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Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine

Science news, articles, current events and future views on technology, space, environment, health, and medicine.

Using Gamma Rays, Scientists Map Out 21 New Constellations  

Gamma-Ray Sky For countless years, humans have gazed up at the sky and made sense of the stars by finding shapes in them — constellations of heroes, animals, and well-worn tales. Now, to celebrate the 10th mission year of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, scientists have used the telescope to develop a new set of constellations that correspond with gamma-ray emissions. Gamma rays are the most powerful in the electromagnetic spectrum, and they're typically only produced by very po...

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2018-10-19 16:41:57

In a First, Astronomers Find a Blazar That Cycles Every Two Years  

Blazar Brightness After 10 years of observations, scientists have confirmed a two-year cycle in the gamma-ray brightness of a blazar, or a galaxy with supermassive black holes that consume mass and produce high-energy jets as a result. Blazars are the most energetic and luminous objects that we have identified so far in the known universe. "This is the first time that a gamma-ray period has been confirmed in an active galaxy," Stefano Ciprini, a researcher at the INFN Tor Vergata divis...

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2018-10-19 16:27:48

The Drake Equation: What Are the Odds That Aliens Exist?  

The Drake equation is one of astronomy's most famous attempts to answer the question: Are we alone? It asks not just about any life, but the top shelf stuff: intelligent life with the ability to communicate with beings outside their planet. Microbes or floating sentient clouds don't make the cut. We want aliens that will talk to us. To be clear, this means there could be life out there in the universe that the Drake equation would discount. But in terms of knowing how likely we are to re...

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2018-10-19 14:56:29

How Mantis Shrimp Punch So Hard  

Mantis shrimp — four-inch long seafloor crustaceans — knock out prey with a punch that accelerates faster than a .22 caliber bullet. Now, researchers have figured out exactly how the tiny stomatopods wind up their forceful blows. It's all thanks to a double-layered saddle-shaped spring made from surprisingly brittle material. "If you asked a mechanical engineer to make a spring that can store a lot of elastic energy, they wouldn't think of using ceramic," Ali Miserez, a materi...

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2018-10-18 21:23:09

In a Major Feat, Scientists Create a Bose-Einstein Condensate in Space  

Space-Based Matter By blasting a miniature, experimental chip into space, scientists have created the first space-based Bose-Einstein condensate. The feat could allow for the more precise exploration of gravitational waves, dark matter, and add to our fundamental understanding of physics. Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) are a state of matter in which a cloud of atoms is cooled until it's very close to absolute zero. At this extremely low temperature, the atoms move very, very slowly, cl...

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2018-10-18 18:57:53

Reading a Cuttlefish's Mind — On Its Skin  

Pity the cuttlefish that tries to play poker. Where humans might blush when embarrassed or go white when frightened, cuttlefish wear their thoughts on their skins much more literally. Our own color transformations are caused by nothing more than changes in the blood flowing right under our skin, and it's a poor marker of what our actual thoughts are. Cuttlefish, by contrast, are covered in up to millions of tiny pigment-filled cells called chromatophores. Muscles in the cells stretch to ...

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2018-10-18 16:22:27

Why Dandelion Seeds Are So Good At Floating  

Dandelion blowing may be about as close to a universal experience as there is. Kids and adults alike delight in huffing the white fluffy seeds from a dried sample of Taraxacum officinale, and watching them fly away. But as with all things in nature, it only happens that way because it works. Dandelion seeds can travel for miles before setting down, making them particularly efficient fliers. And scientists didn't really know why. Other plant seeds, such as maples, use more of a wing-like...

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2018-10-18 15:53:45

Astronomers May Have Spotted Another Neutron Star Merger  

In 2017, gravitational waves and light were observed coming from the merger of a pair of neutron stars. The discovery proved that gravitational wave sources could also be viewed at visible, X-ray, and even gamma-ray wavelengths, but has remained the only such event observed to date. Now, researchers have identified a "cosmic look-alike" — an event they believe came from the same type of system as the one that produced the gravitational waves. Seeing Double Such a discovery woul...

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2018-10-18 15:12:11

Earliest Flesh-Ripping Fish Found (With Nibbled Victims)  

Jumping right out of nightmares and into my heart (it's kind of cute, isn't it?), meet Fincutter, the Bavarian Piranha. Less than three inches long, the Late Jurassic fossil is the earliest ray-finned fish with flesh-ripping teeth — and paleontologists say it was preserved alongside some of its prey. Piranhamesodon pinnatomus ("pinnatomus" = fincutter) turned up in the same fabulously fossiliferous Bavarian quarry that has given us specimens of Archaeopteryx and other key Jurassic an...

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2018-10-18 15:00:29

The 'Trillion Planet Survey' is Looking for Alien Laser Beams  

An Extraterrestrial Search Physicists at the University of California, Santa Barbara are taking a unique approach to the search for extraterrestrial life. Instead of searching the cosmos for radio signals, they're hunting for brilliant light beams to locate intelligent beings in the Andromeda Galaxy. It's inspired by UC Santa Barbara physicist Phil Lubin's previous suggestion that we could propel tiny spacecraft to nearby stars at about 20 percent the speed of light with lasers. If w...

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2018-10-17 21:46:24

Scientists Discover 102 Genes Linked to Autism In Largest Study To Date  

The quest to understand autism spectrum disorder seems an unending one. Now, researchers discover 102 genes associated with the disorder. The find virtually doubles the number of genes implicated in the complicated condition. Curbed Communication Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects at least 1 in 59 U.S. children. The disorder usually shows up as a range of symptoms in early childhood when kids are about 2 to 3 years old as a range of symptoms. Indiv

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2018-10-17 21:00:54

How Climatic Changes Toppled The Ancient Megacity Of Angkor  

Angkor, one of the most significant archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, was a thriving metropolis at the center of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century. Then its inhabitants suddenly left town. Now, researchers find abrupt climatic changes and vulnerable infrastructure led to the city's demise. It's a cautionary tale for modern cities, many of which are already feeling the stress of climate change. Monumental Megacity Once a vast, urban hub, Angkor was the capitol city of a kingdom ...

