Science News

Birds living near airports are more prone to deafness

The birds that live around the airports show more aggression and chirp as if they have hearing problems. This is the discovery made by a group of researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University and the Institute of Biology of Leiden.

The researchers analyzed the Phylloscopus collybita, also known in Italian as luì piccolo, a small passerine bird. In particular, they analyzed populations living near Manchester airport and near Amsterdam Schiphol airport. According to the researchers, they could be suffering from deafness due to the high frequencies emitted by aircraft engine noises.

The researchers also made this connection on the basis of previous studies that had shown that different species of birds reported a variation in chirping in relation to the environmental noise of the areas in which they lived, for example urban areas or along roads.

They also noted higher aggression on the part of Phylloscopus collybita males who live near airports, which makes them consume much more energy than will be available for breeding or defending predators.

According to the researchers, more than 16,000 birds, belonging to more than 100 different species, suffer from hearing loss due to aircraft noise.

Science News

Laser scarecrows developed to scare birds and keep them away from the fields

Laser scarecrows to prevent birds from eating crops have been developed by a researcher from the University of Rhode Island. The same researcher has already tested it in various cultivated fields of the state and has ascertained the good level of yield compared to the classic scarecrows and above all compared to the propane cannons.

The laser emits green light, a color for which the birds are very sensitive, which automatically moves back and forth across the field scaring the birds even before they can reach the plants. It is made with relatively inexpensive LED lights and can also work with batteries. The latter can also be charged by solar panels.

Propane guns are effective but noisy, which, when cultivated fields are close to homes, can create problems. The laser scarecrows are instead completely silent while the beam they emit is not visible to humans in the light of the sun, as specified by Rebecca Brown, professor of plant sciences at the aforementioned university that invented the device.

This is not an absolute novelty: it is already for several years that lasers are used precisely to scare the birds but they are hardly used in agriculture as they are considered unsuitable, at least until the presentation of this new device; they are for example used in closed or partially closed environments such as stadiums or warehouses.

According to the researcher, the success of the device lies in the fact that the birds perceive the laser beam as a solid object from which it is necessary to stay away even if it has noticed that if the laser is fixed and does not move constantly, the birds tend to ignore it in the end. There are evidently biological-cerebral mechanisms that the researcher has not however analyzed given the fact that the device seems to work.

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Submerged shipyard of 8000 years ago found in England

A wooden structure dating back to the Stone Age has been analyzed by researchers from an English institute. The structure, almost intact, is 11 meters below the sea near the Isle of Wight, England, and had already been discovered in 2005.

However, several mysteries have enveloped this structure as the researchers, during the first years of analysis, failed to interpret the meaning of the platforms, walkways and various carved wooden structures found on the site, also because they were completely submerged.

The researchers of the Maritime Archaeological Trust have re-analyzed, also performing a 3D modeling, this 8000-year-old structure, the oldest stone-age wooden structure ever found in the United Kingdom, obtaining new interesting results.

8000 years ago, the area was dry land with lush vegetation. The researchers found that it is a platform composed of various wooden structures, often of different layers, resting on round wooden foundations arranged horizontally.

It is a wood processing so advanced that it was not thought to be connected to this era. The researchers believe it was a small shipyard for the construction of boats, certainly the oldest shipyard in the world ever identified.

Science News

Robotic worm can creep into the vascular pathways of the brain

A new kind of robotic worm was developed by a research group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study was published in Science Robotics.

This small robotic “worm” is structured to be able to slide through narrow and tortuous paths and the first thought goes right to the labyrinthine structure of the brain. According to the intentions of the same researchers, in fact, this microrobot, together with the already existing endovascular technologies, could be remotely guided to cross the brain vessels and to perform various medical actions, in particular for conditions such as those related to aneurysms and strokes.

As Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical and civil engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the research, explains, stroke is one of the most common diseases and one of the most deadly. It should be treated and treated immediately, possibly within the first 90 or 60 minutes from the appearance of the first symptoms, a stretch of time that Zhao himself defines as the so-called golden hour: “If we could design a device to reverse the blockage of blood vessels in this ‘golden hour’, we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. This is our hope,” reveals the researcher.

Currently, to eliminate blood clots in brain pathways, a complicated endovascular procedure is carried out accompanied by a surgical procedure that sees the insertion of a thin wire in the main artery, usually the one in the leg or groin.

These are naturally “passive” wires, to be handled manually and which can lead to various problems even during the operation itself, for example those procured by the material of which they are made, polymer-coated metal alloys that can damage body coatings.

The new robotic wire instead boasts a nickel-titanium alloy core, or “nitinol,” a material that can resume its original shape and is more flexible when it is wound through the narrow vascular pathways.

The robotic wire is coated with a particular hydrogel which, although it does not affect the reactivity of the magnetic particles it contains, allows the wire to take advantage of a smooth and friction-free surface as well as being biocompatible.

Furthermore, the same robotic wire can be modified so that it can supply drugs, for example those to reduce the clot, or it can be equipped with laser light.

Science News

Fusion of the Siberian permafrost will accelerate global warming

There is another environmental effect in progress will accelerate the greenhouse effect caused by humans: the release of organic matter from the Siberian permafrost.

This is the result of a team of Russian and US scientists who analyzed the composition of different layers of permafrost in eastern Siberia and published the results in a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Permafrost is a soil covered with a layer of ice that can be of varying thickness but never seen. More and more research in recent years is linking this specific type of land to ongoing global warming, as well as the melting of Arctic ice.

Unlike the ice in the Arctic, however, the consequences of the melting of permafrost, in particular the Siberian one which represents the largest example, are not yet completely clear. This research seeks to fill this void by realizing what can be considered the first ever study on organic matter that is contained in the deeper layers of permafrost. They analyzed the terrain of the Kolyma river basin, eastern Siberia, to understand what happened in the distant past during the thawing periods to then relate this information to today’s events. Analyzing soil samples at various depths and belonging to different geological ages, they examined various deposits, from the Pleistocene to the Holocene, relatively well-preserved samples.

The results are explained by Alexander Zherebker, a scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SKOLTECH) and one of the authors of the study together with other colleagues from Lomonosov State University in Moscow: “We have identified the components that have undergone the greatest change and those that are the most sensitive to the action of microorganisms. It emerged that the biodegradable components are present both at great depth and very close to the permafrost surface. According to our projections, the Arctic region will have a strong impact on global warming very soon.”