November 2021
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Tiny Robot Hand Uses Electrified Wires as Sensors and to Help Grip Tiny Objects

By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

The new technology may one day be able to grasp microscopic objects such as human eggs. A soft, miniature five-fingered robot hand could not only safely hold a delicate snail egg just 3 millimeters wide -- difficult to grasp even with tweezers -- but it also applied heat to help incubate the egg over the course of a week, detected mechanical signals that revealed it was hatching, and then monitored the newborn snail's heart rate, a new study finds. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Ajou University
Scientists Find Hints of a Hidden Mass Extinction 30 Million Years Ago

By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

Up to 63% of African and Arabian mammal species may have vanished in a previously undetected die-off. Nearly two-thirds of mammal species in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula may have died off about 30 million years ago, a mass extinction that escaped detection for decades until now, a new study finds. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Matt Borths, Duke University Lemur Center
Microscopic Marvels: Flexing Tardigrades and the Snaking Filaments of a Moss Plant

By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science

Contenders in Nikon Small World in Motion video contest showcase wonders from the microscopic world. Microscopes, focused on something as simple as a drop of pond water, can open a portal to a new world filled with fantastic creatures. Since 2011, the Nikon Small World in Motion video contest has highlighted movies that reveal tiny marvels invisible to the unaided human eye. The winners of this year's contest were announced last month. Inside Science has selected the videos we found most visually appealing and delved into the science of the fascinating phenomena they show.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Nikon Small World in Motion video contest
James Bond's Best Escapes Are From Infections

By Haley Weiss, Inside Science

While martinis probably aren't more protective than good travel habits, researchers can't explain the superspy's luck.  Despite extensive travel and little to no regard for personal health, somehow one of our most well-traveled icons of page and screen, James Bond, has yet to find himself writhing on the floor of a hotel bathroom with food poisoning. According to data assembled by a team of researchers, it's only a matter of time before his luck catches up to him, because Bond is downright reckless when it comes to travel safety. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media rights: CC BY 4.0
There's So Much More To Explain About How Bodies Sense Pain

By Brian Owens, Inside Science

The medicine Nobel Prize recognized researchers studying how our bodies sense temperature and touch. Pain is much more complicated.  This year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine went to two scientists who discovered how our sense of temperature and touch works. David Julius identified the heat-sensing ion channel TRPV1, while Ardem Patapoutian found the touch-sensitive Piezo channels. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
2 Share Chemistry Nobel Prize for Developing New Way to Make Organic Molecules

By Chris Gorski, Inside Science

Researchers established a new kind of environmentally friendly and cost-effective catalyst. The 2021 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to Benjamin List from the Max-Planck-Institute für Kohlenforschung in Germany and David MacMillan of Princeton University in New Jersey for "for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis." READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media rights: Copyright American Institute of Physics
Should Golf Require Shorter Clubs?

By Peter Gwynne, Inside Science

A proposal intended to limit the length of drives by reducing the maximum club length from 48 inches to 46 inches has drawn criticism from professional players. Professional golf has a problem: Players are driving the ball too far. Some prominent professionals have protested loudly about a proposal for mitigating the problem, made by and under study by the sport's rule-makers, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the United Kingdom's equivalent, the R&A. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
Choreographed Web-Building Routines Showcase Spiders' Architect Tendencies

By Haley Weiss, Inside Science

What nature's most complex constructions can tell us about how the brain organizes behaviors. Like any good architect, an orb-weaving spider builds its residence in stages. Unlike human architects, however, they start without the final plan in mind. It's a strategy that always works for them, almost as if spiders are born knowing only the steps of a choreographed dance -- no pattern is revealed until it's finished. Scientists have observed the same structural progression in this construction process with many spider species, though elements such as silk thickness and location vary greatly. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Courtesy of Abel Corver
Physics Nobel Recognizes the Science of Complex Systems

By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science

Two scientists share the prize for modeling Earth's climate, while a third is honored for discovering hidden patterns in the behavior of disordered complex materials. The 2021 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists who greatly improved our ability to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems. Half of the prize was jointly awarded to Syukuro Manabe from Princeton University and Klaus Hasselmann from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, "for the physical modelling of Earth's climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming." The other half went to Giorgio Parisi from Sapienza University of Rome "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales." READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media rights: Copyright American Institute of Physics
How Tree Rings Can Encode a Violin's Age and Place of Origin

