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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.

Problematic Neuropeptides And Statistics (PNAS)  

Back in May I discussed a paper published in PNAS which, I claimed, was using scientific terminology in a sloppy way. The authors, Pearce et al., used the word "neuropeptides" to refer to six molecules, but three of them weren't neuropeptides at all. The authors acknowledged this minor error and issued a correction. Now, it emerges that there may be more serious problems with the PNAS paper. In a letter published last week, researchers Patrick Jern and colleagues say that the statistics u

2017-10-20 16:17:53

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend  

If you're out enjoying the predawn darkness Saturday, you'll likely see a number of bright streaks peppering the sky. These are Orionid meteors, which belong to an annual shower that peaks before dawn. Observers under a dark sky could see up to 20 meteors per hour shortly before twilight begins, when the constellation Orion the Hunter climbs highest in the south. (The meteors appear to radiate from a point in northern Orion.) With the Moon absent from the morning sky, viewing conditio...

2017-10-20 15:36:13

A Giant Cave on the Moon Could Host Lunar Settlers  

Turn-of-the-century science fiction posited the existence of aliens living deep beneath the surface of the moon. Someday, those subterranean creatures could very well be us. New data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has uncovered a 30-mile-long tunnel under the moon's surface, likely the relic of long-ago lava flows. Though the existence of lava tubes isn't something new, this latest find appears to be both mostly intact and sufficiently large enough to potentially...

2017-10-19 19:17:53

Psychopaths Aren't the Best Hedge Fund Managers After All  

Pretty much everyone agrees investing, whether it's your own money or a company's, is wise. And hiring someone to manage that investment portfolio could get you the most bang for your buck. So, who to chose? Probably someone who would do whatever it took — no matter how many friends they'd lose or people they'd leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way — to get the job done, right? In other words, a psychopath or a narcissist. (Or, if you're Derek Zoolander, an investigat...

2017-10-19 18:58:06

Dogs Attempt To Communicate With Us Through Facial Expressions  

Hey dog owners, you're not imagining it: Researchers think your pooch may be trying to say something with a pout or pleading eyes. Everyone who lives with dogs may be rolling their eyes right about now and saying "Of course Boopsie/Rex/Potato is smiling/frowning/expressing wide-eyed existential dread," but heaps of anecdotal evidence don't mean much in terms of scientific cred. A study out today, however, is a big step toward confirming that dogs use facial expressions in an attempt t...

2017-10-19 13:00:46

Albatross Teaches Drones the Art of Marathon Flights  

We've seen drones modeled after geckos, insects and if you've watched Black Mirror there's no way you can forget the massive bee drone swarms. Now, scientists are looking to one of nature's best fliers, the albatross, for tips to help drones fly longer distances. The albatross is one of the world's largest living birds, with a wingspan of up to 11 feet across. It can fly hundreds of miles in just one day, while exerting very little effort. But how does it do this? Two separat...

2017-10-18 18:33:14

To Find Nectar, Bees Follow Blue Halos  

Subtle halos on flowers function as bright blue landing pads for bees. Tiny ridges on flowers, visible only at the nanoscale, serve to reflect blue and ultraviolet light that draws in pollinators. To bees, it appears as a ring around the flower's center, and lets them and other insects immediately differentiate between a nourishing plant and a dead end. The trait seems to have appeared many times throughout the evolution of flowers, and likely dates back to the emergence of pollinators ...

2017-10-18 18:23:06

The AI That Dominated Humans in Go Is Already Obsolete  

Remember AlphaGo? You know, the artificial intelligence that in 2016 soundly defeated the finest players humanity could muster in the ancient Chinese strategy game of Go; thus forcing us to relinquish the last vestige of board game superiority flesh-and-blood held over machines? Remember that? Well, here's something to chew on: Google's AI research arm DeepMind, the same benevolent creator that spawned AlphaGo, has already rendered that gluteus maximus-spanking version obsolete. In...

2017-10-18 18:19:59

Fatty Tissues Preserved In Fossil for 48 Million Years  

It really is true: fat hangs around a long time whether you want it to or not. Okay, so we're not talking about stubborn love handles and saddlebags, but researchers have confirmed that fatty tissues were still identifiable in the partial fossil of a 48-million-year-old bird. The new research hints that similar soft tissues might be found in fossils sitting in museum archives around the world. Soft tissue preservation in fossils is rare but not unheard of. Earlier this year, resear...

2017-10-17 23:00:58

How Volcanoes Starved Ancient Egypt  

Ancient Egypt was the most powerful civilization in the world for a time. The monuments built by laborers to honor pharaohs stand to this day, testament to the vast resources at their command. But the architectural excess hid a crippling weakness. Egypt sits in the middle of a vast desert. To support a population that numbered in the millions, large-scale agriculture was vital, and for that you need water, and therefore, the Nile. The river was so important to the Egyptians that they st...

2017-10-17 21:05:15

Defibrillator Drones Aim to Respond in 911 Calls  

Delivery drones carrying defibrillators could begin swooping in to save American victims of cardiac arrest starting in 2018. A new partnership between a delivery drone startup and an emergency medical services provider aims to dispatch defibrillator drones ahead of ambulances in response to 911 calls made in northern Nevada. Using drones to deliver life-saving automatic external defibrillators for restarting victims' hearts could have a huge impact. Cardiac arrest represents the leadin...

2017-10-16 23:36:53

In Makira, Flying Fox Teeth Are Currency...And That Could Save the Species  

On the island of Makira, hunters use the teeth of giant bats known as flying foxes as currency. Now, perhaps paradoxically, researchers suggest this practice could help save these bats from potential extinction. The giant tropical fruit bats known as flying foxes are the largest bats in the world. Of the 65 flying fox species alive today, 31 are under threat of extinction, and 28 of these threatened species live on islands. Makira is one of the Solomon Islands, which lie roughly a thou

2017-10-16 21:00:26

Gravitational Waves Show How Fast The Universe is Expanding  

The first gravitational wave observed from a neutron star merger offers the potential for a whole raft of new discoveries. Among them is a more precise measurement of the Hubble constant, which captures how fast our universe is expanding. Ever since the Big Bang, everything in the universe has been spreading apart. It also turns out that this is happening faster and faster — the rate of expansion is increasing. We've known this for a century, but astronomers haven't been able to get ...

