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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.

This 200-Acre, 'Humungous Fungus' May Help Unravel Why Cancer Genes Are Unstable  

In the mid-'80s, scientists discovered a giant fungus growing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Now, researchers have found the organism is at least 2,500 years old. And the secret to the mushroom's longevity might be a genome that's highly resistant to mutation, the team reports today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The discovery could help researchers figure out why cancer genomes are so unstable. Forest Recycler In 1983, Johann Bruhn planted red pines in the fore...

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2018-12-19 00:01:17

When Black Hole Jets Create Natural Particle Accelerators  

Cosmic rays are energetic particles moving at high speeds. Because it takes significant energy to create them, they often serve as cosmic messengers, revealing clues about the extreme environments that produce them — such as supermassive black holes. On Earth, scientists use accelerators to generate and study particles moving at high speeds, but nature needs no such apparatus. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a possible mechanis...

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2018-12-18 23:30:52

SNAPSHOT: This Hummingbird's Elaborate Mating Display Lasts Just Milliseconds  

Hellooo, ladies! This male broad-tailed hummingbird was captured on the upswing of a dramatic dive meant to impress a potential mate. Many male birds put on a flashy show to woo females, and the broad-tailed hummingbird is no exception. Princeton University researchers Benedict Hogan and Mary Caswell Stoddard have been studying the courtship routines of this tiny Don Juan, published today in the journal Nature Communications. A male looking to catch a lady hummingbird's eye will cl...

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2018-12-18 23:00:33

Virgin Galactic Teases Their Timeline For Sending Tourists to Space  

Last week, Virgin Galactic made history when they launched their SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle to space (by one definition) and back with two test pilots on board. This was the first vehicle to launch humans to space from U.S. soil since NASA's Shuttle program ended in 2011. This was also the first time a commercial craft built to carry paying passengers reached space. But what's next for the spaceflight company? Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson says he plans to be the first...

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2018-12-18 19:37:00

European Orbiter Finds No Methane in Mars' Atmosphere, Puzzling Scientists  

Methane on Mars There's a methane mystery brewing on Mars. Scientists first detected traces of methane gas on Mars years ago, and it was exciting because the compound is a sign of life here on Earth. But a European orbiter has yet to find any evidence of methane in the planet's atmosphere, despite being expressly made for the purpose. It's complicating scientists' search for life on the Red Planet. Traces of methane were first detected in Mars' atmosphere by the European Space Age...

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2018-12-18 17:49:19

A Second X Chromosome Could Explain Why Women Live Longer Than Men  

Women have an average life expectancy that's about 4 years longer than men's - regardless of culture or geography. Even among animal species, females outlive males. Why females have an advantage in the longevity department hadn't been well understood. In the past, some had assumed it had to do with lifestyle. But scientists say there may be a genetic mechanism underlying this age-old phenomenon. In a new study, researchers found that mice with two X chromosomes lived longer, regardl...

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2018-12-18 03:00:17

Stroking a Baby During Medical Procedures Really Can Reduce an Infant's Pain  

Protecting an infant from pain may be a matter of instinct. In a new study, researchers show that gently stroking babies during medical procedures, as parents intuitively do, reduces infants' feelings of pain about as well as applying a topical anesthetic. The discovery suggests touch and tactile stimulation are effective means to mollify pain in newborns and an alternative to using drugs. "Touch seems to have analgesic potential without the risk of side effects," Rebeccah Slater, a p...

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2018-12-17 23:44:21

Astronomers Have Found the Most Distant Dwarf Planet in the Solar System to Date  

A Far-Out Planet An ambitious team of astronomers has discovered the most "far out" object ever observed in our Solar System. The object, a pink dwarf planet called 2018 VG18 and nicknamed "Farout," lies more than 100 times further from the sun than the Earth is. This discovery, made by Carnegie's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii's David Tholen and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo, was formally announced today (Dec. 17) by the International Astronomical ...

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2018-12-17 23:03:31

SNAPSHOT: This Startup Says They've Made The First Lab-Grown Steak  

This image captures the world's first lab-grown steak, created by Aleph Farms, an Israeli based startup. It's different than standard vegetarian mock meats that attempt to mimic the flavor and texture of the real thing. Instead, lab-grown meat, or "clean meat," uses actual animal cells. To grow the meat, Aleph sampled cow fat, blood vessel, muscle and support cells and cultured them in the lab. A three-week process of 3-D tissue formation then brought it all together in a slaughter...

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2018-12-17 23:00:14

Planets? Who Needs 'Em! A Massive Star Forms a Companion Instead  

The universe is full of surprises, and a colossal young star has been hiding a stellar one. While observing infant star MM 1a, astronomers found that its massive disk was actually forming another star instead of planets. The much smaller companion, dubbed MM 1b, was detected just outside the behemoth star's dusty disk, and could actually house a planet-forming disk of its own. The discovery of the new star, published on December 14 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, marks one of the ...

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2018-12-17 22:39:23

Despite Concerns, Space Junk Continues to Clutter Earth Orbit  

Humans have a tendency to litter wherever we go. Whether it's the local park, a music festival, or Mt. Everest, we're just not good at cleaning up after ourselves. And space is no exception. Space is pretty big. Infinite, in fact. But the same can't be said of low-Earth orbit (LEO) and, in particular, the most popular orbital lanes used by Earth-sensing and communications satellites. We're launching more objects skyward every year and not, in many cases, cleaning up when we're done with t

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2018-12-17 22:32:47

It's Probably OK to Eat Raw Cookie Dough — As Long As You're Smart About It  

For many people, the holiday ritual of baking cookies isn't complete without also eating some of the raw dough. In my family, questions like "Who gets to lick the beaters?" and "Can I grab a piece of dough?" were always part of the cookie-making experience. Yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly issued warnings about the dangers of consuming raw dough. Specific statements have included: "The bottom line for you and your kids is don't eat raw dough," "D...

