The YouTube promo for Zhen de Shou weight-loss capsules is farcical: The camera slowly pans across photos of depressed overweight girls becoming euphorically thin and warns, "Beware of cheap imitations." But the ad hides a real danger. According to recent tests by the Food and Drug Administration, Zhen de Shou and 68 other weight-loss supplements manufactured in the U.S. and abroad contain undeclared pharmaceuticals. That means millions of Americans popping over-the-counter diet pills might also be unwittingly ingesting medication at potentially deadly doses.
Members of the Zosteropidae family are not birds of a feather. White-eyes, sparrow-like songbirds, are the fastest-evolving bird on record. According to a recent genetic analysis of several dozen subspecies by Chris Filardi, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 80 species have emerged in the past two million years. Among vertebrates, only the cichlid fish evolves faster, probably due to abrupt changes in its geographically confined habitat, a common catalyst for speciation. But white-eyes populate three continents, so Filardi suspects that sexual selection and social behavior drives the birds' speedy diversification, which includes changing plumage and songs.
Snakes can slither through tight spaces, swim across lakes, scale trees, and even glide through the air. Their mechanical doubles won't be flying anytime soon, but thanks to technological leaps in climbing ability, snakebots could soon tackle a few notoriously dangerous jobs.
With cop cars disappearing from his rearview mirror and an open road ahead, a fugitive thinks he's in the clear—until his car comes to a sudden halt. A sheriff, hiding in the bushes, has activated a road trap that sprung a ball of straps into the car's undercarriage, immobilizing its drive shaft and axles.
In a few years, doctors won’t need to fill the bodies of gastrointestinal-cancer patients with chemotherapy drugs that also kill off normal tissue. Instead, patients will swallow an electronic pill that finds its way to a tumor, dispenses drugs onto it—and only it—and then passes harmlessly from the body. That’s the promise of the iPill, an ingestible capsule being developed by the electronics giant Philips.
If it looks like a duck and flies like a duck, it must take off like a duck. Paleontologists long speculated that this was the case for pterosaurs, but new research shows that the prehistoric winged lizards employed a smarter launch strategy, using all four limbs to hop, skip, and jump their way into flight, instead of pushing off with two legs and flapping their wings as most birds do.
By Andrew RosenblumPosted 03.17.2009 at 10:16 am 2 Comments
In 2005, IBM's $2-million BlueGene supercomputer took 80 minutes to process the same data that eight million cerebral-cortex neurons—a fraction of the brain's total—handle in one second. Now bioengineer Kwabena Boahen of Stanford University has built a microchip that could help computers catch up.
The first vessel devoted to oceanic exploration could uncover hidden resources
By Mark SchropePosted 03.13.2009 at 12:12 pm 4 Comments
Boldly going where no man has gone before doesn’t take a spaceship—just a big boat and powerful sonar equipment. We know the altitude of every mountain and canyon on Mars, but 95 percent of the world’s oceans—including huge swaths of submerged land that the U.S. claims as sovereign territory—remain totally unexplored.
By Danny FreedmanPosted 01.28.2009 at 11:57 am 8 Comments
A Funnel For Sunlight
Solar panels convert the most light into electricity when the sun shines directly on them, but as soon as it wanes, so does efficiency. A new antireflective film coating could help panels collect sunshine at 96 percent efficiency from nearly any angle. Developed by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the film consists of seven layers of nanoscopic silicon and titanium-oxide rods arranged in increasing densities, with the topmost nearly as porous as air.