Flying robots – swissinfo

Researchers at the Swiss Federal institute of technology in Lausanne have developed an autopilot drone, which – combined with a special software – can create 3D aerial images. The project has now become a spin-off company, senseFLY, which is trying to find a market for the device. Research into new applications for the drone is continuing, looking at how several of the devices can be put into the air simultaneously like a flock. (Michele Andina, swissinfo.ch)
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Antimatter matters – swissinfo

Cern is not just the Large Hadron Collider – or “Big Bang” machine. The instruments used at Cern to do physics experiments are aimed at solving riddles about the universe and about matter. But sometimes the very sensitive detectors developed at the site near Geneva, result in useful byproducts, like new diagnostic and surgical equipment. (Raffaella Rossello, swissinfo.ch – Cern video productions)
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DNA dating site promises better sex

love.jpgSweaty t-shirts shouldn’t be a turn-off according to a new dating website. ScienceMatch.com promises to increase chances of better sex, fertility and lasting relationships with less risk of cheating. The bold claims are based on a Bern scientist’s odour attraction research. Claus Wedekind’s studies focused on genes that play an integral role in a part of the immune system known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).

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What am I looking at?

rorschach.jpgRemember those strange pictures that a doctor would ask you to look at and say what you saw? I don’t know if NASA still uses them (at least that’s what they say in the movies), but despite these tests having no valid scientific basis, they are still part of the collective consciousness. Hermann Rorschach, the Swiss father of the controversial inkblots, is the subject of a unique exhibition at the University Library, Bern, offering an insight into the psychiatrist’s life and work as well as an influential chapter in the history of psychology. While other scientists had previously dabbled with inkblots, Rorschach was the first to use them to develop theories on people’s tendency to project interpretations onto ambiguous stimuli… However his theories were debunked later on.


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Edelweiss going commercial

580255_35656485.jpgThe edelweiss, one of the symbols of Switzerland, could soon be heading down from the alpine slopes into florists’ shops. Scientists say that they have managed to grow the bloom at ground level and with stems long enough for bouquets. The whitish star-shaped edelweiss normally grows at between 2,000 and 3,000 metres in altitude. It has been a protected species in Switzerland since 1962. Extracts of the edelweiss, and particularly the Helvetia variety, are used in suncare products and in anti-wrinkle creams. It is believed that the plant’s antioxidant properties, a result of its exposure to strong ultra-violet light at altitude, means that it can counteract the human body’s ageing process. The flower has long been used in logos and in thousands of tourist articles.

Fruit fly has trouble deciding between Arthur and Martha

fruit-fly.jpg Swiss scientist Yaël Grosjean has discovered that sexual orientation in fruit flies is controlled by a previously unknown regulator of chemicals in the brain. While the evolutionary basis for homosexuality remains a mystery, researchers have succeeded in using genetic manipulation or drugs to turn the flies’ homosexual behaviour on and off within a matter of hours. While the genetic finding supports the thinking that homosexuality is hard-wired, i.e. there is a “gay gene”, the drug findings surprisingly suggests it’s not that simple. A gene mutation meant fruit flies could not distinguish chemical smells, called pheromones that can tell if other flies are male of female. These mutated male flies were engaging in courtship no matter that the other fly was male or female.

Arachnophobia

spider.jpgAlien spiders are invading Europe: no sign though of huge, furry monsters goose-stepping across the countryside. It’s not quite as scary, but tiny eight-legged beasts are moving in from abroad. No D-Day to speak of, but a slow process that has been taking place for over a century. According to Wolfgang Nentwig and his colleagues at Bern University, 87 foreign spider species have made their way to Europe in the past 150 years. Their study shows that one factor has been the faster pace of trade in recent years, while climate change seems to be playing a role as well. Humans could soon be sharing space with these new arrivals, but dangerous critters don’t seem to be on the cards for the time being.

And to satisfy all those lovers of furry spiders out there, here is the trailer of that 1975 classic, The Giant Spider Invasion!