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2018-12-17 20:21:16

Pterosaur Feathers Deepen Debate Over Their Evolution  

The discovery of novel filaments on two species of pterosaur suggests that the extinct flying reptiles had complex coats of "feathers" and fuzz, say the authors of a new study. The presence of these apparent pterosaur feathers may indicate that the ancestor of both pterosaurs and their cousins, dinosaurs, sported similar coverings — but that's not the only hypothesis. Like dinosaurs, pterosaurs are archosaurs. This group of reptiles, which also includes crocodilians, likely emerged...

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2018-12-17 16:00:00

Predicting Suicide: The EDOR® Enigma (Part 3)  

This time last year I wrote(1,2) about a Swedish company called Emotra. Emotra make a device that is supposed to measure suicide risk in people with mental illness. The test is called EDOR® and according to Emotra's website and materials, it has been shown to be highly effective. Last year, I explained why I disagree with that assessment. Now, a year later, I'm revisting the EDOR® story, because there have been a number of developments that I find quite disturbing. It seems that EDOR® ...

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2018-12-15 22:49:56

NASA's GEDI Mission Will Track Carbon Emissions in Earth's Forests  

The Jedi in Star Wars is all about the force, but NASA's GEDI is all about the forest. On December 5, the space agency launched their tree-tracking Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) instrument to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will use laser light to create 3D maps of Earth's forests and estimate their carbon emissions. Unlike most mappers, GEDI is able to peer below tree canopies and see the vegetation that lies beneath — giving insight into carbon cyc...

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2018-12-14 23:36:27

With Fruit Flies, Researchers are Gaining New Insights Into Autism  

A telephone ringing. A car horn blaring. Fluorescent lighting overhead. These are everyday sights and sounds that most people don't give a second thought to. But for a person with autism, being around ordinary sensory stimuli can be uncomfortable or even unbearable. Autism, typically thought of as a disorder affecting social functioning, can also have a profound effect on sensory processing. Although no two cases of autism are alike, it's estimated that up to 90 percent of children an...

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2018-12-14 23:00:42

Juno's Mission to Jupiter Just Hit Its Halfway Point: What We've Learned So Far  

Juno's Flight NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft is about to fly past Jupiter yet again to gather more data on the gas giant. On Dec. 21, at 11:49:48 a.m. EST, Juno will pass just 3,140 miles (5,053 km) from Jupiter's cloud tops at 128,802 miles per hour. This will be the spacecraft's 16th science pass of the planet, meaning that Juno's prime mission will be halfway complete. With this 16th flyby, the Juno mission will have observed the entire planet, Jack Connerney, the mi...

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2018-12-14 22:38:49

In the Blink of an Eye, We're Turning Back the Climatic Clock by 50 Million Years  

Absent serious action on climate change, we'll continue careening toward a climatic cliff. And modern civilization will be hard-pressed to survive the plunge. This is the essential take-away from new research probing Earth's climatic past to yield insights into our future. The research finds that if our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue unabated, Earth's climate will warm by the year 2150 to levels not seen since the largely ice-free Eocene Epoch about 50...

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2018-12-14 21:45:49

Scientists Find What Makes Our Bones Strong When We Exercise  

Exercise is good for us in a lot of ways. It helps cut the pounds, increases cardiovascular health, adds muscle mass and can boost our mood. What it also does, though, is help keep our bones strong. Studies have shown that regular exercise, especially involving weights, ups bone mass and maintains the health of our skeletal system. For us spring chickens, having strong bones might not sound all that critical, as our skeleton seems to get by just fine no matter what we do. But in the elde...

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2018-12-13 21:07:16

A Nearby Supernova May Have Caused a Mass Extinction 2.6 Million Years Ago  

Supernovae are the explosive end stages of massive stars. About 2.6 million years ago, one such supernova lit up Earth's sky from about 150 light-years away. A few hundred years later, after the new star had long since faded from the sky, cosmic rays from the event finally reached Earth, slamming into our planet. Now, a group of researchers led by Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas believes this cosmic onslaught is linked to a mass extinction of ocean animals roaming Earth's water...

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2018-12-13 20:51:28

Researchers Discover 1.5 Million Hidden Penguins by Looking at their Poop From Space  

Monitoring the well-being of Antarctica's delicate ecosystem just got a little bit easier thanks to a very unlikely source: penguin poop. By analyzing over 40 years of Antarctic images gathered by seven satellites as part of the Landsat program, a NASA-funded team of researchers recently uncovered new details about the lives of Antarctica's Adelie penguins — a species that may help reveal past and future threats to one of the most unspoiled regions in the world. In re...

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2018-12-13 20:37:58

Ancient DNA Reveals The Surprisingly Complex Origin Story of Corn  

In Mexico, corn tortillas rule the kitchen. After all, maize began evolving there from a grass called teosinte some 9,000 years ago, eventually becoming a staple consumed around the world. But that spread presents a puzzle. In 5,300-year-old remains of maize from Mexico, genes from the wild relative show that the plant was still only partly domesticated. Yet archaeological evidence shows that a fully domesticated variety was being grown in South America more than 1,000 years before that.

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2018-12-13 20:00:21

HGH Treatment Tragedy Suggests Alzheimer's Might be Transmissible  

A medical procedure transferred a key component of Alzheimer's disease from one person to another, finds a new study published today in the journal Nature. The discovery suggests the seeds of the devastating neurodegenerative disease are transmissible. "It is a new way of thinking about the condition," John Collinge, a neurologist at the University of College London in the United Kingdom, who led the new research, told reporters during a media briefing. Odd Autopsy Three years ago...

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2018-12-13 19:32:21

Virgin Galactic Has Launched its SpaceShipTwo Into Space  

Launching Virgin Galactic Virgin Galactic has followed through with their ambitious goal to launch their SpaceShipTwo vehicle into space before Christmas. Today, the aerospace company successfully launched four NASA-supported technologies and two brave test pilots aboard the suborbital space plane into space and then landed safely back on Earth. [embed]Today, SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Unity, launched for space...

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2018-12-13 19:03:07

Scientists Create Tiny Nanomaterials By Shrinking Them  

The idea of shrinking things down to a more convenient size seems so enticing. It's a superpower for Ant-Man, kicks off the adventures in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and, of course, the Simpsons had fun with the idea too. (Shrinkage has come up in other contexts, as well.) Now, in real life, a team of MIT and Harvard scientists has gotten in on the fun by devising a new way of constructing nanomaterials — tiny machines or structures on the order of just a billionth of a meter. They call...

