Archive for March 23, 2013

Who Invented Scotch Tape?


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Who Invented Scotch Tape?

By: Tuan C. Nguyen, Life’s Little Mysteries Contributor
Date: 23 January 2013 Time: 05:15 PM ET
A persistent inventor spent a year perfecting the adhesive that made scotch tape. 

Anyone who’s ever needed to salvage a torn dollar bill can thank a persistent engineering school dropout.

Richard G. Drew was an engineer at 3M when he was asked by a client to come up with a way to seal insulation batts, so they could be installed in railway refrigerator cars, which were used to transport groceries.

A tape had to be water-proof to hold the batts together and masking tape, which Drew had invented four years earlier, didn’t do the trick. Drew quickly got to work and began experimenting with cellophane, a moisture-proof packaging material that the Dupont Company had recently developed.

Cellophane worked as a backing, but evenly applying an adhesive to it was difficult. The cellophane curled when heated and split or broke as it was being coated. And as Drew started devising ways to fix this glitch, the client, Flaxilum, grew impatient and said they were no longer interested.

Still, Drew felt there was a need for moisture-proof tape and kept at it. After an agonizing year in which test after test resulted in stacks upon stacks of spoiled tape piled several feet high, the inventor eventually perfected a primer that allowed the adhesive to be applied evenly. This breakthrough, along with better machines, made it possible for Drew and his research team to finally crank out their first roll of cellophane tape on Sept. 8, 1930.

Today, there is enough Scotch Tape sold each year to circle the Earth 165 times. All because one man had an idea — and stuck to it.

Top 10 Life-Changing Inventions

Heather Whipps, InnovationNewsDaily Contributor
Life Changers
There are fun inventions, such as Silly Putty and Slinkys, that make our world a little more interesting. There are really good inventions, like zippers and Tupperware, that are amazing in their practicality. And then there are those innovations to which we can credit a shift in the way we live inventions that affect history and change how we live every day. 

These 10 inventions, ranging in time from 800,000 years ago to the past few decades, have all markedly changed how we live for the better. Representing all aspects of life, each played an important role in the course of human history.

The Flush Toilet
The flush toilet may seem like a modern invention, but several ancient societies had a handle on the idea. As early as 5,000 years ago in both Pakistan and in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, toilets in private home bathrooms linked with public drainage systems and carried waste away with water. Another idea lost to Europe during the Dark Ages, flush toilets (as opposed to holes in the ground with stone or wood seats, or simple pots) reappeared in the 16th century, when an English noble named John Harington built an indoor toilet with flushing mechanism for Queen Elizabeth I.
Another example of an important innovation that disappeared during the Dark Ages, early forms of poured concrete first appeared in ancient Egypt (even in the pyramids, according to recent studies). The ancient Romans almost certainly observed it there, historians say, and then mastered the technique using concrete in monuments such as the Pantheon in Rome, that survive intact to the present day. The mixture of cement and binding aggregates such as sand and water virtually disappeared until the 1700s, when English engineer John Smeaton improved concrete’s composition. The building material is still the most commonly-used construction material, forming the base for bridges, dams, roads and buildings.
Where would the human race be without electricity? Definitely not reading this list! It is difficult to conceive of a time before a bevy of electrical engineers including Nikola Tesla, Michael Faraday and Thomas Edison worked (often contentiously) to power up the world but electricity is, in fact, a relatively recent invention. It was only in the 1880s that a century of research translated into the world’s first central power station, switched on in New York City in 1882. It remained a perk mostly enjoyed by big cities for decades, however. By the 1930s, only 10 percent of rural American homes had electricity.
The Microscope
Most inventions are the result of scientists thinking big. The microscope, a feat of mechanics that had a hand in innumerable scientific breakthroughs, is an example of an inventor thinking really small. The first microscope was of the optical variety, which uses visible light and lenses to magnify small samples. Initially developed in the late 16th and early 17th centuries by Dutch eyeglass makers, the first scientist to catalogue his microscopic observations was Englishman Robert Hooke, who expounded on the close-up biological beauty of a louse and a flea, among other things.
The Television
The television is a classic example of how engineering feeds upon itself, developing in pieces until those components can fit together to form one great new innovation. One of the most inspired inventions of the 20th century began in concept, at least, in the 1920s, with multiple scientists working simultaneously to bring their patents for wireless moving pictures and sound to life. Philo Farnsworth of Idaho would win the inventor race, and be remembered as the person who changed the way we relate to the world. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to appear on the magic box in 1939, and broadcasts became regular after the war.
Until the early 20th century, old age was the last in a line of dozens of potential killers, from bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis to infectious wounds, one might encounter during a lifespan. That all changed in the 1930s, when Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin, an antibiotic mold that could successfully fight bacterial infection. It was the most important development in medicine until that time, and began saving lives as soon as it was mass produced and distributed. The success of penicillin is also credited for driving the creation of the modern pharmaceutical industry.
Imagine the look on the face of the ancient man who lit the first fire, on purpose, without the help of lighting or sparks thrown accidentally. A new archaeological discovery in Israel has pushed that fateful day back to at least 800,000 years ago, when Homo erectus dominated most places on earth. Homo erectus learned to create fire by striking flint (a type of quartz) against another mineral containing iron, which creates a spark. With that knowledge, early man suddenly had warmth, new places to camp, fire to cook on and a whole new menu of foods that he could eat.
The Wheel
Slightly clich
The Computer
The Internet turned the computer into a truly fantastical machine, but where would cyberspace be without the hardware to support it? The computer is another invention without a clear-cut beginning, though most historians point to the 1930s and German engineer Konrad Zuse’s first programmable computer, the Z3. A secretive project commissioned by the Nazi government, the original machine was destroyed during the war. Computer technology has made exponential strides ever since, and today, using a computer is as much a part of daily life as brushing your teeth.
Iron Processing
Iron is one of the most common metals on Earth and steel — its alloy is an irreplaceable material. As important as the iron industry is today, though, it was even more crucial to the development of societies before ours. First appearing in Anatolia (modern Turkey) over 3,500 years ago, the change from the Bronze to the Iron Age ushered in major changes in agriculture due to new, stronger iron tools that made it easier for people to settle down and be productive farmers. Stronger swords gave a distinct advantage to Iron Age societies too, allowing them to attack with efficiency and redraw the world map.

