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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.

How Human Smarts Evolved  

Suzana Herculano-Houzel spent most of 2003 perfecting a macabre recipe—a formula for brain soup. Sometimes she froze the jiggly tissue in liquid nitrogen, and then she liquefied it in a blender. Other times she soaked it in formaldehyde and then mashed it in detergent, yielding a smooth, pink slurry. Herculano-Houzel had completed her Ph.D. in neuroscience several years earlier, and in 2002, she had begun working as an assistant professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in B...

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2018-08-20 10:41:05

Dismantling Oil Rigs Could Destroy Vital Coral Reefs  

The rugged North Sea, between Norway and the United Kingdom, once held some of the world's most productive offshore petroleum fields. And across the region, oil rigs still tower above the ocean floor — their beams crisscrossing up from the watery depths like mechanical mountains. But with productivity and oil prices in decline over recent years, hundreds of these structures are now set for removal. It's a day that environmental groups have waited decades to see. Yet some scientists ...

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2018-08-20 08:31:31

The Evolutionary History Of A Malaria Parasite  

Millions of people annually contract malaria after infection by nasty little parasites belonging to the genus Plasmodium. Thanks to new genomic insights, researchers believe they've uncovered a key chunk of the disease's evolutionary back story — and a potential new path to fight it. There are more than 100 species in the rogues' gallery that is Plasmodium, but only four typically lead to malaria in humans: P. falciparum, found mostly in Africa and causing a particularly severe and...

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2018-08-20 02:45:33

Science's Bullying Problem  

Over the past few weeks, the stories of three high-profile scientists accused of bullying have emerged: geneticist Nazneen Rahman, psychologist Tania Singer and astrophysicist Guinevere Kauffmann. Each of these researchers are (or were) at the top of their fields, recipients of huge amounts of funding. They are accused of abuses of power, bullying and abuse of their subordinates and creating a climate of fear in their institutions. It would be easy to look to the personal character

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2018-08-19 05:38:16

Independence: A New Performance Indicator for Researchers?  

A scientist's achievements are often measured in terms of the number of papers they publish (productivity) and how many citations those papers get (impact). These 'bibliometric indicators' are widely derided but they have proven remarkably stubborn. Now, in a new preprint on bioRxiv, researchers Peter van den Besselaar and Ulf Sandström propose a new metric that, they say, could measure another important researcher characteristic: independence. For van den Besselaar and Sandström, in...

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2018-08-18 02:56:28

This NASA animation shows something one could mistake for blue blood pumping in an alien venous system  

Alien it most certainly is not. But the word 'venous' is not far from the mark. So just what is this thing anyway? When I first spotted this mesmerizing animation on Twitter, my mind really did wander to the metaphorical idea of blood flowing through some sort of alien venous system. And actually, to the extent that a river can be the lifeblood of a region, you are looking at something akin to a venous system. The time-lapse animation consists of 14 false-color satellite images of t...

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2018-08-17 18:31:09

One Third of Known Planets May Be Enormous Ocean Worlds  

Water is a key ingredient for life — and new research suggests we might find it all over the galaxy. Scientists looked at the mass of Super-Earths, a kind of planet common across the cosmos but not present in our own solar system. These rocky worlds are several times larger than Earth, but the team's analysis of known Super-Earths reveals something astounding: Many of them may be literal water worlds. According to the research, many of these planets may be half water. By comparison...

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2018-08-17 16:57:32

Why Did NASA's Pioneer Spacecraft Mysteriously Slow Down?  

Before Voyager 1 and 2 explored the outer solar system, Pioneer 10 and 11 paved the way. Launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively, these spacecraft were the first to transit the asteroid belt and the first to make close observations of Jupiter (both Pioneer 10 and 11) and Saturn (Pioneer 11). Like their successors, the Voyagers and New Horizons, both Pioneers are past the orbit of Pluto and will continue speeding outward from the center of the solar system. Powered by four plutonium-238

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2018-08-17 03:16:54

Smokey superlatives: widespread wildfire impacts seen from as far away as a million miles from Earth  

The smokey conditions are so bad that one Canadian newspaper has labeled it a "smoke-pocalypse" I was going to take a break from covering the wildfires blazing across large swaths of western North America — until I checked on remote sensing data this morning and saw the satellite imagery above and lower down in this post. In the the image above, captured by the Suomi-NPP satellite on Aug. 15, check out the thick, sandy-colored smudge of smoke blanketing a huge portion of western No...

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2018-08-16 18:18:58

Check Out This Beetle Trapped In Amber For 99 Million Years  

A new species of beetle, preserved in a piece of amber along with several grains of pollen, is the earliest direct evidence of an insect pollinating an ancient plant group nearly 100 million years ago. It's also just supercool to look at. To understand why this new beetle with the gigantic name (Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus) is more than just a pretty face, we've got to take a stroll down the paleobotany path. The Mesozoic Era started in the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction...

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2018-08-16 05:26:12

Workers of the World! There Is Efficiency in Idleness  

In Kurt Vonnegut's dystopian novel, Player Piano, things get a little awkward after industrialist Dr. Paul Proteus, escorted in a black government limo, passes a crew of "Reeks and Wrecks," or displaced laborers who could no longer compete economically with the machines that filled factories like Proteus' Illium Works. In the street, some 40 construction workers are hunched over shovels and pitchforks, all watching a single man fill a two-foot-wide pothole. With an abundance of i...

