The 2011 Ig Nobel awards were announced, honoring the ground-breaking discoveries:
- yawning in tortoises is not contagious
- full bladder hurts attention span as much as 24-hour sleep deprivation but can facilitate unrelated impulse control (inhibition spillover is actually a cool theory)
- color and shape of beer bottle is a turn-on for the male beetles that try to mate with the bottles.
- dizziness in discus throwers is related to spinning
- determination of the ideal density of airborne wasabi for waking up the deaf people.
The biggest news story of September was of course the seemingly superluminal neutrinos, but besides that:
Dinosaur feathers were found preserved in amber, so now we know exactly what they looked like.
Speeaking of fossils, something octaradial from 580 Mya is shaking up the ancient metazoan philogeny.
Also, a prehistoric preschool finger painting classroom was apparently discovered, from 13k years ago.
Now that there is a spacecraft orbiting Mercury, turns out it's pretty interesting. Too bad NASA hates Venus.
While on astronomy, gravitational redshifting (another GR prediction) was tested on 8000 galaxies. It works.
Part of yeast genome was artificially re-engineered to include a "scrambling system", which lets us delete and rearrange genes on the fly.
The Nile crocodile is actually two unrelated species -- and the researchers who found that out got to do DNA sequencing of crocodile mummies.
The stomach ulcer bacterium H.pylori purposefully destroys the DNA of host cells it contacts, which is one reason why it is a cancer risk.
Speaking of DNA, it's actually as elastic as Nylon.
The bacteria that feeds on uranium in contaminated groundwater, is able to reduce it without coming in direct contact and poisoning itself, using special pili.
The blind cavefish P.andruzzii, which lives in total darkness, has a circadian clock, but it's 47 hours rather than 24.
For the first time, a viral gene was identified that manipulates host behavior, in the mind-altering virus that convinces the infected foliage-eating caterpillar to crawl up on a tree branch. (once there, it melts its body so it drips the virus on the foliage)
A microscope was developed so small that it can be implanted in mouse brains to study them during natural activity.
Speaking of brains, four basic tastes: bitter, salty, sweet, and umami, are each processed by a different part of the brain. Sour couldn't be found.
When teleported (or when stepping into the wrong floor out of an elevator), it takes at least 125 ms for the brain to sort out the confusion because of how place memories work.
Like in other species, human males who spend time with their kids, lose testosterone.
There is now a social network website for people who want their gut bacteria sequenced. You can find friends with similar microbes and "directly share experiences".
If you got this far, here's a glowing kitten for you! (from this research)