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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.



A columnist makes asinine arguments on climate change, prompting scientists to cut their noses, spiting our faces  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017-04-29 03:25:19
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Visit Prehistoric Scotland With A Couple Clicks  

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

2017-04-28 05:21:04
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The first true-color images of Saturn taken during Cassini's close encounter are coming in — and they're beautiful!  

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

2017-04-28 03:30:07
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Recluse Spiders Have the Only Self-Powered Silk Spinners  

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

2017-04-28 01:48:55
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Ecstasy Could Help Adults With Autism Cope  

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

2017-04-27 17:56:19
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Cassini shoots through the gap between Saturn and its rings, returning the closest views ever of the planet  

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

2017-04-27 11:27:54
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Watch a dust storm kicking up over Mexico and the southwestern United States, as seen from space  

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

2017-04-27 03:05:01
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The Search is on for New Horizons' Next Target  

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

2017-04-26 19:48:22
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The First Americans May Have Arrived 130,000 Years Ago  

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

2017-04-26 17:43:13
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Cassini: Going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before—on a dive between Saturn's rings and the planet itself  

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

2017-04-26 12:28:45
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Listen to Baby Humpback Whales Whisper to Their Mothers  

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

2017-04-26 07:20:45
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Real Genius  

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

2017-04-26 05:59:24
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The Fake "War Between Neuroscience and Psychiatry"  

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

2017-04-26 05:32:37
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The Arctic as we once knew it is going, going...  

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

2017-04-26 03:18:45
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Novel Antibiotic Recipes Could Be Hidden in Medieval Medical Texts  

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

2017-04-25 21:28:28
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Artificial Placenta Keeps Premature Lambs Alive for 28 Days  

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

2017-04-25 20:20:47
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Uncovering the Secrets of Blood Falls  

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

2017-04-25 16:51:07
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Meet Uber's Partners Creating Flying Taxis for 2020  

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

2017-04-25 07:58:55
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Plastic Bags Are a Feast for This Caterpillar  

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

2017-04-24 10:06:17
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Watch as a giant explosion on the Sun blasts material into space, followed by dancing loops of glowing gas  

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

2017-04-24 02:52:55
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Here's the first installment in a new series at ImaGeo: dazzling imagery from the new GOES-16 weather satellite  

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

2017-04-23 14:02:11
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There's no place like home  

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

2017-04-23 05:48:28
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Tropical Storm Arlene spins up in the Atlantic, two months before average date of first storm of hurricane season  

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

2017-04-22 02:19:39
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Why I March Every Day  

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

2017-04-22 01:41:25
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Check out this cool animation illustrating California's dramatic change in fortunes  

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

2017-04-21 14:24:07
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Functional Connectivity Between Surgically Disconnected Brain Regions?  

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

2017-04-21 09:34:43
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The Hobbit: A Lineage More Ancient Than Once Thought?  

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

2017-04-21 09:09:46
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Exploding Sea Cucumber Butt Threads Are a New Material  

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

2017-04-21 05:38:59
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The Case for Cannibalism  

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

2017-04-21 04:41:10
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Giant Virus Found in Sewage Blurs the Line Between Life and Non-Life  

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

2017-04-20 13:45:01
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Potentially Balmy Super-Earth Is a Tempting Case Study in Habitability  

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

2017-04-20 10:53:18
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Naked Mole-rats Can Go 18 Minutes Without Oxygen  

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

2017-04-20 04:46:23
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Bee derived molecular shuttle is the newest buzz-worthy venom product  

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

2017-04-19 13:21:45
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Infamous Man-Eaters of Tsavo Ate Like Zoo Animals  

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

2017-04-19 10:24:48
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The Names Behind the Units of Measure  

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

2017-04-19 05:52:57
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Untangling the Ancient Inca Code of Strings  

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

2017-04-19 05:46:52
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Arr, Matey! This Sea Scorpion Be A 'Primordial Swashbuckler,' Yarr!  

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

2017-04-19 05:41:01
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Indian Frog Secretes Virus-destroying Compound Through Its Skin  

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

2017-04-19 01:20:17
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Why Felines Can't Resist the #CatSquare  

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

2017-04-18 18:04:45
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We just had our 2nd warmest March, and with El Niño maybe rising from the dead, things could get interesting  

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

2017-04-18 06:10:04
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It sure does look like a flying saucer zinging around Saturn  

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

2017-04-17 14:38:15
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Eye Movements Betray 'Eureka!' Moments  

You've likely seen some version of this scenario on television or in the halls of a university: A researcher runs out of the lab in a frenzy, electrified after suddenly arriving at the solution to an impossible problem. These "aha!" moments are supremely satisfying, whether you're a scientist, a hard-bitten detective or an unlucky horror movie actress realizing that something's just not right. But what happens to us in the moments just before the light bulb turns on? New research from O...

