Octopuses have a ‘favourite arm’ they use to grab prey

Whether it’s playing tennis or writing an essay, most people have a preferred hand.

Now, a study has shown that despite having eight arms to choose from, octopuses also have favourite appendages.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota recorded octopuses attacking various prey, and found they preferred certain arms over others when hunting.

The team hopes the findings could be used to develop next-generation, highly manipulative soft robots.

‘If we can learn from octopuses, then we can apply that to making an underwater vehicle or soft robot application,’ said Dr Trevor Wardill, an author of the study.

As they move across the seafloor or jet through the water, octopuses leverage all eight of their arms.

‘Normally when you look at an octopus for a short while, nothing is repeatable, said Dr Wardill.

‘They squirm around… and just look weird in their exploratory movements.’

In their new study, the team set out to understand whether the octopuses used their arms randomly when hunting, or if they had a preference.

The researchers studied the California two-spot octopus – a species that lives for about two years and can grow to the size of a tennis ball.

The octopuses were housed in a tank, where they hid in ornamental SpongeBob ‘dens’, with one eye facing outwards.

As the researchers dropped different types of prey into the tank, they recorded the octopuses’ reactions.

No matter what type of prey came by, each octopus attacked using the second arm from the middle.

Surprisingly, however, their recordings revealed that the octopuses used different attacking tactics, depending on the type of prey.

When it was a crab, the octopuses pounced on the prey with a ‘cat-like movement’.

But when it was a shrimp, they were slower with their approach, using their second arm to contact the shrimp before using the two neighbouring arms to secure it.

The researchers were surprised to see these same attacking strategies used across different octopuses, with all of them showing a preference for their second arm.

The team now hopes to look at how neurons facilitate these arm movements.

Flavie Bidel, the lead author of the study, said: ‘Octopuses are extremely strong.

‘For them to grasp and open a door is trivial, given their dexterity.’

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  • 21 час, 30 минут назад 02.10.2022Science
    NASA pens new timeframe for Moon rocket launch as Artemis I hit by multiple setbacks

    The next attempt to get the Artemis I mission off the ground will not be until mid-November at the earliest, NASA announced Friday, while not yet committing to a specific launch date. While the agency had originally been planning a third launch attempt today, they were forced to call it off when Hurricane Ian brought wind speeds well in excess of the 85 miles per hour threshold the 322-feet-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket can safely stand on its pad. Accordingly, last Monday, the Moon rocket was carefully moved atop its massive crawler-transport the four miles back to the shelter of its vehicle assembly building. While Artemis systems do not provisionally appear to have been damaged by the storm, NASA has elected to skip the launch window that runs from October 17–31, and instead will aim for one of the 12 twelve launch opportunities afforded from November 12–27.

    In a blog post, a NASA spokesperson said: “Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian.

    “There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations.

    “Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparing for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.”

    This system is essentially the Moon rocket’s self-destruct mechanism — allowing NASA to safely destroy the rocket in the event a critical problem is detected post take-off.

    Maintaining the flight termination system and its batteries is key to getting certification for a launch attempt from the US Eastern Range.

    Ensuring the flight termination system is fully functional is part of the reason why NASA has yet to commit to trying for a specific launch opportunity next month.

    The spokesperson said: “As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens November 12 and closes November 27.

    “Over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the vehicle assembly building and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt.

    “Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.”

    Returning the SLS to its launch position — and conditioning the pad ready for launch against — will likely be a days-long process.

    Hurricane Ian accounted for the latest in a series of delays experienced by the Artemis I mission, with NASA having already made two attempts at getting the SLS to lift-off — the first on August 29 and the second on September 3.

    The initial launch attempt was scrubbed after it appeared one of the rocket’s four main engines was too hot during engine bleed tests.

    This issue, however, was later traced to a misleading reading from a “bad sensor”.

    A persistent leak in the liquid hydrogen fuel line, meanwhile, brought the second go to a halt, despite engineers trying three times to troubleshoot the problem.

