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- Philae lander shows there's more to comets than soft dust
By Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The comet lander Philae may be uncommunicative at the moment, but the pictures and measurements it took after it touched down on a comet in November have shown scientists that the comet is covered with coarse material, rather than dust, and is harder than expected. European scientists celebrated an historic first when Philae landed on a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November after a 10-year journey through space aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. As it landed, Philae bounced and ended up in shadow, where its batteries soon ran out.
- U.S. Air Force closely following SpaceX blast probe: general The U.S. Air Force is involved in and closely following a SpaceX-led investigation into the explosion that destroyed an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket minutes after liftoff from Florida on June 28, a top general said on Friday. Lieutentant General Samuel Greaves, who heads the Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center, did not address those concerns directly.
- Earth's 'magnetic personality' much older than previously thought
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Earth's magnetic field has been a life preserver, protecting against relentless solar winds, streams of charged particles rushing from the Sun, that otherwise could strip away the planet's atmosphere and water. "It would be a pretty barren planet without it," said University of Rochester geophysicist John Tarduno. Researchers on Thursday said evidence entombed in tiny crystals retrieved from the outback of western Australia indicates the magnetic field arose at least 4.2 billion years ago, much earlier than previously believed.
- Saving rhinos in a lab By Ben Gruber San Francisco, California - Matthew Markus, of biotech company Pembient, is holding up a rhinoceros horn worth thousands of dollars on the black market because a poacher had to risk his life to kill an endangered species to obtain it. At least that is what Markus would have you believe. The truth is this horn wasn't cut off a rhino in the African savannah, it was bioengineered in lab in San Francisco. Rhino horns are comprised primarily of keratin, a family of proteins that make up hair and nails.
- When is a jackal not a jackal? When it's really a 'golden wolf'
Scientists said on Thursday a comprehensive genetic analysis found that these populations are made up of two entirely distinct species, with those in Africa different from the others. The scientific name for the golden jackal is Canis aureus. The researchers proposed renaming those in Africa Canis anthus, or the African golden wolf.
- Exercise in Teen Years Tied to Lower Mortality Later During the study, 5,282 of the women died, including 2,375 who died from cancer and 1,620 who died from cardiovascular disease. "In women, adolescent exercise participation, regardless of adult exercise, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and all-cause mortality," study author Sarah J. Nechuta, an assistant professor of medicine Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said in a statement.
- 'Leaky' Vaccines May Fuel Evolution of Deadlier Viruses Some vaccines may cause viruses to evolve into deadlier forms, a new study suggests. The effect has so far been demonstrated with just one bird virus, though it's possible it may also occur with some human vaccines, the researchers said.
- 1 in 5 Adult Americans Report Having a Disability About one in eight adults say they have mobility limitations, such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs, making this the most common type of disability, according to the report. The South had the highest percentages of people with disabilities, according to the report. Although the report did not analyze the reasons for the disparity between states, the South tends to have higher rates of chronic diseases associated with disability, including heart disease and diabetes, than the rest of the country, the CDC said.
- Cheers! 'Blue Moon' Beer Celebrates Lunar Sight for 20th Anniversary
In a coincidence of cosmic proportions, the second full moon of July rises tonight, making it a so-called "Blue Moon" — and Blue Moon Brewing Co. will celebrate its 20th anniversary by painting the town red. A celestial Blue Moon comes around roughly every 2.7 years. Tonight (July 31), a Blue Moon will rise on the same night as Blue Moon Brewing Co. celebrates its 20th anniversary with parties and events at more than 750 locations across the country.
- Blue Moon Full Moon Rises Tonight: What to Expect
There's a "Blue Moon" in the sky tonight — but that doesn't mean the lunar surface will turn indigo. Tonight's (July 31) moon will be a gorgeous sight, but it won't look different than any other full moon. The term Blue Moon has come to refer to the second full moon in a given month (since full moons come around about every 29 days, most months only contain one).
- Scientist: Oil slick likely from natural seafloor seepage
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coast Guard officials say it will likely be a couple more days before they can definitively say what caused a miles-long oil slick to materialize off the Santa Barbara County coast this week, but an expert said Thursday it was more than likely the result of ocean-floor seepage.
- 'Bathtub Rings' On Saturn Moon Titan Suggest Dynamic Seas
Saturn's moon, Titan, is the only object in the solar system other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface. While most of the lakes are found around the poles, the dry regions near the equator contain signs of evaporated material left behind like rings on a bathtub that, when combined with geological features, suggest that the location of the liquids on the moon has shifted over time. "Today, Titan's equatorial region is more like a desert — there is a huge sand sea of these phenomenal linear dunes and no lakes or seas," Shannon MacKenzie, a graduate student in physics at the University of Idaho, told Astrobiology Magazine by email.
- Lost In Space Without a Spacesuit? Here's What Would Happen (Podcast)
Paul Sutter is a research fellow at the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste and visiting scholar at the Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics. Sutter is also host of the podcasts Ask a Spaceman and RealSpace, and the YouTube series Space In Your Face.
