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July 2021

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There's a Difference Between Learning a Stranger's Face in Person and On a Screen


By Meeri Kim, Inside Science

When it comes to the brain and recognizing familiar faces, in-person interaction matters. Recognizing the face of a family member or good friend is something that happens almost instantly and effortlessly. Years of exposure to loved ones' faces allow the brain to easily pick them out of a crowd, despite variables like different hairstyles or emotional expressions.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: fizkes via Shutterstock
Artificial Intelligence May Be Better Than Humans at Designing Microchips



By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

AI algorithms design chips of equal or greater quality in far less time, according to new research from Google. Artificial intelligence can design computer microchips that perform at least as well as those designed by human experts, devising such blueprints thousands of times faster. This new research from Google is already helping with the design of microchips for the company's next generation of AI computer systems.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Pixel B via Shutterstock
The Brood X Cicadas Have Arrived




By Abigail Malate, Inside Science


Photographers snapped images of the red-eyed insects emerging after 17 years underground. Over the past few weeks, billions of cicadas have been appearing in backyards and gardens across the mid-Atlantic United States. Every 17 years, three species of periodical cicadas in this region emerge from their underground world to molt, eat, mate and lay eggs. In the barrage, people have been spectating, snapping pictures, and even stirring cicadas into their sushiREAD FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Miki Jourdan
How to Speak Cicada




By Nala Rogers, Inside Science


Brood X is emerging across 15 states. Here's how to decode all that buzzing from the trees.  When you first hear it, a cicada chorus may sound like simple buzzing. But to a cicada, that cacophony is full of meaning. There are three species in Brood X, the cohort of 17-year cicadas now emerging in much of the eastern U.S. Members of each species congregate with their own kind and talk to each other with their own species-specific sounds. Males sing to court females and "jam" the songs of other males, while females make clicks with their wings to encourage or repel suitors.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator
Media rights: Copyright American Institute of Physics
Tests of General Relativity with Gravitational Waves Can Go Awry



By Ramen Skibba, Inside Science

Errors in models used to interpret gravitational wave signals could misleadingly suggest deviations from relativity, a new study warns. Just six years ago, scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, in Louisiana and Washington measured a unique undulating signal when the distance between the detector mirrors was nudged by just one part in a billion trillion -- just a fraction of the width of a proton. It revealed the existence of gravitational waves emanating from an ancient collision of black holes. The momentous discovery confirmed physics research that went back to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, and it earned a Nobel Prize in 2017.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman and Brian P. Powell
Scientists Recreate Stone Age Lamps and Torches to See How Ancient Artists Illuminated Caves


By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

Torches cast a brilliant glow that was good for exploring, while lamps were better for lighting one small area. Prehistoric artists wandered deep into dark caves to adorn them with paintings, engravings and other art. Now archaeologists have re-created ancient torches, lamps and fireplaces to see how our ancestors navigated these depths. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock
Eensy Weensy Spider Silk Takes the Temperature of a Single Cell



By Shi En Kim, Inside Science

These fine filaments can funnel light from fluorescent nanoparticles, acting just like a teeny optical fiber. Even though he works with spiders regularly, Yao Zhang, a physicist at Jinan University in China, admits he's afraid of them. In fact, most of the people in his lab are, except for graduate student Zhiyong Gong, who keeps spiders as pets in his dorm. Naturally, Gong was the one who volunteered to harvest spider silk in the lab as part of the group's efforts to study how the silk can be used to benefit the human world. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Vadym Lesyk via Shutterstock
Researchers Unravel the Mystery Behind a Turtle's Seemingly Impossible Journey



By Carolina Cuellar, Inside Science

Unexpectedly warm water may explain how North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles get from Japan to Baja California. North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles are extremely sensitive to temperature, which should make it impossible for them to swim through the frigid eastern Pacific Ocean. However, a small number of these turtles defy expectations and somehow make it to the Baja California coast. Until now, researchers had not been able to explain the secret behind this migration mystery, but new findings suggest that rare warm water currents guide them to Baja California. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Salty View via Shutterstock
Speaking Spreads Exhaled Droplets





High-speed camera footage shows how the COVID-19 virus spreads through speech. These days many of us flinch whenever we hear someone cough or sneeze. COVID-19 has most people on high alert. Now, new research helps reveal the risks we might face from a simple chat with an infected person. WATCH VIDEO.
How the Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs -- and How We May Be Able to Stop the Damage

