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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.



WHAT?! A Massive Dinosaur Family Tree Rewrite  

Ask any obsessive dino-phile above kindergarten age to explain the dinosaur family tree and it's likely the first thing you'll hear is that all dinosaur species fall into one of two groups. It's a core concept upon which our entire understanding of dinosaurs is built. But according to a new study, we got that most fundamental aspect of dinosaur evolution completely wrong. Oops. For more than a century, the dinosaur family tree was understood as having a very early split into two branches...

2017-03-22 15:06:23
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Climate change in 2016 — and continuing into 2017 — has brought the planet into "truly uncharted territory"  

A new report confirms that last year brought record global temperatures, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise Yesterday I reported that even though the warming influence of El Niño is long gone, February of 2017 brought very little letup in global warming. SEE ALSO: As the Trump administration proposes to gut climate change funding, the climate continues to change Now, the World Meteorological Organization is confirming that 2016's "extreme weather and climate...

2017-03-22 14:02:12
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Wastewater and Beer Make a Fine Pairing  

In the water cycle, what comes out of us eventually goes back in. Along the way, we can make it something better. That's the idea behind a new beer from San Diego's Stone Brewery made from the city's recycled wastewater. Their aptly named Full Circle Pale Ale uses water from Pure Water San Diego, a water treatment company that aims to supply one-third of the city's water within the next two decades. They've partnered with the brewery to give the much-maligned concept of "toilet to tap" ...

2017-03-22 02:32:28
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Soaking in a Hot Bath Yields Benefits Similar to Exercise  

Many cultures swear by the benefits of a hot bath. But only recently has science began to understand how passive heating (as opposed to getting hot and sweaty from exercise) improves health. At Loughborough University we investigated the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control (an important measure of metabolic fitness) and on energy expended (number of calories burned). We recruited 14 men to take part in the study. They were assigned to an hour-long soak in a hot bath (40˚C) or an...

2017-03-21 20:40:35
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As the Trump administration proposes to gut climate change funding, the climate continues to change  

Last month brought scant relief from global warming, and there's a chance that 2017 could turn out to be the warmest year on record Even though the warming influence of El Niño is long gone, and 2017 was expected to offer some relief from record temperatures set last year, February saw very little letup in global warming. And now there's at least a chance that 2017 as a whole could be headed for the record books. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is moving aggressively to halt ...

2017-03-21 14:58:57
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Could Life's Earliest Stages Have Survived Without a Key Ingredient?  

"CHNOPS" is one of science's most revered acronyms, an amalgamation of letters that rolls of the tongues of high school biology students and practicing researchers alike. It accounts for the six elements that comprise most biological molecules: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. Biologists have traditionally assumed that all six elements were prerequisites, as each one is found in several of life's most essential molecules. But what if earlier life forms ...

2017-03-21 12:33:09
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Dubai Officials Enlist RoboCops for Street Patrols  

Some of the world's first robotic police officers will reportedly hit the streets of Dubai in May. Brigadier Abdullah Bin Sultan, director of the Future Shaping Centre of Dubai Police, made the announcement Monday during a police forum held in the city. By 2030, Dubai officials hope that up to 25 percent of their police force will be artificially intelligent. This, from the same crime-fighting organization that has Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley patrol cars parked in its garage.  ...

2017-03-21 09:59:43
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You Can Become a Memory Champion, Too  

Need to memorize a series of numbers? Try this: Imagine yourself walking through a house while locking visualizations of a "12" or "78" into different rooms and cabinets located throughout the house. You've just used the "method of loci," which is a fundamental memorization technique that dates back to ancient Greece and is employed by champion memory athletes. Radboud University Medical Center neuroscientist Martin Dresler, lead author of a study recently published in the j...

2017-03-20 14:19:35
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Unethical "Stem Cell" Therapy for Autism In India?  

I just read a concerning paper about an experimental stem cell treatment for children with autism. The authors are Himanshu Bansal and colleagues of India. The senior author, Prasad S Koka, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Stem Cells where the paper appeared, which raises questions about whether the manuscript received a thorough peer review. Koka is actually an author on all five of the research papers published in that issue of the journal. But that's a minor issue compared

2017-03-17 18:08:07
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Weapons Physicist Posts Declassified Nuclear Test Videos to YouTube  

A trove of footage from early U.S. nuclear weapons tests has just been declassified and uploaded to YouTube. The film release was part of a project headed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapons physicist Greg Spriggs which aimed to digitize and preserve thousands of films documenting the nation's nuclear history. The endeavor required an all-hands-on deck approach from archivists, film experts and software engineers, but the team says that this digitized database is a...

2017-03-17 03:19:51
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Earth's Original Crust Still Hanging Around  

Researchers who want to study the nature of Earth's original crust find themselves between a rock and a hard place: Our planet's top layer is constantly wearing down in one spot and building up in another, continents colliding or slip-sliding past each other in the great mosh pit of plate tectonics. You might have figured none of the early crust was even still around. New research shows you would have figured wrong. Today in Science, researchers announced they'd found bits of Earth's orig

2017-03-17 02:15:07
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We Deserve Half the Blame for Declining Arctic Sea Ice  

Natural variability in atmospheric conditions could account for as much as half of the recent decline in Arctic sea ice, according to a new study. While the masses of ice that float atop the planet have been in steady decline over the past few decades, scientists haven't been able to say how much of the losses are attributable to human-driven climate change and how much is simply the result of periodic swings in climate conditions. While the scientific consensus is that human activities ...

2017-03-16 12:01:18
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The Secret Life of Fat  

Changes in our DNA can determine much more than the battle of thick versus thin.

