Archive for February, 2003

New Water-Repellant Material Mimics Lotus Leaves

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 27, 2003   View Article

The lotus leaf, better known as the water lily, is considered sacred in Asian religions for its ability to stay dry and clean. When water drops on the leaf, it beads up and rolls off the waxy surface, washing away dirt as it goes.

In religious circles, this characteristic makes the lotus leaf a symbol of purity. Scientists, too, have long praised the plant for its water-resistant and self-cleaning properties. For years they have tried to mimic its structure.

Antarctic Desert Rich With Insights Into Life on the Edge

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 26, 2003   View Article

When British polar explorer Robert F. Scott discovered Antarctica’s Taylor Valley in 1903 he described it as a “valley of the dead.”

“We have seen no living thing, not even a moss or a lichen,” he wrote in The Voyage of the Discovery, his book about the journey.

Ants Practice Nepotism, Study Finds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 26, 2003   View Article

The highly social and complex world of ants is not void of selfish acts. Worker ants of the species Formica fusca apparently can distinguish who their closest relatives are and kill their more distant relations.

“That workers capitalize on this ability simply means that the workers use the information they have to enhance their genetic contribution to future generations,” said Liselotte Sundström, an entomologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Leatherback Turtles Near Extinction, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 24, 2003   View Article

They are the longest-living marine species to ever ply the world’s oceans. They survived catastrophic asteroid impacts and outlived the dinosaurs. But the leatherback sea turtle, the largest turtle in the world, is on the brink of extinction, and scientists question whether the animal will survive into the next decade.

“Over the last 22 years their numbers have declined in excess of 95 percent,” said Larry Crowder, a marine scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Crowder detailed the plight of the turtle during last week’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, Colorado.

1.8-Million-Year-Old Hominid Jaw Found

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 20, 2003   View Article

Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge has yielded an impressive pile of fossilized bones and stone tools that may reshuffle the evolutionary tree of the early hominids and shed light on the behavior of some of human kind’s earliest ancestors.

The gorge is most noted for the abundant fossil discoveries of esteemed anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey from 1959 to 1976 which helped shape modern understanding of human origins.

Most People Kiss The Right Way, Study Finds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 12, 2003   View Article

It’s that time of the year when romance is in the air and people everywhere are planning where and when to plant the perfect kiss: after a candlelit dinner at a fine restaurant, during a waltz on the dance floor, or in the privacy of their own home.

But one thing lovers have little control over is how they’ll turn their heads when they go in for the kiss. Chances are they’ll turn their heads to the right, according to a German psychologist who observed the head-tilting preferences of 124 kissing couples.

New Technologies Emerge in Search for Alien Life

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 7, 2003   View Article

Does life exist on other planets? Seeking an answer, scientists are busy developing the next generation of tools that will examine atmospheric chemicals of Earth-like planets for signs of life.

For decades, scientists have searched the skies in vain for signs of extraterrestrial life. On April 8, 1960 Frank Drake, now Chairman of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, aimed a radio antenna a two nearby stars and listened for distant communications.

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