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10 Cool Things the World Learned This Week

Fuzzy dinosaurs, coral with herpes, an autism gene? Here's a few stories you may have missed.

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Considering the bonob’s sexy rep what do you suppose a talk with them would be like? Sure, they’ll be limited to the lexigrams but these clever creatures will surely find a way to communicate exactly what’s on their minds at any given time, which may well be a primate version of “The Aristocrats!” 

Those who contribute at the highest level have a chance to Skype chat with an actual bonobo. We’re thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign in order to be able to contribute to their Kickstarter campaign. It’d be worth it, right? 

8. Alien Life in Our Own Backyards? 

Liza Minnelli once sang a song about Shirley Devore , who went on a worldwide search for love only to find it with her neighbor: “She traveled round the world to meet the guy next door." 

Finding what you’re searching for right on your own doorstep seems to be the happy fate of European astronomers researching 102 M-dwarf stars who found nine “super Earths” -- planets up to 10 times our size -- circling them. Two of these nine planets are in the “Goldilocks” zones where temperatures aren’t “too hot or cold but just right for liquid water and thus, conceivably, for the existence of life,” writes Time’s Michael D. Lemonick.

So, that was research on 102 M-dwarf stars. There are (cue Carl Sagan impression) billions and billions of M-dwarf stars -- 150 billion in fact -- right in our galaxy. Even eliminating those outside the Goldilocks zones, that still means “a huge number of potentially life-friendly planets,” Lemonick writes. “ And that makes them perhaps the most promising targets in the search for alien organisms that the planet-hunting community is ever likely to find.”  

So while we’ve been wondering where, oh where, could those aliens be, maybe we’ll find extraterrestrial life relatively close to home. 

9. Lyre Lyre

The BBC reports that the discovery of the remains of a lyre  more than 2,300 years old shows that people in Western Europe were playing and enjoying “complex music” 1,000 years before previously estimated, and with it song and poetry. Being made of wood, such instruments seldom survived and this lyre was indeed “burned and broken,” the BBC says. The earliest such instruments go back 5,000 years to Iraq, but this find on the Isle of Skye shows that creative expression has been part of human life for millennia. 

We know what you’re thinking. Scottish music was evolving 1,000 years longer than previously thought and they still stuck with bagpipes? Well ta heck wah ye. We’ll take some lively piping over, say, that Titanic song any day ( Kate Winslet agrees ). 

10. You Are the Dog

You’re only human. Ask your dog.

Actually you’re more alike than you think and there are studies to prove it. Just as we humans have less self-control when we’re exhausted or our willpower is spent (ask a smoker attempting to quit), your dog feels the same way. 

LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas recently reported on the research of Holly Miller of the University of Lille de Nord in France, who found that dogs also more at risk after having to exercise self-control. In a study of 10 dogs the pooches first had to sit and stay of their own accord while a “hamster” (Zhu Zhu pet) rolled around on the floor. “In the other session, the dog was caged for 10 minutes, and so did not have to exert self-control,” Pappas writes. 

The dogs were then brought into a room with a cage containing a really PO’d, snarling, aggressive bull terrier. Depleted dogs, who had just done the sit-stay task spent 58.9 percent of their time closer to the cage with the Scary Dog, compared to the dogs who had been calmly caged: 48.1 percent. Being spent seems to have made them more likely to take a risk.

 
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