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University of Bristol

  1. Scientists Use Sonic Lasso to Ensnare Microscopic Objects

    Vortices of any kind are cool, especially when they're small and harmless, as opposed to huge and deadly, à la tornadoes. Leave it to scientists, though, to find something ridiculously cool but on such a small scale that you can't even see it. See, for the first time, scholars have fashioned a lasso made of ultrasonic sounds that can ensnare and move around microscopic objects.

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  2. Prehistoric Farmers Made Cheese Back in 7,000 BCE, But Thankfully Not from Mammoth Milk

    No other food in the world induces such rabid hunger and adoration than the mere utterance of the divine dairy product otherwise known as cheese. Since time immemorial, everyone from the lowliest commoner to the most powerful of emperors indulged in the oftentimes smelly delicacy. Historians have debated the issue of the exact point in time in which man had taken to cheesemaking, some arguing that it happened as early as 8,000 BCE when prehistoric farmers began taming livestock. Others say it happened as late as 3,000 BCE. However, archeological findings in Poland suggests that cheese was made and prepared around 7,000 BCE, a bit farther up the time scale.

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  3. Giant Magma Balloon Raising Surface of Greek Islands

    Large swathes of the Greek island of Santorini are covered in pumice from an enormous volcanic explosion thousands of years ago, a major catastrophe of the ancient world. Lately, the volcanic archipelago has seen some more geological rumblings, starting with a series of small earthquakes a couple years ago that marked the first seismic activity seen on the island in more than a quarter of a century. It now appears those quakes brought along some company, in the form of an underground balloon of magma that may be as large as 20 million cubic meters -- so huge, it has raised the surface of the islands as much as 14 centimeters in some areas. Researchers with the University of Bristol published their findings -- like the fact that the idyllic coastline in the photo above may well be a little bit higher now -- this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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  4. Mathematical Model Reassures Us That Placebo Effect Is Still Awesome, Confusing

    We're getting better at understanding how our bodies and minds work every day, but one key factor binding both together remains a mystery. For all our new understanding of genetics, nanotechnology, and other new treatments, the placebo effect remains a mystery to us -- and a powerful one at that. Biology and mathematics researchers at the University of Bristol have published the results of a series of mathematical models that give some weight to the theory that the placebo effect is an evolutionary adaptation -- the result of our bodies' immune systems not running at full speed all the time to conserve energy.

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  5. New Research Suggests Vast Methane Reserves Under Antarctic Ice

    A new study of Antarctic ice suggests that the continent may be harboring enormous stores of methane just beneath surface layers of ice. Okay, has everybody made their fart jokes? Good. Moving on. The main ingredient of natural gas and a common byproduct of digestion in everything from cows to people to microorganisms, methane is the among the big bads of the greenhouse gas world. It's super effective at trapping heat, trapping more than 20 times as much heat in the atmosphere than its more well-known cousin, carbon dioxide. Research published in the journal Nature suggests that there are more than 4 billion metric tons of methane underneath Antarctica's ice sheets. If that ice melts, releasing the methane stored underneath, the resulting gasses could contribute significantly to climate change. It's like the rich getting richer, only with instead of money, you have a greenhouse gas, and instead of investing wisely, everything melts.

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  6. Research Group Tracks U.K. Mood Through Twitter, Confirms Everyone is Miserable

    While Twitter users mostly use the microblogging service to shoot back their thoughts on whatever they happen to be eating or marvel at the dadaist poetry of a spam bot, researchers can't seem to get enough of the service. For them, it's become an enormous trove of information about what people are thinking or feeling. One U.K. research group has found a strong correlation between major events and moods on Twitter, and suggests that this information could even be used to predict major events -- like the riots that rocked the U.K. last summer.

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