2017-03-16 04:36:01
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A Glimpse of a Microchip's Delicate Architecture  

Computer chips continue to shrink ever smaller, but we still wring more processing power out of them. One of the problems that comes with taking our technology to the nanoscale, however, is that we can no longer see what's going on with them. Computer chips, with their arrays of transistors laid out like cities, have components that measure as little as 14 nanometers across, or about 5,000 times smaller than a red blood cell. Checking out these wonders of engineering without using expen...

2017-03-15 16:54:13
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The Incredible Lesion-Proof Brain?  

How much damage can the brain take and still function normally? In a new paper, A Lesion-Proof Brain?, Argentinian researchers Adolfo M. García et al. describe the striking case of a woman who shows no apparent deficits despite widespread brain damage. The patient, "CG", is 44 years old and was previously healthy until a series of strokes lesioned large parts of her brain, as shown below. García et al. say that the damage included "extensive compromise of the right fronto-temporo-par...

2017-03-15 11:23:31
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Phosphorus Is Vital for Life, and We're Running Low  

All life needs phosphorus and agricultural yields are improved when phosphorus is added to growing plants and the diet of livestock. Consequently, it is used globally as a fertilizer - and plays an important role in meeting the world's food requirements. In order for us to add it, however, we first need to extract it from a concentrated form - and the supply comes almost exclusively from phosphate mines in Morocco (with far smaller quantities coming from China, the US, Jordan and So...

2017-03-15 08:09:39
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Sharks' Missing Link To The Past  

If, like me, you like fossils and you like sharks, you're in luck. A recent re-look at a fossil found more than a decade ago has answered a big question about the story of sharks' evolution. Published recently in American Museum Novitates, a new high-tech reinvestigation of a well-preserved fossil first described in 2003 revealed the animal was more than an Early Devonian sharklike fish. Though its swimming days ended about 400 million years ago, this fossilized fella — with t...

2017-03-15 06:49:50
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Is a new 'nanodote' the next big thing in snakebite treatment? Not yet.  

Living in countries like the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., it can be all too easy to forget that snakebites are a serious and neglected global medical problem. It's estimated that upwards of 4.5 million people are envenomated by snakes every year; about half of them suffer serious injuries including loss of limbs, and more than 100,000 die from such bites. Much of this morbidity and mortality could be prevented if there faster, easier access to the therapeutics that target and inact...

2017-03-13 08:04:39
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Don't Blame Trump's Brain  

The past year has seen the emergence of a new field of neuroscience: neuroTrumpology. Also known as Trumphrenology, this discipline seeks to diagnose and explain the behaviour of Donald Trump and his supporters through reference to the brain. Here are some examples of neuroTrump scholarship: Donald Trump's Lizard Brain (February 2016) and After a brain injury, I suddenly displayed some behavior similar to Donald Trump's (August 2016). More recently we have Trump's Lies vs. Your Br...

2017-03-13 05:27:36
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The Ethics of Citation  

Earlier this week, Jordan Anaya asked an interesting question on Twitter: Why do we blame the media for reporting on bad studies but we don't blame scientists for citing bad studies? — Omnes Res (@OmnesResNetwork) March 6, 2017 This got me thinking about what we might call the ethics of citation. Citation is a little-discussed subject in science. Certainly, there's plenty of talk about citations - about whether it is right to judge papers by the number of citations they receive, wh...

2017-03-12 15:35:47
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This Is Where Stardust Comes From  

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the Chilean Andes has made several groundbreaking discoveries since it was brought online in 2011. Able to image the sky in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, ALMA can spot emission associated with molecular gas and dust, which are cold and can be difficult or impossible to see at other wavelengths. Using this ability, ALMA has identified dust and gas in a galaxy that formed when our universe was only about 4 percent of its ...

2017-03-10 12:09:04
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Cultivating Common Sense  

A band of Seattle computer scientists is on a mission to make artificial intelligence actually intelligent.

2017-03-10 10:38:05
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An Elephant Never Forgets...to Be Awake  

They say an elephant never forgets. But a more accurate adage would be that an elephant never sleeps—or, hardly ever. Tracking two wild elephant matriarchs for a month revealed that they averaged only a couple of hours a night. On some nights they surprised researchers by never going to sleep at all. This might make them the most wakeful mammals in the world. The sleeping habits of large mammals are a "contentious" subject, says Paul Manger, a professor at the University of the Witwa...

2017-03-09 09:47:57
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Getting High Off Snakebites?  

In a curious case report, Indian psychiatrists Lekhansh Shukla and colleagues describe a young man who said he regularly got high by being bitten by a snake. The 21-year old patient sought treatment for his heavy drug abuse, which included heroin and marijuna. He also reported a less conventional habit: he visited a local snake charmer, where he was bitten on the lips by a "cobra" in order to get high: He reported that his peers and the snake charmer informed him that he would have drows

2017-03-09 06:10:34
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An Entirely Synthetic Yeast Genome Is Nearly Complete  

Scientists are five steps closer to synthesizing the entire genome of baker's yeast, a feat that, once accomplished, will push the field of synthetic biology into a new frontier. An international team of researchers led by NYU Langone geneticist Jef Boeke on Thursday announced it constructed and integrated five "designer" chromosomes into Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This collaboration, known as the Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project (Sc2.0), unveiled the first-ever "designer chromosome"...

2017-03-09 02:04:11
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This Drone Dive-bombs Plants to Pollinate Them  

The hum of insects pollinating plants could one day be joined by a decidedly different buzz. Researchers from the Nanomaterials Research Institute in Japan have developed a system for transferring pollen between plants using a tiny commercial drone armed with an adhesive gel. They say that their sticky drone solution could one day help ailing pollinator populations ensure crops keep having sex. Helping Plants Get It On For their artificial Cupid they used an off-the-shelf Aerius d...

