Observer review: Discover: LAB NOTES: Dispatches from the world of science
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) What's lava got to do with it?:
Researchers at the University of Missouri have shown that ash produced by supervolcanoes - those capable of producing thousands of kilometres cubed of molten matter- can reach such a high temperature it can turn back into lava tens of miles away from the site of its expulsion. The discovery was made after ash from an explosion near Yellowstone around 8m years ago was found to contain traces of lava. As Alan Whittington, an associate professor at the university, explains: "When you think about how fast the hot ash is travelling after a massive supervolcano eruption, once it hits the ground that energy is turned into heat. This extra heat is enough to cause the ash to weld together and begin flowing as lava."
A shocking tail. . .:
Two related species of bluntnose knifefish indigenous to the Amazon river have been discovered to emit different kinds of electrical charge from their tails. John Sullivan, at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, says the fish were thought to belong to the same species before their electrical organ discharges (EODs) were monitored: "The one we are calling Brachyhypopomus bennetti has a huge electric organ, a short, fat tail, and produces a monophasic EOD (emitting either positive or negative charges). The one we're calling Brachyhypopomus walteri has a more typical electric organ, a long, thin tail, and a biphasic EOD (emitting positive and negative charges simultaneously)." The electric pulses are harmless to humans.
Can science make you nicer?:
Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara have suggested that merely thinking about science can increase the probability of altruistic behaviour. After "priming", or exposing participants, to words connoting logic and science with a series of games, behavioural monitoring revealed a subsequent rise in positive and selfless thinking. Participants invited to read a case study of date rape tended to look more harshly on its perpetrators, and a money-sharing exercise indicated a greater willingness to share assets with others. The researchers hypothesise that deep-rooted associations between science, impartiality and careful reasoning are the core of this phenomenon.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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