For Kiwis, craft beer's an emotional thing

New Zealanders think micro-brewed beer isn't just any old beer but a deep and meaningful experience to be treasured, according to a new study exploring the emotional perceptions of beer.

Scientists from Plant and Food Research asked more than 200 Auckland beer enthusiasts for their thoughts on a variety of unlabelled beers - ranging from Tui IPA to Three Boys Wild Plum - and found patterns suggesting that the more dark, smoky or fruity a beer is, the more likely it'll be saved for a special treat or occasion rather than just cracked open after work.

Testing two sets of eight beers, they found consumers were able to characterise them by attitudinal, situational and emotional measures.

Familiar beers were deemed "ordinary", "simple" and "boring", while novel beers were "unusual", "intriguing", "complex" and for "special occasions".


Why Venus could have been Earth

If conditions had been just a little different an eon ago, there might be plentiful life on Venus and none on Earth.

The idea isn't so far-fetched, according to a hypothesis by US scientists and their colleagues, who published their thoughts on life-sustaining planets, the planets' histories and the possibility of finding more in the journal Astrobiology this month.

The researchers maintain that minor evolutionary changes could have altered the fates of Earth and Venus in ways that scientists may soon be able to model through observation of other solar systems, particularly ones in the process of forming.

They further suggest that habitable planets may lie outside the so-called "Goldilocks zone" in extrasolar systems, and that planets farther from or closer to their suns than Earth may harbour the conditions necessary for life.

If you're a wasp, it doesn't pay to lie

Paper wasps that send dishonest signals are aggressively punished, and the drubbing can have long-term impacts. Photo / Getty Images
Paper wasps that send dishonest signals are aggressively punished, and the drubbing can have long-term impacts. Photo / Getty Images

Is honesty really the best policy? Isn't it more beneficial to cheat, if you can get away with it?

A new study from the insect world provides a new perspective on honest communication by showing that paper wasps that send dishonest signals are aggressively punished, and the drubbing can have long-term impacts.

Paper wasps have variable black facial patterns that signal their fighting ability, much like little karate belts.

Those with more irregular black spots on their faces win more fights and are avoided by rivals, compared with wasps with fewer irregular black spots.

These facial signals help reduce the costs of conflict, ensuring that wimpy wasps don't waste time battling really strong rivals they are unlikely to beat.

The researchers found wasps that inaccurately signal high-fighting ability received more aggression than control wasps, something that slashed their juvenile hormone levels immediately after the contest.

Build muscles without going to the gym

US researchers have devised a way to develop bigger, stronger muscle fibres.

But instead of popping up on the biceps of a bodybuilder, these muscles grow on a tiny scaffold or "chip" moulded from a type of water-logged gel made from gelatin.

During normal embryonic development, skeletal muscles form when cells called myoblasts fuse to form muscle fibres, known as myotubes.

In past experiments, mouse myotubes have detached or delaminated from protein-coated plastic scaffolds after about one week and failed to thrive.

But in a new experiment, described this week in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers fabricated a gel scaffold from gelatin, a derivative of the naturally occurring muscle protein collagen, and achieved much better results.

After three weeks, many of the mouse myotubes were still adhering to these gelatin chips, and they were longer, wider and more developed as a result.

Researchers believe these new and improved "muscles-on-a-chip" could now be used to study human muscle development and disease, as well as provide a relevant testing ground for new potential drugs.

Learn much, you can, from Yoda's language

The structural oddity of the speech pattern of Star Wars character Master Yoda is probably one of the most instantly recognisable of all TV and film characters - even to those unfamiliar with the series.

Now, Chilean researcher Elaine Espindola thinks the structure of language in subtitles can add weight to the perception of a character on screen.

She compared the original spoken texts of Yoda to the written Portuguese subtitles by breaking each quote down and analysing where the theme of the quote - for example, fear or death - appeared in relation to the subject of the sentence; the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that performed the action in the sentence.

Yoda's speech idiosyncrasy was to commonly reverse the grammatical rule that the subject of the sentence came before the verb, and the object came after.

In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, for example, Yoda remarked "to fight this Lord Sidious, strong enough you are not" instead of "you are not strong enough to fight Lord Sidious".

She concluded that these elements in the spoken text and subtitles were central to the construal of the identity of the character by the viewer.