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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.

Scientists Devise Cheap, Wearable UV Detector to Help Prevent Sunburn  

Sunshine on a biting fall day can feel blissful. But too much time spent basking in the sun's ultraviolet rays can lead to sunburn and increase the risk of developing skin cancer, cataracts and wrinkles. Now, researchers have made a cheap, wearable device that keeps tabs on UV exposure. The new tech could mean soaking up the sun without overdosing on radiation. Vipul Bansal, an applied chemist and nanobiotechnologist at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, wanted to...

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2018-09-25 13:32:46

Black Hole Sucks Down Star Stuff at 30 Percent Speed of Light  

After falling past the event horizon — the point of no return — nothing can escape a black hole. While the depths of black holes may forever remain a mystery, astronomers can observe the regions around them. In a paper published September 3 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of researchers reported, for the first time, spotting a clump of matter falling directly into a distant black hole at nearly one-third the speed of light. The observations, which come...

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2018-09-24 12:45:07

Paraplegics Walk Again Using Electronic Implant  

Three paraplegic patients can walk again thanks to an intense rehabilitation program with a device that sends electricity down the spine, researchers report Monday in two separate studies. A snowmobile accident nearly 4 years earlier had paralyzed the then 26-year-old Jered Chinnock from the middle of his back down. He couldn't move or feel anything below his sixth thoracic vertebrae — a spinal segment in the middle of the rib cage — where he had broken his back. Now, he can voluntar...

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2018-09-24 07:08:46

Not So Fast  

Scientists disagree on how to eat for your best life. Dieting may never be the same.

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2018-09-24 05:28:40

Researchers Have Finally Found Human Skeletal Stem Cells  

If only we could regrow our broken bones like Harry Potter, Skele-gro style. Or, at the very least, heal up like a limb-regenerating newt. Alas, we humans possess no such abilities. Though our bodies can mend broken bones, the older we get, the shoddier that patch job gets. As for cartilage — the crucial cushioning that keeps our bones from rubbing together — once that's gone, it's gone for good. But a new discovery by researchers could change that outlook. A team from Stanford Un...

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2018-09-21 18:17:49

What is Dark Matter? Even the Best Theories Are Crumbling  

Dark matter research is unsettling. Scientists were unnerved when they first noticed that galaxies don't rotate by the same physics as a spinning plate. The stars at a galaxy's edge rotate faster than expected. And their motion can only be explained by a lot of invisible matter that we can't see. That was exciting more than unsettling when the field was new and ideas were plentiful and had yet to be proven wrong. Researchers consolidated the possibilities into two main camps, complete wit

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2018-09-21 10:14:49

TESS, NASA's Next-Gen Planet Hunter, is Already Delivering  

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched April 18, headed for an orbit that takes it out to about the distance of the Moon at its apogee. Just a few weeks later, it began science operations and a list of 50 exoplanet candidates rolled in, with researchers now expecting at least six of those first candidates to be eventually confirmed as bona-fide planets. The above image represents TESS' "first light" science image, starting in the first of 26 sectors it will u...

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2018-09-21 09:37:51

Neanderthal Brains: Bigger, Not Necessarily Better  

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today. In any textbook on human evolution, you'll find that fact, often accompanied by measurements of endocranial volume, the space inside a skull. On average, this value is about 1410 cm3 (~6 cups) for Neanderthals and 1350 cm3 (5.7 cups) for recent humans. So does that quarter-cup of brain matter, matter? Were Neanderthals smarter than our kind? While brain size is important, cognitive abilities are influenced by numerous factors inclu...

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2018-09-21 07:03:19

Opioid Epidemic Part Of Decades-Long Rise in Drug Overdoses  

Drug overdoses kill close to 200 people everyday in the United States. And while opioids are a major contributor to those deaths today, a new analysis of nearly 600,000 accidental drug overdose deaths between 1979 and 2016 reveals the current crisis is part of a much larger trend. "We think of [the current epidemic] starting in the '90s, but that was gas on the flame," said Robert Pack, a public health expert at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, who was not involved in ...

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2018-09-20 07:04:21

Sharing is Caring? Actually, it's Just Contagious  

Once upon a time (er, yesterday), we might have thought a character trait like generosity was something deeply ingrained by life experiences or even decided by a person's genes. But research today in Current Biology suggests that a person's propensity to share is highly dependent on one thing: how much the people around them - currently - are sharing. A person's generosity as recent as last year has no correlation to their generosity now. Scientists learned this while stu...