2017-03-09 01:19:24
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Ailing Neanderthals Used Penicillin and 'Aspirin'  

The stuff that clings to teeth can tell an interesting story. On Wednesday, scientists revealed new insights gleaned from dental plaque stuck on the teeth of five Neanderthals from Europe. From a few teeth, scientists learned how Neanderthals used natural medicines and how their diets varied by region. They also learned that modern humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit long ago. Given time—and negligence—dental plaque will harden into a substance called calculus, which i...

2017-03-08 17:24:40
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Good News! It Looks Like We Can Grow Potatoes on Mars  

A project attempting to grow potatoes in Mars-like conditions has reported positive preliminary results. Based in Lima, Peru, the International Potato Center (CIP) is dedicated to collecting and altering potato varieties found around the world. The CIP began as an effort to alleviate global hunger by introducing special strains of the hardy vegetable to places with arid soils and harsh environments. As researchers have begun experimenting with earthly technologies in a bid to extend our ...

2017-03-08 11:28:50
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Ben Carson and the Power of the Hippocampus  

"I could take the oldest person here, make a little hole right here on the side of the head, and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate. And they would be able to recite back to you, verbatim, a book they read 60 years ago." So said Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, yesterday. Carson is known for his unorthodox claims, such as his attempt to rewrite the Egyptology textbooks, but this time, as he's a former neurosurgeon himself, he might...

2017-03-07 16:57:37
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Why did scientists deliberately freeze themselves into sea ice near the North Pole, enduring storms and brutal cold?  

The work of the Norwegian Young Sea Ice Cruise is providing insights into rapid Arctic changes caused by human-induced global warming Note: This story was written by guest blogger, Zoë Rom, with contributions from me. Rom is a master's student at the University of Colorado's Center for Environmental Journalism, which I direct. She and I traveled to Tromsø, Norway together to cover the 2016 Arctic Frontiers Conference. This story is based in part on reporting Rom did while she was th...

2017-03-07 13:49:14
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Elusive Beaked Whales Filmed Swimming Underwater for the First Time  

True's beaked whale sightings are so rare, that scientists who devote careers to studying these animals may never actually witness one swimming in the wild. But thanks to an international team of scientists that compiled True's beaked whale sightings, we can all watch the first underwater video of True's beaked whales swimming near Pico Island in the Portuguese Azores. Researcher's collection also included the first close-up images of a young calf of the same species, and a genetic a...

2017-03-07 13:45:48
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Blue Origin Wants to Land Rockets on a Floating Platform, Too  

Blue Origin today unveiled a video demonstrating takeoff and landing procedures for its New Glenn rocket. Feel like you've seen this act before? You're not alone; the process looks very similar to the maneuvers performed by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on its trips to space. The short presentation shows the rocket lifting off, delivering a payload to orbit and touching back down on an oceanic barge. From the neat flip the rocket performs on the way down to the barge landing, Blue Origins ap...

2017-03-07 10:10:25
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New 'Sponge' Material Is Like a ShamWow for Oil Spills  

When an oil tanker runs aground or a deep-sea well suffers a leak, millions of gallons of oil can flood into the ocean. Once there, oil slicks can be tremendously difficult to contain, and pose risks to ocean-dwellers and coastlines when they wash ashore in waves of sticky sludge. Normal containment measures involve burning or skimming the thin layer of oil off of the surface, but these aren't perfect and pose their own risks. Materials like straw, sand and clay are also used as sorbent

2017-03-06 05:40:37
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When Will It be 'Game Over' For the Universe?  

Some say the universe will end in fire. Some say ice. Or maybe not.

2017-03-06 04:57:41
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How to Train Your Robot with Brain Oops Signals  

Baxter the robot can tell the difference between right and wrong actions without its human handlers ever consciously giving a command or even speaking a word. The robot's learning success relies upon a system that interprets the human brain's "oops" signals to let Baxter know if a mistake has been made. The new twist on training robots comes from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University. Researchers have long known that the human...

2017-03-06 04:33:11
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Brain Activity At The Moment of Death  

What happens in the brain when we die? Canadian researchers Loretta Norton and colleagues of the University of Western Ontario examine this grave question in a new paper: Electroencephalographic Recordings During Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Therapy Until 30 Minutes After Declaration of Death Norton et al. examined frontal EEG recordings from four critically ill patients at the point where their life support was withdrawn. Here are some details on the four: Here's the EEG recor

2017-03-03 20:01:15
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Building a Better Polar Ice Forecast  

Watching Arctic sea ice shrink to record lows has become a summer tradition for climatologists. And while few would expect that long-term trend to reverse, it's still a struggle to predict the annual highs and lows of polar sea ice. In fact, just looking at long-term statistics — how much the sea ice maximum and minimum usually shrinks each year — has proven more accurate than existing forecast techniques. But a long-term approach can't predict extreme years or forecast sea ice i...

2017-03-03 07:09:10
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NextGen Paleontologist: Egypt's Catfish Hunter Sanaa El-Sayed  

Sometimes, paleontology is about looking forward. Sure, the field is focused on uncovering and understanding the past, but to continue to progress, like every other area of science, paleontology needs a constant influx of new and enthusiastic talent. And as more opportunities open up around the world for both academic studies and fieldwork, from Antarctica to the expansive deserts of Africa, the next generation of paleontologists are blazing new trails. Here at Dead Things, I'll be spot...

2017-03-03 04:07:02
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Human Skull Fossils from China Have Surprising Traits  

The period about 100,000 years ago was a crucial one for our species — and a time not well represented in the fossil record. A pair of partial human skulls from Central China are helping to fill in some of the mystery, but their blend of archaic and modern Homo sapiens traits, as well as some Neanderthal characteristics, are also raising new questions. We modern Homo sapiens are, biologically speaking, true new kids on the block. Paleoanthropologists conventionally put the date of o...

