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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.

Virgin Galactic May Reach Space This Week  

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

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2018-12-12 17:01:49

Deep Water Seagrass Meadows Are Untapped Carbon Sinks  

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

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2018-12-12 16:28:16

SNAPSHOT: Dracula Ants Have Mandibles That Move at 200 MPH  

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

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2018-12-12 15:59:05

Scientists Propose a New Marker for the Anthropocene: Chickens  

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

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2018-12-12 00:01:58

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

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

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2018-12-12 00:00:29

Dwarf Planet Ceres Has Lots of Carbon  

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

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2018-12-11 22:51:03

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

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

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2018-12-11 22:19:25

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

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

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2018-12-11 20:45:48

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

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

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2018-12-11 17:13:43

SNAPSHOT: New Butterfly Named for Pioneering Naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian  

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

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2018-12-11 16:00:03

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

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

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2018-12-10 23:30:49

Can We Blame Our Genes for Our Decisions?  

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

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2018-12-10 23:24:43

What Does Mars Sound Like? InSight Just Recorded Martian Wind  

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

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2018-12-10 23:07:48

Get Out and Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower This Week  

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

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2018-12-10 23:04:31

After More Than 40 Years, Voyager 2 Has Gone Interstellar  

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

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2018-12-10 22:46:33

NASA Releases First Data from OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission  

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

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2018-12-10 22:20:23

Why You Shouldn't Worry Too Much About Designer Babies  

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

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2018-12-10 18:46:03

The Psychology of Memory and the 2016 Election  

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

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2018-12-09 13:43:17

Is Gender Identity Unique to Humans?  

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

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2018-12-07 23:30:55

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

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

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2018-12-07 23:03:12

Living in Space Makes Our Bodies More Susceptible to Infections  

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

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2018-12-07 22:52:07

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

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

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2018-12-07 22:10:30

Awesome Ears: The Weird World of Insect Hearing  

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

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2018-12-07 21:40:03

A New Generation of Atomic Clocks Could Help Find Dark Matter  

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

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2018-12-07 20:01:25

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

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

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2018-12-06 22:33:05

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

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

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2018-12-06 22:22:38

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

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

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2018-12-06 22:17:34

China Prepares to Head for the Far Side of the Moon  

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

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2018-12-06 21:56:02

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

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

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2018-12-06 19:47:45

Extreme Radiation Could Strip Exoplanets of their Atmospheres  

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

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2018-12-06 19:00:22

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

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

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2018-12-05 23:51:59

Fossil Ichthyosaur Blubber Is Evidence They Were Warm-Blooded  

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

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2018-12-05 18:00:36

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

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

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2018-12-05 17:16:58

This New App Can Diagnose Anemia Using Just a Picture  

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

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2018-12-05 16:13:35

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

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

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2018-12-05 00:00:25

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

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

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2018-12-04 22:39:32

Why Don't We Have an AIDS Vaccine?  

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

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2018-12-04 22:28:26

2019 Could Be a Big Year for Private Spaceflight  

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

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2018-12-04 22:27:53

SNAPSHOT: How The Devil Ray Got Its Horns  

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

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2018-12-04 19:50:35

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

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

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2018-12-03 23:47:58

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

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

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2018-12-03 22:57:03

K2 and Gaia Team Up to Confirm 104 New Exoplanets  

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

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2018-12-03 22:31:01

OSIRIS-REx is About to Meet an Asteroid  

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

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2018-12-03 16:46:07

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

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

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2018-12-03 06:05:15

It's a Small Solar System After All  

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

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2018-12-01 04:56:57

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

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

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2018-11-30 22:56:05

Strange Supernova Observation Hints at New Kind of Stellar Explosion  

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

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2018-11-30 22:48:34

Will We See "Monstrous" Neuroscience?  

