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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.



The Final Act of Larsen C?   

The Antarctic Peninsula's largest ice shelf has a 70-mile-long crack in it; scientists are watching closely.

2017-05-26 01:26:02
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Seed Beetles Are Locked in a Brutal 'Sexual Arms Race'  

Cowpea seed beetle sex is complicated. During copulation, the male seed beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus, uses his sharp, spiky penis to damage females' reproductive tract while depositing sperm. All the while, the female vigorously kicks at her suitor—it hurts! As studies have shown, males with longer, harmful penis spikes enjoy more reproductive success, to the detriment of their partner's health. But the process of evolution has a way of balancing the scales. In a new study, L...

2017-05-24 19:42:52
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Unreliability of fMRI Emotional Biomarkers  

Brain responses to emotion stimuli are highly variable even within the same individual, and this could be a problem for researchers who seek to use these responses as biomarkers to help diagnose and treat disorders such as depression. That's according to a new paper in Neuroimage, from University College London neuroscientists Camilla Nord and colleagues. Nord et al. had 29 volunteers perform three tasks during fMRI scanning. All of the tasks involved pictures of emotional faces, which

2017-05-24 11:26:41
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With Improvements, Humanity's 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Is Safe, Probably  

Just nine years after its official opening, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is undergoing renovations to protect it from climate change. The work was prompted by accidental flooding that took place last week, as melting permafrost seeped into the vault's access corridor. While the seeds were in no danger, the flooding is nevertheless a worrying sign at a facility meant to endure the worst this planet can throw at it. The list of vault improvements includes a ditch to divert m...

2017-05-24 06:45:58
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Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?  

Flamingos are striking not only for their brilliant pink plumes, but for how they often stand on a single slender leg, even when asleep. Now scientists find that standing on one leg may counter-intuitively require less effort for flamingos than standing on two. It's a finding that could help lead to more stable legged robots and better prosthetic legs. The One-Legged Problem One prior explanation for the mystery of why flamingos stand on one leg is that it conserved body heat, as doing

2017-05-23 10:22:26
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Agar Art Contest Winners Grow Masterpieces with Microbes  

No matter how flamboyant your shower curtain mold is, it couldn't have competed with the fungus that won this year's Agar Art contest. This is the third year the American Society for Microbiology has run the contest, asking for "works that are at their core an organism(s) growing on agar." The artwork can be any kind of microbe colonizing any size or shape of petri dish. This year's winner, Jasmine Temple, used yeast to create this image of a sunset over the water: Temple is a lab...

2017-05-23 03:11:36
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Death From Below: Invasive Lionfish Lurking in Deep Reefs, Sending Hungry Reinforcements to the Shallows  

In the last few decades, scientists have come to appreciate the incredible creatures living on the reefs that lie just below conventional diving limits in what is called the mesophotic zone. These incredible biodiversity hotspots are home to more endemic species than shallower reefs, and conservationists are hopeful they may serve as refuges—pockets of relatively pristine habitat out of reach of anthropogenic stressors—where species under threat from pollution, overfishing, and even the...

2017-05-23 02:35:38
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Mice Born from Freeze-dried Space Sperm Are Doing OK  

Before they were born, these mice were astronauts. Or, rather, the sperm that would go on to deliver half of their genetic material were. For nine months, mouse sperm was kept aboard the International Space Station, freeze-dried to preserve it. Brought back to Earth, the sperm was rehydrated, introduced to an egg and allowed to divide for about 20 days. The resulting mouse pups carry the distinction of having traveled perhaps the farthest distance ever on their way to being born. Sperm I

2017-05-22 17:05:58
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A Survey of Our Secret Lives  

What kinds of secrets does the average person keep? In a new paper, Columbia University researchers Michael L. Slepian and colleagues carried out a survey of secrets. Slepian et al. developed a 'Common Secrets Questionnaire' (CSQ) and gave it to 600 participants recruited anonymously online. Participants were asked whether they'd ever had various secrets, at any point in their lives. The results are a monument to all our sins: It turns out that extra-relational thoughts - meaning "thou

2017-05-21 06:43:15
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Older, wiser, deadlier: "blood nuking" effects of Australian brown snake venom acquired with age  

There's an age old belief that baby snakes are more dangerous than adult ones. There are generally two proposed reasons why this could be: either a) young snakes have yet to learn how to control how much venom they inject, so they deliver all of their venom per bite, or b) that because the snakes are smaller, they need more potent toxins to successfully take out their prey. The first is misleading, because even if baby snakes did dump all their venom into each bite, they still have so m...

2017-05-19 20:42:41
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A Peculiar Star Is Doing Peculiar Things, Again  

There's a star 1,300 light years away that has exhibited some of the strangest behavior ever seen: something dims 20 percent of its light, something that is beyond the size of a planet. It's called KIC 8462852, but most people shorthand it Tabby's Star, or Boyajian's Star for its discoverer, Tabitha Boyajian. Here's the thing, though. Absolutely nobody knows why it's dimming that much. It could be a massive fleet of comets or the debris of a planet. But it's not giving off m...

2017-05-19 04:42:01
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The Power of Office Rituals  

Anthropologists have long studied how rituals bind practitioners together. From African tribes moving rhythmically around a fire to the scripted kneeling and standing by Catholics during Sunday mass, participants deepen group identity through ritual. But ritual also spills over into business and social situations. "The great thing about ritual is that anywhere humans are, a ritual will be there," says Nicholas Hobson, a psychology and neuroscience researcher at the University of Toron...

