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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.

Major TV news networks are derelict in their duty to provide vital climate change context on U.S. heat waves  

It has been an unpleasant few weeks here in Colorado. Brutal heat and air pollution have made many of my daily runs along trails like the one above challenging — to put it mildly. Recurrent poor air quality has taken a particular toll. Smoke from eight major wildfires burning in Colorado — more than anywhere else in the contiguous United States right now — has mixed with urban air pollutants and been cooked by the unrelenting sun into a nasty, stagnant atmospheric stew...

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2018-07-14 13:15:26

The Ethics of Research on Leaked Data: Ashley Madison  

A paper just published reports that Republicans are more likely to have used the adultery website Ashley Madison than Democrats, while Libertarians were even more likely to do so. That's a claim that could ruffle some feathers, but the way in which the researchers conducted this study might be even more controversial. That's because this paper is based on the 2015 Ashley Madison data leak, which exposed the personal data, including names and credit-card details, of millions of registered

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2018-07-14 06:16:09

Strange 'Equal Mass' Binary Asteroid Found Near Earth  

More than 18,000 near-Earth asteroids have been identified, and all of them are thought to be remnants of our solar system's formation. They each have their own unique structure and properties. But despite their distinct variations, we still come across an oddball every once in awhile. On June 26, two separate teams of scientists confirmed an unusual "equal mass" binary asteroid cruising past Earth — one of only four ever discovered. Asteroid 2017 YE5 consists of two equal-size ob...

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2018-07-13 14:39:18

Latest forecast: El Niño likely will develop later this year, promising significant impacts around the world  

El Niño's coming. That's the increasingly confident forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. In its latest monthly report, the CPC continued an El Niño watch and boosted the odds of it developing during the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2018-2019 to 70 percent. Last month, the center pegged El Niño's chances at 65 percent. This is important because El Niño has profound impacts on weather around the world. Here in the United States, El Niño tends to result in an am...

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2018-07-13 12:51:39

Cassini Catches The Spooky Whooshing Sounds Of Saturn  

Though it's been gone for nearly a year, the Cassini spacecraft continues to fuel new studies of Saturn and its many moons. In particular, Cassini's unique and close-up view of the system during its Grand Finale orbits produced data that have revealed how plasma waves moving outward from the planet interact with both its rings and its moons. Research based on evaluation of the data was published April 26 and June 7 in Geophysical Research Letters. Now, in a video produced by NASA's...

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2018-07-13 06:39:31

Mild Temps On Earth-Sized World Just 11 Light-Years Away  

The discovery of any Earth-like exoplanet evokes excitement in the science community, but the hype is definitely heightened when a possible rocky world is found close to home. Last year, researchers announced the discovery of an exoplanet just 11 light-years from Earth — practically in our own backyard. And now, a detailed study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters reveals crucial details about its composition and potential habitability. ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity P...

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2018-07-12 21:14:12

What Is A Blazar? It's Like Staring Down The Barrel Of A Black Hole  

On Thursday, researchers announced that they'd caught a single, tiny, high-energy particle called a neutrino that had rained down on Earth from a supermassive black hole some 4 billion light-years away. Astrophysicists are excited because this is only the third identified cosmic object they've managed to collect the elusive particles from — first the Sun, then a supernova that went off in a neighboring galaxy in 1987, and now a blazar. So, what is a blazar, anyway? A Cosmic ...

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2018-07-12 14:21:59

Black Hole Ghost Particle Caught Striking Earth  

Four billion years ago, an immense galaxy with a black hole at its heart spewed forth a jet of particles at nearly the speed of light. One of those particles, a neutrino that is just a fraction of the size of a regular atom, traversed across the universe on a collision course for Earth, finally striking the ice sheet of Antarctica last September. As it hit, a neutrino detector planted by scientists within the ice recorded the neutrino's charged interaction, causing a blue flash of light th...

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2018-07-12 13:14:36

Romans Might Have Been First Commercial Whalers  

In the second century, the Greco-Roman writer Oppian described men in rowboats thrusting harpoons into a "sea monster," which is then roped and towed to shore. At the time, the Romans had a successful fishing industry in the Strait of Gibraltar, the western waterway to the Mediterranean world. Historians sometimes say Roman fishing at this bottleneck included whaling, but other than Oppian's poem and other indirect clues, there was no evidence. A paper published Wednesday in The...

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2018-07-11 19:34:14

World's Oldest Colors Shed Light On Ancient Life  

Bright pink 1.1-billion-year-old molecules from deep beneath the Sahara desert are now the oldest biological colors that scientists have discovered so far, and could shed light on why complex, multicellular life took so long to evolve on Earth. This discovery "really came as a fluke," said study senior author Jochen Brocks, a paleobiogeochemist at the Australian National University in Canberra. "About 10 years ago, a petroleum company looking for oil in the Sahara was exploring the black

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2018-07-11 19:03:36

5 Times (At Least) Einstein Was Wrong  

The past few weeks have featured a few stories about how Albert Einstein's theories, or the ideas underpinning them, have all been confirmed to a new degree of accuracy. That's usually the case: Scientists try to disprove Einstein, and Einstein always wins. But that's not to say the man was infallible. He was human, just like the rest of us, and did make some mistakes. Here's a few of them. 1) The cosmological constant When he was crafting his theory of gravity, general re...

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2018-07-11 11:32:06

First Americans: Gault Projectiles Point To Earlier Presence  

Amid a growing number of finds that challenge the long-held timeline of the peopling of the Americas, researchers get to the point: Artifacts found at a site in Texas, including projectile points of a previously unknown style, are at least 16,000 years old, pre-dating the conventional arrival date of First Americans. For decades, the Clovis culture loomed large in theories about when the First Americans arrived to the New World. Named for a town in New Mexico where the first artifacts w...

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2018-07-11 10:30:10

Were Hominins In China 2.1 Million Years Ago?  