2017-10-16 20:31:53

Astronomers Tally All the Gold in Our Galaxy  

Before "he went to Jared," two neutron stars collided. That's what scientists learned from studying the debris fallout after a cosmic explosion called a kilonova — 1,000 times brighter than a standard nova — which appeared, and was witnessed by astronomers, in earthly skies Aug. 17. For decades, astronomers debated the origins of the heaviest elements, which includes precious metals, rare Earth elements and basically everything on the bottom rungs of the periodic table, from plat...

2017-10-16 19:15:56

California Wants to Take Human Training Wheels Off Autonomous Vehicles  

You've read about self-driving cars cruising around California as companies try to prove and perfect their tech. A human sits in each car, but not because they want to joyride: it's the law. But that could change. Last week, California lawmakers proposed legislation that would make it legal for companies to test self-driving cars without a human watchdog in the vehicle, and for commercial operations to begin as early as 2018. Just over 40 companies have been issued California Auto...

2017-10-16 17:42:22

Dawn of an Era: Astronomers Hear and See Cosmic Collision  

For hundreds of millions of years, two city-sized stars in a galaxy not-so-far away circled each other in a fatal dance. Their dimensions were diminutive, but each outweighed our sun. They were neutron stars — the collapsed cores left behind after giant stars explode into supernovas. Closer and closer they spun, shedding gravitational energy, until the stars traveled at nearly the speed of light, completing an orbit 100 times every second. By then, dinosaurs reigned on Earth, and the...

2017-10-16 14:00:16

A Parade of Scientific Mice  

Recently I was reading a neuroscience paper and was struck by the cuteness of the two mice that formed part of Figure 1: So I decided to look further and collect a montage of scientific mice. All of these drawings are taken from peer-reviewed scientific papers. As you can see, the styles vary greatly. Some mice are little more than circles with ears, while others look ready to leap off the page in search of cheese: I should note that I didn't include mice found in Graphical Abstr...

2017-10-15 19:07:59

Is Parkinson's A Prion Disease?  

The Journal of Neuroscience recently featured a debate over the hypothesis that Parkinson's disease is, at least in some cases, caused by prions - misfolded proteins that spread from neuron to neuron. A prion is a protein that has taken on an abnormal shape and that can spread itself by making other, healthy molecules of the same protein adopt its abnormal configuration. The best-known prion disease is variant CJD aka "mad cow disease", but some researchers believe that Parkinson's is als

2017-10-14 19:45:36

Gravitational Wave Hunters Set to Make Big Announcement Monday  

The massive collaboration of scientists that's hunting gravitational waves—with a lot of success—is set to make another big announcement on Monday. A flurry of press releases this week have teased the news, which is set to break on Oct. 16, although they've been short on details. At 10 a.m. Eastern, a team from the groundbreaking gravitational wave detector LIGO will make an announcement at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. They'll be joined by researchers from Virgo, LIGO's ...

2017-10-13 17:19:12

Will Earth's Lava Flows Decipher Ancient Mars'?  

Lava flow: an unstoppable destructive force that burns pretty much everything in its path. When a volcano erupts, it's important that people in surrounding areas have adequate time to evacuate. To provide those crucial extra hours, or minutes, researchers are using drones to improve hazard predictions, and perhaps tell us something about life on ancient Mars. Drones allow volcanologists to map large areas quickly, cheaply and, most of all, safely using magnetometers and thermal camera...

2017-10-13 16:54:39

First AI Learned to Walk, Now It's Wrestling, Playing Soccer  

Oh, artificial intelligence, how quickly you grow up. Just three months ago you were learning to walk, and we watched you take your first, flailing steps. Today, you're out there kicking a soccer ball around and wrestling. Where does the time go? Indeed, for the past few months we've stood by like proud parents and watched AI reach heartwarming little milestones. In July, you'll recall, Google's artificial intelligence company in the United Kingdom, DeepMind, developed an algor...

2017-10-13 16:41:39

Flashback Friday: An Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets  

Ever wondered what fast food chicken nuggets are actually made of? So did these researchers, and they actually went so far as to examine formalin-fixed sections of nugget under a microscope. If you enjoy eating these junk food favorites, we suggest you stop reading here. But if you really want to know the results, read on… The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads "Chicken Little" "PURPOSE: To determine the contents of chicken nuggets from 2 national food chains. BACKGROUND: Chicke...

2017-10-13 11:00:30

Supplies of a Rare Cancer-Killing Compound Were Dwindling...Not Anymore  

Bugula neritina is a rather inconspicuous marine organism. It looks like purplish seaweed, but it's actually a branching colony of individual, tentacled zooids (the technical term for individuals in a colonial invertebrate) that resemble badminton shuttlecocks. It's abundant, invasive and widely viewed as a pest as it accumulates on ships, dock sides, buoys and intake valves. It might also contain a cure to some of humanity's most devastating diseases: cancer, HIV, Alzheimer's. ...