2017-03-02 04:35:24
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Pushing the Theoretical Limits of DNA Data Storage  

By 2020, the volumes of data that humanity generates may reach 44 trillion gigabytes, according to information technology analyst firm International Data Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts. That's equivalent to over 6 towers of 128-gigabyte iPad Airs, each reaching from Earth to the moon. To make use of all this data, it needs to be stored somewhere, and DNA may be up for the task. Now, using a new strategy called DNA Fountain, scientists have nearly reached DNA's theoretical s...

2017-03-02 04:07:05
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Woolly Mammoth DNA Mutations Piled Up Pre-Extinction  

The extinct woolly mammoth lives on today as a regal symbol of the last ice age, a poster child for de-extinctionists and an occasional guest on HBO's Game of Thrones. But new research reveals that when it made its last stand on a remote island, the species was a mess. Mammuthus primigenius had disappeared from most of Eurasia and North America by about 10,000 years ago, just after the last ice age. The reason for the woolly mammoth's mainland demise is still debated, but hunting b...

2017-03-02 02:13:45
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Oldest Fossils Ever Found Give New Clues to Life's Origins  

Four billion years ago, as a faint young sun beat down on the newly-formed Earth, a cluster of creatures—each less than half the width of a human hair—were already thriving around volcanic vents. In a study published Wednesday in Nature, researchers say they've found the microfossil remnants of organisms that, if confirmed, lived at least 3.77 billion years ago. The findings add a new puzzle piece for researchers trying to travel backward along the tree of life seeking the so-cal...

2017-03-01 21:43:44
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With Iron Nanoparticles, Cryopreserved Tissue Springs Back to Life  

Every year, thousands of donated organs go to waste because they cannot be matched with recipients in the brief window of time in which they are still viable. Extending the shelf-life of organs could help alleviate this problem, potentially cutting into waiting lists for organs where many patients languish for years. Chilling organs at extremely low temperatures and then reheating them when they are needed is one current solution. The freezing and reheating process still needs work before

2017-03-01 10:49:41
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Drones Set to Target Christmas Island's Feral Cats  

In the land down under, feral cats slaughter an estimated 75 million native animals each day. That threat to biodiversity prompted the Australian government to declare it would kill 2 million feral cats over five years starting in 2015. As part of that campaign, officials plan to enlist a drone air force capable of dropping poisoned cat bait on the Australian territory of Christmas Island. During flight tests last year, a Sky Hero drone performed airborne drops of cat bait that rese...

2017-03-01 04:48:55
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Urine Is Sugary and Swimming Pools Are Sweet  

Calorie-free, artificial sweeteners aren't metabolized in the body—they go in, and they come out unscathed. With that in mind, take a moment to metabolize the title of a new study: "Sweetened Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs." Indeed, in a study published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, researchers describe a new test that measures levels of acesulfame-K, a widely consumed artificial sweetener, floating in dubious pool water. Of course, researchers pu...

2017-03-01 02:43:23
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Lasers Illuminate the Evolution of Flight  

Firing lasers at fossils continues to be a winning strategy for paleontologists. The new technique brings hidden details in fossils to the forefront, including remnants of soft tissue invisible to the naked eye. And a team of researchers from China is using the laser-assisted images to help piece together the evolutionary process that turned dinosaurs into the birds we know today. In a paper published Tuesday in Nature Communications, the team fixed its lasers onto a small feathered...

2017-02-28 07:37:13
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Mardi Gras at the Leprosarium  

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Tomorrow is the final and momentous hurrah of the Carnival season, which culminates with Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, the city I call home, Carnival is a season of festivities, decadence, and tradition, one that is celebrated amongst neighbours and visitors alike. Our revelry is an egalitarian one - everyone is welcome to come witness and participate in Carnival. But for over a century, just a couple of hours away from the Crescen...

2017-02-28 06:26:56
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A Weekend Camping Trip Is Enough to Reset Your Internal Clock  

Humans have been fighting our internal clocks ever since we invented sitting around a campfire. We have powerful natural rhythms that keep us on a 24-hour cycle; if you've ever been steamrollered by jet lag after an intercontinental flight, you know how powerful those rhythms are. But we muffle them with caffeine, alarm clocks, and electric lights. It's easy to undo the damage, though. One weekend of camping can do the trick—and it'll even cure your case of the Mondays. In 2013...

2017-02-28 04:18:58
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You Look Like a/an (Insert Your Name Here)  

Who are you more likely to find striking a sexy pose on the cover of a magazine: Gus or Tanner? Sophia or Bertha? It's a silly question given all we're working with is names, but names are powerful social tags that influence how people interact with and perceive each other—for good or for bad. A name reflects race, age, religion and nationality. A name affects the number of callbacks jobseekers receive from employers. A name can influence expectations set by a child's teachers. ...

2017-02-27 19:19:55
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Brain Activity Can Predict If an Article Will Go Viral  

Chased fanatically but realized rarely, a truly viral story seems to happen purely by chance — a fortuitous alignment of trending topic, clever headline, compelling copy and maybe a witty GIF. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has built a model for "virality" by identifying neural mechanisms at work when people decide to share an article or not. In two studies, of 41 and 39 people each, they used fMRI to monitor participants' brain activity as they rated ho...

2017-02-27 15:40:17
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Lighter, Faster, Cheaper: Broadening Access to the Deep Sea  

Most countries on Earth have no way to access vast portions of their sovereign territory. In a time when you can read street signs half a world a way on Google Earth, this fact may seem surprising, but these unreachable territories all have one thing in common: they're underwater, hidden beneath the waves. As dictated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal country's "exclusive economic zone" (EEZ) extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) into the open ocean. Everything f...