    Both of these issues were reexamined two weeks ago when NASA undertook a “cryogenic demonstration test”, which saw a practice tanking of the SLS’s core and interim stages with more than 730.000 gallons of liquid hydrogen fuel.

    The space agency reported that “after encountering a hydrogen leak early in the loading process, engineers were able to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the planned activities.”

    These activities included revisiting the kick-start bleed test — in which a small amount of liquid hydrogen fuel is used to cool down the four RS-25 engines at the base of the rocket’s core stage to 423F (217C) — that threw up problems during the first launch attempt.

    The purpose of this was to ensure that the engines are not unduly stressed when the supercool fuel is channelled into them properly at the time of launch.

    Following the demo, NASA reported “all objectives [were] met” — leading to optimism that the SLS will be able to successfully launch on the next attempt.

    Exactly when that launch attempt will be, however, remains to be seen.

  • 23 часа, 30 минут назад 02.10.2022Science
    Britons back Boris’ energy plans as Truss fracking poised to backfire: ‘Hugely unpopular’

    Prime Minister Liz Truss’s plans to bring fracking back to the UK could backfire, as polls show that most, including Tory voters, do not want it to return, and prefer her predecessor Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK’s energy security. Under Mr Johnson’s leadership, the UK rolled out major environmental policies and made greater progress in tackling the climate crisis than his predecessors in the past decade. The former Prime Minister was a major advocate for renewable energy, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent the price of wholesale to record levels, while the cost of generating wind and solar power remained the same.

    Meanwhile, one of the first acts made by Ms Truss and her Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg was to lift the fracking ban in a bid to “strengthen our energy security” amid Putin’s “weaponisation of energy”.

    Fracking supporters say that extracting Britain’s shale gas would slash the reliance on expensive imports and scupper the UK’s remaining reliance on Russia.

    Although Ms Truss said she would lift the ban on the practice three years ago, she has said fracking will only go ahead in areas which support it.

    While fracking could help boost the UK’s energy security, a new research has revealed that most Britons are against having a site near their home, with just 17 percent of UK adults and 29 percent of Conservative voters supporting the development of a fracking site within one mile of their property.

    The new report, commissioned by global communications agency Diffusion, revealed Conservative party voters favoured Mr Johnson’s plans for the UK’s energy security, which involved an accelerated investment in renewable energy like solar, wind and nuclear, which would lower household bills in the years ahead.

    When it comes to fracking, they found that the controversial energy extraction process was hugely unpopular among Labour and Lib Dem voters, with just eight percent and 10 percent respectively showing support for a project within one mile of their property.

    Among Tory voters, the support rose to 29 percent, which is still significantly low, especially when the polls even offered to slash their bills in half in the hypothetical scenario.

    When it came to onshore wind and solar projects however, a majority of voters from all three parties were in favour of renewable energy farms near their property, especially when offered huge discounts on their bills.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk, Daljit Bhurji, CEO of Diffusion, the agency that commissioned report, commented: “This independent research explodes the myth peddled during the Tory leadership race that local communities are opposed to new wind and solar farms.

    “In fact, even the majority of Tory voters who would live closest to proposed new renewable farms are in favour, if they are fairly compensated.

    “When it comes to energy policy the public are clearly more in tune with Boris’ vision when he left office urging a massive increase in renewables that can very quickly deliver the higher volumes of cheaper electricity needed to help lower our bills.

    “What remains hugely unpopular with all voters across the UK is Liz Truss’ obsession with fracking, even if offered incentives of 50 percent of electricity bills in return for allowing drilling on their doorstep.

    “The message from our report is clear, the ability to unlock huge amounts of new on-shore wind and solar is there for the taking if the Government can work with the energy companies to deliver a generous partnership with local communities.”

    Among Conservative voters, the report found that 68 percent favoured solar farms, while 59 percent favoured onshore wind farms.

    While Ms Truss’ Government may have brought back fracking, she also slashed red tape around the construction of onshore wind projects, allowing to be built as fast as other infrastructure projects across the country.