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2018-08-16 05:20:58

New Date For Greek Eruption That May Have Inspired Atlantis Myth  

A long-standing controversy over the date of a volcanic blast that possibly inspired the myth of Atlantis may have been resolved with the aid of ancient tree rings, a new study finds. One of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past 4,000 years burst from the volcano Thera on what is now the Greek island of Santorini. The catastrophic eruptions spewed forth about 40 to 60 cubic kilometers of lava, devastating the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization, potentially inspiring the legend of

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2018-08-15 18:58:25

Children Give in to Robot Peer Pressure  

Those of us of a certain age may recall the D.A.R.E. program wafting through our classrooms like so many puffs of smoke. In addition to the evils of drugs and alcohol, and the importance of just saying no, the program highlighted the power of peer pressure. No matter how much our friends and classmates might say something's cool, we shouldn't be swayed if we don't want to try it! It turns out that kids aren't just susceptible to regular old peer pressure. According to a study publis...

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2018-08-15 04:31:08

The More Fit You Are, the Better You Shiver  

If you wanna shiver right, you gotta exercise. That's the suggestion of a new study in The Journal of Physiology looking at how mice fared in the cold after they'd spent some time undergoing regular jogging sessions on a wheel. Compared to couch-potato mice, the fit mice lost less weight in the cold and had higher body temperatures. The findings reveal that physical fitness likely plays a role in how well we deal with chilly situations. Shiver Me Warm When our core body temperature d...

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2018-08-15 03:11:36

Can Humans Live in Space Without Going Crazy?  

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted the Mercury capsule Freedom 7. His sub-orbital journey lasted 15 minutes. Like most children who grew up in the early era of space flight, I remember this moment well. The flight was extra special for me because my dad, Arthur L. Levine, worked for NASA. As a human resources administrator, he recruited John Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit Earth. My dad, Glenn and Neil Armstrong, all work

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2018-08-14 17:28:54

Magnetic Fields May Be to Blame for Jupiter's Skin-Deep Stripes  

What would Jupiter be without its stripes? The Great Red Spot might be Jupiter's most famous feature, but the giant planet would be unrecognizable without the multicolored bands streaking across its face. The colors are there thanks to the chemistry of Jupiter's atmosphere, but the striped pattern itself comes from long-lived winds called zonal flows that blow east-west around the planet in alternating directions. These zonal flows are similar to the jet streams high in Earth's atm...

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2018-08-14 12:35:15

Livestock Infected with Worms Belch and Fart 33% More Methane  

It's estimated that 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, and a substantial portion of that is directly 'emitted' by livestock. And just last year, climate scientists reported that we've actually been underestimating the extent to which the combined belches and flatulence of farmed animals contributes to climate change by 11%. Unsurprisingly, there's been renewed interest in reducing those emissions, especially considering the demand for livestock is only growing. Now, ...

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2018-08-14 11:22:24

Did Native Americans Breed Parrots in New Mexico 1,000 Years Ago?  

Native Americans may have kept a breeding colony of scarlet macaws in the American Southwest starting more than 1,000 years ago, a new study finds. The birds were raised for their colorful plumage hundreds of miles from their native jungles. With their brilliant red, yellow and blue plumes, scarlet macaws are likely the best-known parrots of the New World. These birds normally range from South America to eastern coastal Mexico and Guatemala. Yet, over the years, archaeologists have une

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2018-08-14 10:35:30

From space, numerous wildfires look like glittering embers strewn across a vast swath of the Pacific Northwest  

As more than 140 new wildfires erupted in British Columbia and Washington State, a weather satellite captured this dramatic imagery Wildfires blazing in California have received a huge amount of attention in recent weeks. But this summer's wildfire crisis is much more widespread, as shown in dramatic fashion by the animation of satellite images above, as well as other images to follow. The animation consists of images acquired by the GOES-16 weather satellite over the course of 24 ho...

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2018-08-13 20:20:54

A Brief Guide to Neuro-Products  

On this blog I usually focus on academic, scientific neuroscience. However, there is a big world outside the laboratory and, in the real world, the concepts of neuroscience are being used (and abused) in ways that would make any honest neuroscientist blush. In this post I'm going to focus on three recent examples of neuro-products: commercial products that are promoted as having some kind of neuroscience-based benefit. 1) Neuro Connect Golf Bands We'll start out with a silly one. Th

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2018-08-13 17:27:56

The Never Ending Quest To Simulate Doomsday  

How scientists learned to stop worrying and simulate the bomb.

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2018-08-13 15:12:57

What caused this colossal heart-shaped hole in the cloud deck off the coast of California and Baja?  

I'm always on the look out for interesting images of Earth shot from space so that I can share them here at ImaGeo. And when I saw the one above, I just couldn't resist it. Often, the cloud deck extends along the coast of California and down into Baja in a more or less continuous manner, as you can see in the image at right acquired by NASA's Terra satellite five years ago in August. But in the Terra image above, there is indeed a massive heart-shaped hole in the deck. It's also...

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2018-08-13 13:58:09

Closing In On Vaping's Most Toxic Ingredient  

How many breathless older smokers rue the day they first inhaled nicotine and tar? Someday, adolescents sucking tobacco-free Mods and Juuls could face similar regret. Initially hailed as a smoking cessation breakthrough, e-cigarettes have now been raising red-flags for years. Thanks to nicotine, vaping can be just as addictive as true cigarettes. And even if youthful vapers never drag on a Camel, preliminary evidence suggests they may still get chronic bronchitis - or even suffer a

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2018-08-13 08:58:46

Utah Pterosaur Was Desert-Dwelling Badass...Pelican?  