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2018-10-17 20:56:56

Where Should NASA Search for Extraterrestrial Life? Underground, A New Report Says  

We usually associate habitability with terrestrial, Earth-like planets, but what if completely different environments are capable of harboring life? A new report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recommends that NASA search these disregarded worlds for signs of life. With the recent discovery of an underground lake on Mars and suspected subsurface oceans on Jupiter and Saturn's moons, the committee thinks that studying all sorts of envir...

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2018-10-17 18:28:45

Oldest Trace Fossils Ever Found Might Not Be Fossils  

Fossil or faux pas? A 2016 study that interpreted rock anomalies as the oldest evidence of life on our planet got it wrong, say researchers behind a new analysis of some of the same rock. The deformities aren't relics of early microbial life, says the team, but rather a snapshot of geological forces shaping and reshaping our world. The race to find the very first sign of life on Earth is one of the more heated contests in science — even though, for some, it lacks the glamour of hun...

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2018-10-17 17:00:16

A dust storm in Greenland? Beautiful satellite images show one far north of the Arctic Circle  

In late September, a dust storm erupted in a seemingly unlikely place: high in the Arctic in Greenland. It was nothing compared to a Saharan dust storm. Even so, it was large enough to be visible from space. You can see it in the Sentinel-2 satellite image above: a grayish plume of fine silt being swept up by northwesterly winds. The source: a dry bed of a braided river valley that ends in Scoresby Sound on Greenland's east coast. This is about 80 miles northwest of Ittoqqortoomiit...

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2018-10-17 15:49:58

Four Massive Planets Discovered Orbiting "Toddler" Star  

A Surprising Young Star Researchers have discovered a strange, young "toddler" star with four massive planets in orbit around it. This is the first time that so many massive planets have been found in such a young stellar system. The star at the center of this system, CI Tau, is only two million years old and surrounded by a protoplanetary disk made up of dust and ice. In this disk, the system's planets, asteroids, moons, and other objects form. Scientists already knew about this sys...

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2018-10-16 22:12:50

Jupiter's Icy Moon Ganymede Has Tectonic Faults Much Like Earth  

Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, is an icy world that astronomers believe hides a liquid ocean beneath its surface. That fractured surface, which jumbles old and new features together, has long hinted at a complex history astronomers have sought to understand. Now, a new study to be published in print November 15 in Icarus shows that Ganymede has undergone periods of tectonic processes much like those seen on Earth, bringing to light some of the moon's tumultuous past. Researchers a...

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2018-10-16 21:49:16

Mammals Are Going Extinct so Fast That Biodiversity Will Need Millions of Years to Recover  

Mammals are going extinct at an alarmingly accelerated rate. Now, researchers say that recovering the lost biodiversity will take millions of years. The discovery suggests shifting conservation tactics to protect evolutionarily distinct species. Looming Species Loss Mass extinctions — when Earth loses more than three quarters of its species in a short geological period — have happened five times in the last half billion years. Scientists suggest a sixth is underway. As part of the...

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2018-10-16 20:00:52

RIP OAPL: An Academic Publisher Vanishes  

A dubious predatory academic publisher called Open Access Publishing London (OAPL) seems to have died. Their website has gone down, taking some 1,500 scientific papers with it. What can we learn from this? Long-time readers will remember my series of posts on OAPL back from when I first investigated it in 2013. As far as I can tell, it was a one-man operation. The man turned out to be a Dr. Waseem Jerjes. Jerjes is a dental surgeon with many legitimate research papers to his name, and he

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2018-10-15 19:08:26

The Human Brain Evolved to Believe in Gods  

It's natural to believe in the supernatural. Consider how many people worldwide belong to a religion: nearly 6 billion, or 84 percent of the global population, and these figures are expected to rise in the coming decades. In the U.S., surveys show 90 percent of adults believe in some higher power, spiritual force or God with a capital G. Even self-proclaimed atheists have supernatural leanings. The same study found all atheists reject God, but one-in-five accept higher powers or spiritual ...

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2018-10-15 19:00:22

The Five Brightest Planets Align in the Night Sky  

For the second time this year, the five brightest planets in our solar system — Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars — will be visible in the night sky at the same time. The planets will form a line that rises up from the horizon in the western sky and it will be easiest to see after sunset this Thursday, October 18. However, all month these planets will be visible in the same general areas of the sky. Mercury and Venus will be most visible west and closer to the horizon, whil...

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2018-10-15 19:00:05

Hayabusa2's Amazing Close Encounter With Asteroid Ryugu  

This past summer, Hayabusa2 — a spacecraft, operated by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, sent to collect and return asteroid samples — arrived at asteroid Ryugu. Today, the craft comes close to the asteroid in the first of two touchdown rehearsals. After reaching the asteroid on June 27, Hayabusa2 primarily observed Ryugu from "The Home Position," which is a position about 65,617 feet (roughly 2,000 meters) away from the asteroid. Today, Hayabusa2 is descending to only 82 feet (25 ...

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2018-10-15 16:52:12

Chandra X-ray Observatory Back Online After Failure; NASA's Still Working to fix Hubble's Gyroscope  

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory will soon be observing the cosmos once again, the space agency said Monday. A scare last week left the spacecraft in safe mode. Chandra is a space observatory that observes extreme objects that emit X-rays, like black holes. The problems with Chandra surfaced on October 10, just days after the iconic Hubble Space Telescope also went into safe mode due to issues with its gyroscopes, which help point the spacecraft. Together, the pair make up half of NASA's "...