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2018-12-13 19:00:46

Physicists Make 'Quark Soup' to Study the Early Universe  

By slamming small particles into heavy gold nuclei at nearly the speed of light, scientists have created tiny, ultra-hot droplets of a bizarre type of matter called a quark-gluon plasma (QGP), which once filled the entire universe shortly after the Big Bang. Creating such a 'quark soup' is a tough task in its own right; the first sample of QGP was produced less than two decades ago by smashing two heavy atoms together. But for this new study, which was carried out as part of the...

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2018-12-13 15:41:54

Starting School Later Helps Teens Get More Sleep  

Ah, adolescence. A time of change, of navigating awkward social situations, figuring out who you are, maybe holding down that first job or focusing on extracurriculars — all while juggling the demands of school. And for most teens, managing all of this happens on too little sleep. To help alleviate the lack of Z's, experts in the U.S. have been pushing for school systems across the country to roll back the start times for middle and high school students. Now, a new paper in the journa...

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2018-12-12 20:44:34

2018 Saw Simultaneous Wildfires Devastate California. That Could be the New Normal  

(Inside Science) -- Just a few weeks ago, two large wildfires caused massive destruction and at least 91 deaths in California, the Woolsey fire near Los Angeles and the Camp fire that engulfed the town of Paradise in the north. Residents and firefighters struggled to stop both fires, yet they can expect more like them to come. Simultaneous large fires are becoming more common throughout the continental United States, according to new research presented by Alison Cullen today at the Societ

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2018-12-12 20:27:11

Behold Thylacoleo, Australia's Extinct Giant Marsupial "Lion"  

Multiple recently discovered specimens of Thylacoleo carnifex have allowed researchers to reconstruct the extinct animal's entire skeleton for the first time, revising what we know about how Australia's largest-ever carnivorous mammal moved. Spoiler alert: It appears that, despite weighing in excess of 200 pounds, the animal was an adept climber. Add that skill to the list of traits, including unique flesh-shearing teeth and a lethal thumb claw, that make Thylacoleo so fascinating. Nickn...

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2018-12-12 19:00:19

Blinks Change How We Talk To Each Other  

You probably didn't notice but the last time you talked with a colleague or chatted with a friend, you blinked. A lot. Blinks are a conversational cue akin to nodding one's head, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One. As such, the unconscious reflex changes how people talk to each other. Even the subtlest non-verbal clues impact our conversations, the finding suggests. "Our findings indicate that even visually subtle behavior such as listener blinking is ...

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2018-12-12 19:00:19

Virgin Galactic May Reach Space This Week  

Virgin Galactic, one of the companies aiming to become the first to send astronauts into space, is planning to put its SpaceShipTwo vehicle through its next phase of testing starting as early as Thursday, December 13. It will be the fourth powered flight for the vehicle, named VSS Unity, and the first since its successful July 26 flight, which reached a peak altitude of 32 miles (52 kilometers). Now, the company is aiming higher, further, and faster — this next round of tests will "...

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2018-12-12 17:01:49

Deep Water Seagrass Meadows Are Untapped Carbon Sinks  

Seagrass meadows cover an area roughly the size of Switzerland in the deep waters of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Now, a new study shows the coastal ecosystems store significant amounts of carbon. The finding suggests deep water seagrass meadows could help mitigate climate change. "If we are to help regain control of our planet's thermostat and limit global warming, we must capitalize on the powerful ability of natural ecosystems to sequester and store carbon," Peter Macreadie, a ...

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2018-12-12 16:28:16

SNAPSHOT: Dracula Ants Have Mandibles That Move at 200 MPH  

Ready, set…CHOMP! With mandibles that snap at up to 200mph (90 meters per second) Mystrium camillae, otherwise known as a Dracula ant, now holds the new speed record for fastest known animal appendage, beating out the trap-jaw ant's impressive 140mph bite. University of Illinois animal biology and entomology professor Andrew Suarez led the study that uncovered the new record, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. High-speed video was used to record the mandibles in act...

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2018-12-12 15:59:05

Scientists Propose a New Marker for the Anthropocene: Chickens  

Imagine an archaeological dig far in the future. Scientists are excavating a site somewhere in what was once North America, peeling back layers of dirt in search of the remnants of a vanished civilization. Millions of years having passed, there's not much left, and the archaeologists must be diligent. But, as they scrape and sift, clues to this vanished people emerge, a peephole into a bygone culture. What objects would these future archaeologists find? What specimens would they dust o...

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2018-12-12 00:01:58

Astronauts Complete Nearly 8-hour Spacewalk to Investigate Space Station Mystery Hole  

On Tuesday, two Russian cosmonauts spent seven hours and 45 minutes on a spacewalk, working to solve the mystery of who or what poked a hole in the Soyuz spacecraft. The cosmonauts used knives and other tools to cut a 10-inch chunk out of the International Space Station. It will be brought back to Earth and investigated for clues to the cause of a small hole in the Soyuz capsule. Back in August, astronauts noticed a slight drop in pressure on the International Space Station. While not an

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2018-12-12 00:00:29

Dwarf Planet Ceres Has Lots of Carbon  

Organics on Ceres Data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft show that there is an abundance of carbon on Ceres. Dawn ended its mission on November 1, 2018. However, the spacecraft has remained in orbit around Ceres 257 million miles from Earth. Propelled by an ion engine, the craft was the first to ever visit a dwarf planet. And, in its orbit around Ceres, Dawn has now collected data that provides evidence of organic matter on the planet's surface. In a new study detailing these findings, a te...

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2018-12-11 22:51:03

Scientists Discover Staggering Amount of Life Deep Below Earth's Surface  

The dark, high-pressure depths of Earth's interior is an unexpected place to find life. Now, an international group of scientists report there's 16.5 to 25 billion tons of micro-organisms beneath the planet's surface. The team's work is redefining what a habitable environment is. The discoveries "force us to reimagine what the boundaries are that life can exist in," said Karen Lloyd, a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Deep Discovery Lloyd is a member...

