SciNews Dec 5, 2015

Pretty but deadly flowers, better than diamond diamonds, e-skin, and a climate deal.  What more could you want? Share these stories with your students and get them excited about science.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

Pretty flower uses dead arthropods to lure protectors. Science News

Look in moist forests along the coast of California and you might find Aquilegia eximia, or Van Houtte’s columbine, a pretty, reddish-orange flower. “The columbine is a big beautiful plant that grows in nice little streams; there are always hummingbirds buzzing around and lots of greenery in these little seeps during the dry, golden California summer,” says Eric LoPresti, who studies the interactions between plants and insects at the University of California, Davis. Read more…


Sperm carries information about dad’s weight. Science Daily

Turns out dads are also eating for two. A study reveals that a man’s weight affects the heritable information contained in sperm. The sperm cells of lean and obese men possess different epigenetic marks, notable at gene regions associated with the control of appetite. The comparisons, which included 13 lean men and 10 obese men, offer one biological explanation for why children of obese fathers are themselves more predisposed to obesity. Read more…



13698187_s from 123rf

Engineers consider liquid salt to generate power. Science News for Students

Radioactive materials make nuclear power possible. These elements, such as uranium, shed energy that can be harvested. But they also are dangerous. They emit radiation. This can harm people and the environment. Leslie Dewan believes, however, that she can reduce risks associated with nuclear power and its radioactive wastes.  She described how at EmTech 2015, a meeting convened here by Technology Review, a magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read more…


Q-carbon Puts Diamonds in Second Place. Discover

Long ago, ancient scientists attempted to master the craft of alchemy, or the mythical process of turning lead into gold. Alchemy has since been proven to be a hopeless task, but modern scientists have successfully unlocked the secrets to an even more stunning transformation: turning carbon, the basic building block of life, into diamonds. Read more…



18685938_s from 123rf

New e-skin feels heat, textures and more.  Science News for Students

A new electronic skin can feel the raspy texture of sandpaper, the beat of someone’s pulse and even heat. But there’s more. It also can detect sound. This rubbery plastic-and-carbon film mimics the structure of human skin, reports Hyunhyub Ko and his team in the October 30 Science Advances. It’s the first time anyone has demonstrated an e-skin that can sense so many different types of stimuli, says Alex Chortos. “That’s the innovative and impressive part of this work,” points out this materials scientist. He works at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Read more…


Maxwell’s demon faces the heat. Science News

Anyone trying to circumvent the physical laws governing heat is going to get burned.

A new experiment reveals how a device that robs a closed system of heat to make it more orderly, an action forbidden by a bedrock law of physics, inevitably pays a price by becoming hotter and more disordered. It’s a real-life demonstration of a nearly 150-year-old thought experiment known as Maxwell’s demon. If this demon really could skirt the second law of thermodynamics — which states that the entropy, or disorder, of an isolated system can never decrease ­— then it would be possible to create a perpetual motion machine. Read more…


Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

Beyond Mars: The Distant Future of Space Exploration. Discover

Louis Friedman has always balanced his optimistic vision for the future of human space exploration with a dose of reality, and his tempered outlook courses through his new book, Human Spaceflight From Mars to the Stars, in which he charts the distant future of human space travel. Read more…


COP21: UN negotiators adopt draft deal to fight climate change. CBC

Negotiators adopted a draft climate agreement Saturday that was cluttered with brackets and competing options, leaving ministers with the job of untangling key sticking points in what is envisioned to become a lasting, universal pact to fight global warming. Read more…



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