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2018-10-15 16:33:16

The Fidgeting Brain  

A new review paper in The Neuroscientist highlights the problem of body movements for neuroscience, from blinks to fidgeting. Authors Patrick J Drew and colleagues of Penn State discuss how many types of movements are associated with widespread brain activation, which can contaminate brain activity recordings. This is true, they say, of both humans and experimental animals such as rodents, e.g. with their 'whisking' movements of the whiskers. A particular concern is that many movements

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2018-10-14 12:52:12

What "First Man" Gets Fabulously Right About NASA: An Interview with Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden  

First Man is not like other movies about the space race, and I mean that in a very good way. I'll admit, I was skeptical about the director of La La Land telling the story of Neil Armstrong's historic landing on the Moon. (Would there be songs? A scowling J.K. Simmons?) It turns out to be a synergistic pairing of artist and material. First Man brushes aside the expected saga of space cowboys saddling up their steel horses, delivering instead a moving narrative of NASA's glory days a...

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2018-10-14 04:41:30

Visualization of Pacific ocean temperatures shows El Niño brewing, heralding possible winter weather impacts  

It's still not here yet, but El Niño sure looks like it's coming. In its latest forecast, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says there is a 70 to 75 percent chance that El Niño will form "in the next couple of months and continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2018-19." If the forecast turns out to be correct, the El Niño could influence weather around the world. El Niño is typically associated with an extended Pacific jet stream and amplified storm track, boosting the o...

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2018-10-12 22:58:45

The Jesuit Astronomer Who Conceived of the Big Bang  

In 1927, a prescient astronomer named Georges Lemaître looked at data showing how galaxies move. He noticed something peculiar - all of them appeared to be speeding away from Earth. Not only that, but the farther away they were, the faster they went. He determined a mathematical way to represent this, and connected his relationship to Einstein's law of General Relativity to produce a grand idea: That of a universe continually expanding. It was a radical idea then, but today it fits with...

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2018-10-12 20:00:00

How Did Titan's Haze Form? Scientists Find New Clues  

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is enveloped in a thick, hazy atmosphere. One new research collaboration has identified a chemical mechanism that could help to explain how the moon's haze formed. Titan's Haze "Both space probes and land-based instruments have identified the chemical composition of the major constituents of the haze," said Musahid Ahmed, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division and co-leader of the study. "However, how some of heavier particles are f...

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2018-10-12 19:25:29

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Reliability of Oral Histories  

It all started with a stray goat. On an otherwise nondescript day in the spring of 1947, a young Bedouin boy searched for a goat that had strayed from his flock just northwest of the Dead Sea. While he was looking, Muhammed the Wolf, as the boy was known, noticed a series of small caves in the limestone cliff above him. Thinking his goat may have gone into one of those caves, and not wanting to make the dangerous climb himself, Muhammed picked up a rock and threw it in. What he heard w

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2018-10-12 17:30:13

Watch the lights blink out in Michael's aftermath, as seen in before and after views from space  

Hurricane Michael tore into the Florida Panhandle with winds up to 155 miles per hour, pushing up a flooding storm surge of nine to 14 feet, causing buildings to explode, and toppling countless trees. Another impact was widespread power outages. Just how widespread is visible in the animation above. I created it using before-and-after nighttime images from the NOAA-20 satellite, one on Oct. 6 and the other on Oct. 12. The imagery data come from the Visible-Infrared Imaging Radiometer...

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2018-10-12 16:03:07

Researchers Accidentally Reprogram Mature Brain Cells  

Sometimes, the best discoveries are the ones you make by accident. Molecular biologists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center can attest to that: The team announced in a new paper in the journal Stem Cell Reports that they'd unintentionally reprogrammed one type of mature neuron into another — all without first reverting it to a stem-cell stage. As you might've guessed, yes, when scientists want to change a brain cell that's already settled into its specialized ...

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2018-10-12 15:30:57

Hurricane Michael: dramatic satellite view of the monster's eye as it buzz-saws into the Florida coast  

The utter devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael's storm surge and 155-mph winds simply boggles the mind. "It appears that the impact of the hurricane was more like a bomb than a hurricane," National Public Radio's Tom Gjelton reported today. "Buildings literally exploded from the force of the wind." Literally exploded is no exaggeration, as this aerial footage showing the destruction in Mexico Beach, Florida, shows pretty clearly:

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2018-10-12 02:08:17

Dying Massive Star Goes out With a Whisper  

A Strange, Dying Star Astronomers watched the strange death of a massive star that had a surprisingly "wimpy" and fast explosion in a galaxy 920 million light-years away. According to the researchers, this unusual explosion suggests that the dying star had a secret companion that was stripping away the star's mass, leading to the surprisingly fast supernova. The team, led by CalTech graduate student Kishalay De, believes that this explosion birthed a binary neutron star binary system. T...

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2018-10-11 21:10:46

Soyuz Rocket Failure: What Went Wrong, and What Happens Next  

Launch Failure Two astronauts made an emergency landing this morning in Kazakhstan after a Russian Soyuz rocket failed while launching them to the International Space Station. According to NASA officials, the rocket failed in its ascent soon after liftoff and the capsule with the astronauts inside --  one Russian and one American -- was sent careening back to Earth. A search-and-rescue team reached the site quickly to get to the Soyuz MS-10 crew, leaving at 6:10 am EDT, according ...

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2018-10-11 17:30:14

Blind Cavefish Provides Surprise Clue To Mammal Evolution  

If you're trying to understand the earliest days of mammal evolution, including how our ancestors lived, the genome of a blind cavefish might not strike you as the most obvious place to hunt for clues. A study out today, however, suggests that's exactly where you can glimpse our distant — and very dark — past. Animals that live exclusively in lightless caves often share a suite of traits, called troglomorphisms, which include loss of pigmentation and loss not only of vision but of the ey...

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2018-10-11 15:00:02

Can Black Holes Explain Dark Matter? New Study Helps Disprove the Idea  

The hunt for a dark matter explanation seems endless, but now we can mostly rule out one often mentioned potential culprit: black holes. "The idea of primordial black holes as dark matter is quite old, with some papers already in the '70s when Stephen Hawking and others proposed it," said lead study author Miguel Zumalacarregui of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics. Scientists couldn't find any proof for the idea in the '90s, and it started to fade away as an explanation....