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2018-12-11 22:19:25

Sex and the City: Female Frogs Prefer the Mating Calls of Urban Males  

If you find yourself swooning over urbanites more than country boys, you're not alone. A new study found that female túngara frogs were more attracted to the mating calls of males living in cities than those residing in forests. Researchers found that male túngara frogs in urban areas have more prominent, complex calls than those in the wilderness — a possible adaptation to noisy city life that's enabled by a lack of predators. A study outlining this newfound evolutionary tra...

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2018-12-11 20:45:48

Are Artificial Christmas Trees Better for the Environment Than Real Ones? It Depends  

Scotch pines on a Christmas tree farm in northern Michigan. (Credit: Bert Cregg, CC BY-ND) Environmentally conscious consumers often ask me whether a real Christmas tree or an artificial one is the more sustainable choice. As a horticulture and forestry researcher, I know this question is also a concern for the Christmas tree industry, which is wary of losing market share to artificial trees. And they have good reason: Of the 48.5 million Christmas trees Americans purchased in 2017, ...

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2018-12-11 17:13:43

SNAPSHOT: New Butterfly Named for Pioneering Naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian  

This newly identified rare black butterfly has been named after the pioneering 17th century female entomologist, Maria Sibylla Merian. An extraordinary woman, this naturalist and scientific illustrator once sold 255 paintings to fund an expedition across the Atlantic to document the flora and fauna of Dutch Suriname, collected in a book in 1705. The Central American butterfly honored with her name is dubbed Catasticta sibyllae. Exceedingly rare, only two specimens have been uncovered: on

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2018-12-11 16:00:03

A Woman's Uterus May Play a Role in Memory and Cognition  

(Inside Science) -- In medical textbooks, the nonpregnant uterus is often described as quiescent, dormant and useless. But now, researchers have found that the uterus may play a role in memory and cognition -- a role hitherto unappreciated because researchers haven't looked closely at the uterus's role outside of pregnancy. A third of women in the U.S. have their uteruses removed, a procedure called hysterectomy, by age 60, according to Heather Bimonte-Nelson, who directs Arizona Stat...

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2018-12-10 23:30:49

Can We Blame Our Genes for Our Decisions?  

Forget meditation, forget ayahuasca ceremonies and mindfulness practice. Today, knowing yourself is as easy as swabbing your cheek. Home genetics tests like those offered by 23andme are becoming readily affordable — just $69 for a test kit — and they offer an unprecedented look at our personal blueprint. It's even possible today to study the genetics of your potential offspring before they're born. So-called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis analyzes DNA from an embryo, when it...

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2018-12-10 23:24:43

What Does Mars Sound Like? InSight Just Recorded Martian Wind  

On November 26, NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on Mars. Though the probe's main goal is to explore the planet's interior, its sophisticated instruments are also offering a unique way to explore the Martian surface — by recording the sound of Martian wind. Windswept Sounds of Mars The recordings capture the sounds of winds gusting through Elysium Planitia, InSight's Martian home, a...

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2018-12-10 23:07:48

Get Out and Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower This Week  

The spectacular Geminid meteor shower peaks the night of December 13/14. Although many people consider it to be a poor cousin to August's Perseid shower, the Geminids often put on a better show. This year, observers can expect to see up to 120 "shooting stars" per hour — an average of nearly two per minute — under a dark sky. Viewing conditions could hardly be better for the Geminids this year. The waxing crescent moon sets around 10:30 p.m. local time, leaving the prime viewing...

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2018-12-10 23:04:31

After More Than 40 Years, Voyager 2 Has Gone Interstellar  

Escaping the Heliosphere Humanity has another interstellar emissary. After launching in 1977, NASA's trailblazing spacecraft Voyager 2 has finally escaped the heliosphere, the Sun's protective bubble of charged particles. It follows in the path of its sibling,  Voyager 1, which crossed into interstellar space in 2012. The Sun's solar wind makes up the heliosphere, which surrounds us and all of the planets in our solar system. The boundary where the hot solar winds of the heliosph...

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2018-12-10 22:46:33

NASA Releases First Data from OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission  

OSIRIS-REx Findings OSIRIS-REx has been busy ever since it arrived at the asteroid Bennu on December 3. The latest updates from NASA reveal that the space rock is porous, blue, and covered in massive boulders. More excitingly, they discovered evidence that Bennu's minerals interacted with water at some point in its distant past. During a press conference today at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting, NASA's OSIRIS-REx team revealed the first results from their spacecraft's o...

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2018-12-10 22:20:23

Why You Shouldn't Worry Too Much About Designer Babies  

Babies to order. Andrew crotty/ When Adam Nash was still an embryo, living in a dish in the lab, scientists tested his DNA to make sure it was free of Fanconi anemia, the rare inherited blood disease from which his sister Molly suffered. They also checked his DNA for a marker that would reveal whether he shared the same tissue type. Molly needed a donor match for stem cell therapy, and her parents were determined to find one. Adam was conceived so the stem cells in his umbil...

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2018-12-10 18:46:03

The Psychology of Memory and the 2016 Election  

An intriguing new study uses the 2016 US Presidential election as a tool to examine the organization of human memory. The results show that events that occur around the same time are linked in memory. Remembering one past event tends to trigger the recall of other memories from that time. This chronological clustering makes intuitive sense, but it's a theory that's been debated in psychology for a while, under the name of the temporal-contiguity effect (TCE). According to the authors of th

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2018-12-09 13:43:17

Is Gender Identity Unique to Humans?  

This summer, in the introductory course I teach on the evolution and biology of human and animal behavior, I showed my students a website that demonstrates how to identify frog "genders." I explained that this was a misuse of the term "gender"; what the author meant was how to identify frog sexes. Gender, I told the students, goes far beyond mere sex differences in appearance or behavior. It refers to something complex and abstract that may well be unique to Homo sapiens. This idea i...