2017-10-12 21:28:34

Tobacco Companies Snuff Smoke, But Health Benefits Still Hazy  

Smoking: It's bad for you. Take the smoke out of smoking, though, and you might be on to something. That, at least, is the thought process behind newly-emerging smokeless forms of nicotine, the most prominent right now being e-cigarettes. A vape pen just doesn't deliver the same sweet rush of nicotine and the satisfying "throat hit" smokers crave, though, leaving tobacco companies searching for a better option. Heat-not-burn tobacco products have stepped into that space, promising a nicot

2017-10-12 18:41:38

Motherese Is a Truly Universal Language  

Hang around any mom with a young child and eventually she'll break out her baby voice. You know the one — the pitch of her voice goes up, her words are simple and exaggerated. It's sometimes referred to as motherese, but researchers call it infant-directed speech. Whatever you want to call it, it's pretty vital to little ones' development. Says Elise Piazza, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, it "helps babies to segment this huge stream of words into the building blocks of l...

2017-10-12 16:00:57

Easter Island Ancient DNA Shoots Down One Rapanui Theory  

Thanks to its geography, the southeastern Pacific island of Rapa Nui — also known as Easter Island — has been in the center of a long-running debate about how early people may have sailed back and forth across the planet's biggest ocean. One theory suggested that, long before Europeans arrived, the island was a meeting point for Polynesians and Native Americans. Spoiler alert: a new study of ancient DNA from early residents of Rapa Nui says otherwise. Easter Island, known for ...

2017-10-12 16:00:19

Kirishima in Japan Erupts for the First Time Since 2011  

For the first time since September 2011, Kirishima in Japan has started erupting. On the morning of October 11, new ash emissions began from the Shinmoe-dake cone on the large, complex volcano on the north end of Kagoshima Bay. The eruption have been relatively small ash-and-gas plumes that reached less than 1 kilometer (~3,200 feet) over the volcano and spread shards of volcanic glass (aka ash) across the area. These new explosions have promoted the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) to...

2017-10-12 14:14:34

FOXSI Flights Could Reveal Why the Sun's Corona Is So Hot  

You have probably heard of solar flares before. These bright eruptions from the Sun's surface are triggered when knotted magnetic field lines within the Sun suddenly snap and reconnect, accelerating fireballs of plasma outward to distances up to 35 times the diameter of the Earth. But have you ever heard of nanoflares? In a study published yesterday in Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers led by Shin-nosuke Ishikawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) presented ev...

2017-10-11 19:52:27

Marie Curie: Iconic Scientist, Nobel Prize Winner...War Hero?  

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.) But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory in October

2017-10-11 19:32:48

We Almost Gave Up On Building Artificial Brains  

Today artificial neural networks are making art, writing speeches, identifying faces and even driving cars. It feels as if we're riding the wave of a novel technological era, but the current rise in neural networks is actually a renaissance of sorts. It may be hard to believe, but artificial intelligence researchers were already beginning to see the promise in neural networks during World War II in their mathematical models. But by the 1970s, the field was ready to give up on them entir...

2017-10-11 16:37:16

Think Like a Hacker  

Connected devices make our lives easier — and more vulnerable. We need white hats more than ever.

2017-10-11 03:38:37

The Mechanics of Dolphin Sex: All The Dirty Details You Need To Know  

Perhaps the hardest part about studying marine mammal reproductive anatomy using organs collected from deceased animals is that they can't get an erection the easy way. Reinflating human penises postmortem is a relatively trivial feat, says Diane Kelly, a research assistant professor at University of Massachusetts and penis inflation expert. Like most mammals, human penises are mostly fleshy, with lots of vascular space for blood to flow into to make the flaccid structure rigid...

2017-10-10 23:01:26

We Learned A Lot from Whale Snot  

While the SnotBot drone has been highly publicized for its aerial maneuvers over blowholes, but its expeditions have yet to showcase some hard data about whales. But there's another whale snot-gathering team out there using drones—and they've turned those misty explosions into some interesting biological data about whales. After collecting humpback whale blow—the moist breath you see shoot into the air when a whale exhales—from two healthy populations, scientists found the creatur...

2017-10-10 21:09:36

Coal Almost Turned Earth into a Giant Ball of Ice  

Coal, it's the sooty fossil fuel that's heated our homes and generated electricity for centuries, but millions of years ago its formation could've frozen the planet. Coal deposits formed from dead trees and plants roughly 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods. During that timeframe, Earth was largely a hot, sticky planet covered in swampy jungles. Levels of CO2 reached 1,000 ppm, which is more than twice the levels they are today. But as the climat...

2017-10-10 12:42:15

Dirty Birds Are Refining Climate Models  

Enterprising researchers working at the Field Museum in Chicago dusted off a collection of Horned Larks to get a better look at the dirt trapped in their wings. That's because these birds, some more than a century in age, together form a unique, physical record of industrial-era air pollution. Using soot that billowed from smokestacks and onto feathers during the factory boom, two University of Chicago graduate students updated estimates of atmospheric soot levels in the early 20th centu...

2017-10-09 20:26:03

What Once Was Lost  

How neural stem cells repair damage from strokes, spinal injuries and aging.

2017-10-09 05:20:16

"Happy Chemical" Discovered In Beer?  

A curious flurry of headlines in praise of beer appeared this week: Beer really DOES make you happier! Key molecule boosts brain's reward centre Drinking Beer Makes You Really Happy, Confirms Awesome New Study Drinking beer can make you happy, researchers claim It was reported that scientists from Germany have discovered that a molecule in beer called hordenine activates dopamine receptors in the brain, and thus produces a positive mood. The research in question was published ba...

2017-10-07 11:15:40

Acupuncture Works by 'Re-Wiring' the Brain, Evidence Suggests  

Acupuncture is a form of traditional medical therapy that originated in China several thousand years ago. It was developed at a time bereft of tools such as genetic testing or even a modern understanding of anatomy, so medical philosophers did the best they could with what was available - herbs, animal products and rudimentary needles. In the process, perhaps, they stumbled on an effective medical approach. In the past century, some modernization has taken place. For instance, acupunctu...

2017-10-06 16:13:14

The Moon Once Had An Atmosphere?  

