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Road Salt Alters Butterfly Brains And Bodies

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butterfly saltIn the Northeast, as in many other places, this past winter was absolutely brutal. In February, the Boston Globe ran an article about how many areas were running out of road salt. It got so bad that price gouging became an issue, and some states turned to somewhat strange alternatives, like pickle juice. Ships carrying 50,000-65,000 tons of salt from Chile were heading up the coast as quickly as possible, but even those vast quantities weren’t enough for Mother Nature this time around. We dumped oodles of salt on the roadways this winter, and researchers are learning that it’s messing with animals, specifically butterflies.

You might not think that salt would be a problem, given that it’s naturally occurring, as opposed to the pesticides and chemicals we introduce into the ecosystem. It’s also true that butterflies like salt—they even drink crocodile and turtle tears. But the pursuit of salt is part of the insect’s way of life, and if humans deliver an excess of the stuff for the taking, it can actually end up messing with their physiologies, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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Human Speech Integrates Animal Sounds

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linguisticsI talk to my cat all the time, and much of the time she “talks” back. I’ve learned to identify her various meows — they sound different depending on whether she’s hungry, lonely, bored, irritated, frightened, etc. It always amazes me that a domestic creature can make all of those different, emotive sounds. Then there are dolphins and monkeys, who have languages that have evolved to express the range of more complex wants and needs they have. It makes sense, then, that humans may have learned some of their speech habits from animals, however unconsciously. Two MIT professors just published a paper in Frontiers in Psychology outlining something they call the “integration hypothesis,” which posits that human language systems have natural antecedents.

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Tiny 3D Projectors Allow You To Transmit Holograms From A Cell Phone

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Star WarsStar Wars continues to inspire real science. We’ve now got lightsabers, Skywalker-inspired bionic arms, and soon, we may be able to send a holographic message to Obi Wan via our smartphones.

California-based Ostendo Technologies Inc. has developed a projector so small that it fits into mobile phones, TVs, tablets, and even smart watches. It took the company nearly a decade to develop the Quantum Photonic Imager, a projector that consists of a single chipset the size of a Tic Tac that transmits a 3D hologram into the air via light-generating diodes. When chips are joined together, the projector will be able to transmit bigger and more complicated images. Ostendo’s chief executive envisions a time when all data sent and received by a person is in 3D.

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3D-Printed Dress Responds To Wearers’ Available Data

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x.poseWearable technology isn’t just for astronauts, scientists, or crime fighters these days. There are now 3D-printed dresses and other fashions, dresses that illuminate and shift around when someone’s looking at them, and dresses that become more transparent and revealing as the wearer becomes aroused. Technology may inhibit our ability to express ourselves in some ways, such in as face-to-face conversations, but hey, at least our clothing can help make up for it, right? Now, there’s a new 3D-printed dress that reveals more and more of the user’s skin, but not in response to arousal or others’ gazes. This new dress responds to the amount of information the wearer reveals via the internet and social media.

We’ve all been inundated with articles and warnings about the unprotected state of our personal information, but studies show that, while people care about their compromised privacy, it seems that most of us remain vulnerable to hacking and other forms of surveillance. While studies also show that younger folks are just as concerned about their privacy as older folks, I do wonder if the consequences of privacy violations are less real to younger users (as so many other consequences are), or if any of us can really grapple what it means to have our data harvested — particularly by our own government. One way to impress upon people the impact of having their data up for grabs is by creating something physical that can manifest those vulnerabilities, such as a dress that bears the wearer’s skin as the wearer bears information.

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James Cameron-Supported School Cutting Meat And Dairy From Lunches

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MUSEJames Cameron is famous for many things, movies and lawsuits most notable among them. But he is also involved with many other causes, especially education. His wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, founded the MUSE school in California, the goal of which can be summed up in a sentence: “Inspiring and preparing young people to live consciously with themselves, one another, and the planet.” Sounds pretty good. Cameron backs the school financially, and also participates in some of its programs, like when he brought elementary and middle school students to the Cameron ranch to see the Deepsea Challenger submarine, which once took Cameron to the lowest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench. Now both Camerons have set their sights on another area of the school, the lunches.

School lunches are straight up nasty, especially given the weak showing of the FDA, which believes ketchup is a vegetable. The food is also not particularly eco-friendly, which is part of why a bunch of schools have adopted the “Meatless Monday” program. Cutting out meat for even one day helps reduce environmental strains. But since the MUSE school’s mission involves sustainability and creates partnerships with green industries and organizations, they want to go a step further by cutting out all meat and dairy, becoming the first school to install a fully plant-based lunch program.

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Alamo Drafthouse Bans Google Glass

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glassI was in Michigan for the past week, and while driving in downtown Kalamazoo, I noticed that the old movie theater had been replaced by an Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater with tables and food and beverage service. It’s a fun idea, and I idly wondered how much business the new one would bring in, oblivious to what was brewing in Alamo Drafthouse management: the banning of Google Glass.

Yep, the smart glasses have taken yet another hit, although it makes more sense to ban them in a movie theater than it does to ban them in a bar. I mean, sure, people can still record movies with their phones and whatnot, but Glass makes it even easier to do that. The issue first came up earlier this year when a guy in Columbus, Ohio wore his prescription lens Google Glass to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I’m not sure why he wanted to see the movie in such great detail, but that’s beside the point, and apparently he had been wearing his Glass everywhere for the previous two months, including to that same theater twice. The guy turned Glasses off before the movie started, using them only for the prescription lenses. About an hour into the show, a man with a badge approached the guy’s seat, tore the Glasses off his face and then directed him outside, where a bunch of cops were waiting.