The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are penguins, sacrifice, and E-tattoos.

Article written by Grace Chan.



Penguins sponge off their parents too

Just like us, Galapagos penguins also live off their parents after they have left home.

A team of researchers have spent the last decade observing the lives of Galapagos penguins and found that adolescent penguins continue to beg for food from their parents long after they have left the nest. With not one moment having passed after the parents have emerged from the sea, they are hounded by their offspring for food; and surprisingly they oblige by regurgitating food back for them. This behaviour is extremely rare among penguins, with only one other penguin species (Gentoo penguin) doing the same. The researchers suggest that the parents were more willing to give in to the begging when food was plentiful, though it is currently unclear why the penguins continue to feed their offspring after they have grown up. It has been suggested that the penguins’ environment may play a role – the Galapagos islands are situated in an area where there is huge variability in the food supply. It is likely, therefore, that parents continue to feed their offspring to make sure they live long enough to reproduce.

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Taking one for the team

Scientists might be beginning to shed light on the reasons underlying self-sacrificial behaviour in humans, seen consistently through time, from Japanese kamikaze pilots to the suicidal tactics of groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh.

Using both mathematical models and experimental data, scientists have found that the sharing of strong negative experiences amongst a group can motivate individuals to commit suicidal acts for the sake of the group. They found that such painful experiences actually promote ‘identity fusion’ – where an individual’s personal and social identities merge into one. This produces a sense of oneness amongst members of a group that causes individuals to rationalise self- sacrifice in the name of the greater good of the group as a whole.

In this study, it is suggested that the concept of self-sacrifice was most profound in times when resources were scarce and conflicts were aplenty. In such situations, individuals gained a competitive advantage by employing such “group-think’ tactics, formed through sharing negative experiences, and so such behaviour has prevailed through time.

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IMAGE: Soliders


🤙😀 Hello?

Finally, we can put our skin imperfections to good use – technology is being developed that can turn wrinkles and freckles into touch-sensitive buttons for our phones.

A team of researchers at Saarland University have partnered with Google to develop a temporary E-tattoo. These tattoos are generated by printing wires and electrodes using conductive ink, which can then be applied like any temporary tattoos and will last for a few days before rubbing off.

By sensing changes (e.g. bending and stretching) of the skin, these tattoos respond and transmit commands to computers or smartphones. For example, squeezing a freckle could answer a phone call, or sliding over your finger could change volume. They are also electroluminescent and glow when current passes through them – meaning you’ll never miss a notification again. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and the next step will be to develop this technology into a wearable device for everyday use.

So in 10 years’ time, we might all be carrying our iPhones inside our arms!

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IMAGE: E-Tattoo


Article written by Grace Chan.