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- Enigmatic French cave structures show off Neanderthal skills
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mysterious ring-shaped structures fashioned about 176,000 years ago by Neanderthals using broken stalagmites deep inside a cave in southwestern France indicate that our closest extinct relatives were more adept than previously known. Scientists on Wednesday described six rock structures discovered about 1,100 feet (336 meters) inside Bruniquel Cave in France's Aveyron region. The scientists attributed the work to Neanderthals, who thrived in Europe at the time but vanished roughly 40,000 years ago, after our species Homo sapiens, which first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago, trekked into Europe.
- Solar plane lands in Dayton, Ohio on latest leg of round-the-world flight
An experimental airplane powered solely by energy from the sun landed in Ohio on Saturday night on the latest leg of its historic bid by pilots and developers to fly around the globe without a drop of fuel. "People told the Wright Brothers & us what we wanted to achieve was impossible," said Bertrand Piccard after landing. "They were wrong!" The locale was of special significance to the pilots, as the home base to aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.
- Slimy hagfish inspire 'super hydrogels' By Matthew Stock The unusual secretions of the Atlantic hagfish are being studied by scientists who want to harness the viscous and elastic properties of the creature's slime for human use. When attacked or threatened by a predator the marine creature defends itself by secreting a milky-white substance from its glands. This instantly reacts with the seawater around it to form a mass of slime that clogs the mouth and gills of the would-be attacker. But this slime has special properties that could benefit mankind, according to scientists from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal institute of Technology). Hagfish slime is an extremely diluted hydrogel, consisting of over 99.99 percent water.
- 'ET Comes Home' for NASA fuel tank's ride to LA site
A giant NASA fuel tank completed its final journey on Saturday, with crowds cheering on its parade along Los Angeles streets to a science center where it will go on display with the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour. The orange tank, weighing 65,000 lb (29,500 kg) and 154 feet (47 meters) in length, is the only one of its kind. The California Science Center called the parade of the fuel tank, which stands about three stories tall when towed on its side by a truck, "ET Comes Home," in a play on the "external tank" name and the 1982 movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." The tank, ET-94, arrived at the center after a 16-mile (26-km) journey, the center said on Twitter.
- Developers look to widen repertoire of Pepper, Japan's laughing robot
Japanese developers of a robot are asking the public to come up with ideas for what their waist-high humanoid can do and they are offering a software development kit for programmers to get creative. The fast-selling robot, known as Pepper, can already laugh and serve coffee and is being used as a waiter, salesman and customer service representative in about 500 companies in Japan, including Nestle, Mizuho Bank and Nissan. Now its creators, SoftBank Corp, have started offering a kit, Pepper SDK for Android Studio, that will allow programmers to develop new tasks.
- Swallow This Robot: Foldable Droid Could Mend Stomachs
A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has proposed a new, minimally invasive way of using biocompatible and biodegradable miniature robots to carry out tasks inside the human body. The researchers have already demonstrated origami-inspired robots capable of swimming, climbing and carrying a load twice their weight, but creating an ingestible device that can operate inside a stomach presented a whole new set of challenges, said Shuhei Miyashita, who was part of the MIT team that developed the robot but is now a lecturer of intelligent robotics at the University of York in the United Kingdom. "The toughest problem we had to solve was that of getting the robot to work in such an unpredictable environment," Miyashita told Live Science.
- Physicist Kip Thorne Talks Black Holes at the Genius Gala Awards
Four innovators received awards at the fifth annual Genius Gala at Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, turning Friday night here into a geekfest. The brilliant recipients included paleontologist Jack Horner, astrophysicist Kip Thorne, architect Frank Gehry and social psychologist Ellen Langer from Harvard University. During his acceptance speech, Thorne said he felt "like a fraud" and that he's "not a genius." Thorne honored the colleagues he worked with while discovering gravitational waves this past September.
- Light Behaving Badly: Strange Beams Reveal Hitch in Quantum Mechanics A hidden property of corkscrew, spiraled beams of light could put a hitch in quantum mechanics. The photons, or light particles, inside these light-based Möbius strips spin with a momentum previously thought to be impossible. The findings could shake up some of the assumptions in quantum mechanics, the rules that govern the menagerie of tiny subatomic particles.
