Science & Technology

Science news

For runners of road races, spring is a busy season. As temperatures rise, weekend racing ramps up — especially for those training for this month's Boston Marathon.

It's also crunch time for the sleuths sniffing out runners who cheat to get to that crown jewel of races.

Imagine you're a military officer in World War I. Armies have grown so large, you can no longer communicate just by the sound of your voice or the wave of your hand. You need to synchronize movements of troops and artillery, far and wide.

You need a wristwatch.

Someday in the future, NASA hopes to send a swarm of autonomous rovers to explore Mars. But, before they can do so, they need to create a computer code so that these robots can run on their own and work together. Some computer science students on the South Coast are among those across the nation who are working on code that could revolutionize space exploration.

Since 2010, the default avatar on Twitter has been an egg. The idea apparently was that a new user was like a gestating bird, soon to make its first tweet. It was designed to be playful and cute.

But over time, Twitter's eggs came to symbolize something different: users who remain shadowy on purpose, to harass their fellow tweeters.

Today, Twitter announced that it was doing away with the egg as its default avatar, opting instead for a nondescript person-shape figure. No more bright colors, either — the new avatar is all gray.

Sure, the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arrived just a little late for Manatee Appreciation Day — but it's unlikely the gentle finned blimp will be too upset about the belated gift: The announcement that the agency is removing the West Indian manatee from the list of endangered species is welcome, no matter when it arrives.

For the second consecutive year, Japanese whalers have returned to port after an Antarctic expedition with the carcasses of 333 whales. The five-ship fleet, put forth by the country's Fisheries Agency, killed the minke whales during a months-long voyage to southern waters for what it calls ecological research.

Don't be tricked by their appearance — fangblenny fish aren't just a cute face. They use special opioid-based venom to avoid being eaten.

The fish are 2 inches long and live in places such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef. When one is caught and swallowed up by a predator, the blenny literally bites its way out. The venom disorients the bigger fish, and the blenny escapes to freedom.

If you wanted a bag of Doritos from one of Brad Appelhans' experimental vending machines, you'd have to wait. The associate professor of preventative medicine at Rush University Medical Center designed a device that fits inside of vending machines and waits 25 seconds before releasing the typical processed snacks. But healthier fare — like peanuts or popcorn — drops instantly.

Bubba is a tortoise when he wakes up, and he remains one when he goes to sleep. But in between, it seems, he likes nothing better than chasing a ball around, looking for all the world like an excited puppy.

The terms of the next loan you get might depend less on your credit score and more on what a computer program thinks of your habits.

Digital lending is expected to double in size over the next three years, reaching nearly 10 percent of all loans in the U.S. and Europe. There are now some 2,000 digital startups, many of which are using artificial intelligence to analyze the troves of data created every day.

But government regulators are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

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