Barren and desolate today, our moon was once swathed by a thin atmosphere. Born from geothermal eruptions when the moon was still young, gaseous traces of carbon monoxide, sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen once swirled across the moon's surface, say researchers from NASA. The atmosphere would have persisted for about 70 million years, they estimate, and existed three to four billion years ago, soon after our rocky companion was formed. The new findings, published in Earth and Planetary Sc...

2017-10-06 15:43:34

Expensive Meds Can Hurt...Literally  

Paying a higher price for something is typically associated with positive benefits. When you shell out more for a thing, you feel it's faster, stronger, softer or cleaner. You know that premium you paid was worth it. But when it comes to medication, the association between high price and added benefits is sort of flipped on its head: A medication perceived to be expensive was associated with more negative side effects. That, at least, is a key finding in a new study published Thursday i...

2017-10-05 19:46:35

The Newest, Most Accurate Clock Uses Quantum Gas, Lasers  

Time, I'm sure I don't have to tell you, is a fundamental part of the universe. Albert Einstein showed us it was inextricably linked to the "stuff" of the universe, so the better we can understand and measure it, the better we can study everything else. So how do you study time? With better clocks! And researchers announced today they've come up with the best one yet. Time Enough At Last Far from the sundials and cogs of our ancestors, today's horological devices are rid...

2017-10-05 18:00:36

Neonicotinoids Are Showing Up in Honey Samples Worldwide  

The bee population has it rough right now, and neonicotinoids are partially to blame. According to research, this class of insecticide is contributing to the population decline of bees, and even showing up in honey. These pest control chemicals, which are chemically similar to nicotine, can cause growth disorders, neurological and cognitive disorders, impact the efficiency of the immune system, and more in bees — even at low concentrations. On top of impacting invertebrates like bees, t...

2017-10-05 18:00:17

A Dog-Killing Meteorite Just Rewrote Mars' Volcanic History  

For millions of years, a group of tiny asteroids circled our solar system. Then, around 9 a.m. on June 28, 1911, one blazed into earthly skies near a village outside Cairo, Egypt. Locals watched the fireball, and they heard its explosion. A farmer even claimed a dog was killed by one meteorite fragment, making it—if true—the only known modern space rock casualty. Let's hope it was just a rumor, but NASA says there's no reason to doubt it. In the years since, about a dozen siblings fro...

2017-10-04 21:44:42

Some Odd Behavior Was Detected in a Distant Galaxy  

Imagine a sparkler, crackling and spitting, leaving behind a faint trail of smoke. Now imagine your surprise as, instead of dissipating away, that smoke trail actually got bright over time, or lit up. That's effectively what astronomers have seen in the Abell 1033 system of colliding galaxy clusters about 1.6 billion light-years away — and they don't understand it. "This was totally unexpected," said lead author Francesco de Gasperin of Leiden University in the Netherlands in a ...

2017-10-04 21:16:37

Drones Are Keeping Watch on the Arctic's Polar Bear Population  

Polar bears' fortunes deeply tied to the whims of a changing climate, and as the Arctic continues to warm it's increasingly important to keep an eye on their populations. But the Arctic's stark white terrain can make that a difficult task to accomplish. In the past, helicopters have been used to spot the bears, but those aircraft are both costly and disturbing to the wildlife. However, drones are a low-cost, less invasive alternative. On a recent Arctic mission, drones helped gather dat...

2017-10-04 20:46:24

Tumor Cells Get Hooked on Cancer Drugs, Meet Their Demise  

Cancerous tumor cells get addicted to the very drugs meant to eradicate them. It's an ironic twist in the field of cancer treatment. A small percentage of tumor cells can possess a resistance to cancer-fighting drugs, allowing tumors to return after treatment has stopped. These few cells usually possess a mutation that renders them immune, but the protection comes at a cost. To withstand the drug regimen, the cells must alter their metabolisms to adapt to the new environment. This effe...

2017-10-04 17:00:44

Robots Rule This Futuristic Barley Field  

Is there anything more quintessentially American than a farmer in the heartland, toiling away on their land? But this vision of agrarian life will fade into the dusty shelves of sentimental nostalgia, because agriculture is poised to become an industry ruled by robot laborers. Companies like Hands Free Hectare (HFHa) are leading the way. After a year of work, the HFHa project successfully harvested a crop of spring barley, grown using only autonomous machine labor. Members of the Harper A

2017-10-03 19:54:57

Finding E.T. Here On Earth  

When aliens arrive in the movies, they typically come from distant galaxies. Extraterrestrial life, however, could exist right here in our own solar system, nestled in briny oceans under the surface of icy worlds close to home. Multiple moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn have proven to hold, or once held, liquid oceans. Of these, Saturn's moon Enceladus has emerged as the most promising candidate for life in recent years, thanks to the discovery of hydrothermal plumes gushing from beneath...

2017-10-03 18:49:14

Is It Time To "Redefine Statistical Significance"?  

A new paper in Nature Human Behaviour has generated lots of debate. In Redefine Statistical Significance, authors Daniel J. Benjamin and colleagues suggest changing the convention that p-values below 0.05 are called 'significant'. Instead, they suggest, the cut-off should be set at 0.005 - a stricter criterion. Over at The Brains Blog, John Schwenkler organized a discussion of the Benjamin et al. proposal, featuring commentary from several statisticians and researchers. One of the

2017-10-03 13:33:41

The Annual 9/11 'Tribute in Light' Really Messes With the Birds  

For one night every year, 88 Manhattan searchlights beam two columns of light toward the heavens. These "phantom towers," known as the Tribute in Light, are an annual reminder of the thousands who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks. But these ethereal lights are also a beacon for migrating birds. Like bugs to a streetlight, they're drawn in from far off paths. The birds — warblers and cuckoos and scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles and many more — circle endlessly, expendi...