Nearly a hundred stone tools excavated from multiple layers at a site in China point to hominins — our ancestors and closest kin — being in East Asia about 2.1 million years ago. The find is the oldest evidence of hominins outside of Africa by more than 200,000 years and begs the question: what species made them? Hominins are those species in the greater primate family tree that are more closely related to us than to other apes. That includes members of our own genus, Homo: Neandert...

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2018-07-11 07:53:56

What Sparks Hot Streaks For Artists And Athletes?  

Francis Ford Coppola, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg: all directors who've had a string of successes in their careers. Hot streaks like these stretch beyond the realm of movie directors, though. Athletes, gamblers, musicians — the list could go on. Regardless of your niche, what's going on that spurs these back-to-back wins? And when are they most likely to strike? To try and find out, an international group of researchers looked at the careers of approximately 3,500 artists...

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2018-07-11 01:16:18

A Baby's Cries Predict Their Future Voice  

By his baby bawls, we may know the next James Earl Jones. According to a team of scientists from the United Kingdom and France, babies' cries may accurately predict their voice pitch later in life. This, researchers say, is an indication that your golden pipes were tuned long before puberty, potentially even in the womb. What we do with this information is unclear, but their finding is certainly worthy of adding to the your-body-is-a-fortune-teller collection. You know the classics:...

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2018-07-10 13:53:35

Using Sunlight To Make Spaceship Fuel And Breathable Air  

Spaceflight is like backpacking. If you can't restock supplies like food and water along the way, how far you can travel is limited by how much you can carry. And in space, you also have to worry about having enough fuel for your spacecraft and breathable air for your crew. That's why some researchers are looking toward technology that they call artificial photosynthesis -- a way of harnessing the sun's light to generate fuel and breathable air for longer missions. This system would m...

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2018-07-10 11:57:25

Counting Down Thunder: How Far Away Was That Lightning?  

A version of this article originally appeared on The Conversation. You probably do it. It might be ingrained from when you were a kid, and now it's almost automatic. You see the flash of lightning - and you immediately start counting the seconds till it thunders. But does counting really get you a good estimate for how far away the lightning is? Is this one of those old wives' tales, or is it actually based on science? In this case, we have physics to thank for this quick and eas...

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2018-07-10 06:31:47

Astronomers Discover the Brightest Early Galaxy Ever  

The early universe is a mystery. It's quite literally surrounded by a veil that obscures its distant, early light. But a new glimmer through that void could give us a glimpse into this mysterious era. Two papers released in the Astrophysical Journal (first paper, second paper) detail the discovery of a quasar dubbed PSO J352.4034-15.3373, or P352-15 for short. Quasars are the active centers of large galaxies where supermassive black holes shoot out jets of gas. The image is faint, but sho

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2018-07-09 10:17:04

Chimps Can't Tell Us Much About Being Human  

Do we gain insight by comparing President Trump to a chimpanzee? Can we learn something useful about gender-based violence among humans by studying other primates? Can observing chimpanzees or bonobos tell us why humans go to war or how we can get along better? The urge to try and find the animal "roots" for human behavior is enticing because humans are animals. We are mammals, primates and hominoids (the superfamily of apes). Due to these realities, we share more of our evolutionary...

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2018-07-09 06:18:40

Ingentia Prima: A Dinosaur Making It Big On Its Own Terms  

Before their lineage reached its pinnacle, pun intended, with enormous, aptly named titanosaurs, the sauropodomorph dinosaurs — best known as those long-necked, whip-tailed, four-legged herbivores — started small. The sheer size of the later behemoths of the Jurassic and Cretaceous worlds have made many of us puny humans wonder how they got so big. Paleontologists thought they had it figured out. But new Triassic fossils from Argentina say hang on, there is more than one way to go big...

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2018-07-09 02:05:05

Scientific Self-Correction on Small Talk and Happiness  

Does idle chat and unhappiness go together? Eight years ago, a study was published (Mehl et al. 2010) suggesting that they do. The authors reported that "Well-Being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations", triggering many alarming headlines. Now, however, the same researchers have carried out a much larger study and have failed to confirm the chat-unhappiness association. The new paper is published in Psychological Science, the same journal where the ori

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2018-07-08 02:39:52

How To Suppress Appetite With A Single Hormone  

Experiments on a neural circuit hidden within a mysterious part of the brain may have revealed new ways to control hunger, a new study finds. Given the vital role that food plays in survival, it's not surprising that scientists have previously discovered many brain regions linked with eating. For example, hunger can trigger the release of the hormone ghrelin, which can in turn trigger neurons that stimulate feeding. However, so far efforts to control feeding and unhealthy eating behavi

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2018-07-06 19:32:57

Scientists Stage Battles Between Bats And Moths  

Scientists staged dogfights between moths and bats — and experimentally altered the moths' wings — to recreate evolution and shed light on the sonic illusions moths spin to evade bats. For more than 60 million years, bats and moths have engaged in an evolutionary arms race across the night sky. Bats hunt their insect prey using ultrasonic sonar, while the insects counter these predators with numerous elaborate strategies, including aerial acrobatics, sonar jamming and sonic decoys. ...

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2018-07-06 04:16:55

Hunting For The Lost Dogs of the Americas  

Their skeletal remains curled into sleep-like positions familiar to any dog owner, the 10,000-year-old canines found at a site in Illinois are the earliest known dogs of the Americas. Ever since they were unearthed nearly a half-century ago, the animals have been at the heart of a debate: Were the dogs of the New World descended from Eurasian wolves and then brought here by humans, or were they locally domesticated from American wolves? New genetic research answers that question — and r...

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2018-07-06 04:15:54

Astronomers Watch The Birth Of An Alien Planet  

For decades, astronomers have thought that planets form out of the rotating disks of debris that encircle most newly formed stars. Within these so-called protoplanetary disks — which can be up to 1,000 astronomical units wide (1 AU is the average Earth-Sun distance of 93 million miles) — particles of gas and dust clump together over time, slowly but surely forming larger bodies that may eventually reach planetary status. However, despite years of searching, astronomers have so-far failed...

