Cheating death? That's science play

Dolphins call each other names

Get that bloody pen off my head Dave

Get that bloody pen off my head Dave

Those high-pitch screeches we can barely hear are, as you might expect, the language of the dolphins, or at least a rudimentary method of communication between the animals. However, it seems they're more than just grunts or expressions of basic feelings. Some of them are actually names.

Bottlenose dolphins have been found to respond to specific bursts of sound, or 'signature whistles', corresponding to something akin to a name or individual demarcation. Each dolphin develops its own whistle, broadcasting it to others. Researchers found that individual animals will recognise their own whistle and blast it back at a recording, indicating recognition of their name. Apart from humans, dolphins are the only known mammals to name individuals, possibly showing a much more evolved self-awareness than first thought. [PNAS]

We're easily seduced by shiny cigarette packages

We might have put the plan to force cigarette manufacturers into using plain packages on hold, but the Australians haven't. Since December last year, cigarettes have been sold in plain packages and the results are surprising.

Despite the "these will kill you warnings" the colourful and rich-looking packets affect the taste and satisfaction of the smokes inside. Smokers deemed the cigarettes in plain packages of poorer quality despite the brand staying the same, and thought about quitting more often, which is a major win for health advocates. Now that the evidence is clear, it shouldn't be long before the same legislation comes into force in the UK and elsewhere, as long as the tobacco industry's lobbying can be overcome, of course. [BMJ Open]

Death isn't quite as instantaneous as we first thought

A new study on cell death has shown that, rather than an instant cross-body cessation of life, death propagates throughout an organism much more slowly than you might assume.

The signal for cell death, which terminates cell function, moves through an organism, in this case a worm, like a wave. Calcium signalling passes from one cell to the next, triggering necrosis and therefore death. Now that we know the mechanisms behind the cell death signal's movement through an organism, there's a possibility that we'll be able to halt it, effectively cheating death, at least in limited cases. Researchers were able to prevent death from infection-induced stress by blocking the signal in worms, but not death related to age. Maybe one day paramedics will come equipped with death-halting drugs to help injured patients survive trauma. [PLoS Biology]