- Spaceflight Is Entering a New Golden Age, Says Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos
Early Monday (Nov. 23), the private spaceflight company Blue Origin made a major stride in the pursuit of fully reusable rockets, when it launched an uncrewed vehicle into space and then soft-landed the rocket booster on the ground. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life," said Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin's founder, speaking about the landing in a press briefing yesterday (Nov. 24). "And my teammates here at Blue Origin, I could see felt the same way.
- Turkey and Football: How Astronauts Celebrate Thanksgiving in Space
Thanksgiving in space will be a lot like the holiday down here on the ground — minus the gravity, of course. Like most Americans, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren have Thanksgiving (Nov. 26) off, and they'll spend the day aboard the International Space Station (ISS) watching football and enjoying a turkey-centric feast, agency officials said. Kelly and Lindgren gave viewers a look at that feast in a special Thanksgiving video this week, breaking out bags of smoked turkey, rehydratable corn, candied yams and potatoes au gratin.
- Scientists: Underground stone rings made by Neanderthals BERLIN (AP) — Two mysterious stone rings found deep inside a French cave were probably built by Neanderthals about 176,500 years ago, proving that the ancient cousins of humans were capable of more complex behavior than previously thought, scientists say.
- Yes, It Is Rocket Science: Middle School Team Wins Rocket Competition
A team of middle-school students from Washington state will represent the United States at an international rocketry contest in Europe, after taking home the top prize at the 2016 Team America Rocketry Challenge National Finals on May 16. Hailing from Bellevue, Washington, the Space Potatoes rocketry team from Odle Middle School beat out 789 other groups of students from all over the United States. Students Mikaela Ikeda, Larry Jing, Karl Deerkop, Srivatshan Sakthinarayanan and Stephanie Han will share more than $20,000 in scholarships and funds for their school.
- Calling All Kids! President Obama Wants Your Science and Tech Ideas Inspired by the recommendation of a 9-year-old inventor during the White House Science Fair in April, President Barack Obama has put out a call to kids across the United States to share their thoughts on science, technology and innovation. Both in and out of classrooms, kids know firsthand how to inspire students in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. "Whether you care about tackling climate change, finding a cure to cancer, using technology to help make people's lives better or getting a human to Mars, we can't wait to get your input!" John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in a White House blog post yesterday (May 19) to announce the initiative.
- The Science of Intuition: How to Measure 'Hunches' and 'Gut Feelings' Whether you call it a "gut feeling," an "inner voice" or a "sixth sense," intuition can play a real part in people's decision making, a new study suggests. For the first time, researchers devised a technique to measure intuition. After using this method, they found evidence that people can use their intuition to make faster, more accurate and more confident decisions, according to the findings, published online in April in the journal Psychological Science.
- Stung for Science: Meet the Man Who Measures Pain Been stung by a bug? Well, Justin Schmidt feels your pain. No, seriously — no matter what type of insect stung you, Schmidt surely has been stung by it, too, and has documented that pain.
- Space Shuttle External Tank Completes Road Trip to CA Science Center
LOS ANGELES — The space shuttle Endeavour now has its external tank. The massive orange-brown fuel tank, NASA's last remaining example of its type, built for flight but never used, arrived at the California Science Centeron Saturday evening (May 21), completing a nearly one-day road trip through the streets of Los Angeles. The external tank, together with the orbiter Endeavour — which was delivered to the Science Center in a similar, but longer parade in October 2012 — and a pair of solid rocket boosters still to come, will form the world's only vertical display of a fully-authentic space shuttle launch vehicle.
- Do Fetuses Feel Pain? What the Science Says Utah recently passed a law that requires doctors to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to performing an abortion that occurs at 20 weeks of gestation or later. Indeed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said it considers the case to be closed as to whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage in development. "The science shows that based on gestational age, the fetus is not capable of feeling pain until the third trimester," said Kate Connors, a spokesperson for ACOG.
- Send Astronauts to Mars to Find Evidence of Life, NASA's Top Scientist Says
The chances are good that microbial life existed on Mars long ago, and sending astronauts to the Red Planet is the best way to find the evidence, NASA's chief scientist said. Though Mars is cold and dry today, the planet hosted liquid water on its surface for extended periods more than 3 billion years ago, Ellen Stofan pointed out during a talk Tuesday (May 17) at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C.
- Over a third of North American bird species in danger: scientists
More than a third of all North American bird species are at risk of becoming extinct unless significant action is taken, scientists who are part of a tri-nation initiative said on Wednesday, adding that ocean and tropical birds were in particular danger. The study, compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative and the first of its kind to look at the vulnerability of bird populations in Canada, the United States and Mexico, said 37 percent of all 1,154 species on the continent needed urgent conservation action. The governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico created the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in 1999.
