SVConnections May 2016
January 2021
From LEGOs to Ziploc: The Science of the Snap Fit

By Katharine Gammon, Inside Science

New research reveals how that familiar click of two things locking together works.  Pen caps. IKEA furniture. Snaps on a baby’s onesie. Our world is filled with everyday examples of the snap fit. That's the term used to describe bringing things together by clicking separate parts. ("Listen for the strong click," my kid’s teacher tells them in kindergarten to encourage pen caps to find their proper home.) READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Wove Love/Shutterstock
How the Lightest Materials in the World Absorb Sound

By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science

Scientists find that aerogels may make effective, ultralightweight noise barriers. Ultralight materials called aerogels made of more than 99% air may one day help make flying, living in a busy city, or even sleeping on the international space station quieter, new research suggests. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Source images by Dong Lin, Bhisham Sharma, et al; Composite image by Abigail Malate
When COVID-19 Emptied the Skies This Spring, It Likely Worsened Weather Model Predictions

By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science

The finding illustrates the value of regular weather observations made by commercial airplanes. In all the disruption unleashed by COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns this spring, you probably didn’t notice a change in the accuracy of your daily weather forecast. But new research shows plummeting volumes of air traffic this March and April -- and the associated drop in weather observations -- likely worsened short-range predictions from key weather models that contribute to those forecasts.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: FTiare via Shutterstock
Coral Reefs are Changing Their Smells in a Warmer World

By Christian Fogerty, Inside Science

Australian scientists measure the gases that two Great Barrier Reef corals emit. The aromas of a beach strewn with seaweed or a garden full of blooming flowers are more than just momentary sensory experiences. They also act as entryways into the world of ecosystem health and interspecies communication. Plants, for example, emit gases known as "biogenic volatile organic compounds" to adapt to heat stress, attract pollinators, defend against pathogens, deter predators, and more.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: LemonTYK via Shutterstock
New Forensic Technique Quickly Tells Human Blood from Animal Blood

By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

Researchers use infrared light and sophisticated statistics to recognize origin of blood left at possible crime scenes. A quick and accurate way to distinguish human blood from animal blood can prove key in crash investigations. Now a new technique can rapidly tell the difference between human blood and that of nearly a dozen animal species, all without needing to destroy the samples in question. Such research could one day help police confirm or deny the human origins of bloodstains found at possible crime scenes. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Alan Cleaver via Flickr
Media rights: CC BY 2.0
DNA Floating in Ocean Water Reveals Fish Abundance

By Joshua Learn, Inside Science

New research method’s validity confirmed by bottom trawls. One liter of ocean water can not only unlock the recent presence of dozens of species -- it can also reveal the relative number of these fish. According to the most extensive comparison of its kind, the relative abundance of DNA from different species found from ocean water samples taken off the coast of New Jersey correlates well with the data gathered by the more expensive and destructive technique of bottom trawling. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Karim Condeci/Shutterstock
Simple Eyelike Sensors Could Make AI Systems More Efficient

By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

New single-pixel device borrows materials from solar cells to replicate the behavior of a biological retina as part of its fundamental design. A sensor that mimics how the human eye detects light could lead to better vision for autonomous robots and self-driving cars, a new study argues. Modern electronic cameras are based on sensors that generate an electrical signal whenever light falls on them. In contrast, the roughly 100 million rod and cone cells of the retina -- the light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye -- only transmit signals to the brain in response to a change in light. This makes human eyes significantly more efficient than electronics in terms of both energy and computing power, explained study senior author John Labram, a device physicist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Touch Training Technology Shows Promise for Making Sweet Piano Music

By Tom Metcalfe, Inside Science

Haptic training could help expert musicians and top athletes break through their performance ceilings.  Laurence O’Rourke can close his eyes and picture himself on the vertiginous, black-and-Piano players take heart: High-tech "training by touch" could help you reach peak performance. According to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, a "haptic" system helped pianists learn to strike piano keys with delicate precision. The results were seen only in fingers used for training exercises, and they weren’t seen at all in participants without past experience playing piano. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Lorena Fernandez via Shutterstock
Lithium Cures Tapeworm-Driven Brainwashing in Fish

By Joshua Learn, Inside Science

Treatment that eases bipolar symptoms in humans stops risky behavior in infected sticklebacks. Brain-controlling parasites can be thwarted in fish by using the same medication used to treat bipolar disorder in humans, according to new research. "It’s only the second time people have rescued the behavior of manipulated hosts," said Nadia Aubin-Horth, a biology professor at Laval University in Canada, who conducted the study with her colleagues. The findings were published n the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Pavaphon Supanantananont via Shutterstock
Supermoons Carve Away at Sandy Beaches by Commandeering the Tides

By Tess Joosse, Inside Science

A quarter century of shoreline measurements show that the supermoon’s gravitational force drives more erosion.As the moon orbits the Earth and the Earth orbits the sun, gravitational forces of these heavenly bodies drag the ocean back and forth in a never-ending dance. A full moon makes both high and low tide even more extreme. A few times a year, an even larger "supermoon" pushes the tides into overdrive by heightening this effect. Now, 25 years of research into moon and tidal cycles on a beach in Japan shows that supermoons can exert enough pull on the ocean to erode the shoreline.   READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Port and Airport Research Institute, Japan
Media rights: This image may be used with this Inside Science story.
Light Reflects Off Leaves, Unveils Details of Plant Evolution

By Tess Joosse, Inside Science

Scientists can identify plants by the light they reflect. Every fall, the trees outside our windows shine bright with shades of red, orange and yellow. But light can reveal much more about leaves and the plants that made them. New research shows that the light a plant reflects explains important details about how it evolved and where it sits on the tree of life. These details could be used to identify plant species based on the collection of different wavelengths of light the leaves reflect, known as their spectra. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Joshua Mayer via Flickr 
Media rights: CC BY-SA 2.0
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