10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week
It was champagne and top hats all around in the science world this week. First, if you were hip-deep in nerd news you’d have thought the July 4th fireworks were to celebrate the cautious announcement, which came on Independence Day, of the Higgs boson having been discovered (more on that later). Then, the very next day, dark matter was reported to have been found in strands connecting two clusters of galaxies, reports the LA Times’ Amina Khan (details in her story). The finding “catapults these filaments from sound theory to observable fact,” Khan writes.
That’s a twofer! But rest assured, there were plenty of other exciting things afoot, all of them less than 2.7 billion miles from home.
1. High, how are ya?
Good news, jokers, smokers and midnight tokers! Marijuana may have been the only chemical found in the toxicology report on the late Rudy Eugene, who made headlines after he tried to eat the face off of Ronald Poppo, a homeless man in Miami, but doctors say it wasn’t the pot that did it.
Natalie Wolchover of Life’s Little Mysteries quotes Dr. Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida who said that blaming Eugene’s behavior on pot is “outrageous and out of the question. Marijuana will not cause this type of behavior.” There has been a link between marijuana and the early onset of psychosis (here’s an NPR story from 2011 ). But Goldberger told LLM "This behavior exhibited by Eugene is well beyond the scope of someone suffering from acute psychosis.”
Instead, it might still have been a synthetic version of bath salts that went undetected. Patrick Kyle, director of clinical chemistry and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center told LLM that synthetic versions of the drug are being made so fast and in such variations that labs “cannot keep up,” and that it’s unlikely labs could screen against all such drugs.
Meanwhile, a man high on a synthetic version of pot zombie-attacked and violently killed the family dog after trying to eat it .
Jesus. Doesn’t anyone just have a couple of beers anymore?
2. Copy dogs
“Drug-addled, flesh-eating zombies are so last month,” you say with a yawn. You notice that your dog yawns in agreement.
That might happen more often than you think.
Researchers at the Universidad de Porto in Portugal have found that humans don’t just catch yawns from each other -- dogs catch them from their owners. The researchers played different yawns for the dogs: the yawns of their owners and of strangers and yawns played backwards as a control sound. The dogs who responded yawned “significantly more often when they were listening to their owner’s yawns,” writes Jennifer Welsh of Live Science . Contagious yawning has been linked to empathy in humans as well as baboons and chimps who yawn in response to the yawns of those they’re close to.
Considering the ways we interact with dogs, including service and therapy dogs, Karine Silva, who lead the study, says “it could turn out a useful complementary tool for selecting the most appropriate dogs (in terms of empathic processing) for specific tasks."
The human-dog connection is so strong that this will feel intuitive to any dog lover. But one also has to wonder if the dogs were just bored and wondering why humans are forever doing studies instead of eating, playing and sleeping on the sunny spot of the carpet.
3. Stayin’ alive (without breathing)
No one could yawn at this next discovery: the development of a particle that will keep you alive even if you can’t breathe.