2017-05-19 03:05:42
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Cold War-era Nuclear Tests Created Belts of Charged Particles Around the Earth  

Up until 1963, both the U.S. and Soviet governments conducted over 500 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. They blew up these weapons anywhere from 16 miles above Earth to 250, well into space. The resulting fallout is estimated to have raised levels of thyroid cancer across the country, and could one day even serve as a marker for the Anthropocene—the age of humans. But the effects of these tests spread far beyond the surface of the Earth. A nuclear explosion creates a storm of charged...

2017-05-19 01:51:08
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April marked the 388th month in a row that the global temperature was warmer than average  

To find a month when the global average temperature over the land and oceans was below average, you have to go all the way back to December 1984, according to the latest monthly analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Including April 2017, that makes it 388 straight months in which the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average. Like NASA's independent analysis released earlier this week, NOAA finds that last month was the second warmest

2017-05-18 15:48:55
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If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsed...  

Antarctica is a desolate, far-away place, but what happens there could reshape life along the coasts.

2017-05-18 05:44:51
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Polar eye candy: check out this spectacular aerial photo of a Greenlandic fjord from NASA's Operation IceBridge  

PLUS: a gallery of other compelling images from the mission I'm always looking for cool imagery to use here at ImaGeo, and today I stumbled on this photo. It's of a fjord in southern Greenland, taken during Operation IceBridge's final flight of the 2017 Arctic campaign, on May 12, 2017. Fractured sea ice floats between the towering cliffs, with a glacier visible in the far distance at the head of the fjord. NASA posted the image here today. I've done some modest processing to correct...

2017-05-17 18:17:54
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The heat goes on: This past April was second warmest in records dating back to 1880 — as were February and March  

But with the monster El Niño of 2015/2016 far back in the rear-view mirror, temperatures in 2017 are running somewhat lower than last year NASA has come out with its monthly analysis of global temperatures, and the results are notable, if not terribly surprising: Last month was the second warmest April in 137 years of modern record-keeping. Last month beat out April of 2010 by just a small amount to achieve that distinction, according to the analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Sp...

2017-05-17 18:15:45
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Emerging Editing Technologies Obscure the Line Between Real and Fake  

The image is modest, belying the historic import of the moment. A woman on a white sand beach gazes at a distant island as waves lap at her feet — the scene is titled simply "Jennifer in Paradise." This picture, snapped by an Industrial Light and Magic employee named John Knoll while on vacation in 1987, would become the first image to be scanned and digitally altered. When Photoshop was introduced by Adobe Systems three years later, the visual world would never be the same. Today, pre...

2017-05-17 16:53:18
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Is Antarctica Gaining or Losing Ice? Nature May Have Just Settled The Debate  

For years, scientists have debated whether heavy inland snowfall on the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet — Earth's largest — balances out the rapid melting in West Antarctica. Given enough snowfall, the continent might not yet be contributing to sea level rise. Most research shows the melt rate is so high that the continent is indeed losing ice. But in 2015, a group of NASA scientists published a controversial study that found Antarctica was instead gaining ice. The NASA team combin...

2017-05-17 04:34:49
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The Dynasties of Science  

The auto industry had the Fords, oil had the Rockefellers, and politics had the Kennedys. Science, too, has its legacy lineages.

2017-05-17 01:25:35
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3-D Printed Ovaries Yield New Life  

Mice with artificial, 3-D printed ovaries have successfully given birth to healthy offspring. It's another success for members of the same Northwestern University team that in March reproduced an entire menstrual cycle using organs-on-a-chip. This time, they've created ovaries from a type of gelatin hydrogel and infused them with immature egg cells before implanting them in female mice. The ovaries behaved like the natural ones, picking out an egg cell to mature and pass along, allowing t

2017-05-16 10:33:31
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Garden Greenery is Brainier Than You Think  

They learn. They remember. They make decisions.

2017-05-16 05:05:26
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Why you should take hyperventilating headlines about CO2 with a grain of salt — but still be quite concerned  

Back in late April, there was a spate of hyperventilating headlines and news reports about the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This one in particular, from Think Progress, should have made its author so light-headed that she passed out: The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit record concentrations. That story and others were prompted by measurements at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory showing th...

2017-05-15 12:06:46
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Sergio Canavero: Will His Head Transplants Roll?  

Will the first human head transplant happen soon? According to Sergio Canavero, it will - and he'll be the man to do it. In 2015, Canavero announced his intention to carry out the pioneering operation, with the head being that of a Russian man, Valery Spiridonov, who has a muscle degenerative disease. The source of the donor body was never specified. More recently, Canavero has said that a Chinese patient will be the first to have their head transplanted. So who is Sergio Canavero,

2017-05-13 13:43:54
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I am Lionfish, hear me ROAR!  

Ok, well maybe more like grunt or drum. Still, this recording comes from the first study to document that lionfishes—the invasive, venomous scourges of the Atlantic and Mediterranean—make sounds. [audio wav="Many fish species use noise to communicate—so many, in fact, that their sounds can create a morning chorus on a reef akin to the wakening melodies of birds. There is even an entire family of fishes, the Haemulidae or "gru...

2017-05-13 08:09:36
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The Coral Microbiome May Offer Protection in Warming Seas  

Ofu Island - a speck of land emerging from the southwest Pacific Ocean - is a textbook paradise. Jagged, forest-covered peaks rise steeply from palm-fringed white sand beaches, as colorful birds sound off in the distance. But beneath the waves, it's a different story: Ofu Island's coral reefs are suffering. As temperatures in some lagoons eclipse 35 °C on a daily basis, extensive coral bleaching is leaving a graveyard of rocky, spindly skeletons reaching into the warming water. ...

