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2 June 2012 | NewScientist | 17 EVER blushed in an inappropriate situation, like when the doctor is listening to your heart? It turns out that the same regions of your face that redden during sexual stimulation also heat up, slightly, during innocent interactions. Amanda Hahn and colleagues at St Andrew’s University in Fife, UK, used a heat-sensitive camera to map small changes of temperature in the faces of young heterosexual women while an experimenter touched them with an instrument they were told was measuring skin colour (it wasn’t). Touching the palm or elbow had no effect, but contact with the cheek or top of the breastbone raised the temperature around the eyes, mouth and nose by 0.2 °C to 0.5 °C on average, and by a full degree in certain spots (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/ Mixed news for Martian life search AS ONE door closes, another opens. Carbon nuggets found in meteorites from Mars are not, after all, ancient alien microbes. But they do show that Mars has chemically active carbon, which would form an ideal nutrient source for life. Andrew Steele and colleagues at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC examined samples from 11 Martian meteorites using a method that determines the rock’s chemistry without destroying its structure. They found that the carbon nuggets formed when the rock cooled from magma (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1220715). Co-author Francis McCubbin, also at the Carnegie Institution, says the result is actually good news for astrobiologists. “The presence of [reactive] carbon near the Martian surface provides a potential nutrient source for putative life,” he says. An ocean in the most frozen reaches of our solar system NOMINATIVE determinism may apply even in the furthest corners of the solar system. Triton, a sea god of Greek mythology, lends his name to Neptune’s largest moon. A new calculation suggests the satellite does, indeed, harbour a liquid ocean. Triton is so far away from the sun that it is encased in ice, with surface temperatures of just -235 °C. But below that icy veneer may lurk a watery ocean, according to Saswata Hier-Majumder of the University of Maryland in College Park, and his student Jodi Gaeman. Unusually, Triton orbits Neptune backwards – moving NASA/JPL/SPL IN BRIEF Embarrassingly hot under the collar? rsbl.2012.0338). An earlier study found this area heats up in sexually aroused men. The female subjects reported few or no feelings of arousal or embarrassment, but their facial temperature rose more when the experimenter was a young male. “What is surprising is the magnitude,” says Hahn. She now hopes to determine whether we are aware of these subtle changes in others, and if they affect how we interact. in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation. Moons cannot form in these “retrograde” orbits, so Triton must have begun life elsewhere before Neptune captured it. Such captured bodies start in highly elongated orbits, but as they interact with their associated planet, Triton-sized worlds are quickly dragged into more circular orbits. The process releases energy, which should have heated Triton enough to briefly melt the whole moon. Its icy surface shows that most of Triton must have frozen again since then. But Hier-Majumder and Gaeman calculate that the frozen icy shell may actually have acted as an insulating blanket, slowing the loss of heat from Triton’s interior and ensuring that it retains an ammonia- tainted watery ocean (Icarus, DOI: 10.1016/j. icarus.2012.05.006). AFTER overindulging in berries, flocks of cedar waxwings flew drunkenly to their doom. Several times between 2005 and 2007 the birds crashed into buildings in the Los Angeles area. Hailu Kinde and colleagues at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in San Bernardino, found that the birds had gorged on berries from the Brazilian pepper tree (Journal of Ornithology, DOI: 10.1007/s10336-012-0858-7). Cedar waxwings don’t have a crop – an expandable pouch near the throat used to store food – so they stow berries in a distensible oesophagus, where they ferment. They ingested so many that their livers could not keep up with the alcohol production, leaving them too drunk to fly safely. Drunk birds on a collision course

Bottled carbon from Mars bodes well for ancient aliens

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2 June 2012 | NewScientist | 17

EVER blushed in an inappropriate situation, like when the doctor is listening to your heart? It turns out that the same regions of your face that redden during sexual stimulation also heat up, slightly, during innocent interactions.

Amanda Hahn and colleagues at St Andrew’s University in Fife, UK, used a heat-sensitive camera to map small changes of temperature in the faces of young

heterosexual women while an experimenter touched them with an instrument they were told was measuring skin colour (it wasn’t).

Touching the palm or elbow had no effect, but contact with the cheek or top of the breastbone raised the temperature around the eyes, mouth and nose by 0.2 °C to 0.5 °C on average, and by a full degree in certain spots (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/

Mixed news for Martian life search

AS ONE door closes, another opens. Carbon nuggets found in meteorites from Mars are not, after all, ancient alien microbes. But they do show that Mars has chemically active carbon, which would form an ideal nutrient source for life.

Andrew Steele and colleagues at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC examined samples from 11 Martian meteorites using a method that determines the rock’s chemistry without destroying its structure. They found that the carbon nuggets formed when the rock cooled from magma (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1220715).

Co-author Francis McCubbin, also at the Carnegie Institution, says the result is actually good news for astrobiologists. “The presence of [reactive] carbon near the Martian surface provides a potential nutrient source for putative life,” he says.

An ocean in the most frozen reaches of our solar system

NOMINATIVE determinism may apply even in the furthest corners of the solar system. Triton, a sea god of Greek mythology, lends his name to Neptune’s largest moon. A new calculation suggests the satellite does, indeed, harbour a liquid ocean.

Triton is so far away from the sun that it is encased in ice, with surface temperatures of just -235 °C. But below that icy veneer may lurk a watery ocean, according to Saswata Hier-Majumder of the University of Maryland in College Park, and his student Jodi Gaeman.

Unusually, Triton orbits Neptune backwards – moving

NA

SA/J

PL/S

PL

IN BRIEF

Embarrassingly hot under the collar? rsbl.2012.0338). An earlier study found this area heats up in sexually aroused men.

The female subjects reported few or no feelings of arousal or embarrassment, but their facial temperature rose more when the experimenter was a young male.

“What is surprising is the magnitude,” says Hahn. She now hopes to determine whether we are aware of these subtle changes in others, and if they affect how we interact.

in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation. Moons cannot form in these “retrograde” orbits, so Triton must have begun life elsewhere before Neptune captured it.

Such captured bodies start in highly elongated orbits, but as they interact with their associated planet, Triton-sized worlds are quickly dragged into more circular orbits. The process releases energy, which should have heated Triton enough to briefly melt the whole moon.

Its icy surface shows that most of Triton must have frozen again since then. But Hier-Majumder and Gaeman calculate that the frozen icy shell may actually have acted as an insulating blanket, slowing the loss of heat from Triton’s interior and ensuring that it retains an ammonia-tainted watery ocean (Icarus, DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.05.006).

AFTER overindulging in berries, flocks of cedar waxwings flew drunkenly to their doom. Several times between 2005 and 2007 the birds crashed into buildings in the Los Angeles area.

Hailu Kinde and colleagues at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in San Bernardino, found that the birds had gorged on berries from the Brazilian pepper tree (Journal of Ornithology, DOI: 10.1007/s10336-012-0858-7).

Cedar waxwings don’t have a crop – an expandable pouch near the throat used to store food – so they stow berries in a distensible oesophagus, where they ferment. They ingested so many that their livers could not keep up with the alcohol production, leaving them too drunk to fly safely.

Drunk birds on a collision course

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