2017-02-27 08:05:12
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Why Scientists Shouldn't Replicate Their Own Work  

Last week, I wrote about a social psychology paper which was retracted after the data turned out to be fraudulent. The sole author on that paper, William Hart, blamed an unnamed graduate student for the misconduct. Now, more details have emerged about the case. On Tuesday, psychologist Rolf Zwaan blogged about how he was the one who first discovered a problem with Hart's data, in relation to a different paper. Back in 2015, Zwaan had co-authored a paper reporting a failure to replicate a 2011

2017-02-25 10:28:57
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Neural Cells Don't Always Express Mom and Dad's Genes Equally  

We're all the product of genes from both parents. But in the brain, neurons may favor genes from mom or dad far more than previously thought, which is an effect that could impact one's risk for mental disorders. Everybody generally receives two versions, or alleles, of each gene, one from each parent. The fact that each person has a spare copy of a gene in case the other is defective is one reason why scientists think sex evolved in the first place, says study senior author Christopher ...

2017-02-24 12:13:30
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VX Nerve Agent: The Deadly Weapon Engineered in Secret  

In January 1958, two medical officers at Porton Down, Britain's military science facility, exposed their forearms to 50-microgram droplets of a substance called VX, which was a new, fast-acting nerve agent that could kill by seeping through the skin. VX, short for "venomous agent X," is tasteless, odorless and causes uncontrollable muscle contractions that eventually stop a person's breathing within minutes. That experiment in 1958, according to University of Kent historian Ulf S...

2017-02-24 05:37:29
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Tuataras and The Question of Living Fossils  

New Zealand's tuataras prove the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" like few other animals on the planet (coelacanth, I'm looking at you). While paleontologists have long differed over the animal's "living fossil" status, new research suggests the tuatara lineage got its groove some 240 million years ago and never lost it. Sphenodon punctatus, commonly known as the tuatara, has been puzzling science as long as science has been aware of it: Back in 1831, the animal was initial

2017-02-23 05:19:52
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7 Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting a Tiny Star  

TRAPPIST-1 has a solar system like no other. The tiny, tiny red dwarf is just barely big enough to be considered a star, and is, radius-wise, a hair bigger than Jupiter. When it was announced last May, there was some excitement: the system had three Earth-sized planets, and they might all be habitable. We're going to have to revise that, though. It has seven planets. The results of an intensive study were published today in Nature. TRAPPIST-1 is so small that it resembles Jupiter a...

2017-02-23 04:22:44
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4 Thumbnail-Sized Frog Species Discovered in India  

Four frogs tinier than an average adult thumbnail are among seven new species identified in India's Western Ghat mountain range. The new frog species all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. As the name suggests, they usually come out after dark and prefer to hide out under damp vegetation on the forest floor. Unlike their stream-dwelling cousins, they don't have webbed feet. All of the species found appear to be fairly common in the region, but the frogs' ...

2017-02-23 03:37:42
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Gooooal! Bumblebees Learn to Play Soccer  

If scoring a goal is the only way to earn a sugary treat, a bumblebee will summon its inner Messi. Indeed, rolling a ball into a goal—soccer, sort of—is the latest puzzle solved by Bombus terrestris after training with scientists/bee trainers at Queen Mary University of London. In October, scientists from the same lab—the Chittka Lab—taught bees to tug strings for treats. There are no plans to start a traveling carnival; instead, scientists are pushing bees' to their cognitive ...

2017-02-23 02:29:11
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25 

Suicide Robot Boat Blamed for Attack on Warship  

A suicide boat attack that killed two sailors aboard a Saudi warship was apparently carried out by an unmanned, remotely-controlled boat. The U.S. Navy says the incident likely represents the first ever use of a suicide robot boat as a weapon on the high seas. Suicide boat bombings carried out by human crews willing to die in the attacks are nothing new. Such an attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others aboard the U.S.S. Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer refueling in the port of Aden, Ye...

2017-02-22 03:07:09
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29 

The Brightest Pulsar Has a Complex and Powerful Magnetic Field  

The supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies are known for their extreme X-ray emission. This emission is associated with the massive hot disks of gas and debris that circle these monstrous black holes before it is consumed. However, X-ray observations of distant galaxies have also uncovered additional luminous X-ray sources that aren't associated with the galactic centers (where supermassive black holes are found). These are ULXs, or ultraluminous X-ray sources. ULXs h...

2017-02-21 17:11:34
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34 

In Ancient Chacoan Society, Women Ruled  

Before they disappeared in 1130, the Chacoans of New Mexico were a society on par with the Mayans. Without a writing system to speak of, they maintained complex trade partnerships with nearby populations. They lived in sprawling, complex stone mini-cities called "great houses"—the largest of which, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, boasted 650 rooms. They Chacoans were one of North America's earliest complex societies, but archaeologists still aren't sure why they disappeared—climate...

2017-02-21 08:57:48
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33 

What Causes a 'Butterflies in the Stomach' Sensation?  

If you have ever been nervous about something that is about to happen, then you may have felt the sensations of nausea and "fluttering"—the recognizable and odd sensation deep in your gut known as having "butterflies in the stomach." Perhaps you were about to give a speech to a large audience, were in the waiting room for a big interview, were about to step up and take a key penalty shot or about to meet a potential love interest. Rather than actual butterflies bouncing around y...

2017-02-21 07:32:03
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22 

What Does a Meteor Sound Like?  

When a meteor screams through our upper atmosphere, it's a silent show for us here on the ground. Most meteors burn up dozens of miles above the surface, and even if a sonic boom reaches us it comes minutes after the visual spectacle. However, reports of meteors have for years been accompanied by reports of strange sizzling sounds filling the air, as if someone was frying bacon. Sound travels too slowly for the meteor to be directly responsible for the phenomenon, so such reports are usua

2017-02-21 07:17:23
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35 

Kennewick Man's Bones Reburied, Settling a Decades-Long Debate  

Unearthed in 1996 after part of his skull was found along the shores of the Columbia River in Washington, Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old Paleoamerican, would soon be regarded as the most important human skeletal discovery in American history. A Crisis of Ancient Identity When two college students reported that they had found a skull fragment in the river, scientists responded quickly. After searching for and collecting nearly 300 other pieces of bone, they were able to determine that...

