can’t fight a bad diet, suggests study leader Jeffrey Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

In recent years, researchers have collected clues that suggest that gut microbes can tweak people’s metabolism. Fat and thin people have different microbes teeming in their intestines, for example. And normal-weight mice given microbes from obese mice pack on extra fat, says coauthor Vanessa Ridaura, also of Washington University.

Space News

Mystery Alignment of 'Butterfly' Nebulae Discovered

A selection of planetary nebulae as observed by Hubble. Top row (left to right): NGC 6302, NGC 6881, NGC 5189. Bottom row: M2-9, Hen 3-1475, Hubble 5by Ian O'Neill

Astronomers have discovered something weird in the Milky Way's galactic bulge -- a population of planetary nebula are all mysteriously pointing in the same direction.

While using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) to survey 130 planetary nebulae situated near the hub of our galaxy, astronomers from the University of Manchester sorted them into three populations based on their shape: "elliptical," "either with or without an aligned internal structure" and "bipolar."

They noticed the mysterious alignment in the long axes of bipolar planetary nebulae.

VIDEO: Meet the Black Hole in the Center of Our Galaxy

Planetary nebulae are caused by the death of red giant stars. During their final years, long after the hydrogen fuel has run out in their cores, these puffed up stars begin to shed their outer layers, blasting huge quantities of material into space. At the end of its life the sun will also enter into a red giant phase, swallowing up the inner solar system planets (possibly even Earth), eventually creating its own planetary nebula.

Um, Being an Astronaut or Cosmonaut Isn’t Interesting?

Cosmonaut Yury Nancy Atkinson

In an unusual news item from Russia’s RiaNovosti news, cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, who was scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in 2015, has resigned for undisclosed reasons. But one of the heads the Russian Space Corporation Energia, former cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, was quoted by Russian media as saying that Lonchakov had “found a more interesting job.”

The type of new job was not disclosed, but it has to be pretty good to beat being flying in space.

It’s not that astronauts and cosmonauts haven’t ever quit or retired, but usually they don’t quit when they have a space flight scheduled. Lonchakov was set to fly to the ISS as the commander of Expedition 44 in May 2015 along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly; the latter two are going to be part of an experimental one-year mission on the ISS.

Odd News

How Sunlight Reflected Off a Building Can Melt Objects

A new skyscraper in London exemplifies the phenomenon.
A man reacts to a shaft of intense sunlight reflected from the glass windows of the 'Walkie Talkie' tower in central London.Roff Smith

The "Walkie Talkie Building," a name Londoners have given a distinctively shaped skyscraper near Saint Paul's Cathedral, has been in the news this week after reflected sunlight from its mirrored facade melted the side mirrors and panels on a Jaguar XJ parked on a nearby street.

So how on Earth does a skyscraper melt a car?

In a nutshell, it does so by using the same principles a Boy Scout might use to start a fire with a magnifying glass—by concentrating a beam of sunlight on a point.

But at 20 Fenchurch Street, London's hottest new address, instead of a lens being used, it is the concave flank of a 37-story skyscraper covered with 355,000 square feet (33,000 square meters) of highly reflective south-facing glass. It is a coincidence of shapes and materials, say physicists, that is ideally suited to focusing a tremendous amount of solar energy on a small area and generating a lot of heat—enough to melt the plastic coatings on the side mirror of an expensive sports car, fry an egg, blister a bicycle seat, or burn a hole in a doormat, all of which are reported to have occurred in the hot spot beneath the Walkie Talkie.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

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