    Mr Johnson was a major proponent of wind power, hailing it in one of his final speeches as Prime Minister, saying: “We’re now racing towards our target of 50GW of offshore wind by 2030. 50GW is probably half the electricity consumption of the country from offshore wind.

    “Offshore wind is now the cheapest form of electricity in this country. Offshore wind is nine times cheaper than gas with the insanity of what Putin has done. That way it entirely makes sense for us to be more self-reliant. It is also entirely clean and green.

    “Renewables are not only important for us to defeat climate change, they’re helping keep bills lower now.”

  • 1 день, 1 час назад 02.10.2022Science
    This home heating upgrade could shave up to £1,150 off your energy bills

    Upgrading your boiler and switching to a Google Smart Thermostat has the potential to shave a whopping £1,150 off of your annual energy bill. This is the claim of experts at Leeds-based boiler suppliers BOXT, who say that the intelligent home heating systems can lower household energy costs by up to 16 percent. The system — dubbed the Nest Thermostat — has the ability to learn about how you like your home heated, as well as the way in which your house warms up and how draughty it is, enabling it to optimise boiler operation to best save energy and money.

    BOXT founder Andy Kerr said: “People all over the country are looking for ways to save on their energy bills this winter.

    “While simple tips and tricks can help you delay turning your heating on this winter, new figures from the Energy Savings Trust show that by upgrading your boiler and switching to a Google Smart Thermostat, you could save a huge £1,150.

    “Research undertaken by BOXT found that only 27 percent of people schedule their boilers.”

    This, he explained, means that “their boilers are unlikely to be operating as efficiently as possible, and homes won’t be maintaining the optimum comfortable temperature.”

    Mr Kerr continued: “Investing in a smart thermostat like the Google Nest Learning Thermostat gives you full control over the temperature of your home from wherever you are.

    “Data from Google suggest that you can save up to 16 percent annually on your energy bills by using a Nest Learning Thermostat.

    “The smart technology learns from your habits to build a schedule that works perfectly for your household, ensuring your boiler is operating as efficiently as possible.

    “If you don’t have a smart thermostat, still make sure you make full use of the thermostat controls to programme your boiler to only come on when you need it.”

    Once you have a smart thermostat installed in your home, Mr Kerr said, there are various tactics you can use to ensure you’re getting the best out of your heating system.

    The first thing to do, he explains, is to help the thermostat learn about you — your schedule, the inside temperature that you find comfortable, etc — so that it can adjust your heating accordingly. By teaching it good habits, he said, it can help you save energy.

    The Google Nest Learning Thermostat comes with an ‘Eco Temperature’ mode designed to conserve energy when there’s no-one at home.

    As BOXT explains: “If you’re looking to further lower your energy usage, you can set your thermostat to Eco Temperature when you’re in the house, as long as you don’t mind a little cooler temperature!

    “The Google Nest can also use Home/Away Assist in collaboration with your phone’s location to tell your thermostat when your family members have left home, and when they are likely to return.”

    Furthermore, installing multiple thermostats in one home allows the sensors to be taught differently — enabling them to build different heating schedules for different parts of the home, meaning that you can keep the system from turning on when it doesn’t need to.

    The device also has a feature by which it flags when the thermostat has been set to an energy saving temperature — one that is not universal, but calculated specifically for the home in which it is installed.

    Mr Kerr added: “The Google Nest Thermostat also lets you track your progress.

    “You can check your energy history in the Nest app to see how much energy you’ve used each day, and what has caused any big changes in your heating use.

    “You’ll also get a monthly home report from Nest so you can compare how much heating you’ve used compared to the previous month.”

