A drink with a kick

Like tea? Enjoy entomology-related puns? Check out this story about honeybees’ weakness for caffeinated nectar over at BBC Focus

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An insect’s guide to slavery

Having studied ants for the past 4 years or so, I can say with some confidence that whatever invention of human culture you can think of, ants did it first.

Bridges engineered to connect point A to point B? Check. Agriculture? Check and double check. Suicide bombing? Check. Poetry? Nobody’s discovered it yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing it.

But one of the most intriguing behaviours of a handful of ant species is the habit of turning other ants into slaves.

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Keeping bacteria quiet

A recurring problem in medicine is bacteria’s tendency to evolve resistance to antibiotics. A professor of biological engineering, MIT’s Timothy Lu, recently said somewhat gloomily that, “it will be very hard to make evolution-proof therapy, there is just too much pressure for the bacteria to survive.”

But the trickle of results from a new line of research, which takes a novel approach to treating infection, suggests there could be another way to keep bacteria at bay.

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Evacuation times depend on the composition of the crowd

Find out what happens when you mix collective behaviour in evacuating crowds with personal relationships over at ZME Science.

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When some people are more equal than others

In 1981, a Swedish psychologist called Ola Svenson asked a group of 81 students from the University of Oregon to rate their driving skills. A little surprisingly, 93% of the students placed themselves ‘in the top 50% of drivers’.

In case Oregon students are exceptionally good drivers, it’s worth mentioning that this effect has since been replicated around the world – both with questions about driving skills and safety, and also with questions addressing respondents’ popularity, health habits and relationship success. Whatever sphere of competence being tested, the number of people rating themselves ‘above average’ is  almost always paradoxically high.

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Fighting the current: Jellyfish swim to stay together

How do you study swarms of jellyfish? By attaching accelerometers to them, of course. Read about the research that came out of that venture on the front page of Marine Science Today.

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Too much help from your friends?

Humans live in groups. So do many other animals, fungi and bacteria. Nature is awash with collectives, in fact, in which individuals communicate and signal to each other. Over the last hundred years, science has attested to the enormous benefits of pooling information across individuals – after all, how else would you choose a new phone, if it weren’t for all those Amazon reviews? It therefore seems pretty clear that there are considerable advantages to paying close attention to the behaviour of others when making your own decisions… Right?

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