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Elephants Are People Too – On Science

February 19, 2014

What do elephants and humans have in common?

Could Google Glass have some big competition?

Somebody call Bruce Wayne and tell him his bat plane is almost ready.

And the Large Magellanic Cloud is how old? Coming up today…On Science.

Hello and welcome to On Science, I’m Emerald Robinson.

Talk about Big Love. Just as we humans empathetically give a hug or consoling word, so do elephants say researchers at Emory University. After a year of observing 26 Asian elephants in Thailand, the team noted that the animals were much more likely to interact with a distressed individual rather than during uneventful periods. They observed elephants touching their trunk to their face or placing their trunk in the mouth of another distressed animal. They likened the behavior to a human handshake or a hug. They also observed vocalizations during distressed times – a high, chirping sound – not heard when elephants were alone. They said this was perhaps similar to us saying, “Shhh…it’s okay.” Up to now, such behavior had only been observed in humans, chimpanzees, canines, and some birds. Aww…that’s so sweet. Thank you

And researchers are trying to make it a little easier to design micro air vehicles. A team of researchers are deconstructing the way the bat flies to apply to flying vehicles. Over 1,000 bat species have hand membrane wings with “webbed’ fingers connected by a flexible membrane. This configuration allows the bat to expand by 30% on a downward movement to maximize favorable forces but also decreases the area similarly on the way up to minimize unfavorable forces. The forces manipulated by the bat are 2 to 3 times greater than static airfoil wings used for large airplanes. So, they’re going to continue to study the bat wing, break it down into simpler motions, and hopefully apply it to make a bat-inspired flying robot. Bat-bot. Hey, Bruce Wayne, you might want to check that out.

Speaking of innovative technology…Google Glass hasn’t exactly had the easiest time convincing people their privacy is secure. Since the groundbreaking product came out, Google has had a hard time getting people to trust that they’re not being recorded without their consent. In some instances, wearers were being asked to leave public places if they refused to take them off. However, in an attempt to smooth the path for the headset to become more widely accepted and understood, rather than perceived as a threat to privacy, Google has created a list of Do’s and Don’ts for wearers to follow. Probably the most important tip for what not to do when wearing Google Glass? Don’t become a Glasshole by being creepy or rude. It won’t get people excited about Google Glass and will ruin it for future explorers. Seems pretty reasonable to me, wouldn’t you say?

Google Glass could have its weakness used against it pretty soon…cause they’ve got some major competition. Researchers at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology introduced K-Glass – a head-mounted display that enables users to do things such as find restaurants all while checking out the menu. Walk up to the restaurant, look up at the name and a 3D image of food pops up for you to see – which might be bad if you’re really, really hungry. Also, you might see the number of available tables inside. The glasses use the world’s first augmented-reality chip that works just like human vision, with a processor that works like the human brain to process visual data. The glasses are meant to recognize a target object, then display a 3D model to coincide along with additional information on the top-right side. The companies say wearable devices will eventually take over smartphones and that through augmented reality, we will have “richer, deeper, and more powerful reality in all aspects of our life.”

Well, astronomers are learning a little more about the richness and deepness of space. Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope found that the Large Magellanic Cloud completes a rotation every 250 million years. They measured the average motion of hundreds of individuals stars in the galaxy located 170,000 light-years from Earth to arrive at this conclusion. But why does it even matter? Well, according to scientists, knowing a galaxy’s rotation rate offers insight into how a galaxy formed, and can be used to calculate its mass.” And it might provide a little insight into our own Milky Way as it’s the closest to us. It’s hard to study the Milky Way since we’re looking from the inside-out, but maybe looking at the LMC from the outside-in will help us learn more about our home galaxy.



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