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Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Roach two

With their battery packs, cyborg cockroaches may even outlive Cher in the wake of nuclear fallout. Credit: K. Shoji et al/Tokyo University of Agriculture & Technology

Giving us Godzilla was, apparently, not enough. Japanese researchers unveil giant cyborg cockroaches. [PopSci]

Electronic tongue can distinguish between 51 types of beer. No word yet on whether it can wear plaid, grow a mustache, or ride a fixed-gear bike. [Seriously, Science?]

University of Utah scientists interested in learning how religion impacts the brain will be studying MRI scans of Mormon missionaries. Scientists say they found missionaries for their study after engaging in an extensive door-to-door recruitment campaign. [Salt Lake Tribune]

We never thought of putting THAT in our eyes. [Improbable Research]

In an attempt to attract volunteers, a donkey sanctuary in Northern Ireland is offering potential volunteers access to “unlimited donkey cuddles.” The sanctuary, however, remains mum on whether or not volunteers will have to buy their donkeys dinner after cuddling. [UTV]

It’s like those magic foam toys that expand in water. But for gunshot wounds. [PopSci]

Don’t you hate it when your orange rolls away? Well, here’s one solution. [Inventor Spot]

Border collie eats part of her owner’s Aston Martin. In the dog’s defense, she did have a need for speed. [Yahoo News]

And just in time for tonight’s Winter Olympics debut: the physics of ice skating. [Huffington Post]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


The purrr-fect book. Credit: prideandprejudiceandkitties.com

Finally, a book that explores the proper etiquette for spitting up a hair ball in public: “Pride and Prejudice and Kitties.” [Mother Nature Network]

More feline news: Looks like U.S. prisons are too posh. After all, cats looking for a comfortable home are now breaking into them. [Glens Falls Post-Star]

Think your graduate work was tough? At least you didn’t have to attach a camera to an alligator’s back. [Seriously, Science?]

Study suggests MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” might be driving down teen pregnancies. Next up, “Teens Who Don’t Do Their Homework”? [USA Today]

While the Newscripts gang was bundled up and hiding from the polar vortex, this Canadian fellow created a colored ice fort. [BoingBoing]

Did we all just assume that the flying V formation gave birds an aerodynamics push? Turns out it was just scientifically shown for the first time. [NPR]

Police arrest man for insobriety after his parrot tells police that he is drunk. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the man. He thought he had a parrot for a pet, but it turns out his pet was really a rat. [United Press International]

In the real-life Japanese version of “Good Will Hunting,” the university janitor creates a gorgeous, unsolvable maze in his spare time. [Viralnova]

Skip the plug-in night-lights, now you can buy bioluminescent house plants for all your nighttime low-light needs. [Popular Science]

When those pesky moral dilemma tests are presented in virtual reality–complete with carnage and screams–turns out people get more emotionally riled, but also more utilitarian. Sorry, best friend. [Time]



Merry Christmas From Newscripts!

C&ENtreeStraight-on View_DSC_8885 As Chemistry World reminded us this year, the holidays aren’t really the holidays unless you’re basking in the glow of a chemistree. Lucky for us, Newscripts has two this holiday season! The chemistree to the left was built at Caltech by Douglas L. Smith, a legacy content producer at the school, who shared his picture with Newscripts. The image certainly warmed our hearts: Chemical Christmas trees are a tradition here at Newscripts.

And on the right is a Christmas tree made up of C&EN covers. The decoration comes courtesy of our magazine’s printer, Brown Printing.

Newscripts is about to open the gifts underneath our C&EN tree, but before we do, we want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year! Thanks for a great 2013.

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Combine your favorite pastimes of gardening and shooting with Flowershell—a 12-gauge shotgun shell loaded with seeds. Lest you think this is a new invention from the Swedes, a Missouri man patented the idea in 1976. [Improbable Research]

Study finds that a region’s birth rates may be directly proportional to the success of local sports teams. Further proof that there’s nothing more romantic than watching a man receive a Gatorade bath. [ScienceDaily]

What were the baddies of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” really missing? Vitamin D, obviously. [AFP]

Ni hao, kitty. New evidence suggests cats were domesticated in China 5,000 years ago. [USA Today]

Researchers find that moderate drinking may improve immune system responsiveness. So step up your game, you minimal drinkers! [Mother Jones]

Worried that you might turn into your worrywart mother? Turns out it’s epigenetic. [The Atlantic]

Great, just what we need—worms engineered to live five times longer than normal. Can probably still squish them though … [iO9]

Some people are self-conscious about their cankles. This Chinese man had his hand surgically attached to his ankle—and it wasn’t just for kicks … okay, okay. No more puns. We promise. [Huffington Post]

Policeman rescues dog after it eats a pot brownie. Might we suggest a name for the dog? Bud-dy. Wait! Where are you going!? Come back! [Oregon Live]

In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in this week’s issue of C&EN.

Weather Balloon_Newscripts121613_Blog

Homeward Bound: Lyles holds AMET’s weather balloon as it prepares for one wild ride. Credit: Dahlon Lyles

Purdue University‘s Association of Mechanical & Electrical Technologists (AMET)–a hands-on STEM-oriented student organization that works on everything from robots to Rube Goldberg devices to rockets–expected the weather balloon that it launched on Nov. 16 to return to Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus. As this week’s Newscripts column describes, however, the trek back home was anything but predictable.