2017-04-17 11:49:35
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What are "Neural Correlates" Correlates Of?  

In a thought-provoking new paper called What are neural correlates neural correlates of?, NYU sociologist Gabriel Abend argues that neuroscientists need to pay more attention to philosophy, social science, and the humanities. Abend's main argument is that if we are to study the neural correlates or neural basis of a certain phenomenon, we must first define that phenomenon and know how to identify instances of it. Sometimes, this identification is straightforward: in a study of brai

2017-04-17 10:37:40
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Say, WHAT? After one of the strongest El Niños on record, another one may brewing  

The equatorial Pacific Ocean is suffering from a split personality disorder: El Niño-ish in the east; La Niña-ish to the west. El Niño is likely to win out. Climate forecast models are predicting a full-fledged El Niño by summer or fall. If it should happen, it would bring all manner of disruption to global weather patterns. And it would also be an extraordinary event. If you'll recall, in 2015-16, the planet experienced a monster El Niño event, one of the three strongest on reco...

2017-04-17 08:59:53
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"The First Green": Ancient Life Inspires Modern Art  

Every morning at Hamelin Pool, in Western Australia, the first rays of sunshine illuminate knobby reef-like structures, submerged or peeking just above the gentle waves, depending on the tide. On the crudely rounded surfaces of these rocks, microorganisms stir and begin the daily task of photosynthesizing, fighting against occluding sand grains to harvest the sunlight. This scene, or something like it, has likely been occurring every morning, somewhere on Earth, for the last 3.7 billion y

2017-04-15 19:57:05
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Dolphin's-Eye Video Is Breathtaking, Barfy  

It's surprisingly hard to stick a camera to a dolphin. Surprising, anyway, when you consider the other animals that have carried monitoring devices down into the ocean for human scientists: sharks, sea turtles, birds, manatees, even whales. When a group of researchers recently overcame the challenges and created a camera that dolphins can wear, they were inducted into a dizzying underwater world. Scientists may attach instruments to marine animals to do environmental research, as wi...

2017-04-15 01:50:49
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The Unsung Heroes of Science  

Some scientists never got the praise they deserved. Here's to the ones history passed over.

2017-04-14 03:27:44
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Tarzan-inspired Robot Swings Like a Champion  

As robots take on greater roles in society, one simple question remains without a satisfying answer: How are they going to move around? Researchers have devised robots that run, walk, roll, hop and slither, but each method of locomotion comes with advantages and inherent drawbacks. Wheeled robots are great indoors, but get stuck when faced with even a single step. Legged robots are good at navigating rough terrain, but have difficulty moving quickly and efficiently. There won't be one so...

2017-04-13 16:52:09
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New Material Sucks Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air  

A thin lattice of metals and organic compounds could turn moisture trapped in the atmosphere into drinkable water using only the power of the sun. By optimizing what they call a metal-organic framework (MOF) to hang on to water molecules, researchers at MIT and the University of California-Berkeley have created a system that passively catches water vapor and releases it later when exposed to heat from sunlight. Their device could offer a low-cost, sustainable means to deliver drinkable w...

2017-04-13 10:31:16
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Magnetic Maps Behind one of Nature's Craziest Migrations  

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, there's an enormous patch of seaweed that's perplexed sailors for centuries: the Sargasso Sea. This strange place is where American and European eels go to breed. Once born, the little eels — called elvers — have to venture toward land. American eels live out their lives — which can be more than a decade — just off the eastern seaboard. Their cousins across the pond live everywhere from Scandinavia to North Africa. Then, at the ends of thei...

2017-04-13 09:59:40
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Another month, yet another record low for Arctic sea ice  

Finally! Some relief from the unrelenting decay in Arctic sea ice. Well, no. I was hoping to be able to report that. But I can't. The National Snow and Ice Data Center's most recent update shows the extent of Arctic sea ice in March dropping to a record low for the month. And that marks the sixth month in a row of record-setting lows. On March 7, the extent of Arctic sea ice seems to have reached its maximum extent for the year, after an entire winter of frigid temperatures. But here...

