Like an octopus, flexible robot can change colors
Researchers have developed a soft, flexible robot that can change colors to blend in or stand out in its environment. The robot is a rubbery, four-limbed machine, with many tiny channels running through it. It's tethered to a control system. Forcing air through the channels makes the machine "walk."
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Working with our waste
This week, a special issue of Science highlights the complicated issue of human waste. It's far from a glamorous subject, but waste is unavoidable. In fact, depending on one's lifestyle, each of us can generate tons of waste -- from table scraps and old newspapers to broken mp3 players and outdated computers -- over our lifetimes. And if you include all the waste from farms, mines, and industries, the total really begins to skyrocket.
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To fool other birds, cuckoos use multiple disguises
Social learning, or learning from the behavior of others, might play a larger role in animal mimicry -- or the art of disguise -- than researchers ever realized, according to a new study of common cuckoos.
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The bigger the horn, the better the mate
In the past, researchers have generally assumed that super-sized body parts -- like beetle horns, deer antlers, and extra-long bird tails -- were symbols of a male's fitness. Now, a new report has confirmed that these "exaggerated" traits are, in fact, honest signals of male quality. It also demonstrates how the growth of these super-sized body parts may be affected by nutrition and insulin signaling in the body.
Plants turned on by oxygen levels?
Germ cells are the building blocks of reproductive cells, like sperm and eggs. And in humans, these germ cells are established during the early stages of development and then maintained until an individual is ready to have kids.
There's still time to save species in the Amazon...
... but the clock's ticking, a new study shows. The Brazilian Amazon is the largest continuous forest on Earth, and it holds more than 40 percent of the world's tropical rainforest.
What caused an ancient coral catastrophe?
Millions of tiny animals create ocean coral reefs when they create shells for themselves out of a cement-like ooze. These reefs are important because they provide a home for lots of different kinds of sea life. When the reefs get "sick" and the coral stop building, it can be a sign that something major has changed in the ocean.
Unusual eyes help fish see in the murk
Elephantnose fish are long-snouted, freshwater fish that live in dim, murky environments. Unlike other animals that are adapted to the dark, these fish do have eyes and rely partly on their vision to find their way around.
Lake in Siberia offers window to complex Arctic climate
Climate in the Arctic region of the planet is more complex than it is in other areas of the world, which has made it difficult for researchers to understand how climate really works there. Now, however, researchers have discovered a tool that gives them a glimpse of what Arctic climate may have been like over the past 2.8 million years.
World's first cave paintings older than expected
A new study has found that some cave paintings in northwestern Spain are much older than researchers had expected, raising questions about who created them. According to Alistair Pike and colleagues, the tradition of decorating caves must have began in Europe more than 40,000 years ago -- an age that coincides with the arrival of modern humans.
This shrimp has a hammer
The hammer-like claws of the peacock mantis shrimp can smash through mollusk shells, the heads of small fish, even a glass aquarium wall. The claws themselves stay surprisingly strong, even after being damaged while delivering so many blows.
Opium poppies pave the way for a cancer-killing compound
The opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum, is the source of certain illegal narcotics, like morphine and heroin. But, the plant also produces a non-addictive compound called noscapine that acts as both a cough suppressant and tumor-killing agent in humans.
Climate change works for the brown argus butterfly
A pretty brown butterfly with orange spots on its wings, called the brown argus butterfly, is thriving in the United Kingdom for an interesting reason. Summers have become warmer in the last twenty years, and this change opens up new possibilities for where the butterfly can lay its eggs.
Fragments of rocks that hit the moon
While looking at rocks collected on the moon during the Apollo mission, scientists have found tiny fragments of meteorites that hit the moon long ago.
Earliest known Mayan astronomical calendar
A painted room in a Mayan temple in Guatemala shows numerical records of lunar and possibly planetary cycles, scientists report in a new study. The hieroglyphs are from the 9th century, making this calendar older than the records in the Mayan Codices, which were books written on bark paper a few centuries before Columbus landed.
A different kind of cave treasure
What do you think the scientists who explored the amazing caves in these pictures were looking for? Bats? Skeletons? Pirate treasure? Actually, it was the stalagmites that they were after, because these spiky formations contain important chemical clues to ancient climate.
Did fire or ice shape the valleys of Mars?
A particular region of Mars, known as the Athabasca Valles, can be identified by polygon-shaped patterns on the ground. This part of the planet is a network of valleys located near the equator of Mars, and for years astronomers have puzzled over what kind of processes shaped it.
Polar bears older than previously thought
Polar bears diverged from their closest relatives about 600,000 years ago, according to a new genetic study published in the April 20 issue of the journal Science.
Baboons can learn to spot printed words
Baboons can't read, but they can learn to tell the difference between real printed words (like KITE) and nonsense words (like ZEVS), scientists say.
Bone markings: Something for scientists to chew on
Many fossil animal bones have been dinged up by natural processes, chewed by carnivorous animals or cut by human tools. But, when researchers dig up these bones millions of years later, it can be really difficult to tell these different types of marks apart.
With pesticides, bees can't find their way home
Scientists have discovered some of the ways that a widely used insecticide harms bumblebees and honeybees. Bumblebees and honeybees are important pollinators of flowering plants, including many major fruit and vegetable crops. Each year, honeybee hives are trucked in on farms to help pollinate almond, apple and blueberry crops, among others.
The extinction of Australia's giant animals
Human hunters were primarily responsible for the disappearance of Australia's giant vertebrates about 40,000 years ago. And, this extinction in turn caused major ecological changes. These are the conclusions of a new study in the March 23, 2012, issue of the journal Science.
Timing is key to fern's spore-throwing catapult
If you've ever been hiking, chances are you've seen fern plants in the woods. Nestled under fern leaves are tiny capsules chock-full of spores, tiny life vessels which, like seeds, are used for dispersal. Fern plants launch their spores with tiny catapults. Once in the air, wind and air currents can take the spores around the world.
What can honeybees tell us about human behavior?
A new study of honeybees might help researchers understand why some people break free of their normal routines and seek out new experiences. Zhengzheng Liang and colleagues took a close look at the genes that are expressed in the brains of honeybees when the bees are out searching for new food sources.
Unlike chimps, young kids share knowledge
Young children trying to solve a puzzle collaborated and shared information, while chimps and capuchin monkeys working on the same puzzle did not, according to a new study. These findings help explain why human culture gets more complex over generations, while that of other animals seems to stay roughly the same. Other animals are capable of learning from each other, so researchers would like to know what special human abilities allow us to have "cumulative culture."
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.