Struggling to recall big, boozy nights out isn't anything new - yet when it comes to what we learned immediately before that first drink, alcohol appears to have the opposite effect.

That's according to University of Exeter researchers who gave 88 social drinkers a word-learning task, before splitting them into two groups at random, and telling them to either drink as much as they liked, or to not touch a drop.

The next day, they all did the same task again - and those who had drunk alcohol remembered more of what they had learned.

"Our research not only showed that those who drank alcohol did better when repeating the word-learning task, but that this effect was stronger among those who drank more," study lead author Professor Celia Morgan said.

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"The causes of this effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks the learning of new information and therefore the brain has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory.

"The theory is that the hippocampus - the brain area really important in memory - switches to 'consolidating' memories, transferring from short into longer-term memory."

The effect noted by the researchers has been shown under laboratory conditions before, but this is the first study to test it in a natural setting, with people drinking in their homes.

There was also a second task which involved looking at images on a screen.

This task was completed once after the drinkers had drunk alcohol and again the following day, and the results did not reveal significant differences in memory performance post-drinking.

Naturally, the researchers stressed that the limited positive effect should be considered alongside the well-established negative effects of excessive alcohol on memory and mental and physical health.

Go-go gadget extendable arm

The vinebot is a tube of soft material that grows in one direction. Photo / L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
The vinebot is a tube of soft material that grows in one direction. Photo / L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

US scientists have unveiled one of the creepiest robots yet - but one that could prove itself a life-saver.

If rescuers were searching for people in the rubble of a collapsed building, they could place this bot at the entrance of the debris and watch as a tendril extended from it into the mass of stones and dirt, like a fast-climbing vine.

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A camera at the tip of the tendril would give the rescuers a view of the otherwise unreachable places beneath the rubble.

Inspired by natural organisms that cover distance by growing, such as vines, fungi and nerve cells, mechanical engineers at Stanford University have made a proof of concept of their soft, growing robot and have run it through some challenging tests.

These included moving through various obstacles, travelling toward a designated goal, and growing into a free-standing structure.

The robot could serve a wide range of purposes, particularly in the realms of search and rescue and medical devices, the researchers said.

It appeared as a tube of soft material folded inside itself, like an inside-out sock, that grew in one direction.

In the prototypes, the material was a thin, cheap plastic and the robot body everted when the scientists pumped pressurised air into the stationary end.

In other versions, fluid could replace the pressurised air.

What made the design extremely useful was that the design resulted in movement of the tip, without movement of the body.

"Essentially, we're trying to understand the fundamentals of this new approach to getting mobility or movement out of a mechanism," said Professor Allison Okamura, who has described the design in the journal Science Robotics.

"It's very, very different from the way that animals or people get around the world."

Is this the longest living animal in the world?

The tubeworm species Escarpia laminata. Photo / Chemo III project, BOEM and NOAA OER
The tubeworm species Escarpia laminata. Photo / Chemo III project, BOEM and NOAA OER

With a maximum lifespan stretching past a century, our species might seem one of the longest living on the planet.

But now US scientists say a strange creature living in the cold depths of the Gulf of Mexico might triple that.

Escarpia laminata, a type of tubeworm that lives in cold seeps found at depths of more than 3km in the gulf, live around 100 to 200 years, and in some cases, to the three-century mark.

Because so little is known about this species and its life history, Alanna
Durkin and her fellow researchers at Philadelphia's Temple University set out to estimate its lifespan.

The team also wanted to find out if it is was long-lived as other types of tubeworms living in cold seeps in shallower waters, collecting and marking 356 tubeworms at different locations in the gulf, and measuring how much these grew over the course of one year.

Durkin said the Escarpia laminata's extremely low death rate had helped it evolve a very long lifespan.

The results supported longevity theory, which stated that in the absence of any external threats, natural selection would select for individuals that showed signs of ageing more slowly, and could reproduce continually into their old age.

"At more than 250 years old, Escarpia laminata achieves a lifespan that exceeds other longevity records," Durkin said.

"Given the uncertainty associated with estimating the ages of the longest individuals, there may be large Escarpia laminata tubeworms alive in nature that live even longer."

The longest-lived land vertebrate ever recorded was a 177-year-old Galapagos giant tortoise, while bowhead whales of 211 have been recorded as the longest-lived mammal.

Durkin said the marine clam Arctica islandica remains the oldest non-colonial animal known - with an inferred age of 507.