Discovered: hypercondoms are greening sex; children would rather befriend someone without a drawl; Maori cooking stones can tell us something about magnetic fields; DNA as Legos.
Sustainable hypercondoms. People who promote safe sex and sustainability are in a bit of a sticky situation. Of course they'll encourage sexually active people to put on a condom, but the thought of all that latex ending up in a landfill isn't very exciting. University of Washington researchers might help dissolve that dilemma by producing condoms that... er... dissolve. Their model of "hypercondom" would be made from electrically spun nanofabric that would dissolve after use. And these high-tech materials could even carry medication that helps kill STDs before they spread. [Grist]
Even kids have a problem with Southern accents. It's hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be friends with a person like Tami Taylor, but the 5- to 6-year-old children that University of Chicago researchers studied showed a significant aversion to Southern accents. Some of these children were from the South, and some were Yankees. The researchers showed them pictures of people paired with either a Southern or Northern accent. They found that Northern kids expressed a higher preference for being friends with Northern-accented people, while Southern kids showed no preference. The same response was found when they asked kids which type of accents sounded "nicer," "smarter," and "more in charge." [Scientific American]
What do Maori cooking stones have to say about the Earth's magnetism? Maori steam ovens can get pretty hot. By lining their cooking pits with hangi stones, they achieved temperatures of up to 1,100 Celsius. Gillian Turner of the Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand is studying these relics to better understand the Earth's magnetic fields. When they get that hot, the minerals in the stones realign themselves according to current field directions. "We have very good palaeomagnetic data from across the world recording field strength and direction — especially in the Northern Hemisphere," says Turner, who hopes the stones will help fill in the data set. "The southwest Pacific is the gap, and in order to complete global models, we're rather desperate for good, high-resolved data from our part of the world." [BBC]
Lego-shaped DNA. Geneticists are getting in touch with their inner child. Researchers from Harvard's Wyss Institute have turned DNA into tiny, three-dimensional bricks that can be reassembled into an almost endless number of objects. So, basically, DNA Legos. The scientists write that the technology could be used to, "arrange technologically relevant guest molecules into functional devices, to serve as programmable molecular probes and instruments for biological studies, to render spatial control for biosynthesis of useful products, to function as smart drug delivery particles, and to enable high-throughput nanofabrication of complex inorganic materials for electronics or photonics applications." [io9]
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