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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Here's a glimpse: a medical breakthrough that allows your body to stay alive without breathing -- and proof your dog copies you when you yawn.

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Li says the T-shirts can actually act as “supercapacitors” because they have high-energy storage densities and when they incorporated manganese oxide (details in the story) it became a “stable, high-performing supercapacitor,” which, when stacked up, should be able to charge cell phones. Moreover, Li says, it’s  a “very inexpensive, green process.”

This awesome development is the only reason in the world anyone should pay more than a few bucks for a T-shirt.

6. A cosmic gift

As long as we’re making huge technological leaps, let’s clone Seth MacFarlane.

Seriously -- as the creator of "Family Guy," Seth MacFarlane has already served us well by giving us  Stewie Griffin . Now he’s gone himself one better: MacFarlane paid to have Carl Sagan’s personal papers -- 800 file cabinet drawers-worth -- put into the hands of the Library of Congress. 

Plus, CBS News reportshe will also be producing a reprise of the late, great Dr. Sagan’s TV show "Cosmos" hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

I’m dismayed at the rejection of science that’s reemerging in America. There’s nothing out there that glamorizes science the way 'Cosmos' did,” MacFarlane told Wired’s Thomas Golianopoulos.

And he’s not kidding. One example that comes to mind for me is  the recent craziness in Virginia where the terms “sea level rise” and “climate change” were deemed to be “liberal code words” too odious for conservative activists and some politicians to bear , rather than facts associated with global warming when a proposed study on sea level rise was being debated. The language was changed to “recurrent flooding” and the proposal passed, reported the Virginian-Pilot. But, as Scientific American’s Scott Huler noted “they are not liberal code words; they are scientific terms.”

The pussy-footing around scientific terminology -- and thus around science --  is the kind of dumbing down we can’t afford.

Thankfully there are still many people on the side of smartening up. Here’s to MacFarlane and deGrasse Tyson’s new venture of following in Dr. Sagan’s footsteps.

7. Your flies are open…to reinterpretation

People reject science for various reasons, including religious conflict, scariness (i.e., cloning, robot armies) and what I think of as study exhaustion. We’ve all thought something like “Wait a second…coffee used to be bad for you. Now it’s good for you ?” After a while you don’t want to hear another study. 

It’s important to keep double-checking information, though. An intriguing example of that is that a decades-old, iconic study concerning sexual selection which has recently been retested and found to contain a “fatal flaw,” according to one UCLA professor.

Red Orbit reports that in Angus John Bateman’s studies of fruit fly mating in 1948 he concluded that males have an evolutionary advantage in having multiple sex partners while females have an evolutionary advantage in being more choosy, a study that proved highly influential “for decades.” Professor Patricia Adair Gowaty, of UCLA recently repeated the experiment -- the first time the oft-cited study has been retested -- and came to different conclusions; enough that, she says, “what some accepted as bedrock may actually be quicksand.”

Bateman’s conclusions were based on the number of offspring of the fruit flies that survived into adulthood, but the only way he could determine parentage at the time was to mate fruit flies with severe enough mutations -- curly wings or deformed eyes -- to tell by looking at the offspring who they belonged to (modern geneticists would look at molecular evidence, RedOrbit says). Bateman only counted the offspring with mutations from both parents and so, Gowaty says, probably “got a skewed sample.” She also found that children with both mutations were more likely to die before reaching adulthood, which would bias the results. “Gowaty and her colleagues, by performing the same experiment, found that the data were decidedly inconclusive,” but, she said that for some Bateman’s results were “so comforting,” they just accepted it. 

 
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