Today in cool science news — crowdsourcing science from the county fair: scientists learn about bullfrog leaps with a side of corndogs and elephant ears

At TEDx, we’re no strangers to offbeat methods of scientific research.
From a biologist who gains inspiration from improv to scientists watching woodpeckers for insight on athletic head injuries, we’ve learned that research can be pretty entertaining.

So we were hardly surprised to learn that biologist Henry Astley and his team at Brown University went looking for answers about the physiology of frog jumping at a county fair in California. They went for the The Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee, where competitors get bullfrogs to jump as far as they can — for a $50 prize and priceless admiration. And far they go: "The longest bullfrog jump ever recorded in a lab was 4.26 feet, while frogs at the competition surpassed that figure regularly, at times jumping 6 or 7 feet," says Smithsonian Magazine.

Why were the lab results so different than those recorded at the fair? Apparently, the researchers weren’t scary enough. The lab coats learned that at the fair, master Jubilee competitors knew that to get a bullfrog to jump, you have to seen like a threat. They rubbed frogs’ legs to warm up their muscles, then got down on all fours, lunged, yelled, blew air, and pounced to imitate bullfrogs’ natural predators and switch on their flight instinct.

Their success suggests cool new things about bullfrogs, including that “like other frogs, they likely jump with help from a stretchy tendon that acts like a bow and arrow, storing energy until the frog springs from the ground,” says Science magazine.

Very cool. For more on science and frogs, learn how scientists levitated a frog with magnets in Marc Abrahams’s TEDxCERN talk, "Why all good, and some bad, research is improbable."And for more in crowdsourcing science, check out this fascinating TEDxAmsterdam talk on using the crowd to map the brain.

(Photos: blurradial; a gif from the TED-Ed lesson Disappearing frogs by Kerry M. Kriger. Animation by Simon Ampel)

Happy Halloween! We may not have tricks or treats here at TEDx, but we do have something really cool — a TEDx Talk on the bat genome!

Bats are a little spooky, but, biologically, they are pretty spectacular. For example, did you know that one fifth of all mammals are bats and bats are the only mammal that can fly?

As the director of The Centre for Irish Bat Research, Emma Teeling knows a lot about these fascinating creatures, and in the talk at TEDxDublin below, she shares her knowledge, revealing how the bat genome can actually give us great insight into ourselves.

Check out Teeling’s entire talk below:

(Photos — Row 1: afagen; Row 2: Lee Carson, James Niland)

How music sounds with a hearing implant — listen below!

imageThe Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (by gichristof)

Ever wonder what the world sounds like with a hearing implant? At the moment, it’s not the best. One person describes it as hearing everything through a robot voice, and more complex sounds, like music, are almost impossible to comprehend.

Tone and timbre — what make music sound like music — get lost with a cochlear implant, a highly controversial, surgically-implanted device that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to experience sound. Without picking up on timbre, for example, you can’t distinguish the sounds of one instrument from another, so you can’t hear what’s a guitar and what’s a flute if they play the same note.

Now, two scientists are out to change that. A new electronic processing system for implants is currently being developed by electrical engineer Les Atlas and bioengineer Jay Rubinstein at the University of Washington (home to TEDx event TEDxUofW). This new system makes implants more sensitive to complicated sounds, a huge breakthrough that not only makes music sound better, but also helps users distinguish between sounds in a noisy room, which — right now — is really difficult to do with a cochlear implant.

Below — what a pretty famous song sounds like through a normal cochlear implant, thanks to Seattle radio station KPLU:

And now — the same song through Alas and Rubinstein’s new implant:

(If you didn’t pick up on it, that is “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel.)

While we’ve got you thinking about cochlear implants, you can learn more about their relationship with music in Charles Limb’s TEDMED talk on the subject. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to check out Rachel Kolb’s inspiring TEDxStanford talk on deaf culture and advocacy in a world so often geared toward the hearing:: "Navigating deafness in a hearing world."