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2018-07-05 09:42:27

Trendy Keto Diet Could Help With Some Cancer Treatments  

In recent years, scientists have developed drugs can help shrink cancerous tumors. Several of these target P13K, an enzyme involved in cellular growth that is known to contribute to causing cancers. But the anti-cancer drugs that target P13K don't work as well as scientists had hoped. The problem is that the drugs also cause a spike in insulin, which helps tumors grow. The spike could compromise the effectiveness of the cancer therapies. One solution is to supplement a patient's c...

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2018-07-05 05:29:47

Rhino IVF Could Resurrect Earth's Most Endangered Mammal  

The Northern White Rhino is basically extinct — just two living females remain — yet scientists announced Wednesday that they've found a way to bring the species back from the brink. In a paper published July 4 in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of researchers say they've created a first-ever hybrid rhino embryo outside the womb. The scientists extracted a kind of egg cells called oocytes from the closely-related female Southern White Rhinos. Then the...

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2018-07-05 05:06:37

The Toddler Who Climbed: Hominin Foot Unique In Evolution  

At some point in the last 4 million or so years, our hominin ancestors climbed down from the trees and got grounded. The transition between arboreal and terrestrial was, like just about everything in evolution, gradual. For decades researchers have debated, often heatedly, which hominin species was the first to be fully bipedal, walking and running rather than climbing. Today, great answers come in small packages: A rare, mostly-complete juvenile hominin foot reveals new and unprecedented

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2018-07-05 05:01:12

Making Outer Space Smell Like Fresh Cut Grass  

Nina Lanza expected Antarctica to be cold. After all, she and her seven fellow meteorite hunters weren't allowed to board their transport in New Zealand until they'd proved they'd packed all the necessary gear. And she'd been warned about the endless daylight at their location smack dab in between McMurdo Station and the South Pole. But, as she says, "People try to tell you what it's like, but it's hard to describe because it's so different from your everyday life." ...

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2018-07-05 03:44:22

Red, White and Blue Crabs: These Tree-Climbing, Bird-Killing Crabs Come in Multiple Colors and No One Knows Why  

Coconut crabs (Birgus latro) are gigantic land-dwelling crabs found on islands throughout the Indo-Pacific. They can live for decades, and can grow to be more than 3 feet wide (legs outstretched) and weigh in at more than 6 pounds. So that name isn't because they're the size of a coconut—it's because they can actually tear open coconuts to eat their tender meat. "If a coconut falls out of a tree, they'll clamp onto it on the top and then drag it back to their husking ground," expl...

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2018-07-04 06:09:21

Testosterone Makes Men Want Fancy Stuff  

Fellas, has that Armani suit been calling your name lately? Maybe it's because you've got some extra testosterone coursing through your system. A new study in the journal Nature Communications found that higher levels of the hormone impact men's preference for high-end products. An international team of scientists worked with a group of over 240 men; half of them got an injection of testosterone gel while the other half got a placebo gel. The team later showed the participants d...

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2018-07-04 05:07:40

Scientists Find Genetic Causes of Loneliness  

"No man is an island," noted English poet John Donne, but now a new study of nearly a half-million people find there may be genetic roots to loneliness. These findings also show that some genetic variations are linked to social activities like going to the pub. The results were published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. Previous research has already shown that loneliness is more than just a state of mind. It's strongly linked with an increase in all causes of death, on a l

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2018-07-04 03:12:18

An "Unholy" River Protects The Last Of These Rare Crocs  

Dead gharials began washing up on the banks of India's Chambal River in December 2007. Over the following weeks, the body count grew. By mid-January, the dead reptiles—some the length of two tall men, lined up end to end—numbered in the dozens. By March, more than 110 of the skinny-snouted creatures had been found dead, most along a 30-kilometer (18-mile) stretch of river. At the time, there were thought to be just 200 to 250 breeding-age gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) left in the ...

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2018-07-04 01:15:03

What Is Preregistration For?  

A paper in Psychological Science was taking a beating on Twitter last month. In this post, I'm not going to talk about the paper itself but rather, about how it came to be published and how preregistration - a concept I have long advocated - may be being misused. The paper reports on five studies which all address the same general question. Of these, Study #3 was preregistered and the authors write that it was performed after

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2018-07-03 10:04:54

Wannabe Space Pilgrims Test What Makes A Celestial Nation  

When Igor Ashurbeyli walked onstage to be inaugurated Asgardia's head of state, it was a few small steps for the Russian scientist and businessman, and one dubious leap for the world's first "space nation." The national anthem that preceded him fills the mind with scenes of an epic, pioneering future, and that's just what Ashurbeyli envisions. Our descendants take up residence in "space arks" with artificial gravity, a fleet of ships defends earthlings from asteroids and oth...

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2018-07-03 07:55:37

The Handeloh Happening: Psychedelic Poisoning  

In 2015, in a small town in Germany called Handeloh, a group of 29 men and women were rushed to hospital after displaying strange and sometimes violent behaviours along with other symptoms including vomiting and seizures. The victims were all attendees at a seminar on spiritual healing called 'Die sieben Quellen' - "The Seven Springs". The patients all survived, although a number were seriously ill. The organizer of seminar, a psychotherapist, admitted to police that he had given the attendee

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2018-07-02 20:29:39

The Earliest Horse Dentist Was Just...Sawful  

Out on the Mongolian steppe, where the horse remains the primary mode of transport, modern herders regularly remove certain teeth from yearlings to avoid potential problems. The herders typically use pliers or screwdrivers for the task. If that makes you squirm, you might want to stop reading — because archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of horse dentistry, and it's even more cringe-inducing. If you're not too squeamish, however, read on, because researchers discovered not ...

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2018-07-02 16:50:56

NASA Spacecraft Gets Breathtakingly Close to Dwarf Planet  

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has entered its nearest orbit ever to the dwarf planet Ceres, an icy body in the asteroid belt left over from the formation of the solar system. And Dawn is already turning up stunning results. The latest images sent back by the spacecraft were captured just 22 miles above a site called Occator Crater. Before June, Dawn was orbiting hundreds of miles over the surface. This bright region first stood out to astronomers when Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015. While much ...

