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Science News Archive - March 17, 2008

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The next time you visit the zoo, the animals may be in better health than ever. Zoo nutritionists are changing the diets of gorillas, polar bears, monkeys, and elephants all over the country.

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The U.N. Environment Program announced on Sunday that the world’s glaciers are experiencing record losses.

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For more than two years the massive piles of dried grape skins have been mixed with landscapers' leaves and grass clippings and waste fish from the local fish distributor and left to cook like a giant organic stew in a back lot of a Peconic vineyard.

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It’s common knowledge that humans and other animals are able to visually judge depth because we have two eyes and the brain compares the images from each. But we can also judge depth with only one eye, and scientists have been searching for how the brain accomplishes that feat.

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Traditional brand research argues that logos should be highly relevant to the product they represent in order to be successful. However, marketers have recently begun using unusual visual identifiers that have little, if anything, to do with the product.

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Does coffee in a flimsy cup taste worse than coffee in a more substantial cup? Firms such as McDonalds and Starbucks spend millions of dollars every year on disposable packaging, but a new study suggests that trying to skimp in this area might not be worth it.

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Fungi do not have sexes, just so-called mating types. A new study being published today in the prestigious journal PLoS shows that there are great similarities between the parts of DNA that determine the sex of plants and animals and the parts of DNA that determine mating types in certain fungi. This makes fungi interesting as new model organisms in studies of the evolutionary development of sex chromosomes.

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Their gentle nature, large size, odd sounds and low-maintenance care have made Madagascar hissing cockroaches popular educational tools and pets for years. But the giant insects also have one unfortunate characteristic: Their hard bodies and feces are home to many mold species that could be triggering allergies in the kids and adults who handle the bugs, according to a new study.

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Take a deer’s body, attach a camel’s head and add a Jimmy Durante nose, and you have a saiga – the odd-ball antelope with the enormous schnoz that lives on the isolated steppes of Central Asia. Unfortunately, they are as endangered as they are strange-looking due to over-hunting. Now, according to a recent Wildlife Conservation Society study, their migration routes are in jeopardy as well.

Viruses and bacterial viruses (known as phages) are among the most abundant life forms on the planet. Two papers published recently in Nature, March 2 and 12, 2008, analyze the geographical distribution of viral communities in modern organosedimentary structures (sedimentary features, built by the interaction of organisms and their environment) known as microbialites, the living analogues of the oldest fossils on Earth, and come up with some surprising nuggets of information.

Word of the Day
jument
  • A beast of burden; also, a beast in general.
'Jument' ultimately comes from the Latin 'jugum,' yoke.
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