More than 200 million years ago, a shadow traveled across the hot, arid landscape of what's now the western United States. It belonged to a Late Triassic pterosaur that may have been the biggest of its time. Describing its size, features and home turf, researchers reveal this new Utah pterosaur is full of surprises. Pterosaurs lived at about the same time as dinosaurs, from the late Triassic until the end of the Cretaceous, or roughly  215-66 million years ago. But these fantastic fly...

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2018-08-13 05:43:29

Hearing Nemo  

How scientists discovered a symphony under the sea.

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2018-08-13 05:12:19

The Vanishing City  

An archaeologist uses Burning Man — the world’s biggest pop-up community — to learn about humanity’s past settlements.

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2018-08-13 01:07:30

Sorry, Neighboring Omega Centauri is Probably Uninhabitable  

Well, it looks like we're going to have to look farther than we thought for intergalactic extraterrestrial life. Astronomers have long held out hope that Omega Centauri, a massive globular cluster just 16,000 light years away, harbors habitable exoplanets. Researchers estimate that 10 million densely packed stars lie within the cluster's borders, so statistically speaking, it must house some habitable planets, right? Wrong. In fact, Omega Centauri's stellar density is the reason why...

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2018-08-10 09:59:45

NASA's 60-Year Race to Touch The Sun  

We often equate light with a lack of mystery. We elucidate or illuminate answers. So it's tad ironic that the brightest object in our solar system remains one of its most mysterious. Scientists still don't understand why the sun's corona, or atmosphere, is hotter than its surface — or why the solar wind accelerates as it races away. We have theories: Nearly invisible nanoflares blow out heat. Waves of electrically conductive, fluid-like plasma transfer energy to other twist...

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2018-08-10 05:24:19

How NASA Protects Its Solar Probe From Being Melted By The Sun  

In ancient Greek mythology, Icarus' newly crafted wings made him exceedingly bold and confident. Overcome with ecstasy, he soared too close to the sun, melting his wings until he fell back to Earth. Are humans about to share a similar fate with the first probe to explore the sun, or will our ingenuity spare us? Over decades of spaceflight, we've sent probes to Mars, Saturn and even our beloved dwarf planet Pluto - uncovering the mysteries of the planets of our solar system. Meanwhil...

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2018-08-09 21:49:07

Who's A Good Fox? Soviet Experiment Reveals Genetic Roots Of Behavior  

Over the course of more than a half-century, a Russian science experiment successfully bred the world's first domesticated fox. Now, by sequencing the fox genome and comparing tame foxes with their wilder kin, researchers are shedding light on the genetic effects of domestication — and perhaps on the evolution of human behavior as well. More than 10,000 years ago, and possibly as much as 40,000 years ago, humans domesticated a number of wolves into dogs. For more than a century, foxes w...

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2018-08-09 09:29:21

Belly Fat Linked to Cognitive Problems in Older People  

If you're over 60 and, by BMI standards, overweight, it might not be such a bad thing. But there's a catch. If you also have a fat belly, you're at risk for not only metabolic health issues, but also cognitive problems. That's the conclusion of a study published this month in The British Journal of Nutrition. For years, scientists have seen a correlation between children who are overweight or obese and their performance on cognitive tests. In a study published in Obesity in 2008, m...

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2018-08-09 03:21:19

Images captured from orbit show disturbing views of smoke billowing from California's wildfires  

When California's 2018 wildfire season is over — if it actually ends — it may well be remembered as the summer of the "new normal." That is, of course, the meme that has exploded across news and social media this summer as an extraordinary series of wildfires has scorched vast swaths of California. I'm not actually sure why the meme didn't take hold last year, which was both the deadliest and most destructive year for wildfires in the state's history, with at least 41 people kil...

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2018-08-08 13:49:19

Your Gut Microbiome Could Affect Vaccines' Effectiveness  

The microbiome, it's so hot right now. A newly published paper in Cell Host & Microbe is adding to the hotness, looking at how people's idiosyncratic collection of gut flora can influence the way our bodies respond to vaccines. A team of researchers in the Netherlands, led by Vanessa C. Harris, found that certain antibiotics seem to shift our microbiome in such a way that makes the vaccination for the rotavirus (RV), or the stomach flu, more effective. Harris and her team ...

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2018-08-08 11:58:22

The Peopling of the Americas: Evidence for Multiple Models  

Exactly how and when the peopling of the Americas took place has long been one of the hottest debates in science. For every new paper that emerges with evidence of an interior or coastal route, it seems another team publishes contradictory conclusions. Authors of a new review of archaeological, geological and paleogenetic research have concluded that both of the two main models are reasonable — and that a couple fringe theories are most definitely not. If you're a regul...

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2018-08-08 03:41:02

Wild-Caught Elephants Die Years Early In Captivity  

New research into captive elephant lifespans reveals that wild-caught animals live shorter lives. Elephants are critical to the logging industry across Southeast Asia, even though the animals are endangered. And in Myanmar, a country long largely cutoff from the world, the animals are an especially integral part of the workforce. For centuries, Myanmar kings employed the beasts in their armies. And since the early 1700s, the country's government has used the giants as draft animals to har...

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2018-08-08 02:21:31

How To Watch The Year's Greatest Meteor Shower: The Perseids  

Call your friends. It's time once again for the annual Perseid meteor shower, typically the greatest shower of the year. This event occurs during the Northern Hemisphere summer, so even many people who don't consider themselves astronomers venture outdoors to watch it. The Perseids feature a slow (two-week) buildup to maximum (along with an equally slow decline to zero activity), and many bright meteors that leave luminous trails visible for several seconds. The trails form because Pe...