By Will Sullivan, Inside Science

Researchers compare tree rings from an instrument's body to other wood to estimate the instrument's age. A stringed instrument holds many clues about when and where it might have been made. The wear on the body, the opacity of the wood and the type of varnish used, for example, can all hint at its origin. In recent decades, a technique called dendrochronology, which dates an instrument using the tree rings on its body, has gained popularity. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Mirko Pernjakovic/Shutterstock
Elephants Will Cooperate to Get Food -- If There's Enough to Share

By Katharine Gammon, Inside Science

A new paper examines how elephants work together to solve a task and when cooperation breaks down. Cooperation lies at the beating heart of most societies. For Asian elephants in a recent study, a bit of teamwork helped them access delicious bananas. A new study examines elephants' ability to work together for a reward and the circumstances that limit their capacity for cooperation. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Carfield Photography/Shutterstock
The Earth's Equatorial Bulge Shapes the Planet's Physics

By Will Sullivan, Inside Science

Meteorologists, oceanographers and snipers have to account for this deformation. Earth might look like a sphere, but it's actually an "oblate spheroid" -- the planet is slightly squished, making the circumference of the equator bigger than the circumference through the poles. Clouds, ocean currents, and long-range missiles all would behave differently if Earth were perfectly spherical.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Anton Balazh/Shutterstock; Homepage image credit: Johanna Goodyear/Shutterstock
Evidence Shows Humans May Have Introduced Now-Extinct Wolf to the Falkland Islands

By Joshua Learn, Inside Science

Fox-like dog described by first Europeans to visit the remote islands was an ecological anomaly. An unknown population of humans that left few traces on the landscape of the Falkland Islands may have brought large fox-like dogs still present when Europeans first visited the archipelago in the late 17th century. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Kit Hamley
Media rights: Please cite the owner of the material when publishing. This material may be freely used by reporters as part of news coverage, with proper attribution. This material may not be modified or altered.
How Rat Poison Helps Chemists Win Nobel Prizes

By Joshua Learn, Inside Science

Strychnine is so difficult to make in a lab that chemists, including Nobel winners, have long competed to synthesize it more efficiently.  Strychnine is a substance commonly deployed to keep rodents away from your kitchen. But a whole line of Nobel Prize winners -- this year's included -- care little about strychnine's use as rat poison. They are more focused on the strychnine molecule's complex structure. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Composite of images from Shutterstock made by Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator (Plant and the molecule).
Space-Based Research May Help Settle Scientific Puzzle About the Lifetime of a Neutron

By Will Sullivan, Inside Science

Scientists need to pin down the lifetime to better understand fundamental physics questions, like how the universe evolved. Scientists have been trying to measure the lifetime of a neutron outside an atomic nucleus for decades, and for the last 15 years, two types of laboratory experiments have provided different answers. In a new study, researchers for the second time have measured the neutron lifetime in a setting far outside the lab -- space. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: NASA/Ames
A Lobster's Age Doesn't Show, But DNA Could Give Hints

By Haley Weiss, Inside Science

Examining small molecules that attach to DNA strands can help build a sense of a lobster's age. Lobsters can live a surprisingly long time, but it’s actually pretty difficult to tell how old they are at any given moment. As they grow, they molt and develop new hardened exoskeletons every few years. This means the telltale physical signs of aging don’t accumulate in any meaningful way. Size is most often used to approximate a lobster’s age, but this method is “particularly difficult, because individuals have very different growth rates,” said Martin Taylor, a molecular ecologist at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Composite image by Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator
Media rights: Lobster image courtesy University of East Anglia, Background is public domain by Krystian Tambur
How Apples Get Their Shape

By Jessica Orwig, Inside Science

Physicists say a universal theory that describes everything from light reflecting in tea cups to black holes can explain why apples have a dip at the top. Next time you’re about to bite into an apple, slice it open first and inspect its cross-section. If you look in the right spot, you’ll observe that the stem cavity -- where the surface dips down to meet the stem -- is so sharply sloped it nearly becomes a vertical line. Here the curvature, the local change in slope, is what mathematicians would call “singular.” Singularities show up in a large range of physical systems, from light reflecting in tea cups to black holes that warp space-time. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: ND700/Shutterstock
New Device Purifies Water with Static Electricity

By Zack Savitsky, Inside Science

The self-powered machine kills dangerous bacteria with an electric field. Static electricity leapt from powering party tricks to batteries a mere decade ago, when scientists learned to repurpose the process behind doorknob shocks for deployable electricity. Recent advances in the technology may ultimately improve access to clean water, though not without some upgrades. READ FULL ARTICLE.

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