SciNews Sept 7, 2015

Cuddly boa constrictors, school starts time trauma, your appetite explained and so much more.  This eclectic collection of current science news stories is brought to you by STAOBlog.

SciNews is published every Monday. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

Boa constrictors stop their victims’ hearts.  Science News for Students

Boa constrictors don’t suffocate their prey so much as break their hearts. A new study finds that these snakes kill like demon blood-pressure cuffs. They squeeze down blood circulation until it stops. Without blood delivering fresh oxygen, the heart, and brain starve.

This means that the idea boa constrictors slay by preventing their prey from breathing is just plain wrong.

Scott Boback emphasizes to his students at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., that these snakes are extraordinary hunters. They don’t need limbs, or even venom, to bring down an animal their own size. “Imagine,” he says, “you’re killing and swallowing a 68-kilogram [150-pound] animal in one meal — with no hands or legs!” As an animal ecologist, Boback studies how different creatures relate to each other. The question of how boa constrictors kill their prey is one example. Read more…


Current school start times damaging learning and health of students. Science Daily

Scientists have found that current school and university start times are damaging the learning and health of students. Drawing on the latest sleep research, the authors conclude students start times should be 8:30 or later at age 10; 10:00 or later at 16; and 11:00 or later at 18. Implementing these start times should protect students from short sleep duration and chronic sleep deprivation, which are linked to poor learning and health problems. Read more…


A Surprise Source of Life’s Code. Scientific American

Genes, like people, have families — lineages that stretch back through time, all the way to a founding member. That ancestor multiplied and spread, morphing a bit with each new iteration.

For most of the last 40 years, scientists thought that this was the primary way new genes were born — they simply arose from copies of existing genes. The old version went on doing its job, and the new copy became free to evolve novel functions. Read more…


The need to feed and eating for pleasure are inextricably linked. Science News

You’ve already had a muffin. And a half. You know you’re full. But there they are, fluffy and delicious, waiting for the passersby in the office. Just thinking about them makes your mouth water.

Maybe if you just slice one into quarters. I mean, that barely counts… Read more…



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Radioactive contaminants found in coal ash. Science Daily

Landfill, pond storage of coal ash is currently unregulated

A new study has found radioactive contaminants in coal ash from all three major US coal-producing basins. Levels of radioactivity in the ash were five to eight times higher than in normal soil or in the parent coal itself. This finding raises concerns about the environmental and human health risks posed by coal ash, which currently is unregulated and is stored in coal-fired power plants’ holding ponds and landfills nationwide. Read more…


Fighting explosives pollution with mutant plants. Science Daily

Biologists have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives. Biologists have unraveled the mechanism of TNT toxicity in plants raising the possibility of a new approach to explosives remediation technology. TNT has become an extensive global pollutant over the last 100 years and there are mounting concerns over its toxicity to biological systems. Read more…



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Stephen Hawking says his group has solved a black hole puzzle. Science News for Students

Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous living physicist, thinks he has solved a mystery. It’s one that has puzzled scientists for more than 40 years: What happens to information about matter as it falls into a black hole?

Black holes are regions in space that contain huge amounts of matter. All that mass is packed together very tightly. The result is that a black hole’s gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. So if you fell into a black hole, you’d die. (Don’t worry, though. A person would never actually come anywhere near a black hole!) Read more…


Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly. Science Daily

A new technique could pave the way for ultra low power and high-security wireless communication systems

Electrical engineers have demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices, providing an improved alternative to existing wireless communication systems, researchers said. Read more…





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