What you might have missed: vaccines to protect neural networks, monkey tool design and preparations for Asteroid Day

Our science stories this week included everything from bacteria helping a robot to get a grip to monkey tool design changing over time, neural network vaccinations and preparations for world Asteroid Day. 

Here’s a snapshot of a few stories we particularly enjoyed. Click on the links to read them in full. You can also see all the week’s yarns here

Neural network vaccinations protect against hacking

A programming technique that works on the same principle as disease-preventing vaccinations could safeguard machine learning systems from malicious cyber-attacks.

The technique was developed by the digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, and presented recently at an international conference on machine learning, held in Long Beach, California, US.

Read the full story here

Cooperation arises in biological systems, as long as it’s forced

New research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution demonstrates that negative consequences for selfish behaviour is a key factor in the evolution of cooperation across all biological scales, from genes to societies.

J. Arvid Ågren of Harvard University, in the US, Nicholas Davies of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Kevin R. Foster from the University of Oxford, both in the UK, have sought a deeper understanding of a central feature of all living things – the evolution of cooperation. 

Read the full story here

Dung beetles use sky and wind to find direction

African dung beetles use a much more sophisticated navigation system than previously assumed, new research shows.

The beetles (Scarabaeus lamarcki) feature regularly on wildlife documentaries and are well known for their primary defining habit. Upon encountering a pile of dung from a large mammal – an elephant, say – the females of the species will form some of it into a ball, roughly twice its own volume, and roll it away, later to use it as an egg repository.

Read the full story here.

Monkey tool design changed over millennia

The satellites humans fling into space and the massive accelerators that smash together subatomic particles are a far cry from the stone tools our ancestors were making three million years ago.

But it turns out we’re not the only ones to change our technologies over time. Stone tools used by capuchin monkeys have changed at least twice over the past 3000 years, according to a study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Read the full story here

Bacteria help robot to get a grip

Scientists have equipped a robot with sensors powered by genetically engineered bacteria, enabling it to make decisions appropriate to its environment.

The project shows how living cells can equip robots with added functions without adding great design complexity.

Read the full story here

We will rock you: the world prepares for Asteroid Day

Any dinosaurs left on earth might not share our enthusiasm, but on 30 June we will celebrate international Asteroid Day.

Scientists, scholars, astrophysicists, engineers, students and academics will gather in 192 countries to be part of the official United Nations’ day of awareness and education about these rocky objects that orbit the sun and occasionally change the course of our planet’s history.

Read the full story here

And here’s our image of the week 

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The Whirlpool galaxy – impressive in any light


These four images of the Whirlpool galaxy show how different wavelengths of light can reveal different features of a cosmic object. To read the full story click here

To view all this week’s featured images, click here

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