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2018-07-02 06:54:44

The Silkworm Road: How A Moth Became An Economic Powerhouse  

The Silk Road moved more than silk. Spices, grain, livestock and a thousand other items were on offer along the loose network of roads and maritime routes that also played a central role in the movement of religious and cultural ideas across the ancient and medieval worlds. But we don't call it the Spice Road, or the Grain Road. While the term "Silk Road" is a 19th century invention, it reflects the importance of the silkworm that produces the raw material for what's arguably the most famous

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2018-07-02 04:30:47

Butterflies Really Seem To Like Drinking Cougar Pee  

The sight of dozens of butterflies congregated in one spot might be beautiful, but if you know what they're actually doing, you might not want to get too close. When butterflies get together like this, it's usually to slurp up some nutritional goodies from an unexpected source—like, oh I don't know, animal pee. This behavior is often called "puddling" or "mudding", though the insects don't just suck on damp earth. To get missing nutrients like sodium which aren't common in the nectars...

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2018-06-30 13:34:05

A Farewell to Arms  

Hello friends! After 8 years and 679 posts, the time has come for me to wrap up this blog. Most cephalopods don't live more than a year or two, so I've been very lucky. I started Inkfish when I was working as a magazine editor; I wanted an outlet to share scientific stories that excited me with my friends and family, and maybe—I hoped—some other readers. Later I moved from good old Blogspot to the blog network Field of Science, and finally to Discover. I wrote about many weird an...

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2018-06-29 03:18:52

The First Dog: Genes Reveal Behavior Came First  

Who's a good dog? The very first dogs, apparently, as a new genetic study reveals the sequence of events, begun thousands of years ago, that morphed wild wolves into (eventually) couchwarmers and ball catchers. If you wrote a book about animal domestication, the story of turning wolves into dogs would arguably deserve the biggest chapter. For starters, all archaeological and genetic evidence suggests dogs were the first domesticated animals, and the only ones before the advent of agricu

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2018-06-27 19:15:33

As a heat wave builds, dozens of wildfires are burning across nearly a half million acres of the U.S.  

As I'm writing this Wednesday, June 27, 51 large, active wildfires are burning on more than 450,000 acres in the United States, most of them in western states and Alaska. That's an area more than twice the size of New York City. Overall, 2.2 million U.S. acres have already been scorched in just the first half of the year. That's approaching the long-term average for an entire year. (For the latest statistics on large U.S. wildfires, go here.) The animation above shows smoke from seve...

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2018-06-27 17:08:22

Mandatory Labels Lessened Vermont's Fear Of GMOs  

Scientists and food companies have long worried that GMO labels on food will be viewed like the warnings on cigarettes and alcohol — an admission that the product is unhealthy. Many anti-GMO advocates — beyond pushing for transparency — thought labels might hurt sales and force corporations to back off genetically engineered foods. It turns out, in Vermont at least, they were both wrong. Vermont is the only U.S. state with a mandatory labeling policy, which went into effect in...

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2018-06-27 10:15:53

Becoming Fearless: Study Finds Major Changes to Domesticated Bunny Brains  

The process of domestication fundamentally changes an animal's looks and behavior. Floppier ears and a loss of fear of humans, for example, are nearly universal in domesticated species. Now, researchers have learned what domestication looks  like in the brain—at least, for rabbits.  It's not exactly clear when rabbits were converted from one of nature's most skittish animals into the soft, snuggly buddies so often chosen as class pets. But somehow, selective breeding led to bunnie...

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2018-06-27 05:15:36

Climatic yin and yang: from the coldest places on Earth to a spot that just set an astonishing new heat record  

We've now got new insight into just how extreme conditions on our planet can get — at opposite ends of the thermometer. In a new study, a team of researchers has found that some sites in Antarctica get as cold as minus 98 degrees Celsius. That's 144 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale! According to the scientists, led by Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this is about as cold as it is possible to get at Earth's surface. Meanwhile, meteorologist Je...

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2018-06-27 02:42:19

How To Hunt Like A Neanderthal  

Our hominin family tree includes plenty of meat-eaters, going back a couple million years at least — this is not news. But it's one thing to find evidence of animals that were butchered and consumed by our ancestors and closest kin. It's another to figure out how they got their groceries. Deer bones excavated from a site in Germany and dated to 120,000 years ago are the earliest clear evidence of how our evolutionary siblings, the Neanderthals, hunted. To be clear, European excava...

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2018-06-25 12:20:07

Is Public Engagement A Duty for Scientists?  

Do scientists have a responsibility to make their work accessible to the public? "Public Engagement", broadly speaking, means scientists communicating about science to non-scientists. Blogs are a form of public engagement, as are (non-academic) books. Holding public talks or giving interviews would also count as such. Recently, it has become fashionable to say that it is important for scientists to engage the public, and that this engagement should be encouraged. I agree completely

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2018-06-24 16:36:53

Psychology, Neuroscience: Lacking in Individuality?  

In research on people, scientists are typically interested in the group data - the mean, median, and variance of a sample of people. But according to a provocative new paper out in PNAS, the statistics of a group can obscure the variability within individuals, over time. The paper, from Aaron J. Fisher, John D. Medaglia, and Bertus F. Jeronimus, isn't really making a new point. The pitfalls of generalizing from the group to the individual level have long been known - but these issues

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2018-06-23 09:59:54

First Ancient Syphilis Genomes Reveal New History Of The Disease  

The bacterium Treponema pallidum is a nasty critter. It can lead to a number of conditions, collectively called treponemal diseases, that you definitely don't want to have. They include syphilis, a typically sexually transmitted disease that still infects millions annually. The origins of the disease have long been the subject of controversy, attempts to find its roots hampered by a lack of ancient genetic material. Today, researchers announce the first successful reconstruction of a...