- Is Life Possible Around Binary Stars? (Podcast)
Paul Sutter is a research fellow at the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste and visiting scholar at the Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics. Sutter is also host of the podcasts Ask a Spaceman and Realspace, and the YouTube series Space In Your Face. He contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
- Corrected - No new contact with comet lander, scientists say (Corrects surname of DLR scientist in final two paragraphs to Geurts ..not.. Guerts) BERLIN (Reuters) - European scientists said on Wednesday they had once again failed to make contact with the Philae comet lander, which has struggled to maintain a reliable communication link since coming back to life last month. The fridge-sized robotic lab, which landed on a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November in an historic first, last made contact via the Rosetta orbiter on July 9. The lander initially bounced away from its intended landing place upon reaching the comet and settled in the shadows where there was not enough sunlight to power its solar panels.
- 'Trillion-Dollar Asteroid' Zooms by Earth as Scientists Watch (Video)
The near-Earth asteroid is an intriguing candidate for mining, said representatives of the company Planetary Resources, which is hoping to begin these activities in the coming decades. Previous studies by Planetary Resources estimated that 2011 UW158 contains about $5.4 trillion worth of platinum, an element that is rare on Earth. "The problem is, sending [Earth's] water into space is extraordinarily expensive, and even if the launch was free, it takes an incredible amount of energy to shift that stuff around," Planetary Resources president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki said during a Sunday webcast about the "trillion-dollar asteroid" hosted by the Slooh Community Observatory, which provides live broadcasts of celestial events.2011 UW158 is about 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide (600 meters by 300 meters), according to observations made by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
- Scientists identify men who died at Virginia's Jamestown 400 years ago U.S. scientists have used high-tech detective work to identify the remains of four leaders of Jamestown, the New World's first successful English colony, more than 400 years after they died, the Smithsonian Institution said on Tuesday. The research also provided new insight into life and death and the importance of religion in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, about 80 miles (130 km) south of Washington, the Smithsonian said. The men were identified as the Reverend Robert Hunt, Captain Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Captain William West.
- Scientists worry about arms race in artificial intelligence
- One Tough Bite: T. Rex's Teeth Had Secret Weapon
Secret structures hidden within the serrated teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex and other theropods helped the fearsome dinosaurs tear apart their prey without chipping their pearly whites, a new study finds. Researchers looked at the teeth of theropods — a group of bipedal, largely carnivorous dinosaurs that includes T. rex and Velociraptor — to study the mysterious structures that looked like cracks within each tooth. The investigation showed that these structures weren't cracks at all, but deep folds within the tooth that strengthened each individual serration and helped prevent breakage when the dinosaur pierced through its prey, said study lead researcher Kirstin Brink, a postdoctoral researcher of biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
- Scientist: Whale deaths off Alaska island remains mystery
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Researchers may never solve the recent deaths of 18 endangered whales whose carcasses were found floating near Alaska's Kodiak Island, a scientist working on the case said Monday.
- Dark Pion Particles May Explain Universe's Invisible Matter Dark matter is the mysterious stuff that cosmologists think makes up some 85 percent of all the matter in the universe. A new theory says dark matter might resemble a known particle. If true, that would open up a window onto an invisible, dark matter version of physics.
- Scientists control mouse brain by remote control The tiny implant, smaller than the width of a human hair, let the scientists determine the path a mouse walks using a remote control to inject drugs and shine lights on neurons inside the brain. Neuroscientists have until now been limited to injecting drugs through larger tubes and delivering photostimulation through fiber-optic cables, both of which require surgery that can damage the brain and restrict an animal's natural movements. The optofluidic implant developed by the team from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Illinois was found to damage and displace much less brain tissue than the metal tubes, or cannulas, scientists typically use to inject drugs.
- Rotting Fungus Creates Beautiful, Glistening 'Hair Ice'
Alfred Wegener, famous for his continental drift theory, first identified and studied hair ice in 1918. "The same amount of ice is produced on wood with or without fungal activity, but without this activity, the ice forms a crustlike structure," Christian Mätzler, a co-author of the study and professor emeritus at the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Bern in Switzerland, said in a statement. Researchers blamed the century-long delayed explanation for how hair ice grows on its ephemeral nature and northern range — the glimmering threads grow predominately at latitudes between 45 and 55 degrees north through countries including Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Wales.
- Scientists find closest thing yet to Earth-sun twin system
- Fat sense: Scientists show we have a distinct taste for fat
- Scientists pursue specific cause of mystery beach blast PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Scientists trying to figure out the reason why a mysterious beach blast that sent a woman flying into a jetty are now pursuing a specific cause, Rhode Island's top environmental official says, but she isn't disclosing their theory until testing is finished.
