Saturday, June 15, 2013

Science Saturday 5.1: Speedy Cheetahs, Citizen Science & More


After moving and trying to get settled in, as well as the start of summer, it's time for a new installment of SciSat! I'm aiming for new posts every other week.

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I've blogged about citizen science before (here and here), but io9.com has compiled a great list of current citizen science projects, and plans to blog all summer long with stories about citizen science and their contributions to scientific research. I will definitely be looking into some of these awesome projects - especially the ones that are game-oriented!

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Using a "non-insvasive 'cap'" to monitor brain activity, researchers have taken the next step forward in demonstrating how a thought-controlled device could work. Test subjects wore this cap, and were instructed to think of various movement controls as if they were flying a helicopter (clench left to move left, pull back to move up, etc). Their monitored brain activity revealed certain patterns which were able to be recognized over wi-fi control of the device. In the video below, a quadrocopter (a type of nanorobot) is controlled by these learned patterns, and navigation success rates were as high as 90%. This technology could be helpful for those with neurodegenerative disabilities, such as controlling a wheelchair or a robotic arm.

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Though the artifacts were discovered in 1899, it was only recently discovered that a Neanderthal bone fragment contained a 120,000 year old tumor. Using a micro-CT scanner, researchers were able to accurately image the bone, determining a fibrous dysplasia was present in the Neanderthal's rib.

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We've all heard about how cheetahs are the fastest land animal, but until now, speeds have only been recorded on a captive cheetah running on a greyhound track (64mph). New scientific tracking collars have been placed on wild cheetahs in Botswana, and the data tracked the animals' position and acceleration, allowing greater control of speed/movement data. It turns out that while the fastest cheetah hit a speed of 59mph, the more significant data revealed that the cheetahs only averaged a speed of 33mph with greater maneuverability and agility. This makes sense as they must be quick to turn, dodge, and pounce after prey.




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