Weekly News Bites: Zombie fungi, judgy dogs, and an AI Buddha

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are scaling up production of a zombie fungus, the critical eye of female dogs, and enlightenment available on your smartphone.

You may have heard of the zombie fungus that takes over the bodies of ants but did you know that it produces compounds that can be used for medicine? Chungbuk National University have looked at ways to produce the medicinal compounds found in the fungus at high levels by using insects instead of the typical rice grains. The Japanese rhinoceros beetle was the best performer, producing 100 times more bioactive compound than the rice-grown fungus.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has allowed scientists to experiment and observe rock samples directly from the Ryugu asteroid, answering questions about space and life itself. Now the teams have the opportunity to research uncontaminated gases from the asteroid. Some of the gases can tell the researchers about the age of the asteroid’s surface.

Be careful how you act around your female dog, she might be judging you! Kyoto University researchers found that female dogs reacted more strongly to “incompetent” humans than male dogs by staring at them longer and were more likely to approach the human that did not make any mistakes. 

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University have found that manipulating stress response in cells can help slow down aging. The team used roundworms and found that triggering a stress response in older worms by feeding them a high-glucose diet extended their lifespan. 

Instead of Siri or Cortana, why not ask Buddha next time you have a question? Kyoto University scientists have programmed an AI with teachings from Buddhist texts to help users find enlightenment  or “wisdom from ancient times”. The bot was developed by a team of religious and computer academics. 

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a way to put more touch in touchscreens. They created a software that can sense the position of fingers on a screen and send feedback to make the users feel as if they are touching the texture they are looking at.

Grazing animals such as yaks and ibex can stabilize soil carbon levels in the Spiti ecosystem in the Himalayas, says a 16-year study by Divecha Centre for Climate Change and the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) of the Indian Institute of Science (IISC). The researchers took soil samples and found that soil carbon fluctuated more in fenced areas without the grazing animals.