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2018-06-22 04:16:58

This Video Game Lets You Explore Mars' Actual Surface  

Alan Chan grew up thinking humans would be living in space and exploring Mars by now. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Instead, he decided to explore space on his own by creating a video game that allows people to drive around the Red Planet's actual terrain in a souped-up rover. "Red Rover," a new video game, recreates Mars' surface using satellite and terrain data from NASA's HiRISE Mars orbiter. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) has a lens that's ph...

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2018-06-22 03:52:53

China's Done Recycling Our Plastics. Where Do We Put 250 Billion Pounds Of Waste?  

The world is truly awful at recycling. Less than 10 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled — the rest goes to landfills and litter. And of that sliver of plastic that we do recycle, about half of it is shipped from wealthy nations to developing ones — especially China. Together with Hong Kong, China has imported nearly three-quarters of all global plastic waste in recent decades. And that's how we ended up in this current mess. End Of Recycling Last year, China...

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2018-06-22 01:50:13

A Lot Of Dinosaurs Couldn't Stick Out Their Tongues  

When it comes to fleshing out dinosaurs, so to speak, based on their nearest living relatives, paleontologists can look to birds or the crocodilians. But a new study says depicting most dinosaur tongues like those of birds with particularly mobile mouthpieces, well, that's just a crock. Tongues aren't much more than a hunk of mouth muscle without the hyoid apparatus, a group of bones that varies significantly between species and provides your mouthmeat with both an anchor and a kind o...

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2018-06-21 02:06:42

Blood At A Crime Scene Can Reveal Age of Suspect or Victim  

There's a significant gap between the information that real-world forensics teams can glean from a crime scene and what turns up in glamorized tv shows such as "CSI." Today, however, that gap gets a little smaller: Researchers reveal it's possible to determine the age of the person based on their blood. Let's face it, as impressive as forensic DNA analysis is, it takes weeks or even months to process and even then can't tell investigators everything about an individual. Other methods o...

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2018-06-20 07:11:27

Dating Do-Over For Anzick-1, Famous First Americans Burial  

He is arguably the most famous ancient American baby: an infant First American whose partial remains were found 50 years ago on a Montana ranch. But while Anzick-1, as the child is known, changed our understanding of the human history of the Americas, critics have complained the dates around the burial are messy, and throw the significance of the site into question. Today, researchers announce the results of a second look at the dating discrepancy that's caused controversy over the famou...

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2018-06-18 14:03:20

Last month was the fourth warmest May on record, two reports out today agree  

In their monthly climate reports released today, both NASA and NOAA agree that last month was fourth warmest among all Mays dating back to 1800. This means that the period 2014 through 2018 has brought the five warmest Mays in 138 years of record-keeping, according to NOAA's report. The warmest was May 2016. "May 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive May and the 401st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average," according to NOAA. ...

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2018-06-18 12:38:36

Dazzling satellite video reveals lightning dancing inside a mega-complex of thunderstorms  

As a giant complex of thunderstorms blew across Iowa and into Illinois and Missouri on June 14, the GOES-16 weather satellite was watching — and mapping the crackling lightning discharges. The result is the video above, originally posted to the terrific GOES-16 Loop of the Day site. I found it so compelling that I wanted to share it here at ImaGeo. You're looking at a "mesoscale convective system" — a group of thunderstorms that organize into a large complex. And this MCS is in...

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2018-06-18 11:38:43

22,000-year-old Panda Skull Shows New Family Line  

When Qiaomei Fu got her hands on a 22,000-year-old panda skull in 2014, she was both surprised and elated. An expert in paleogenomics, Fu had done most of her past work on the DNA of ancient humans, but she has a personal interest in pandas. Now, in 2018, she and her team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences are the first to have sequenced the entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome of an ancient giant panda. The work is outlined in Current Biology. The skull was discovered by her collea

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2018-06-18 01:41:19

Ayahuasca, the Psychedelic Antidepressant?  

A traditional Amazonian psychedelic brew is an effective and rapid-acting antidepressant, according to a paper just published. But the new study revives some long-standing questions. Ayahuasca is a mixture of herbs, traditionally used for spiritual and therapeutic purposes. The main active ingredients are N,N-DMT, a potent psychedelic, and several molecules that inhibit the enzyme MAO. The MAO inhibitors serve to prevent the N,N-DMT from being broken down by the digestive system, allowing

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2018-06-17 03:20:01

What Does God Look Like?  

What would you say if you saw this stranger on a bus? Well, if you're Christian, you might say he's God. Psychologists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 511 Christians in the U.S. and, based on the participants' combined perceptions, this is roughly what they thought God should look like. The team, led by Joshua Conrad Jackson, showed the volunteers 300 pairs of random faces. For each pair, people were instructed to flag the face they thought look...

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2018-06-16 04:44:34

To Avoid Humans, More Wildlife Now Work the Night Shift  

For their first 100 million years on planet Earth, our mammal ancestors relied on the cover of darkness to escape their dinosaur predators and competitors. Only after the meteor-induced mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago could these nocturnal mammals explore the many wondrous opportunities available in the light of day. Fast forward to the present, and the honeymoon in the sun may be over for mammals. They're increasingly returning to the protection of night to avoid the ...

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2018-06-15 13:05:29

El Niño is gestating in the Pacific, possibly heralding warmer global temps and extreme weather in 2019  

While 2019 is still a long way off, we've now got some strong hints that the coming year could bring even warmer global temperatures, plus droughts in some regions, and floods in others. These climatic and weather effects would come from an El Niño that seems to be gestating in the tropical Pacific. A warming of tropical Pacific waters beneath the surface, along with the output of computer and statistical modeling, have prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to ...

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2018-06-15 10:28:01

How Can a Baby Have 3 Parents?  

