- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The US Navy has recovered an exceptionally rare artifact off the coast of Coronado, California – and if that wasn’t enough, the item in question was actually discovered not by humans, but by trained dolphins.
The find was a rare 19th century Howell torpedo, and according to The Huffington Post it is one of only 50 ever manufactured and only one of two still in existence. It was found by dolphins which were reportedly being trained to locate underwater mines and other objects undetectable to technology.
Credit for the discovery was given to dolphins named Ten and Spetz, explained John Johnson of USA Today content partner Newser. The torpedo, which no longer functions due to the large amount of time it spent in the ocean, is currently being cleaned and will soon go on display at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, he added.
A specialist with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific told Johnson that dolphins “naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man,” and the head of the Navy’s marine mammal program added that they had “never found anything like this” before now.
The only previously located Howell torpedo is on display at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, said Los Angeles Times reporter Tony Perry. The 11-foot-long torpedo was made of brass, spun to 10,000 rpm before launch, traveled at a speed of 25 knots and had a range of 400 yards, he added.
After experimenting with the design for a fly-wheeled torpedo for several years, Lieutenant Commander John A. Howell received authorization from the US Naval Board to build a single torpedo for testing in 1877, John Pentangelo, Curator of the Naval War College Museum, explained back in August 2011.
“As these initial tests utilizing centrifugal pump propulsion were unsuccessful, Howell set out to design an improved model propelled by conventional propellers,” Pentangelo said. “In 1884, after receiving a substantial Congressional appropriation to purchase automobile torpedoes, the Navy Board recommended Howell's newer design.”
“On August 5, 1885 the Navy conducted the first test of three new Howell torpedoes in Newport Harbor,” he added. “Initial testing was unsuccessful (the first two sank) and caused a delay. Once testing resumed in Lake Michigan (the clear water made recovery easier), performance improved and the Howell became the first automobile torpedo issued to the fleet. The Hotchkiss Ordnance Company in Providence manufactured the torpedoes.”
As for the marine mammals that made the discovery, Perry reported that they have been trained at the Navy's Point Loma facility since the 1960s. Military officials tested several different species before settling on two – the bottlenose dolphin and the California sea lion. The dolphins were selected largely because they possess both deep and shallow diving capability, excellent eyesight, and a unique and enigmatic biosonar system, he added.
“To train the dolphins, Navy specialists sink objects of various shapes in rocky and sandy undersea areas where visibility is poor. The shapes mimic those of the mines used by US adversaries,” the Los Angeles Times writer said. “A dolphin is then ordered to dive and search. If it finds something, it is trained to surface and touch the front of the boat with its snout. If it has found nothing, it touches the back of the boat.”
- Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
It’s easy enough to simply recognize that something smells like a strawberry, but it’s much more difficult to understand why something smells that way. Scientists from the Technische Universität München (TUM) set out to get to the bottom of the strawberry smell in order to understand a little more about scents and how our brains understand which scent and taste belong to which foods.
Though many people might describe a strawberry as smelling sweet or fruity, the TUM scientists have deduced that a strawberry’s aroma is actually the product of around one dozen different aroma compounds. One of these compounds is particularly important to the smell of a strawberry; it’s labeled with the brand name “Furaneol.” but it’s more scientifically known as HDMF (4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone).
Prof. Wilfried Schwab, head of Biotechnology of Natural Products at TUM has spent many hours researching the smell of strawberries to understand the biology of the HDMF compound.
“A ripe strawberry has a particularly high concentration of this compound – up to 50 milligrams per kilo – which lies far above the odor threshold. This compound gives the ripe fruit its characteristic caramel-like aroma,” explained Schwab in a statement.
HDMF isn’t only found in strawberries, of course. It can also be found in tomatoes and pineapples. According to Schwab’s research, HDMF can also be found in plants, though here the aroma develops in a different way as it moves away from the sweet sugar of the fructose.
The TUM team was more interested in understanding how HDMF converted in fruits, however, noting the process occurs when a molecule binds to the FaEO enzyme before turning into HDMF.
To understand this process and map it out in detail, the TUM aroma scientists turned to X-ray structural analysis of the molecules at play in this transformation. With these X-rays complete, Schwab and team compiled a 3D model which allowed them to see the specific structure of these molecules.
