RealClearScience Quick and Clear Science

Brief and Straightforward Analysis of the Latest Research

A Simple, Upper-Body Exoskeleton Makes Carrying Things Much Easier

Ross Pomeroy - June 17, 2021

A trio of researchers based out of the Technical University of Munich and Technical University Darmstadt in Germany has engineered a soft, pneumatic exoskeleton that supports a wearer's elbows, thus making it much easier to carry heavy loads. John Nassour, Guoping Zhao, and Martin Grimmer described their invention and demonstrated its effectiveness in a new paper published to the journal Scientific Reports. "Carry", as the researchers dubbed their exoskeleton, consists of two pneumatic actuators that affix to a user's elbows, held in place by straps around the upper arm, upper chest,...

When Domestic Cats Eat Humans

Ross Pomeroy - June 10, 2021

(Warning: Graphic image below.) Most cat owners probably think their beloved pets adore them in return, and they may be right. Still, deep down, there's a nagging suspicion... "Does my cat want to eat me?" Maybe it's when they look at you and lick their lips, revealing their vampiric canines. Maybe it's when they spread out on one step of a precarious staircase, almost begging you to trip. Maybe it's when they sit on your lap and knead their claws into your supple skin, as if softening the meat... Maybe it's when – suddenly – they lash out with their claws, unprovoked, and draw...

Do Brain Differences Trigger Transgender Identity? The Science Isn't Clear

Ross Pomeroy - June 7, 2021

Somewhere between 0.5% and 1.3% of individuals identify as transgender, adopting a gender that does not match their sex at birth. Is this biologically determined or socially constructed? Or perhaps both nature and culture play a role? Brain scans could provide an answer. If genetics hold sway, we might expect to find clear-cut differences between the brains of transgender people and those of their cisgender peers. If social factors dominate, there might not be such a clear distinction. Over the last few years, scientists have begun to tackle this topic. In May, researchers from the University...

Study: Mammals Can 'Breathe' Through Their Butts

Ross Pomeroy - May 14, 2021

A team of scientists hailing from institutions across the United States and Japan has discovered that rodents and pigs can respirate via their intestines. It's possible they share this surprising ability with other mammals, even humans. The findings are published in the journal Med. Senior study author Takanori Takebe, of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and his colleagues were inspired to probe intestinal breathing in mammals after looking at loaches, bottom-dwelling, freshwater fish that make use of their hindguts to absorb extra...


What Scientists Learned From Iran's "Saltmen" Mummies

Ross Pomeroy - May 3, 2021

The Chehrābād salt mine is located near the village of Hamzelou in Northwestern Iran, but there hasn't been any actual mining there for more than a decade. That's because, starting in 1993, excavators began digging up mummies along with the usual salt crystals. Since then, remains of at least eight individuals have been unearthed. In 2009, the site was protected under Iranian Heritage laws. The mummies recovered at Chehrābād have subsequently been dubbed the "Chehrābād Saltmen", and have captured worldwide scientific attention, most recently from a team primarily composed of researchers...

A Young Man Drank Four Energy Drinks a Day. It Almost Killed Him.

Ross Pomeroy - April 23, 2021

Bang, C4, Monster, Wicked, Rockstar, Reign, Amp... The gaudy brand names of popular energy drinks radiate explosive excitement. But be careful, when consumed habitually in high amounts, these drinks could wreck your heart. A new case study published to BMJ Case Reports elucidates the danger. A 21-year-old man in the United Kingdom visited a London hospital after four months of experiencing shortness of breath during exertion and when lying down. He was also plagued by weight loss, migraines, and insomnia. Blood tests and internal scans soon revealed him to be in both kidney and heart failure....

What If Sweden Had Imposed a COVID-19 Lockdown?