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2018-09-20 04:38:26

Gambling Monkeys Shed Light on Risky Behavior  

Researchers have identified a key brain area associated with high-risk behavior, thanks to two monkeys they trained to gamble. Before the rhesus monkeys could start gambling, they had to learn the researchers' system of cues. Squares of different colors signaled how big the payout - a drink of water or juice - would be. "They know which (color) gives which amount," says Veit Stuphorn, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. "In ...

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2018-09-20 04:05:35

Here's what the devastating flooding from Florence looks like from space  

You've probably seen imagery shot in the Carolinas showing the devastating flooding that Hurricane Florence left its wake. Now, check out what that flooding looks like from space — in the before-and-after animation above of false-color satellite images. The images were acquired by NASA's bus-sized Terra satellite, which circles Earth in a polar orbit 483 above the surface. The before image was captured on August 26th; the after image on September 18th. Flooded waterways in the po...

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2018-09-19 13:59:06

Watch This Creepy Robo-Skin Turn a Stuffed Animal Into a Robot  

via GIPHY Every single episode of MacGyver would have been ruined had he gotten his hands on a few patches of a new robotic skin developed by researchers at Yale University. A diversion to distract cartel enforcers? Wrap a stick of dynamite in robotic skin and it'll walk itself around the corner and explode. Snatch keys from the warden's neck? Stick a few of those skins together to make a robotic arm. Escape from a flying airplane? Well, in that situation he tied a parachute to a c...

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2018-09-19 01:49:02

The First Earthlings Around the Moon Were Two Soviet Tortoises  

Anders. Borman. Lovell. The names of the first three humans to journey around the moon will echo throughout eternity. But these brave Apollo 8 astronauts were actually not the first earthlings to complete the voyage. Two tortoises beat NASA to the moon by a matter of months. Fifty years ago today, on September 18, 1968, the Soviet Union's Zond 5 spacecraft circled the moon, ferrying the first living creatures known to have orbited another world. On board were two Russian steppe tortois...

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2018-09-18 11:59:31

After 1,000 Years, Astronomers Still Unlocking Secrets of the Crab Nebula  

In late spring in the year 1054, a strange light appeared in the sky in what we would now call the constellation Taurus the Bull. It was a new star, where no star had been before. It grew quickly brighter, until by July it outshone everything except the moon. Over the next two years it faded away, becoming a star of normal brightness and eventually disappearing again entirely. Astronomers in China and Japan recorded its arrival, and other observers around the world surely noticed it as we

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2018-09-18 01:18:29

A Chink in the Brain Armor: the NFL, Concussion and Omega-3s  

On Twitter, I was pointed to the strange story of Brain Armor®, a nutritional supplement which is supposed to promote brain health. While there are many supplements that are sold for the same purpose, Brain Armor has a unique claim to fame: it is the official brain health supplement of Pro Football Legends (PFL), the "commercial marketing arm of the NFL Alumni." Brain Armor's links to the NFL Alumni raised eyebrows on Twitter because the NFL has famously been the target of legal a...

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2018-09-17 14:17:28

Activity - Not Rest - Speeds Recovery After Brain Injury in Mice  

Conventional wisdom advocates for rest after suffering an injury. Now researchers have discovered that activity — not rest — helps the brain recover from trauma in mice. The finding suggests that challenging the brain early after damage can speed up healing. "Lengthy rest periods are supposed to be key to the brain's healthy recovery, but our study in mice demonstrates that re-engaging the brain immediately after injury can actually be more helpful than resting it," study lead R...

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2018-09-17 10:58:25

Volcanoes of Mud Erupt From Giant Asteroid Ceres  

Nothing is normal on Ceres — least of all its mud volcanoes. In new research published in Nature Astronomy, a large team of astronomers has laid out a new view of the weirdest world in our solar system. It seems that Ceres has had a busy last few billion years — including random smatterings of volcanism, but of a type seen nowhere else in the solar system. Ceres is the largest world in the asteroid belt, and is believed to be a remnant proto-planet, or the kind of small worlds tha...

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2018-09-17 03:46:15

Kilopower Project: Los Alamos' New Nuclear Reactors Could Power Spacecraft and Moon Bases  

The future of space exploration may rest in the hands of a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers. They've built the first of a new generation of small nuclear reactors intended to power missions to deep space and even future astronaut bases on the moon and Mars. Called Kilopower, their project aims to achieve a longstanding dream of the space community: a safe, effective, and powerful nuclear power reactor that can power spacecraft for years. "I don't think we can ...