“For the strawberry aroma, we investigated altogether six different enzyme-molecule combinations – and ended up understanding how FaEO produces the HDMF flavor compound,” said Dr. André Schiefner from the Chair of Biological Chemistry.
As they were uncovering the source of the strawberry smell, the scientists uncovered a mechanism in the catalytic reaction which had yet to be observed. During this process, the compound is reduced then transferred to another part of the molecule. This, says the TUM scientists, means the FaEO is the first of a new class of biocatalysts. This strawberry-flavored research could lead to other applications and advancements in industrial biotechnology. Furthermore, Prof. Arne Skerra from the TUM Chair of Biological Chemistry says this research could help future scientists understand why some plants have a distinctive flavor.
“Unlike coffee or vanilla, the biochemical processes that produce the strawberry aroma are very complex. But now our TUM research team has shed light on an important step in its biosynthesis,” said Skerra.
In real world terms, this study could one day make it possible to recreate the true flavor of strawberries in cakes, ice cream, soda or yogurt. Though this research deals with the aroma of a strawberry, humans use scent to get a full picture of the taste of a food. With this process understood, scientists could one day make more realistic tasting food.
Results are published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
- Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In the summer of 2011, Mark Post, a professor of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, made headlines when he first began to discuss the real possibilities of creating a test tube burger. Though Post claims these burgers will be important to remove some of the dependence humans have on livestock for food, many were unable to get past headlines which bore the phrase “Test-tube Burger.”
With some monetary help from the Dutch government and tens of thousands of bovine stem cells, Post’s in-vitro burger is nearly ready to be cooked and served at an event in London next month. Post plans to garnish the burger with only salt and pepper to allow taste testers the chance to get a sense of the meat’s flavor. According to the Register, Post has said that early “informal taste tests” of the meat found that it tastes “reasonably good.”
The meat consists of 20,000 thin strips of meat tissue which has been grown from stem cells. This meat is extremely lean, and this absence of fat is likely to blame – at least in part – for its alleged mediocre flavor. Not surprisingly, the meat is also incredibly expensive. All told, a single patty of this in-vitro meat is said to have cost nearly $325,000 to produce. Each patty is roughly the same size as a Burger King Whopper or McDonald’s Big Mac, and only those who have been specifically chosen for the event will be able to chow down on Post’s burger later next month.
Post says he expects people to have a negative reaction to his meat when they first hear about it or even taste it. Yet it’s something he’s willing to endure for the good of the planet. The beef industry has been criticized for damaging delicate ecosystems and the earth’s atmosphere. Between the methane that flatulent cows produce and the fuel used to cart the cows and their meat products around, there’s plenty of gas released into the air just to deliver a hamburger to your table.
What’s more, Post believes that one day soon there will not be enough beef to feed a growing mass of humans. This burger is simply the first step towards a solution for a possible food-shortage crisis. The Dutch researcher is also ready to face some questions about the safety and potential health risks or benefits of his meat.
“I see the major hurdles, probably better than anybody else,” he said, according to the New York Times.
“But you’ve got to have faith in technological advances, that they will be solved. If it can be done more efficiently, there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper,” he said.
“It has to be done using the right materials, introducing recycling into the system, controlling labor through automation.”
It’s important to note that Post’s burger is made from 100 percent beef products, which may cause some to squirm. The stem cells were harvested from the neck of a cow on its way to slaughter, then grown in fetal calf serum and other materials used to recreate tissue.
Post isn’t shy about his intentions to rid the world of its dependence on beef, telling the Register: “If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I’m happy. I don’t need to reduce it a billionfold.”
He isn’t the first to grow meat for eating in test tubes, however. In 2009, scientists were able to grow strips of pork using the same method. After eating it, the scientists said it was not at all appetizing, stating that it was grayish colored and had the consistency of calamari.
- April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The image of a rich older man taking care of a beautiful young woman, or a rich older woman using a hot young man for his body is pervasive in our culture. A new study led by the University of Colorado, however, reveals that those married to younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages.
"Hugh Hefner is an outlier," said Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver. "Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples."
Those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills, according to the research. The research team, which included Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder, did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be for these effects to come into play. The study did find, however, that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators.
Forty years of data from the US Census Bureau – 1960 to 2000 – were examined by the researchers. They looked at the categories of age at first marriage, completed education, occupational wages, and earning. The team combined this data with the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to measure cognitive skills and the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to gauge physical attractiveness.
