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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
- About Us
5 April 2002 (All day)
Another of nature's secrets has been pried from her bosom: Scientists have figured out how to monitor the pressure a boa constrictor exerts while squeezing a rabbit to death.
Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, constructed a "constrict-o-meter" at the request of local zookeepers who wanted a visual measure of the snake's coil power for an episode of BBC's Animal Planet. The device, a pressure-sensitive, quarter-sized plate mounted on the end of a 30-centimeter-long probe, is placed between the snake and its prey, says mechanical engineer Adnan Akay, who designed the rig with two assistants. Wires carry the information from the probe to a laptop computer, which plots the pressure. A 5.5-meter python, for example, can create a force of about 1 kilogram per square centimeter on its victim--about six times as rigorous as a firm handshake.
Herb Ellerbrock, who works with the cold-blooded creatures at the Pittsburgh Zoo, says when he approached the Carnegie Mellon engineers with his unusual request, "I thought they'd laugh me out of the room." But the collaboration on the constrict-o-meter worked out so well that he and Akay are planning additional experiments. "Now I'd like to see how many pounds per square inch the small snakes can do," says Ellerbrock.