The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usWed, 23 Apr 2014 12:49:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKWed, 23 Apr 2014 12:49:00 -0400The secret to living upside down, according to sloths<img src="" /></P><p>Sloths spend most of their time eating and hanging around in trees. Nice as that kind of lifestyle sounds, it's easy to see how it might get a little uncomfortable after a while.</p><p>With a full stomach, a sloth's abdominal organs can account for a quarter to more than a third of its total body weight. They can store about an equal amount of weight in feces and urine before relieving themselves, which they only do about once a week.</p><p>Now remember that sloths hang from the bottom of tree branches, gripping them with their arms and legs while either partially or completely upside-down. Those inverted...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/matt-soniak" ><span class="byline">Matt Soniak</span></a>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:49:00 -0400How triangles revolutionized mapmaking<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p >Equations are the lifeblood of mathematics, science, and technology. Without them, our world would not exist in its present form. However, equations have a reputation for being scary: Stephen Hawking's publishers told him that every equation would halve the sales of <em>A Brief History of Time</em>. [<em>In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World</em>]</p><p>This captures our aversion to equations well. Yet, as mathematician Ian Stewart argues in his book <em>In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World</em>, "[e]quations are too important to be hidden away."</p><p>Equations are a vital part...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/shane-parrish" ><span class="byline">Shane Parrish</span></a>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:35:00 -0400How I learned to love the evil-looking earwig<img src="" /></P><p>Pretty much everyone I know grew up with an unholy fear of earwigs.</p><p>The evil-looking pincers on the insect's tail were said to deliver a sting worse than a bee. And the creature's long, slender body was supposedly ideal for slinking down the human ear canal and burrowing into the brain. Get an earwig in the ear, they said, and you'd go deaf. But an earwig in the brain, well&hellip; you could wind up dead by morning.</p><p>Of course, like nearly everything I learned about nature before the internet &mdash; all bears hibernate, daddy long legs are the most venomous spiders, porcupines can shoot their...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/jason-bittel" ><span class="byline">Jason Bittel</span></a>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:07:00 -0400Inside nature's most painfully bizarre sexual ritual<img src="" /></P><p>For even the friskiest humans, the sex lives of animals can be pretty bizarre (see: spiders' detachable genitals or bees' suicidal mating habits). But a quartet of newly discovered species takes that weirdness up another notch.</p><p>Meet the four members of <em>Neotrogla</em>, a genus of insect that lives in the caves of the Brazilian rainforest. These little guys have marathon sex sessions that can last two to three days straight, but it's not just their tantric-like stamina that makes them odd. The naughty bits they use are mixed up.</p><p>All four species have sex-reversed genitalia. The females sport protruding...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/matt-soniak" ><span class="byline">Matt Soniak</span></a>Tue, 22 Apr 2014 09:45:00 -0400How preschoolers trounced adults in a problem-solving contest<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Conversation<br /></p><p>Are adults superior problem solvers to children? Most people would say yes. From buttoning a jacket to operating a projector to multiplying complex numbers, our abilities exceed those of children.</p><p>And why shouldn't this be the case? Our brains are more developed, we have more control over our bodies and we know more about the world. We have a lifetime of experience to help us reason about new situations and make judgements quickly. But could it be that sometimes our accumulated knowledge might bias our judgments and make us less sensitive to what we observe?</p><p>Our expectations should lead us...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Sophie BridgersTue, 22 Apr 2014 09:18:00 -0400Attack of the invasive species<img src="" /></P><p></p><p>America is facing an animal invasion on multiple fronts. These invaders aren't looking to start a war &mdash; only to make a home. But however benign their intentions might be, invasive species unfortunately pose threats to native species and upset the balance of native ecosystems. Some are relatively new arrivals; others have been fortifying their position for more than a century. All are especially adept at out-eating and out-reproducing their native neighbors. To help you guard the home front, we lined up 12 of the most pernicious invasive animals in the U.S.:</p><p>(<em>Click and zoom to enlarge</em>)...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Julie Rossman and Roxanne PalmerFri, 18 Apr 2014 10:00:00 -0400How some bugs are like bad Elvis impersonators<img src="" /></P><p class="p1">If you're an Elvis impersonator, your impression better be pretty spot-on if you want to avoid getting heckled by the audience. But if you're any one of a number of animals that mimic other species to survive, a poor impression can mean death. Thankfully, a new study suggests that nature can be pretty forgiving of an imperfect imitation.</p><p class="p1">Some animals defend themselves from predators through what biologists call Batesian mimicry: they take on the appearance of another prey species that's poisonous, dangerous in some other way, or just plain unpalatable. Predators avoid the model species for good...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/matt-soniak" ><span class="byline">Matt Soniak</span></a>Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:31:00 -0400Massive asteroid may have kickstarted the movement of continents<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Conversation<br /></p><p>Earth was still a violent place shortly after life began, with regular impactors arriving from space. For the first time, scientists have modeled the effects of one such violent event &mdash; the strike of a giant asteroid. The effects were so catastrophic that, along with the large earthquakes and tsunamis it created, this asteroid may have also set continents into motion.</p><p>The asteroid to blame for this event would have been at least 37km in diameter, which is roughly four times the size of the asteroid that is alleged to have caused the death of dinosaurs. It would have hit the surface of...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Akshat RathiThu, 17 Apr 2014 07:12:00 -0400Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science<img src="" /></P><p>If you are constantly running late or finding yourself behind on deadline, admit it: You're a procrastinator.</p><p>And you're not alone. A study in <em>Psychological Bulletin</em> by University of Calgary professor Piers Steel showed that the percentage of chronic procrastinators has grown from about 5 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2007. (Other researchers have put more recent numbers at around 20 percent, but it&rsquo;s clear the problem is on the rise.)</p><p>So what's going on?</p><p>Part of the reason may have to do with technology, Steel hypothesized. There&rsquo;s so much to do online, and so many different...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/michelle-castillo" ><span class="byline">Michelle Castillo</span></a>Wed, 16 Apr 2014 06:21:00 -0400Conservationists are murdering invasive fish to save the Caribbean. It might be backfiring.<img src="" /></P><p>With their zebra-esque stripes and fluttering spines, the lionfish looks pretty in an aquarium tank. But let them loose in the Atlantic Ocean, and things can get pretty ugly.</p><p>The fish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but were accidentally introduced to this side of the globe a few decades ago. They've since established themselves around the southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Here, they wreak havoc, decimating native fish (including commercially important species like snapper and grouper) and upsetting local ecosystems. In just a few years, their numbers in some areas...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/matt-soniak" ><span class="byline">Matt Soniak</span></a>Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:12:00 -0400