Robot squirrel aids animal behavior study
April 4th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

Robot squirrel aids animal behavior study

This might sound a bit nutty, but U.S. researchers are using robot squirrels to learn more about how real ones interact with their main predator, rattlesnakes.

The lifelike robot, built by a team from the University of California, Davis, can replicate two behaviors squirrels display when confronted by a rattlesnake.

Research by the late Donald Owings, professor of psychology at UC Davis, observed that rather than scamper off squirrels would approach a snake "head-first in an elongated posture, making flagging movements with their tails."

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Filed under: News • On Earth
Super telescope will search for secrets of the universe
March 26th, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Super telescope will search for secrets of the universe

It's been billed as an astronomical equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider, offering new insights into the formation of the universe and so powerful that it might even detect alien life.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, one which will probe the dark heart of space shedding new light on dark matter, black holes, stars and galaxies.

"It will have a deep impact on the way we perceive our place in the universe and how we understand its history and its future," says Michiel van Haarlem, interim director general of the SKA project.

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Filed under: In Space • On Earth
Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships
The Navy is developing a Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) to help fight ship fires.
March 13th, 2012
03:17 PM ET

Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships

It might look like science fiction but the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hopes to turn this humanoid robot into a seafaring fact in an effort to improve firefighting capabilities on board military vessels.

Currently at the development stage, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (or SAFFiR for short) is intended to combat fires in the cramped conditions of a ship, saving lives and costly equipment.

Armed with cameras and a gas sensor, the battery-powered SAFFiR will be "capable of activating fire suppressors" and throwing "propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades," says the NRL.

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Filed under: On Earth • Robots
First gorilla genome map offers clues to human evolution
March 8th, 2012
01:34 PM ET

First gorilla genome map offers clues to human evolution

The first complete gorilla genome has been mapped by scientists giving fresh insights into our own origins.

Gorilla are the last of the genus of living great apes (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans) to have their DNA decoded, offering new perspectives on their evolution and biology.

"The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins around six to 10 million years ago," says Aylwyn Scally, postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge and lead author of the report.

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Filed under: Human ancestors • On Earth
July 18th, 2011
03:10 PM ET

Rare gibbon community found in Vietnam

(CNN) - The largest population of a "critically-endangered" gibbon species has been discovered in Vietnam, according to a leading conservation group.

A new census of the northern white-cheeked crested gibbon by Conservation International (CI) scientists has found a population of 455 - living in 130 groups - in Pu Mat National Park, in the north of the country.

The discovery represents over two-thirds of the total number of the species left in Vietnam, and is the "only confirmed viable-population of this species left worldwide," according to CI.

Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International says all of the world's 25 different gibbon species are under threat from extinction, but none more so than the white-cheeked gibbon.

"This is an extraordinarily significant find, and underscores the immense importance of protected areas in providing the last refuges for the region's decimated wildlife," Mittermeier said in a statement.

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