SciTech Briefs

Names proposed for newest elements

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has proposed two names for heavy elements 114 and 116, the most recent two additions to the periodic table of elements. The two proposed names are flerovium (with atomic symbol Fl) and livermorium (with atomic symbol Lv) for elements 114 and 116, respectively. The names must go through a five-month public approval period before becoming official. In the past 250 years, new elements have been added to the periodic table about once every two and a half years, according to Carnegie Mellon professor of chemistry Paul Karol, who chairs the IUPAC committee that recognizes new elements.

Source: The New York Times

Texting is so easy, a lion can do it

The research company Ground Lab has developed new collars for tracking the locations of lions in Kenya. The collars can send the GPS locations of lions to a central server which processes these locations and texts local herders whenever a lion gets too close to their livestock. The collars incorporate a GPS receiver and a cellular modem capable of making calls, sending an SMS message, or even accessing a mobile data network. The process of tracking animals normally utilizes satellite linkage technology, but the company claims the cell phone route is less expensive. They have only been used on 10 lions so far, though plans to expand the program are in place.

Source: Technology Review, CNN

World’s heaviest insect found

Researcher and adventurer Mark Moffet claimed last week to have discovered the heaviest known specimen of the giant weta, the largest insectsin the world, after a two-day search in the forests of Little Barrier Island, New Zealand. At 71 grams, the insect is heavier than three adult mice. Known as the wetapunga to the local Maori natives, the giant weta has been driven nearly to the brink of extinction by recently introduced rats and other mammals that feed on the insects, and can now only be spotted in the “little” islands of the country, like Little Barrier Island.

Source: Popular Science

Violent video games affect brain

Researchers from Indiana University have linked extended exposure to violent video games to changes in some brain regions associated with emotional control. The study observed less activation in the frontal regions of the brain in MRI scans of young men who played violent video games over the course of one week than in other participants who did not. “The affected brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior,” said Yang Wang of the IU department of radiology. Similar studies of this nature have been conducted before, but this is the first time scientists have found a direct correlation between playing violent video games and emotional controlling brain function.

Source: Science Daily

Mayans never said 2012 was ‘the end’

Experts on Mayan civilization are increasing their efforts to dispel the popular belief that the Mayans predicted that the end of the world would occur next year. A panel met at the archaeological site of Palenque in southern Mexico last week to emphasize that the so-called end day of Dec. 21, 2012 on the Mayan calendar is actually just the start of another long 5,125 year counting period (similar to the transition between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 for our 365-day counting period). “We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012,” said Erik Velasquez, a Mayan etchings expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “It’s a marketing fallacy.”

Source: Reuters, AP

Mars-bound rover to explore life

Curiosity, a car-sized rover developed by NASA, was propelled toward Mars by an unmanned rocket with a goal of analyzing the red planet. Launched just over a week ago, Curiosity is expected to touch down in August 2012, and its main mission will be to discover whether Mars currently has life or was ever capable of supporting it. The probe is equipped with 17 cameras and 10 different instruments that can analyze the Martian soil and identify elements in samples dug up by its drill-tipped arm. The rover, powered by a small nuclear generator, cost $2.5 billion to make.

Source: Reuters