It seems impossible, right? We have been taught from the time we were young that babies are made when a sperm and an egg come together, and the DNA from these two cells combine to make a unique individual with half the DNA from the mother and half from the father. So how can there be a third person involved in this process? To understand the idea of three-parent babies, we have to talk about DNA. Most people are familiar with the double helix-style DNA which make up the 23 pairs of chromo

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2018-06-15 08:20:55

Earliest Rainforest Frogs Preserved in Amber  

Frogs in a rainforest? Sure, rainforests are home to tons of them. Nothing new there — except that researchers just found four, preserved in amber and nearly 100 million years old, that suggest frogs have been hanging out in that environment much longer than previously shown. Anura, the amphibian order that includes frogs and toads, has been around for at least 200 million years. But the frog fossil record is spotty, and the earliest examples of the animals appear to have lived in ...

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2018-06-14 12:12:15

The Milky Way Just Got Larger  

Despite residing in it, it's hard for us to know exactly how big the Milky Way is. But new research has found that our galaxy is bigger than previously thought. Using a large survey of stars instead of just models (as previous researchers did), astronomers have now determined the disk of our galaxy to be 200,000 light-years across — twice as large as was believed a decade ago. Astronomers know the Milky Way to be a spiral galaxy with a flat central disk composed of spiraling arms and ...

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2018-06-14 08:34:08

Astronomers Catch Black Hole Devouring Star  

Astronomers Seppo Mattila and Miguel Perez-Torres usually study the natural deaths of stars, but they weren't going to pass up the chance to investigate a stellar murder. A new paper in Science describes how they nabbed photographic evidence that a supermassive black hole in a relatively nearby galaxy tore apart and consumed part of a star in a phenomenon called a tidal disruption event (TDE), spewing jets of material in the process. Scientists have observed these cosmic crime scenes ...

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2018-06-14 07:16:25

Watch a Magnetic Material Skitter Around  

We're around magnets so much, it's easy to forget they're kind of magic. Not only do magnets make for fun toys, they can attract or repel objects from a distance through an invisible force, they can create electricity (and vice versa) and they can make cool new tools and materials possible. A team of mechanical engineers from MIT and the New Jersey Institute of Technology has gone down that last path, publishing in Nature today a new method of producing soft, programmable materials...

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2018-06-13 16:55:29

Sobering Finds in Most Comprehensive Study Ever on Antarctic Ice Loss  

Some 3 trillion tons of ice has melted from Antarctica since 1992, and there's not much time to change course. That's according to a sweeping group of studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature that looks at the past, present and future of Antarctic ice sheets. Scientists are calling it the most complete picture ever of ice loss on the southern continent. "Scientists are really speaking with one voice and we hope that it will help the public understand the problem," says...

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2018-06-13 14:46:56

Dirt Could Help Fight Superbugs  

About 23,000 Americans die each year due to a bacterial infection resistant to antibiotics. Since 2010, the number of children who have become resistant has increased sevenfold. In recent years, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics led to the superbug phenomenon, in which bacteria that cause illness and disease become resistant to medicines. That makes it harder to treat conditions like pneumonia and food-related illnesses. Now, a group of researchers are looking for the next antibiot

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2018-06-13 09:06:19

Faster Rewards Mean More Motivation  

It's just after lunch. You've got an assignment due soon, but you're sleepy and would rather mindlessly browse the internet. How will you find the motivation to get going and actually finish the thing? A new study suggests getting a reward for your work sooner rather than later can help boost your interest in and enjoyment of the task at hand. The paper, published in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, consists of a series of experiments. They wer...

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2018-06-13 01:10:34

When Does Hungry Become Hangry?  

Have you ever been grumpy, only to realize that you're hungry? Many people feel more irritable, annoyed, or negative when hungry - an experience colloquially called being "hangry." The idea that hunger affects our feelings and behaviors is widespread - from advertisements to memes and merchandise. But surprisingly little research investigates how feeling hungry transforms into feeling hangry. Psychologists have traditionally thought of hunger and emotions as separate, with hu...

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2018-06-12 11:32:17

Nearly two decades of revealing satellite images now available at your fingertips  

Bear witness to the changing face of our planet using an easy-to-use tool for accessing a trove of satellite data The longest continuous daily satellite observation record of Earth ever compiled is now available for all of us to peruse. All you need is access to a computer. Multiple instruments aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively, have kept close watch on the virtually the entire planet for nearly 20 years. Now, for the first time, the en...

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2018-06-10 13:45:07

"The Love of Neuroscience" and the Neuroscience of Love  

There is a growing research literature on the 'Neuroscience of Love'. But what exactly is this 'love' that is being studied? Sociologist Gabriel Abend asks these questions in a new paper called The Love of Neuroscience published in Sociological Theory. Last year I discussed one of Abend's previous papers which asked more general questions about how neuroscientists define the objects they study. In the new paper, Abend looks specifically at 'love' and how this word has been understood

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2018-06-09 07:52:57

Carbon dioxide at highest level ever directly measured  

Rather than declining, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rising thanks to continuing growth in emissions of the climate-altering gas The Paris Agreement was intended to turn the world onto a new path, one that would limit the risks and impacts from climate change through lowered emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But according to the latest indication, we're still on the old path. In May, CO2 levels in the atmosphere exceeded 411 parts per million, as meas...

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2018-06-08 03:12:37

Real 'Westworld' Haptic Vests Better Than Fiction  

Most of the HBO show "Westworld" focuses on artificial intelligence and android robots that seem indistinguishable from humans. But the show has also occasionally snuck in some real-world technology that seems futuristic enough to blend in with the science fiction setting. One example of such real technology in "Westworld" comes in the form of haptic vests that made their debut in the show's second season. Freeze all motor functions and turn back now if you want to avoid spoilers abou...

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2018-06-08 01:40:21

'Westworld' Science Advisor Talks Brains and AI  

One of many hats that neuroscientist David Eagleman wears in real life is science advisor for HBO's science fiction show "Westworld." The show takes place in a futuristic theme park staffed by robotic hosts who seemingly exist only to fulfill the dark and violent fantasies of wealthy human guests who want to indulge adventure and vice in a Western-style playground for adults. But as the show hints from the very first episode, the robotic hosts are not necessarily content to remain subservi...