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

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2018-11-30 20:32:41

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

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

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2018-11-29 22:16:13

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

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

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2018-11-29 20:23:39

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

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

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2018-11-29 19:12:52

Tool And Butchery Site in Algeria Is 2.4 Million Years Old  

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

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2018-11-29 19:00:35

Ancient Whale Without Teeth or Baleen Explains Evolutionary Mystery  

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

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2018-11-29 16:00:37

Tool Trove in Saudi Arabia Tells New Story Of Early Humans  

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

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2018-11-29 14:00:20

Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria Found on Space Station Toilet  

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

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2018-11-28 22:13:37

Stowaways Welcome on India's Upcoming Venus Mission  

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

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2018-11-28 22:04:36

Researchers Discover a New Dwarf Galaxy Orbiting the Milky Way  

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

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2018-11-28 22:04:18

Scientists Have Created Artificial Mini-placentas in the Lab  

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

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2018-11-28 19:56:53

Chinese Scientist Who Says He Edited Human Babies Presents His Research  

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

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2018-11-28 17:00:44

InSight Mars Mission Brought a First for NASA: Interplanetary CubeSats  

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

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2018-11-27 21:46:58

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

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

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2018-11-27 19:33:51

A History of Hits and Misses in Predicting New Planets  

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

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2018-11-27 19:01:02

If Mammoth Tusks Could Talk  

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

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2018-11-27 17:04:33

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

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

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2018-11-26 23:19:02

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

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

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2018-11-26 23:05:11

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

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

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2018-11-26 20:20:27

InSight Has Landed! Inside the Dramatic Touchdown  

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

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2018-11-26 20:08:23

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

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

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2018-11-26 18:08:44

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

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

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2018-11-26 02:18:20

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

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

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2018-11-22 17:07:20

How Firing Lead At Dust Clumps is Informing Our Theory of Planetary Formation  

By firing plastic, lead and glass projectiles into clumps of dust, researchers are improving our understanding of how planets form in the universe. Planets start out as loose clumps of dust grains. And, like flour clumps up as you mix it into cake batter, cosmic dust clumps eventually build up to become planets like Earth as gravity pulls them together. But there's still much to be understood about this process. So, to investigate some of the dynamics behind this process, researchers sh...

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2018-11-21 21:11:55

What We Know about Why We Itch  

From dogs to giraffes, humans aren't the only ones who know the glorious relief that comes from scratching an itch. But the science around itchiness is still kind of hazy. Especially when it stems from skin diseases like psoriasis or eczema, which each affect more than 3 million people in the U.S. yearly. To try and get experts on the same page, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine's aptly named Center for the Study of Itch, published a review of work that's ...

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2018-11-21 20:51:29

Gut Feelings  

Every November, millions of Americans tuck into a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, most often a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings. Come December, they feast all over again. Few of the holiday diners realize, however, that their bodies will continue tasting that meal long after they've swallowed it. Scientists are finding that the same taste receptors lining the tongue and palate also occur in the stomach, intestines and other internal organs. They're finding new receptors ...

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2018-11-21 19:49:34

Silent Flight: New Drone Is Powered By An Ionic Wind Requiring No Moving Parts  

Most drones today are noisy: The whine of motors and the hum of propellers produces an unavoidable din that instantly telegraphs their presence. By contrast, the small plane that flew across an indoor track on the MIT campus this fall was eerily silent. Though its furthest flights were obviously powered, you could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of trick. That's because the plane uses an entirely novel propulsion system, one without even a single moving part. Researchers call

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2018-11-21 19:48:35

Stone Tool Discovery Fills Gap in Ancient Chinese History  

To the untrained eye, stone tools look a lot like old rocks. But to an archeologist, stone tool surfaces provide important clues about the technological advancements of their crafters. The history of stone tool making dates back to 3 million years ago. As our ancient predecessors evolved, their tools changed, too. And a more complex toolmaking style, known as the Levallois technique, emerged in Africa and Europe around 300,000 years ago. Researchers assumed the West introduced this more s