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2018-10-11 14:51:27

Did Ancient Climate Change Affect Human Evolution?  

Climate change may be on everyone's lips since the recent UN report, but don't let that fool you. The shifts in climate we're beginning to see are nothing new, as far as Earth — or our ancestors — are concerned. But while all the talk nowadays focuses on how to change the course of the climate's evolution, a study out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests shifts in ancient weather patterns may have affected our own species' evolution. L...

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2018-10-11 14:44:39

Richard Branson Claims Virgin Galactic Will Be in Space “Within Weeks”  

According to Sir Richard Branson, founder of the space tourism company Virgin Galactic, their latest spaceplane, SpaceShipTwo, will be in space in a matter of weeks. "We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years," Branson told CNBC on Tuesday in Singapore. "We will be in space with people not too long after that, so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead," he added. Branson has not yet officially...

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2018-10-10 22:57:42

10 Years Since Falcon 1: SpaceX and the Future of Commercial Spaceflight  

A version of this article originally appeared on The Conversation In many industries, a decade is barely enough time to cause dramatic change unless something disruptive comes along - a new technology, business model or service design. The space industry has recently been enjoying all three. But 10 years ago, none of those innovations were guaranteed. In fact, on Sept. 28, 2008, an entire company watched and hoped as their flagship product attempted a final launch after three failur...

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2018-10-10 22:30:05

The Human Brain Can Recognize 5,000 Faces  

We see countless people everyday — in stores, in the gym, on television and during our commutes. But how many faces can we actually recognize? For the first time, a paper, published Wednesday (Oct. 10) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has an answer: 5,000, more or less. That's quite a jump from our evolutionary past. After all, the social circle of our foraging ancestors hovered around 100 to 250, meaning that's how many faces they needed to recognize to get on with their...

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2018-10-10 20:37:58

Scientists Find A Gene That Could Lead to Erectile Dysfunction  

Scientists say they've finally found a gene implicated in erectile dysfunction, a discovery that could help illuminate how the condition occurs on the most basic level. The condition is widespread among older men — some estimates put it at 40 percent or higher for men over 40 — and it's thought to be influenced by a range of factors. Poor body weight, cardiovascular health, a lack of exercise and many other things can all predispose men to erectile dysfunction (ED). But our genes ...

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2018-10-10 20:23:38

Scientists Propose a Way to Feed 10 Billion People By 2050 Sustainably  

In the next 30 years, Earth's population will increase so much that it will exhaust the planet's ability to grow enough food, according to a new analysis. And the global food system itself spurs climate change, alters landscapes and drives resource shortages. To top it off, as growing nations begin to eat more like the Western world, it will intensify these impacts. Now researchers have identified the improvements the planet needs to sustainably feed its booming population. "Wi...

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2018-10-10 17:09:44

The Order of the Dolphin: SETI's Secret Origin Story  

In 1961, when UFOs were all the rage, a group of top scientific minds met in secret at a rural observatory in West Virginia. At the time, the Green Bank Observatory was the biggest, baddest telescope in the burgeoning practice of radio astronomy. While the list of meeting attendees now reads like a who's who of the era's luminaries, the reason they gathered covertly was because of the taboo nature of their topic of discussion. These scientists wanted to find, and talk to, aliens. They di...

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2018-10-10 17:00:09

Salt, and Salty Fish, Were An Important Part of the Maya Economy  

If you lived among the ancient Maya, let's hope you liked your fish super salty. Archaeologists working at a former Maya salt mine near the coast in Belize say that they've found evidence of the fairly large-scale production of salted fish for trade at markets further inland. In the jungle, where seafood was a luxury and food wouldn't keep well, the salty fish could have been a valuable commodity. It's further evidence that producing and trading salt was an important part of the Maya e

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2018-10-10 16:00:18

Brain Network Lets Three People Communicate With Their Thoughts  

Scientists are making science fiction a reality. For the first time, three people have read each other's minds, researchers report in a new study recently posted to the preprint server arXiv. The new interface combines noninvasive brain imaging and brain stimulation to let multiple people communicate through their thoughts. Its creators say the fresh tech could allow humans to solve problems using a "social network" of connected brains. Brain To Brain The new interface — ...

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2018-10-09 21:59:27

Catch and Release Fishing Might Hurt Fish More Than Thought  

If you're a fish, it sucks to have a hole ripped in your mouth by a hook. Actually, researchers found, it sucks less. New research out today in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that fish can't suck up food as well after having a hole poked in their mouth by a fishing hook. The team, led by Tim Higham at UC-Riverside, focused on marine shiner perch for their study. These perch are a common target for anglers and belong to a broader group of fish (along with bass, bluegill,...

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2018-10-09 19:57:47

Scientists Are Figuring Out How to Farm on Mars  

A visit to Mars is almost guaranteed within the next decade or so, with everyone from NASA to warring tech billionaires setting their sights on the Red Planet. And long-term occupation may not be much farther behind. But before we do, there are many obstacles to overcome, some highly technical. But one of them is a challenge humans have been tackling almost since our ancestors came down out of the trees: learning to farm in new places. And while we've never traveled so far from home bef...

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2018-10-09 19:08:12

Apollo 7: NASA's First "Mini-Mutiny" In Space  

Almost exactly 50 years ago, NASA launched the first crewed Apollo mission into space. The goal was to test the latest spaceship tech, ensuring humans could survive their long trip to the moon, and the expedition also marked the first 3-person American space crew, as well as the first to broadcast a live television feed. "All primary Apollo 7 mission objectives were met, as well as every detailed test objective (and three test objectives not originally planned)," crows NASA's spec...

