Science

Ape Men, Invisible Lightning And Ships With Lasers

By Pierre Dumont , Apr 13, 2013 01:00 AM EDT
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This week's space, science and "living planet" news excited us ("NASA Reveals New Alien Life Search Satellite"), made us sad ("African Rhinos Under Attack By Poachers") and creeped us out/ made us laugh at the same time ("Boston Dynamics Robot Dons Hazmat Suit In Creepy Video"). Take a look at our top five picks from all three categories:

1. Computers Can See Your Dreams

Personally, I thought the closest we'd get to getting inside someone's dreams was with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, but it looks like we took another big step in dream exploration this week, thanks to research coming out of ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto. Using electroencephalograph machines, the researchers were able to correlate brain wave activity with specific dream images related by volunteers. The results were highly accurate. "While I don't think the findings are necessarily surprising at a theoretical level ... it represents a bit of a methodological breakthrough to be able to decode dreams in humans using noninvasive brain imaging techniques," Dr. Brice Kuhl of NYU's Department of Psychology told iTech Post.

2. Human Evolution Key Found In Half-Ape, Half-Human Ancestor

Wait, I thought Lucy was our shared ancestor? Remember, the ancient hominin discovered at Hadar in Ethiopia in 1974? Turns out we may have found a separate link in the human evolutionary chain, one that stretches back even further in time. Found in South Africa, "Australopithecus sediba" had the teeth of a human, the gait of a pigeon and liked to spend its time in trees. Looks like anthropologists may have to rewrite the books.

3. Radiation Bombards Plane Passengers Via 'Dark Lightning': How Dangerous Is it?

As if lightning weren't scary enough, how about lightning you can't see ... and that hits you in planes ... and is called "dark lightning?" That's apparently what we're dealing with here. Scientists have revealed that this certain type of lightning strikes passengers with gamma rays without their knowledge. The lightning flashes can blind satellite sensors, but are they dangerous to humans? Apparently not, Florida Institute of Technology physicist Joseph Dwyer claims. But it is surprising that this secret form of lightning has been under our noses. "I find it amazing that it took us two-and-a half centuries after Ben Franklin to find out that there is another kind of lightning inside thunderstorms," he said.

4. Liquid Robotics Wave Glider SV3 Brings The Cloud To The Waves

It takes a lot of space to store all the Internet servers that help our world run on a daily basis, so what happens when we run out? To mitigate this problem, scientists at Liquid Robotics have found a possible solution: put them in the ocean. Well, on top of the ocean anyway. Called the Wave Glider SV3, Liquid Robotics' device is a floating wireless data processing center capable of sailing across the ocean for months at a time. So even if the server goes down, that doesn't mean it has to stop moving.

5. Lasers Will Adorn Navy Ships In 2014

It's time for some frickin' lasers on some frickin' naval warships. At least, that's what the Navy thinks, according to a new plan whereby ships will include mounted lasers capable of destroying small boats and aerial vehicles by 2014. Having spent $40 million thus far on the project, the Navy expects such laser systems to be a major component of future fleets and is already deploying one laser ship to the Middle East. The laser gun went 12 for 12 in a test run last summer, taking out both drones and boats. "It operates much like a blowtorch ... with an unlimited magazine," one official said.

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