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2018-09-17 03:12:39

The Evolution of Neuroimaging  

A fun new paper looks at the changing landscape of neuroimaging research through an analysis of the journals Neuroimage and PNAS. The article comes from UPenn researchers Jordan D. Dworkin, Russell T. Shinohara and Danielle S. Bassett. Dworkin et al. created a network analysis of keywords from the 8,547 Neuroimage papers that were published between 2008 and 2017. This analysis produces a graph in which the nodes are keywords (topics) and the edges (connections) reflect the tendency for th

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2018-09-15 07:11:26

Is Time Running Out For NASA's Mars Opportunity Rover?  

Since June 10, the 14-year-old Opportunity rover has been silent, presumably sleeping as thick dust clouds blocked the Sun from its solar cells. But now, that sky is clearing, and NASA is implementing a listening plan for the rover through January 2019. Without power, the rover has likely experienced several faults. Among them, its mission clock may have stopped recording time accurately. To counteract this possibility, the rover's mission team is both passively waiting for the rover t...

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2018-09-14 12:10:13

Where Have All The Turtles Gone?  

Turtles survived the massive extinction event that took out the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But climate change, habitat loss and exploitation from the commercial pet industry have now decimated global turtle populations. Of the 356 turtle species scientists know about today, more than half are endangered or have already gone extinct. As their numbers continue to decline, scientists say their loss will alter ecosystems around the world. Dwindling Numbers Turtles were onc...

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2018-09-14 12:07:54

BPA Replacements Harm Reproductive Health in Mice  

Twenty years ago, Patricia Hunt, a reproductive biologist at Washington State University in Pullman, revealed bisphenol A, a chemical in plastic, caused reproductive problems in mice. Soon "BPA" became a household term and "BPA-free" water bottles and consumer packaging cropped up everywhere. Now Hunt and her same team of scientists are back with a new study that shows the compounds that replaced BPA to make BPA-free products are just as harmful. The discovery indicates bisphenol...

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2018-09-13 16:36:46

Meanwhile, in the Pacific...  

As Hurricane Florence began lashing the Carolinas this morning, another potentially disruptive atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon continues to brew thousands of miles away in the Pacific: El Niño. It's not here yet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's latest monthly analysis, published today. But forecasters continue to favor its arrival this fall, pegging the odds at 50 to 55 percent. By winter, the chances rise to 65 to 70 percent. We should care b...

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2018-09-13 12:17:43

How Galveston Survived The Deadliest Hurricane in American History  

The citizens of Galveston, Texas, had achieved unprecedented economic prosperity. The city, built on a shallow, sandy island 2 miles (1.2 kilometers) offshore, had become the state's leading center of trade, exporting some 1.7 million bales of cotton annually. At the turn of the century, the city stood in the doorway to an even more prosperous future. This all changed September 8, 1900, when an unusually high tide and long, rolling sea swells gave way to a massive landfalling hurricane...

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2018-09-13 06:39:30

Thousands of Black Holes Form Disks in the Center of the Galaxy  

At the center of most galaxies lie supermassive black holes. Their exceptional gravity pulls in thousands of stars and stellar mass black holes, or black holes formed when a massive star collapses due to gravity. By simulating how objects interact near the supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies, astrophysicists from Eötvös University in Hungary have shown, in a new study, that these black holes form a thick disk around a galaxy's supermassive black hole. "Previously...

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2018-09-13 01:46:49

Staring straight into the eye of a monster  

As Florence swirled toward the Carolinas today, an astronaut took some chilling photos of the hurricane "Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It's chilling, even from space." So writes Alexander Gerst, a European Space Agency astronaut aboard the International Space Station who shot this stunning photo looking straight down into the eye of fearsome Hurricane Florence. As of 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, the hurricane was bearing down on Carolina coastal areas with m...

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2018-09-13 01:28:52

Ancient Hashtag Is Oldest Drawing Yet Discovered  

The hashtag is far more ancient than we think. In a South African cave, inscribed on a flake of rock, nine lines of red ochre inscribe a familiar crosshatched pattern. The find, dated to 73,000 years ago, is the oldest abstract drawing discovered to date, and it was made by ancient Homo sapiens in the area, say researchers writing Wednesday in Nature. Blombos Cave, on the country's southern coast about 190 miles from Cape Town, has already yielded a rich collection of Stone Age arti...

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2018-09-12 14:35:02

Hurricane Florence Intensified Fast. We Still Don't Understand Why Some Storms Fizzle And Others Erupt  

As Hurricane Florence careens toward the Atlantic coast, more than a million Carolina residents are evacuating while millions more are hunkering down with supplies. Hurricane Florence intensified incredibly rapidly this week, morphing from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in less than 48 hours. How it intensified is understood, but scientists still struggle to predict which Atlantic hurricanes will intensify quickly - or not - during their journey across the ocean. ...