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2018-11-21 19:39:37

How These Glowing Blue Thrusters Will Get BepiColombo to Mercury  

Glowing Blue In December, two discs on the bottom of a minibus-sized spacecraft headed for Mercury will start to glow blue. These blue, glowing discs are the solar-powered electric thrusters that will get the BepiColombo mission to Mercury. BepiColombo, a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on October 20, 2018, and is slated to arrive at Mercury in December of 2025

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2018-11-21 19:37:55

Humpback Whales Go Through A 'Cultural Revolution' Every Few Years  

Humpback whales are crooners. During the breeding season, all the males typically sing the same tune, which changes over time. Now, researchers find the humpback whales' song doesn't just change, it gets gradually more complex each year. That is, until the progression abruptly ends and restarts with a new song, something the researchers term a "cultural revolution". The new song is simpler and may represent a cap on social learning, the researchers say. "Humpback whale song is one...

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2018-11-21 00:01:49

This Is Why Some Cactus Spines Are So Hard — and Painful — to Remove  

As anyone who's gotten too close to a jumping cholla cactus can attest, the experience is singularly painful — and difficult to resolve, as the cactus' spines are particularly stubborn to remove. Cactus spines have many functions, from protection to the collection of vital water in dry climates, but some are so much harder to remove than others. Now researchers have found out why. Microstructure Matters Stephanie Crofts and Philip Anderson of the University of Illinois put the...

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2018-11-21 00:00:59

Oldest Long-Necked Dinosaur Found in Brazil  

There's a lot missing from the fossil record when it comes to the earliest dinosaurs. That makes the discovery of not one but three well-preserved skeletons, two of them nearly complete, all the more significant. Even better: The new species they represent, Macrocollum itaquii, is the oldest long-necked dinosaur known. The trio gives us a snapshot of a lineage in transition from small and swift meat-eaters to the mightiest animals ever to walk Earth. Uncovered at the Wachholz site near...

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2018-11-21 00:00:56

By 2100, Up to Six Natural Disasters At Once Could Threaten Some Areas  

If you think recent natural disasters have been terrifying — just wait. Things will only get worse over the next century, a group of leading climate change researchers warns in a paper published in Nature Climate Change this week. Currently, most places suffer just one climate-related disaster at a time. But by 2100, regions can expect to grapple with multiple disasters at once, they researchers say. "We are facing an incredible threat to humanity," said lead author Ca...

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2018-11-20 22:40:45

Researchers are 3D-Printing Fake Moon Dust Into Useful Hardware  

A Future on the Moon To support a potential, future lunar base, researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) have 3D-printed and baked fake moon dust into screws, gears, and even a coin. Both private and government space agencies have expressed serious intentions and started developing plans to build a human-inhabited base on the moon. But it takes a lot of fuel, cargo capacity, and money to launch things into space and land them on the moon. And building a lunar base from scratch wil...

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2018-11-20 19:37:20

A History of All the Times We've Sent Missions to Mars and Failed  

On November 26th, NASA's Insight mission will land on Mars. That's the plan anyway. Something like half of all Mars missions have failed, usually well before they approached the Red Planet, either because of launch failure or some error on its outward trip. While space agencies' records have improved, especially over the last decade, Mars is littered with spacecraft that didn't quite stick the landing -- or, in some cases, orbital insertion. Here are some of the highlights. First to Fai

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2018-11-20 19:04:33

Virgin Orbit Rocket Completes First Flight Strapped to the Wing of an Airplane  

[embed]A Successful Test Flight Virgin Orbit, a spinoff of Virgin Galactic, flew its LauncherOne rocket for the first time ever this past Sunday, November 18. The company performed the test flight with the 21-meter rocket strapped to the wing of a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft nicknamed Cosmic Girl. The 80-minute-long captive-carry test flight took off from California's Victorville Airport, northeast of Los Angeles...