2017-05-13 07:16:56
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Tadpoles Seek Piggyback Rides to Escape Cannibal Siblings  

Swimming in a pool of cannibals after being abandoned by one's parents is a pretty grim situation. But a tadpole that finds itself here doesn't passively await its fate. Instead, it tries to jump onto the back of any visiting frog and hitch a ride to safety. Even if the frog has no interest in a rescue, the tadpole is ready to rescue itself. Not all Ranitomeya variabilis parents abandon their young. These Peruvian poison dart frogs lay two to six eggs at a time in water, and the fat...

2017-05-12 15:04:17
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A Handy Way to Solve Crime  

The thrill of a crime story is the unfolding of "whodunnit," often against a backdrop of very little evidence. Positively identifying a suspect, even with a photo of her face, is challenging enough. But what if the only evidence available is a grainy image of a suspect's hand? Thanks to a group at the University of Dundee in the UK, that's enough information to positively ID the perp. The Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) can assess vein patterns, scars, nail ...

2017-05-12 05:13:28
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Meltdown: On the Front Lines of Climate Change  

After watching over Earth’s poles for decades, NASA aviators see new warnings of the chaos to come.

2017-05-11 07:21:08
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What if We Discovered an Alien Civilization Less Advanced Than Our Own?  

Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of Quora, because it lets non-experts raise the kinds of speculative questions that don't normally come up in formal scientific discussions. One frequent theme that comes up is the issue of what we would do if we found intelligent life on a planet around another star. A recent posting in particular caught my eye: "What would we do if we found an Earthlike planet with intelligent life that is 500 years behind us in technology and advancements?"

2017-05-10 16:53:12
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Vaccines, Autism, and Retraction  

Arbitrary and unfair behavior by scientific journals risks damaging the public's perception of science. Two weeks ago, the Journal of Translational Science published a paper that reported a correlation between vaccination and autism in 666 children. On Monday, the paper disappeared from their website, with no explanation or retraction notice. Google's cache still has the paper here. Retraction Watch has more details. In my view, this journal's behavior is a perfect illustration of

2017-05-10 10:43:24
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Can Math Can Save You From the Slow Line?  

It seems obvious. You arrive at the checkouts and see one line is much longer than the other, so you join the shorter one. But, before long, the people in the bigger line zoom past you and you've barely moved toward the exit. When it comes to queuing, the intuitive choice is often not the fastest one. Why do lines feel like they slow down as soon as you join them? And is there a way to decide beforehand which line is really the best one to join? Mathematicians have been studying these ...

2017-05-10 05:31:40
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New Chamber Reveals Most Complete Homo Naledi To Date  

With a series of papers out today, Homo naledi gets both a birthdate and more complete. Discovered in a South African cave, H. naledi first came to light in 2015, in a paper by University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist Lee Berger. Though the remains were undated at the time, estimates put them at anywhere from 100,000 to several million years old. This was based on a physical analysis of the bones, which contained a curious mixture of modern and archaic traits. Now, after putting...

2017-05-09 13:43:39
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Meet Zuul Crurivastator: I Ain't 'Fraid Of No Ankylosaur  

Don't let the ferocious name of a new armored dinosaur found in Montana fool you: Zuul crurivastator (the new genus is a nod to the main Ghostbusters villain) is actually quite the softie. At least in terms of soft tissue. The wonderfully preserved specimen has loads of it, opening up a lot of possibilities for further research. Zuul roamed North America about 75 million years ago and was about as badass as an herbivore can be. It was a large ankylosaurine, one of the armor-plated dinos

2017-05-09 06:32:56
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The War Over Reality  

Quantum physics may be well understood, but scientists still don’t agree on what it means.

2017-05-08 04:32:33
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Neuropeptides and Peer Review Failure  

A new paper in the prestigious journal PNAS contains a rather glaring blooper. The paper, from Oxford University researchers Eiluned Pearce et al., is about the relationship between genes and social behaviour. The blooper is right there in the abstract, which states that "three neuropeptides (β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine) play particularly important roles" in human sociality. But dopamine is not a neuropeptide. Neither are serotonin or testosterone, but throughout the paper, Pe...

2017-05-08 02:30:18
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This stunning image of Jupiter from NASA's Juno spacecraft is simply out of this world — except it's not  

The filagree of atmospheric patterns at Jupiter's south pole bears an eerie resemblance to a phenomenon here on Earth When I spotted this image of Jupiter on NASA's website, I felt a bit disoriented. At first glance, it looked like a fanciful artist's conception of the giant planet. But it's actually a real image of Jupiter's south polar region, acquired by the Juno spacecraft. (Make sure to click on it, and then click again to enlarge it.) The image has been enhanced to help bring ...

2017-05-08 02:06:16
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An IBM Patent on Midair Handoffs for Delivery Drones  

Amazon and Google's dreams of delivery drones dropping off packages or pizza still face the problem of short delivery ranges. Most drones have limited battery life that restricts their services to less than a 10-mile delivery radius. A recently-approved IBM patent offers an unusual way to extend delivery ranges by having drones transfer packages in midair. The IBM patent envisions several possible ways for delivery drones to hand off their packages without having to land. One idea woul...

2017-05-06 03:27:53
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Scientists Race to Understand Why Ice Shelves Collapse  

An 80-mile crack is spreading across the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. And once that crack reaches the ocean, it will calve an iceberg the size of Delaware. The chunk looked like it could break off a few months ago, but it's still clinging on by a roughly 10-mile thread. Earlier this week, scientists from the MIDAS project, which monitors Larsen C, reported a new branch on that crack. Icebergs naturally calve from ice shelves all the time. But scientists are concerned that...

2017-05-05 20:44:51
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Is Technology Too Good for an Old-School Test of Einstein's Relativity?  