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2018-12-07 23:30:55

How Did Human Language Evolve? Scientists Still Don't Know  

Humans have language and other animals don't. That's obvious, but how it happened is not. Since Darwin's time, scientists have puzzled over the evolution of language. They can observe the present-day product: People today have the capacity for language, whether it be spoken, signed or written. And they can infer the starting state: The communication systems of other apes suggest abilities present in our shared ancestor. But the million-dollar question is what happened in between. Ho...

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2018-12-07 23:03:12

Living in Space Makes Our Bodies More Susceptible to Infections  

Even just 30 days in space can significantly reduce our immune system's ability to fight infection, suggests a new analysis of mice that spent a month aboard an orbiting spacecraft. The research, which was published December 6 in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, is a recent analysis of data from the Bion-M1 mission, which was a collaborative project carried out by NASA and the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems in 2013. Space Mice As p...

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2018-12-07 22:52:07

Scientists Find Planets Hidden in a Far-off Cloud of Gas and Dust  

Planet Hunting In a vast cloud of dust and gas 450 light-years from Earth in the Taurus constellation, scientists have found evidence of a treasure trove of super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, a team of researchers conducted a study of young stars in a gaseous, star-forming region of Taurus. The team observed and imaged 32 stars in the region that are surrounded by protoplanetary disks — rotating disks of dust and gas that sur...

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2018-12-07 22:10:30

Awesome Ears: The Weird World of Insect Hearing  

In a small windowless room on a sweltering summer's day, I find myself face-to-face with an entomological rock star. I'm at the University of Lincoln in eastern England, inside an insectary, a room lined with tanks and jars containing plastic plants and dozing insects. Before I know it, I'm being introduced to a vibrant-green katydid from Colombia. "Meet Copiphora gorgonensis," says Fernando Montealegre-Z, discoverer of this six-legged celebrity. The name's familiar: It'...

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2018-12-07 21:40:03

A New Generation of Atomic Clocks Could Help Find Dark Matter  

Detecting Dark Matter For years, researchers have been hunting for dark matter, which is thought to make up about 27 percent of the entire known universe. Now, an innovative team of scientists says they may have figured out a new way to detect the elusive substance using an international network of atomic clocks. In the early 1930s, astronomers such as Fritz Zwicky and Jan Oort wondered at apparent discrepancies between the visible matter astronomers could map in the universe, and the amou

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2018-12-07 20:01:25

Saturn and Its Moons Have Water Just Like Earth's — Except for Phoebe  

Although we weren't here to observe the birth of our own solar system, astronomers have developed a relatively informed picture of how it likely happened, based on observations of our present-day home and the infant planets forming around other stars. But every so often, something throws a wrench in our theories, and that may have just happened — researchers have discovered interesting new properties of Saturn and its moons that contradict our current models for how the solar syste...

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2018-12-06 22:33:05

Scientists Discovered The Oldest Human Plague. It Took Down Neolithic Farmers And Changed Europe's History  

Buried among 77 other people from her village in western Sweden are the bones of a 20 year-old woman. Now an analysis of DNA extracted from her teeth reveals what likely killed her. An international team of researchers has discovered the woman, who died some 5,000 years ago, had the oldest known case of the plague. The finding suggests the world's first plague epidemic took out her community and vast swaths of the Neolithic farming population in Europe. If confirmed, the notorious pat...

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2018-12-06 22:22:38

Scientists Achieve Breakthrough on Path to Pig-to-Human Heart Transplants  

Although 54 percent of adults in the United States have registered as organ donors, just one in three people die in a way that allows for organ donation. That leaves more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a transplant. Many will die waiting. Because demand for organs outpaces supply and probably always will, researchers have looked to xenotransplantation — placing animal organs into human bodies — as an alternative. However, getting to the point where xenotransplan...

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2018-12-06 22:17:34

China Prepares to Head for the Far Side of the Moon  

Moon-bound Tomorrow, at about 1:30 p.m. EST (2:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 local time), China's robotic Chang'e-4 mission will launch on a Long March 3B rocket, headed for the lunar surface. After launching, the spacecraft will spend 27 days traveling to the moon. Upon arrival at our rocky satellite, an accompanying lander, which doubles as a rover, will descend towards the surface. The craft will touch down in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole‐Aitken (SPA) basin on the far side of...

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2018-12-06 21:56:02

SNAPSHOT: New 'Organs on a Chip' Experiment Studies How Space Damages an Astronaut's Body  

Human tissues on a chip are headed into space. Tissue chips contain a small network of cells that work like real human organs, and are a safe, compact way for scientists to study the human body. SpaceX's Dragon resupply mission launched from Florida yesterday and is currently rocketing toward the International Space Station (ISS). On board are a few dozen chips designed to mimic the immune system — like the kidney-on-a-chip shown here. The missions is led by the National Institute of ...

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2018-12-06 19:47:45

Extreme Radiation Could Strip Exoplanets of their Atmospheres  

If orbiting just 4 million miles from your fiery host star wasn't bad enough, things might have just gotten even worse. New research shows that stars emitting high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation could strip the atmospheres of their ultra-close exoplanets. While observing gas giants that orbit exceptionally close to their host stars, astronomers found that those bombarded with radiation were losing helium from their atmospheres. These results, which were published in multiple stud...

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2018-12-06 19:00:22

Europeans' First Contact With Iroquois Happened up to 100 Years Later Than Expected  

A new study shows the historical dates of key archaeological sites associated with Europeans' first contact with indigenous communities are off by nearly 100 years. The discovery "dramatically rewrites" the history of northeastern North America, researchers report today in the journal Science Advances. "It will really change how we understand the history ... of this entire period, just before and during early contact with European civilization," Sturt Manning, a paleoclimate sci...

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2018-12-05 23:51:59

Fossil Ichthyosaur Blubber Is Evidence They Were Warm-Blooded  

For the first time, researchers have identified blubber, and other soft tissue, preserved in an Early Jurassic ichthyosaur. The new interpretation of the 180-million-year-old fossil suggests that the extinct marine reptiles were warm-blooded. Ichthyosaurs swam the Mesozoic Era seas and were roughly contemporary with dinosaurs. They are often compared with modern toothed whales, particularly porpoises (though at least one ichthyosaur species attained blue whale-like size). Many paleontol...