  • 1 день, 9 часов назад 02.10.2022Science
    Wish you were here! Firm plans first-ever space hotel to open in 2025

    A truly out-of-this-world holiday experience is set to become available as early as 2025, with the US-based firm Orbital Assembly planning to launch the first-ever space hotel. Pioneer Station — which will accommodate up to 20 intrepid travellers — will be a 39 feet wide, 3,500–14,100 cubic foot complex made up of a ring of five modules that will be assembled in orbit by robotic builders. With Pioneer as a proof of concept, the firm is also looking to construct a larger orbital facility, Voyager Station, which will accommodate at least 400 people. Voyager will be some 322 feet across, with 24 modules linked together in a spinning ring capable of inducing around a sixth of Earth’s gravity — the equivalent to that experienced on the surface of the Moon. Solar panels on the sun-facing side will provide continuous power. The firm is looking to transport Voyager into low-Earth orbit section-by-section on SpaceX’s Starship rocket craft, which will also be used to deliver visitors to the futuristic hotel.

    While earthbound tourists might baulk at the prospect of not being able to leave their hotel, Orbital Assembly’s chief operating officer Tim Alatorre told Express.co.uk that Pioneer and Voyager will have much to occupy the first generation of space holidaymakers .

    He said: “The hotel portions of both stations will feature areas for sleeping, for dining and for activities such as sports.

    “They’ll have windows for Earth observation and we also are working on programmes for tourists to engage in certain scientific endeavours where they can experiment with these new artificial gravity and microgravity/zero gravity environments.

    “The details of the programme are still in development, but we anticipate that people will have plenty to do once they’re in space.”

    At the start, Mr Alatorre concedes, the cost of transporting humans up into orbit will likely mean that the only people checking in to either space hotel will be the super wealthy.

    Right now, he said: “there’s not many options for taking people to space, and that’s sort of the main barrier to entry.

    “What that means is the early people going to space are going to be high-net-worth individuals who have a sense of exploration and adventure.”

    “Our forecasts show that as more people go to space and more capabilities come online, the price to get people to space is going to lower dramatically.

    “So, our hope is that eventually anybody who has a desire to go to space will have an opportunity — people who don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank, but who are working average jobs and who might be able to save for a couple of years and afford a trip.”

    Eventually, he added, “we could get the costs for a stay on the station to be under the €10,000 [£8,800] mark.”

    Commercial attendees included Axiom Space, which is looking to build cities in space; the Space Tourism Society, which is focussed on space experiences like real spacelight, movies, games and virtual worlds; Green Moon Project, which is focussed on space agriculture; and Zero 2 Infinity, which is developing high altitude balloons for easier space access.

    Event organiser Les Roches Marbella CEO Carlos Díez de la Lastra said: “We are delighted that we have managed to bring the best agencies and representatives of the most exciting projects in the world to this congress.

    The event, he added, is “the most important in the world in the discussion of tourism in the two borders that we have over our heads and under our feet.”

    Elsewhere in the space tourism industry, aerospace Voyager Space announced last week that it has teamed up with Hilton Hotels and Resorts to deliver the crew suites and guest experience aboard Starlab, their planned commercial space station, which will operate in low-Earth orbit.

    Voyager Space and its operating company Nanoracks were awarded $160million in funding by NASA last year, with the goal of seeing Starlab replace the ageing International Space Station, which is set to be decommissioned at the end of this decade.

    Starlab is expected to have the capacity to continuously host up to four astronauts and the first ever science park — with a state of the art laboratory system — in outer space.

    Voyager Space CEO and chairman Dylan Taylor said: “Starlab will be more than just a destination, it will be an experience made infinitely more unique and artful with the Hilton team’s infusion of innovation, expertise and global reach.

    “This partnership opens new doors to what is possible for comfort-focused space exploration and habitation.”

    Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta said: “This landmark collaboration underscores our deep commitment to spreading the light and warmth of hospitality and providing a friendly, relatable stay — whether on the ground or in outer space.

    “Hilton has been innovating to improve the guest experience and pioneering new destinations for travel for more than a century. We are thrilled to partner with Voyager to bring that experience to Starlab.

    “For decades, discoveries in space have been positively impacting life on Earth, and now Hilton will have an opportunity to use this unique environment to improve the guest experience wherever people travel.