They found that the social networks of the higher or lower ability individuals are the key. Persons who attend four-year colleges have more interaction with people of their same age. After graduation, this group tends to enter upwardly mobile careers at a time when people tend to marry.
Community college attendees or those that work in low-skilled jobs, in contrast, are more likely to interact with a more diverse age group of peers. This increases their chances of marrying someone significantly younger or older, according to the study findings.
"It really depends on who your social network is," Mansour said. "People with lower earning potential are in networks that are more age diverse."
The age of your spouse apparently reflects your earning potential as well. The researchers found that men married to women younger or older than themselves make less money than men married to women of a similar age. For example, the 1980 Census revealed that men married to women eight or more years younger or older than themselves earned an average of $3,495 less per year than men with spouses no more than a year different in age.
Women married to differently-aged spouses made more money than their spouses. This was not due to earning higher wages, however. It was due to working more hours than their spouse.
The National Longitudinal studies were conducted in high school to measure verbal, math and arithmetic reasoning skills. The study found that those married to differently-aged spouses scored lower on the tests. Men whose spouses are at least eight years younger scored an average of 8.4 points less than those who married women of a similar age, while women’s scores had less drastic drops.
The interviewers conducting the Add Health survey rated physical attractiveness on a scale of one to five, with one being “very unattractive” and five being “very attractive.”
"Overall, the estimates indicate that individuals married to differently-aged spouses are less attractive than those married to similarly-aged spouses, with the possible exception of men married to older women," the study said.
The study, according to Mansur, sheds light on how and why people marry who they do. Despite Hollywood portrayals to the contrary, the researchers found that there is nothing new about older women searching for younger men to marry.
"We really didn't find any evidence of a new cougar phenomenon," he said. "Although their share has slightly increased over time, cougars have been among us since the 1960s."
The researchers found that the real new trend is that people of similar ages are marrying each other in increasing numbers.
"The benefits from marriage might be changing. When you are close in age you can do things together," he said. "You can have children when both parties want to, retire at the same time and grow old together."
The findings of this study were published online last week in the Review of Economics and Statistics.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Older US residents are being challenged to “Unleash The Power Of Age” over the next several weeks as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month this May.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) Administration On Aging (AoA), Older Americans Month was first established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. At that time, the celebration was known as Senior Citizen’s Month and came at a time when only 17 million living Americans were at least 65 years of age.
Senior Citizen’s Month became Older American’s Month in 1980, thanks to President Jimmy Carter, and since then it has been “a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country,” AoA officials explained on the event’s official website.
Every President over the past five decades has issued a formal proclamation commemorating the month during or before the start of May, asking that the entire country find some way to pay tribute to and recognize the accomplishments of local elders who have remained active, productive and influential members of the community. In the past, the event has been celebrated through ceremonies, fairs, and other community events.
“This May, we mark the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday in a statement. “Ever since President Kennedy declared the first celebration in 1963, we have honored the contributions seniors make to our communities and have celebrated their rich years and experiences.
“This year’s theme, ‘Unleash the Power of Age,’ acknowledges older Americans’ special abilities and know-how and encourages them to share them. We’re also reminded that all Americans benefit from having older adults in their lives,” she added. “Thinking back to my own family and friends, the seniors I’ve been blessed to know have constantly enriched my life. They’ve taught me how important it is to share experiences across generations and open up opportunities to learn from each other.”
The AoA is also encouraging people to use social media to mark the occasion. Pinterest users have been invited to visit, link to, and pin content from the agency’s official Pinterest board during the month of May. Facebook users are being encouraged to become a fan of the AoA, tag them in Facebook posts by typing “AdministrationOnAging,” and commenting on the organization’s timeline page. Twitter users, meanwhile, are being asked to use the hashtags “#UnleashAge” or “#OAM2013” to mark content which highlights Older Americans Month.
Last year, the theme for Older Americans Month 2012 was “Never Too Old to Play,” according to the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas. The 2012 event emphasized “the important role older adults play in sharing their experience, wisdom, and understanding,” they said, while also recognizing “the value that older adults continue to bring to our communities through spirited participation in social and faith groups, service organizations, and other activities.”
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Many researchers have tried to read Twitter’s tea leaves for insight into a variety of things, including the stock market.
