Science struts its 'cool' side

Wednesday , July 23, 2014 - 11:27 AM

By KARISSA WANG
TX. Correspondent

Science. Yes, the classes can be boring when your monotonous teacher insists on droning on about uranium for hours, but you have to admit, it’s pretty cool stuff.

Don’t believe it? Take a look at these crazy-awesome inventions and discoveries:

• Environment-loving roof tiles

University of California, Riverside developers have come up with new roof tiles, which break down pollutant substances from the air.

The key is titanium dioxide (which also is used as a pigment in paper, plastic paint, and even some food), which breaks down environmentally harmful substances when it comes in contact with sunlight.

Stats say in the course of a year, a regular-sized family house equipped with these tiles could break down as much smog as a car produces in 11,000 miles.

The estimated cost of covering an average-sized roof with this compound is only $5.

• Severed frog legs dancing



Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? The bottom half of a dead frog can still move on its own, and not just as a phenomenon of rigor mortis. The legs still contain some living cells, even after the frog is not alive anymore.

Adding sodium in the form of common table salt stimulates those cells to move, contracting muscles and jerking the legs around in a “dance.”

• Artificially-grown hearts

Scientists in the United Kingdom have developed methods to grow tiny, working hearts in labs.

Formed from 1mm diameter stem cells (which basically have the potential to become any body part), they are used to learn more about heart diseases.

They are exposed to molecules to see which cause these diseases, then used to test medications.

• Drug-induced web spinning

German scientists put spiders on drugs in an attempt to con them into spinning at a time other than their natural early-morning sessions.

Instead, they discovered that the stoned spiders spun at the same time, but created crazy-looking webs.

Among other results, scientists discovered caffeine caused the spiders to spin smaller, wider structures. They also tested marijuana and sleeping pills.

The researchers concluded that the more dangerous the chemical was, the more deformed the web looked.

• Secret messages on bird eggs

Maybe birds are cleverer than we thought – there’s an order to the patterns on their eggs.

Some cuckoos plant their eggs in the nests of other birds, which is inefficient to the host birds because they are housing someone else’s babies. The cuckoos gain from this because they no longer need to spend time and effort nesting their eggs, but the hosts may unknowingly be too dedicated to the foreign eggs.

For example, if a predator were to attack and the mother only had the ability to save a few eggs, she would want to be sure she preserved her own, rather than stray cuckoo eggs. That’s when the recognizable patterns become useful.

Harvard and Cambridge researchers discovered other birds have adapted to have eggs with specific patterns on them, which help differentiate between their own and others’.

• Any-color pen

This isn’t like those dollar store pens you’ve seen before – it can mimic any color (and costs $150).

With a sensor and five different colored ink cartridges, the pen can be used to scan materials from the world around it and then automatically mixes inks to achieve that color. This is very convenient if the user is trying to match the color of a material.

Rechargeable with its lithium ion battery, this pen can store up to 100,000 colors at once.

• Genetically similar friends

An American study has showed that people generally have more similar genes with their friends than with strangers.

They tested almost 2,000 participants and say an individual and his friends have about 1 percent of the same genes, which is actually quite a bit.

The research implies people subconsciously use their sense of smell to determine genetic similarity and choose friends.

Karissa Wang will be a junior this fall at NUAMES. She enjoys swimming and has a constant craving for mint chocolate chip ice cream. Email her at wangkarissa@gmail.com.

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