2017-02-21 02:13:53
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33 

Atmospheric Rivers Bring Record Winds, Torrential Rains  

Rivers in the sky may be responsible for up to 75 percent of the largest, most extreme wind and rainfall events that ravage the coasts. The streams of moisture, called atmospheric rivers, originate in the tropics and often stretch for thousands of miles across the ocean in a thin band. They deliver a deluge of rain that causes major floods, landslides and a rash of insurance claims. In addition to soaking us, a new study shows that atmospheric rivers are also responsible for the power...

2017-02-20 06:15:24
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11 

This Squid Gives Better Side-Eye Than You  

Yes, this cephalopod is looking at you funny. It's a kind of cockeyed squid—an animal that looks like some jokester misassembled a Mr. Potato Head. One of the cockeyed squid's eyes is big, bulging and yellow. The other is flat and beady. After studying more than 25 years' worth of undersea video footage, scientists think they know why. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California has been dropping robotic submarines into the ocean for decades. The footage fro...

2017-02-20 06:08:51
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26 

The Science of the Rorschach Blots  

When the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach blotted ink onto paper to produce a series of abstract patterns, could he have known that nearly 100 years later, the Rorschach test would be a household name? Although the use of the Rorschach to diagnose mental illness is mostly a thing of the past, research on the test continues. Last week, two new papers were published on the Rorschach blots, including a fractal analysis of the images themselves and a brain scanning study using fMRI. The

2017-02-20 02:08:17
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38 

When US Navy Suicide Drones Went to War  

During the Korean War, a life-or-death race took place between an U.S. Navy Hellcat fighter aircraft and a group of North Koreans on a railroad handcar. Apparently believing that the fighter was preparing to attack with its machine guns, the North Koreans frantically pumped the railroad handcar's arm as they headed for the safety of a railroad tunnel. They made it inside just before the aircraft crashed into the hillside near the tunnel entrance. The strange incident marked one of the...

2017-02-18 17:07:17
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38 

Gore Verbinski Diagnoses His Own "Cure for Wellness"  

If you feel like there is something deeply unhealthy about the modern world, director Gore Verbinski has just the movie for you. If you roll your eyes at New Age cures, he's got you covered, too. And if some mornings you wake up wondering if you sleepwalked into the wrong corner of the multiverse...yes, he's on top of that one as well. Verbinski's new A Cure for Wellness is a rich stew of psychological themes, mythologies, medical musings, and surrealist flights of fancy. It is utterly bonke

2017-02-17 16:24:43
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19 

Facial Recognition Software: The Next Big Thing in Species Conservation?  

How do you care for the creatures you love? You shoot them with tranquilizer darts, capture them in cages, embed microchips, pierce their ears or make them wear funny collars. For scientists who monitor endangered species, these are tried-and-true methods to count and track individuals in a given population—along with photography and experts' sharp eyes. But capturing or sedating an animal can be stressing (and could cause physical harm), and boots-on-the-ground counts can be inconsis...

2017-02-17 14:05:31
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41 

Watch a Record 104 Satellites Tumble Into Orbit  

An Indian rocket delivered a record-setting 104 satellites into orbit Tuesday night. A camera on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle captured the spacecraft, most of them tiny CubeSats, as they tumbled into orbit—the most placed into orbit by a single vehicle. A majority of the satellites belong to a U.S.-based company called Planet which hopes to establish a network of tiny satellites to provide near-real-time imaging of Earth. An...

2017-02-17 10:59:40
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35 

Rebirth and Recovery in the Shadow of Chernobyl  

Regular readers of this blog know that I normally focus on cosmic topics: comets, exoplanets, dark matter, the search for alien life, and the like. I don't tangle so much with the everyday challenges of life here on the ground. I enjoy taking a break from the quotidian. But the truth is, the two sides are never very far apart. They are both--all--part of one universe, governed by one set of physical laws. The nuclear reactions that regulate the afterglow of a supernova explosion are the exac

2017-02-17 10:02:52
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54 

The Fantasy of Connecting Two Spinal Cords  

A peculiar new paper proposes the idea of "connecting two spinal cords as a way of sharing information between two brains". The author is Portuguese psychiatrist Amílcar Silva-dos-Santos and the paper appears in Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers are a publisher with a troubled history of publishing dubious science. But this paper is unusual, even by Frontiers' standards, because it contains virtually no science at all. In a nutshell, Silva-Dos-Santos suggests that it would be interes...

2017-02-17 08:49:02
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49 

Even without a boost from El Niño, January 2017 was 3rd warmest such month in records dating back 137 years  

Unlike last year, January 2017 got no temperature boost from El Niño. Yet it was still remarkably warm. In their monthly analyses, both NASA and NOAA concur that this past month was the third warmest January since record keeping began in 1880. Last month's temperature was 0.20 degrees Celsius cooler than the warmest January on record, which occurred just last year, according to NASA. Even so, the agency reports that January 2017 was 0.92 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean temperatu...

2017-02-17 04:53:15
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77 

Collective False Memories: What's Behind the 'Mandela Effect'?  

Would you trust a memory that felt as real as all your other memories, and if other people confirmed that they remembered it too? What if the memory turned out to be false? This scenario was named the 'Mandela effect' by the self-described 'paranormal consultant' Fiona Broome after she discovered that other people shared her (false) memory of the South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. Is a shared false memory really due to a so-called 'gl...

