Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Strange but true: The sand dunes we can't get on Earth

Wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars mimic water-caused ones on Earth. Photo / Nasa
Wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars mimic water-caused ones on Earth. Photo / Nasa

The sand dunes we can't get on Earth

Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere have provided new clues about its history. Six months ago, Nasa's Curiosity Mars rover made the first up-close study of active sand dunes at the Bagnold Dunes on Mars' Mount Sharp. The researchers concluded that the metre-scale ripples are made by Martian wind dragging sand the same way water drags sand particles on Earth.

What pigs can tell us with grunts

We might think it only the language of middle-aged, couch-bound human males, but grunts are also a complex form of communication between pigs. UK researchers have found pigs' grunts vary depending on their personality and can convey information about their welfare. Pigs with more proactive personality types produced grunts at a higher rate, while male pigs kept in lower-quality conditions made fewer grunts compared with those housed in more comfortable environments.

How humans are creating new species

Species across the world are rapidly going extinct due to human activities, but humans are also causing rapid evolution and the emergence of new species. A study by Danish scientists summarises the causes of "human-made speciation" - which can occur through mechanisms such as accidental introductions, domestication of animals and crops, unnatural selection due to hunting, or the emergence of novel ecosystems such as the urban environment. One example included a subterranean sub-population of the common house mosquito, which adapted to the environment of London's underground railway system in London and can no longer interbreed with its above-ground counterpart.

Altered brain waves: another reason not to text and drive

Flicking off a text messages on a smartphone can change the rhythm of brain waves, according to a new study published in Epilepsy & Behavior. Over 16 months, Mayo Clinic researcher William Tatum studied the brain waves of 129 people, using a combination of video footage and electroencephalograms (EEGs). He found a unique "texting rhythm" in around one in five patients who were using their smartphone to text message. "There is now a biological reason why people shouldn't text and drive - texting can change brain waves," he said.

Your make-up can make others jealous

Men think women wearing make-up are more "prestigious", while women think women who wear make-up are more "dominant", according to a UK psychology study. "While both sexes agree that women with make-up look more attractive, when it comes to 'high status' it really depends on who is looking," said Dr Viktoria Mileva of the University of Stirling.

Research suggests high status can be gained through appearing dominant or by displaying qualities that make others want to follow you. "We did some follow-up studies as to why women might feel that women with make-up are perceived as more dominant, and it looks like it might be related to jealousy and threat potential."

- NZ Herald

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