By Brian Owens, Inside Science

New research zooms in on the outer surface of the coronavirus to reveal more about how COVID-19 scars the lungs. One of the hallmarks of severe infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the damage it can do to the lungs, which can leave them scarred in a way that may cause long-term problems. Now, by studying the minute details of how the virus’s proteins interact with our cells, researchers have discovered how it causes that damage -- and suggested a way to develop drugs that will prevent it. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: NIAID
Media rights: CC-BY 2.0
From Birds to Alligators, Embryos' Development Is Shaped by Sound



By Katharine Gammon, Inside Science

Many unborn creatures make and receive sounds and vibrations -- getting valuable information on the outside world. Mylene Mariette was studying zebra finch calls when she started to notice something strange: Sometimes a solo parent in the nest would produce a knocking sound. "Because it was by itself just with the eggs, I wondered whether they would be communicating with the embryos," she said.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Tiny Crystals Point to Date Plate Tectonics Began



By Nala Rogers, Inside Science

Cells exposed to an inflammatory signaling molecule are quicker to commit suicide -- but speed can lead to mistakes. A molecule that triggers inflammation may send cells into a panic-like state, prompting them to rush decisions about when to commit suicide, according to new research. This could help quell viral infection by ensuring infected cells die before new viruses are released. But it appears to come at a cost: Uninfected cells sometimes kill themselves by mistake. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock
Candies Could Help Students Learn Chemistry by Sensing the Shape of Molecules with Their Mouth

By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

New models may help people who are blind learn molecular structures.  Bite-size, candylike 3D models could help students -- especially those with blindness -- visualize molecules with their mouths about as well as they can with their eyes or hands, a new study finds. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Bryan F. Shaw
Pollen-Sized Pills Promise to Protect Bees Exposed to Pesticides




By Karen Kwon, Inside Science

The new technological solution developed for one type of pesticide could soon expand to others. Farmers use insecticides to fend off plant-eating pests, but the chemicals can also harm the bees that pollinate crops. To better protect crucial pollinators, a team of scientists from Cornell University developed pollen-sized pills that carry an antidote to organophosphates, one of the most popular types of insecticides. Bumblebees that ate antidote pills after being exposed to organophosphate survived at higher rates compared to other bees that did not take the pills, the team reported in the journal Nature Food last month. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Dmitry Grigoriev via Flickr
Media rights: CC-BY 2.0
Noise Pollution Could Stop Forests from Growing


By Nala Rogers, Inside Science


Researchers found fewer tree seedlings on noisy plots in a pinyon-juniper woodland, likely because the sound drove away animals that disperse seeds. The effects of noise can reach organisms without ears. Because of the way living things rely on each other, noise pollution may actually stop some forests from growing, a new study suggests. In a New Mexico woodland dominated by pinyon pine and juniper trees, researchers found far fewer tree seedlings in noisy sites than they did in quiet ones. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Andrey Zharkikh via Flickr
Media rights: CC-BY 2.0
Oil Spills’ Overlooked Victims: Water Insects


By Brian Owens, Inside Science


New research shows how oil spills and their cleanup harm water striders, raising questions about the broader ecological impacts of even small spills. The dangers of freshwater oil spills to fish and birds are well known, but what about the other creatures, like insects, that live in or on rivers and lakes? Tyler Black, a Ph.D. student in environmental sciences at the University of Guelph in Canada, was inspired to look at this question when he noticed something odd during oil spill experiments  at the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Kiolk/Shutterstock
Newly Designed Material Could Make Sound Travel Backward



By Tom Metcalfe, Inside Science


Scientists plan to announce the successful creation of the material in an upcoming paper. Think of a moonwalk. The dancer moves backward even though they look like they are walking forward. In the quantum world, waves can do a similar thing: Backward waves move in one direction while their energy moves the other way. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Login/Shutterstock
Intact Beetle Found in 230 Million-Year-Old Lizard Dung


By Joshua Learn, Inside Science


The ancient dinosaur ancestor likely ate the newly described species by accident. The death of the beetle may have been ignoble -- swallowed by a lizardlike creature by accident. But the real injustice for this Triamyxa coprolithica is that it has had to wait for 230 million years in a pile of dung before scientists even acknowledged its species' existence. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Qvarnström et al.
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