2017-02-16 07:21:50
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47 

What's in a name? Venoms vs. Poisons | Toxinology 101  

Scientists refer to the study of biological toxins as toxinology (not to be confused with toxicology, with a C—as I explain below). From bacterial toxins like anthrax to the deadliest snake venoms, toxinology examines the chemical warfare between animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. This is the first in a new series I call Toxinology 101, where I explain and explore the fundamentals of toxin science to reveal the unusual, often unfamiliar, and unnerving world created by our planet's most ...

2017-02-16 07:18:07
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27 

Metagenomic Sleuthing Treats Illness Like a Crime Scene  

Pathogens move fast. You wake up one morning feeling ready to take on the world. On your way to work, you notice your throat's a bit scratchy, your forehead a bit warm. By lunch you've got a pounding headache and it hurts to breathe. Co-workers agree, you've got whatever's been going around. You end the day early, using the last of your strength to drag yourself to bed. Identifying the organism causing your misery can confound even trained physicians. When tests fail to reveal ...

2017-02-16 04:14:41
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22 

The High Stakes of Handshakes  

What's in a handshake? If the widespread scrutiny of President Donald Trump's characteristic "yank and grab" is any indication, a lot. If anything, however, the recent spate of armchair psychology surrounding his handshakes says as much about us as it does about him. A handshake, done well, sets a precedent for collaboration and trust. Executed incorrectly, a sloppy handshake is a cringeworthy affair to witness. Why do we invest so much emotional capital into a simple gesture?  ...

2017-02-15 04:52:54
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50 

When Earth Became a 'Mote of Dust'  

We first glimpsed Earth's curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home. In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home. But on Valentine's Day 27 years ago, Voyager 1, from 4 billion miles away, took one final picture before switching off its camera foreve...

2017-02-14 20:49:23
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45 

El Niño Dramatically Reshaped Western Coastlines  

Beaches and shorelines are locked in an eternal battle between land and sea. The struggle usually comes out to a draw — the rate of erosion is offset by the amount of new sediment deposited. But as weather patterns grow more erratic and storms intensify, our shores could begin yielding ground to the waves. The most recent El Niño event was one of the most energetic in years and brought powerful storms and punishing waves to the Pacific Northwest. While this may have been good news f...

2017-02-14 05:54:55
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40 

Mamma Mia! Fossil Is First Hint Of Live Birth In Ancient Reptile  

Here's some egg-citing news: for the first time in the fossil record, researchers have discovered a specific type of marine reptile that was carrying an advanced embryo at time of death. Why is that interesting? Because the specimen is an archosauromorph, an early member of the same gang of vertebrates that includes dinosaurs as well as pterosaurs, birds and crocodiles, all of which we thought, based on previous evidence, were exclusively egg-layers. Today that changes. Some 245 million...

2017-02-14 01:46:45
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32 

Authorship Means Responsibility  

Last week Retraction Watch covered a case of a psychology paper that was retracted after it emerged that the graduate student who collected the data had faked the results. Here's the retraction notice: The retraction follows an investigation by the University of Alabama's Office for Research Compliance. That investigation found that a former graduate student in William Hart's lab altered the data in strategic ways. The investigation found that William Hart was unaware when the articl...

2017-02-13 09:18:15
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32 

Buzzkill: Will America's Bees Survive?  

The science and politics of saving America’s bees gets messy. And the bees continue to die.

2017-02-13 03:58:14
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56 

Scientists Narrow in on Landing Site for NASA's Next Mars Rover  

The Curiosity Mars rover is in the prime of its robotic life, approaching dramatic layered deposits on the slopes of Mt. Sharp. But even as the four and a half year-old mission reaches the features it was initially sent to investigate, scientists and engineers are feverishly planning for the next rover mission, Mars 2020. 2020 is shaping up to be a busy year on the Mars exploration calendar: in addition to the NASA rover, the European Space Agency and China have missions slotted for the f

2017-02-12 21:54:36
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50 

Bye bye La Niña, we hardly knew you. (And btw, is that your baby brother, El Niño, lurking there in the shadows?)  

The La Niña of 2016 is now officially gone. Following on from a monster El Niño, it turned out to be one of the shortest and weakest on record. La Niña, which can influence weather across many parts of the world, is characterized by abnormally cool surface waters in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Those have now mostly dissipated, leaving behind temperatures that are close to average for February. Forecasters expect these neutral conditions to continue for the next few month...

2017-02-11 17:14:49
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52 

California rivers are so swollen from runoff that the impact is easily seen in these before and after satellite images  

This animation of satellite images shows in dramatic fashion just how far California has come following one of its most devastating droughts on record. To get the full effect, make sure to click on the animated GIF. On Feb. 9, 2016, California was still in the grips of the drought. At that time, the waterways of the Sacramento River Delta were barely visible from space, as seen in the first image of the animation, acquired by NASA's Aqua satellite. The second image, acquired today by T

2017-02-11 01:12:52
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18 

Look Closely, This Ant Is Carrying a Passenger  

Sometimes even experienced entomologists need a double-take to fully grasp what they're seeing. And upon closer examination, they found a new species hiding in plain sight. A new kind of beetle discovered in the Costa Rican rainforest almost passed by unnoticed, because it hides so well on the army ants it uses for transportation. It was only after the researchers tried to puzzle out the mystery of the ants with two abdomens that they spotted the squat beetle, named Nymphista kronaeuri ...

2017-02-10 14:58:53
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49 

Part Turtle, Part Pig, Bulbasaurus Was a Stout Survivor  

You may have seen the story: Last week scientists decided to name a recently discovered mammalian ancestor after the Pokemon, Bulbasaur. But in this case, fiction is stranger than truth. Indeed, the new species goes by the name Bulbasaurus phylloxyron, but its association with pocket monsters is coincidental. In taxonomy, it's common to name a new species after its prominent features, and Bulbasaurus (bulbous lizard ) phylloxyron (leaf cutter) is simply a nod to its unique nasal protu...