On Aug. 21, sky-gazers from around the world will converge in the United States as a total solar eclipse charts a path from Oregon to South Carolina. In between, on Casper Mountain in Wyoming, you'll find Don Bruns with his telescope. A retired physicist, Bruns is using the rare opportunity to test Albert Einstein's general relativity like Sir Arthur Eddington, who was the first scientist to test the theory back in 1919. At that time, Newton's law of universal gravity was still vogue,...

2017-05-05 17:01:44
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Heading into the summer, Arctic sea ice is in bad shape  

Arctic sea ice extent in April was nearly 394,000 square miles below the long-term average — an area one-and-a-half times the size of Texas. The Arctic's floating lid of sea ice continued to decline in April, tying the record set last year for lowest April extent. This makes it four straight months of record lows in 2017, leaving Arctic sea ice in a precarious state as seasonal warming accelerates with the approach of summer. According to the latest report from the National ...

2017-05-05 10:35:48
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Is "Allostasis" The Brain's Essential Function?  

A paper just published in Nature Human Behaviour makes some big claims about the brain. It's called Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans, but how much is evidence and how much is speculation? The authors, Ian R. Kleckner and colleagues of Northeastern University, argue that a core function of the brain is allostasis, which they define as the process by which the brain "efficiently maintains energy regulation in the body". Allostasis ent

2017-05-05 02:45:36
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A Brief History of the Hand-standing Skunk  

As the climate changes, many species are finding that areas they once called home are becoming less and less hospitable. These kinds of ecological shifts are natural, but they usually happen over much longer time scales, giving animals time to adapt. Today, their surroundings could shift so fast that they become premature relics in their own environments. To avert, or perhaps ease, this transition, researchers are looking backward in time to see how various species have coped with change

2017-05-04 13:10:49
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The Liver Grows by Day, Shrinks by Night  

Among all the organs in the human body, the liver is something of a superhero. Not only does it defend our bodies against the liquid toxins we regularly ingest, it has the ability to regenerate itself, and, as new research shows, it increases its size by nearly half over the course of a day. Working in mice, researchers in Switzerland documented this process of regular stretching and shrinking, watching as liver cells swelled in size and contracted up to 40 percent along with the mice's...

2017-05-04 04:57:20
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Why Our Brains Are Split Into Right And Left  

Your right brain is creative and your left brain is logical. This widely accepted dichotomy cleaves the brain neatly in two, but research has shown the actual division of labor in the brain is not nearly so straightforward. Because the physical structures of both hemispheres appear identical, it wasn't until the 19th century that scientists started hashing out the differences between brain hemispheres. That crucial insight came thanks to a physician by the name of Pierre Paul Broca wh...

2017-05-03 21:29:31
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This striking new movie shows Cassini's view as it swooped low above Saturn's cloud-tops  

With Cassini already preparing for a third dive between Saturn and its rings, NASA has released this spectacular movie from the first dive I can't help it — I'm just enchanted by the imagery coming back from Cassini as it has been swooping through the gap between Saturn and the giant planet's rings. The latest is the movie above, made from a sequence of rapid-fire images acquired by Cassini as it made its first dive on April 26th. From NASA's release abou...

2017-05-03 19:08:56
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How Tree Rings Solved a Musical Mystery  

Modern science is full of surprising analytical techniques that can be used in a wide variety of remarkable circumstances. My favorite technique is dendrochronology—the study of "tree time." By assigning calendar-year dates to growth rings in trees, scientists can garner information relevant to an astonishing range of disciplines, including archaeology, climatology, the study of fire history, and many others. Believe it or not, tree ring analysis has even been used to date wooden...

2017-05-03 12:51:40
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How Can We Measure Human Oxytocin Levels?  

Is oxytocin really the love and trust chemical? Or is it just the hype hormone? A new paper suggests that many studies of the relationship between oxytocin and behaviors such as trust have been flawed. The paper is a meta-analysis just published by Norwegian researchers Mathias Valstad and colleagues. Valstad et al. found that the level of oxytocin in human blood, often used as a proxy measure of brain oxytocin, has no relation to central nervous system oxytocin levels under normal co

2017-05-03 08:58:46
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Galeamopus Pabsti: A New Whip It Good Dinosaur  

The latest big'un of the dinosaur world, Galeamopus pabsti, makes its official debut to science today after hiding in plain sight. If you want to sum up the sauropods, the group of herbivorous dinosaurs that include the largest land animals ever to stomp across our world, it's easy: little head, long neck, cow-like body and a whip-like tail. Or even more simply, as the exacting Anne Elk once put it, brontosaurus and other sauropods are "thin at one end, much, much thicker in the mid

2017-05-02 13:03:23
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Here's what Cassini heard as it made its daring dive between Saturn and its rings  

A Simon and Garfunkel song comes to mind—and that has scientists scratching their heads as the spacecraft heads today for a second dive. As the Cassini spacecraft swooped between Saturn and its innermost ring on April 26th, one of its instruments listened for the sounds of its passage through the heretofore unexplored region. What it heard was of great interest to engineers planning for the second dive, and as well as to scientists who study Saturn's rings. The engineers were hoping t...

2017-05-02 12:38:25
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With An Injection, Mice Nearly Double Their Endurance  

It's a familiar scene that played out most recently at the London marathon: An exhausted runner staggers and falls in the home stretch, unable to will their legs forward another step. It's an extreme example of a phenomenon endurance athletes come to know intimately, often called "hitting the wall," or sometimes by the more offbeat term "bonking." The proverbial wall appears when our bodies have run out of stores of glucose, a sugar molecule that is our main source of energy during stren...

2017-05-02 12:21:59
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Tea Trees Have Giant Genomes, and That's Good  

The first draft tea tree genome is revealing how the world's most popular beverage developed its unique flavors and soothing properties. Despite the wide variety of teas that adorn store shelves today, there is just one species of plant that produces tea leaves. Two varieties of Camellia sinensis, a type of evergreen shrub, are responsible for everything from Masala chai to oolong teas, with small variations in the way the leaves are picked and prepared accounting for the vast diversity ...