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2018-08-07 08:50:10

Europa Is Whistling. Finding The Cause May Solve A Magnetic Mystery  

Jupiter's moons "hum" — and researchers are trying to figure out why. New research published Tuesday in Nature Communications details the discovery of "whistler" radio waves coming from two of the moons: Ganymede and Europa. The other two large moons, Io and Callisto, aren't subject to this phenomena. The finding is interesting because both Europa and Ganymede — the largest moon in the solar system — have subsurface oceans. "Jupiter's magnetic field is huge...

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2018-08-07 07:54:40

From Vikings To Ivory Merchants: The Economy of Greenland's Lost Colonies  

The disappearance of Norse colonists from Greenland is somewhat of a mystery. Norse settlers colonized Greenland during the Viking Age in the late 900s and lived there for several centuries before their colonies declined in the 1300s and 1400s A.D. Climate change could have driven the Greenland Norse to abandon their settlements. And there's some evidence that changing economics — specifically, decreasing demand for walrus tusk ivory in Europe for artwork and luxury items — might h...

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2018-08-07 04:37:39

Astronomers Watch a Dying Star Enjoy One Last Spark of Life  

Often when stars die, they go out with a bang in the form of a supernova, leaving a small, dim stellar corpse in the center of a gaseous nebula. But sometimes, these leftover stars can get a new spark of life. Astronomers used a telescope in the Canary Islands to watch a dying star, dubbed HuBi 1, get a brief second wind. And as they observed, they noticed a strange side effect: a shockwave sent from the fading star struck the surrounding gas in a way that made it appear "inside out." ...

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2018-08-07 03:45:19

How Accessible is Psychology Data?  

In a slightly depressing new paper, two researchers describe how they tried to get access to the data behind 111 of the most cited psychology and psychiatry papers published in the past decade. The researchers, Tom E. Hardwicke and John P. A. Ioannidis of Stanford, wanted to place the data into a 'Data Ark' to ensure its continued preservation for science. Unfortunately, in most cases, the data was not made available. The paper is called Populating the Data Ark and it's out now in PLoS ON

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2018-08-06 05:45:06

Astronauts Watch The West Coast Burning From Space  

From nearly 300 miles up, you can see California's massive forest fires blowing smoke and ash east from the US west coast. The area in this image stretches more than 500 miles from southern Oregon (left) to San Francisco and the Sierras (at far right). Astronaut Ricky Arnold captured the scene from the International Space Station and posted the photo on Twitter on Monday afternoon, Aug. 6. Among the largest fires are (from left) the Taylor Creek and Klondike fires in Oregon, the...

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2018-08-06 03:29:09

Little Dogs Pee Higher To Make Themselves Seem More Intimidating, Study Suggests  

You know how people say you should aim high? Well, small male dogs have taken that advice to heart. A new study has found that they lift their legs higher when urinating than larger dogs, apparently attempting to appear bigger than they are.  Dog walkers know that walking a male dog is an exercise in patience, as they want to pause to sniff, lift, and dribble a little urine on what seems every object they walk past. But it's not the poor dog's fault; he's just trying to find out who's...

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2018-08-04 08:54:50

Dwindling Sea Ice Brings Polar Bears In Conflict With Humans  

Workers were still fast asleep in their orange tents at Greenland's Summit Station when the polar bear neared camp. An early riser spotted the bear and shouted to alert campers, sending people to the safety of a hard-sided building nearby. As the bear scoured the research facility and tents, workers tried to distract the animal. Someone fired up a bulldozer in hopes it would be spooked by the noise. It was about 10 minutes before everyone was safely inside and accounted for, according t...

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2018-08-03 18:19:02

This Mammoth Rogue Planet Has Some Serious Magnetism  

A bizarre rogue planet without a star is roaming the Milky Way just 20 light-years from the Sun. And according to a recently published study in The Astrophysical Journal, this strange, nomadic world has an incredibly powerful magnetic field that is some 4 million times stronger than Earth's. Furthermore, it generates spectacular auroras that would put our own northern lights to shame. The new observations, made with the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (V...

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2018-08-03 06:07:50

Flores Island's Modern Pygmies And The "Hobbit" Homo Floresiensis  

From the home of the "hobbit" (and I'm not talking about The Shire): Researchers have sequenced DNA from modern pygmy populations on the Indonesian island of Flores to determine whether they are descended from Homo floresiensis, a famously small-statured archaic human living there as recently as 50,000 years ago. When diminutive H. floresiensis was first described in 2004, Peter Jackson's cinematic take on the Lord of the Rings was near peak popularity, so of course the new additio...

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2018-08-02 16:34:34

Drought May Hold Secret to Mysterious Maya Collapse  

Though today it is a wilderness, in the time of the Maya, the Central American lowlands they called home would have looked far different. Where emerald jungle canopies roll for miles on end, cities, roads, reservoirs and terraced fields would have covered the hilly landscape in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Millions of people called this land home, members of a loose alliance of interconnected city-states. The Maya developed a system of writing, as well as a calendar system and s

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2018-08-02 04:02:38

Astronomers Watch A Young Star Eat Its Own Planet  

Astronomers generally agree that planets form out of the massive disks of leftover debris that surround most newborn stars. As these disks of gas and dust orbit their stars, small clumps of material coalesce, ultimately growing larger and larger until they eventually reach planetary status. However, not all planets make it that far. Sometimes, two nascent planets catastrophically collide — and stars apparently do not mourn their dead. In a study published July 18 in The Astronomical Jo...