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2018-12-05 18:00:36

A Compound that Makes Bees Into Queens Could also Aid Human Stem Cell Therapies  

Scientists have announced a breakthrough in stem cell research that could have major implications for medical treatments that involve regenerating human cells. And their discovery came from an unlikely source: royal jelly. It's the same substance honey bees use to turn a common bee larvae into a queen. Royal Jelly A queen bee starts her life just like any other bee - a larva in the honey bee hive, taken care of by her siblings. But when it's time for a new queen, this larva is pulled a...

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2018-12-05 17:16:58

This New App Can Diagnose Anemia Using Just a Picture  

Nearly 25 percent of the world is anemic. Now researchers have created a smartphone app that can detect the condition with a photo. The new tech could mean diagnosing and monitoring the blood disorder without a finger poke or blood draw. "This is a way for anyone to screen themselves for anemia and all they have to do is download an app," said Wilbur Lam, a bioengineer and pediatric hematologist at Georgia Tech and Emory University in Atlanta, who led the new research. "It doesn't...

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2018-12-05 16:13:35

Scientists Struggle to tell Rodents Apart. Mouse Sperm May Offer a Solution  

It's easy to stereotype mice: They really can all look alike. In fact, even armed with genetic knowledge about their DNA, it can be hard for biologists to tell apart different species. They're just so similar. Well, not every bit of them is. A group at biologists recently found a new way to tell apart their murine specimens — by looking at mouse sperm. Their findings appear in the Journal of Mammalogy, and could mean not just improved games of Guess Who in the lab, but also shed lig...

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2018-12-05 00:00:25

Black Holes Surrounded by Gaseous 'Fountains,' Not 'Donuts'  

Black Hole Fountains Where once were donuts, now there may be fountains. Not literally, unfortunately, but new astronomical observations are rewriting scientists' conceptions of what the area around a black hole looks like, and the new evidence seems to lean heavily away from the morning delicacy. Scientists estimate that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, pulling in everything around them with tremendous gravitational forces. Up until now, astronomers believed...

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2018-12-04 22:39:32

Why Don't We Have an AIDS Vaccine?  

I mentioned to a friend, a gay man nearing 60, that World AIDS Day, which has been observed on Dec. 1 since 1988, was almost upon us. He had no idea that World AIDS Day still exists. This lack of knowledge is a testament to the great accomplishments that have occurred since World AIDS Day was created 30 years ago. It is also due to an accident in the timing of his birth that my friend escaped the devastation wreaked by AIDS among gay men in the U.S., before there was antiretroviral thera...

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2018-12-04 22:28:26

2019 Could Be a Big Year for Private Spaceflight  

Future of Spaceflight The upcoming year is shaping up to be a big one for private spaceflight. A number of big players in the race to get paying passengers to space seem poised to actually make that happen, and companies like Boeing and SpaceX have announced a number of ambitious goals. It looks like they might be beat by the Brit, though. Last week, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson claimed that his company Virgin Galactic will send astronauts into space by Christmas of this year.

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2018-12-04 22:27:53

SNAPSHOT: How The Devil Ray Got Its Horns  

How did the manta ray get its horns? That's something biologists at San Francisco State University have been trying to figure out. While not actual horns, the two fleshy growths are the reason why the manta are called "devil rays." A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution shows that these hornlike lumps, known as "cephalic lobes," are actually the foremost part of the manta ray's fin and not separate appendages, as previously believed. S...

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2018-12-04 19:50:35

In Just Hours, Sea Scallops Suck Up Billions of Microscopic Plastic Bits  

Plastic is in just about everything these days, including living, breathing creatures, from sea critters to people. Environmental waste and litter breaks down into tiny, microscopic particles. Those particles can then seep into water supplies and subsequently work their way into just about anything. That includes plastics in the seafood we eat. Now, a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has found that it takes just six hours for billions of nanoplastic particles...

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2018-12-03 23:47:58

Lonesome George's Genome Shows How the Giant Tortoise Lived Past 100  

Giant tortoises have exceptionally long lifespans and often live well past 100 years old. Now, a new study unveils genetic clues to the animals' longevity, including gene changes that may protect giant tortoises from cancer, bolster the immune system and help regulate metabolism. The findings add to how these processes contribute to aging. "We found interesting [genetic] variants potentially affecting six [aging] hallmarks in giant tortoises, opening new lines for aging research," s...

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2018-12-03 22:57:03

K2 and Gaia Team Up to Confirm 104 New Exoplanets  

K2 might have run out of fuel a few months ago, but astronomers are still using its data to uncover a slew of new worlds. Using stats from ESA's Gaia mission and K2, an extension of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, two recent studies have confirmed the existence of 104 new exoplanets. Their characteristics stretch far and wide, including multi-planet systems, terrestrial compositions and planets that orbit dangerously close to their host stars. These newfound bodies can be used to under...

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2018-12-03 22:31:01

OSIRIS-REx is About to Meet an Asteroid  

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, the space agency's first craft to bring samples from an asteroid back to Earth, is set to rendezvous with its target, Bennu, at around noon EST today. A special webcast is scheduled for just before the spacecraft reaches Bennu, at 11:45 a.m. EST. During this webcast, NASA officials and scientists will discuss the mission in depth. OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) launched in September of...

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2018-12-03 16:46:07

The First Crewed ISS Flight Since An Emergency Landing Happens Monday. Astronauts Say They're Confident in Russian Rocket  

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, KAZAKHSTAN - It was not even two months ago that a crew confidently told the Russian space commission here that it was ready to perform its duties in space. The journey was supposed to take half a year, but it only ended up being a few minutes. Expedition 57's Soyuz rocket rose from the ground, began to experience some strange vibration, and then triggered an abort. Its two crew members returned home safely, but it left behind a trail of problems for the Russian space pr

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2018-12-03 06:05:15

It's a Small Solar System After All  

Many years ago, this magazine was owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, and I would sometimes get one of the company's songs stuck in my head: "It's a Small World," the relentless musical accompaniment to the ride of the same name at Disney World in Florida. That song has popped up in my brain again recently, but in a very different and more majestic context. We are entering a new stage in the exploration of the solar system, one that inverts the theme of much that came before. Big is out an

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2018-12-01 04:56:57

Moms Aren't the Only Ones who Pass on Mitochondrial DNA  

If you think way, way back to your high school biology class, you might remember a little cellular structure called the mitochondrion. Its claim to fame is that it's the "powerhouse" of the cell — the organelle in charge of creating energy. But it also contains its own DNA, separate from the traditional DNA we think of, which lives in the nucleus of a cell. That nuclear DNA contains genetic information from both of our parents. But in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), that genetic informati...