Now a team from the University of Vermont is using statistics culled from the popular social networking site to gauge society’s ‘happiness index’ on a day-to-day basis.
Using key words to identify the general mood of Tweeters, the team has developed a tool that can calculate the average mood on Twitter and post it to their site – hedonometer.org.
“Reporters, policymakers, academics - anyone - can come to the site and see population-level responses to major events,” lead researcher Chris Danforth, told The Daily Mail.
To build the hedonometer, the team had volunteers rate 10,000 common English words as sad or happy on a scale of 1 to 9. For example, “happy” is scored as an 8.3 positive outlook. These ratings are then used to analyze Twitter’s Gardenhose feed, a random daily collection of about 50 million tweets. The more positives culled from the feed – the higher the score on the hedonometer.
Most of the results of the hedonometer are fairly predictable, with weekends generally scoring higher and holidays receiving the highest overall ratings. Disasters, like the recent bombings in Boston, score the lowest for obvious reasons.
Danforth noted that their tool showed a slightly different reflection of society after the bombings than the stories written by journalists.
“Many of the articles written in response to the bombing have quoted individual tweets reflecting qualitative micro-stories,” Danforth said. “Our instrument reflects a kind of quantitative macro-story, one that journalists can use to bring big data into an article attempting to characterize the public response to the incident.”
The hedonometer also gives some unique anecdotal results. The UV team found that wine country’s Napa, Calif. appears to be the happiest US city, while Beaumont, Texas is the least happy.
Data from the hedonometer also showed that the death of Osama bin Laden was a relatively sad day – despite images of people dancing in front of the White House. This finding by the hedonometer was likely the result of "a very negatively viewed character met a very negative end," the researchers wrote in a report on their work in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
While some might argue that the day of the school shooting in Newton was sadder than the tragic one in Boston, the hedonometer’s results didn’t reflect that – most likely because the shooting occurred on Friday, a “happy” day of the week Danforth said. Conversely, the bombings happened on a Monday, when people tend to tweet negativity about returning to work or school.
Danforth advised that people take the hedonometer as significant, but with a grain of salt.
“We're not trying to tell you that contentment is better than happiness - we're not trying to define the word,” he said. “We're just saying we're measuring something important and interesting. And, now, sharing it with the world.”
It should be noted that the hedonometer could not be considered a true representative of the country’s mood as only about 15 percent of American adults use Twitter.
- April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study led by San Diego State University (SDSU) has set out to answer the question: Are today’s youth really more materialistic and less motivated than past generations, or do adults tend to perceive moral weakness in the next generation?
SDSU psychology professor Jean M. Twenge and Tim Kasser, psychology professor at Knox College, show that there is in fact a growing gap for today’s young adults between the desire to work hard and their materialism. The findings of this study were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“Compared to previous generations, recent high school graduates are more likely to want lots of money and nice things, but less likely to say they’re willing to work hard to earn them,” said Twenge, author of the book “Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable than Ever Before.”
“That type of 'fantasy gap' is consistent with other studies showing a generational increase in narcissism and entitlement,” Twenge said.
The researchers drew their data from a national survey of 355,000 US high school students conducted from 1976-2007 that examined the materialistic values of three generations. The survey’s questions focused on the willingness to work hard as well as the perceived importance of having lots of money and material goods.
Today’s high school students are materialistic compared to the Baby Boomers who graduated from high school in the 1970s. Of the students surveyed in 2005-2007, 62 percent reported that they believed it is important to have a lot of money, while only 48 percent held the same belief in 1976-1978.
Owning a home is important to 69 percent of recent graduates, compared to only 55 percent in the 70s. The study shows that materialism peaked in the 80s and 90s with Generation X graduates and remains high today.
The trend reverses when it comes to work ethic, however, as 39 percent of students in the 2005-2007 group admitted they did not want to work hard. In the 1976-1978 group, that number was only 25 percent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a data analysis also revealed that adolescent materialism was highest when advertising spending made up a greater percentage of the US economy.
“This suggests that advertising may play a crucial role in the development of youth materialism,” said Twenge. “It also might explain the gap between materialism and the work ethic, as advertising rarely shows the work necessary to earn the money necessary to pay for the advertised products.”
Having a firm understanding of generational trends in materialism among youth is important. A strong priority placed on money and possessions has been shown to be associated with a variety of problems, including depression and anxiety, according to prior research by Kasser.
