Enough to send you up the wall

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HUMANS may soon be able to scuttle up walls like lizards, thanks to a new adhesive tape that mimics their sticky feet. A team from Manchester University has overcome considerable engineering challenges to produce the first synthetic "gecko tape".

The gecko’s secret is the millions of microscopic hairs on the pads of their feet. Synthetic gecko tape emulates this biology and the scientists believe that once they make the tape more durable, a human could hang from a ceiling by one tape-covered palm. Implications are huge for climbers and window-cleaners.

Scent of a penguin

ENHANCED airport security has created some interesting problems for scientists who do fieldwork. Knowing the TLC baggage handlers lavish on luggage, they prefer to carry vital specimens with them in the cabin.

A scientist returning from Antarctica through Miami, was surprised when his backpack set off airport bomb detectors. After an intense search of the pack yielded nothing, security finally let him aboard. What caused the alarms to go off? Penguins had apparently made a pit stop on the pack, and their nitrate-rich droppings left the same tell-tale chemical signature as explosives.

What? No carrots?

BRITISH scientists have discovered the world’s oldest fossilised vomit, believed to have come from a large marine reptile 160 million years ago.

The vomit contains the remains of dozens of belemnites - squid-like shellfish that lived in abundance in the seas around what is now Britain. The belemnites were eaten in great numbers by ichthyosaurs, large marine reptiles similar in size and shape to dolphins, but with pointed snouts full of sharp teeth. The technicolour yawn was discovered in a clay quarry in Peterborough.

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