139 articles from THURSDAY 18.5.2023

Perfection: The Enemy of Evolution

Evolution is a sequence of design changes happening on their own in a discernible direction; it never weds itself to a single point on a drawing board. An evolving system or animal is free to simply go with what works. Not so much that its performance suffers greatly, but enough that it opens access to other options near the so-called optimal design. With scientists often looking to nature for...

Out of the frying pan: Coyotes, bobcats move into human-inhabited areas to avoid apex predators -- only to be killed by people

Conservationists have argued that the presence of wolves and other apex predators, so named because they have no known predators aside from people, can help keep smaller predator species in check. New research shows that in Washington state, the presence of two apex predators -- wolves and cougars -- does indeed help keep populations of two smaller predators in check. But by and large the apex...

Amputees feel warmth in their missing hand

An unexpected discovery about temperature feedback has led to new bionic technology that allows amputees to sense the temperature of objects ¬-- both hot and cold -- directly in the phantom hand. The technology opens up new avenues for non-invasive prosthetics.

In years after El Niño, global economy loses trillions

Researchers report that the financial toll of the climate pattern known as El Niño can persist for several years and cost trillions in lost income worldwide. The study, which is among the first to evaluate the long-term costs of El Niño, found that the 1982 and 1997 events led to $4.1 trillion and $5.7 trillion in lost income in the five years following them. With El Niño projected to return...

Half of world's largest lakes losing water

Fifty-three percent of the world's largest freshwater lakes are in decline, storing less water than they did three decades ago, according to a new study. The study analyzed satellite observations dating back decades to measure changes in water levels in nearly 2,000 of the world's biggest lakes and reservoirs. It found that climate change, human consumption and sedimentation are responsible.

Wiring up quantum circuits with light

The number of qubits in superconducting quantum computers has risen rapidly during the last years, but further growth is limited by the need for ultra-cold operating temperatures. Connecting several smaller processors could create larger, more computationally powerful quantum computers -- however doing so poses new challenges. Researchers have now demonstrated quantum entanglement between optical...

Forgetfulness, even fatal cases, can happen to anyone

Researchers set out to understand how and why forgetfulness can occur -- whether it be forgetting your cellphone or, even worse, forgetting your child in the backseat of the car. Researchers set up an experiment to better understand this lapse in what researchers call prospective memory, or the ability to remember critical but routine behaviors.

Smart material prototype challenges Newton's laws of motion

Engineers have developed a prototype metamaterial that uses electrical signals to control both the direction and intensity of energy waves passing through a solid material. Potential applications of this innovative design include military and commercial uses, such as controlling radar waves by directing them to scan a specific area for objects or managing vibration created by air turbulence from...

This cave-dwelling eel is going blind, by losing one eye at a time

Scientists exploring underwater caves have discovered a new species of moray eel that appears to be adapting to its unique habitat—by losing its eyes. Some specimens of Uropterygius cyamommatus have left eyes covered by skin, whereas others retain eyes on both sides of their heads. The researchers used baited traps to lure the morays to the surface of inland...

UK will lead on ‘guard rails’ to limit dangers of AI, says Rishi Sunak

PM sounds a more cautious note after calls from tech experts and business leaders for moratoriumThe UK will lead on limiting the dangers of artificial intelligence, Rishi Sunak has said, after calls from some tech experts and business leaders for a moratorium.Sunak said AI could bring benefits and prove transformative for society, but it had to be introduced “safely and securely with guard rails...

Finger on the pulse of drug delivery: Preclinical study could pave the way for multiple drug doses in a single injection

Pharmaceutical drugs can save lives, but taking these medications as prescribed—especially among those with chronic conditions—can be challenging, for a variety of different reasons. Improving medication adherence could reduce unfavorable health outcomes, hospitalizations, and preventable deaths, while simultaneously reducing health care costs by up to $300B annually in the United States...

Perseverance rover captures view of Mars' Belva Crater

The Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover recently collected 152 images while looking deep into Belva Crater, a large impact crater within the far larger Jezero Crater. Stitched into a dramatic mosaic, the results are not only eye-catching, but also provide the rover's science team some deep insights into the interior of Jezero.

Catching foodborne illness early

Produce such as lettuce and spinach is routinely tested for foodborne pathogenic bacteria like salmonella, listeria monocytogenes and pathogenic types of E. coli in an effort to protect consumers from getting sick.

New use for AI: Correctly estimating fish stocks

For the first time, a newly published artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm is allowing researchers to quickly and accurately estimate coastal fish stocks without ever entering the water. This breakthrough could save millions of dollars in annual research and monitoring costs while bringing data access to least-developed countries about the sustainability of their fish stocks.

Perfection: The enemy of evolution

Scientists are often trained to seek out the absolute best solution to a given problem. On a chalk board, this might look something like drawing a graph to find a function's minimum or maximum point. When designing a turbojet engine, it might mean tweaking the rotor blades' angles a tiny degree to achieve a tenth of a percent increase in efficiency.

Researchers uncover the hidden complexity of the Montmorency tart cherry genome

Since Michigan is the nation's leading producer of tart cherries, Michigan State University researchers were searching for the genes associated with tart cherry trees that bloom later in the season to meet the needs of a changing climate. They started by comparing DNA sequences from late-blooming tart cherry trees to the sequenced genome of a related species, the peach. However, in a surprise to...

Reading comprehension not worsened by noise, study finds

Researchers of the HSE Centre for Language and Brain have investigated the impact of both auditory and visual noise on semantic processing during reading to determine if it results in a more superficial reading style that emphasizes the meanings of individual words over connections between them in a sentence.

Viral videos about private moments may affect offline relationships

When individuals share videos about surprise reunions with their intimate partners on the internet, the reaction from viewers may not be the roses and unicorns the posters expected. Viewers' responses to shared videos have the potential to shape offline relationships, a case study of one such video found.

Study: Wildfire spread risk increases where trees, shrubs replace grasses

Across the United States over the past decade, an average of over 61,000 wildfires have burned some 7.2 million acres per year. Once a wildfire starts spreading, the firefighting task is exacerbated by issues like spot fires, where winds carry lofted sparks and start new fires outside of the original fire perimeter. The greater the potential spot fire distance, the more difficult wildfires are to...