2017-04-13 03:48:44
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Hydrothermal Vents on Enceladus Hint at Life Beyond Earth  

In 1977, a group of marine researchers discovered something they'd only before theorized: cracks in the ocean floor releasing heat, warming up (and often boiling) the ocean around it. They also found mollusks in them, and subsequent vents have yielded heat resistant microbes, giant tube worms, and more fantastic creatures living in what are essentially small, underwater volcanoes. Now, NASA has announced that they have indirect evidence for hydrothermal vents beyond Earth. In its encoun...

2017-04-13 03:09:22
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New Dinosaur Relative Teleocrater Raises Questions About Their Evolution  

Well, well, well... looks like it's time for yet another shake-up in the dinosaur story, this time courtesy of one of the animals' early relatives, Teleocrater rhadinus. The first description of the animal, published today, reveals the conventional chronology of how dinosaurs bodies evolved might be just a wee bit off, give or take several million years. With reverberations from a proposed massive rewrite of the dinosaur family tree still echoing, here comes a species new to science but v

2017-04-12 10:30:13
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Deception Island Keeps Deceiving Gentoo Penguins  

Over the past 7,000 years, as mighty civilizations rose and crumbled, another saga was playing out in the southern reaches of the world. Just off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, a colony of gentoo penguins have long made tiny Ardley Island their home. At times, the colony rose to a mighty power, holding absolute dominion over the mile-long strip of land their forefathers swam, waddled and slid their way to some time around 5,700 B.C. But, nature deals harshly with hubris, and the ...

2017-04-12 08:19:49
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This Is Why Your Shoelaces Are Always Untied  

Hey, your shoe is untied, and now scientists know why: the combination of foot stomping and leg swinging cause the laces to slip apart. Yes, a child could have told you this, but there's a reason scientists gave knots a closer look. Knots are everywhere, from stitches used in surgery to steel cables used in construction. Sailors are familiar with the clove hitch, bowline and cleat hitch. Even DNA is a snarled knot. With knots holding so much together, scientists thought it couldn't hu...

2017-04-11 21:09:47
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45 

13,000-Year-Old Fillings Prove Ancient Dentistry Was Brutal  

Going to the dentist may not be any fun today, but 13,000 years ago it would have been outright traumatic. Before the age of painkillers, specialized tools and antibiotics, dentists used a variety of crude implements to ply their trade. A pair of incisors unearthed in Tuscany and recently analyzed by Italian researchers were hollowed out with sharpened rocks and stuffed with traces of bitumen and organic matter in what appears to be an early attempt at dental fillings.  Open Wide... ...

2017-04-11 05:19:55
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46 

The Heroes of Science  

Here's to the household names and forgotten figures who accomplished incredible feats of knowledge — no capes required.

2017-04-11 04:10:54
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30 

California's drought ends (at least for now) in a blaze of wildflower glory so intense it's visible from space  

After epic drought, California experienced an equally epic rainy season this past winter. And the state's deserts have responded with an explosion of wildflowers and other vegetation. Maybe you've seen those almost unreal photos of hills blanketed in emerald green grass, and bright yellow, orange and purple wildflowers? If not, check it out: Now, NASA's Earth Observatory has published before-and-after satellite images of the Anz

2017-04-11 03:59:22
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47 

The Landscape of Neuroscience 2006 - 2015  

How has neuroscience changed over the past decade? In a new paper, Hong Kong researchers Andy Wai Kan Yeung and colleagues take a look at brain science using the tools of citation analysis. Yeung et al. extracted data from 2006-2015 from Web of Science and Journal Citation Reports (JCR), which track publications and citations. All journals that the JCR classifies in the "Neurosciences" category were included. The first change Yeung et al. noticed was that the number of published neuros

2017-04-11 03:48:26
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58 

World Weary? The Best Is Yet to Come  

Call it exoplanet fatigue. With discoveries rolling in every day, here’s why we should still care about finding new alien planets.

2017-04-11 01:37:52
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40 

Genomics Is Buried in Too Much Data  

When a sore throat and sinus congestion warrant a visit to the doctor, your physician will attempt to determine whether a cold virus or bacterial infection is to blame—oftentimes without success. So, just to be safe, they might write a potentially unnecessary script for an antibiotic. But what if a nurse could swipe your saliva and run a quick genetic test for bacteria? If the test results are negative, you get a prescription for a decongestant and orders to get some rest, rather than c...