    “This landmark collaboration underscores our deep commitment to spreading the light and warmth of hospitality and providing a friendly, reliable stay — whether on the ground, or in outer space.”

  • 1 день, 19 часов назад 01.10.2022Science
    Faces of three medieval Scots brought back to life in stunning reconstructions

    The faces of three mediaeval individuals from Scotland have been stunningly brought back to life by experts from the University of Bradford. The remains of the people — a young woman, a cleric with a cleft lip and palate, and a bishop — were interred at Whithorn Priory, a mediaeval monastery in Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway, between the 12th and 14th centuries. The third man, Bishop Walter of Whithorn, was given an elaborate burial with a gold finger ring and a wooden crook-headed staff. According to the team, the burials are of huge archaeological importance, with the site often dubbed the “cradle of Scottish Christianity”.

    Skulls of the three ancient residents of Wigtownshire were loaned to the University of Bradford for the “Cold Case Whithorn” study by National Museums Scotland and the Dumfries and Galloway Council’s museums service.

    The detailed reconstructions were undertaken by craniofacial anthropologist and forensic artist Dr Christopher Rynn using three-dimensional scans of each skull.

    Dr Rynn said: “This entails the use of facial soft tissue depths, musculature sculpted individually to fit each skull, and scientific methods of the estimation of each facial feature from skull morphology.”

    In this way, he explained, he was able to approximate each individual’s ears, eyes, mouth and nose.

    The woman, the team said, appears to have died in her twenties, and may have been of a high social standing. Her remains were found in a stone coffin in front of a high altar during renovations of the vault at the ruined Whithorn Priory site back in the 1950s.

    It is possible that she came to the area on a pilgrimage to see the tomb of St Ninian — an eighth century missionary who converted the Picts to Christianity — which was located in the mediaeval monastery.

    During mediaeval times, pilgrims would often wear scallop shells as a sign of their journey, and the woman was found buried upon a bed of these shells.

    Dr Rynn told the Telegraph that the woman’s skill was the most symmetrical he’d ever seen — a fact that likely meant, in life, she was an extreme beauty that probably enjoyed a healthy and happy life.

    He said: “When the face is growing throughout childhood, throughout teenage years, it doesn’t grow symmetrically simultaneously. It grows left and right, kind of like walking,” he said.

    “So if there’s any kind of illness, or even just the kind of emotional trauma that could stop you from sleeping and eating for any length of time, then it’s going to throw the symmetry of the face off.

    “The more illness and trauma in childhood, the less symmetrical the adult face will end up.”

    Bioarchaeologist Dr Shirley Curtis-Summers is leading the isotopic analysis of some of the Whithorn burials — and selected the skulls used in the facial reconstruction.

    Stable isotope analysis of bones and teeth, she said, “can inform us about the types of foods people in the past were consuming, and whether they were local to their place of burial.”

    Her role, Dr Curtis-Summers continued, is also “to examine archaeological skeletons to identify indicators of disease and trauma.

    “I was very excited to be invited […] to be part of the Cold Case Whithorn team and be involved in the process of choosing the most appropriate skulls for the 3D facial reconstruction.”

    Dr Curtis-Summers added: “This project is of huge significance.

    “While we can never tell the full story of the lives of these mediaeval people, being able to reconstruct their diet, mobility, and now their faces, allows us to delve into their past and come face-to-face with them.”

    The facial reconstructions were unveiled yesterday during a press conference at the Wigtown Book Festival, which is being held this year from September 23–October 2.

    They are to go on to be displayed at the Whithorn Visitor Centre, next to the site of the mediaeval priory.

  • 1 день, 21 час назад 01.10.2022Science
    Are you watching, Liz? Starmer’s energy plans ‘will cut bills’ as he storms ahead in polls

    The Labour leader’s plans for addressing the energy crisis are intended to ease the pressures on billpayers, an expert told Express.co.uk, and it comes after his popularity rose this week, while Prime Minister Liz Truss’ has plummeted. At the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Sir Keir Starmer made a speech where he pledged to “turn the UK into a growth superpower” via his party’s green prosperity plan, which includes a target of using 100 percent clean power by 2030. He claims the plan could save UK households a total of £93billion over the rest of the decade.