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2018-09-12 10:23:28

Spring is Arriving Earlier, Messing With Bird Migrations  

Thanks to climate change, spring now comes earlier. But how much sooner the season arrives varies across the U.S. That's according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE that assessed the first appearance of leaves and flowers in nearly 500 U.S. National Wildlife Refuges over more than 100 years.  Researchers found the irregular seasonal changes affect migratory birds' breeding sites, an outcome that could endanger many species. Global Travels Hundreds of migr...

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2018-09-12 06:47:12

Humans Share Better Than Other Primates, Shedding Light on Our Evolution  

The chimp-like apes known as bonobos are legendarily generous when it comes to sex. New findings now reveal they also share food with others, but not toys or tools. This research underscores that sharing is not unique to humans, but the breadth and flexibility of this sharing may be. Although nature is typically seen as "red in tooth and claw," humans are often willing to voluntarily share resources with others. And the emergence and development of this sharing likely helped play a key ro

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2018-09-12 05:46:49

Gene Mutation Made Our Ancestors Better Long Distance Runners  

Humans aren't as strong as lions, can't run as fast as cheetahs and don't see as well as owls. But there is one thing we are pretty good at: endurance running. Between 2 and 3 million years ago, our African ancestors adapted to a climate period that caused forests to thin and arid savannahs to expand. Changes to their biology and skeletal structure enabled them to run longer distances, offering a survival advantage in hunting prey, scientists say. It is believed our ancestors ba...

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2018-09-11 19:01:25

Pigeon Poop And Strange Static: How We Proved The Big Bang  

Sometimes scientific discoveries are made in world-class laboratories, when brilliant scientists come together to prove a wonderful idea true with fresh experiments. And sometimes, the secrets of the universe are hidden under a pile of pigeon poop. And so it happened that the first observation of the crackle of nascent energy left over from the Big Bang was not some long-sought holy grail of science. Instead, it was an annoying bit of static mistaken for bird droppings. Such is the lofty

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2018-09-11 08:50:11

Pair of Trojan Asteroids Hint At Battle Between Giant Planets  

Much like the famed Trojan horse, Jupiter's Trojan asteroids are hiding a secret. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the existence of a bound pair of "Trojan asteroids" trapped in a stable orbit around Jupiter suggests the early solar system was shaken up by a battle between the giant planets much earlier than astronomers previously thought. "The Trojans were likely captured during a dramatic period of dynamic instability when a skirmish between the sol

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2018-09-11 01:57:38

Feasting off unusually warm sea surface waters, Hurricane Florence has exploded in strength  

National Hurricane Center: "Unfortunately, the models were right" When I woke up this morning, Hurricane Florence was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds a little above 100 miles per hour. As the storm has moved over very warm waters during the day, it has exploded in intensity to a Category 4 storm with max winds of 140 miles per hour. As the National Hurricane Center put it this afternoon: Unfortunately, the models were right. Florence has rapidly intensified into a...

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2018-09-11 01:24:30

Watch as Florence blossoms from a tropical storm to a hurricane that now poses life-threatening impacts  

An animation of amazingly detailed satellite imagery shows Florence strengthening and heading toward the U.S. East Coast After blossoming into a hurricane yesterday, Florence strengthened further overnight into a Category 3 storm this morning with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. Feasting off the energy from unusually strong sea surface temperatures, Hurricane Florence is intensifying quickly and tracking inexorably toward landfall along the U.S. Southeast or Mid-...

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2018-09-10 08:08:46

Inching Toward De-Extinction: Can CRISPR Resurrect Passenger Pigeons?  

Ben Novak's pigeons aren't much to look at. Cosmetically, they're not too different from the scavengers you'd see on any city street. But dive down to the cellular level, and you'll find something very unusual: they've been bred for easier DNA editing. These birds are a step on the way to bringing back an extinct species. Novak, lead scientist at Revive & Restore, a California-based group that aims to help endangered and even extinct species through what they call "genet...

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2018-09-10 02:54:25

When is it OK For Archaeologists to Dig Up the Dead?  

Banana was code for human bones, on one archaeological dig where I've worked. We were excavating a cemetery, several thousand years old, and had permits from the appropriate authorities. However, certain religious groups in the area had a history of protesting any destruction of burials, so we kept our work discrete. We packed excavated skeletons in boxes labeled "bananas" and referenced the fruit when discussing the project in public. Our team had legal approval and scientific ...