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2018-10-09 18:18:10

Europa Lander Could be Greeted by Massive Ice Spikes  

Jupiter's icy moon Europa has come into the spotlight as one of the likeliest places in the solar system to find Earth-like life. Scientists believe that beneath its icy shell lurks a liquid ocean, perhaps even one that's relatively warm and hospitable to life. NASA's Europa Clipper mission, currently with a launch date set for the 2020s, will investigate the moon further from orbit, but what researchers would really like is a lander to either touch down — or, ideally, go beneath —...

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2018-10-08 23:18:20

Dire New UN Climate Change Report Says Earth Has 12 Years to Take Action  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released a special report Monday on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC report says that based on humanity's current use of fossil fuels, they're highly confident the world will reach those levels between 2030 and 2052. Warming to 1.5C will mean warmer average temperatures and increased flood hazards in some regions as well as biodiversity loss and food security impacts. Global warm...

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2018-10-08 22:50:53

Hubble Telescope in 'Safe Mode' After Gyro Failure  

On Friday, NASA's iconic Hubble Space Telescope, our window into the universe since 1990, went into a protective safe mode after one of its gyroscopes failed. Hubble was built with six gyroscopes designed to keep the telescope pointed the same way for long periods of time. These six gyroscopes were replaced during a 2009 repair mission to the telescope. But, over the years, some of these gyroscopes have failed and stopped functioning properly. The Trouble With Hubble's Gyros Before Fr...

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2018-10-08 21:01:17

Voyager 2 Spacecraft Approaches Interstellar Space  

When it comes to space exploration, no one has the Voyager missions beat. On October 5, NASA reported that their Voyager 2 spacecraft is nearing our heliosphere's outer borders, and could soon enter interstellar space. Data shows that the probe is detecting more and more cosmic rays from outer space — indicating a slow escape from the sun's stellar bubble. If all goes as planned, the craft will follow in the footsteps of Voyager 1 and become the second human-made object to ever visit th...

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2018-10-08 20:44:28

"Can I Have My Amygdala Removed?"  

Brain surgery is not usually something that people actively seek out. However, there may be an exception: the idea of the removal of the amygdala seems to hold a fascination for many people. Questions about the desirability of an amygdala-free life can be found in many places online. On Quora, there have been many queries about what amygdala removal would entail, and at least one brave user outright asked Can I have my amygdala removed? I came across the question on two other sites within the

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2018-10-07 11:45:03

Large-Scale Wind Farms Could Warm the U.S.  

If we humans want to slow down global warming due to carbon emissions, clean energy is the way. But, as with all things, there are cons to go along with those pros. New research reports that installing large-scale wind farms across the country could raise the temperature of the continental United States. The study, published in the journal Joule, is based on mathematical modeling done by experts at Harvard University. First, the team created a climate baseline; they used a standard weathe

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2018-10-05 22:31:40

Mission Accomplished: MASCOT Lander Successfully Explores Asteroid Ryugu  

In yet another historic feat, Hayabusa2's MASCOT rover has completed its mission to explore, probe and photograph the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The rover spent three asteroid-days, or 17 Earth-hours, hopping across the asteroid and conducting research with an array of high-powered instruments. Before its battery life ran out, MASCOT successfully transmitted the first-of-its-kind data to Hayabusa2. Once it's sent back to Earth, scientists will use the stats to track the asteroid's jour...

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2018-10-05 21:47:47

Is a Little Radiation Good For You? Trump Admin Steps Into Shaky Science  

For decades, studies have shown that even low doses of radiation are harmful to humans. This week, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration may be reconsidering that. The Environmental Protection Agency seemed to be looking at raising the levels of radiation considered dangerous to humans based on a controversial theory rejected by mainstream scientists. The theory suggests that a little radiation might actually be good for our bodies. In April, an EPA press rel...

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2018-10-05 21:40:17

How We Know Ancient Humans Believed In the Afterlife  

Some 34,000 years ago, two boys and a middle-aged man were buried in fantastic style. They were laid to rest wearing over 13,000 mammoth ivory beads, hundreds of perforated fox canine teeth and other adornments. Discovered in the 1960s, at the site of Sungir, Russia, the burials also contained spears, figurines and the hollowed out shaft of a woman's femur, packed with red ochre. Archaeologists estimate the ivory beads alone would have taken 2500 hours of labor to produce. We'll never...

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2018-10-05 20:11:01

Saturn's Ring Rain is a Downpour, Not a Drizzle  

Before it plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn on its final death dive, the Cassini spacecraft made 22 orbits of the planet that followed a path no probe had taken before: It flew between the massive planet and its rings. During those final orbits, Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) spotted water ice and complex organic molecules flowing from the rings to the atmosphere of the planet: ring rain. But it turns out, "ring rain is more like a ring downpour," according to H...

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2018-10-04 22:00:23

This is What NASA Learned When Cassini Dove Into Saturn  

Over its nearly 20 year mission, NASA's Cassini spacecraft redefined our understanding of Saturn. And while Cassini sent its final transmissions to Earth as it dove into the ringed planet last September, scientists have just published more than half a dozen papers using data collected during its "Grand Finale." The studies, published in both Science and the Geophysical Research Letters help refine our knowledge of the planet and its rings and how they evolved. Planetary scientist Hunter

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2018-10-04 21:54:47

Wild Sparrows Learn Experimental Songs  

Researchers have taught a population of wild sparrows to sing a different song. Out today in Current Biology, the research suggests new answers to the question of how birds learn to sing. "This was a risky experiment we conducted because we didn't know if it was going to work," says Dan Mennill, lead author of the study. Mennill explains that song learning has been studied for years in controlled laboratory settings. But it's much more difficult to run an experiment in the ...

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2018-10-04 21:04:20

Honey Bees May Fight Off Viruses With Help From Fungi  

It's not easy being a bee these days. Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee, is crucial to agriculture worldwide but faces a growing number of pests and pathogens against which beekeepers have few weapons. But the bees themselves may be showing us the way forward: New research suggests the foraging insects may obtain protection against some viruses by consuming fungi, then returning to the hive to spread its medicinal value. Honey bees contribute more than $15 billion annually to U....