2017-10-02 21:19:20

Brazil's Moon Tree Warrior  

On a warm, windy August day in 1981, a crowd gathered at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa for the final event of the soybean fair that's held every other year in the small city in southern Brazil. Schools had let out so local students could attend, along with curious fairgoers and a collection of bigwigs whose rank rose all the way up to João Figueiredo, then the president of Brazil. Speeches were made, the national anthem played, and then, around 1 p.m., a small tree was planted to symbo...

2017-10-02 20:46:49

Whistling While They Work: Cooperative Laguna Dolphins Have A Unique Accent  

When the mullet migrate northward, the fishermen in Laguna, Brazil are waiting. They rise early and take their places in line, waist-deep in the water, tarrafa—a kind of circular throwing net—in hand. Without a word, the dolphins arrive, herding schools of mullet towards the fisher line. The fishers say that the dolphins are an essential part of their fishing; they wait to fish until their marine helpers to arrive, in some cases standing for an hour or more, calling to the animals:...

2017-10-01 03:40:15

NASA Wants to Know Cost of Space Solar Power  

Harnessing the sun's energy with orbital space power stations and beaming the power to Earth has been a science fiction dream ever since Isaac Asimov wrote a 1941 short story called "Reason." But the idea has never quite gotten off the ground despite decades of intermittent interest and research for the United States and other countries. NASA hopes to keep the idea going by funding a one-year study of how much it would cost to make commercially viable space-based solar power into a reality....

2017-09-30 14:11:54

An Orbital Moon Station Is Our Gateway to Mars  

The dream of a human habitat in orbit about the moon came a step closer on Sept. 27, when NASA and the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) signed up to a common vision for future human exploration. The project, a follow-up to the International Space Station (ISS), involves a facility placed in orbit somewhere between the Earth and the moon - a region known as cis-lunar space. Seen as a stepping-stone on the way to deeper space exploration, it has been dubbed the Deep Space Gateway, DSG. ...

2017-09-30 13:55:54

Moth Makes Different Chemical Weapons for Different Predators  

You should never bring a knife to gunfight, or try to beat a bird with ant repellant. That's how the expression would go if a wood tiger moth coined it, anyway. Other animals are lucky if they have the resources to make just one poison. But this moth is the first species known to make two different chemical weapons that target different predators. The moth, Arctia plantaginis, lives throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Its wings are bright and boldly patterned, a tactic that many an...

2017-09-30 13:24:13

Chimpanzees Learn to Use Tools On Their Own, No Teaching Required  

As it turns out, chimpanzees don't need to see in order to do, no matter what the old mantra might lead you to believe. A common belief among researchers is that chimps need to watch other members of their communities use tools before they can pick the behavior up. In a study published in PeerJ in September, researchers from the University of Birmingham, and the University of Tübingen challenged this belief and checked to see if it would hold for a specific kind of tool use. When A S...

2017-09-30 12:15:49

New York's Drone Superhighway Officially Launches  

Showcasing technology that could help usher in the era of commercial drones, the first phase of New York's 50-mile long drone test corridor took place Thursday at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York. Using NASA-led research, the Unmanned Aircraft System Secure Autonomous Flight Environment (U-SAFE) is a five-year program that will provide the infrastructure and resources to integrate drones into low altitude airspace. Drone detection and sensing company Gryphon Sensors is l...

2017-09-30 11:44:14

Eat Less, Age Less?  

Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. But eating too much places people at risk for chronic illnesses and shortens life expectancy. Seven of 10 Americans are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being overweight is so common, people don't recognize when they've crossed the belt line; only 36 percent of overweight/obese people think they weigh too much, says a recent Gallup poll. People want to feel healthy and most want to live a lo...

2017-09-30 06:23:50

WATCH: Weather satellite video shows a 10-day dance of three powerful Atlantic hurricanes  

It has been nine days since Hurricane Maria blasted ashore in Puerto Rico with 150 mile per hour winds, ravaging the entire island and leaving residents without electricity, food and water. Today, thousands of containers of desperately needed supplies are sitting in ports and warehouses on the island, waiting to be distributed. But the hurricane left Puerto Rico's supply chain devastated. So pharmacy and grocery store shelves remain mostly empty, raising fears that the death toll, now ...

2017-09-30 01:33:42

US Navy Debuts First Underwater Drone Squadron  

The U.S. Navy has taken another step forward in deploying swarms of underwater drones for both scientific and military purposes. This past week, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center officially recognized the Navy's first Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron as likely the first of many military units dedicated to making use of undersea robots. Much of the Navy's existing underwater drone fleet with its scientific survey focus is operated by the Military Sealift Command on behalf of the Na...

2017-09-30 01:18:31

The Great Takeover  

Exotic mussels have pilfered the Great Lakes' food supply, creating a vast aquatic desert.

2017-09-29 05:22:01

Drones Can Accurately Detect Heartbeats from the Sky  

Drones have the ability to do a lot of good, and recently they've been proving useful to rescuers in the United States by helping with hurricane recovery efforts. But what if they could do more than just document damage or survey areas? What if they could actually detect life? Researchers from the University of South Australia conducted a study published in Biomedical Engineering Online that shows drones can successfully measure heart and respiratory rates from the sky. Aerially detecti...

2017-09-28 18:56:17

An Unprecedented Number Of Species Have Crossed The Pacific On Tsunami-Liberated Plastic Debris  

March 11, 2011, 2:46 PM, 45 miles east of Tōhoku, Japan. Fifteen miles beneath the waves, a magnitude-9 megathrust earthquake strikes. The Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates suddenly shift, shaking the surrounding crust for six minutes and creating a tidal wave almost 40 meters high, which races towards the coast of Japan. In the hours that follow, it claims at least 15,894 lives, with thousands more unaccounted for. More than a million buildings are damaged or destroyed, causing nea...

2017-09-28 12:55:59

How Vulnerable Are Societies to Collapse?  