2017-04-10 04:32:09
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50 

Dogs Don't Process Language With Their Left Brains, After All  

A case of left-right confusion misled researchers about how dogs process language. Last August, Hungarian neuroscientists Atilla Andics and colleagues reported that the left hemisphere of the dog brain is selectively activated in response to the lexical properties (i.e. the meaning) of spoken words. This result was very interesting, not least because lexical processing is also lateralized to the left hemisphere in most humans. The paper appeared in the prestigious journal Science. However,

2017-04-07 19:25:29
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53 

Sizzling Exoplanet Has an Atmosphere, Opening Avenues for Finding Alien Life  

On the list of exoplanets that could hold life, GJ 1132b wouldn't come near making the cut. It's a super-Earth whose upper atmosphere reaches 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius), meaning it only gets hotter as you move down. It's barely a hair away from its star, completing a year in 1.6 Earth days. Life is incredibly unlikely to survive there. Yet it may be one of the most important planets to come along in the search for life. So why's that? Well, it's because it h...

2017-04-07 04:28:46
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61 

How Much Exercise Does a Body Need?  

Researchers keep moving the goal posts on exercise. For a while, the trend was to show benefits of minimal exercise, perhaps as an olive branch to people too busy for a full workout. Lately, the trend is essentially to say effort matters; more exercise means better health. So which is right? Both are. But one overrides standard health guidelines. Health institutions say people need about 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise each week. Moderate exercise might b

2017-04-06 12:19:03
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51 

TimeTree's New Look At Evolution — And It's Free!  

Who doesn't love free stuff? I know I do. And a renovation of open access evolution database TimeTree is a treasure chest of data for the taking. The idea of a tree of life has been an element across many cultures for millennia, but since the days of Darwin it's become a handy way to visualize how species diverge from common ancestors over time. TimeTree, a self-described "public knowledge-base" about the evolutionary timeline for life on Earth, has been around for seven years. It's ...

2017-04-06 04:51:43
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47 

How Nutritious Is Human Flesh?  

Ancient cannibalism may not have been as nutritious as previously thought, a new calorie-counting study finds, which means ancient cannibalism may have been more complex than often thought. Nowadays cannibalism is associated with fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter or by desperate souls as a last resort, such as the Donner Party or the survivors of the Andes flight disaster. But studies suggest cannibalism was practiced since prehistory, and even performed by extinct human lineages. F

2017-04-06 03:01:22
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38 

TRAPPIST-1: Good News and Bad News  

TRAPPIST-1 opens up an exciting field for astronomers: a small, nearby, compact planetary system with seven Mars- to Earth-size worlds orbiting in days or weeks instead of months and years. What's more, because their star is small and cool, all the planets may be habitable. Maybe. Two new papers are out on TRAPPIST-1. One makes the chances for life even more ripe, while the other virtually strips away all chances of habitability. The Bad News Let's step back: until the last decade o...

2017-04-06 01:57:44
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35 

The Trouble With The "Journal of Stem Cells"  

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a paper describing possibly unethical stem cell injection treatments for children with autism. That paper was published in 2015 in the Journal of Stem Cells. I've since discovered additional problems with this journal. It's important to note at the outset that the Journal of Stem Cells is not some obscure operation. It's indexed in MEDLINE, something that the vast majority of 'predatory' journals could only dream of. MEDLINE is the gold standard, or

2017-04-05 04:40:41
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24 

Olson's Extinction: The Permian's Dirty Little Secret Die-off  

It's the mass extinction you probably haven't heard about, because for a long time researchers have questioned whether it even existed. But a growing body of evidence, including a study published today, has strengthened the case for Olson's Extinction — which played a role in our species eventually dominating the planet, for better or worse (mostly worse). For whatever reason, people seem to dig mass extinctions. At least the ones in the past. Far fewer folk are entertained by (or ...

2017-04-04 21:39:22
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61 

Tick In Amber Said to Contain Oldest Mammalian Blood Cells Ever Found  

Millions of years ago, two primates engaged contentedly in a grooming ritual that is still commonplace today. Searching diligently for pesky ticks and other insects, they cast them to the ground without so much as an afterthought. But one of those ticks would endure after landing in a patch of sticky sap, becoming entombed in amber with blood still flowing from a wound on its back. That's the story that one researcher has pieced together from the body of a tick, gorged with blood, f...