2017-02-10 11:56:10
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44 

Extraordinary warmth continues to afflict the Arctic, taking a wicked toll on its floating cap of sea ice  

In January, average extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record A journalist would never write a story saying, "No homes burned down today." Novelty makes news, not humdrum, every day stuff. So why another story here at ImaGeo saying that Arctic sea ice has set yet another record for lowest monthly extent since the satellite record began in 1979? After all, in addition to the low extent observed this past January, multiple record lows were also set last year — in January, Februa...

2017-02-10 02:31:34
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52 

With the new GOES-16 satellite, Earth has never looked more stunningly beautiful from space  

forecasts, severe storm warnings, solar flare alerts, and a host of other benefits In recent weeks, two new weather satellites — GOES-16, lofted into orbit by the United States, and the Japanese Himawari-9 — have begun sending back spectacular images of the home planet. With GOES-16, the United States is actually playing catch-up with the Japanese, whose incredibly capable Himawari-8 satellite has been in operation since July of 2015. Himawa...

2017-02-09 10:53:06
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51 

The Eternal Mummy Princesses  

They lived lives of prestige and power. In death, these women still command attention.

2017-02-09 03:37:26
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50 

Elusive Blue Lightning Filmed Dancing Above a Thunderstorm  

In Earth's upper atmosphere, blue jets, red sprites, pixies, halos, trolls and elves streak toward space, rarely caught in the act by human eyes. This mixed-bag of quasi-mythological terms are all names for transient luminous events, or, quite simply, forms of lightning that dance atop thunderstorm clouds. Airplane pilots have reported seeing them, but their elusive nature makes them hard to study. But ESA astronaut Andreas Morgensen, while aboard the International Space Station in S...

2017-02-08 16:26:56
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46 

Astronomers Identify a New Class of Black Holes  

Some black holes are small. Some black holes are giant. But oddly enough, in the cosmic fight between innocent passing stars and voracious black holes, scientists have never found a mid-sized black hole. Until now. The star cluster 47 Tucanae, located about 13,000 to 16,000 light years from Earth, is a dense ball of stars. Hundreds of thousands of stars compacted into a 120 light-year span give off gamma rays and X-rays and more energetic events, but to date, no black holes had been found

2017-02-08 09:08:30
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61 

Check out this breathtaking view of the Colorado Plateau, as seen from the International Space Station  

When I first spotted this stunning image on NASA's Earth Observatory site, it stopped me dead in my tracks. It's a view over Lake Powell on the Colorado River, the second-largest artificial reservoir in the United States, after Lake Mead further downstream. Almost the entire lake is visible in this photograph, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station last September. I was really struck by the clarity, the color, and the oblique angle at which it was taken. The phot...

2017-02-08 05:18:05
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69 

Researchers Lambast Daily Mail's Climate Change Article  

A recent article published in the Daily Mail critical of climate science has drawn sharp criticism from multiple climate researchers. The controversy concerns a paper, published in 2015 by a team of NOAA researchers led by Thomas Karl, that revealed a purported "pause" in global warming was nothing more than an artifact of incomplete data. Now, the Daily Mail has published an article based on an exclusive interview with former NOAA employee John Bates alleging that the Karl paper mis...

2017-02-07 07:14:09
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57 

Midwest Meteor: Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?  

Dash cam footage of a meteor streaking over the Midwest on Feb. 6 is collecting views and instigating an envy of regional night owls who witnessed the event live. The National Weather Service detected the meteor around 1:29 a.m. It flew over Lake Michigan between Sheboygan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The meteor was spotted as far south as Kentucky and as far east as New York, Astronomy reports. Based on this fireball's characteristics and similarities to a 2003 Forest Park, Illino...

2017-02-07 01:39:13
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50 

Snakes Use Their Tongues and Tails as Lures for Prey  

The African puff adder kills more people with its venomous bite than any other snake on the continent. To find prey, it doesn't need to go hunting; the snake simply lies in wait and attacks small animals that wander past. An ambushing puff adder is both camouflaged and unsmellable to predators. This snake is not goofing around—but it does like to stick its tongue out. Researchers discovered that puff adders in the wild waggle both their tongues and their tails to lure prey, like a prolo...

2017-02-07 01:18:25
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52 

Has Dogma Derailed the Search for Dark Matter?  

According to mainstream researchers, the vast majority of the matter in the Universe is invisible: it consists of dark-matter particles that do not interact with radiation and cannot be seen through any telescope. The case for dark matter is regarded as so overwhelming that its existence is often reported as fact. Lately, though, cracks of doubt have started to appear. In July, the LUX experiment in South Dakota came up empty in its search for dark particles - the latest failure in a plane...

2017-02-06 01:58:52
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42 

Ultrasound Waves Turn Wine into Something Better  

Brandies, such as cognac, are renowned for colors, flavors and aromas that require years to achieve. But scientists in Spain have used ultrasound to cut the time needed for such spirits to mature down to days. Brandies, stemming from the Dutch brandewijn, or "burned wine," are powerful alcoholic spirits distilled from wines or other fermented fruit juices. One brandy connoisseur of note, the poet Samuel Johnson, noted that "claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires...

2017-02-03 07:31:41
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75 

Science Has A Plagiarism Problem  

Retraction Watch reports on three scientific papers (1,2,3) that have been retracted or deleted after I reported that they were plagiarized. Neuroskeptic became suspicious about the three unrelated papers - about food chemistry, heart disease, and the immune system and cancer - after scanning them with plagiarism software. After alerting the journals, two issued formal retractions for the papers - but neither specifies plagiarism as the reason. These three retractions represent the fruit...

2017-02-03 02:07:20
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43 




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