Inside Science

Will Passengers Ever Fly on Pilotless Planes?

The technology is progressing quickly, but the main challenge may be overcoming our fears.

Autonomous cars from companies like Google, Uber and Tesla will soon become commonplace on our roads, according to some experts, and aircraft manufacturers are betting that it will only be a matter of time before the skies are filled with autonomous planes as well. Read more in Inside Science.

Cyclists’ Pacing Strategies Should Consider the Wind

Both Tour de France racers and recreational cyclists can improve performance by riding hardest into the wind.

As the elite riders of the Tour de France race towards the finish line of the grueling, 21-stage race this weekend, they are looking for any little tactical advantage they can gain over their rivals. New research from a team of sports scientists in Sweden could help them find that edge.

Road cyclists need to adapt their speed and energy expenditure during a race to account for changing conditions such as wind. Previous studies have shown that a cyclist who maintains an even power output, slowing down into a headwind and speeding up with a tailwind while working at the same effort throughout, will lose more time in the headwind segments than they will gain back in the tailwind segments. So the best strategy is to go a bit harder into the wind and then recover at an easier pace when riding with the wind. Read more in Inside Science.

Nature’s Most Wanted: Conservationists Launch New Quest for Lost Species

Expeditions will delve into the wild, looking for species that haven’t been seen for at least a decade.

Somewhere deep in the remote and largely inaccessible wetlands of northern Myanmar, Richard Thorns hopes to find a ghost. This fall, the ambulance driver and amateur ornithologist plans to leave his home in Crowborough, England to launch his seventh expedition in search of the elusive — and quite possibly extinct — pink-headed duck.

The striking but shy bird was always a rare sight in the marshes of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and little is known about its behavior and habits. Its large, dark brown body, with characteristic pink plumage adorning its head and neck, has not been conclusively seen in the wild since 1949. But Thorns has made it his personal mission to prove that the bird is still out there. Read more in Inside Science.

Plant Trees and Chill

Software helps a conservation group see where shade trees will best cool a river. Then the hard work starts.

In 2011, the city of Medford in Oregon had a problem. The treated water being released into the Rogue River from its sewage treatment plant was too warm, threatening the river’s fish.

The historically cool Rogue River was already warming, and Medford’s discharge could raise the temperature by another 0.18 degrees Celsius. Warmer rivers have less oxygen, and cause fish to hatch earlier and die younger. To stay on the right side of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Medford had to find a way to cool down its wastewater.

“We looked at agricultural re-use, chillers, cooling towers and lagoons, but all the options were really expensive – more than $15 million,” said Tom Suttle, construction manager for the city’s water reclamation division. Read more in Inside Science.

Feral Hogs Root Through History

Archaeological sites inside Florida Air Force bases are threatened by foraging pigs.

Feral swine, first introduced by some of the earliest European explorers to America, have been roaming Florida for the past 500 years, and are now present in at least 35 states. The invasive pigs are well-known as a destructive environmental menace, tearing up sensitive habitats and endangered plants and animals in their search for food. But the hogs can also dig up important archaeological sites, destroying an irreplaceable historical record.

“The damage feral pigs do to everything else — crops, wetlands, endangered species — it can all grow back,” said Richard Engeman, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But once you move artifacts around, that doesn’t grow back.” Read more in Inside Science.

Excessive Pubic Hair Grooming Linked to Higher Rates of STIs

Shaving and grooming may create an opportunity for infections to spread.

People who frequently groom or remove their pubic hair are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections, according to new research.

The researchers surveyed more than 7,500 people aged 18-65 from across the United States, and found that two-thirds of men and 84 percent of women reported grooming their pubic hair. Among those who groomed, the survey found higher rates of infections, including herpes, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV. The risk is highest for “extreme” groomers – those who remove all pubic hair at least 11 times a year, and high-frequency groomers who trim their hair daily or weekly. Read more in Inside Science.

Physiology or Medicine Nobel Goes to Discovery of Cell’s Recycling Process

Yoshinori Ohsumi revealed workings of autophagy, a routine biological process implicated in many diseases.

The 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute for Technology for his discovery of how cells break down and recycle their own proteins and organelles, a process called “autophagy.” Read more in Inside Science.

Floral Smells Stop Stinging Bees

bee picAppetizing scents can override alarm signals in honeybees.

As an amateur beekeeper, I’m resigned to getting more than my fair share of painful stings when harvesting honey, or even cutting the grass too close to the hive. But new research published today in Nature Communications shows that there may be a way to distract angry and defensive bees and reduce the number of times clouds of vengeful insects send me fleeing to the house. Read more in Inside Science.

New Broom Technology Sweeps Through Curling World

Reversing a typical nylon curling brush’s fabric could dramatically change the sport.

Even though the ice is still the same, and most of the 42-pound stones sent down the ice in each contest still come from the Scottish island of Ailsa Craig, there’s a technological controversy brewing in the world of curling. Top players are concerned that a new type of broom makes it too easy to control the direction of the sliding rock, and could damage the ice. Read more in Inside Science.