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2018-09-07 21:05:24

Two Stars Won't Collide Into a Red Nova in 2022 After All  

It's time to face a hard truth. Good science is mostly about meticulously testing informed predictions. And, sadly, these predictions often fall flat. This is exactly what just happened with one of the most anticipated astronomical events of the upcoming decade: the visible merger and fiery explosion of a pair of nearby binary stars in 2022. Five years ago, Calvin College astronomy professor Larry Molnar and his team began analyzing a pair of tightly bound stars — known as KIC 9832...

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2018-09-07 17:42:08

Ritual Sacrifice May Have Shaped Dog Domestication  

This story originally appeared in SAPIENS, an online magazine focused on anthropology. In the Siberian Arctic, the Ob River flows lazily across vast, cold stretches of tundra. In the city of Salekhard, Russia, where it meets with the Polui River, lie the remains of an ancient ritual site. Overlooking the floodplains, it is known as Ust'-Polui. It is thought to date back to 260 B.C. and to have been occupied until A.D. 140. The site has long fascinated archaeologists due to the huge num...

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2018-09-07 05:58:53

Vast Wind And Solar Farms Would Bring More Rain to Africa  

Scientists want to power the world with solar and wind energy, a feat they say is possible with large-scale wind and solar farms. Now, an international team of researchers says that building such an energy factory in the Sahara desert would come with a surprising boon: more rainfall. The discovery means feeding the global power supply with renewable energy would be beneficial not only to regional climates but also society. "In the light of our findings... we could transform our ener...

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2018-09-06 21:15:20

'Robat' The Robot Explores Using Echolocation  

Bats can fly nimbly at night in large part because echolocation helps them "see" in the dark. Now researchers say they have created the first robot to use echolocation like a bat to help it explore its surroundings fully autonomously. Bats echolocate by emitting clicks and listening to what the echoes of these sounds can reveal about what they reflected off. They can use echolocation to simultaneously map and navigate through new locations, a set of problems they routinely solve "that eng

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2018-09-06 20:08:52

The Enduring Myth of Phantom Cosmonauts  

There's an ongoing fascination with the idea of phantom cosmonauts. The story goes something like this: a handful of Soviets launched into space before Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, but because they all died their missions and deaths were covered up. The stories are myth. No one flew in space before Gagarin. Even X-15 flights above the Karman line came after 1962. But like any enduring myth, there is a kernel of truth in this story.

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2018-09-06 19:24:22

Japan's New Supercomputer Let's Astronomers Simulate The Stars  

One of the long-standing problems in astronomy is that you cannot hold the Sun. You can't jump into it or examine it under a microscope. Nor can astronomers go back in time to witness the Big Bang or even step outside our own galaxy. Observations alone can only take the science of the stars so far. Instead, today's biggest astrophysical questions are answered through simulations carried out on supercomputers. That's why the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) just intro...

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2018-09-06 04:04:49

Borderland Rebellion: One Texas Naturalist Takes Conservation Into His Own Hands  

This story originally appeared in bioGraphic. On a humid May afternoon beneath the shade cloth of the plant nursery on his South Texas ranch, Benito Treviño leaned down, magnifying glasses perched on his nose above an extravagant salt-and-pepper moustache, and used his pen knife to remove a bulbous growth from the top of a baseball-sized, dome-shaped cactus. He sliced the thing over a white paper plate, and dozens of bowl-shaped, red-brown specks spilled out. They were seeds, and with th...

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2018-09-05 18:35:27

800-plus Fossils Reveal How Bugs Rose From The 'Great Dying'  

Around 250 million years ago, a massive extinction event known as the "Great Dying" wiped out nearly every organism on Earth. Scientists know plants and animals bounced back a few million years later and exploded in diversity, but what about insects? These days they're the most diverse group of organisms on Earth with estimates of as many as 30 million species. Now, a team of Chinese researchers describes a collection of bug fossils from 237 million years ago that has the answer. ...

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2018-09-05 17:33:21

Drugs Team Up to Counter Antibiotic Resistance  

As the crisis of antibiotic resistance deepens, researchers are looking for new ways to combat infectious diseases. One solution proposed by UCLA researchers: When one drug won't work, try two. Or three, four or five. Seeing What Sticks In a new paper in Nature Systems Biology and Applications, scientists take a look at eight common antibiotics and run through thousands of combinations involving anywhere from two to five of them. They uncovered numerous combinations that they say work bett

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2018-09-05 11:13:29

Saturn's Hexagon Could Be an Enormous Tower  

Above Saturn's north pole, clouds swirl in a distinct and stunning hexagonal shape. Discovered by NASA's Voyager mission in 1981, Saturn's hexagon is striking to behold, and one new study suggests that this six-sided vortex may actually be hundreds of kilometers tall. After the Voyager mission pushed human exploration far out into the solar system and, subsequently, discovered Saturn's hexagon whirling at a low altitude, the Cassini spacecraft returned to the ringed planet in 2004 and ...