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2018-08-02 03:46:25

Researchers Successfully Put Bioengineered Lungs Into Pigs  

Ah, to live in a world where we can crank out custom-made organs to meet supply. No need for donors or years-long waiting lists. We're still a ways off from that organ utopia, but we're at least a little closer to bioengineered lungs becoming a reality. On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch published a paper announcing they'd successfully transplanted artificially grown lungs into four adult pigs without any complications. In the past, experts...

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2018-08-01 12:39:42

UV Light Could Be Key To Kick-starting Life In The Cosmos  

Want to know if a planet has what it takes to develop life? Look at its light. Research published August 1 in the journal Science Advances suggests that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light a planet soaks up from its host star could make or break its chances of habitability. The study found that sufficient UV light ignites the chemical reactions needed to form RNA — a component thought to have kick-started life on Earth. Based on this idea, two groups of researchers from the Medical...

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2018-08-01 08:48:59

Earth's climatic report card is out — and we humans are still receiving a failing grade  

Annual climate report finds that as CO2 continues to accumulate at an increasing rate, 2017 was among the hottest years on record As abnormally warm temperatures continue to grip much of western North America, a new climate report finds that last year was the warmest on record that did not receive a temperature boost from El Niño. Considering all years, the 28th annual State of the Climate report confirms that in records dating back to 1880, 2017 saw the second or third highest gl...

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2018-08-01 04:38:39

What is a "Habitable" Planet, Anyway?  

This is the greatest time in history in the search for life beyond Earth. We have robots poking and sniffing around on Mars. We have a space probe in the works to take a closer look at Europa, to examine the likelihood of life on an ice-covered ocean world. Above all, we no longer have to wonder if our solar system is unique: We know of thousands of planets around other stars, and it's clear that the total number of planets in our galaxy alone must number in the billions, if not the trillion

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2018-08-01 01:14:44

No Seriously, Elon. You Can't Just Nuke Mars (We Asked)  

On Monday, a study published in Nature Astronomy took an exhaustive look at what it would take to terraform the Red Planet and fulfill generations of sci-fi dreams. In it, leading Mars experts tallied the planet's stores of carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, and gauged the likelihood of releasing all that CO2 to create a stable atmosphere — one thick enough to have liquid water on the surface. Their disappointing conclusion: You can't terraform the place with any present ...

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2018-07-31 19:42:53

Lennon or McCartney?: We May Finally Have The Answer  

In interviews, John Lennon and Paul McCartney have explained that, though they were listed as co-writers for Beatles tunes, one or the other usually wrote most of a song. McCartney wrote most or all of "Yesterday," "Martha My Dear" and "Lady Madonna," for example. Lennon wrote most or all of "Revolution," "Help" and "Sexy Sadie." Both had songwriting tendencies that enabled fans to usually figure out the primary writer. McCartney was more melodic and covered a bro...

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2018-07-31 11:37:32

Your Anxiety Could Get Passed On To Future Generations  

You have your mother's eyes. You have your father's nose. But might you also have Grandpa Joe's high anxiety? That's a possibility, according to a study of rhesus monkeys published July 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. In recent years, researchers have explored the heritability of personality, including outliers like altruism and bashfulness. This latest study in monkeys, led by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, suggests anxiety might also be heritable. The wor...

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2018-07-31 09:15:05

Chinese Medicinal Plant Tricks Predatory Wasps Into Dispersing Its Seeds By Smelling Like Prey  

Stemona tuberosa is well known for its use in Chinese traditional medicine, but it's got a much more intriguing claim to fame: It's one of less than a handful of plants known to science that engages in vespicochory—that is, it gets predatory wasps to disperse its seeds. It was a strange enough discovery that Gao Chen and his colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing wondered how the plants manage to convince the hornets to haul their offspring around. All it takes i...

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2018-07-31 01:35:49

Fact Checking The Galaxy Song - Monty Python's Astronomy Lesson  

Any nerd worth her NaCl knows all about English comedy group Monty Python, and their version of the King Arthur legend, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." But lesser known are the troupe's other feature-length films, including 1983's "The Meaning of Life." Amidst a dinner party with Death and a machine that goes "ping!", audiences are treated to one of the weirdest, most catchy astronomy tunes out there: The Galaxy Song (sung here by Stephen Hawking). It's a tr...

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2018-07-30 18:09:13

Centipedes Can Carry Rat Lungworm—Just In Case You Needed A Reason Not To Eat Them Raw  

When the 78 year old woman arrived at the hospital, it was clear something was wrong. She'd been suffering from headaches and been in a drowsy fog for weeks. So doctors checked her cerebral spinal fluid, and found it was cloudy and yellow instead of clear. It was brimming with white blood cells, indicating an infection. This, alongside a positive antibody test, led to a diagnosis of angiostrongyliasis—an infestation of the parasite rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). As the...

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2018-07-30 13:24:11

Sorry, Elon. There's Not Enough CO2 To Terraform Mars  

Mars might not have the right ingredients to terraform into our planetary home away from home - even with the recent discovery of liquid water buried near its south pole. Research published Monday in Nature Astronomy puts a kibosh on the idea of terraforming Mars. At the heart of the study is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is abundant on Mars — its thin atmosphere is made of the stuff, and the white stuff we often see on the surface is dry ice, not snow. CO2 is even t...

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2018-07-30 11:21:25

Satellite imagery reveals a shocking blanket of thick smoke smothering huge portions of California and Oregon  

The smoke has drifted far, all the way to Colorado, Texas and beyond Since I began this blog in 2013, I've seen a lot of satellite imagery of wildfires burning in the American West. Yet despite that experience, I have to admit that when I first saw this image, acquired by NASA's Aqua satellite today, I was blown away by just how much of California and Oregon are being smothered by thick blankets of choking wildfire smoke. Thanks to a stubborn ridge of high pressure that has brought s...