    The plan has ambitious targets including doubling the country’s onshore wind capacity, trebling its solar power capacity, quadrupling offshore wind, and ramping investment in tidal, hydrogen and nuclear.

    As well as clean energy generation, Starmer signalled his support for green technologies such as carbon capture and storage. He promised energy saving measures, including a bid to insulating 19 million homes. This is something critics say the Truss Government has failed to commit to, although her plan to freeze a typical household’s bills at £2,500 has been welcomed by most.

    While Sir Keir unveiled a plan to create a nationalised company called Great British Energy, Simon Cran-Mcgreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, told Express.co.uk it is the “list of aims for the energy sector” that will be more likely to send bills plummeting for Britons.

    He said: “Whilst the plan to create a nationalised energy company has received the most attention, what’s actually more significant is the list of aims for the energy sector set out in the speech – it’s those aims that would cut energy bills.

    “Experts agree that the best way to bring down energy prices permanently is to reduce energy demand, especially through insulation, and to replace gas power generation with renewables. And polling shows strong public support for energy efficiency and renewables – measures that cut bills, create jobs and protect us from volatile international gas and oil markets.

    “High levels of renewables are the best way to cut the costs of electricity because new renewables have been up to ten times cheaper than gas power during this crisis. So doubling Britain’s onshore wind capacity, trebling solar power, and quadrupling offshore wind will bring huge savings – and will give us more capacity to power heat pumps and electric cars, allowing households to move away from fossil fuels like gas for heating and petrol and diesel for transport.”

    Meanwhile, the Tory Government has taken the approach of lifting the 2019 fracking ban, which it claims will slash the UK’s dependence on foreign gas and leave Britain less exposed to these volatile markets.

    This move isn’t popular among many local campaigners, who argue fossil fuels must stay in the ground if the UK is to reach net zero by 2050 and tackle the climate crisis.

    But Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said Britain needs to “explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas”.

    The Conservative Party’s energy strategy, unveiled in April, has ambitious targets centred around renewable energy generation. It plans to deliver up to 50GW of offshore wind by 2030, ramp up solar power deployment five-fold, and deliver up to 10 GW of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030.

    And during Ms Truss’ opening speech in a House of Commons energy debate, she said: “We will speed up our deployment of all clean and renewable technologies including hydrogen, solar, carbon capture and storage, and wind… where we are already the world leader in offshore generation.”

    However, the Prime Minister didn’t promise support for energy efficiency schemes such as home insulation, which experts say can make bills cheaper. The PM pledged to scrap the green levy on bills, used to fund existing energy efficiency measures.

    Mr Cran-McGreehin told Express.co.uk: “Insulating 19million homes would get all homes up to a good level of energy efficiency, cutting bills for households and reducing the amount of energy that we need as a country. If all homes were rated EPC band D or better (the Government’s aim), we’d need at least 20% less energy for heating – and if you use highly efficient heat pumps then you need even less energy.

    “Unfortunately, cuts to green levies back in 2013 mean we’ve lost a decade in the race to insulate homes – ECIU estimates that 10 million more homes could have been upgraded over the past decade (half-way to Labour’s target), and even more had the insulation industry been supported to carry on growing.”

    The “mini-budget” unveiled by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng last Friday, sent the markets into turmoil. While the £60billion energy bailout package was welcomed, it will be funded by borrowing.

    Unveiling the package of tax cuts on top of this on Friday, which will require around £45billion more on top of this, may leave little room for new energy measures such as insulation schemes.

    Following Mr Kwarteng’s announcement and the Labour Party Conference, Labour has stormed ahead in the polls with a staggering 33-point lead, the largest held by any party since the 1990s.

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Science Octopuses have a 'favourite arm' they use to grab prey