Discovered: The world's lightest material; babies understand more than we thought; even in the womb, identical twins aren't completely identical; superweeds are resistant to RoundUp.
Germans break the record for world's lightest material. By three-dimensionally interweaving tiny, porous carbon tubes, German scientists have succeeded in creating the world's lightest material. They call it "Aerographite," and it weighs 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter. This makes the material 75 times lighter than Styrofoam, yet it is still quite tensile and resilient. "Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And than take away the tree," says Rainer Adelung, a researcher from the University of Kiel. The scientists behind the project hope to find useful applications for Aerographite in lithium-ion batteries, which are crucial for environmentally friendly modes of transportation. [University of Kiel]
Babies understand more than googoo gaga. Infants are able to recognize speech patterns better than previously thought, according to psychologists at New York University. Starting around nine months, infants begin to distinguish speech from non-speech sounds in both humans and animals. The researchers had babies listen to recordings of a human female voice and a parrot. The infants reacted in ways which indicate that they are capable of separating simple words from various non-verbal noises like coughs or squawking. “This means that our recognition of speech is more refined at an earlier age than we’d thought,” says NYU researcher Athena Vouloumanos. [NYU]
RoundUp has met its match in superweeds. Why aren't common herbicides killing certain weeds? Scientists at Purdue University discovered that some plants have developed a resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's popular weed-killing spray RoundUp. According to weed scientists Bill Johnson and Steve Hallett and botany grad student Jessica Schafer, soil microbes determine to a great extent how glyphosate affects plants. This makes it difficult to study glyphosate resistance in a sterile lab setting, where soil microbes differ from real-world conditions. Johnson says, "Dirt is a living organism. It's important to know how all the pieces interact." More studies that consider how soil fungi affect root development will be needed to better understand glyphosate resistance. [Purdue]
Different ways of expressing the same genes. Identical twins aren't perfectly identical, even in the womb. A new study shows that even though identical twins share the same genetic makeup, they bear different chemical marks that influence the activity of those genes. In short, the have different epigenetic markers. Scientists have already known about these different markers, but this latest bit of research reveals that they originate in the womb, and aren't tied to environments or experiences. "These differing chemical tags may help explain why identical twins look slightly different," Science News reports. [Science News]