World's Possibly Lightest Material; Robot Swim Expedition

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Discovered: swimming robots, dandelion light material, antibiotics aren't a cure-all, the better ways to wake up, and three's a trend for declining birth rates.

  • U.C. Irvine researchers say they've made the world's 'lightest material.' That's it pictured above, sitting on a wispy dandelion. A "material that consists of 99.99 percent air by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales," according to the university's news release. The claim, however, doesn't appear to be verified. In The Los Angeles Times write-up, the newspaper covers the bases by noting that it's been published in the journal Science and "no one has asked them to run a correction yet." We searched the Guinness Book of World Records, and it doesn't appear as if they have a category for "lightest material" or variation of it. Still, even if the lofty claim doesn't seem technically official, placing that metal lattice on the dandelion makes for an excellent illustration of their accomplishment. [The Los Angeles Times, UC Irvine]
  • The way to wake up better in the morning: don't hit snooze or watch TV/Netflix before bed.  That's helpful: the two things that people usually do right before going to sleep and right before really waking up are the exact things that the New York Times says that research-based sleep experts say that you shouldn't do. Why not?  The newspaper cites a sleep medicine expert saying that your glowing screen takes a more direct route in your brain: "While most sensory information is 'processed' by the thalamus before being sent on its way ... light goes directly to the circadian system." And the snooze? "Hit yourself with light" in the morning instead, which seems very unpleasant. [The New York Times]
  • Three's a trend: declining birth rates in '08, '09, '10.  For the past two years, the Associated Press informs us, experts have been "suspicious" that economic uncertainty had something to do with declining birth rates. No longer. "With the 2010 figures, suspicion has turned into certainty." Ok, but there's also a trend that just began this year, with experts similarly suspicious, but without an answer yet: "the rate of cesarean sections stopped going up for the first time since 1996." [Associated Press]
  • Even though you feel awful, antibiotics may not be the answer. Even though dragging yourself to the doctor's office and demanding a prescription for anything feels like the right thing to do, it isn't, for most coughs and colds at least. The BBC relays that this misconception has tripped up more than a few Brits, too, where nearly a "quarter of people wrongly believe antibiotics work on most coughs and colds." Unfortunately, antibiotics makers are also having a problem developing new drugs to fight against the things they're effective at: bacterial infections. [BBC News]
  • Godspeed, submersible robot swimmers trekking across the Pacific ocean.  Wave Gliders, a type of privately-funded robot that looks like a bulky surfboard with a solar cells, set sail yesterday on a 60,000 km trek from San Francisco to, eventually, Japan and Australia, reports science magazine IEEE Spectrum. The goal, says the proud company, Liquid Robotics, is to “push the boundaries of science," which sounds like a "why not?" reason as good as any. And, naturally, there's Guinness world record for "longest unmanned ocean voyage" at stake. Spectrum has the video of the send off speech by the company's VP of operations, where he referenced the gods Neptune and Aeolus (the wind god) as they're about to set off. [IEEE Spectrum]

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