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Submission + - Climate change helped kill off super-sized Ice Age animals in Australia ( 1

Science_afficionado writes: A new study compared the diet of a variety of Australian megafaunal herbivores from the period when they were widespread (350,000 to 570,000 years ago) to a period when they were in decline (30,000 to 40,000 years ago) by studying wear patterns on their fossil teeth. The analysis provides new evidence that climate change had a significant impact on their diets and may well have been a significant factor in their extinction. The results are inconsistent with the point of view of the "blitzkreigers" who argue that the ancestors of the Australian aborigines, who made an appearance approximately 50,000 years ago, either hunted them into extinction or gradually destroyed the habitat they required by practices such as fire-stick burning.

Submission + - Finally, a type of face that men recognize better than women (

Science_afficionado writes: Vanderbilt psychologist Isabel Gauthier reports the results of a study using Barbies and Transformers that finds men are better at recognizing different Transformer faces while women are better at recognizing different Barbie faces. Because boys play more with Transformers and girls play more with Barbies, this results supports the theory that experience plays an important role in facial recognition. It also suggests that women’s general advantage in recognizing faces is not hardwired into the brain but is a consequence of the fact that they pay more attention to faces than men do.

Submission + - Researchers make a high-performance battery from junkyard scraps (

Science_afficionado writes: A team of engineers and materials scientists at Vanderbilt University have discovered how to make high-performance batteries using scraps of metal from the junkyard and common household chemicals. The researchers believe their innovation could provide the large amounts of economical electrical storage required by the grid to handle alternative energy sources and may ultimately allow homeowners to build their own batteries and disconnect entirely from the grid.

Submission + - Super-eruptions may give a year's warning before they blow (

Science_afficionado writes: A microscopic analysis of quartz crystals in pumice taken from the Bishop tuff in eastern California, which contains material from a super-eruption that formed the Long Valley Caldera 760,000 years ago, has shown that the period of decompression that proceeded the eruption began about a year before the eruption took place.

Submission + - Segway with legs approved for clinical and personal use (

Science_afficionado writes: FDA has approved a powered lower-limb exoskeleton created by a team of Vanderbilt engineers and commercialized by the Parker Hannifin Corporation for both clinical and personal use in the United States. The device operates like a Segway with legs bandits minimalist design allows users to put the device on and take it off while sitting in a wheelchair.

Submission + - NSF grant boosts new field of computational sustainability

Science_afficionado writes: With a five-year, $10 million grant the National Science Foundation is establishing a global research network to advance the new field of computational sustainability, which aims to come up with computational solutions to challenges involved in creating an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable future. The new network is lead by Carla Gomes at Cornell University and includes teams from a dozen universities, including Vanderbilt University which will play a major role in synthesizing research across the network and translating it into sustainability-themed online educational materials.
      Vanderbilt press release:
        Cornell press release:
        NSF press release:

Submission + - New spectroscope perfect for asteroid mining, planetary research (

Science_afficionado writes: Scientists at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities are developing a new generation of gamma-ray spectroscope that is light weight, compact and don't require much power but have the capability for detecting veins of gold, platinum, rare earths and other valuable materials hidden within asteroids, comets, moons and other airless objects floating about the solar system.

Submission + - Want to boost battery performance? Add quantum dots made from fool's gold!

Science_afficionado writes: A lot of attempts have been made to use nanocrystals to improve battery performance, but the results have been disappointing. The problem is that when the size of the crystals drop below a certain size they begin to react chemically with the electrolytes which prevents them from recharging. Now, however, a team of engineers from Vanderbilt University report in an article published in the journal ACS Nano that they can overcome this problem by making the nanocrystals out of iron pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold. The link to the paper is The link to the university news story is

Submission + - 'Geospeedometer' confirms super-eruptions have surprisingly short fuses (

Science_afficionado writes: Super-eruptions – you know, those gigantic prehistoric volcanic outbursts that throw 100 times more superheated gas, ash and rock into the atmosphere than run-of-the-mill eruptions like Mt. St. Helens — tend to pop-off within a few hundred years after their underground body of magma reaches a high enough proportion of molten rock and low enough proportion of crystallization to become explosive. That's a much shorter time than geologists had thought. That means if the hot spot under Yellowstone, for example, were to turn explosive, then we would only have couple hundred years to prepare for an eruption that could blanket the entire continent with up to 3,600 cubic miles of ash and rock!

Submission + - World's largest atom smashers create world's smallest droplets (

Science_afficionado writes: An average sized drop of water contains about one hundred trillion trillion water molecules. But two of the world's most powerful particle colliders — the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven — have managed to create droplets that are smaller than the nucleus of a single oxygen atom. The liquid they are made of is one of the most exotic forms of matter, called quark-gluon plasma, that only exists at temperatures higher that a trillion degrees.

Submission + - Creating bacterial 'fight clubs' to discover new drugs (

Science_afficionado writes: Vanderbilt chemists have shown that creating bacterial "fight clubs" is an effective way to discover natural biomolecules with the properties required for new drugs. They have demonstrated the method by using it to discover a new class of antibiotic with anti-cancer properties.

Comment Robot workers should pay FICA/ Social Security (Score 1) 628

If robot workers are required to pay FICA/Social Security taxes then they can support me and a lot of other people in our retirement. Seriously, the extent to which robots will displace human workers will depend primarily on the economic and legal structures that we put in place. Nothing is preordained. It is clear that robots will have an increasing capability of adding value/creating wealth. The real question we should all be concerned with is how this wealth will be distributed.

Submission + - Electric eel shocks like a Taser (

Science_afficionado writes: After a nine month study, a Vanderbilt biologist has determined that the electric eel emits series of millisecond, high-voltage pulses to paralyze its prey just before it attacks. The high-voltage pulses cause the motor neurons in its target to violently contract, leaving it temporarily immobilized in the same fashion as the high-voltage pulses produced by a Taser. He documented this effect using high-speed video. The eel, which is nocturnal and has very poor eyesight, also uses closely spaced pairs of high-voltage pulses when hunting for hidden prey. He determined that the pulses cause the prey's body to twitch which produces water movements that the eel uses to locate its position even when it's hidden from view.

Submission + - Are the world's religions ready for ET? ( 2

Science_afficionado writes: At the current rate of discovery, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045. That means, if life is at all common in the Milky Way, astronomers will soon detect it. Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change lead Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about how people will react to such a discovery. He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs, so he decided to find out what theologians and leaders from the world's major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled "Religions and Extraterrestrial Life" published by Springer this month. He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion religious views differ widely.

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