“This study shows how the social environment shapes adolescents attitudes,” said Twenge. “When family life and economic conditions are unstable, youth may turn to material things for comfort. And when our society funds large amounts of advertising, youth are more likely to believe that 'the good life' is 'the goods life.'”
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Potential thieves are less likely to swipe cycles from bike racks if they get the feeling that they’re being watched – even if the eyes on them don’t actually belong to a person – according to a new study published late last week in the journal PLoS ONE.
As part of a two-year experiment, professors and security personnel from Newcastle University in the UK placed a picture of two staring eyes above selected bike racks at locations across the school’s campus.
They discovered that the posters, which also included a brief anti-theft message, reduced the number of bicycles swiped from those locations by 62 percent. Conversely, bike racks that lacked the signs experienced a 63 percent increase in stolen cycles, suggesting that the criminal activity had been relocated, not prevented.
The paper, which was written by instructors Melissa Bateson and Daniel Nettle and security team member Ken Nott, has already led to changes on the school’s campus. In addition, experts from the university are working with law enforcement officials throughout the UK in order to help them adapt the research for their own use.
“We don’t know exactly what is happening here but this just adds to the growing evidence that images of eyes can have a big impact on behavior,” Nettle, the lead author of the paper said in a statement. “We think that the presence of eye images can encourage co-operative behavior.”
“One strong possibility is that the images of eyes work by making people feel watched. We care what other people think about us, and as a result we behave better when we feel we are being observed,” he added. “The next step would be to increase the scope of the experiment across a citywide area to see if the effect is maintained, but the pattern definitely looks like it is worth exploring further.”
During the first year of the experiment, the team kept tabs on the level of bikes stolen at all of the racks campus-wide in order to establish control statistics. They then placed the special anti-crime signs in three locations, leaving the remaining bike racks as they were. Finally, Bateson, Nettle and Nott monitored both types of racks for another year to determine what impact the posters would have on the bicycle crime rate.
“Anything we can do to reduce the level of theft on the campus is very welcome,” Nott said. “I had followed previous work done by this team and thought it might be able to make a difference to levels of crime, so I decided to suggest this experiment. The results were clear and we have now put these pictures up across all the bike racks on the campus.”
- Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Salmonella outbreaks seem commonplace as of late, with one of the most recent being an outbreak linked to minced meat. Lee Rannals of redOrbit reported in January that 16 people were sickened in five states due to contaminated ground beef. While nobody died from the outbreak, more than half were hospitalized.
One of the worst outbreaks in recent memory was the deadly 2009 salmonella outbreak tied to peanut butter, which sickened hundreds and killed nine people. That outbreak led to federal indictments of four employees of Peanut Corporation of America, charged with 75 counts of criminal activity after it was determined company executives were knowingly distributing contaminated product.
In the latest health crisis surrounding salmonella, more than 70 people across 18 states have been sickened from contaminated Mexican cucumbers, according to a statement by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday. The agency said at least 14 people have been hospitalized so far and it is working with state health officials to identify others who may have been infected by the outbreak.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) moved quickly to block all cross-border distribution of cucumbers from two growers tied to the salmonella outbreak.
Lola Russel, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said all contaminated cucumbers are now off the market.
Cucumbers tainted with Salmonella Saintpaul began sickening people in January and continued to wreak havoc up until April 6, when the last case was reported, said Russel, as reported by USA Today's Elizabeth Weise.
The majority of the illnesses were reported in California (28 cases); nine cases were reported in Arizona, and Minnesota and Texas each had eight reported cases. The outbreak has also been observed in Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The cucumbers came from two companies in Culiacan, Mexico: Daniel Cardenas Izabel and Miracle Greenhouse, according to the CDC.
The FDA said the block on the cucumbers will remain in place until the growers can prove their product is not contaminated with salmonella. The cucumbers were distributed in the US via Tricar Sales in Rio Rico, Arizona.
Although the CDC maintained all tainted cucumbers are now off store shelves, they cautioned people sickened by the outbreak could rise.
"Due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, additional ill persons may be identified," the agency said in a statement.
Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. People usually become ill within 12 to 72 hours after eating salmonella-contaminated food, said the CDC. The illness can last four to seven days and most people can recover without medical intervention.
The CDC said people should always wash produce, especially cucumbers, before eating, cutting or cooking them.