May 30, 2016

Treated paper warns users of impending sunburn

posted by Larra Morris

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As any dermatologist will tell you, it's important to know when to get out of the sunlight – or at least, when to apply more sunscreen. As a result, there are now various UV exposure-monitoring devices that tell us when to seek the shade. Not everyone wants to buy one, however, plus some of the single-use models contain environmentally-harmful materials. With that in mind, scientists have developed cheap, disposable eco-friendly sensors that are made of paper.

Using an inkjet printer, non-toxic titanium dioxide and a food dye are both applied to a paper substrate. When exposed to UV light for long enough, the titanium dioxide acts as a photocatalyst, degrading the dye and causing it to change color. That color-change, which can easily be detected by the unaided eye, lets users know that they're in danger of getting sunburned.
via Gizmag

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Image: Kelly Sue DeConnick/CC 2.0

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May 30, 2016

Cheetah with a GoPro

posted by Larra Morris

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The folks at the Cincinnati Zoo outfitted Savanna the cheetah with a GoPro camera on her back. She probably wouldn’t have liked one on her head, and you really can’t force a wild cat to do something they don’t want to. Watching her zoom around the compound with this point of view is terrifying, kind of like riding in the car with your 16-year-old driving.    
via Neatorama

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May 27, 2016

Baby barn owls give their hungrier siblings first preference at mealtime

posted by Larra Morris

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Like in most families, mealtime in owl nests can get a little rowdy. But among barn owl nestlings, competition over food is actually relatively civil: According to a new study, these avian siblings vocally communicate the extent of their hunger, and the less hungry step aside for the famished to eat their fill first. 

In a study in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (as reported by Audubon), ecologists at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland placed 27 young barn owls in fake nests with several mice, and played recordings of earlier sibling calls at different rates, monitoring how the sounds affected eating behavior. This was designed to simulate situations in which owl parents drop off food that can be divided up between multiple chicks, rather than forcing the nestlings to compete over a single piece of food. The recorded calls came from owl chicks that had not eaten in 28 hours. 
via Mental Floss

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May 27, 2016

3D printing tech combines multiple drugs in a single pill

posted by Larra Morris

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Remembering to take a pill once daily can be hard enough, but it gets particularly challenging when you have to take several doses throughout the day – especially if you're taking multiple types of medication. To make things easier, scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a new technique that uses a 3D printer to combine multiple doses of different medications in a single time-release tablet.
via Gizmag

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May 26, 2016

A Bay Area distillery is making vodka with San Francisco fog

posted by Larra Morris

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In a nod to California’s drought, one distillery is opting to make its vodka from a slightly more sustainable source of water, one that also happens to be an icon of San Francisco: fog. Hangar 1 Vodka, headquartered on the East Bay island of Alameda, just debuted Fog Point Vodka, created from fog collected in the San Francisco Bay area.

The company teamed up with FogQuest, a sustainable water organization, to set up fog-harvesting equipment
via Mental Floss

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May 26, 2016

Researchers teaching robots to feel and react to pain

posted by Larra Morris

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One of the most useful things about robots is that they don’t feel pain. Because of this, we have no problem putting them to work in dangerous environments or having them perform tasks that range between slightly unpleasant and definitely fatal to a human. And yet, a pair of German researchers believes that, in some cases, feeling pain might be a good capability for robots to have.

The researchers, from Leibniz University of Hannover, are developing an “artificial robot nervous system to teach robots how to feel pain” and quickly react in order to avoid potential damage to their motors, gears, and electronics. They described the project last week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Stockholm, Sweden, and we were there to ask them what in the name of Asimov they were thinking when they came up with this concept.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Image: Leibniz University of Hannover

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May 25, 2016

New study investigates why we hate digital assistants like Clippy

posted by Larra Morris

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Vocativ reports that researchers decided to investigate how consumers respond to digital assistants with human or non-human features. They recruited several hundred students to play a series of puzzle games on a computer. During each game, when participants got stuck or confused, they could click on a help icon which would either reveal a smiling face or a faceless interface to give them advice.

The team found that participants felt less autonomous, or less in control, when given help by the anthropomorphized interface, and enjoyed the game less as a whole. Even though the help given was the same regardless of interface, participants couldn’t help but feel a sense of unpleasant dependence when their helper seemed more human. On the flip side, researchers found that the faceless interface was seen as a tool and so did not detract from participants’ sense of autonomy.
via Mental Floss

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