Coolest Science Stories of the Week


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Coolest Science Stories of the Week

LiveScience Staff
Date: 10 March 2013 Time: 07:48 AM ET
Cool Science


Credit: Dustin Kleckner and William T. M. Irvine

Answers to old questions, a clue to ancient Viking lore and the upside of being a psychopath all made our top stories this week.

Don’t miss these


Credit: Josh Landis, National Science Foundation.

New life found in Antarctic lake

 A new type of microbe has been found at a lake buried under Antarctica’s thick ice, according to news reports. The find may unveil clues of the surrounding environment in the lake, according to scientists.

The bacteria, said to be only 86 percent similar to other types known to exist on Earth, was discovered in a water sample taken from Lake Vostok, which sits under more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) of Antarctic ice. The freshwater lakehas likely been buried, unaltered, under the ice for the past million years.

[Full Story: New Type of Bacteria Reportedly Found in Buried Antarctic Lake]


Buzzed bees excel


Credit: Geraldine Wright

Honeybees, like tired office employees, like their caffeine, suggests a new study finding that bees are more likely to remember plants containing the java ingredient.

Caffeine occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers. Bees that fed on caffeinated nectar were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than bees fed sugar alone. The findings, detailed today (March 7) in the journal Science, show how plants can manipulate animals’ memories to improve their odds of pollination.

[Full Story: Caffeine Gives Bees a Memory Boost]


Stone-Age skeletons unearthed


Credit: Mary Anne Tafuri

Archaeologists have uncovered 20 Stone-Age skeletons in and around a rock shelter in Libya’s Sahara desert, according to a new study.

The skeletons date between 8,000 and 4,200 years ago, meaning the burial place was used for millennia.

[Full Story: Stone-Age Skeletons Unearthed In Sahara Desert]

Viking sunstone found?


Credit: © Alderney Museum

Ancient lore has suggested that the Vikings used special crystals to find their way under less-than-sunny skies. Though none of these so-called “sunstones” have ever been found at Viking archaeological sites, a crystal uncovered in a British shipwreck could help prove they did indeed exist.

The crystal was found amongst the wreckage of the Alderney, an Elizabethan warship that sank near the Channel Islands in 1592. The stone was discovered less than 3 feet (1 meter) from a pair of navigation dividers, suggesting it may have been kept with the ship’s other navigational tools, according to the research team headed by scientists at the University of Rennes in France.

[Full Story: First Evidence of Viking-Like ‘Sunstone’ Found]

Why small pups outlive big dogs

Credit: Eric Isselee | Shutterstock

Big dogs apparently die younger mainly because they age quickly, researchers say.

These new findings could help unravel the biological links between growth and mortality, the scientists added.

[Full Story: Why Small Pups Outlive Large Dog Breeds ]

Vortex knots created

 Credit: Dustin Kleckner and William T. M. Irvine

A century-old physics question had scientists and mathematicians in knots, until two researchers at the University of Chicago annihilated them.

Dustin Kleckner, a postdoctoral scientist, and William Irvine, an assistant professor of physics, used a tank of fluid to generate a vortex loop, a structure similar to a smoke ring. Vortex loops are common phenomena, showing up in not only smoke rings but mushroom clouds, fire-eater tricks, and even the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona.

[Full Story: Physicists Undo Century-Old Gordian Knot ]

Sex may relieve migraines


Credit: lmcsike |

Sex may relieve migraine pain for some people who suffer from the intense headaches, new research suggests.

The finding, published in the March issue of the journal Cephalalgia, found that sexual activity relieved the pain of migraines or cluster headaches, severe, one-sided recurring head pains, for up to a third of patients. Some of the patients even reported using sex as a kind of headache therapy.