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2018-11-30 22:56:05

Strange Supernova Observation Hints at New Kind of Stellar Explosion  

A Strange Supernova Astronomers studying a violent stellar explosion have witnessed a unique supernova phenomenon that's like nothing they've seen before. Researchers discovered the supernova, known as ASASSN-18bt (or SN 2018oh), this past February. And, strangely, within the early stages of the stellar explosion,  researchers saw an unusual burst of light emerge. New analysis of this unique supernova could help researchers gain insight into the still-unclear process of how stars die ...

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2018-11-30 22:48:34

Will We See "Monstrous" Neuroscience?  

The science story of the past week was the claim from Chinese scientist He Jiankui that he has created gene-edited human babies. Prof. He reports that two twin girls have been born carrying modifications of the gene CCR5, which is intended to protect them against future HIV risk. It's far from clear yet whether the gene-editing that He described has actually taken place - no data has yet been presented.  The very prospect of genetically-modifying human beings has, however, led to widespread ...

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2018-11-30 20:32:41

Scientists Have Measured All the Photons Ever Produced in the Observable Universe  

Ancient Starlight Astrophysicists estimate that our universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago, with the first stars forming when the universe was just a few hundred million years old. By peering back at the earliest days of stellar creation, scientists in South Carolina have measured all of the starlight ever produced throughout the entire history of the observable universe. Scientists have been working to obtain this measure, also known as extragalactic background light (EBL) or "cos...

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2018-11-29 22:16:13

Ancient Tools Reveal People Inhabited the 'Roof of the World' Far Earlier Than Thought  

As humans spread across the planet, high-altitude places like the Tibetan Plateau were some of the last regions to be inhabited. Now archaeologists have discovered a cache of ancient stone blades in northern Tibet from at least 30,000 years ago. The find is the earliest evidence for people living at high altitude and means humans were living in the harsh conditions of the miles-high Tibetan Plateau much earlier than previously thought. "We did not expect to find such early evidence o...

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2018-11-29 20:23:39

Jumping Spider Suckles Spiderlings Like They're a Litter of Kittens  

Got milk? Of course you do; few things are as uniquely mammalian as our milky infancies. Sure, we've all got backbones (but so do lizards), warm blood (but so do birds), and hair (but so do plants) - but it's the mammary glands from which mothers nurse their young that really set us mammals apart from the rest of the Tree of Life. That's why it was a little shocking when researchers announced today that another species was found to provide milk to its young. The newest member of ...

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2018-11-29 19:12:52

Tool And Butchery Site in Algeria Is 2.4 Million Years Old  

Stone tools and animal bones with cut marks, excavated at a site in eastern Algeria, are up to 2.4 million years old, the oldest archaeological evidence in North Africa and one of the oldest known examples of butchery. The finds suggest hominins, members of the human family tree, were living in the region almost half a million years earlier than previously thought. Paleoanthropologists had long believed that tool use among hominins began in East Africa. The oldest stone tools, 3.3 million...

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2018-11-29 19:00:35

Ancient Whale Without Teeth or Baleen Explains Evolutionary Mystery  

One of the great mysteries in marine research is how whales developed baleen, the unique array of plates and bristles that allow them to filter thousands of pounds of krill and plankton every day. Because baleen whales' ancestors had teeth, it was thought that some ancient whales began to filter feed using their teeth like a sieve. Over time, the filtering behavior would have caused whales to evolve baleen to fill in the gaps of their teeth before replacing them entirely. Another theory...

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2018-11-29 16:00:37

Tool Trove in Saudi Arabia Tells New Story Of Early Humans  

Hundreds of stone tools and related materials, found in central Saudi Arabia, reveal new information about early migrations of archaic humans into Southwest Asia. The discovery suggests multiple waves of tool-makers may have passed through the region, at least some by following waterways now lost to the desert. Saffaqah, an archaeological site in the heart of the Arabian Desert, is not new to science. It was first studied in the 1980s, when researchers found more than 8,000 artifact...

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2018-11-29 14:00:20

Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria Found on Space Station Toilet  

Space Bacteria Wherever humans go, our bacterial companions will follow. That's as true in space as it is on Earth, and while we've known that microbial astronauts are present on the International Space Station, one group of researchers has just found a new reason to worry about them. A genomic analysis of samples collected from the space toilet aboard the station, among other places, has revealed that some of the bacteria on the ISS possess genes conferring resistance to antibiotics. Ther

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2018-11-28 22:13:37

Stowaways Welcome on India's Upcoming Venus Mission  

Much to the delight of planetary scientists from around the world, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to send its first-ever Venus orbiter to our sister planet in just a few short years. And what's even more exciting is the space agency recently invited other countries to join in on the fun. On November 6, the ISRO published an Announcement of Opportunity regarding their planned mission to Venus, which is tentatively scheduled for launch in mid-2023. In the anno...

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2018-11-28 22:04:36

Researchers Discover a New Dwarf Galaxy Orbiting the Milky Way  

A Strange New Galaxy An unusual, enormous, and ancient dwarf galaxy looms near the Milky Way, 424,000 light-years away from Earth in the Antlia constellation, a new study found using data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia spacecraft. Scientists estimate that dozens of smaller galaxies orbit the Milky Way, pulled in by our galaxy's intense gravitational forces. Now, a team of researchers using data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia spacecraft, has discovered a new s...

