Sheepish Fears, Tooth Diversity, Crepitus, 4-Leaf Clovers

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are bits of each of them:

  • Sheepish fears — … They performed experiments exposing sheep to a dog sitting in a window, and to the window without the dog. They tried giving the sheep drugs to reduce anxiety and giving them drugs to increase anxiety. They tried using food as a tempting distraction when the sheep encountered something scary….
  • Urchin teeth inspiration — Politicians who screech the word “diversity” as an epithet to inflame their followers’ all-purpose anger have yet to hoot specifically about tooth diversity. Actual information, should those politicians desire to seek any, about tooth diversity is in fresh supply in a study called “Tooth diversity underpins future biomimetic replications”.Di Wang, Shuangxia Han and Ming Yang at Jilin University in China surveyed current knowledge about teeth from many animals, including “human teeth, herbivore and carnivore teeth, shark teeth, calcite teeth in sea urchins, magnetite teeth in chitons, and transparent teeth in dragonfish”….
  • Crepitus, for the children — One way to give children a healthy fascination with science is to teach them some technical word that – they can hope – will disgust adults…. “Crepitus” is a fine word to feed to kids for this educational purpose. “Crepitation” is an equally good word that means the same thing: any grinding, scraping, creaking, cracking, clunking, grating, crunching or other sound that comes from a person’s body parts….
  • Fourfold superpower — Claire Haresnape Tyson adds a seasonal, colourful detection skill to Feedback’s growing catalogue of trivial superpowers. She says: “My super power is the ability to find four leaf clovers….