SHEEP LEARN TO RECOGNISE CELEBRITY FACES FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES

They’re looking at ewe. Sheep have shown an unexpected capacity to recognise straight mugshots of four celebrities, but then to identify those same megastars in side profiles they’d not seen before. Humans and monkeys are the only other creatures known to do this from two-dimensional images. The eight sheep that took part were trained to familiarise themselves with straight mugshots of four celebrities: former US president Barack Obama, UK newsreader Fiona Bruce, and actors Emma Watson and Jack Gyllenhaal. The sheep viewed pairs of pictures, one of which was always one of the four celebrities. They “chose” the celeb pic … Continue reading SHEEP LEARN TO RECOGNISE CELEBRITY FACES FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES

UK IS RIGHT TO WORRY TO THAT TECH TAKEOVERS MAY LET HACKERS IN

Electronic chips made abroad can be altered to allow foreign powers to disrupt critical infrastructure. Nations are right to fret about it, says Paul Marks Should the UK continue to allow overseas buyers to take control of its technology firms? It’s a burning question at a time when commercial products like computer chips increasingly underpin critical national infrastructure in defence, energy and health. In a globalised economy, cross-border business acquisitions have become routine. But the national security implications of some of them have prompted the UK government to launch a review. Amid a backdrop of wider worries of state-sponsored cyberattacks, the government’s litany … Continue reading UK IS RIGHT TO WORRY TO THAT TECH TAKEOVERS MAY LET HACKERS IN

WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW WILL MAKE OCEAN COMPLETELY UNLIVABLE

OUR actions today will change the world’s oceans for thousands of years. That is the conclusion of a study simulating a little-discussed consequence of climate change: it could choke entire ecosystems by cutting oxygen levels in the ocean. In the most extreme scenarios, with the planet warming by almost 10°C, the oceans could be starved of oxygen for 8000 years. Oxygen-poor waters have always existed in the sea, but in the last 50 years these “oxygen minimum zones” have grown. Climate change is one cause: the sea is warming, and warmer water can dissolve less of the gas. Marine life is … Continue reading WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW WILL MAKE OCEAN COMPLETELY UNLIVABLE

RAT BRAINS SEEN REPLAYING SCARY MEMORIES AS THEY SLEEP

Have we had our first peek at the source of nightmares? When rats are given a fright while they are awake, the fear centre of their brains gets reactivated when they next go to sleep. This could explain why people who go through frightening experiences often have nightmares afterwards, says György Buzsáki of New York University. Rats store mental maps of the world they experience in their hippocampi – two curved structures in the brain. Different places are processed by distinct groups of neurons in the hippocampi that fire together in sequence as rats run around a maze, for example. Later, after exploring an … Continue reading RAT BRAINS SEEN REPLAYING SCARY MEMORIES AS THEY SLEEP

BRAIN – ZAP THERAPY MAY THROW PEOPLE WITH DEPRESSION INTO A RANGE

Zapping the brain to relieve depression can spark fits of fury in a small number of people, psychiatrists warn. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is increasingly being used to treat a range of conditions, from depression and addiction to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In it, electrodes attached to the scalp emit weak currents that help strengthen electrical brain circuits. To treat depression, the current is usually applied to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – a brain area involved in regulating the emotions. There is now good evidence that this lifts mood in some people. However, it also appears to trigger anger in rare cases, say Galen … Continue reading BRAIN – ZAP THERAPY MAY THROW PEOPLE WITH DEPRESSION INTO A RANGE

MUSEEL – INSPIRED COULD MAKE SELF – REPAIRING BODY ARMOUR

A new material inspired by mussels is flexing its muscles. It can stretch without snapping and repair its own molecular bonds, so it could be useful in robot joints that lift heavy objects, or for packaging to protect delicate cargo from accidental falls. Mussels and some other molluscs hang onto solid surfaces using an adhesive protein and tough, plasticky fibres, which are extremely strong and can repair themselves when a few molecular bonds within them are broken. For a mussel, these stretchy yet strong fibres come in handy when a wave hits. Valentine at the University of California, Santa Barbara, … Continue reading MUSEEL – INSPIRED COULD MAKE SELF – REPAIRING BODY ARMOUR

BOILING WATER ON MARS COULD MAKE THE PLANET’S SAND LEVITATE

The sand on Mars may be floating on air. Warm temperatures in Martian summer combined with a thin atmosphere and deposits of ice may cause sand to levitate and carve out deep gullies. Mars can get quite balmy in the summer, reaching temperatures up to 20°C. That’s warm enough to melt some of the ice deposits speckled across the planet. But because Mars has just one hundredth the atmospheric pressure of Earth, that liquid water doesn’t last long on the surface before it boils away. Jan Rack at the Open University in the UK and his colleagues found that the resulting … Continue reading BOILING WATER ON MARS COULD MAKE THE PLANET’S SAND LEVITATE