Along the cottonwood-lined rivers of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, the Mimbres people did something unique: By the year 1000, these farmers were producing stunning ceramics decorated with naturalistic images of fish, people, and rabbits, as well as magical creatures and elaborate geometric patterns. And then, rather abruptly, they stopped. After roughly a century of higher than normal rainfall, the area the Mimbres inhabited suffered a powerful drought, as indicated by

2017-09-28 04:57:11

Aston Martin Dives Into the Submarine Business  

In recent years, Aston Martin has become the vehicle of choice for fictional secret agent James Bond. And now the British carmaker is taking its 007 reputation into the deep end. On Thursday—in Monaco, of course—Aston Martin announced it is partnering with Triton Submarines LLC to build a limited edition, luxury submarine that will have even the wealthiest of the wealthy playing catch-up with the Jones's. The endeavor is codenamed Project Neptune and it will build upon Triton's...

2017-09-28 04:16:43

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Restores Consciousness?  

A report that nerve stimulation was able to partially restore consciousness in a patient in a vegetative state has attracted a great deal of attention this week. The paper, published in Current Biology from French researchers Martina Corazzol and colleagues, is certainly promising, but I didn't find it entirely convincing. Corazzol et al.'s patient was a 35-year old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years following a car accident. After receiving consent from his family

2017-09-28 04:06:53

Space Sculptures, the Next Frontier in Art  

Next time you wish upon a star, you may actually be wishing upon a giant piece of orbital artwork. Contemporary artist Trevor Paglen wondered what it would be like to launch his work into space, and with the help of Spaceflight Industries, a satellite and spaceflight services program, he is doing just that. His sculpture, which has been named the Orbital Reflector, is essentially an inflatable satellite. Unlike the thousands of other satellites currently inhabiting the night sky, this

2017-09-28 02:47:43

When Are We Going Back to Saturn?  

By the end of the year, NASA will decide on a new New Frontiers-class mission. This medium-cost mission class is responsible for the Juno, New Horizons, and OSIRIS-REx probes, and has a handful of finalists selected for a mid-2020s launch. Among proposals for a Moon mission, a Venus lander, and a comet sample return are five Saturnian missions. The first one is a plunge directly into Saturn, studying the interior of the planet's cloud layers as it moves down. Cassini performed a sort o...

2017-09-27 13:45:58

Scientists Catch Another Gravitational Wave, And They Know Where It Came From  

Last year, physicists made history by observing the first-ever gravitational wave. Their discovery confirmed Albert Einstein's century-old theory of gravity and capped decades of effort to build an instrument sensitive enough to catch these ripples in spacetime. Since then, researchers working at the government-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) — twin detectors in Louisiana and Washington State — have caught several more gravitational waves. At a p...

2017-09-27 12:34:15

Already, two significant records have tumbled during 2017's fevered Atlantic hurricane season  

With two months left, more records could fall before we're all done We've known for some weeks now that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season has been absolutely brutal. And now, thanks to new calculations, we have some statistical insights into the raw, howling power of the storms that have caused so much death and destruction — most recently to Puerto Rico, now on the verge of a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. On Tuesday, Colorado State university hurricane...

2017-09-27 08:04:37

Study: We Watched the Crap Out of That Eclipse  

As you may recall, we had a solar eclipse last month. It was kind of a big deal. After almost 40 years without a total solar eclipse, the United States got pretty lucky on Aug. 21, with the moon's shadow crisscrossing the country and at least a partial eclipse visible in all 50 states. About 12 million people lived within that "path of totality," and 47 million were within 100 miles. But how many actually turned out to see it? Thanks to a new study from the University of Mi...

2017-09-27 08:02:02

Inspired by a Cat, Techie Turns Roomba Into Impressive Telepresence Robot  

Who hasn't, at some point, wished they could exist in two places at once? Today, you certainly can do that, but in practice, it's far less sexy than cloning yourself or traveling back and forth through time to simultaneously exist in overlapping timelines. Instead, duplicating yourself entails beaming your face through a tablet device that's mounted atop a moving pole. Indeed, telepresence robots on the market today are essentially Skype on wheels; they're expensive; they're har...

2017-09-27 07:39:16

Earth's Oldest Rocks Are Revealing Life's Origins, Fueling Controversy  

Earth's first life evolved in hell. The earliest lifeforms emerged at least 3.95 billion years ago, at a time when a near constant barrage of comets and asteroids were bombarding our still solidifying planet. That's the implication of new research published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. A group of Japanese scientists journeyed into a remote stretch of northern Labrador, Canada, where they chiseled samples from some of Earth's oldest rocks. They braved bugs, bad weather and ...

2017-09-27 04:33:18

Discovered: A Giant, Tree-Dwelling Rat that Munches Coconuts  

The mysterious tale of the giant rat of Sumatra was famously "a story for which the world is not yet prepared," according to Sherlock Holmes. Now, after years of searching, researchers have discovered a new tree-dwelling, coconut-piercing species of giant rat in the Solomon Islands—it measures 18-inch rodent that researchers finally tracked down after years of searching. The isolated nature of the Solomon Islands, a nation that lies roughly a thousand miles northwest of Australia, have ...

2017-09-27 04:04:08

A Biomarker for CTE Could Make Living Diagnosis Possible  

The discovery of a biomarker for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) could lead to diagnosis of the disease in living individuals, something not currently possible. CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head, resulting in brain damage that accumulates over time. A recent study of 111 NFL players who donated their brains after death found CTE in all but one of them. Tests Possible In new research published Tuesday in PLOS One, a brai...

2017-09-27 02:11:44

A Steady Diet of TV Could Be Key for Deep Space Travelers  

No one knows for sure what a long-range space journey will be like for the people on board. Nobody in the history of our species has ever had to deal with the "Earth-out-of-view" phenomenon, for instance. How will it feel to live in close quarters with a small group, with no escape hatch? How will space travelers deal with the prospect of not seeing family or friends for years, or even ever again? How will they occupy themselves for years with nothing much to do? Researchers do know s...