2017-05-02 03:37:33
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Psychedelics Show Promise in Treating Depression  

Depression is challenging to manage, especially since many antidepressants can take weeks to work and simply fail for nearly one-third of sufferers. New research presented in April at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, California, suggests psychedelic drugs can help people battling depression and other psychiatric disorders that defy conventional therapies. Brewing Up a Mood Boost Draulio Barros de Araújo, a neuroscientist at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Nor...

2017-05-01 17:46:34
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Why Quality Sleep Grows More Elusive with Age  

Middle-agers and seniors on average sleep less than younger people, about 6 to 7 hours a night compared to 8 to 9 hours. But why is this so? And are older people therefore sleep deprived, which can give rise to chronic maladies and speed up aging? There are two camps on this. One is that older people sleep less because their body requires less sleep. No harm, no foul here. The other is that the hours spent sleeping isn't the relevant question; what matters is the quality of sleep. An...

2017-05-01 10:07:24
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Measuring Deadliness | Toxinology 101  

Scientists refer to the study of biological toxins as toxinology. From bacterial toxins like anthrax to the deadliest snake venoms, toxinology examines the chemical warfare between animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. In my Toxinology 101 series, I explain and explore the fundamentals of toxin science to reveal the unusual, often unfamiliar, and unnerving world created by our planet's most notorious biochemists. One of the most frequent questions I receive as a venom scientist (so muc...

2017-05-01 04:43:44
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Spectacular new satellite imagery of severe storms shows the atmosphere as a boiling, roiling cauldron of clouds  

High-resolution animation from GOES-16: massive thunderstorms over southern Illinois, part of a sprawling, dangerous weather system A large swath of the nation's midsection has been hammered with torrential downpours. And the forecast calls for yet more, thanks to a low-pressure system pumping super-moist air into the region. With the ground already saturated, the sustained heavy rainfall is threatening major flooding from Oklahoma and Arkansas and up into Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. ...

2017-04-30 03:47:39
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A columnist makes asinine arguments on climate change, prompting scientists to cut their noses, spiting our faces  

The cure for false speech is more truth telling — not less speech. In his first piece as an op ed columnist for the N.Y. Times, Bret Stephens rightly decries hyperbole in discussion about climate change. Then he makes seemingly reasonable arguments that turn out to be asinine. My reaction? Yawn. It's quite doubtful that he will move the needle of public opinion on climate policy in the United States beyond the noise of natural variability. And I'm pretty darn sure that what he sa...

2017-04-30 02:21:36
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New Human Rights for the Age of Neuroscience?  

Do we have a human right to the privacy of our brain activity? Is "cognitive liberty" the foundation of all freedom? An interesting new paper by Swiss researchers Marcello Ienca and Roberto Andorno explores such questions: Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology Ienca and Andorno begin by noting that it has long been held that the mind is "a kind of last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination". In other words, no matter what restrictions might

2017-04-29 10:13:47
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Any Ban on Killer Robots Faces a Tough Sell  

Fears of a Terminator-style arms race have already prompted leading AI researchers and Silicon Valley leaders to call for a ban on killer robots. The United Nations plans to convene its first formal meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons later this summer. But a simulation based on the hypothetical first battlefield use of autonomous weapons showed the challenges of convincing major governments and their defense industries to sign any ban on killer robots. In October 2016, the...

2017-04-29 07:05:24
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The Electric Lilium Jet Hints at Future Air Taxis  

The old science fiction fantasy of a flying car that both drives on the ground and flies in the air is unlikely to revolutionize daily commutes. Instead, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and aerospace companies dream of electric-powered aircraft that can take off vertically like helicopters but have the flight efficiency of airplanes. The German startup Lilium took a very public step forward in that direction by demonstrating the first electric-powered jet capable of vertical takeoff ...

2017-04-29 03:25:19
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16 

Visit Prehistoric Scotland With A Couple Clicks  

A recently released app featuring the latest research on prehistoric Scotland's hillforts gets you close to the archaeological action with drone footage, 3D artifact renderings and plenty of other eye candy. Happy Friday, everyone...start your weekend right with a fascinating and slick bit of desktop time travel: the SERF Hillforts Project app, a digital treasure trove courtesy of the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project and its partners. Launch the app and enjoy the views of ...

2017-04-28 05:21:04
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13 

The first true-color images of Saturn taken during Cassini's close encounter are coming in — and they're beautiful!  

We've already been treated to spectacular black and white closeup images of Saturn, beamed home to Earth by the Cassini spacecraft after it dove between the planet and its rings. Now, we're getting to see what things look like in true color. Among the first of these images is the one above, processed by Sophia Nasr, an astro-particle physicist working on dark matter. She will begin her PhD studies in physics at UC Irvine in September 2017. (For her full bio, see the end of this post.) I ...

2017-04-28 03:30:07
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10 

Recluse Spiders Have the Only Self-Powered Silk Spinners  

Even if you detest spiders—even if a photo of one makes you recoil from your screen—pause for a moment and consider the sheer machinery of these creatures. They coordinate the movement of eight legs and up to eight eyes at once. They are their own miniature textile factories, pumping out silk thread from an intricate set of appendages. And while most spiders use their legs to help spin the thread, or glue one end to a surface to pull it out, recluse spiders don't need the help. They have...

2017-04-28 01:48:55
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10 

Ecstasy Could Help Adults With Autism Cope  

For some people with autism, the idea of facing social situations can be so unnerving it impairs their ability to finish school, hold a job or form relationships. And conventional medications and psychotherapy for anxiety often fail. But early results from a new study suggest that MDMA — commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly — may help adults with autism manage disabling social phobias. Feeling Connected MDMA is unique among psychedelics for its ability to help people connect and communic...