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2018-06-08 01:19:02

Holy Polar 'Pods, Batman! Tetrapods In The Strangest Places  

An artist's reconstruction of the 360 million-year-old Late Devonian world in which the first known polar tetrapods lived. Tutusius, right, eyes potential prey while Umzantsia, left, dives deeper into the brackish estuary the animals called home. All animals and plants shown have been found as fossils at the same South African site. (Credit: Maggie Newman) Hey, tetrapod! Yeah, I'm talking to you. There's a big update to the story of the earliest tetrapods — the first four-limbed vertebrat...

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2018-06-07 20:12:12

Human Cancer Treatment Helps Sea Turtles  

Hard shells. Tails. Flippers. Sea turtles differ from humans in many ways, but scientists recently discovered a genetic vulnerability shared by humans and these marine dwelling animals. Wild animals are increasingly seeing new forms of disease emerge, further threatening vulnerable species like the sea turtle. And now it's hit our flippered, shelly friends. First documented in Florida, potentially fatal tumors called fibropapillomatosis are threatening sea turtles worldwide. But a recent

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2018-06-07 10:03:48

Striking imagery shows American Airlines Flight 1897 flying through a hellish storm as it's battered by hail  

Satellite imagery and flight tracking show the plane trying to evade a storm that ultimately destroyed its nose and smashed the windshield After I watched the animation of satellite imagery above a few times, the words "bob and weave" came to me as a way to describe the evasive maneuvers American Airlines Flight 1897 seemed to be taking to avoid the worst parts of vicious thunderstorms that were boiling up everywhere along its flight path. Unfortunately, the twin-engine Airbus 319 c...

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2018-06-07 02:51:21

Google Decides Not to Renew a Military AI Contract  

Google recently bowed to employee protests by deciding to wind down involvement in a U.S. military initiative called Project Maven next year. The Pentagon project focuses on harnessing deep learning algorithms--specialized machine learning technologies often described as "artificial intelligence"--to automatically detect and identify people or objects in military drone surveillance videos. Company emails and internal documents obtained by the New York Times show Google's at...

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2018-06-07 01:16:13

Earliest Pneumonia Case Older Than Dinosaurs  

Researchers have found evidence of pneumonia and a tuberculosis-like infection in a marine reptile, similar to the nothosaur shown here, that lived 245 million years ago. (Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons) One of the oldest diseases to haunt our species — the lung infection known as pneumonia — is actually a lot older. Evidence of pneumonia, and possible tuberculosis, has turned up in a marine reptile that's 245 million years old. Researchers analyzed a fragmentary specimen of...

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2018-06-05 08:21:38

Here's the Answer That Will Finally Settle the "Is Pluto a Planet?" Debate for Good (Yeah, Right)  

I love Pluto. I grew up entranced by this strange little world: What could you be, you rebel that doesn't seem to follow any of the rules? I even wrote a childhood letter to a local astronomer, offering my homespun hypothesis that Pluto might be a captured fragment of an exploded star. When the New Horizons spacecraft finally revealed the true face of Pluto, I was right there at mission control in Langley, Maryland, to watch the images as they came in. So I have a lot of sympathy for th...

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2018-06-05 03:44:17

This Poisonous Frogs' Bright Colors Weirdly Help Camouflage It  

The conspicuous colors of poison frogs are presumed to be a warning. Indeed, vibrant patterns so often signal toxicity that biologists even have a special term for them: aposematic coloration. But, weird as it might sound, new research suggests that radiant skin patterns might help these frogs stay hidden, too. Poison frogs are armed with some of the planet's most potent toxins. The most deadly is the golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis)—one frog's worth of toxin is roughl...

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2018-06-04 07:15:18

NASA Hacked a Fix For Mars Rover's Broken Drill  

After suffering more than a year with a broken drill, NASA's 5-year-old Mars rover Curiosity is now collecting and analyzing samples once again. The drill sits at the end of Curiosity's LeBron James-sized robotic arm and is vital for grabbing and dropping dirt into the spacecraft's onboard laboratory. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) put many months of effort into hacking a new way to drill after the rover's tool broke way back in December of 2016. Drill Baby D...

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2018-06-04 07:06:29

How Pluto Formed Its Mysterious Dunes  

When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zipped by Pluto at 31,000 mph in July 2015, it captured a plethora of breathtaking photos of the distant dwarf planet's surface. Within these highly detailed images, researchers noticed what looked to be an extensive system of strange dunes stretching 75 miles along the boundary of Pluto's massive Al-Idrisi Montes mountain range and Sputnik Planitia — a nitrogen-ice plain that forms the left lobe of the planet's famous "heart." "We kn...

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2018-06-04 03:06:07

The Philosophy of Roseanne's Ambien Tweet  

As everyone knows, Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet. She claimed that the sleeping medication Ambien affected her behavior, but her show got cancelled anyway. Now, I think this scandal raises some surprisingly interesting philosophical questions about moral responsibility and the nature of self-control. What follows is a dialogue between two hypothetical speakers exploring some of these questions. To be clear, this is a post about philosophy, not about Roseanne. I don't know or care if

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2018-06-02 10:20:13

State-of-the-art NOAA-20 satellite is operational, promising better weather forecasts  

Check out this imagery from the next generation, polar-orbiting NOAA-20 spacecraft, which also heralds improved environmental monitoring A constellation of satellites that monitor the vital signs of our planet just got a new, official member: the next-generation NOAA-20 satellite. It was declared fully operational yesterday after undergoing months of rigorous testing. Launched last November as part of NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System, NOAA-20 is designed to observe Earth's atmos...

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2018-06-01 04:51:18

Friendly Monkeys Have More Cuddle Buddies  

A kind word or gesture from a friend can give you the warm fuzzies. But a warm, fuzzy friend can give a macaque a better chance of surviving the winter. After following dozens of macaques through snowy woods for months, scientists found that friendlier monkeys earned themselves more cuddle buddies on cold nights. Earlier studies in macaques, baboons and even wild horses have shown that animals who are more social may live longer and have more offspring. In other words, "friends w...

