Face it: Looks can kill—and also give away lovers' intentions
British researchers confirm what both sexes have always suspected: Men generally prefer flings to romance, whereas women are searching for true (long-term) love. But they add a new wrinkle to the equation. You can be tipped off to a potential mate's intentions by their facial features. Researchers report in Evolution & Human Behavior that they gave 700 volunteers composite images of men and women in their 20s who had previously been polled on their sexual attitudes. For each male or female image pair, subjects were asked to pick out the one they considered to be more attractive and more masculine or feminine as well as the person more inclined to have a one-night stand and the one to have a long-term relationship, and, finally, with whom they would prefer to have a relationship. The participants pointed out the more promiscuous person in a pair with more than 50 percent accuracy. The research team found that men preferred women who turned out to be those more open to short-term relationships; women, on the other hand, accurately identified—and often ruled out—studs on the prowl by their macho facial features, including a square jaw, small eyes and a larger nose. Sorry guys, scientists say they haven't quite nailed down exactly what facial features give away women of the one-night-stand variety…. (Newsweek, The Guardian)
Keyless car entry systems vulnerable to digital attack
PCs aren't the only high-tech devices vulnerable to security breaches. Researchers at Germany's Ruhr University Bochum recently described a way to hack one of the most popular radio-frequency identification (RFID)-based keyless entry systems in Europe and the U.S., an act that could give strangers access to any cars or buildings seemingly protected by the popular KEELOQ data encryption technology. A KEELOQ system includes active RFID transponders (typically embedded in a car key or key chain) and a receiver (embedded in the car door). Both the receiver and transponder use KEELOQ as an encryption method for securing the over-the-air communication. But researchers led by Christof Paar, a professor in the school's information sciences department, who were positioned about 325 feet (100 meters) away were able to poach data that could be used to unlock KEELOQ encryption after eavesdropping on wireless signals sent between a car and its handheld keyless entry system. Using this information, they were then able to clone the signals and gain entry to vehicles and buildings supposedly protected by KEELOQ's cipher.
Cars get smarter—Now how about their drivers?
A $79-million European road safety research initiative called PReVENT has developed a system that will read satellite navigation maps and warn drivers of upcoming hazards—sharp bends, dips and accident black spots—that may catch drivers off guard. In addition to the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that scans digital maps for the "speed profile" of the road ahead (based on the hazards detected), PReVENT projects include LATERAL SAFE (which uses sensors to scan blind spots on multilane roads); SAFELANE (designed to ensure that drivers stay in the correct lane); and INTERSAFE (a program that helps drivers negotiate intersections by, for example, having the car alert drivers when a light is about to turn red). The goal: create a single data interface that different car manufacturers can use so that all automobiles on the road can share information with one another and their surroundings.
Pet Project: World's most powerful laser fires up
Researchers have switched on the world's most powerful laser, capable of briefly recreating the conditions inside exploding stars. The Texas Petawatt Laser lived up to its name late last month by producing pulses of light, each with a power of one petawatt—that's one quadrillion watts, or 2,000 times the power output of all the power plants in the U.S. Although each laser pulse carried little total energy, it squeezed that energy into a span of less than one trillionth of a second. (Power, measured in watts, refers to energy delivered per unit of time.) Researchers say the laser will allow them to study controlled nuclear fusion as well as the behavior of matter in supernovae and failed stars known as brown dwarfs. (University of Texas at Austin)
Nuking it out: India–Pakistan nuclear war would cause global ozone depletion
If traditional rivals India and Pakistan were to nuke one another, the entire world would pay, says atmospheric scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Researchers ran three 10-year simulations to determine the potential fallout if the two south Asian nations were to lob each other's way their entire nuclear arsenals—the equivalent of 100 atomic bombs, each as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. Their findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA: fires triggered by the massive blasts in major cities such as New Delhi and Lahore would release five million metric tons of smoke and soot into the stratosphere—Earth's atmospheric layer above the troposphere. The soot would cause atmospheric chemical reactions resulting in nitrogen oxide pollution, which erodes the ozone layer, a gas that shields Earth from some of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The team predicts that atmospheric effects of such nuke strikes would eat up to 40 percent of the ozone layer over equatorial areas and as much as 70 percent over the polar regions—that's 10 times the ozone depletion caused by the use of chlorofluorocarbons (like the refrigerant Freon). As the ozone thins, it allows more UV rays to reach Earth's surface, increasing the risk of related ills, including cataracts and potentially deadly skin cancers. (The Times of India, Wired)
Fear factor: There's nothing to fear but … Genes?
New research shows that genes may be the root of some childhood angst, but that their influence wanes over time. Researchers report in the Archives of General Psychiatry that a study of 2,490 twins born in Sweden between 1985 and 1986 indicates that genetic factors may play a role in certain types of tyke terrors—such as those of the dark, the dentist, blood, closed spaces and animals—but that kids often shed them as they mature and their environments change. The not-so-good news: the researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond note they found evidence of "new sets of genetic risk factors 'coming on line' in early adolescence, late adolescence and early adulthood." (What a surprise to parents.)
Want to avoid biting into a poison apple? Washing it helps--Maybe
Your mom was right: You should wash all fruit and veggies to clear off pesticides and germs, because there's no question that it reduces the risk of coming down with a dreaded case of food poisoning. Alas, running them through water—and even chlorine disinfectants—may not be enough to rid them of certain infectious, disease-causing microbes such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella. The reason: the micro-critters can hide out inside the leaves of lettuce, spinach and other vegetables and fruit, where surface scrubs don't reach, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported at this week's national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans. In addition, they said, some germs can stitch themselves together to form protected communities called biofilms, which coat fruits and vegetables and shield bacteria from harm. USDA researchers reported that they injected E. coli and Salmonella directly into vegetables and tested various cleaning methods. They found that irradiation got rid of 99.9 percent of the microbes on romaine lettuce and spinach. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing this as a way to kill food pathogens that elude conventional cleaning. Critics, however, worry that it may destroy the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables and may trigger tumors in people who munch them.