2017-09-26 18:54:01

Dubai's Flying Taxi Drone Takes First Public Flight  

Dubai's flying taxi drone took its first public flight on Monday. The autonomous Volocopter, an 18-rotor electrically powered drone made in Germany, can fit up to two people and includes safety parachutes — just in case. From testing drones for a taxi service to deploying robocops, Dubai is constantly positioning itself as forward-thinking. Originally the city was testing the Ehang-184 passenger drone for its air-taxi service, but later switched to Volocopter for undisclosed reasons...

2017-09-26 16:08:27

Could Evaporation Ever Power the Country?  

There's energy everywhere, the trouble is harnessing it. We extract power from wind, waves and sunlight, but researchers from Columbia University say there's another font of untapped energy — water evaporating from lakes and reservoirs across the country. In a new analysis laying out a prospective plan to harness evaporation, they say that up to 325 Gigawatts of energy — 69 percent of US energy generation in 2015 — is potentially available for use. The technique would also reduce le...

2017-09-26 15:45:44

Beak Evolution Gives New Insight Into the Beginning of Birds  

It's well known that theropods were the ancestors of modern-day birds, but exactly how these dinosaurs made the transition from fearsome maws to toothless beaks has been unclear. A new study from researchers in China shows various adolescent species of toothed theropods actually had both for a time — they transitioned from toothy jaws to beaks during adolescence. Theropods are what probably caught your eye as a child — whether it's the Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, or Spinosaurus, ...

2017-09-26 09:48:49

Birds of a Feather Hunt Better Together  

They say that many hands make light work. Well, for African penguins, many beaks make for bountiful hunts, according to a new study in Royal Society Open Science. The results suggest that dwindling populations may have greater consequences than previously realized. African penguins (Spheniscus demersus), or as some call them "jackass" penguins for their donkey-like calls, are currently endangered. Found only on the southern tip of Africa, populations of these flightless birds have dro...

2017-09-26 07:41:33

The weak underbelly of a giant Antarctic ice sheet just lost a berg more than four times the size of Manhattan  

We've now got yet another worrying sign that human-caused warming is causing the behemoth West Antarctic Ice Sheet to come unglued, threatening to raise sea level by 10 feet over time. You can see that sign in the image above from the Sentinel-1 satellite. The image shows a 103-square-mile tabular iceberg — equal in size to four and a half Manhattan islands — breaking off from the floating edge of the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica on September 23rd. It was posted to Twi...

2017-09-26 04:59:10

Drones Help Discover Lost City With Ties to Alexander the Great  

With the help of drones, archaeologists discovered a lost city with ties to Alexander the Great, according to the British Museum in London. Qalatga Darband, an ancient city located in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan, lies along the Darband-I Rania, or a pass at the Zagros Mountains. What's so significant about this path? Besides being a historic route from Mesopotamia to Iran, Alexander the Great traveled the path more than 2,000 years ago. Declassified spy satellite images from the 1960...

2017-09-25 14:44:51

After 15 Years in a Vegetative State, Scientists Partly Restore Consciousness in Patient  

It's generally believed that patients who are in a vegetative state more than a year after experiencing severe brain trauma won't regain consciousness ever again. Their essential bodily functions will continue, but it's extremely unlikely they'll ever be aware of their surroundings. But, as it's often said: never say never. Using an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve, doctors restored signs of consciousness in a 35-year-old Frenchman who had been in a vegetative state for t...

2017-09-25 01:36:55

Giant blob of cold water rises from the depths of the Pacific, possibly heralding the arrival of La Niña this fall  

Here we go again? Following a mild and short-lived La Niña episode in 2016/2017, the climatic phenomenon stands a 55 to 60 percent chance of developing once again this fall and winter. That's the most recent forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Based on observations of what's happening in the Pacific Ocean, and modeling to predict what may be coming, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center has issued a La Niña watch, indicating that conditions are favorable ...

2017-09-23 11:08:11

Can Neuroscience Inform Everyday Life? The "Translation Problem"  

A new paper asks why neuroscience hasn't had more "impact on our daily lives." The article, Neuroscience and everyday life: facing the translation problem, comes from Dutch researchers Jolien C. Francken and Marc Slors. It's a thought-provoking piece, but it left me feeling that the authors are expecting too much from neuroscience. I don't think insights from neuroscience are likely to change our lives any time soon. Francken and Slors describe a disconnect between neuroscience re

2017-09-22 20:17:38

Lake Michigan Itself Is the Greatest Asian Carp Deterrent  

For years, people have been freaking out that Asian carp are about to invade the Great Lakes. That concern seemed more real than ever this summer after an Illinois fisherman caught a carp in June less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan — beyond the barriers designed to keep them out. These voracious fish have already decimated Midwestern rivers. They're filters feeders who feast on plankton — the tiny plants and critters that prop up foodchains. And they eat lots of them. Adult Asi...

2017-09-22 16:15:57

Don't Give Up! Babies Learn Persistence from Adults  

You've probably heard the phrase, "Don't give up." I do, from my mom, all the time, and she's always led by example. A new study from MIT shows she likely taught me persistence, just from my observing her. The study reveals that kids as young as 15 months can learn persistence from adults. Of course, this also means adults setting not-so-good examples for kids could be inspiring that same behavior in them. This study is apparently the first that shows children this young can ...