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2018-07-30 02:48:01

The Generalist Specialist: Why Homo Sapiens Succeeded  

Some animals are jacks of all trades, some masters of one. Homo sapiens, argues a provocative new commentary, are an evolutionary success story because our ancestors pulled off a unique feat: being masterly jacks of all trades. But is this ecological niche, the generalist specialist, the real reason our species is the last hominin standing? When paleoanthropologists and archaeologists define what makes our species unique, they usually focus on our use of symbolism and language, as wel...

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2018-07-30 01:52:19

Watch as California's devastating Carr fire explodes, sending a giant smoke cloud soaring into the atmosphere  

A satellite was watching as the blaze expanded by half the size of San Francisco and began its deadly rampage into a California city Moving erratically and with blazing speed, Northern California's Carr fire tore into the city of Redding late yesterday. By this morning, two firefighters had perished — and conditions were ripe for continued expansion of the inferno. "This fire is making a significant push into the northwestern portion of Redding," said Unified Incident Commander Chief B...

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2018-07-27 12:50:34

A Mission To Boldly Go To Uranus And Neptune  

Uranus and Neptune, the seventh and eighth planets, are largely a mystery — but that could change within the next two decades. A study submitted to Arxiv by Amy Simon and Mark Hoffstadter, NASA veterans and experts on those planets, and Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, outlines a cost-effective plan to explore those planets — and maybe even visit a few new places on the way out. The paper, the end result of a working group setting their sites o...

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2018-07-27 11:06:58

You Can Hear A Smile. When You Do, You'll Smile Back.  

Seeing a smile can make a person unconsciously smile in return, and now scientists find that digitally mimicking the voice of a smiling person can also make people reflexively smile. Charles Darwin and his contemporaries were among the first scientists to investigate smiles. Darwin suggested that smiles and several other facial expressions are universal to all humans, rather than unique products of a person's culture. "There is evidence that smiles are a profoundly deep gesture in the

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2018-07-27 05:44:48

Whoa! What are these weird whirlpools spotted by satellites at opposite sides of the planet?  

I hope you'll excuse the exaggerated exuberance in the headline, but when I saw the image above, and then the animation lower down in this story, my first reaction really was to exclaim out loud "whoa!" I was really struck by the two very curious whirlpool-like features on opposite sides of Earth — one gigantic the other small, one eerily green and the other swirling over a red dessert. And so I decided to try to shoehorn them into one ImaGeo post! Here goes... At first, the glowing ...

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2018-07-27 02:36:21

Einstein's Relativity Confirmed Near A Space-Time Warping Supermassive Black Hole  

Astronomers have long had their eye on a group of stars that precariously circles just outside the supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. And, in a discovery announced by the European Southern Observatory on Thursday, scientists say they've finally spotted one of these stars as it travels through the black hole's gravitational field. It's the first test of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity near a supermassive black hole. The event, recorded in incred...

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2018-07-26 01:32:32

Why Mouth Wounds Heal Faster Than Skin Scrapes  

Biting your tongue or cheek when chewing can ruin a tasty meal. But thankfully, mouth wounds heal up fast — faster than cuts on skin — and now scientists know why. According to new research published today in Science Translational Medicine, mouths are primed for healing. The find could help researchers transfer the mouth's curative superpowers to make skin lesions heal faster too. Paper cuts, scraped knees and similar skin wounds take about a week to heal. But pressure ulcers, trau...

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2018-07-25 17:31:13

The Kinkiest Scientific Study Ever? Neuro-BDSM  

In an eyebrow-raising new paper, neuroscientists report that they had participants wear a ball gag while watching images of people in pain. The lucky participants in this neuro-bondage were all female BDSM submissives, and their brain activity in response to the painful pictures was recorded with EEG. Here's the article: Embodiment and Humiliation Moderation of Neural Responses to Others' Suffering in Female Submissive BDSM Practitioners And here's some of the stimuli (I assume they we

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2018-07-25 14:48:10

What Would You Do With a Third, Mind-Controlled, Robotic Limb?  

Just imagine what you could do with a third arm. You could sip coffee and type an email. You could scratch your nose and play Call of Duty. You could solve the Rubik's cube and conduct a symphony. You could play Ping-Pong and knit a sweater. Clearly, we could all use a third arm. Fortunately, giving us a hand with a third arm might be a promise science can deliver on, like, soon. That's because engineers at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Japan recently showed...

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2018-07-25 12:01:27

Dust on Mars Likely Comes From Massive Volcanic Deposit  

As luck would have it, Mars will remain engulfed in a colossal dust storm as it reaches opposition on July 27. The viewing conditions might be abysmal, but astronomers can at least take solace in a long-awaited Martian mystery being solved — where all of this dust is coming from. New research published in the journal Nature Communications revealed that the massive amounts of dust are tied to Mars' Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF), the largest explosive volcanic ash deposit in the sola...

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2018-07-25 09:32:29

Vast Lake Of Liquid Water Discovered On Mars  

Astronomers have discovered a large underground lake of liquid water lurking just below the surface of Mars. The find could end a more than century-long debate over whether or not the Red Planet still has liquid water. The newfound lake stretches some 12 miles from end-to-end, and was discovered using a radar instrument called MARSIS on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, which first reached Mars nearly 15 years ago. The results were published Wednesday in the jou...