Ross Pomeroy - April 12, 2021

It's been a little over a year since the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus began tearing across Europe, prompting almost all of the countries there to enter strict lockdowns with the hope of saving lives. Except for Sweden, of course... Rather than shutter businesses and issue stay-at-home orders, Swedish authorities instead advised citizens to adjust their behavior to slow the spread, aiming to reach herd immunity through gradual infection. As researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany recounted, "people were told “to avoid unnecessary traveling and social events, to keep...

The Size of Your Brain May Change With the Seasons

Ross Pomeroy - April 6, 2021

For people living in higher latitudes, distinct seasons are a fact of life. A verdant spring gives way to a hot and humid summer, which simmers to a picturesque fall filled with painted leaves, and finally leads to a cold, dark winter. According to a recent study published in PLoS ONE, these broad shifts in weather may also be paired with a curious change in brain size. Researchers primarily based out of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center and Yale University analyzed brain scans of 3,279 healthy adults aged 18-65 taken between August 2003 and October 2018. Subjects mostly hailed from...


How Did Empty Stadiums Affect Home-Field Advantage?

Ross Pomeroy - April 1, 2021

Home-field advantage, the benefit that a home team in a sporting contest enjoys over a visiting team, is one of the most well-known phenomena in sports. It's commonly thought that throngs of supporting fans at home-team venues significantly contribute to this effect. Of course, that explanation has always remained untested, until now... As the COVID-19 pandemic emptied stadiums around the globe, researchers stepped in to analyze the effects. In a new study published to PLoS ONE, researchers primarily based out of German Sport University Cologne explored what happened to home-field advantage...

"Neutrobots" Breach the Blood-Brain Barrier to Treat Brain Cancer in Mice

Ross Pomeroy - March 25, 2021

In one microscale step for machine, but a potentially significant leap for the treatment of brain cancer, researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have created controllable microrobots that can breach the blood-brain barrier and deliver cancer drugs to tumors in the brains of mice. They detailed their efforts in the journal Science Robotics. The blood-brain barrier is a layer of cells that prevents circulating blood and any potential pathogens in it from entering brain tissues. Though thin, it's nearly impenetrable. Normally, that's a good thing, but when the brain is...

Ankylosaurs May Have Been Decent Diggers

Ross Pomeroy - March 18, 2021

The Gobi Desert today is a desolate place, but millions of years ago it seems to have been brimming with life. The Baruungoyot Formation in southern Mongolia reveals as much. Scientists have unearthed a dazzling array of fossils – ancient mammals, lizards, and, of course, dinosaurs. It was here that a team of researchers primarily based out of Seoul National University and the University of Alberta found an amazingly well-preserved skeleton of an ankylosaur, in such good condition that the team could even tell that the animal died "in a 'resting posture', with both forelimbs and...

Young Adults Are Having Less Casual Sex. A New Study Found 3 Reasons Why

Ross Pomeroy - March 8, 2021

Young American adults are not as frisky as they used to be. Between 2000 and 2002, 18.9% of men aged 18 to 24 were sexually inactive. Between 2016 and 2018, that tally climbed to 30.9%. Over that same time period, the rate of sexual inactivity among young women grew from 15.1% to 19.1%. This new trend is neither inherently good nor bad. A decline in casual sex among young adults likely means fewer cases of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. On the other hand, the dearth could inhibit young adults' psychosocial development at a tender time. Plus, you know, less sex. In a...


How Atheists and Believers Differ in Their Morality

Ross Pomeroy - February 25, 2021

According to a 2020 Pew poll, 44% of Americans think that belief in God is necessary for morality. Is that really true? In a new study, University of Illinois-Chicago Assistant Professor of Psychology Tomas Ståhl sought to explore the differences between believers' and non-believers' senses of morality. His efforts were just published to the journal PLoS ONE. Ståhl conducted two surveys examining the moral values of 429 American atheists and theists. He subsequently carried out two additional surveys involving 4,193 atheists and theists from the U.S. and Sweden. From his extensive...

Will Quantum Computers Control Traffic?