- Scientists, investors seek to identify financial risks of climate change
A Norwegian group of climate scientists will form an alliance on Thursday with investors including BlackRock Inc and the World Bank to try to assess the financial risks of rising global temperatures. The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO) said it wanted to help investors judge risks from global warming such as more heatwaves, floods, downpours, the extinction of animals and plants and rising seas. The head of CICERO, Kristin Halvorsen, said the aim was to help investors and researchers to "understand each other more easily so that the financial sector can define climate risks".
- Genes tell how the giraffe got its long neck
By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have sequenced the genome of the giraffe for the first time, uncovering DNA quirks that help explain how the tallest animals on earth developed their remarkably long necks. To pump blood two metres up from the chest to the brain calls for a turbo-charged heart and twice the blood pressure of other mammals. Giraffes also need special safety valves to let them bend down for a drink and raise their heads again without fainting.
- BRIEF-Changsheng Bio Technology's unit signs agreement with Japan's Gene Techno Science May 16 (Reuters) - Changsheng Bio Technology * Says unit signs agreement with Japan's Gene Techno ScienceCo Ltd on medicine project Source text in Chinese: http://bit.ly/24TYsrJ Further company coverage: (Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom)
- Storing babies' blood samples pits privacy versus science
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two-day-old Ellie Bailey squirms in a hospital bassinet and cries as her tiny left heel is squeezed and then pricked with a needle to draw a blood sample. An Indianapolis hospital technician quickly saturates six circles on a special filter card with the child's blood.
- Mystery of Bizarre Radar Echoes Solved, 50 Years Later
More than 50 years after weird radio echoes were detected coming from Earth's upper atmosphere, two scientists say they've pinpointed the culprit. In 1962, after the Jicamarca Radio Observatory was built near Lima, Peru, some unexplainable phenomenon was reflecting the radio waves broadcast by the observatory back to the ground to be picked up by its detectors. "As soon as they turned this radar on, they saw this thing," study researcher Meers Oppenheim, of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University, said, referring to the anomalous echo.
- Shrinking Arctic bird suffers double hit from global warming: study
By Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - Red knots, a type of bird that makes one of the longest annual migrations, are shrinking because climate change in their Arctic nesting grounds makes life harder during their winters in Africa, scientists say. Snows in Arctic Russia now melt earlier in spring and many red knot chicks hatch too late for the annual peak of insect food spurred by the thaw, according to their report on Thursday, one of the first to link the impact of warming to a single species. Eighty percent of the birds born in Russia with long beaks survived to adulthood against just 40 percent of the short-beaked red knots, which end up eating roots of sea grasses in Africa that are less nutritious than shellfish, the study found.
- Are We Alone? Scientists Discuss the Search for Life and Odds of E.T.
What are the odds that alien life exists elsewhere in the universe? In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake wrote an equation to quantify the likelihood of finding a technologically advanced civilization elsewhere in the universe. The so-called Drake equation took into account factors such as the fraction of stars with planets around them and the fraction of those planets that would be hospitable to life.
- SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth with precious science load
- 'Breathing' Volcano: How Scientists Captured This Awesome Animation
Mount Etna seems to breathe in a NASA animation showing how changes in the volcano's magma chamber deform the ground around the mountain. Mount Etna is an active volcano on the Italian island of Sicily. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote of Etna's eruptions in his "Bibliotheca historica," a series of volumes written between 60 B.C. and 30 B.C.
- Scientists: Mussels, without noses, use smell to find homes
- Scientists peel back the carrot's genetic secrets
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have gotten to the root of the carrot, genetically speaking. Researchers said on Monday they have sequenced the genome of the carrot, an increasingly important root crop worldwide, identifying genes responsible for traits including the vegetable's abundance of vitamin A, an important nutrient for vision. The genome may point to ways to improve carrots through breeding, including increasing their nutrients and making them more productive and more resistant to disease, pest and drought, the researchers said. The vitamin A in carrots arises from their orange pigments, known as carotenoids.
