News for Nerds - The DNA Fog Edition
- 6/14/2013 |
- 10:00 am
Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we learn some things we didn't know about dinosaurs, we check out some monster mosquitoes and crazy ants, and we explain why your intuition may be letting you down. But first, here are your headlines.
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As crime has become more sophisticated over the years, so too has crime prevention. You're probably familiar with the exploding dye packs that banks use to foil would-be robbers, and of course you can't even walk into most businesses these days without having more cameras pointed on you than a Kardashian.
But how about DNA Fog?
Here's how it works: An intruder breaks into your home, and instead of merely setting off an alarm, another device is triggered which fills the room with smoke. Hidden within that smoke are engineered, artificial gene sequences -- basically manufactured strands of DNA -- that act like bar codes. They can be made to glow under certain kinds of light, or they can be read by swabbing them and reading the sequence chemically.
This DNA Fog is invisible, but it will stay on the skin for about two weeks, and it's hard to wash out of clothing. If the culprit is arrested or is even suspected of the crime, police would swab them and read the sample using a process called polymerase chain reaction (or PCR, for short). PCR is simple, cheap, and effective enough to be used even by amateurs, and the DNA sequence can be altered so that any person or business could have their own code.
Criminals, beware. If the tripwire doesn't get you, the DNA Fog just might.
- from Discovery
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Evolution is a funny thing. Over time, the human body has undergone many changes, from our limbs to our foreheads. Our earliest ancestors might not even recognize us.
So what might humans look like 100,000 years from now? No one can know for sure, but a computational geneticist has teamed with an artist to give us one possible permutation. It's based on a variety of factors, including climate and technological advancements. And at first glance, it might freak you out a bit.
The most obvious thing you'll notice are the bugged-out eyes, which may also feature a sideways blink to better protect our eyes from cosmic rays. There is also a larger forehead, larger nostrils for easier breathing in off-planet environments, denser hair to contain heat loss, more pigmented skin to lessen the damage from harmful UV radiation, thicker eyelids, and a more pronounced superciliary arch to deal with the effects of low gravity.
Of course one factor that is hard to predict is how humans will dictate the changes we want to see in ourselves merely for vanity's sake. As genetic engineering becomes the norm, one researcher says that "the fate of the human race will be increasingly determined by human tastes."
And who knows what human tastes will be 40,000 (or 100,000) years from now. I'm the wrong person to ask. I'm still trying to wrap my head around why so many men are wearing skinny jeans.
- from Forbes
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Here are a few other cool science stories you might enjoy:
- This week marked the 20th anniversary of the film version of Jurassic Park. Time flies, huh? But our knowledge of dinosaurs has continued to change over time. Anyone want to see an orange T-Rex?
- Conventional wisdom holds that when taking a multiple choice test, your best bet is to go with your gut. But new research shows that might not be true after all.
- Watch out for bugs! Florida is reporting monster mosquitoes that are 20 times the size of normal bugs -- and aggressive. Not scary enough for you? How about 'crazy ants' that will invade your phone or laptop?
- And finally, check out this Rube Goldberg machine that shows you how a cow eats and poops. As blogger Dan Nosowitz says, make sure to stick around until it poops. You'll be glad you did.
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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!