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2018-07-25 05:48:18

A Parasite In Cat Poo Could Push People To Take Risks  

A mind-altering parasite that can make rats suicidally attracted to cat pee may also make people more likely to start a new business, according to new findings. The scientists say that their results reveal how parasites could help shape the global economy. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects more than 2 billion people — that is, more than a quarter of the world population. The protozoans can live in many warm-blooded creatures, where they reproducing asexually, but they ultimately wa...

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2018-07-25 05:36:25

Nazis And Dead Dogs: Spaceflight Before The Space Race  

In October 1957, a basketball-sized metallic sphere began circling Earth, transmitting a beacon from above. For many, the launch of Sputnik 1 heralded in the Space Age. But lost often in the story of Sputnik, the Space Age, and the Space Race is that Sputnik wasn't the first spaceflight, and that the first image of Earth from space didn't come in the 1960s, but the 1940s. The actual first spaceflight is a matter of debate. The Air Force defines space as starting at 50 miles (80 k...

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2018-07-25 04:21:35

To Understand Fossils, These Paleontologists Are Making Faux-ssils  

To learn more from fossils they find in nature, paleontologists are trying to create their own. For decades, paleontologists have been experimenting with heat, pressure, and other factors to mimic nature's ability to preserve the bodies of living things as fossils. Trying to copy fossilization in a laboratory would allow paleontologists to better understand the process and learn more about the history of life on our planet from the fossils they find. In a study published in the jou...

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2018-07-25 03:37:45

Meet Lingwulong, The "Amazing Dragon"  

Lingwulong shenqi, a newly described, 174-million-year-old dinosaur, is more than just another giant herbivore to add to the fossil record. Its age and location are unexpected, and upset notions about dino diversity and distribution during the Jurassic Period. Lingwulong's name translates as "the amazing dragon of Lingwu," the region in northwestern China where multiple specimens have been excavated over the past 13 years. I'll be honest with you: If your idea of an amazing dragon i...

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2018-07-24 12:13:24

Scientists Claim They Found Bigfoot (The Brachiosaur, Anyway)  

I don't know about you, but nothing wakes me up in the morning quite like an announcement from a peer-reviewed journal declaring that paleontologists have found Bigfoot in the Black Hills region of the U.S. Sooooo...yeah. Not quite. But they are claiming the dinosaur foot they found belonged to the biggest dino ever — which they nicknamed "Bigfoot." Sneaky clickbait? Sure. But also some interesting science. Read on: The game is afoot. The new study's title actually kicks off with "...

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2018-07-24 05:32:40

Smell Of Angry Bees Scares Elephants Away From Crops  

Sock Signals Throughout Africa and Asia, elephants can be seen as problem causers. The behemoth mammals destroy crops and threaten farmers' livelihoods when they trundle through fields after tasty snacks. Scarecrows, fences and noisemaking tripwires don't deter the beasts, and tensions with humans can escalate so much that elephants are sometimes shot. Now, scientists have discovered that the odor of angry honeybees is an effective elephant repellant. The find may offer a way keep ...

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2018-07-23 13:53:38

A heat wave bringing critical and extreme fire weather is arriving as California and Oregon wildfires continue to rage  

You may have heard about California's Ferguson Fire, which has killed one firefighter and is threatening to spread into Yosemite National Park. But a series of other fires, sparked by lighting to the north, are also raging. And now, thousands of firefighters struggling to contain the blazes must contend with a heat wave descending on the region. In the image above, acquired today (Monday, July 23) by NASA's Terra satellite, look for a thick pall of smoke in the lower right quadrant....

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2018-07-23 11:58:24

Green Sea Turtles Are Eating Themselves Into the Grave  

Sea turtles may be eating themselves to death. In this case, though, the phrase likely doesn't mean what you think it does. Green sea turtles in the Caribbean may be in danger of starving to death in the near future thanks to a recent invasion of seagrass. The marine plant is spreading quickly and edging out native species helped, ironically, by the sea turtles themselves. Underwater Gardens Green sea turtles forage in beds of seagrass, an abundant resource in their underwater world. ...

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2018-07-23 08:50:07

Life on the Moon? Maybe long ago  

Today, the moon is about as inhospitable to life as it gets. The little water that's there is trapped in ice or rock. It's otherwise dry and airless, fluctuating in temperature by hundreds of degrees anywhere the sun shines. But long ago? That's an entirely different story. New research published in Astrobiology suggests that the moon may have been shockingly habitable in the past during at least two periods — shortly after the moon formed, and when volcanic activity was at its hi...

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2018-07-23 02:06:20

Rising Temperatures Could Mean More Suicides  

As the climate warms, seas will rise, storms will proliferate and cities will bake. But, in addition to the marquee issues global warming causes, there will likely be a host of tangential issues, many of which we may not anticipate. A new study in Nature Climate Change looks at the psychological effects a warming climate will have on humans, focusing specifically on mental health. Though the work is somewhat preliminary, the authors pick out a broad trend of rising suicide rates as tem...

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2018-07-23 01:47:53

"Cluster Failure": fMRI False Positives Revisited  

Two years ago, a paper by Swedish neuroscientist Anders Eklund and colleagues caused a media storm. The paper, Cluster Failure, reported that the most widely used methods for the analysis of fMRI data are flawed and produce a high rate of false positives. As I said at the time, Cluster Failure wasn't actually making especially new claims because Eklund et al. had been publishing quite similar results years earlier - but it wasn't until Cluster Failure that they attracted widespread attent

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2018-07-22 10:54:32

Satellite images give the lie to claim that the deadly Branson thunderstorm "came out of nowhere"  

Weather forecasts and remote sensing imagery show that the Branson duck boat tragedy was avoidable The duck boat tragedy in Branson, Missouri, was made all the more horrible by the fact that it was completely avoidable. While Jim Pattison Jr., president of the company that owns Ride the Ducks Branson, claimed the storm "came out of nowhere," nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued by the National Weather Service at 11:20...