2017-04-27 17:56:19
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15 

Cassini shoots through the gap between Saturn and its rings, returning the closest views ever of the planet  

On the first of 22 scheduled dives between Saturn and its innermost rings yesterday, Cassini zoomed at 77,000 miles per hour to within 1,900 miles of the planet's cloud tops — and emerged intact. After re-establishing contact with ground controllers very early Thursday morning, the spacecraft began returning the closest views yet of the gaseous planet's atmosphere. The unprocessed image above was acquired toward the start of the dive at 7:49 a.m. on April 26, 2017. It shows the b...

2017-04-27 11:27:54
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15 

Watch a dust storm kicking up over Mexico and the southwestern United States, as seen from space  

Right after Earth Day, I published the first installment of what I said would be semi-regular posts showcasing the dazzling imagery now being produced by the new GOES-16 weather satellite. As promised, here's a new one — a spectacular animation. On March 23rd, the spacecraft observed a major dust storm over Mexico and the southwestern United States. The dust was picked up by strong southwesterly winds related to a deep trough over the western U.S. SEE ALSO: Here's the first ...

2017-04-27 03:05:01
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9 

The Search is on for New Horizons' Next Target  

The eyes of the world turned from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft after its 2015 flyby at Pluto. But on New Year's Eve next year, the space probe will zoom past another object unlike any astronomers have ever seen before. This world, currently dubbed 2014 MU69, is so dim and far off that we know next to nothing about it — scientists aren't even certain of its exact size. "No one's ever been to any kind of target like this," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern says...

2017-04-26 19:48:22
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24 

The First Americans May Have Arrived 130,000 Years Ago  

Is the conventional chronology of human migration little more than a house of cards? Maybe. And there's a strong wind (or at least a tantalizing breeze) blowing in from southern California, where researchers say they have evidence that the First Americans may have arrived on the continent almost ten times earlier than we thought. And here's another kicker: the first humans in the Americas may not have been Homo sapiens. The results, published today in Nature, came out of several diffe...

2017-04-26 17:43:13
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15 

Cassini: Going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before—on a dive between Saturn's rings and the planet itself  

On July 1, 2004, Cassini became the first spacecraft ever to orbit Saturn. And today, the spacecraft has likely achieved another milestone: Using its 13-foot-wide high-gain antenna as a shield, it probably has made the first ever dive between the rings and the giant gaseous planet itself. I say "probably" because the spacecraft is not in contact with Earth right now, so scientists do not yet know how it fared. The earliest that it is expected to regain contact, via NASA's Deep Space Net...

2017-04-26 12:28:45
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24 

Listen to Baby Humpback Whales Whisper to Their Mothers  

Humpback whale babies don't scream for their mothers' attention — they whisper. Researchers who listened in on communications between humpback whale mothers and their calves believe they recorded what amounts to a whale whisper. Using detachable acoustic tags, the researchers followed eight calves and two mothers for 48 hours each as they swam near their breeding grounds off Australia's coast, and say that this is the first time such vocalizations have been recorded in this manner. ...

2017-04-26 07:20:45
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21 

Real Genius  

If you are going to create a television show called Genius, you had better grapple with the nature of genius. If you are going to do that kind of grappling, you might as well focus on the very first face that comes to mind when people say "genius." And if you are going to do a show about Albert Einstein--which is exactly where the creators of the new series Genius ended up--you'd better have some fresh things to say about the most famous figure in the history of science. I'm familiar with

2017-04-26 05:59:24
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17 

The Fake "War Between Neuroscience and Psychiatry"  

Neuroscientists have launched an assault on the American Psychiatric Association headquarters and are engaged in bitter, boardroom-to-boardroom fighting. Psychiatrists have captured the leader of a militant pro-brain faction. A ceasefire, brokered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is due to come into effect at midnight. Yes, indeed. A blog post by Daniel Barron in Scientific American yesterday claimed that there is a War between Neuroscience and Psychiatry

2017-04-26 05:32:37
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6 

The Arctic as we once knew it is going, going...  

A new report finds that while continued change is 'locked in,' there's still time to stabilize some trends by cutting greenhouse gas emissions In the past few years, I've heard it from many researchers: Global warming has pushed the Arctic into a completely new state. Now, a comprehensive assessment report published today confirms it: With each additional year of data, it becomes increasingly clear that the Arctic as we know it is being replaced by a warmer, wetter, and more variable e...

2017-04-26 03:18:45
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16 

Novel Antibiotic Recipes Could Be Hidden in Medieval Medical Texts  

For a long time, medieval medicine has been dismissed as irrelevant. This time period is popularly referred to as the "Dark Ages," which erroneously suggests that it was unenlightened by science or reason. However, some medievalists and scientists are now looking back to history for clues to inform the search for new antibiotics. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes means that it is always necessary to find new drugs to battle microbes that are no longer treatable with curre...

2017-04-25 21:28:28
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15 

Artificial Placenta Keeps Premature Lambs Alive for 28 Days  

Lamb fetuses have been sustained for four weeks outside of their mothers' bodies with a new system that mimics a placenta. The system is a step forward for researchers hoping to develop an "artificial placenta" that could allow premature fetuses to continue developing until they are ready for the outside world. It is essentially a fluid-filled bag with ports that allow for oxygen and nutrient delivery, combined with a pump-less oxygenator that allows the fetus to circulate blood using its

2017-04-25 20:20:47
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18 

Uncovering the Secrets of Blood Falls  

In the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, pristine glaciers are marred in one spot by a striking feature: a crimson stain on the white cliffs, looking not unlike a gaping wound in the ice. The five-story gash goes by the unnerving name of Blood Falls, although the color is not at all organic in nature. The salty water that seeps from the glacier is actually stained red by its rich iron content, and harbors a community of extremophile microbes. How that water came to be there, and how it ...