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2018-10-04 13:00:44

Rogue Stars Zip Through the Milky Way  

The Milky Way is apparently a hotspot for stars immigrating from other galaxies. In a new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a trio of astronomers set out to find hypervelocity stars fleeing our galaxy, but surprisingly discovered most of the rapidly moving stars are actually barreling into the Milky Way from galaxies beyond. "Rather than flying away from the [Milky Way's] Galactic Center, most of the high velocity stars we spotted seem to be racing

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2018-10-03 21:30:52

Had A Fight? A Hug Might Reduce Stress and Boost Your Mood  

Arguments with loved ones or a stressful conversation with the boss can bring you down. Now, new research provides scientific evidence that getting a hug on the same day you've had a conflict can lift your spirits. The finding suggests hugs are a simple yet effective way to relieve relationship stress, romantic or not. People commonly communicate affection by hugging, holding hands, or even a pat on the back. And past research shows physical contact has psychological and physical healt...

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2018-10-03 21:14:11

With a Rain of Robots, the Asteroid-Exploration Era Has Truly Begun  

The MASCOT has landed. As of two weeks ago, humans had never put a single robotic explorer on an asteroid. Now we have three of them hopping about on Ryugu, a 900-meter-wide object currently orbiting on the other side of the Sun. On September 20, Japan's Hayabusa2 probe dropped two little landers, MINERVA II-1a and II-1b. They promptly sent back dizzying images from the surface. Then last night (October 3), the mothership deployed MASCOT, a much larger rover that is now performing a batte

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2018-10-03 20:42:27

First Exomoon Possibly Discovered Orbiting in a Distant Star System  

Astronomers say they may have found the first confirmed exomoon, or moon orbiting a planet outside of our solar system. However, the pair of astronomers behind the find say it's much too soon to completely prove the exomoon's presence. After looking through recent data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, Alex Teachey, a graduate researcher in the department of astronomy at Columbia University, and David M. Kipping, an assistant professor in the same department, spotted evidence that a...

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2018-10-03 18:00:16

Dung Beetles Transmit Worms During Sex — And It's A Good Thing  

As humans, sexually-transmitted microbes worry us. They can cause some pretty nasty diseases, and we've learned to take precautions. But, some creatures actually welcome the tiny hitchhikers that can jump ship during mating. For dung beetles, the act of procreation can sometimes come with an extra benefit: Nematode worms. Just as there are countless species of bacteria living on and in us that help our bodies out, not every sexually-transmitted creature is out to cause harm. For the dung

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2018-10-03 15:30:05

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Goes to Three Scientists for Starting a Revolution in Evolution  

(Inside Science) -- The 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists who have used evolution to incite a chemical revolution, with the hopes of improving drug discovery and reducing the use of harsh chemicals in industrial processes. Half of the prize goes to Frances H. Arnold from the California Institute of Technology and the other half is shared between George P. Smith from the University of Missouri and Sir Gregory P. Winter from the University of Cambridge in th

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2018-10-03 15:00:17

These Frogs Evolved Resistance to Deadly Chytrid Fungus  

A community of frogs in Panama may have built up resistance to a deadly fungus that has imperiled one third of the amphibian population around the world, according to a paper published Wednesday [Oct. 3] in Ecological Applications. The fungus is called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd. It's also commonly referred to as chytrid fungus. In 1999, researchers linked amphibian deaths, mostly frogs, to specific strains of the fungus, which attacks the animals' skin. Frogs use their skin ...

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2018-10-03 15:00:14

Learn to Farm on Mars with this Fake Martian Soil  

If you watched or read "The Martian," and wanted to try your hand at living on Mars or becoming a Martian farmer like Mark Watney, then today is your lucky day. Astrophysicists at the University of Central Florida have developed a scientific, standardized method to create soil like future space colonies might encounter on Mars. They're selling it for about $10 per pound (or $20 per kilogram) plus shipping. This soil, also called simulant, is designed and created to mimic the red soi...

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2018-10-02 22:56:13

How did the Elephant Skin get its Cracks? New Research Has an Answer  

An intricate web of cracks adorns the wrinkly, gray skin of Africa's bush elephants. The tiny crevices hold water, which helps keep the animals cool and prevents dehydration in their dry habitat. Now, scientists have figured out how the channels on African elephants' skin form — the outermost layer of skin gets thicker and bends until the brittle material fractures from the strain. The discovery may provide insight to a common genetic disorder in humans. Cracked Crocs Michel Milink...

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2018-10-02 17:35:08

Humpback Whale Calls Persist Across Generations  

Humpback whales are known for their songs. The long, repetitive vocal displays males make during the breeding season change over time until eventually the boys are belting out entirely new tunes. Now researchers find humpback whales — including females and young — communicate with calls that stay the same over multiple generations. The discovery is re-shaping what scientists know about how and why whales talk to each other. "We are just now beginning to understand 'the other side...

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2018-10-02 14:27:01

'The Goblin': New Distant Dwarf Planet Bolsters Evidence for Planet X  

Far beyond the orbits of the solar system's eight planets, astronomers have found another object they've nicknamed "The Goblin." It's a small world traveling a lonely path through the outer reaches of our cosmic neighborhood, and joins a small club of dwarf planets and other planet-like objects out beyond Neptune. Most excitingly, the object's movements fit into previous theories regarding a possible "Planet X" hiding far away in our solar system, and could help astronomers to find it. ...

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2018-10-02 14:00:03

Nutrition Science Has a Credibility Problem. We Might Blame Gut Microbes  

After decades of research have yielded nothing but flip-flopping dietary advice sprinkled with the occasional scientific scandal, many health-conscious people are placing their trust elsewhere. Just walk down any aisle of a Whole Foods to find health claims ranging from benignly naturopathic, to pseudo-scientific, to outright anti-scientific. It seems people would rather put faith in a fad diet promoted by a blogger, some guy with a book deal, or their cousin's sister-in-law on Facebook...