Ross Pomeroy - February 11, 2021

A team of researchers from Toyota and the University of Tokyo used a quantum computer to control traffic signals in a simulated large city, finding that it was superior to currently-used methods at reducing traffic imbalance and maintaining smooth flow. The team's study is published in Nature's Scientific Reports. In futuristic cities, where satellites, cameras, and Internet-connected cars will permit widespread digitization of traffic data, there will be bountiful opportunities to streamline travel times and reduce accidents. But all of this constantly updating information poses a challenge...

Why Did the Pandemic Drive People to Purchase Tons of Toilet Paper?

Ross Pomeroy - February 2, 2021

Though hard to believe, it's been about a year since SARS-CoV-2 arose and rapidly spread around the world. Amidst the fear, doubt, and disease the virus fomented in its early days, it also drove a massive run on a somewhat surprising commodity: toilet paper. While other necessities suffered temporary shortages as well, toilet paper seemed to be uniquely affected, and it's disappearance widely heralded. News sources and social media lit up with photos of barren shelves that were brimming with bright white rolls of toilet paper just a few days before. A bustling re-sale market began outside of...

We Continue to Gradually Defeat Cancer

Ross Pomeroy - January 14, 2021

Cancer will not be vanquished in one fell swoop. No singular breakthrough will blare across television, smartphone, and computer screens signaling once-and-for-all victory, sending jubilant thousands into the streets to cheer the demise of one of humankind's greatest mortal foes. Instead, many small advances wrought by dedicated scientists building off prior research will gradually bring malignant tumors to heel. A recent example: researchers in Israel used CRISPR gene editing to destroy cancerous cells in mice without harming other cells, doubling the creatures' life expectancy compared to...


Curious Case of Reindeer Cannibalism May Have Led to Deadly Prion Disease

Ross Pomeroy - December 21, 2020

About four decades ago, reindeer in the high alpine Nordfjella region of Norway began to engage in a bizarre, new behavior: They would eat each other's antlers. Termed osteophagia, the act actually isn't all that rare amongst hoofed mammals. Animals have been known to gnaw on shed antlers to make up for mineral deficiencies in their diets. However, in this case, reindeer were eating antlers straight off their herdmates' heads! In 1984, surveys suggested that about 8% of Nordfjella reindeer showed signs of having their antlers gnawed. In 2009, that rate climbed to 72 percent. In a new survey...

Mask Wearing May Result in Less Social Distancing

Ross Pomeroy - December 10, 2020

Studies suggest that wearing face masks effectively slows the spread of the coronavirus, but according to French researchers at the University of Lille, it does somewhat backfire in a key respect. Face masks seem to lull people into a false sense of security, leading them to socially distance less. Since distancing is arguably much better than mask-wearing at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, the net positive effect of public mask-wearing could be being blunted, though it's difficult to gauge exactly how much. The researchers discerned the result from an Internet-based experiment with...

Do Pet Pigs Interact With Their Owners Like Dogs?

Ross Pomeroy - December 4, 2020

Dogs and pigs are surprisingly similar. Both are four-legged, social, and inarguably cute. Moreover, as omnivorous critters, their domestication storylines began with the same humble beginnings, lurking around human settlements eating leftover food. But while dogs ended up cuddling with humans near the campfire, pigs ended up roasting over it. Pork is now the most widely eaten meat in the world. At the same time, owing to the creation of novel, smaller breeds and the publication of studies attesting to their remarkable intelligence, pigs are increasingly living with people as pets. Amidst...

Why Do Some People Ignore Their Left Side?

Ross Pomeroy - November 30, 2020

A recent case report published to the journal BMJ Case Reports tells the story of a 75-year-old Japanese woman who was taken to Tokyo-West Tokushukai Hospital after a sudden and strange neurological episode: "Her son spoke to her and noticed that she was staring at her right side. He approached her from her left side and talked to her, but she did not seem to notice him as if she was ignoring him. In addition, the son also noticed that only the left half of the leeks laid out on the cutting board remained uncut. The right half of the leeks had already been cut and cooked in a pot of miso...