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2018-11-28 22:04:18

Scientists Have Created Artificial Mini-placentas in the Lab  

More than 800 women die every day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Part of the reason for this is that scientists still don't well understand how the placenta works, including how it is implanted into the uterus during a pregnancy. Now, researchers from the University of Cambridge have created mini-placentas that grow in a dish. The advance provides researchers the ability to study how the placenta works in the lab, with the goal of understanding it better and finding ...

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2018-11-28 19:56:53

Chinese Scientist Who Says He Edited Human Babies Presents His Research  

HONG KONG -- Chinese researcher He Jiankui, who claims to have edited the genomes of twin infant girls to protect them from HIV while they were embryos, presented his work today at a conference at the University of Hong Kong. The controversial claim was first reported Sunday by the The Associated Press and through a series of YouTube videos, though no paper has yet been published, and the twins, called Lulu and Nana by He, have been kept out of public view. The announcement immediately ...

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2018-11-28 17:00:44

InSight Mars Mission Brought a First for NASA: Interplanetary CubeSats  

Groundbreaking CubeSats Yesterday, NASA's InSight lander touched down successfully on the martian surface in a flawless feat of engineering. Two briefcase-sized satellites known as CubeSats followed the exploratory probe all the way from Earth to the Red Planet. These twin Cubesats are the first of their kind to ever travel to another planet, and are already, successfully relaying important data to Earth, connecting us to Mars like never before. In fact, these satellites transmitted I...

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2018-11-27 21:46:58

How to Look Inside a Star With Artificial Intelligence and Sound Waves  

Star Sound Waves Using artificial intelligence (AI) and sound waves, researchers have found a possible means of looking inside stars. It's based on the fact that stars aren't solid objects — far from it, in fact. They're intense, vibrating balls of plasma held together by their own gravity and with wildly energetic nuclear reactions at their core. Now, researchers say that they're beginning to find ways to discern the internal state of a star by looking at the vibrations that propagate...

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2018-11-27 19:33:51

A History of Hits and Misses in Predicting New Planets  

In 2016, astronomers announced there was a new planet in the outer solar system. Planet Nine, supposedly larger than Neptune and located far beyond the orbits of the planets known so far, is a particular mystery since no one has yet observed it. Scientists have merely tracked its supposed orbit by watching the gravitational pull the planet exerts on the asteroids and space debris near it. But this isn't the first time scientists have predicted planets before spotting them. It's not ev...

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2018-11-27 19:01:02

If Mammoth Tusks Could Talk  

One day, about 11,000 years ago, a lone bull mastodon plodded through the shallows of a lake in what today is Michigan. Some time later, three females and a gamboling calf passed the same way. Luckily for paleontologists, clay-rich mud filled the animals' footprints, preserving the tracks and giving scientists insights into the mastodons' social structure. The long-extinct creatures likely lived in matriarchal herds, while mature males roamed singly, much like their modern-day relati...

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2018-11-27 17:04:33

Millions of Years Ago, the Poles Moved — And It Could Have Triggered an Ice Age  

Geologists at Rice University have uncovered evidence that suggests Earth's spin axis was in a different spot millions of years ago, a phenomenon called "true polar wander." The change, which occurred sometime in the past 12 million years, would have shifted Greenland further up into the Arctic Circle - which may have contributed to the onset of the last major Ice Age, 3.2 million years ago. You can think of the Earth's spin axis as the invisible axel around which the planet spins...

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2018-11-26 23:19:02

NASA's Mars Lander Is Preparing to Peer Beneath the Planet's Surface  

InSight on Mars November 26 at 2:54 ET, NASA's InSight lander touched down successfully on the martian surface. Now, once the dust settles around the landing site in Elysium Planitia, the probe will get to work expanding our understanding of the Red Planet — specifically, what's inside of it. After initially landing, InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport, captured its first image of its surroundings. This will be followed by ma...

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2018-11-26 23:05:11

Chinese Scientist Claims He's Created World's First Gene-Edited Babies  

A Chinese researcher says he used the gene editing technology CRISPR to alter the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month when the babies were embryos. If the scientist's claims prove true, the newborns are the world's first humans to be genetically modified as embryos. It would be a significant step, and it's raised widespread ethical concerns among researchers. He Jiankui, the scientist who led the effort, announced the outcome in a promotional video on YouTube Sunday, just da...

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2018-11-26 20:20:27

InSight Has Landed! Inside the Dramatic Touchdown  

Touchdown on Mars NASA's InSight lander has endured almost seven months in space, traveling over 300 million miles in a strange but carefully calculated path from Earth to Mars. After it's lengthy journey, the probe has finally and successfully touched down on the martian surface. The InSight probe launched May 5 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast. With a host of scientific instruments on board, the lander will study the Red Planet's interior, gatherin...

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2018-11-26 20:08:23

NASA's Mars InSight Lander Is Touching Down on the Red Planet Today  

NASA's InSight lander has been on its way to Mars since May. Now, after six months and 301 million miles (485 million kilometers), InSight is set to touch down on the Red Planet's surface at 2:54 P.M. Eastern Time this afternoon. The entire process, from atmospheric entry to landing, will take only about seven minutes. Final Descent InSight's landing plan combines technology and techniques from past missions, aiming to successfully transport the 1,340-pound (608 kilograms) probe the...

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2018-11-26 18:08:44

Here's what you may not have heard about the massive new report on climate change in the U.S.  

Many news outlets all but ignored a crucial part: the urgent need to adapt to changes already underway and in the pipeline The White House released a massive scientific report on climate change the day after Thanksgiving. Given that timing, you may have missed it entirely (which is probably what they had in mind). But if you did manage to hear about it in news coverage, you may well have gotten the impression that the 1,656-page assessment, produced by 13 federal agencies, was devot...

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2018-11-26 02:18:20

Baby, it's cold outside — but global warming has not taken a Thanksgiving break  

President Trump falsely uses frigid weather to cast doubt on human-caused warming It sure is cold outside — at least in the northeastern United States. In fact, some portions of the region could experience their coldest Thanksgiving on record. Blame it on an Arctic blast that is sending temps plummeting to levels normally associated with the dead of winter, not turkey day. It's called weather, not climate — a distinction that the President of the United States either doesn't...

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2018-11-22 17:07:20

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