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2018-10-01 22:00:29

Deep-Space Could Seriously Damage Astronaut GI Tracts, a New Study Finds  

Traveling to and exploring space is an obviously dangerous venture. Astronauts launch with the full knowledge that they may not return, and future missions that stretch farther out into the solar system will be even riskier. Deep-space travel could even cause significant gastrointestinal (GI) damage to astronauts, according to one new study. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) have exposed mice to radiation to simulate how galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) in deep-spa

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2018-10-01 21:30:06

Nobel Predictions: Three Top Contenders for Tomorrow's Prize in Physics  

(Inside Science) — Every year, the Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry honor great advances and discoveries in science. Writers from Inside Science have summarized some of the top contenders for these famous science prizes. Testing Spooky Action at a Distance Almost one year ago, Chinese researchers placed the first quantum-encrypted video call. This year's Nobel Prize in Physics may go to scientists whose experiments helped test a phenomenon that made the...

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2018-10-01 16:00:39

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for New Weapon Against Cancer  

(Inside Science) — The 2018 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Takusu Honjo, from Kyoto University in Japan, "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation." This type of therapy is a new approach in cancer treatment. Instead of targeting the tumor cells themselves, it releases the brakes on immune cells, allowing them to attack cancer cells...

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2018-10-01 15:27:12

Saving the World, One Science Fair at a Time  

When I was 16, I participated in the Montgomery County, Maryland science fair. My entry was--as I recognized even at the time--a fairly middling effort, more a research project than an original experiment. I was not surprised when I walked away with an appropriately middling "honorable mention" in my category. It was an inspiring experience anyway, for reasons that are perceptively captured in the marvelous new documentary Science Fair. The culture of the science fair is one of profound o

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2018-09-30 19:38:41

"Rick and Morty" Sting Predatory Journals  

Last year I wrote and published a fake 'scientific paper' to highlight the problem of predatory scientific journals. My article, following in the tradition of earlier fake journal 'stings', was complete nonsense, full of Star Wars references and quotes, but it was published by a number of dodgy journals. Now, another sci-fi sting has taken place, based this time on Rick and Morty. The stinger, Farooq Ali Khan, created a hilarious paper called Newer Tools to Fight Inter-Galactic Parasites

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2018-09-29 11:15:50

Searching for the Sandman  

Generations of scientists have tried to explain why we sleep. The answer may rest in the most primitive brains.

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2018-09-28 12:18:53

Ultra-Processed Food: It's Not Just What We Eat It's How It's Made  

In a time where ephemeral diet advice bombards us from every Instagrammer and morning show, it's tempting to ignore the latest scientific report claiming to have a helpful idea about obesity. In a new review, researchers suggest that the consumption of ultra-processed foods could cause obesity and related health problems because of the way the foods feed our gut microbes. This isn't the first time we've heard about processed foods, nor the first time we've heard about gut micro...

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2018-09-28 11:55:14

Chimps Know Death When They See It  

After Rosie's mother died, she accompanied the lifeless body throughout the night, in apparent mourning. When Noel lost her adopted son, she picked his teeth clean with a grass stem. And Jire carried her infant's corpse for 68 days after the one-year-old succumbed to a respiratory infection. Rosie, Noel and Jire are chimpanzees, whose responses to death were documented by researchers. Their behavior makes one wonder: Do chimps and other animals understand death, or are humans the only...

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2018-09-28 08:02:08

Scientists Find New Bird Flu Virus in Ducks, Recommend Billions of Vaccinations  

When researchers created a vaccine, they largely put an end to the 2013 bird flu pandemics in chickens, capping a worldwide health scare. But now, scientists have found new versions of the viruses in ducks. Researchers recommend vaccinating the nearly 3 billion ducks produced in China each year straightaway. Virulent Virus Back in 2013, authorities detected H7N9, a version of the flu that infects birds, in Chinese poultry markets. Soon after, they found the viruses in chicken farms. Th

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2018-09-27 19:37:21

Searching for Chocolate's Roots, and Enemies, in Colombia's Wilderness  

With a machete, Gildardo Ramirez lops twelve pods off one of his cacao trees, letting them fall to its base. The long, brown pods look like twisted and deflated footballs. Each cacao pod usually encases about 40 beans — the source of cocoa powder and chocolate. The beans are the main commodity that Ramirez produces on his farm in San Francisco, Colombia, some 70 miles southeast of the city of Medellín. On Ramirez's land, cacao's red and green leaves fill the sloping hillside, overlo...

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2018-09-27 18:26:38

Safe Drug Injection Sites Do Save Lives After All  

Some 200 people die from drug overdoses every day in America. That's left officials around the country desperate for solutions. One of the most common — and controversial — ideas is to open supervised injection sites where drug users can take illegal drugs with medical professionals standing by to prevent overdoses and the spread of disease. The scientific evidence shows these sites can save lives. But last month, a controversial new study challenged the oft-claimed benefits and ...

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2018-09-27 11:59:30

LiDAR Scans Reveal Maya Were Far Bigger and More Complex Than Thought  

FLORES, Guatemala — From above, the vastness of the Guatemalan jungle stretches to the horizon in an unbroken swath of dense greenery. On the ground, the forest blends into a blur of foliage. The only sounds are the clamor of cicadas and howler monkeys. But to step through the undergrowth in the northern Guatemalan lowlands is to walk the buried remnants of the ancient Maya civilization. The jungle hides fields, roads, canals and even whole settlements. And that civilization just got ...

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2018-09-27 11:01:34

Slow (Thunder)Clap for New Giant Dinosaur Ledumahadi  

They're among the most iconic of dinosaurs: the sauropods, long-necked, long-tailed herbivores that evolved into the largest land animals the planet has ever seen. They were essentially the cows of their day. Very, very big cows. But they didn't start out that way. A new dinosaur unearthed in South Africa reveals there are more plot twists to the sauropod story than we thought. Ledumahadi mafube, the "giant thunderclap at dawn," weighed in at about 12 metric tons, or upwards of 26,000 po...