- Myth Debunked: Boa Constrictors Don't Suffocate Prey to Death
Boa constrictors are notorious for their deadly grip, squeezing their next meal until it expires. Instead, the boa's tight coils block the rat's blood flow, leading to circulatory arrest. "This is such an efficient behavior, and it allows us to realize that this behavior was really important in snake evolution," said lead researcher Scott Boback, an associate professor of biology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
- Kiwi DNA study reveals bird lost color vision
BERLIN (AP) — Scientists say they have sequenced the genome of the brown kiwi for the first time, revealing that the shy, flightless bird likely lost its ability to see colors after it became nocturnal tens of millions of years ago.
- Claudia Alexander, Beloved NASA Project Scientist, Dies at 56
Claudia Alexander, a beloved NASA project scientist who spearheaded NASA's side of the European Rosetta comet mission and the Galileo mission to Jupiter, has died at age 56. Alexander died after a 10-year battle with breast cancer, according to a NASA statement. Alexander was a well-loved and prolific planetary scientist, science communicator, and even science fiction writer and children's author.
- Accidental Find: Scientists Stumble on Centuries-Old Shipwreck
While searching for a mooring from a previous trip, researchers off the coast of North Carolina discovered a well-preserved shipwreck and artifacts that may date to the American Revolution. "Our accidental find illustrates the rewards — and the challenge and uncertainty — of working in the deep ocean," expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory, said in a statement. The ship is resting in the Atlantic Ocean along the Gulf Stream, a warm current known by mariners who have used the route for centuries to travel to North American ports, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and South America, according to Duke University. As such, several shipwrecks have been found along the route.
- Comet lander falls silent, scientists fear it has moved The Philae comet lander has fallen silent, European scientists said on Monday, raising fears that it has moved again on its new home millions of miles from Earth. The fridge-sized robotic lab, which landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November, last made contact on July 9 and efforts to reach it again have so far failed, experts working for the historic European Space Agency project said. The lander - the first mission to land on a comet, this one traveling as fast as 135,000 kph - initially bounced and landed in a position too shadowy to power its solar panels.
- Astronauts' skin gets thinner in space, scientists say By Matthew Stock A long-awaited human mission to the Red Planet is still a number of years away, with NASA planning their first manned voyage in the 2030s. Of the multitude of obstacles to overcome, the health of the astronauts during such a long period in space is of chief concern. Scientists in Germany are using advanced imaging technology in a bid to understand one unusual phenomenon - why astronauts' skin gets thinner while in space.
- Russian scientists squeezed by sanctions, Kremlin policies
NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia (AP) — Hundreds of Russian scientists say companies abroad are refusing to sell them scientific equipment they need to do their work and Western publications are curtly turning down their research papers.
- Scientists puzzle over Pluto's polygons
By Irene Klotz NEW YORK (Reuters) - New pictures relayed by the first spacecraft to visit distant Pluto show odd polygon-shaped features and smooth hills in an crater-free plain, indications that the icy world is geologically active, New Horizons scientists said on Friday. “We had no idea that Pluto would have a geologically young surface,” said lead researcher Alan Stern, with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s a wonderful surprise.” The goal of the $720 million New Horizons mission is to map the surfaces of Pluto and its primary moon Charon, assess what materials they contain and study Pluto’s atmosphere.
- NASA scientist Claudia Alexander, last Galileo project manager, dies at 56 NASA scientist Claudia Alexander, who was a project manager for the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter and worked on the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet chaser, has died at age 56. Alexander died on July 11 after a 10-year battle with breast cancer, NASA said on its website this week.
- Renowned scientist who helped lead mission to Jupiter dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Claudia Alexander, a brilliant, pioneering scientist who helped direct NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter and the international Rosetta space-exploration project, has died at age 56.
- Research: Polar bears can't conserve energy during fasting
- Aiyeeeee! Human screams jolt brain's fear-response center
Researchers who explored how the brain handles a scream said on Thursday the loud, high-pitched sound targets a deep brain structure called the amygdala that plays a major role in danger processing and fear learning. "We knew pretty well what frequencies are used by speech signals and the brain regions involved in speech processing: the auditory cortex and higher order regions such as Broca's area, for instance," said University of Geneva neuroscientist Luc Arnal, whose research appears in the journal Current Biology.
- New Photos of Pluto and Moon Surprise, Puzzle Scientists
The first up-close images of Pluto and its biggest moon, Charon, are making scientists rethink the inner workings of these and other icy, far-flung worlds. The new Pluto photos, which were captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby on Tuesday (July 14), show that both the dwarf planet and Charon have been geologically active in the recent past.
- Scientists use "therapeutic cloning" to fix mitochondrial genes
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have used a controversial cloning technique to make new, healthy, perfectly matched stem cells from the skin of patients with mitochondrial diseases in a first step toward treatment for these incurable, life-threatening conditions. A study on the technique, published in the journal Nature, showcases the latest advance in the use of somatic-cell nuclear transfer to make patient-specific stem cells that could be used to treat genetic diseases. "This work enables the generation of an unlimited – and mutation-free – supply of replacement cells for patients with mitochondrial disease," said Dr. Robert Lanza, Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, who was not involved in the research.