Science Briefs – Feb. 7, 2011

Compiled by Kelsey Gobroski

Mismatched mates stress out birds

Female finches face consequences when choosing a life partner, and these findings may reverberate into human society. Black-headed Gouldian finches don’t get along well with hot-tempered red-headed males. When forced to cohabitate with the less desirable partners, females laid eggs a month later than usual and blood tests showed they were more stressed. The researchers suggested that, at least in finches, the teamwork of monogamy flows well when it works. Working together is energy-intensive when your mate isn’t a good match.

– Discovery News

Google provides tweets from Egypt

Google launched a “speak-to-tweet” service, lending a voice to a muted nation in the midst of upheaval. Egypt’s Internet providers have shut down to varying degrees in the wake of the protests. About the time the unrest began, Google acquired the company SayNow. The resulting software instantaneously converts voicemails from Egypt into tweets for the outside world to digest despite the country’s Internet closure.

– New Zealand Herald

Tally of known planets triples

NASA’s Kepler satellite discovered 1,235 new planets, possibly tripling previous records. Astronomers still need to sift through the data to check where Kepler may have made a mistake, but 80 to 95 percent of the new planets should check out. Usually new planets are Jupiter-sized, but 68 celestial bodies in this batch are about Earth’s size. About 54 of those are in a temperature comfort zone. No new Earths yet, but astronomers still need to sift through three more years of data.

– New York Times

Softer robot has better grip

Squishy robots outperform their bony brethren when it comes to grabbing fragile objects. Harvard researchers created the robots by weaving air chambers into moldable silicone. By manipulating airflow into the silicone body, the robot can tenderly handle an egg.

– Nature

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