http://blogs.sundaymercury.net/weirdscience/

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A girl rotating her head 360 degrees was one of the scariest moments in the horror movie The Exorcist.

But owls are capable of performing virtually the same feat without any help from a possessing demon.

Now scientists have solved the mystery of how the birds can swivel their heads almost in a complete circle without suffering serious injury.

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Model husbands who cook, clean and generally help around the house may be missing out in bed, according to researchers.

Married men are likely to have less sex if they do a lot of housework, a study found.

But they could improve their sex lives by easing off the washing-up and chopping wood instead.

Bacteria love the high life

By Daniel Smith on Jan 29, 13 01:44 PM

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Bacteria get everywhere - even nine miles high among the clouds, a study has found.

Scientists discovered "significant" numbers of living bugs in the middle and upper troposphere, the airy layer five to nine miles above the Earth's surface.

The microbes could have a previously unrecognised impact on cloud formation, according to the research.

Experts identify 'crocodolphin'

By Daniel Smith on Jan 29, 13 01:40 PM

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A creature resembling a hybrid dolphin and crocodile has been identified by scientists examining fossil remains discovered more than a century ago.

The new species, named Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, was a marine "super-predator" that lived 163 million years ago.

It belonged to a group of ancient crocodiles with dolphin-like features.

Use Your Optical Illusion

By Daniel Smith on Jan 28, 13 11:47 AM

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Click to embiggen this trippy, psychedelic vortex.

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Here's a rare lenticular cloud over Mt. Fuji, Japan.

Altocumulus lenticularis often form above or near mountains, as moist air flows rapidly over a rise in elevation.

Click to embiggen.

Weird Science Friday Links

By Daniel Smith on Jan 18, 13 08:33 AM

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Bored at work? Counting down the hours to the weekend?

Then Weird Science can help (as long as the boss doesn't spot ya!).

Weird Science Friday Links give you a nudge towards stuff you'll hopefully find more diverting than the stack of papers in front of you!


Five innocent things that science says make people hate you

How was the Moon formed?

Imitation Apple: Hardware knockoffs through the years.

Why did Vikings abandon Greenland?

Nearby star is almost as old as the Universe.

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Shell-shocked crabs feel pain and scuttle out of their way to avoid it, research suggests.
The study involved exposing crabs to mild electric shocks.

Scientists say it raises ethical implications for the food industry, and whether we should be kinder to crustaceans.

The team from Queen's University in Belfast devised an experiment designed to distinguish between pain and unconscious reflex action.

Astronomers now estimate that 17 per cent of stars in the Milky Way galaxy have planets about the size of Earth.

As there are about 100 billion stars in the galaxy, there are at least 17 billion Earth-size worlds in this galaxy alone.

Click to embiggen

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Scientists find leadership gene

By Daniel Smith on Jan 16, 13 08:17 AM

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A gene has been uncovered that may help to create born leaders.

The leadership gene, known as rs4950, is an inherited DNA sequence associated with people taking charge.

Scientists accept that leadership skills are also learned. But the gene may provide the vital push needed to make someone into a manager rather than a minion.

Exploring hyperspace travel

By Daniel Smith on Jan 15, 13 02:10 PM

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In Star Wars, there is no mistaking the dramatic effect of making the "jump to hyperspace" as stars appear to rush past like streaking meteors.

But if it were possible, the reality of interstellar travel would be a lot less spectacular, according to a group of student physicists.

The "hyperdrive" featured in Star Wars enables Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spaceship to take short cuts between stars through a higher dimension of space.

Use Your Optical Illusion

By Daniel Smith on Jan 15, 13 08:15 AM

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This cool illusion was composed by Tom Interval, who runs an official blog for the Houdini Museum.

Click to embiggen.

Mongooses talk like us

By Daniel Smith on Jan 14, 13 11:00 AM

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Animals may have more to say for themselves than most people think, a new study suggests.

Scientists found that the monosyllabic call of the banded mongoose is structured in a similar way to vowels and consonants in human speech.

They believe the same is true for sounds made by other animals, including frogs and bats.

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What are these Earthlings trying to tell us? The above message was broadcast from Earth towards the globular star cluster M13 in 1974.

During the dedication of the Arecibo Observatory, a string of 1s and 0s representing the above diagram was sent.

This attempt at extraterrestrial communication was mostly ceremonial - humanity regularly broadcasts radio and television signals out into space accidentally.

Even were this message received, M13 is so far away we would have to wait almost 50,000 years to hear an answer.

The above message gives a few simple facts about humanity and its knowledge: from left to right are numbers from one to ten, atoms including hydrogen and carbon, some interesting molecules, DNA, a human with description, basics of our Solar System, and basics of the sending telescope. Several searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are currently underway, including one where you can use your own home computer.

Click to embiggen.

Half of all food 'thrown away'

By Daniel Smith on Jan 11, 13 02:02 PM

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As much as half of all the food produced in the world - two billion tonnes worth - ends up being thrown away, a new report claims.

The waste is caused by poor infrastructure and storage facilities, over-strict sell-by dates, "get-one-free" offers, and consumer fussiness, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Each year countries around the world produce some four billion tonnes of food.
But between 30% and 50% of this total, amounting to 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes, never gets eaten, says the report Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not.

Weird Science Friday Links

By Daniel Smith on Jan 11, 13 08:16 AM

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Bored at work? Counting down the hours to the weekend?

Then Weird Science can help (as long as the boss doesn't spot ya!).

Weird Science Friday Links give you a nudge towards stuff you'll hopefully find more diverting than the stack of papers in front of you!

Twenty very interesting photos from the 1930s.

Inside Chernobyl's abandoned hospital, 27 years after Ukrainian nuclear plant went into meltdown.

Top ten ways to turn your retired gadgetry into the technology of the future.

Six real people with mind-blowing mutant superpowers.

Bigger brains come at a cost.

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Wrinkly fingers from sitting in the bath for too long could well have a useful purpose, according to research.

Wrinkles that form on skin after being in water improves grip on wet objects, scientists from Newcastle University claim to have shown.

The study compared the results of people taking objects out of water with and without the prune-like skin formation.

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A 900 foot-wide asteroid will make the latest in a series of close approaches to the Earth today.

Scientists have ruled out any possibility of a cataclysmic collision - yet - but there remains a non-negligible chance of the asteroid Apophis smashing into Earth in 2036.

This year Apophis, named after an Egyptian mythological demon, will not get closer than around nine million miles.

The world didn't end after all in 2012 but that's not to say something bad could be around the corner,,, (click to embiggen)

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Earth could have many billions of twins strewn across the Milky Way, a study suggests.
Astronomers estimate that at least 17 billion stars in our galaxy harbour an Earth-sized planet.

This may be a small proportion of the true figure, since it only includes hot worlds that hug their parent stars closely and are easy to detect.

As more data is gathered scientists expect to find more rocky Earth-sized planets in wider orbits.

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Authors

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith - a long time ago, in a galaxy far away just north of Watford, Daniel fancied himself as a scientist but turned out to be the worst scientist since that bloke who mapped out all those canals on Mars that turned out to be scratches on his telescope's lens. Luckily, he is now not working on the Large Hadron Collider inadvertently creating a black hole that would swallow the world but is safely behind a desk writing this blog, bringing you the fantastical underbelly of nature... weird science.

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