Katie Henderson gives us an overview of what’s been going on in the science world this month.

I, Robot

US scientists have developed technological devices that allow electronics to be used in the human body which dissolve away after their job is done.  The technology holds endless possibility for use in healing procedures, and has already been used to keep a wound clean by heating the affected area to get rid of any bacteria.

Made from silicon, magnesium oxide and wrapped in silk, the device is able to dissolve as a result of the silk’s properties. Silicon dissolves in water anyway, although nanomembranes of silicon have to be used to ensure that the silicon dissolves in the required time-frame (i.e. days to weeks, as opposed to years).

Suggested uses for the technology include controlling the release of drugs in the body, and there is even talk of applying the technology to mobile phones and computers to allow devices to melt away rather than leaving them to fill up landfill sites.


Blue M&M’s Win Bee Seal of Approval

Beekeepers in France were amazed (and rather confused) when last month, their bees began producing something very strange indeed – blue honey.

The cause of the colouring had beekeepers baffled – until it transpired that the bees had been consuming waste stemming from the production of M&Ms, which was being processed on behalf of Mars by a nearby biogas plant. Steps have now been taken to prevent the bees from consuming the waste, including containing the waste in airtight containers prior to processing and holding the waste for much shorter periods of time before processing.

Unfortunately, the blue honey is un-sellable. But I wonder how it would taste…?


Kawaii desu ne?

Rough day at Uni? Need to concentrate but don’t have any energy/are massively hungover/are too stressed to focus? Well, worry no more, sit back, and observe some pictures of cute little fluffy kittens, bunnies, or whatever takes your fancy!

Japanese scientists (in a study aptly titled “The Power of Kawaii”) have found that by staring at a picture of cute animals during breaks, this can improve concentration and dexterity for a short period of time. In their study, participants were split into two groups: one group were shown pictures of cute baby animals, the others were shown pictures of adult animals. The two groups were then asked to perform an Operation-style game, the results showing that those who had viewed the baby pictures displayed better dexterity and concentration, with a positive relationship being observed between cuteness level and performance.

Similarly, in another test with the same conditions but with a different task (counting how many times a number appeared in a string of numbers in addition to identifying a letter in a shape next to the string of numbers), the same pattern was observed: cute animal pictures = better performance than the adult animal group.

Scientists are still baffled as to how this “cuteness” phenomenon works exactly, but have suggested that the behaviour is an instinctual behavioural reflect – that humans are more likely to be more focused as they are in proximity of an animal that cannot care for itself. For now, however, regardless of the explanation, you may as well use this study to give yourself the perfect excuse that looking at cute bunnies and kitties will honestly, really help you with that monster of an essay you’ve been putting off for the past week.


Katie Henderson

Image by jpockele