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2018-09-05 03:31:16

Dark Data: The Vulnerable Treasures Sitting On Museum Shelves  

As curators begin the grim work of sorting through what's left of Brazil's fire-ravaged National Museum, a new paper quantifies the staggering number of fossils and other scientifically significant finds going unstudied — and vulnerable to loss — in museum collections. It's a call to action, say the authors. The cause of the fire that broke out Sunday evening, local time in Rio de Janeiro, at the Museu Nacional is still under investigation, the extent of the losses still being a...

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2018-09-04 19:33:08

A Pipeline To Capture Carbon Dioxide And Store It Underground  

Capturing carbon emissions and locking them away deep underground could be a viable means of beginning to combat climate change. But, the industry needs a little help, researchers find. While taking carbon directly from the air and sequestering it in rocks is far from a feasible scenario, capturing it at the source — power plants and refineries — is something that's already being tested at some commercial operations. There, carbon dioxide from burning or refining fuel is separated o...

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2018-09-04 04:07:06

These First-Known Omnivore Sharks Eat Seagrass  

Sharks are infamous meat-eaters. The ocean's buffet of fish, crabs, mussels, shrimp and krill fill the legendary predators' stomachs and give them sustenance. Now researchers have discovered that one particular species, bonnethead sharks, also dine on seagrass to meet their nutritional needs. The discovery means bonnethead sharks are not carnivores but omnivores — a distinction that changes how the coastal swimmers influence the fragile ecosystems they call home. Bonnethead sharks l...

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2018-09-04 03:24:37

Bad Mobs of Good People: The Paradox of Viral Outrage  

People become less approving of social media outrage the more people join in with it. One person rebuking another is fine, but ten people doing it looks like a mob. This is the key finding of an interesting new paper called The Paradox of Viral Outrage, from Takuya Sawaoka and Benoît Monin of Stanford. According to the authors, the titular 'paradox' is that "individual outrage that would be praised in isolation is more likely to be viewed as bullying when echoed online by a multitude of s...

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2018-09-02 07:07:40

White Matter Worries: A Problem for DTI?  

A new preprint called "A systematic bias in DTI findings" could prove worrying for many neuroscientists. In the article, authors Farshid Sepehrband and colleagues of the University of Southern California argue that commonly-used measures of the brain's white matter integrity may be flawed. The technique in question, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), uses an MRI scanner to measure the diffusion of water molecules at different points in the brain. In white matter, water diffusion is constrain

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2018-09-01 04:59:30

There's Frost on the Moon -- and All Across the Solar System  

Yes, there is water on the Moon. Twenty years ago, evidence of frost-coated regions near the Moon's poles was greeted with surprise and skepticism. Ten years ago, a NASA instrument aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 space probe greatly boosted the case for water ice on the Moon. Then two weeks ago, a much deeper analysis of the Chandrayaan-1 data validated the surprise and ended the skepticism: Some permanently shadowed "cold-trap" craters near the lunar poles clearly do contain regions that ar

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2018-09-01 02:15:06

Water Molecules Detected Above Jupiter's Great Red Spot  

Jupiter is without a doubt inhospitable, but it does have one thing going for it — increasing evidence that it's rich in water. Astrophysicist Gordon L. Bjoraker of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center recently published a paper in the Astronomical Journal, outlining how he and his team of researchers detected signatures of water emitting from Jupiter's Great Red Spot. By studying the giant storm with ground-based telescopes, they were able to observe molecular hydrogen and oxygen at...

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2018-08-31 06:34:01

Bees Get Buzzed on Pesticides, Keep Coming Back for More  

Once bees get a taste of pesticides, it seems they can't help coming back for more. For years, common agricultural pesticides, like neonicotinoids, have been shown to have detrimental effects on bee colonies. Though the results aren't always consistent, the bulk of evidence shows that pesticides are bad for bees. Exposed bees can have difficulty reproducing, die younger and aren't as attentive to their nests when the chemicals show up in their food sources. One major criticism of studi

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2018-08-29 12:50:28

Ancient Livestock Dung Reshaped African Savannah  

Dung, poop, number 2 — we've all dealt with the troublesome solid waste that biological entities produce. But it can have its uses too, beyond just giving sewer planners something to do. In particular, the use of animal feces as manure has a long and fruitful history. It's an all natural way to replenish soil after growing crops, and hey, gotta put that stuff somewhere, right? But it turns out dung has been more fruitful than we expected. Even a seemingly natural savannah, the Afri...

