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University of Utah

  1. Depressing New Study Finds That Human Hands Evolved for Punching, Not Playing Flute or Giving Back Rubs

     

    As humans, one of the things that sets us apart from almost all other species on the planet is our sweet hand design, complete with opposable thumb that lets us do everything from input the Konami code to conduct a symphony. We're rightly proud of all the classy, technologically savvy things our hand allow us to do, so it's tempting  to think that they evolved the way they did to allow us access to these higher pursuits. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, though,  suggests that while our hands may have noble ambitions -- like playing a violin concerto, throwing a prefect spiral, or looking up cat videos on a tablet computer -- the evolution of the appendage was largely shaped by one of its most unpleasant, if historically common, uses -- making a fist and using it to whoop the ever-loving hell out of something.

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  2. Keep Watching The Skies: You Can Help Find Star Clusters In The Andromeda Galaxy

    We suspect a lot of you kind of enjoy looking at pictures of space on the Internet. That's a reasonable thing to enjoy, and if you do, we've got a project for you that's more enjoyable than whatever you're doing at work and also offers a helping hand to further scientific research. A group of astronomers from the University of Washington, University of Utah, and several other institutions wants your help identifying star clusters in the Andromeda galaxy in your spare time using their new database -- The Andromeda Project.

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  3. Doing It Wrong: Guineafowl Imported To Kill Ticks In Turkey May Spread Them Instead

    Importing a non-native species to help keep an undesired animal in check is...well, let's just say that calling it an inexact science is pretty generous. For the latest proof of this, one need look no further than the case of guineafowl in Turkey. The birds, which are native to Africa and about as big as a large chicken or small turkey, were brought to Turkey to stem the spread of ticks that can be carriers of Congo-Crimean hemmhoragic fever. One researcher, though, is suggesting that rather than eating the ticks as planned, the fowl may be acting as new vectors to help them spread.

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  4. Humans Live Longer So Grandmas Can Help Raise Future Generations

    Don't take this wrong, but humans tend to live a lot longer than they're actually needed, biologically speaking. Our longevity has puzzled researchers. We live decades longer than our closest primate cousins, and much of that long lifespan is outside of our prime childbearing years. New research from the University of Utah this week provides support for one theory to explain unexpected human longevity: It's because having grandmothers around is evolutionarily advantageous for future generations. Basically, the whole point of humans living longer is that your children are so terrible and uncontrollable that it takes a team spanning two generations of people just to keep them alive.

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  5. Prototype Controller Showcases Context-Sensitive Haptic Thumbsticks

    Remember the Rumble Pak? Funny to think that haptic feedback in a controller used to be a luxury and not the norm. Now, thankfully, it's included by default in almost every video game controller, yet we're still stick with plain old rumble. Controller-free systems like the Kinect even threaten that, but engineers at the University of Utah are still sweet on haptic, which is why they're trying to take it to the next level with a controller that emulates specific moments by manipulating little motorized thumbsticks inside your thumbsticks. Yo dawg.

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