2017-09-22 15:31:31

Setting the Record Straight on Earthquakes  

This past month has seen Mexico suffer two major earthquakes. The latest earthquake destroyed multitudes of buildings in Mexico City and over 200 people died as a result of collapses and fires. As with any major natural disaster, a lot of misinformation or speculation gets thrown around and earthquakes tend to encourage a lot of the doomsayers. So, I thought it would be useful to try to set the record straight on what earthquakes can do, what they can't do and what may or may not cause earth

2017-09-22 10:19:09

Hooded Grebes Are Bringing Sexy Back—Or Trying To  

Love is a battlefield, and in the case of the hooded grebe, that battle takes place on the dance floor. These endangered freshwater divers have a mating ritual that is not only extremely intricate, but also highly entertaining. And lucky for us, we now have it on film. Not much is known about the hooded grebe, Podiceps gallardoi, as these aquatic birds were discovered only 43 years ago in the frigid waters of Patagonia. Though they tend to keep to themselves, footage of them is incredibly

2017-09-22 08:58:46

Is Lab-Grown Leather the Next Wardrobe Staple?  

Leather jackets are a must-have in many wardrobes. While some adore genuine leather straight from our bovine buds, others seek alternatives to genuine leather, whether due to price or their stance on animal products. This could be their new go-to substitute: lab-grown leather. New York-based Modern Meadow has ditched the cow in favor of growing leather in a lab. Growing materials otherwise found in nature isn't new; we've seen scientists working on in vitro meat and teeth. Leather ...

2017-09-22 08:57:40

Panda Gut Microbes Change with the Seasons  

A change in seasons can mean it's time to take the sweaters out of the back of your closet, plant your garden, or—if you're a panda—remake your gut microbiome. Scientists have found that pandas, rather than a summer and winter wardrobe, have different sets of gut bacteria for different seasons. The rotating roster of bugs helps pandas make the most of their drab diet of bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo. The panda menu does have seasonal variations. Pandas munch more on different bam...

2017-09-22 04:50:38

Friendly Neighborhood Delivery Drones Target Iceland  

Delivery drones are carrying customer orders for burgers and smartphones across a bay of water straddled by the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik—and that's just the start of a much more ambitious plan. Before the end of 2017, the Israeli startup Flytrex envisions sending its delivery drones to the street corners of certain Reykjavik neighborhoods. The dream of delivery drones dropping of packages on doorsteps or in backyards has faced considerable challenges in taking flight. No com...

2017-09-22 03:35:30

Quantifying Drug Use With Sewage and Cell Phones  

Obtaining information about illegal drug use isn't a simple task. The illicit nature of the subject makes gathering information on the who and the what of drug consumption problematic. Self-reported surveys, a common tool, aren't always accurate because people aren't always honest about their drug use. But reliable information on drug use is a requisite for public health officials, and to gather the kind of detailed data necessary researchers in Norway turned to two an odd (at first glanc

2017-09-22 02:41:17

Drone Pilot Bobs and Weaves Through Moving Freight Train  

Flying low, through a truss bridge, under a Union Pacific train, and even in a boxcar are just a few of the stunts a drone pilot shows off in a YouTube video while a UP mixed freight is in motion. The video went live on Sept. 20 and has already received more than 250,000 views as of Friday morning. The recording shows a double-tracked right-of-way bridging a river near a highway. The location appears to be just south of Verdi, Nev., on former Southern Pacific tracks over the Truckee River

2017-09-22 02:31:21

Growing Up Neanderthal  

Though his life was short — he never reached the age of 8 — his fossil remains could have far-reaching influence in hominin research. A paper to be published Friday in Science reveals the discovery of the well-preserved skeleton of a Neanderthal boy who lived in Spain 49,000 years ago. The researchers discuss the fits and starts of adolescent growth for our biological cousins, leading to insights into the evolutionary development of Homo sapiens. Dental evidence reveals that the ...

2017-09-21 11:57:13

We're still on track to experience the second or third warmest year globally in records dating back to 1880  

Last month was among the very warmest on record, according to two new analyses - and the heat is very likely to continue. With less than four months left to go in 2017,  the year will probably come in as second or third warmest on record. Two agencies have produced very slightly different verdicts for this past August. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies has found that last month was the second warmest August globally in 137 years of modern record-keeping, surpassed only ...

2017-09-21 11:39:44

Dinosaur Diet Discovery: "Plant-Eater" Snacked On Crustaceans  

Like that vegetarian friend of yours who sneaks a piece of bacon when no one's looking, it appears that at least some dinosaurs previously thought to be dedicated herbivores occasionally consumed critters. That's at least according to new research that involved getting up close and investigative with those goldmines of lifestyle information: coprolites. Researchers took a look at fossilized feces from more than 15 separate deposits within the Kaiparowits Formation of Utah. The Kaiparow...

2017-09-21 10:24:48

Oldest African DNA Offers Rare Window Into Past  

A great irony about Africa is that, even though it's the birthplace of our species, we know almost nothing about the prehistoric populations who lived there: the bands of hunter gatherers who moved across the massive continent, interacting with and sometimes replacing other groups. Today that changes. Thanks to new research that includes the oldest African DNA ever successfully read, we're seeing Africa's prehistory like never before. Archaeologists and paleogeneticists are finally sta

2017-09-21 06:48:51

Hackers Could Use Light to Steal Information Via Security Cameras  

Where there's a will, there's a way, and hackers have plenty of will and countless ways to attack a secure network—even if it's not connected to the internet. In the latest demonstration proving no network is safe, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev used security cameras equipped with night vision to send and receive data from a network that wasn't even connected to the internet. Firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems… Jumping the Gap Organi...

2017-09-21 05:52:41

Study: Mysterious Bursts From Space Occur Every Second  

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are one of the hottest topics in astronomy right now. These short but extremely powerful bursts last only milliseconds, but release tremendous amounts of energy during that minute period of time. Since publication of their initial discovery in 2007 (the burst itself occurred in 2001), just over 25 of these sources have been identified, with only one repeater. But now, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomers have estimated that despite only the handful

2017-09-21 05:29:44

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