2017-04-04 18:06:57
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46 

Do We Need a Word for Everything?  

Imagine walking through a forest near dusk. It is peaceful and quiet; the setting sun paints streaks of light through tree trunks and across your path. The scene is familiar to anyone who's ever taken a walk in the woods.  Using one word, how would you describe the experience?  You might defer to a string of adjectives: serenity, beauty, peace, fulfillment — words that dance around the feeling without ever precisely pinning it down. But that's not the case in Japanese. In that la...

2017-04-04 11:58:28
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64 

The Coffin Birth of Liguria: The Science Behind A Sad Story  

For one unfortunate medieval Italian, the cradle was the grave. It's commonly called coffin birth, though researchers use the terms post-mortem fetal extrusion or expulsion. And yes, it is what you think it is — but the latest case documented by scientists, from 14th century Liguria, reveals there was more to the story. A re-examination of a medieval grave outside Genoa, Italy, that was first discovered in 2006 has given researchers more information about the individuals buried in it....

2017-04-03 21:35:57
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57 

Climate Change Makes Farmers Chase New Planting Windows  

Most people think of frost as a farmer's worst nightmare. But for corn growers in Illinois, there's little worse than a warm, soggy spring. Rainfall can soak soft prairie soils and rot the kernels before they can grow. If the rains keep farmers from their fields long enough, crop yields start to plummet. Rain can also wash away herbicides, pushing growers to apply more. For years, this fear has driven farmers to plant earlier and earlier. Late April used to be the prime planting windo...

2017-04-03 03:30:06
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37 

Jelly Belly: Elusive Deep Sea Octopus Takes Its Gelatinous Meals To Go  

The seven-arm octopus, Haliphron atlanticus, lives a hidden life deep in the dark depths of the oceans. These massive cephalopods—females of which can grow to be more than 12 feet long—earned the moniker for their habit of folding one of their eight arms away. What little is known of their daily lives has largely been gleaned from dead animals pulled from the sea by trawls, as inhabitants of the deep sea, their activities are nearly impossible to observe. Now, a new paper in Scient...

2017-04-01 09:46:52
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70 

Book Review: "The Brain Defense", Kevin Davis  

Can neuroscience help courts to decide how criminals should be punished? Is moral responsibility, or the lack of it, visible on a brain scan? In The Brain Defense (Penguin, 2017, on sale now), author Kevin Davis explores the growing use of brain images as evidence in American courtrooms. What Davis calls the "brain defense" is the strategy of using evidence of apparent brain abnormalities as a mitigating factor when defendants are convicted of violent crimes. If someone's brain isn't work

2017-04-01 04:39:32
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32 

Base X: The Isle of Anthrax  

Requisitioned from farmers, blitzed with anthrax-laden bombs in the 1940s, and made inhospitable to human and animal life for decades, the tiny Scottish island of Gruinard now serves as home to a flock of healthy sheep and a disreputable monument to the birth of biological warfare. The research conducted at Gruinard during the second World War was the very first of its kind, providing proof of concept of a natural microorganism that could be massively weaponized to inflict environmental damage a

2017-04-01 01:35:49
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38 

WATCH: Industrious Badger Buries Cow 3 Times Its Size  

Badgers don't mess around. Of course, we already knew that, but researchers in Utah say they've found further proof of the American badger's industrious ways while studying scavenger behavior in Utah's Great Basin Desert. To watch how scavengers behave around a carcass, Evan Buechley, a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah rounded up calf remains and staked them out in the desert under the watchful eye of a camera trap. He expected to find coyotes, ravens, bobcats and turkey vu...

2017-03-31 13:47:10
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67 

Microbiologist Knits 'Resistor Hats' for Science Advocacy  

These days, a march on Washington, D.C. isn't complete without the requisite headwear. Heidi Arjes, a microbiology postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and knitting enthusiast, is combining two of her passions to help science advocates make a bold statement during the upcoming March for Science on April 22. Arjes, who identifies herself as both an optimist and a yarn addict, started "science-knitting" over 14 years ago. Her early designs, which she mostly made for friends a...

2017-03-31 11:26:47
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67 

The Snail That Only Lives in a Hole inside Another Hole under a Sea Urchin  

If you think house hunting is hard, consider the plight of this snail. It lives only in tide pools in southern Japan. Within those tide pools, it only lives in holes carved out of rock—specifically, holes dug by sea urchins. But it can only move into one of those holes after the hole-digging urchin has moved out. When a second, differently shaped sea urchin moves into the hole, it leaves a gap between its spiny body and the wall of the burrow. It's this nook that the snail snuggles i...

