Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Levitating flies, smelly birds, leaping lizards and time cloaks

By AusSMC

Weird and wonderful science

Levitating flies
UK scientists have used a strong magnetic field to levitate flies in order to simulate the effects of weightlessness in space. The flies in the study walked more quickly and more often in ‘zero gravity’ compared with flies on Earth, confirming results from previous space missions. Understanding how gravity affects biological organisms is vital to the success of future space missions.
Source: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Smelly birds
For the first time researchers have shown that birds can use smell to recognise their relatives and avoid inbreeding with them. The study shows that even for birds, the sense of smell is more important than previously thought.
Source: Biology Letters

Left brain vs. right brain – how we process faces
Scientists have used computer images which resemble a human face to show that the left and right sides of the brain process faces differently. While the left side of our brain signals the extent to which an image looks like a face, the right side makes distinct judgments – ‘face’ or ‘not-face’. In essence, the left interprets images in ‘shades of grey’ while the right does so in ‘black and white’.
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Time cloak
US scientists have managed to create a ‘time cloak’ that makes an event temporarily undetectable. They have created a ‘hole in time’ for about 40 trillionths of a second (40 picoseconds) by speeding up and slowing down different parts of a light beam.
Source: Nature

Leaping lizards
US researchers report on lizards actively using their tails to control their body orientation when they leap. The researchers show that lizards control the swing of their tails, using sensory feedback, stabilising their body in the air. The work may provide inspiration for the next generation of manoeuvrable search-and-rescue robots. Images available.
Source: Nature