Authenticity is an important trait, and zebrafish take it especially seriously. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering discovered that zebrafish engage more with 3D-moving robotic models of themselves than with other stimuli.
The team, headed by Maurizio Porfiri, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, devised the controllable, customizable robotic platform to help researchers more accurately study freshwater fish behavior. Like a puppet master, the robotic platform maneuvers biologically inspired 3D-printed replicas to mimic the swimming patterns of real fish.
Zebrafish are highly versatile and increasingly taking the place of more complex animals in behavioral studies. Understanding their social behavior may help researchers explore mechanisms behind human disorders like anxiety, addiction, autism, and schizophrenia.
For this test, Porfiri and his team introduced the live zebrafish in the middle section of a three-compartment experimental tank with the robotic fish and an empty section on either side. The researchers contrasted the response of live fish to the 3D-moving replica, a 2D-moving replica, a static replica, a transparent replica, and a non-moving rod.
Their findings showed that fish were attracted to a robot that mimicked both the appearance and the motion of real fish, and this attraction was lost when either differed.
"The fish, when presented with the choice between a static robot and one that was moving in 3D and beating its tail, preferred to spend time with the latter. This clarifies the important role motion plays in influencing zebrafish behavior," said Porfiri. "These experiments also significantly refined the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects."
The research team includes NYU Tandon researchers Tommaso Ruberto and Daniele Neri, doctoral student Violet Mwaffo, and undergraduate student Sukhgewanpreet Singh.
In 1923, Edwin Hubble showed that the universe was far larger than expected by discovering that what we thought were swirls of gas on the edge of our own galaxy were actually galaxies in their own right: lonely “island universes” we could spot across an empty sea of black. That led to a comforting thought – we now know that even the darkest patch of sky, when seen through the telescope named after Hubble, is dotted with clumps of luminous stuff like our Milky Way.
But there’s another view of the universe, like the horror cliché of flipping an image to its photonegative. Since 1981, when astronomers found a vacant expanse called the Boötes void, we’ve also known that the universe has holes of cold, dark, lonely nothing that are larger than anyone expected. To truly understand the universe, we may have to gaze into the abyss.
A study of hundreds of new genomes from across the globe has yielded insights into modern genetic diversity and ancient population dynamics, including compelling evidence that essentially all non-Africans today descend from a single migration out of Africa.
What makes us different from all these things? What makes us different is the particulars of our history, which gives us our notions of purpose and goals. That's a long way of saying when we have the box on the desk that thinks as well as any brain does, the thing it doesn't have, intrinsically, is the goals and purposes that we have. Those are defined by our particulars—our particular biology, our particular psychology, our particular cultural history.
The thing we have to think about as we think about the future of these things is the goals. That's what humans contribute, that's what our civilization contributes—execution of those goals; that's what we can increasingly automate. We've been automating it for thousands of years. We will succeed in having very good automation of those goals. I've spent some significant part of my life building technology to essentially go from a human concept of a goal to something that gets done in the world.
There are many questions that come from this. For example, we've got these great AIs and they're able to execute goals, how do we tell them what to do?...
STEPHEN WOLFRAM, distinguished scientist, inventor, author, and business leader, is Founder & CEO, Wolfram Research; Creator, Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha & the Wolfram Language; Author, A New Kind of Science. Stephen Wolfram's Edge Bio Page
A team of researchers from Madrid is developing a thermal energy storage system that uses molten silicon to store up to 10 times more energy than existing thermal storage options and could form the basis for a new generation of low-cost solar thermal stations to store solar energy in urban centers.
About 71% of the Earth is covered in water. Most of that is in oceans, rivers, and lakes, but some is frozen in the Earth's two ice sheets. Those ice sheets, which cover most of Greenland and Antarctica, only contain 2% of the world's total water supply, but a whopping 70% of the Earth's fresh water.
Scientists estimate that if the Antarctic Ice Sheet—the larger of the two—melted, sea level would rise by around 60 meters (200 feet). Not only that, but it could affect the weather: a study showed that less sea ice in the Arctic causes rainier summers in western Europe, and another study suggests that it's causing more extreme heat waves in the United States and elsewhere. And counterintuitively, melting ice also causes more melting ice.
A 2016 study found that a shrinking in the Greenland Ice Sheet causes what are known as "blocking events," where high-pressure systems park themselves on top of one area for days or even weeks. This brings warm, moist air that heats the surface below and causes even more ice to melt. Explore the relationship between polar ice and climate change in the videos below.
Bumblebees can learn to pull strings for food and pass on the ability to a colony, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Pulling strings to obtain food is an experiment often used to test the intelligence of apes and birds, but it is the first time this technique has been discovered in an insect. Moreover the cultural spread of such a technique from a single informed individual has also been described for the first time in an invertebrate animal.
The results, published in PLOS Biology, show that rare innovator bees were able to solve the problem of pulling the string to reach a sugar water reward by themselves while most others could learn to pull the string when trained.
Naïve bees were then able to learn the task by observing a trained demonstrator bee while this skill was passed down through several generations of learners, ensuring its longevity in the population.
Dr Sylvain Alem, lead author of the study, said: "We found that when the appropriate social and ecological conditions are present, culture can be mediated by the use of a combination of simple forms of learning. Thus, cultural transmission does not require the high cognitive sophistication specific to humans, nor is it a distinctive feature of humans."
Scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory claim to have produced one of the most usable of all chemicals - ethanol - in a process conducted at room temperature that effectively reverses the combustion process
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