2017-03-31 09:52:25
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52 

Beware the blenny's bite: scientists uncover the toxins in fang blenny venom  

"Did you tell her the one about George Losey and the blenny?" Rich Pyle asked with a knowing smirk. Pyle and I were sitting in the living room of legendary ichthyologist Jack Randall for a piece I was writing about him for Hakai Magazine. "It's a good venom story," Pyle continued, grinning. Randall's eyes lit up with mischievious joy as he launched into the tale. He and George Losey were invited to Guam to bear witness to a massive crown of thorns sea star invasion, he explained ("It ...

2017-03-30 11:39:55
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55 

Panther Drone Delivers Package by Air and Land  

A four-wheeled drone's first aerial package delivery test showed off a special touch by also driving up to the doorstep of its pretend customer. That capability to deliver by both air and land makes the Panther drone an unusual competitor in the crowded drone delivery space. But the drone's limited delivery range may pose a challenge in competing against the delivery drones of Google and Amazon. Unlike most delivery drones designed purely for flight, the Panther drone resembles a four...

2017-03-30 11:05:53
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68 

Why Aren't All Members of a Species the Same? Exploring the Pangenome  

Prochlorococcus marinus are diminutive organisms. At less than a micrometer across, these photosynthesizing microbes may be small, but they're plentiful - by many accounts one of the most abundant species on the planet. But that's not quite the full story: like any other member of the same species, no two P. marinus individuals are genetically identical. What's remarkable is how different they may be. Take two different P. marinus cells from different parts of the ocean, sequence ...

2017-03-30 09:36:01
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76 

Hidden Invaders  

Infections can trigger immune attacks on kids’ brains, provoking devastating psychiatric disorders.

2017-03-30 05:27:25
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66 

The Touching Story of a Dinosaur Face  

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but for paleontologists, reconstructing a dinosaur face opens doors into how it may have perceived and interacted with its environment — as well as some features it shared with distant evolutionary kin. Researchers report being able to put a face to the name of horneri, a newly described member of one of Dinosauria's most famous lineages, and discover the animal was the touchy-feely sort. Bones preserve a...

2017-03-30 04:12:14
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65 

Tadpoles Learn to See With Eyes in Their Tails  

A migraine drug has given tadpoles the ability to see out of eyes in their tails. Researchers at Tuft's University transplanted the eyes of young African clawed frog tadpoles from their heads to their tails in an effort to study how their nervous system would adapt. They gave some of them the drug zolmitriptan, commonly used to treat migraines, and left others alone. Although nerves are often hesitant to grow, the tadpoles receiving the drug formed new connections between the transplant...

2017-03-30 04:11:22
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68 

The Many Ways Running a Marathon Destroys Your Body  

Running a 26.2-mile marathon puts your body through hell. Even with the proper training, marathoners stagger across the finish line with ravaged joints and shredded muscles — not to mention chafing in embarrassing places. A recent study looked at the kidneys of marathon runners before and shortly after they finished a run and found evidence consistent with acute kidney injuries. The drastic steps our bodies take to keep our legs moving over distances results in a flood of chemicals i...

2017-03-29 19:02:29
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66 

'Organ On A Chip' Recreates the Female Menstrual Cycle  

A collection of human cell-lined boxes successfully reproduced the female menstrual cycle, marking another step forward for so-called "organs-on-a-chip." Researchers at Northwestern Medicine have re-created the organs of the female reproductive system in an artificial environment and linked them together. By pumping a blood-like medium through their system, they coaxed the tissues into normal functionality, which includes the production of hormones and other chemicals that regulate me...

2017-03-29 04:31:38
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65 

Caterpillars Recruit Friends with Anal Scraping  

Newly hatched caterpillars look helpless: they're teensy, soft and juicy, with no parent around for protection. But certain young insects, the masked birch caterpillars, are more capable than they seem. They gather in groups to keep themselves safe. To form those groups, they use a previously undiscovered language of buzzes, vibrations, head banging and butt scraping. The species, Drepana arcuata, passes through five caterpillar life stages (called instars) on its way to becoming a ...

