Today in research: dogs can sniff out lung cancer, thermal imaging can be used to steal ATM pin numbers, a computer chip gets more brain-like, and an explanation of the brain-eating amoeba meme.
- There's nothing that man's best friend can't do. Even, it appears, identifying lung cancer. In the most widely-circulated finding of the day, CNN reports: "Researchers in Germany found that dogs were able to pick up on the scent of organic compounds linked to the presence of lung cancer in the human body, and that their keen sense of smell may be useful for the early detection of the disease." There's an obvious caveat named by the authors: "dogs cannot communicate the biochemistry of the scent of cancer." [CNN]
- Brain-eating amoeba don't sound quite as frightening after reading this. If you haven't heard of this brain-eating amoeba recently, well, that's nice. We, however, have learned that the extremely rare amoeba (found in warm pond-like waters) killed three people this week. It "burrows up into the skull and destroys brain tissue," relayed the AP. Countering the frenzy is Scientific American, which notes that the brain-eating amoeba isn't actually an amoeba and it doesn't seek out people: "They only infect us when we swim into their habitat and happen to bump into them nose-first." Still, when that happens it's lethal. [Scientific American]
- Coming soon in potential scams: thermal imaging at an ATM. University of California San Diego researchers conducted a case study with 21 volunteers keying in numbers like they would at an ATM on plastic and metal surfaces. A thermal camera found that plastic surfaces retained heat better than metal surfaces, which means scammers could theoretically see what numbers were pressed. "So far, the researchers say thermal imaging hasn't become widely adopted by criminals for PIN theft, particularly because this type of camera is expensive," relayed Geekosystem. [Wired UK, Geekosystem]
- Why we should care that scientists figured out how to extend the life of obese mice? Because we want to live longer too: the experiment demonstrates "for the first time the feasibility of designing novel molecules that are safe and effective in promoting longevity and preventing multiple age-related diseases in mammals," Dr. de Cabo, the lead researcher writes. The Times translates: It sustains "the flickering hope that human aging might somehow be decelerated." [The New York Times]
- Computers are becoming even more like us, thinking-wise at least. IBM has revealed a new brain-like computer chip that's described by Popular Science as a step "toward redefining computers as adaptable, holistic learning systems, rather than yes-or-no calculators." We've heard this before. But this breakthough is different because, as one IBM researcher explained, it "integrates memory with processors, and it is fundamentally massively parallel and distributed as well as event-driven, so it begins to rival the brain's function, power and space." [Popular Science]