The Science Behind an Airplane Meal’s Lackluster Flavor

airplane food

Don’t blame the airplane food — it’s your senses (or lack thereof) that make it taste so bland. (Photo credit: Alex Segre/Alamy)

Airline meals have long been maligned for their bland flavor and strange textures. It turns out that at least some of the blame lies in an airline passengers sense of taste. [Read more…]

Want to Prevent Algal Blooms? Toilet Train Birds

cormorants resting on a rock in a lake

While they may not be the sole cause, recent research shows that an increase in the population of cormorants on a lake in South Korea may have contributed to algal blooms.(Photo credit: EAGiven/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Algal blooms are a rapid increase in the population of algae in a body of water. They are characterized by their bright green color. While they can be an entirely natural phenomenon, algal blooms can be very harmful. They can deplete lakes of oxygen, produce toxins, and ultimately kill much of the aquatic life. [Read more…]

A Breath of Fresh Fructose?

naked mole rat

Described by some as looking like “bratwurst with teeth,” naked mole rats live in communities with social structures resembling beehives, are coldblooded like reptiles, and now are known to get energy from fructose, like a plant. (Photo credit: Ger Bosma/Alamy)

It’s difficult to find an odder animal than the naked mole rat (Heterosphalus glaber). A native of east African deserts, these mammals live more like bees, in complex, underground societies complete with a queen who gives birth to worker offspring who will never reproduce.  [Read more…]

The Secret’s in the Knots

brown recluse

A series of tiny knots make the silk of a brown recluse spider super strong. (Photo credit: Miles Boyer/Shutterstock)

Though most infamous for its deadly venomous bite, the brown recluse is also known for its unusual silk. Now researchers have discovered the secret behind the construction of this dangerous spider’s unique silk. [Read more…]

A Squirrel With A Sweet Tooth

red squirrel

Red squirrels have a penchant for maple syrup. (Photo credit: Nancy Rose/Flickr/Getty Images)

The maple syrup you use to pour on your pancakes probably comes from a bottle, but one resourceful rodent goes straight to the source when it wants a taste of something sweet.

[Read more…]

What’s That Smell?

corpse flower

The corpse flower can sure raise a stink. (Photo credit: Isabelle OHara/Shutterstock)

Its aroma is likened to that of decaying flesh or rotting meat. All who have gotten a whiff firsthand agree it’s a scent you won’t soon forget.  [Read more…]

Convinced Your Dog is Smart? You Might Be Right

guide dog

Humans have long recognized the alertness, trainability, and friendly temperament of many dog breeds and pressed them into service for such very personal tasks as serving as trusted guides for the visually impaired. New research out of Hungary shows that dogs may possess an even more beautiful mind the previously thought.(Photo credit: bobbymn/iStockphoto.com)

If you have a dog, you probably think yours is the smartest dog in the world. New research from Hungary just may prove you’re correct. [Read more…]

I Am Mouse, Hear Me Roar

mouse

Mice and many other rodents make ultrasonic sounds that they use to attract mates and defend territories. (Photo credit: Digital Zoo/Getty Images)

Stammering speech, or stuttering, has traditionally been thought to be an indication of anxiety or stress. A large amount of evidence, however, has long supported the idea that it must have some genetic component. For instance, identical twins often both stutter, as do other family members. In 2008, scientists at the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders identified that those who stuttered often had a mutation in the gene Gnptab. The discovery was particularly interesting, because, previously, the gene had only been believed to be related to “general housekeeping” of the body, such as digestion. How could a gene that affects every cell of the body cause something so mechanical as stuttering? [Read more…]

A “Sixth Sense”? It May Be in Your Genes

blind-folded woman

Scientists have discovered proteins responsible for proprioception. (Photo credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock)

As senses go, touch might be the least understood. While touch-associated maladies do exist, we don’t often read about sufferers from them. A team of researchers at the Scripps Research Institute spent decades looking into how organisms perceive changes in temperature and pressure. [Read more…]

This Antenna Has Teeth: The Psychic Sawfish

sawfish

The sawfish’s snout is an incredible tool. (Photo credit: TOM MCHUGH/Getty Images)

In cartoons, a sawfish could find itself being unwittingly plucked from the water to serve as a handy tool for any number of purposes. In reality, the long, sharp-toothed snouts of these shark relatives are found to be something much more than an appendage reminiscent of a handsaw. [Read more…]