2017-04-25 16:51:07
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22 

Meet Uber's Partners Creating Flying Taxis for 2020  

Uber sees no need for startups to bet on a risky "if you build it, they will come" strategy for flying taxis. Instead, the tech giant believes the demand for a faster aerial commuting option already exists among its 60 million monthly users--especially if the flying taxi service can cost about the same as hailing an UberX car. As a result, Uber has partnered with several companies to help build a "flying car" service that could begin public trials in the city of Dallas-Fort Worth, T...

2017-04-25 07:58:55
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9 

Plastic Bags Are a Feast for This Caterpillar  

A caterpillar that can eat plastic and produce an industrially useful compound while doing so could take a bite out of the global scourge of plastic trash, a new study finds. Plastics typically resist breaking down, and as plastic use has risen exponentially over the past 50 years, plastic garbage is piling up in landfills and could wreak havoc on wildlife and the environment for centuries. Digging into Pollution The most common plastic used in packaging, polyethylene, represents about

2017-04-24 10:06:17
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10 

Watch as a giant explosion on the Sun blasts material into space, followed by dancing loops of glowing gas  

NASA describes the display of coronal loops as particularly unusual As NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory watched on April 19, 2017, a huge explosion of hot, ionized gas and magnetic field blasted outward from the Sun. Immediately following this coronal mass ejection, or CME, gargantuan loops of glowing plasma many times larger than Earth arced high in the Sun's atmosphere. Such bright coronal loops form as charged particles spin along the Sun's magnetic field lines. While such displa...

2017-04-24 02:52:55
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24 

Here's the first installment in a new series at ImaGeo: dazzling imagery from the new GOES-16 weather satellite  

With Earth Day just behind us, I've been inspired to start a new series here at ImaGeo: semi-regular posts showcasing the truly dazzling imagery now being produced by the GOES-16 weather satellite. It's now on its shakedown cruise, so to speak. Scientists are still testing everything out and evaluating the data being returned by the satellite. So it is not yet officially operational. Even so, just have a look at the animation above, and the others below, and I think you'll agree that G

2017-04-23 14:02:11
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10 

There's no place like home  

A visual celebration of the home planet, starting with a view from Earth as seen from Saturn — 870 million miles away — and zooming in close On the morning of the first Earth Day, on April 20th, 1970, a friend and I boarded the IRT subway line in Brooklyn and headed for Manhattan. Our destination: Fifth Avenue, where New York City's festivities were to take place. I don't recall ever having heard the term "home planet" back then. Yet the basic idea already had great currency, ...

2017-04-23 05:48:28
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27 

Tropical Storm Arlene spins up in the Atlantic, two months before average date of first storm of hurricane season  

Is climate change playing any role in an apparent lengthening of the hurricane season? It's way early for hurricane season to start, but that's precisely what happened yesterday with the formation of Tropical Storm Arlene in the far northern Atlantic. Brian McNoldy, a researcher at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, writing at his Tropical Atlantic Update blog, puts this into perspective: . . . this is exactly two months before the average da...

2017-04-22 02:19:39
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21 

Why I March Every Day  

As the March for Science has drawn near, scientists and science-lovers across the country have pontificated at length on why they are—or aren't—marching. But while today's 400-plus demonstrations around the nation will hopefully resonate with lawmakers, it takes more than rallies to accomplish lasting change. The following is a guest post from Dr. Kira Krend, a biology teacher in Honolulu, HI, on her March for Science—one that she does every day.  13,407 steps. The dis...

2017-04-22 01:41:25
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20 

Check out this cool animation illustrating California's dramatic change in fortunes  

The animation, based on data from a NASA airborne observatory, show just how much the state's snowpack has grown The incredible impact of California's drought-busting deluges has now become even clearer, thanks to this compelling new animation from NASA. You're looking at a comparison of snowpack on April 1, 2015 and 2017 in the Tuolumne River Basin of the Sierra Nevada range. Famous Mono Lake is to the right. The entire basin spans more than 1,600 square miles, an area larger than...

2017-04-21 14:24:07
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21 

Functional Connectivity Between Surgically Disconnected Brain Regions?  

A new article posted on preprint site bioRxiv has generated a lot of interest among neuroscientists on Twitter. The article reports the existence of 'functional connectivity' between surgically disconnected distant brain regions using fMRI, something that in theory shouldn't be possible. This is big news, if true, because it suggests that fMRI functional connectivity isn't entirely a reflection of actual signalling between brain areas. Rather, something else must be able to produce connectivi

2017-04-21 09:34:43
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20 

The Hobbit: A Lineage More Ancient Than Once Thought?  

The 2003 discovery of the Homo floresiensis added a new, weird branch to the human family tree. At the same time humans were spreading across Asia and Neanderthals were inching toward extinction in Europe (and the mysterious Denisovans were doing … something), this three-and-a-half foot human relative was carving out an existence on the Flores island in what is now Indonesia. But where, exactly, it came from has been a mystery. There were suggestions that it was simply a modern human su...

2017-04-21 09:09:46
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20 

Exploding Sea Cucumber Butt Threads Are a New Material  

Whoever named the sea cucumber after a vegetable didn't give it enough credit. Yes, sea cucumbers are soft, warty tubes that scoot eyelessly along the seafloor. But they aren't helpless. Some secrete a poison that's deadly to other animals. And some, when threatened, shoot sticky threads out of their anuses to tangle up predators. When researchers collected these bizarre weapons and tested them in the lab, they discovered a material that's unique among sea creatures. The threads that ...