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2018-08-29 11:29:01

Goats Like Your Smile, Hinting Farm Animals Read Emotions  

Put on a happy face. That works for creating a positive impression on other people. Research also shows that dogs and horses prefer a smile to a frown. But what about domesticated farm animals, such as goats, pigs and cows? Turns out domesticated pigs and cattle are smarter than we give them credit for, studies have shown. They may even have complex inner lives. But do they like our smile? A paper published Aug. 29, in Royal Society Open Science indicates that domesticated goats a

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2018-08-28 19:36:22

Will Aliens Understand Voyager's Golden Record?  

The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft famously contain messages to anyone who might someday find them. Both Pioneers carry a plaque, while the Voyagers carry a phonograph record. An enormous amount of effort went into creating these objects, but could an alien observer truly understand the messages we have sent to the stars? While we cannot take anything for granted when it comes to how these messages might or might not be interpreted, let's assume that the beings who might find the spacec...

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2018-08-28 05:35:12

These Robot Claws Are Made From Paper  

Robots made of ... paper? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute have developed a pretty neat way to bring plain old paper to life. The team used an inexpensive 3D printer to apply a thin layer of conducting thermoplastic, a material that becomes pliable when warm, but regains its original, hardened shape when cool. When the researchers apply an electrical current, the melting thermoplastic makes the paper bend, fold, or flatten. Then, it springs bac...

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2018-08-28 03:54:57

OSIRIS-REx Snaps its First Pic of Asteroid Bennu  

If you think your commute is bad, try traveling over a billion miles to get to work. After almost two years of space travel, NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft finally has a clear view of its jobsite — a near-Earth, carbon-rich asteroid named Bennu. The craft's PolyCam camera captured its first image of Bennu on August 17 from a distance just 1.4 million miles (2.25 million kilometers), and will no...

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2018-08-28 01:02:02

Solar eye candy: close-up movie shows a giant eruption rising and twisting from the Sun's surface  

In my ongoing hunt for cool imagery to feature here at ImaGeo, I regularly check to see what NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft has been seeing on the Sun. The animation above is one of SDO's more recent captures. It shows an eruption of material rising up along invisible magnetic field lines, twisting, and then falling back down, all over a course of two hours on August 13. The feature is known as a solar prominence. A solar prominence occurs when two points on the Sun...

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2018-08-27 12:26:29

When Snails Attack: The Epic Discovery Of An Ecological Phenomenon  

The year was 1983. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had just hit theaters, The Police's "Every Breath You Take" topped the charts, and Amos Barkai was a new graduate student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He'd recently gotten his bachelor's from Tel Aviv University, and was excited to start his graduate work under George Branch. Little did he know he was about to discover an ecological phenomenon that would earn him a prestigious paper in Science. Branch had been investi...

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2018-08-27 06:19:13

"Non-Western Magic in the European Brain" - Return of Voodoo fMRI?  

A preprint recently posted on bioRxiv has garnered a lot of attention - mainly because of its title. The article, from Jan Willem Koten Jr et al., is called Occurrence of non-western magic in the European brain, an intriguing although not very informative title for a scientific paper. The intrigue deepens once we read the paper and find references to the famous 'voodoo correlations' and also a new species of neuro-monster: 'zombie oscillations', which the authors claim to have discovered and

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2018-08-26 05:07:32

How Do We Get Four Billion People Online?  

Despite the name, the World Wide Web … isn't. Some 52 percent of the world — roughly 4 billion people, mostly women — don't have access to the open web. This has sparked something like a new space race, featuring satellites, high altitude balloons, drones, even lasers. The rush of startups and tech companies — including SpaceX, Google, Facebook — make it only a matter of time before most humans are online. The benefits are already clear. Getting online is financially adva...

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2018-08-24 13:56:45

Black Holes Bolster Case For Quantum Physics' Spooky Action  

With the help of two extremely bright quasars located more than 7 billion light-years away, researchers recently bolstered the case for quantum entanglement — a phenomenon Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance" — by eliminating one classical alternative: The freedom-of-choice loophole. Quantum Connection Of the many mindboggling facets of quantum mechanics, one of the most intriguing is the idea of quantum entanglement. This occurs when two particles are inextricably lin...

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2018-08-24 03:31:10

Quitting Smoking Makes You Gain Weight. It's Still Healthier  

Give up smoking for cheesecake? Maybe that's not such a bad idea. People who quit smoking cigarettes often gain weight. That's not necessarily because ex-smokers need a new habit and they enjoy eating. It's because the nicotine in cigarettes suppresses appetite to some degree. When the nicotine stops, appetite returns and people can put on pounds. The correlation between quitting smoking and weight gain has been observed in many studies. And for some people, it's not just a risk fo...