Takeoff of the balloon started easily enough, as this video from the balloon shows:

When the balloon reached an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, AMET lost all contact. As a result, the organization didn’t know the kinds of spectacular views their balloon was enjoying as it ascended to a height of 95,000 feet above Earth. That ascension is captured in the following videos:

Because everything that goes up must come down, the balloon soon plummeted back to Earth: Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Jeff Huber.


Know your bird: Meet Caramel, one of this year’s pardoned turkeys. Credit: White House

Some key facts about this year’s pardoned turkeys. Decide for yourself as to whether or not they really deserved to be pardoned. [White House]

The White House’s “We the Geeks” series takes on Thanksgiving cooking (video). [The White House]

More breakdown of the science of cooked turkeys: “As the turkey is cooked … the bonds within the molecules begin to break down, which causes proteins to unravel and the dense muscle meat to become more tender.” Mmmm… you had us at unraveling proteins. [RedOrbit]

Turns out that eating a bunch of food on Thanksgiving, and not just eating turkey, makes you sleepy. Weird, huh? [NBC News]

New Orleans institute has some ideas on how to incorporate insects into traditional Thanksgiving recipes. If only they had told you before you started cooking this year’s meal!  [TreeHugger]

And now for non-Thanksgiving-themed news: Know what will make you think twice about drinking tons of Coke? The fact that Coke can also be used to remove rust from bolts, blood stains from clothes, dye from hair, and paint from metal furniture.  [ThoughtPursuits]

One reason why your kindergartner is winning the argument to stay home from school: Turns out toddlers are smarter than 5-year-olds. [NPR]

… And likely smarter than nine-year-olds, given that one just got suspended for snorting Smarties. [Time]



In Print: Sriracha Sensation, Deceptive Dishware

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on this week’s issue of C&EN.


Cock of the walk: Rooster-emblazoned hot sauce garners devoted fan base. Credit: Ttony21 / Wikimedia Commons

Bam! The Newscripts column is kicking things up a notch this week with its profile of Sriracha, the spicy condiment that is turning heads and clearing sinuses all over the world.

As C&EN Associate Editor Andrea Widener explains in her column, Sriracha has a devoted fan base that loves to put the Sriracha rooster logo on everything from iPhone cases to T-shirts. Explaining the hot sauce’s popularity, Andrea says, “Sriracha is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, but it’s not so hot that only hard-core spice lovers can enjoy it.” What’s more, Sriracha is “a little exotic, since it was first made to be eaten on Vietnamese pho soup, so that draws in the foodies.”

But it turns out not everyone is a fan of the hot sauce. Residents of Irwindale, Calif., are actually suing Sriracha manufacturer Huy Fong Foods for inducing headaches and burning eyes that they believe are caused by the company’s nearby Sriracha plant. It’s the kind of public relations nightmare that could really hurt a product’s popularity … if that product weren’t already so popular. Andrea, for one, has no plans of curbing her Sriracha consumption anytime soon. “I have a bottle at home right now, and it has made a lot of meals better,” she says. Andrea’s love of the condiment has led her to do everything from buying the snack food Sriracha peas, to making Sriracha mac and cheese, to eagerly awaiting the sale of Sriracha candy canes this holiday season. That last part might sound a little crazy, but it’s actually pretty tame compared with the lengths other Sriracha lovers will go to enjoy their favorite condiment. For instance, Andrea doesn’t plan to chug three consecutive bottles of Sriracha in the near future.

Sticking with her culinary theme, Andrea uses the second part of her column to talk about a recent study that found that the color and weight of cutlery can significantly influence a person’s perception of the food they eat. For instance, Andrea says, the study found that people, for some reason, expect food served on blue plates to be salty: a fact that can lead to disappointment if the food is not actually salty. “It makes me think I should get rid of my blue dinner plates,” Andrea jokes.

The researchers also discovered that people perceive food served with metal-colored plastic silverware as tasting worse than food served with differently colored plastic silverware. The researchers posit that this is because eaters were initially fooled by the real-looking cutlery, and when their expectations weren’t met, they expressed similar disappointment in the food they were eating.

As to whether or not her own taste buds would be fooled by such tricks, Andrea doesn’t put on airs. “I like to think I’m special, but I’m sure I would be influenced by color as much as the next person.”


Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Liberation Wrapper

Hamburger helper: Liberation Wrapper conceals shameful eating habits. Credit: Freshness Burger

Japan’s Liberation Wrapper now lets a woman feel—and more importantly, look—dainty and demur while stuffing her face with a burger. [Elite Daily]

You know what would round out your application for that tenure-track faculty job? A scan of your butt. [Pan kisses Kafka] via [In the Pipeline]

Giant rubber ducky explodes in Taiwan. Somewhere a giant Ernie sobs. [News.com.au]

Robot beats human in rock-paper-scissors every time. It cheats, but our eyes and brains are too slow to realize it. RoboWar is upon us, and they’re winning. [BBC]

Meanwhile, Cornell University is training robots to hold knives without stabbing humans. Why are we giving them knives?! Sealing our own fate right there. [NBC News]

Air pollution is making it difficult for China to spy on its citizens. Don’t worry, though, because China is fixing the problem: They’re making their surveillance cameras even stronger. [Quartz]

From Nobel-winning research to the novelty ice cream shelf: Entrepreneur uses green fluorescent protein to make ice cream that glows when you lick it. [CBS]

Looks like they made a film, called “Spinning Plates,” about dreamy chef Grant Achatz and his gastronomical science. [Fast Company]

Scientists posit that King Tut died in a chariot accident, but they remain mum (pun intended!) on the effect such an accident had on future pharaohs’ chariot insurance rates. [Jalopnik]