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5 Strange Science Breakthroughs to Make You Think
November 6, 2012
Every few years there are bound to be a handful of discoveries that fall out of the norm, and these breakthroughs often prove how far certain industries have come. Check out these unusual and jaw-dropping scientific findings, from eco-friendly cremations to belugas that imitate human voices. Batteries Powered by Bodily Fluids Here's a strange way to generate energy: harnessing urine and blood. A battery dubbed "NoPoPo," short for No Pollution Power, is an eco-friendly power solution that can run on just a few drops of liquids, including beer. While water may be the conventional choice to charge this recyclable and rechargeable battery, those in dire situations or stranded without H20 may turn to bodily fluids. According to Japan Trend Shop, NoPoPo owners can use a dropper to "suck a liquid of choice" and inject it into the battery cavity for a charge. The device, developed by Aqua Power System, involves a combination of magnesium and carbon that relies on a fluid to produce power. Unfortunately, these batteries don't last as long as standard alkaline batteries. While the life span of AA alkalines can range from 1,700 to 3,000 milliamp hours, NoPoPos lose charge after 500, according to Technabob. The good news for eco-friendly consumers is that the battery is constructed with 100 percent non-toxic materials. A Whale that Imitates Human Voices Researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) found that a beluga whale could mimic human speech. The study dates back to 1984, when a white whale named NOC was recorded vocalizing sounds that were strangely similar to those made by humans. While in NOC's enclosure tank, a diver confused the whale noises with a human command. Marine scientists rewarded NOC with snacks to prompt him to "speak," and discovered that the whale was able to imitate a human voice by adjusting the air pressure in his nasal tract, LiveScience explains. Research also showed that NOC's mimicry sounds were several octaves lower than typical whale sounds, and much closer to the human range. "The whale's vocalizations often sounded as if two people were conversing in the distance," Dr. Sam Ridgway, NMMF president and co-author of the study's findings, said. The researchers indicated that the beluga mimicry is an example of "vocal learning" that developed through captivity and a close association with humans. While there have been other reports of beluga speech, this was the first case where the marine mammal (who has since passed away) was studied so closely- in air and underwater. Here's a clip of NOC mimicking human speech: Eco-Friendly Corpse Dissolving Machine Our environmental impact continues even after death, but a new alternative to cremation allows the deceased to leave a smaller carbon footprint. Resomation Ltd, the Scottish company that pioneered the process, claims that the method is a response to growing eco-awareness. It's marketed as Bio-Cremation in the U.S., where it's been approved for commercial use. During the "Resomation process," a corpse is placed into a Resomator, a chamber that uses water and alkaline hydrolysis to break down the body chemically instead of burning it. Such a method reduces any chemical emissions that are tied to traditional cremations. The entire process takes up to 3 hours, converting tissue and muscle into an organic liquid that is ultimately put into municipal water treatment facilities. According to the company, there are no traces of DNA found in the fluid. The remaining bones are cremated and returned to families. According to Discovery News, the corpse-dissolving process has been used at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Florida for the disposal of medical cadavers. Meanwhile, a Florida funeral home has become one of the first to operate the machines. Implants that Control Your Mind Dr. Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado was a neurophysiologist who created the stimoceiver, an implant that could control minds by picking up radio waves emitted by a wireless transmitter. The Yale professor tested his invention on everything from apes to humans, but his most notable experiment was with a bull. In a daring scientific stunt, the doctor entered a bullring, putting himself in the path of a bull that had a stimoceiver implanted in its brain. When he pressed a remote control, he was able to maneuver the bull's mind and stop the beast from charging. "A whole series of motor functions can be triggered based on which button the experimenter pushes," Delgado told Cabinet Magazine. "This applies to all body parts: front and back paws, the tail, the hind parts, the head and the ears." Dr. Delgado also used electrical and radio stimulation to influence the behavior of patients, and trigger "joy and friendliness." Haunted House Fear Experiment One cardiologist has proven that people don't have to partake in a scary event in order for blood pressure to spike. Just the anticipation of fear can trigger hypertension. In his experiment, Dr. Nathan Foster measured the blood pressure of people standing in line for a haunted house exhibit. "Just waiting for their nightmare to begin, he found, had already set their bodies' fear response systems into overdrive, with blood pressure way above the normal 120/80," according to Psychology Today. After the subjects went through the haunted house, Dr. Foster found that their heart rates rose to 150-160 beats per minute, much higher than the normal range of 60-70. Yet perhaps the most astounding finding was that a person's health can change just waiting for a known scary event-something to keep in mind while waiting in line for a horror flick or roller coaster ride.