[Full Story: Sex May Relieve Migraines]

The positive side of being a psycopath


Credit: LucasFilm

A small fraction of people are aggressive, manipulative and lack empathy or remorse — aka psychopaths. Given the social stigma psychopaths face, it’s a mystery why such traits persist in society.

“For a long time, people have been aware that there are some people who don’t play by the rules and are not cooperative,” study co-author Matthew Gervais, an anthropologist at UCLA, told LiveScience. “There’s been debate about whether those people benefit or incur costs.”

[Full Story: Why It Pays to Be a Bit of a Psychopath]

Baby with HIV cured?


Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock

In a dramatic medical breakthrough, a baby born HIV-positive in 2010 now shows no signs of HIV infection.

Though medical experts caution that this single case does not represent a cure for all cases of HIV infection, the child’s aggressive antiretroviral treatment may become a new standard of care for children born to HIV-positive mothers.

[Full Story: Baby with HIV Is Cured, Doctors Say]

Monster mosquitoes to strike Florida


Credit: UF IFAS / Sean McCann

One of the most ferocious insects you’ve ever heard of — it’s the size of a quarter and its painful bite has been compared to being knifed — is set to invade Florida this summer.

The Sunshine State, already home to man-eating sinkholes, invading Burmese pythons, swarming sharks, tropical storms and other disasters, can expect to see an explosion of shaggy-haired gallinippers (Psorophora ciliata), a type of giant mosquito, according to entomologist Phil Kaufman of the University of Florida.

[Full Story: Gallinippers! Monster Mosquitoes Poised to Strike Florida]

Wake Up! The Real Facts on Sleepwalking (Infographic)


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Wake Up! The Real Facts on Sleepwalking (Infographic)

by Ross Toro, LiveScience contributor
Sleepwalking appears to be most common in children.

Sleepwalking is more common than previously estimated, according to a recent study in the journal Neurology.

The survey, conducted by the Stanford University Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, involved 19,136 Americans ages 18 and older from 15
states, finding that 29.2 percent reported a sleepwalking episode at some point in their lives. That included episodes in childhood and adolescence.

Sleepwalking is more common in childhood and seemed to decrease with age. Slightly more than a quarter of people said they’d sleepwalked as a child or teen but had not done so recently.

Scientists aren’t sure what provokes some people to sleepwalk, but certain medical conditions are linked to sleepwalking. People who suffer from
mental disorders such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are especially prone to sleepwalking. People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia are at a higher risk for sleepwalking, as well as people with alcohol abuse or dependence issues.

The study also found that sleepwalking was not associated with gender and that nearly one-third of individuals who sleepwalked had a family history of the disorder. [Read more about the sleepwalking study]

Brain Injuries on the Rise for US Troops (Infographic)

Posted in MILITARY CORNER with tags on March 23, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Brain Injuries on the Rise for US Troops (Infographic)

by Ross Toro, LiveScience contributor
Roadside bombs and other explosions result in head trauma for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Real Men in Black: Secret Service Agents (Infographic)

Posted in MILITARY CORNER with tags on March 23, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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The Real Men in Black: Secret Service Agents (Infographic)

by Ross Toro, LiveScience contributor
Duties of the Secret Service include protecting the president and investigating financial crimes.


Alien Parasites Threaten Sci-Fi Space Travelers (Infographic)


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Alien Parasites Threaten Sci-Fi Space Travelers (Infographic)

by Karl Tate, LiveScience Infographic Artist
Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" expands on themes introduced in his 1979 film "Alien," including the idea of parasitic life forms that incubate inside the human body.

Director Ridley Scott brought us the chest-bursting Alien in his 1979 movie by the same name. The director is now back on the big screen with “Prometheus,” a film set in the “Alien” universe that opens June 8. Will the aliens of “Prometheus” rival the original Alien in pure parasitic glory? We’re not sure, but nothing gets the science fiction horror genre going like alien parasites.

While Scott’s Alien is mostly into gore, other parasitic alien creatures are more subtle. Stargate’s Goa’uld symbiotes wrap around their hosts’ brainstem, controlling their behaviors. Star Trek’s Ceti eel takes a similar tact, entering the brain through the host’s ear for maximum ickiness. However it happens, parasitic infestation rarely ends well for the host.

Fortunately, real-life parasite loads are at an all-time low in human history, thanks to modern medicine. Unfortunately, plenty of the fictional parasites that have gained fame on film have parallels in real-world ecology. Certain types of fungi can control the minds of ants, for example, manipulating the insects into carrying the fungus to an ideal place to grow — and then using the host as fertilizer. The mammalian parasite T. gondii may be linked to human mental health. And parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs inside other living insects and invertebrates, were the direct inspiration for the chest-bursting scene in “Alien.”

Airplane Bird Strikes on the Rise (Infographic)


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Airplane Bird Strikes on the Rise (Infographic)

by Ross Toro, LiveScience contributor
Airplane Bird Strikes on the Rise (Infographic)