News for Nerds - Pinocchio Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 12/7/2012 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - Pinocchio Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we talk dinosaurs, gorillas, and swimming robots. But first: here are your headlines.

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If you want to know whether someone is lying to you, just measure their nose. No, not the length. The temperature.

Researchers at the University of Grenada have discovered that when we lie, a brain element called the insula activates, thus increasing the temperature in our noses and, for some reason, the muscles of the inner eye. (The process, of course, is being called the Pinocchio Effect.) Thermal imaging cameras, which were originally developed way back in WWII, can then produce an image known as a thermogram, which plainly shows which parts of the body are emitting more radiation -- and therefore more heat.

The insula is believed to control emotion and body temperature in humans, but honestly, we don't understand very much about how it works. What we do know, however, is that it appears to heat up our noses when we lie, and also that it can cool or heat various parts of the face depending on our levels of mental exertion and/or anxiety. Pretty cool.

- from

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You've heard of astronauts and cosmonauts. But did you hear about the Spidernaut?

A Johnson Jumping Spider named Neffi managed to survive 100 days in the harsh, unforgiving environment of outer space. Four days in Washington, D.C., unfortunately, was enough to make Neffi kick the bucket.

It's fair to say that Neffi lived a richer life than most arachnids. As one official puts it, "She traveled from Arizona to Colorado and then to Japan, then into a rocket to the space station, where she was basically starved after about 55 days, then comes back in a SpaceX Dragon capsule into the Pacific, then back to Long Beach, back to Colorado and then to the Smithsonian."

The reason for all of this comes from the NASA-sponsored YouTube Space Lab competition in which two student-proposed studies were selected from thousands submitted worldwide by video. An Egyptian student suggested examining whether a spider normally dependent on gravity for catching its meals would be able to adapt, and eat, in a micro-gravity environment.

Neffi is actually one of many animals to contribute to our growing body of knowledge on space science. From fruit flies to dogs to monkeys to a Horsfield tortoise, there's a fairly long, storied -- and fatal -- list of animals that have experienced the magic of space flight. It might not always end happily, but every endeavor helps us learn more and push ourselves farther in the exploration of the human body and the great unknowns of deep space.

And now, here's a video of a cat in zero gravity:

- story from The Boulder Daily Camera

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And here are a few other fun science stories you might enjoy:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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