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2018-11-19 23:02:34

The Complicated History of Planets Around Barnard's Star  

Perhaps no other star system has elicited so much wonder, mystery and frustration as Barnard's Star. Astronomers announced last Wednesday they'd discovered a planet in its thrall weighing in at around three Earth-masses, with a frigid, 233-day orbit. The find finally answers whether we have any planetary neighbors in the second-closest system to Earth (after Alpha Centauri). This follows more than 50 years of scrutinizing the star, and coming up empty. A 1999 study ruled out any ga...

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2018-11-19 22:35:54

A New Virtual Reality Experience Takes You Inside a Black Hole  

Inside a Black Hole Have you ever wanted to travel to the center of the galaxy and witness the power of a supermassive black hole in person? With current technology, humans couldn't travel the 25,640 light-years from Earth to the Milky Way's supermassive black hole in a single lifetime. Nor could we survive being so close to the extreme gravitational forces of a singularity. But a new virtual reality simulation gives us all the chance to swoop close by a black hole and experience the time...

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2018-11-19 21:55:40

These Termite Mounds Are 4,000 Years Old — And Still In Use  

Two hundred million mounds of dirt dot an area about the size of Great Britain in a tropical forest in northeastern Brazil. The cone-shaped dirt piles are roughly twice as tall as the average American man and stretch 30 feet across at the base. The mounds, the work of countless generations of termites, rise from the earth every 65 feet or so and are visible from space. These mounds, as tall as skyscrapers to the insects that made them, aren't just massive, they're also incredibly ancient,

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2018-11-19 20:19:48

SNAPSHOT: Cat Tongues Have Hollow Spines, and It Helps Keep Them Cool  

Each lick of a cat tongue releases one tenth an eyedropper of saliva from hollow, scoop-shaped cones called papillae. That's one of the findings from a study released today in the journal PNAS that examines the cat tongue in unprecedented detail. While the sharp rasp of a cat's lick is no mystery, the hollow nature of some of the cones on the tongue surface is new to science. The two Georgia Institute of Technology researchers who conducted the study are calling them cavo papillae, a...

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2018-11-19 20:05:14

Astronomers Find A 'Solar Twin' — A Star That Looks Almost Exactly Like Our Sun  

Didn't we all have that "Parent Trap" fantasy, where we'd come across a long-lost sibling that was separated at birth? That dream didn't go beyond a movie plot for the most of us, but it's just come true for the Sun. In a rare discovery, an international team of astronomers has found a star that was likely born in the same stellar nursery as our Sun. After analyzing the characteristics of thousands of stars in the Milky Way, the group is confident that they've not only foun...

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2018-11-19 19:09:11

How Would We Save the Planet from a Killer Asteroid?  

We don't need to be scared of everything that falls from space. In fact, literal tons of space rocks rain down daily, though that's mostly in the form of minuscule dust grains. But every 100 million years or so, catastrophe strikes in the form of a rock spanning miles. The last one killed not just the dinosaurs, but three-quarters of all life on Earth. The effects on humans could be equally devastating — bomb shelters wouldn't cut it in the face of such an event. Not when the shake...

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2018-11-19 18:48:11

Catastrophic Floods Rapidly Carved the Surface of Mars  

Catastrophic Flooding More than 3.5 billion years ago, water flowed freely across the surface of Mars, forming lakes and seas. New research shows how these lakes may have overflowed and burst at their sides, causing flooding so severe it carved out canyons in the Martian surface over the course of just weeks. This new research suggests that the flooding could have drastically shaped and altered the Martian landscape and, potentially, other planets that similarly lack plate tectonics, lead

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2018-11-19 16:26:32

Three days in the life of Earth as seen by GOES-17, soon slated to be our latest operational weather satellite  

The newest U.S. weather satellite has moved into its operational position over the Pacific Ocean and is sending back stunning imagery despite a problem with its primary instrument. You can get a taste of that imagery in the animation above, showing the full disk of our planet over three days between Nov. 19 and 22, 2018. Click the image, and then make sure to zoom in and explore. Here's another example of beautiful imagery from the satellite, designated GOES-17:

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2018-11-19 00:53:45

Medical Ethics: "When a Dying Patient Confesses to Murder"  

What should a doctor do if a dying patient confesses to killing people decades ago? This is the question posed by a fascinating case report in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, from New Zealand-based authors Laura Tincknell and colleagues. The facts of the case are fairly straightforward. A 70-year old man with advanced cancer was expected to die imminently and was admitted to a hospital pallative care ward in severe pain. While being assessed by a junior doctor, the man expressed a wish

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2018-11-18 20:51:03

What Studying Primate Communication Tells Us About Our Own Language Abilities  

Kanzi is a linguistic all-star among apes. From an early age, the captive bonobo learned over 400 symbols representing words, which he points to, in order to communicate with people. He understands even more spoken English and basic grammar, and followed verbal directions as well as a 2-year-old human during a study conducted in the late 80s. Having watched Kanzi clips more times than I care to admit, I'm ceaselessly amazed by his communication skills. But still, as the most linguistica...

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2018-11-17 16:00:41

SNAPSHOT: 3-D Printing Parts For Historic Ringling Bros Train Car  

Old train parts have been made new, thanks to the magic of 3-D printing. A project led by the University of South Florida is turning to the technology to help restore The Wisconsin, the personal train car of John Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus. The 122-year old relic now resides at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Of course, century-old train parts are hard to come by, and the train car's lush interior has been long been closed to the ...

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2018-11-17 15:00:55

The Bitter Truth: Coffee Lovers' Love of Caffeine is Wired in their DNA  

Are you a coffee drinker? This banal get-to-know-you question becomes strange when you really think about the anticipated dichotomy of a firm yes or no answer. A few people might dabble in the delicious, charming, soul-warming beverage (you can see where my allegiances lie), but many more seem to either love or hate the bitter stuff. People on either end of the coffee spectrum might think of the other, are you seriously tasting what I'm tasting? It would make sense if the answer was no...

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2018-11-16 20:54:02

Simply Seeing and Smelling Food Preps the Liver for Digestion  

After a long day's work, sometimes you can't help but drool over that hot, tempting meal sitting in front of you. Well, it turns out that your liver can't either. A new study published in Cell Reports on November 15 suggests that simply seeing and smelling food preps your body for delicious digestion. The research shows that the specific neurons activated in freshly-fed mice were also activated in mice exposed to just the sight and aroma of food. These inaccessible treats caused the...

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2018-11-16 20:18:33

FCC Gives SpaceX Green Light for 7,518 New Satellites  

Elon Musk's SpaceX is cultivating a larger presence in space. The private space company has just won permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy 7,518 satellites into low-Earth orbit. This is thousands more than the approximately 2,000 total satellites now orbiting and operating around Earth. Launching Satellites SpaceX currently has two test satellites in orbit and the company has previously received permission to deploy 4,425 satellites. These satellites, in a...

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2018-11-16 20:00:57

These Two New 'Rogue Planets' Wander the Cosmos Without Stars  

Astronomers think they've just discovered two more rogue planets wandering the Milky Way alone. And according to the new study, which is set for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the planets are likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to free-floating worlds hiding in our galaxy. If confirmed, the newfound rogue planets — which were discovered as part of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) — will join an elite group of only about a doz...

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2018-11-16 17:52:02

They're Ants That Collect Skulls. Now We Know How And Why.  

For 60 years, scientists observing Formica archboldi, a species of ant native to Florida, have documented something...odd. The ants' underground nests are littered with skulls and other body parts, primarily of Odontomachus, trap-jaw ants. Trap-jaws are formidable predatory badasses. F. archboldi are not. So what's going on? A new study sorts out the mystery — but discovers an even bigger oddity. Of the 15,000 or so ant species out there, relatively few are prey specialists. Although...

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2018-11-16 14:00:55

A New Treatment for Alzheimer's? It Starts With Lifestyle  

Armed with big data, researchers turn to customized lifestyle changes to fight the disease.

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2018-11-16 12:00:00

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