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Northerners 'have bigger eyes'

By Daniel Smith on Jul 27, 11 12:01 AM

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It's dim up north - so people living at higher latitudes have bigger eyes and brains, research has shown.

Northerners evolved more developed visual processing to help them cope with long winters and grey skies.

Scientists measured the eye sockets and brain capacity of 55 human skulls representing 12 different populations from across the world.

They found that the further north of the equator people lived, the bigger their eyes and visual brain regions were.

Both are adaptations to low light that have only appeared since humans moved into northern Europe and Asia, a very short length of time in evolutionary terms.

Clear skies over the Arctic

By Daniel Smith on Jul 25, 11 10:00 AM

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Clear skies allowed the NASA Terra satellite a largely unobstructed view of the Arctic this month.

Armour really was a drag

By Daniel Smith on Jul 20, 11 12:01 AM

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Heavy armour was more of a handicap to medieval knights than even the bloody outcome of the Battle of Agincourt has led historians to believe.

Wearing armour doubles the amount of energy needed to walk and move around, research has shown.

Body armour was a much greater burden than the equivalent weight in a modern soldier's backpack and restricted breathing, according to a new study.

The findings reinforce the view of many experts that armour played a decisive role at Agincourt in 1415.

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A string of a dozen volcanoes, at least several of them active, has been found beneath the frigid seas near Antarctica, the first such discovery in that region.

Some of the peaks tower nearly 10,000ft above the ocean floor - nearly tall enough to break the water's surface.

"That's a big volcano. That's a very big volcano. If that was on land it would be quite remarkable," said Philip Leat, a vulcanologist with the British Antarctic Survey who led a seafloor mapping expedition to the region in 2007 and 2010.

The group of 12 underwater mountains lies south of the South Sandwich Islands -- desolate, ice-covered volcanoes that rise above the southern Atlantic Ocean about halfway between South America and South Africa and erupted as recently as 2008. It's the first time such a large number of undersea volcanoes has been found together in the Antarctic region.

Leat said the survey team was somewhat surprised by the find.

"We knew there were other volcanoes in the area, but we didn't go trying to find volcanoes," Leat told OurAmazingPlanet.

"We just went because there was a big blank area on the map and we had no idea what was there; we just wanted to fill in the seafloor."

Spud gene mapped

By Daniel Smith on Jul 12, 11 03:13 PM

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The genetic blueprint for potato plants have been mapped for the first time.

Scientists uncovered the secrets of the potato genome - the first time a major crop plant in the UK has been fully sequenced.

They will now analyse them over the next few years.

Every organism has a genome, a chemical 'instruction book' or 'blueprint' that describes how all the genes should be put together.

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Huge formations of allied Second World War bombers did more than inflict devastation on Dresden and other German cities - they had an impact on the climate, scientists have learned.

Experts turned to the wartime bombing raids to study the effect of thousands of aircraft on the English weather.

The missions took place at a time when skies were much less crowded than they are today, providing an opportunity to observe what difference they made to local climate.

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Last August, a vast iceberg 25km long calved off the Petermann glacier and headed for the North Atlantic.

And NASA's Aqua satellite was on hand to catch it in the act.

It's still floating about today, although it has shrank to a mere 20km across during its amazing 3,000km journey.

Want a closer look? Here's some footage of the floating island taken by fisherman. Freekin' crazy!

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Rhesus monkeys appear to understand what Rene Descartes meant when he made the famous statement: "I think, therefore I am."

They possess the same form of "cause and effect" self-awareness the 17th century French philosopher was grappling with, scientists believe.

Like humans, they have a sense of "self-agency" which traces thoughts and actions to the existence of "me".

Previous research had found that rhesus monkeys consistently fail in an important test of self-awareness, the ability to recognise themselves in a mirror.

However, like apes and dolphins they did seem to be able to monitor their own mental states.

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Newcastle was once a tropical paradise similar to the islands in the Bahamas, it has been disclosed.

Scientists drilling deep beneath the city have discovered fossil evidence of exotic shells and coral.

The 300-million year old rocks were extracted from limestone 1,000 feet below the ground during a £900,000 green energy project to harness geothermal power from the earth's crust.

Engineers watched a plume of steam gush from a borehole in Newcastle City centre when the drilling reached its target depth at dawn today.

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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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