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10 Amazing Discoveries You Missed This Week

From hidden terrorist messages in porn, to smog-eating buildings, to dolphin coworkers, here are some incredible discoveries.

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"I would interpret this as a natural fertilizer then if it is indeed converted to inorganic nitrate,” Dr. Bryan writes. “The bacteria in the soil use nitrate and convert it to usable forms for plant growth. Furthermore, nitrate is not the bad guy it used to be. There are now profound health benefits of nitrate by its ability to be converted to nitric oxide in the body.”

Neat! Prediction: If it works, all the other building’s moms are going to say “Look at that buildilng. It’s doing something. Why can’t you be more like that?” and other buildings will either be dunned into spiffing up or go to the basement and play video games.

4. What did I come in here for? 

So why is it that we can remember that Alcoa Can’t Wait ! jingle from the 1970s -- 40 effing years ago -- but we can’t remember why we just walked into the kitchen?

Natalie Wolchover has the answer with Top Five Things That Cause Brain Farts (excerpted from her longer version on Life's Little Mysteries ). In other words, why our minds go blank, make us think our phones are ringing when they’re not and stop us in our mental tracks every time we hear a very annoying beeping sound. Some of it has to do with evolution, some with our brains trying to filter out extraneous information.

As for the doors…it’s the damn doors themselves that make us forget why we passed through them.  Walking through a door triggers an “event boundary” in our mind say researchers at the University of Notre Dame, making us think we are moving from one set of circumstances to another, like when you leave the algebra classroom, file away your algebra thoughts, and prepare to go to English lit. By organizing our thoughts our brain is just trying to help us adapt to the constant flow of new situations in what some musician called “this ever-changing world in which we live in.” We knew his name a second ago…but when we walked back into our office we forgot it. 

5. Dolphins working the net

Most of us have seen dolphins do flips and tricks, but some dolphins in Brazil seem to have figured out how do do the neatest trick of all: helping people get by. 

Jennifer Welsh of Live Science writes that a group of about 20 dolphins in Laguna are helping about 200 fisherman make their annual catch. The dolphins herd yummy mullet toward fishermen in boats or wading in the water, and signal with head or tail slaps when the fishermen should throw in their nets. The fishermen know the individual dolphins by their markings and they don’t fish without them, though not all the dolphins engage in the mutually beneficial enterprise. Welsh writes, “The cooperation is helpful to both parties, researchers said. The two wouldn’t survive without each other.” 

Dolphins are very social and researchers have identified several social networks within the group with one group being made up entirely of these fishermen-helping dolphins. Researchers think the helping behavior in the dolphins is inherited or learned, but don’t know why some dolphins help and others don’t (we think the ones who don’t are probably rich). 

Researcher Fábio Daura-Jorge of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, in Brazil, says specialized foraging behavior might develop in groups where there’s a lot of social interaction between animals. "We are talking about a small subgroup of dolphins (about 20) supporting over 200 families with no other income," Daura-Jorge said. He added, "The fish provided from the cooperation with dolphins has an important economic and social value that has to be considered, and should be conserved .”

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