2017-03-29 02:11:44
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53 

Get Lost in Mega-Tunnels Dug by South American Megafauna  

It was in 2010 that Amilcar Adamy first investigated rumors of an impressive cave in southern Brazil. A geologist with the Brazilian Geological Survey (known by its Portuguese acronym, CPRM) Adamy was at the time working on a general survey of the Amazonian state of Rondonia. After asking around, he eventually found his way to a gaping hole on a wooded slope a few miles north of the Bolivian border. Unable to contact the landowner, Adamy couldn't study the cave in detail during that ...

2017-03-28 11:14:35
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58 

Australia's Home to Some of the Largest Dinosaur Footprints Ever Found  

Their physical remains may be absent, but dinosaurs left unmistakable impressions in the landscape of Western Australia. A new analysis of dinosaur footprints from the Broome Sandstone region, called "Australia's Jurassic Park," has revealed that thousands of imprints dotting the coastal landscape belong to at least 21 different dinosaur species. Dating to the early Cretaceous, the prints are the only evidence left behind by dinosaurs in the area, and they are among the largest footprin...

2017-03-27 20:05:40
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58 

Revisited: The Regenerative Power of Pig Guts  

Bioengineers have made great strides harnessing the body's ability to start over, whether regenerating heart tissue and bones, or using stem cells to regrow fingertips. Still, much of regenerative medicine's promise remains inside the laboratory—or at least that was what I thought when I began reporting for The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human. Some clinicians, like Dr. Eugenio Rodriguez, aren't waiting for trials to be completed to help patients. Instead,...

2017-03-27 08:38:10
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68 

Cosmic Dopamine: On "Neuroquantum Theories of Psychiatric Genetics"  

Back in 2015, I ran a three part post (1,2,3) on Dr Kenneth Blum and his claim to be able to treat what he calls "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS) with nutritional supplements. Today my interest was drawn to a 2015 paper from Blum and colleagues, called Neuroquantum Theories of Psychiatric Genetics: Can Physical Forces Induce Epigenetic Influence on Future Genomes?. In this paper, Blum et al. put forward some novel proposals about possible links between physics, epigenetics, and neuro

2017-03-27 03:29:08
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34 

Calvin the Martian, and the True Meaning of LIFE  

LIFE the movie is both predictable and full of surprises, much like...er...life itself. In the broad sense, it is a monster-run-amok genre film. No spoilers there; you already know that if you've seen the trailers or even just the promotional posters. The interesting parts lie in the movie's details, which deviate from expectations in provocative ways. The setting of LIFE is not far away in a far-off future, as in Alien (an obvious source of inspiration), but aboard the International Spac

2017-03-26 01:03:10
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72 

The Misuse of Meta-Analysis?  

Over at Data Colada, Uri Simonsohn argues that The Funnel Plot is Invalid. Funnel plots are a form of scatter diagram which are widely used to visualize possible publication bias in the context of a meta-analysis. In a funnel plot, each data point represents one of the studies in the meta-analysis. The x-axis shows the effect size reported by the study, while the y-axis represents the standard error of the effect size, which is usually inversely related to the sample size. In theory, t

2017-03-24 17:49:50
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49 

An Incidental Diagnosis  

Today is World TB Day, commemorating Dr. Robert Koch's groundbreaking 1882 discovery of the organism that causes tuberculosis. At the announcement of his research to the public, he declared, "If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then tuberculosis must be considered much more important than those most feared infectious diseases, plague, cholera and the like." Thirteen years later he would be awarded the Noble Prize for his discovery. ...

2017-03-24 15:54:28
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65 

World's Tiniest Race Cars Will Cover 100 Nanometers in 36 Hours  

Four racing teams from around the world will gather in France this spring to compete for a first-of-its-kind title. Their vehicles will "inch" to the starting line and explode into motion to kick off a marathon 36-hour race that will have covered less than the width of a human hair by the time a victor is crowned. The vehicles participating in the race are custom-built tuners assembled out of a few hundred atoms by researchers, which are propelled across the surface of a gold disk by a ...

2017-03-24 13:36:14
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80 

'Logan' Is a Western Wandering the Sci-Fi Frontier  

The X-Men films have consistently shown their mutant superheroes as powerful but misunderstood outcasts living in the shadows. One of the loneliest and angriest of them all has been Wolverine: the seemingly ageless mutant played by Hugh Jackman whose superhuman healing powers and retractable metal claws enable him to literally tear through squads of gun-toting enemies. But the third and last film of the standalone Wolverine trilogy, titled "Logan" in a nod to the mutant's other nickname, ...

2017-03-24 07:53:31
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83 




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