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2018-09-27 02:36:44

How Plants Use Color to Tell Animals Their Fruit Is Good To Eat  

Fruits come in a glorious rainbow of colors. Raspberries, kumquats, lemons, avocados, blueberries, figs; the colorful array rivals a 96-pack of Crayola crayons. But scientists have long debated whether fruits evolved their vibrant pigments to entice animals to eat them and spread their seeds. After all, some fruit eating — or frugivorous — seed-dispersers are color blind. Now, researchers show fruit color evolved in response to the visual abilities of local fruit-feasting animals. Anima...

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2018-09-26 10:34:23

How Cheaters Prosper  

Ecologists are chasing an evolutionary conundrum.

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2018-09-25 21:29:29

Shape Shifters  

An obscure mathematical field might bring about a new era in technology.

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2018-09-25 21:13:08

Scientists Devise Cheap, Wearable UV Detector to Help Prevent Sunburn  

Sunshine on a biting fall day can feel blissful. But too much time spent basking in the sun's ultraviolet rays can lead to sunburn and increase the risk of developing skin cancer, cataracts and wrinkles. Now, researchers have made a cheap, wearable device that keeps tabs on UV exposure. The new tech could mean soaking up the sun without overdosing on radiation. Vipul Bansal, an applied chemist and nanobiotechnologist at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, wanted to...

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2018-09-25 13:32:46

Mars' Moon Phobos May Have Formed in Giant Impact  

Where did Mars' moons come from? It's a question that is deceptively difficult to answer, with two competing theories: Either the moons were captured, or they came from Mars itself. Though the obvious answer remains elusive, new "old" evidence uncovered from within 20-year-old data indicates that Mars' moon Phobos may have formed following an impact on the Red Planet. The evidence, published September 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, comes from Mars Global Surv...

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2018-09-25 12:44:59

Elephant Bird Vorombe Titan Was Biggest Bird Ever  

There's Big Bird and then there's really big birds. The elephant birds of Madagascar, which went extinct about a thousand years ago, have long been counted among the largest birds ever to walk the planet. But a second look at the bones they left behind has led researchers to rethink the birds' family tree — and just how big they got. Before we get into details of the new research, here's the tidbit I know you want: Newly designated species Vorombe titan, an extinct flightless bird fr...

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2018-09-25 10:45:22

Black Hole Sucks Down Star Stuff at 30 Percent Speed of Light  

After falling past the event horizon — the point of no return — nothing can escape a black hole. While the depths of black holes may forever remain a mystery, astronomers can observe the regions around them. In a paper published September 3 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of researchers reported, for the first time, spotting a clump of matter falling directly into a distant black hole at nearly one-third the speed of light. The observations, which come...

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2018-09-24 12:45:07

Paraplegics Walk Again Using Electronic Implant  

Three paraplegic patients can walk again thanks to an intense rehabilitation program with a device that sends electricity down the spine, researchers report Monday in two separate studies. A snowmobile accident nearly 4 years earlier had paralyzed the then 26-year-old Jered Chinnock from the middle of his back down. He couldn't move or feel anything below his sixth thoracic vertebrae — a spinal segment in the middle of the rib cage — where he had broken his back. Now, he can voluntar...

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2018-09-24 07:08:46

Not So Fast  

Scientists disagree on how to eat for your best life. Dieting may never be the same.

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2018-09-24 05:28:40

Researchers Have Finally Found Human Skeletal Stem Cells  

If only we could regrow our broken bones like Harry Potter, Skele-gro style. Or, at the very least, heal up like a limb-regenerating newt. Alas, we humans possess no such abilities. Though our bodies can mend broken bones, the older we get, the shoddier that patch job gets. As for cartilage — the crucial cushioning that keeps our bones from rubbing together — once that's gone, it's gone for good. But a new discovery by researchers could change that outlook. A team from Stanford Un...

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2018-09-21 18:17:49

What is Dark Matter? Even the Best Theories Are Crumbling  

Dark matter research is unsettling. Scientists were unnerved when they first noticed that galaxies don't rotate by the same physics as a spinning plate. The stars at a galaxy's edge rotate faster than expected. And their motion can only be explained by a lot of invisible matter that we can't see. That was exciting more than unsettling when the field was new and ideas were plentiful and had yet to be proven wrong. Researchers consolidated the possibilities into two main camps, complete wit

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2018-09-21 10:14:49

TESS, NASA's Next-Gen Planet Hunter, is Already Delivering  

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched April 18, headed for an orbit that takes it out to about the distance of the Moon at its apogee. Just a few weeks later, it began science operations and a list of 50 exoplanet candidates rolled in, with researchers now expecting at least six of those first candidates to be eventually confirmed as bona-fide planets. The above image represents TESS' "first light" science image, starting in the first of 26 sectors it will u...

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2018-09-21 09:37:51

Neanderthal Brains: Bigger, Not Necessarily Better  

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today. In any textbook on human evolution, you'll find that fact, often accompanied by measurements of endocranial volume, the space inside a skull. On average, this value is about 1410 cm3 (~6 cups) for Neanderthals and 1350 cm3 (5.7 cups) for recent humans. So does that quarter-cup of brain matter, matter? Were Neanderthals smarter than our kind? While brain size is important, cognitive abilities are influenced by numerous factors inclu...

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2018-09-21 07:03:19

Opioid Epidemic Part Of Decades-Long Rise in Drug Overdoses  

Drug overdoses kill close to 200 people everyday in the United States. And while opioids are a major contributor to those deaths today, a new analysis of nearly 600,000 accidental drug overdose deaths between 1979 and 2016 reveals the current crisis is part of a much larger trend. "We think of [the current epidemic] starting in the '90s, but that was gas on the flame," said Robert Pack, a public health expert at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, who was not involved in ...

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2018-09-20 07:04:21

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