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2018-07-21 20:16:26

Glimmers Of Hope In the Dark Battle To Save Bats  

Hidden away in the woods near the upstate New York town of Lake George is a cave. The entrance of the cavern, an abandoned graphite mine, is almost perfectly round, with a trickle of water running out of it. On a weekday morning in late February, researchers, led by Carl Herzog, a wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, gather at the cave mouth and swap hiking boots for waders before filing in. Kate Ritzko, a fish and wildlife technician for th

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2018-07-21 11:33:16

On the anniversary of the first Moon landing 49 years ago, here are some stunning images you may have never seen  

It has been not quite a half-century since human beings stepped foot on another planetary body for the first time. Forty-nine years ago today, to be exact. It was on July 20, 1969 when Neil A. Armstrong, Commander of the Apollo 11 mission, descended the steps of the Lunar Module and upon reaching the surface uttered these instantly famous words: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." (Btw, if you think he didn't actually say "a man," thereby committing a gram...

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2018-07-21 03:41:47

Exploring The Lost Moons Of Our Solar System  

On Tuesday, Jupiter officially "gained" 10-12 moons. But that doesn't make up for the dozens of moons the solar system has lost over time. Unlike the recent crop, the long lost moons were of pretty substantial size. This includes even a few now missing moons for Jupiter. The king of our planets started out in a gas envelope, like the other planets. It's system had quite a bit of heft, but the slow drag of this cloud may have pulled in moons as large as Mercury into the inner hell...

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2018-07-20 10:57:25

Mass Extinctions  

It wasn’t all bad news.

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2018-07-20 05:20:48

Archaeologists Find Unexpected Contents Inside Alexandria Coffin  

Since the announcement of its discovery earlier this month, the buried sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt, created a lot of speculation about who might be inside. Given the coffin's large size and composition of granite, which would have had to be mined hundreds of miles away, experts said it was possible the coffin contained a man of importance, perhaps a nobleman of Alexander the Great. There was also a lot of online chatter about the possibility of unleashing a curse by opening the presum...

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2018-07-20 04:57:57


Sailors of the sky.

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2018-07-20 04:40:28

Inside the Cosmodrome: Where Russia launches Americans into space  

BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - That rocket looked so tiny from a mile away. Shining white against the dull beige sands of Baikonur, the Soyuz had three people on board all set for a ride to the International Space Station. From this distance, though, it appeared fragile, like a child's plaything. Standing beside me was a member of the backup crew, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. He passed the time talking to me about other launches he had seen. When the Soyuz finally lighted its engines...

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2018-07-20 02:47:46

Autonomous Cars  

Bots on wheels.

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2018-07-20 01:38:10


Who do you think you are?

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2018-07-20 01:20:16


These boneless brainiacs play by their own rules.

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2018-07-20 01:08:28

Science of Music  

Listen up!

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2018-07-19 14:30:36


Our kissing cousins were close kin.

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2018-07-19 14:09:48

Neanderthals Really Were All Fired Up  

Fire at will! Researchers present evidence that Neanderthals were just as capable of producing fire as early Homo sapiens were, sending another long-held notion of our species' exceptionalism up in smoke. I'm not just fanning the flames here: The question of whether our closest evolutionary kin used fire the same way our ancestors did has been a controversial one for decades, and its debate mirrors broader trends in paleoanthropology. Members of the genus Homo appear to have been u...

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2018-07-19 12:49:28

New Species Of Armored Dinosaur Hints At Ancient Migration  

Scientists revealed a new species of armored dinosaur at the Natural History Museum of Utah on Wednesday. The animal, a species of ankylosaur, lived in a wet, tropical environment in what's now Southern Utah roughly 75 million years ago. The herbivore sported spikes across its head and an intimidating tail club for fending off large predators like the tyrannosaurs that also roamed the landscape. Scientists dubbed it Akainacephalus johnsoni. "Literally translated, it means spikey he...

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2018-07-19 11:58:21

Milky Way  

Embraced in spiral arms.

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2018-07-19 08:27:10

The heat goes on: NASA pegs last month in a tie for third warmest June in 138 years of modern record keeping  

Although NOAA's just-released analysis differs somewhat, both show that June 2018 continued the long-term global warming trend Last month tied with June 1998 as the third warmest such month since 1880. Only June 2015 and 2016 were warmer, according to the monthly analysis released this week by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Today, the National Oceanic and Administration issued its own, independent analysis, with somewhat different results: June 2018 was the fifth wa...

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2018-07-18 19:37:26

New Origami Robot Gently Catches Deep Sea Creatures  

A new origami-inspired robotic claw that looks like a cross between a flower and a crab pincer could help marine biologists capture delicate underwater organisms currently unknown to science. The oceans are the largest and least-explored habitats on Earth, with some estimates suggesting that up to a million unknown species lurk within its deepest waters. Marine biologists typically use submarines or remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to grab or scoop life from the seafloor, but plucking se

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2018-07-18 17:19:12

Baby Snake Preserved In Amber Is Unprecedented Find  

Snakes alive! Preserved in a piece of amber about the size of a small potato, a tiny snake hatchling — less than two inches long — is unprecedented in the fossil record. At nearly 100 million years old, the baby snake's remains provide researchers with significant new information about the animals' development and global distribution. But wait, there's more... The early Late Cretaceous hatchling, from Myanmar's northern Kachin province, was donated to researchers along with a second...

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2018-07-18 07:18:32

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