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2018-08-24 03:12:19

2005 Hurricane Season in the North Atlantic Approached Theoretical Limit  

2005 was a crazy year in the North Atlantic. That hurricane season saw not only the most tropical cyclones in recorded history for the region, it also spawned the lowest pressure measured in the Atlantic, the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever, the most hurricanes and the highest accumulated cyclone energy index on record. There were so many storms that we ran out of names for them. By the time Hurricane Epsilon had died away in December, 28 tropical cyclones had swept through the area. Tr

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2018-08-22 20:32:52

Japan Looks For Landing Sites On Mysterious Asteroid Ryugu  

Back in June, Japan's Hayabusa2 mission arrived at the asteroid Ryugu, a near-Earth object that crosses our home world's orbit. The spacecraft will touch down on the surface in October. But first, scientists must find the most "pristine" location possible - the spot least weathered by the hazards of outer space. One Hayabusa2's main goals is to return a sample of Ryugu back to Earth in 2020. Scientists are interested in asteroid samples because they provide a close-up view of how the ...

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2018-08-22 16:10:30

Experiment Reveals How Light Shoves Matter Around  

Quantum mechanics, the science of the smallest stuff, is famously kooky. Light is both a particle and a wave, electrons zip around and travel instantaneously, cats are both alive and dead — it's hard for our human brains to comprehend. One phenomenon that sort of makes a little sense, if you think about it right, is that light alone can push things around. Formally known as 'imparting momentum,' the idea can also seem quantumly crazy. I go out in the sunlight all the time without ...

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2018-08-22 01:38:07

Strange Drug Overdoses Are Mystifying Hospitals  

An explosion of strange new narcotics is hitting the streets, as clandestine chemists rush to produce drugs that exist outside the law. One United Nations report tallied 644 new drugs discovered across 102 countries and territories between 2008 and 2015. And in an interview last year, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson said they encounter previously unheard of drugs on an almost weekly basis. Known as new psychoactive substances (NPS), these drugs appear faster than gover

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2018-08-21 08:55:57

How Human Smarts Evolved  

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

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2018-08-20 10:41:05

Dismantling Oil Rigs Could Destroy Vital Coral Reefs  

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

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2018-08-20 08:31:31

The Evolutionary History Of A Malaria Parasite  

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

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2018-08-20 02:45:33

Science's Bullying Problem  

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

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2018-08-19 05:38:16

Independence: A New Performance Indicator for Researchers?  

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

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2018-08-18 02:56:28

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

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

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2018-08-17 18:31:09

One Third of Known Planets May Be Enormous Ocean Worlds  

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

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2018-08-17 16:57:32

Why Did NASA's Pioneer Spacecraft Mysteriously Slow Down?  

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

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2018-08-17 03:16:54

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

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

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2018-08-16 18:18:58

Check Out This Beetle Trapped In Amber For 99 Million Years  

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

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2018-08-16 05:26:12

Workers of the World! There Is Efficiency in Idleness  

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

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2018-08-16 05:20:58

New Date For Greek Eruption That May Have Inspired Atlantis Myth  

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

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2018-08-15 18:58:25

Children Give in to Robot Peer Pressure  

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

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2018-08-15 04:31:08

The More Fit You Are, the Better You Shiver  

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

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2018-08-15 03:11:36

Can Humans Live in Space Without Going Crazy?  

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

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2018-08-14 17:28:54

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

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

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2018-08-14 12:35:15

Livestock Infected with Worms Belch and Fart 33% More Methane  

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

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2018-08-14 11:22:24

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

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

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2018-08-14 10:35:30

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

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

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2018-08-13 20:20:54

A Brief Guide to Neuro-Products  

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

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2018-08-13 17:27:56

The Never Ending Quest To Simulate Doomsday  

How scientists learned to stop worrying and simulate the bomb.

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2018-08-13 15:12:57

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

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

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2018-08-13 13:58:09

Closing In On Vaping's Most Toxic Ingredient  

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

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2018-08-13 08:58:46

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

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

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2018-08-13 05:43:29

Hearing Nemo  

How scientists discovered a symphony under the sea.

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2018-08-13 05:12:19

The Vanishing City  

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

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2018-08-13 01:07:30

Sorry, Neighboring Omega Centauri is Probably Uninhabitable  

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

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2018-08-10 09:59:45

NASA's 60-Year Race to Touch The Sun  

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

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2018-08-10 05:24:19

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

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

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2018-08-09 21:49:07

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