Discovered: Gaydar is 80 percent real, today's forest fires are different than ancient ones, baby galaxies grow up too fast, and the success gene is real.
- Gaydar is 80 percent real. That makes it 20 percent fake and 80 percent prejudice, right? That's what this sounds like to us. No matter, science says it exists. When shown flashes of black and white photos for 50 milliseconds, some lie detection experts could tell if a face they saw for less than one second was of a gay person or of a straight one. "The world's best lie detection experts top out at around 80 percent accuracy," explains researcher Joshua Tabak. "Being at 80 percent accuracy on this type of judgment—just seeing a picture of a face in grayscale—that's pretty amazing." Besides that whole judging people thing, only the best experts got it 80 percent right. The average accuracy fell to around 57 percent, which is less impressive and even less real. [UsNews]
- Those Southwest fires were weirder than normal forest fires. Looking at trees, scientists have decided the fires ravaging that region are "unusual." The scars indicate fire unprecedented in that area's history -- even when the climate was hotter and dryer than it is today. "Many of our modern forests in central Arizona and New Mexico haven't had a fire of any kind on them in 130 or 140 years," explains researcher Christopher Roose. "That's very different from the records of the ancient forests. The longest they would have gone without fires was 40 or 50 years, and even that length of time would have been exceptional." And, yup, humans are to blame. "The U.S. would not be experiencing massive large-canopy-killing crown fires today if human activities had not begun to suppress the low-severity surface fires that were so common more than a century ago," he continues. [Southern Methodist University]
- Baby galaxies grow up so fast. Like all young ones, even stars seem to get there quicker than we'd like. "We have studied 10 galaxies in the early universe and analysed their light spectra. We are observing light from the galaxies that has been on a 10-12 billion year journey to Earth, so we see the galaxies as they were then," explains researcher Johan Fynbo. "Our expectation was that they would be relatively primitive and poor in heavier elements, but we discovered somewhat to our surprise that the gas in some of the galaxies and thus the stars in them had a very high content of heavier elements. The gas was just as enriched as our own sun," he continued. Until now, researchers thought it took billions of years for stars to mature. But just like kids these days, stars want to act and dress like they're 25 years old when they're barely pre-pubescent. [University of Copenhagen]
- The success and failure genes have arrived. Nature wins today. Looking at groups of twins, researchers found that identical twins shared more personality traits than non-identical twins, basically meaning that it's genes, not environment, that forms us. "Previously, the role of family and the environment around the home often dominated people's ideas about what affected psychological well-being. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics," explains researcher Timothy Bates. So, parents, just give up now. [University of Edinborough]