If you know how to do something and people around you start doing it differently, you have two options: stick to what you know, or change to use their strategy. If the new strategy is more efficient than yours, or gets better results, it’s a no-brainer, so you switch. But if it’s exactly as efficient and produces the same results, the decision to switch is based on another factor—conformity.
We know that we have a tendency to fall in line with those around us, sometimes even when this results in obvious mistakes. This tendency can explain why human culture varies so widely among different societies, but is so similar within groups. Our closest primate relatives don’t have cultural variation to the same degree, so what makes humans different?
Previous research on non-human great apes has shown that they learn from their peers. However, what hasn’t been established is whether this process is similar in humans and non-humans, including when the learning involves overriding existing habits. A group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, recently found that human children are more likely than chimpanzees and orangutans to change their behavior to conform to their peers.
We’re increasingly dependent upon our batteries, so finding ways of building ones with enhanced lifetimes would make a lot of people happy. Research on batteries has ranged from trying new materials to changing the configuration of key components. Now, researchers have managed to restructure the materials in a nano-battery, then bundle lots of these individual batteries into a larger device.
Batteries rely on two electrodes to create separate currents of electrons and ions, generating electricity. Nanostructured electrodes have useful properties, such as large surface area and short ion transport time, which enables a high storage capacity and enhanced lifetimes—these batteries hold charge longer and can undergo more charge-discharge cycles. 3-D connectivity and organization of nanostructured electrodes could further improve these devices.
Previously, researchers had developed 3-D nanostructured batteries by placing two electrodes within a nanopore (made of anodic aluminum oxide) and using ultrathin electrical insulating material to separate them. While this system had improved power and energy density, use of such thin electrical insulators limits charge retention and requires complex circuits to shift current between them—it's difficult to retain the benefits of the 3-D nano-architecture due to spatial constraints of the material.