2017-04-21 05:38:59
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18 

The Case for Cannibalism  

A once taboo topic now appears perfectly natural in the animal kingdom. And it’s changing what we know about evolution.

2017-04-21 04:41:10
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27 

Giant Virus Found in Sewage Blurs the Line Between Life and Non-Life  

In most biology textbooks, there's a clear separation between the three domains of cellular organisms - Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes - and viruses. This fault line is also typically accepted as the divider between life and non-life: since viruses rely on host machinery to enact metabolic transformations and to replicate, they are not self-sufficient, and generally not considered living entities. But several discoveries of giant viruses over the last decade have blurred this dis...

2017-04-20 13:45:01
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24 

Potentially Balmy Super-Earth Is a Tempting Case Study in Habitability  

A new, nearby exoplanet could be just the boilerplate needed to find out if life could exist in untold numbers of star systems. The planet, LHS 1140b, is 39 light years away. It orbits a small M-dwarf star every 24 days. The planet itself is 1.4 times larger and 6.6 times more massive than Earth, and the principal investigators of the study published today in Nature believe it to be rocky. Standout Super-Earth Our list of exoplanets is long — nearly 3,500 strong, with new planets com...

2017-04-20 10:53:18
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25 

Naked Mole-rats Can Go 18 Minutes Without Oxygen  

Though they may look ugly to us, naked mole-rats never want for friendship. The hairless rodents live in large colonies under the earth, inhabiting byzantine warrens under the soil of their native East Africa. They send foraging parties out through the dirt in search of the tree roots and tubers that sustain them, and when it comes time to rest, they gather together in a massive pile to sleep. Their isolation offers security, but being cut off from the surface poses its own dangers. Even...

2017-04-20 04:46:23
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13 

Bee derived molecular shuttle is the newest buzz-worthy venom product  

We human beings are quite fond of our brains. They are one of our largest and most complex organs, weighing in at nearly three pounds (2% of our bodies!). Each contains upwards of 90 billion neurons responsible for controlling our gangly, almost hairless primate bodies as well as processing and storing a lifetime's worth of events, facts and figures. So we protect our brains as best we can, from hats that battle temperature extremes to helmets that buffer even the most brutish blows. O...

2017-04-19 13:21:45
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38 

Infamous Man-Eaters of Tsavo Ate Like Zoo Animals  

The man-eaters of Tsavo, two lions that killed railroad workers in Kenya more than a century ago, have inspired legends, movies and a lot of research papers trying to explain what drove the big cats to prey on humans (a rare menu choice for Panthera leo). A study out today finds that, in one crucial way, the infamous killers were a lot like — surprise — zoo animals. For years, the true story of the man-eaters of Tsavo has been embellished and exaggerated, most recently in the 1996 mo...

2017-04-19 10:24:48
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29 

The Names Behind the Units of Measure  

You know the units, but do you recognize the scientists responsible for them?

2017-04-19 05:52:57
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28 

Untangling the Ancient Inca Code of Strings  

Two vibrant bundles of string, over 10,000 feet high in the Peruvian Andes, may hold clues for deciphering the ancient code of the Inca civilization. Kept as heirlooms by the community of San Juan de Collata, the strings are khipus, devices of twisted and tied cords once used by indigenous Andeans for record keeping. Anthropologists have long debated whether khipus were simply memory aids — akin to rosary beads — or a three-dimensional writing system. The latter seems more possible, ...

2017-04-19 05:46:52
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15 

Arr, Matey! This Sea Scorpion Be A 'Primordial Swashbuckler,' Yarr!  

Be glad our species wasn't around some 400 million years ago...we would have had to contend with giant sea scorpions, some more than 10 feet in length and capable of prowling about on land in search of a meal. And that's not all: Researchers reveal that at least one of these Monsters of Deep Time had a particularly violent — and unusual — way of dispatching its prey. Published today in The American Naturalist, the spine-tingling tale of a stabby sea scorpion is straight out of a...

2017-04-19 05:41:01
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43 

Indian Frog Secretes Virus-destroying Compound Through Its Skin  

A peptide secreted by a species of Indian frog can destroy variants of the influenza virus. Frogs, with little defensive weaponry to rely on, have armed themselves with a chemical arsenal that gets leached out through their skins. In some frogs, this takes the form of deadly poisons; in others, the chemicals have been known to possess psychoactive properties. Hydrophylax bahuvistara, a species of fungoid frog found in India, secretes a substance that protects against viruses. Resear...

2017-04-19 01:20:17
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35 

Why Felines Can't Resist the #CatSquare  

Twitter's been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare. This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet's "America's Cutest Pets" series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and ev...

2017-04-18 18:04:45
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30 

We just had our 2nd warmest March, and with El Niño maybe rising from the dead, things could get interesting  

The home planet just experienced its second warmest March on record, according to an analysis released by NASA last week. The agency's temperature records go all the way back to 1880 From the analysis: Last month was 1.12 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean March temperature from 1951-1980. The two top March temperature anomalies have occurred during the past two years. Here's how the year so far compares with the seasonal cycle for every year since 1880: It's still early in the

2017-04-18 06:10:04
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44 

It sure does look like a flying saucer zinging around Saturn  

But in reality, it is a flying saucer moon named Atlas Who knew? I certainly didn't... Saturn has a moon shaped eerily like a flying saucer. Check it out in the image above, acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 12, 2017 during a flyby that came as close as 7,000 miles from the moon. This is the closest image ever taken of the moon, named Atlas, according to NASA. The object is just 19 miles across; it orbits Saturn just outside the giant planet's A ring — the outermos...

2017-04-17 14:38:15
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32 




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