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2018-06-01 04:10:58

Take A Look At This Wee Spinosaurus Fossil!  

Big paleontological news can come in teensy packages, as shown by a new study on a fragment of a very young Spinosaurus, one of the most fascinating flesh-eating (in this case, fish-eating) dinosaurs. You remember Spinosaurus, right? And I'm not talking about its cheesy guest role in the worst of the Jurassic Park sequels. I'm talking about the animal believed to be the largest carnivorous dinosaur, lost to science in WWII and then rediscovered with a whirl of controversy over whet...

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2018-06-01 02:54:29

Found: The Genes Behind Big Human Brains  

With a new pair of studies on a handful of genes unique to the genus Homo, researchers took a big step toward solving one of the most important questions about our evolution — why and how human brains got so big. Understanding why the Homo brain became significantly larger than the gray matter of any other primate has been a dominant question in the field ever since we first turned our big human brains toward the topic of evolution. In just the last week, separate teams of r...

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2018-05-31 10:38:53

New closeup video shows flares sputtering and gargantuan glowing loops dancing at the Sun's surface  

Although the Sun is in a singularly serene state right now, that doesn't mean it's asleep. The video above is proof of that. Captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, it shows an active region on the Sun's surface rotating into view between May 23 and 25. Here's how NASA describes what we're looking at: An active region rotated into view and sputtered with numerous small flares and towering magnetic field lines that stretched out many times the diameter of Earth . . . Ac...

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2018-05-30 05:54:55

What Would an Alien Language Sound Like?  

Projects like SETI and Breakthrough Listen are dedicated to spotting the signals extraterrestrials may be sending out into the universe. But there's an additional side to the story — if E.T. did contact us, would we even be able to understand him? That was the topic of a recent gathering of linguists that took place in Los Angeles, California, over the Memorial Day weekend. The daylong workshop, "Language in the Cosmos," was organized by METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence)...

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2018-05-30 04:50:55

Cloud porn: Watch as a swirl of clouds materializes into a beautiful, nearly perfect circle  

A striking circle of clouds with a bullseye center is seen over Asia in a high-resolution satellite image, and an animation of multiple images We're accustomed to seeing satellite images of clouds organized in big swirly circles. They are, of course, called cyclones. And, in fact, as I'm writing this post, one of these — Subtropical Depression Alberto — is looking quite impressive in all its swirly glory as it spins over Alabama. But until I spotted the satellite image above in ...

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2018-05-29 15:13:57

No Eyes? No Problem. Sea Urchins See with Their Feet  

Threaten a sea urchin, and you may see it point its spines at you. This defensive response is pretty unremarkable—except for the fact that, if you look closer, you will not see the sea urchin's eyes. It doesn't have any. Sea urchins are the only animals that have vision despite "conspicuously lacking eyes," write Dan-Eric Nilsson, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden who studies animal vision, and his colleagues. In a new study, the researchers gave the spiny sea creatures a...

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2018-05-29 05:42:26

Power Doesn't Cause Brain Damage  

An Atlantic article from July 2017 has been widely discussed on Twitter over the past few days. It's called Power Causes Brain Damage and I remember that it was fairly popular at the time of publication. Its recent revival was prompted I think by Harvey Weinstein's arrest and more generally the abuses of power revealed by the #MeToo movement. The article itself, of course, dating to the pre-Fall of Weinstein era, isn't specifically about this. In my view, while power is certainly all too

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2018-05-28 18:58:16

665 Days in Space and 47 minutes on TV: A Conversation with NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson  

Life is all about bubbles. Every cell in your body is a bubble, a membrane holding together a miniature world of organelles, ribosomes, and genetic material. Your body itself is another bubble, a skin wrapped around a wet, salty interior that carries a distant memory of the oceans in which our ancestors lived hundreds of millions of years ago. And our entire planet is a bubble, a thin membrane of oxygen-rich air wrapped around a spinning rock warmed by a nearby Sun. Being able to perceive

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2018-05-28 08:07:26

Your Weekly Attenborough: Epeolus attenboroughi  

When I watch Planet Earth, what often comes to mind is the power of framing. As the program jumps from species to species, I find myself siding with whichever creature currently holds the spotlight. I remember cringing as a horde of snakes overcame a newly hatched iguana in the Galapagos, and then cheering as a Komodo dragon tore limbs from its prey in Indonesia, all within the span of 20 minutes. To veer so suddenly from abhorring violence to rooting for it wholesale feels a bit h...

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2018-05-25 01:43:31

Dinosaur Doom Almost Wiped Birds Out, Too  

It's the most common caveat you'll hear about the End-Cretaceous mass extinction: It wiped out the dinosaurs, except for birds which are, you know, dinosaurs. A new study suggests that the global die-off nearly took birds out as well. About 66 million years ago, a mass extinction offed a huge percentage of life on Earth — about three-quarters of all species that had been going about their business. Researchers still debate whether an asteroid or massive volcanic activity was the ...

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2018-05-24 18:24:05

This Is the Oldest Tree in Europe  

This tree is not dead, despite appearances. It's alive and happy, and it's been clinging to this cliff in southern Italy since the eighth century A.D. Researchers invented a new dating method to figure out that the pine is the oldest known tree in Europe. Gianluca Piovesan of Università della Tuscia in Italy and colleagues spent three years taking samples from trees to try to find some really old ones. On mountain cliffs within Pollino National Park, they found a few trees that seemed...

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2018-05-24 01:33:51

Debunking the Biggest Myths About 'Technology Addiction'  

How concerned should people be about the psychological effects of screen time? Balancing technology use with other aspects of daily life seems reasonable, but there is a lot of conflicting advice about where that balance should be. Much of the discussion is framed around fighting "addiction" to technology. But to me, that resembles a moral panic, giving voice to scary claims based on weak data. For example, in April 2018, television journalist Katie Couric's "America Inside Out"...

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2018-05-23 14:21:40

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