- Gorgeous New Mercury Maps Showcase Planet's Striking Features
A stunning digital model of Mercury unveils the planet's striking landscape, while other new maps provide a closer look at the shadowed northern pole and reveal the highest and lowest points on the closest planet to the sun. Built with data from NASA's MESSENGER mission that orbited Mercury for four years, the new maps offer a bounty of scientific insight, while also delivering an incredible view of the planet. "The wealth of these data, greatly enhanced by the extension of MESSENGER's primary one-year orbital mission to more than four years, has already enabled and will continue to enable exciting scientific discoveries about Mercury for decades to come," Susan Ensor, a software engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and manager of the MESSENGER Science Operations Center, said in a statement.
- The Universe Has Probably Hosted Many Alien Civilizations: Study Many other planets throughout the universe probably hosted intelligent life long before Earth did, a new study suggests. The probability of a civilization developing on a potentially habitable alien planet would have to be less than one in 10 billion trillion — or one part in 10 to the 22nd power — for humanity to be the first technologically advanced species the cosmos has ever known, according to the study. "To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology-producing species very likely have evolved before us," said lead author Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester in New York.
- Fearsome Dinosaur-Age 'Hammerhead' Reptile Ate … Plants?
Despite its rows and rows of chisel- and needle-like teeth, a newly described prehistoric marine reptile wasn't a fearsome predator but rather an herbivorous giant that acted like a lawnmower for the sea, a new study finds. It's also the earliest herbivorous marine reptile on record by about 8 million years, they said. "I haven't seen anything like it before," said study co-researcher Olivier Rieppel, the Rowe family curator of evolutionary biology at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
- The Mercury Transit of the Sun on Monday is a Science Smorgasbord
Mercury's rare passage across the face of the sun on Monday, May 9, should be an exciting event for skywatchers and scientists alike. The planet's pass across Earth's nearest star may provide information about its thin atmosphere, assist in the hunt for worlds around other stars, and help NASA hone some of its instruments. As seen from Earth, Mercury appears to cross the disk of the sun — an event known as a transit — only about 13 times per century.
- Mercury Transit: The History and Science of This Rare Celestial Event
The event, which astronomers call a transit of Mercury, will occur only 14 times during the 21st century. As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible, because these are the only planets that lie between Earth and the sun. Transits of Mercury and Venus hold an interesting place in astronomical history, mostly because of the slightly different times when the events occur as seen from different locations on the surface of the Earth.
- Albert Einstein's Signed Photo Up for Auction
Although Albert Einstein's many iconic photographs have been plastered across mugs and T-shirts for years, physics enthusiasts and art collectors may now be able to get their hands on one of the original, autographed photos that inspired the memorabilia, according to International Autograph Auctions, the British auction house handling the sale. Three years later, Einstein signed the photograph Karsh had taken, using an English version of the last sentence of his foreword to "Relativity: A Richer Truth" (1950), by Philipp Frank, according to the auction house statement.
- Sanctions, restrictions seen impeding science in North Korea
BEIJING (AP) — Tightening U.N. sanctions and an inability to freely access the Internet are inhibiting the work of North Korean scientists, Nobel Prize laureates who recently visited the country said Saturday.
- Nailed it: scientists describe weird ancient hammerhead reptile
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was a creature so outlandish that scientists say it reminds them of the fanciful beasts conjured up by Dr. Seuss. Scientists on Friday announced the discovery in southern China of new fossils of a reptile from 242 million years ago called Atopodentatus that clarify the nature of this strange crocodile-sized, plant-eating sea-dweller. When the first fossils of Atopodentatus were found in 2014, scientists thought, based on its poorly preserved skull, it had a down-turned snout resembling a flamingo's beak with a vertical, zipper-like mouth.
- Brazil scientists seek to unravel mystery of Zika twins
By Nacho Doce and Pablo Garcia SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Scientists struggling to unravel the mysteries of a Zika epidemic in Brazil hope they can learn from cases of women giving birth to twins in which only one child is afflicted by the microcephaly birth defect associated with the virus. Jaqueline Jessica Silva de Oliveira hoped doctors were wrong when a routine ultrasound showed that one of her unborn twins would be born with the condition, marked by stunted head size and developmental issues.
- Governments should study worst-case global warming scenarios, former U.N. official says By Sebastien Malo PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A United Nations panel of scientists seeking ways for nations to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius should not dissuade governments from concentrating on bleaker scenarios of higher temperatures as well, its former chief said on Wednesday. Nations should be considering the potential impact of temperature rises of much as 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit), said Robert Watson, former head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The U.N. panel was assigned to find ways to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F) after a 195-nation climate change summit in Paris in December.