A Ton of Crap 

In order to cope with an excess of dung that comes with a large cattle population, New Zealand has decided to resort to somewhat extreme measures in order cope with this poopy problem. Plans have been made to import 11 species of Australian beetle in the hope that the creatures will be able to dramatically reduce the amount of manure left behind by the livestock.

Dung beetles can break down a mound of dung in just 48 hours by laying their eggs in dung, which becomes food for offspring and is eventually broken down into sawdust. There are also other uses for dung beetles other than just acting as poop removers – they can reduce the nutrients released into water systems which could otherwise destroy ecosystems.

Katie Henderson

Give Them a Hand 

Ambidextrous? Then you could be more easily influenced than a purely right-or left hander, a new study has suggested.

In an attempt to measure the effects of handedness on emotional stability, Dr Propper from Montclair State University in New Jersey recruited right handed and ambidextrous participants (left-handers were not used in the study, unfortunately) and attempted to influence their mood by asking them to think of happy, sad, or anxious thoughts whilst listening to various pieces of classical music. It was found that those who were ambidextrous were more likely to experience a new mood during the experiment, whereas right-handed people proved more resistant to mood changes.

Propper suggests that the findings are a result of ambidextrous individuals tending to have a larger corpus callosum, which allows greater communication between the brain hemispheres. The left hemisphere is supposedly meant to maintain a consistent world view, and the right is there to pick up things that aren’t quite right, therefore as a result of this increased communication you might be more likely to change your mind if you have greater access to the right hemisphere of the brain.

Did you know?: Over 90% of the population are right-handed, with the remaining 10% being made up of left-handers and ambidextrous individuals.

Katie Henderson

Mind Control…Even Better Than Cruise Control 

Watch out, chauffeurs and taxi drivers: a largely autonomous car, whose speed and direction can be controlled by thoughts, may be even worse for your profession than the current petrol prices. Engineers at the Free University of Berlin, led by Raul Rojas, have designed and built a car which is pretty much capable of driving itself: it uses laser radars, microwave radars and stereo cameras in order to detect objects up to 200 metres away, and in any direction. But the car can also interface with control systems, like an iPad or iPhone… or more interestingly, a brain.

It’s deceptively simple: the driver wears a sensor cap, which measures the brain’s electromagnetic signals. The cap is attached to a computer, which can be trained to recognize brain patterns, learning to associate two distinct brain patterns with directions for right or left. And there you have it, a mind controlled car!

There is a slight delay between the brain’s signal and the car carrying out the action, so the car is not road worthy yet. But the possibilities are encouraging: people with disabilities which prevent them from driving cars normally could drive with the aid of this technology.

The question is, will a world of avid Top Gear watchers really want to relinquish control?

Hilary Boden