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Is this oil 2.0?

Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol - Times Online

Renewable, carbon-neutral oil-substitue? This could be the Big Answer.

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

June 15, 2008

Signs you may be teh ghey

gaydar.jpgLAT | What does gay look like? Science keeps trying to figure that out
These scientists are searching for innate traits that might not appear to be related to sexual orientation or even to standard clichés.... Finding and solidifying these links isn't easy. Studies contradict each other, and some promising paths don't pan out. Scientists don't always agree on how to interpret the results, and more progress has been made with regard to men than to women. * Big brothers. Study after study -- including one of 87,000 British men published last year -- has found that gay men have more older brothers than straight men do. Only big brothers count. Lesbians don't show such patterns. * Left hand vs. right hand. The hand you use to sign your name might have something to do with what gender you are drawn to.... being non-right-handed seems to increase a man's chances of being gay by about 34%, and a woman's by about 90%. * Hair whorl. How does your hair grow? This might reflect your sexual orientation.... hair on the heads of men on the gay beach was 3.5 times more likely to grow in a counterclockwise direction. * Penis size. If exposure to testosterone in the womb influences sexual orientation, scientists reckon that straight and gay people would differ in body parts strongly affected by testosterone, such as the penis.The results, published in 1999, showed that gay men had longer, thicker penises than did straight men....

Science: Being around friends makes hills seem smaller

Friends turn mental mountains into molehills - being-human - 15 June 2008 - New Scientist

Having a friend at your side can turn a mountain into a molehill.

Simone Schnall at the University of Plymouth, UK, and her colleagues asked students to estimate the steepness of a hill by tilting a board to match its slope.

Students with a friend nearby assessed the hill at 10 to 15 per cent less steep compared with those who were alone during the test. The longer the friends had known each other and the warmer their relationship, the less steep the hill appeared.

Schnall's team also found that just thinking about a close friend or family member - as opposed to a neutral person, or someone you dislike - made the hill appear up to 20 per cent gentler

June 13, 2008

Scientists invent cloak of silence

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Experts unveil 'cloak of silence'

Scientists have shown off the blueprint for an "acoustic cloak", which could make objects impervious to sound waves.

The technology, outlined in the New Journal of Physics, could be used to build sound-proof homes, advanced concert halls or stealth warships.

Scientists have previously demonstrated devices that cloak objects from microwaves, making them "invisible".

"The mathematics behind cloaking has been known for several years," said Professor John Pendry of Imperial College London, UK, an expert in cloaking.

"What hasn't been available for sound is the sort of materials you need to build a cloak out of."

June 07, 2008

Sharks developing taste for human flesh

Sharks developing a taste for humans | NEWS.com.au

SCIENTISTS fear packs of bull sharks are now actively hunting humans for the first time after a series of horrifying attacks in the waters off a popular resort.

The theory emerged after two surfers were killed and one badly injured in a month. A fourth swimmer is missing at the Mexican seaside town, The Sun newspaper reports.

Locals fear one rogue shark is responsible but experts believe a pack of deadly bull sharks are actively targeting humans for the first time.

They think the 3m fish could have developed a taste for human flesh after devouring hundreds of corpses dumped into the sea by mobsters.