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Showing posts from September 23, 2015

Scientists: Drought stressing California's Giant Sequoias

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Giant Sequoias growing in California's Sierra Nevada are among the largest and oldest living things on earth, but scientists climbing high up into their green canopies say they are seeing symptoms of stress caused by the state's historic drought.


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Nobel Prize predictions see honors for gene editing technology

Scientists behind the discovery of a technology called CRISPR-Cas9 that allows researchers to edit virtually any gene they target are among the top contenders for Nobel prizes next month, according to an annual analysis by Thomson Reuters. The predictions announced on Thursday come from the Intellectual Property & Science unit of Thomson Reuters (which also owns the Reuters news service). Since 2002, it has accurately identified 37 scientists who went on to become Nobel laureates, although not necessarily in the year in which they were named.

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NASA Mars Probe Marks One Year at Red Planet

NASA's newest Mars probe has now been circling the Red Planet for a year. MAVEN endured a two-month checkout phase on orbit and then began studying Mars' atmosphere, in an attempt to determine how fast the planet's air is escaping into space. Such information will help researchers better understand how and when Mars shifted from a relatively warm and wet world in the ancient past to the cold and dry planet it is today, NASA officials have said.


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Scientists say car emissions rigging raises health concerns

By Kate Kelland LONDON, (Reuters) - Volkswagen's admission that it rigged car emission tests has prompted environmental and health experts to ask whether such deception could have hampered progress in reducing death and disease from air pollution. Volkswagen's Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday over the falsification of test data from diesel cars in the United States, the latest twist in a scandal that has rocked the global car industry and raised concerns about what it may mean for the environment and public health. For now the main focus is on the United States, but VW says 11 million cars worldwide may be affected and experts note that diesel-fuelled cars account for just 3 percent of passenger vehicles in America, compared with some 50 percent in Europe.


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Fall's Back! Equinox Heralds Colorful Leaves and Bad Weather

At higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, the date of equal daylight and darkness comes at the end of a period with longer daylight hours and this marks the shift to less light hours as this hemisphere transitions to cooler weather. However, the fall season brings more than just shorter daylight hours, changing leaf colors and an abundance of seasonal treats. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service warns that the new season also brings the potential for hazardous weather.

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Scientists say car emissions rigging raises health concerns

By Kate Kelland LONDON, (Reuters) - Volkswagen's admission that it rigged car emission tests has prompted environmental and health experts to ask whether such deception could have hampered progress in reducing death and disease from air pollution. Volkswagen's Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday over the falsification of test data from diesel cars in the United States, the latest twist in a scandal that has rocked the global car industry and raised concerns about what it may mean for the environment and public health. For now the main focus is on the United States, but VW says 11 million cars worldwide may be affected and experts note that diesel-fuelled cars account for just 3 percent of passenger vehicles in America, compared with some 50 percent in Europe.

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Four Blood Moons: Supermoon Eclipse Will Cap Epic Lunar Tetrad

The rare "supermoon" total lunar eclipse on Sunday (Sept. 27) will mark the end of a great eclipse-viewing era. The Sunday evening eclipse is the last in a "tetrad" — a term for four total lunar eclipses happening at six-month intervals — that has been stunning skywatchers across the United States for the past 18 months, and also sparking conspiracy theories about what it could mean. "The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA," NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak said in a statement last year.


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Total Lunar Eclipse Will Bring a Moon Triple Treat Sunday

First, the moon will be full, as it always must be for a lunar eclipse to occur. This is a special full moon, because this is the Harvest Moon. Second, the full moon will be at its closest to Earth in all of 2015, what is known to astronomers as a "perigee moon." In recent years this has become known as a "supermoon." Perigee (meaning "closest to Earth") occurs at 10 p.m. EDT, the moon being a mere 222,374 miles (357,877 km) from Earth.


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Grisly Discovery: 9,000-Year-Old Decapitated Skull Covered in Amputated Hands

Under limestone slabs in a cave in Brazil, scientists made a ghoulish new discovery: a decapitated skull covered in amputated hands. For example, in South America, heads of defeated enemies were often used as war trophies — the Arara people in the Brazilian Amazon used skulls of defeated enemies as musical instruments, the Inca turned skulls into drinking jars, and the Jivaro people of Ecuador shrunk heads to imprison the souls of foes. "Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved," said study lead author André Strauss, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.


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Fish scales to fangs: Surprising tale of how teeth got their bite

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The origins of the enamel that gives our teeth their bite is no ordinary fish tale.Scientists said on Wednesday fossil and genetic evidence indicates enamel did not originate in the teeth but in the scales of ancient fish that lived more than 400 million years ago, and only later became a key component in teeth. The researchers examined fossils of two primitive bony fish from the Silurian Period, a time of evolutionary advances in marine life, and found an enamel coating on their scales but no enamel on their teeth. In us, enamel is only found on teeth, and it is very important for their function, so it is natural to assume that it evolved there," said paleontologist Per Erik Ahlberg of Sweden's University of Uppsala, whose research appears in the journal Nature.


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Here Comes the Sun: Water Blasts on Comets Tied to Sunlight Cycle

The outbursts of water vapor seen emanating from comets are fueled by subsurface ice reservoirs, a new study suggests. Observations by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft show that surface ice on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which Rosetta has been orbiting since August 2014, appears and disappears on a daily cycle tied to illumination by the sun. "Water gas activity is modulated by the diurnal cycle, and we see that also the presence of ice on the surface is modulated in the same way," said study lead author Maria Cristina De Sanctis, a scientist at the Institute for Astrophysics and Space Planetology in Rome.


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A Rose by Any Name: Nebula Blossoms in Sweet Space Photo, Video

Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula, Checkmark Nebula, Horseshoe Nebula, Lobster Nebula — whatever you call it, the spectacular star-forming Messier 17 sparkles in a new photo. In this case, the rose's petals are picked out in the reddish glow of hydrogen gas, heated up by ultraviolet light released from the blue and white pinpricks of newly formed stars. The white at the center comes from the hottest gas emitting light that mingles with starlight, ESO officials said in a statement.


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Blood Moon Tunes: Music to Make Your 'Supermoon' Lunar Eclipse Rock

As you settle in Sunday night (Sept. 27) to watch the supermoon lunar eclipse, kick back with some moon tunes as chosen by Space.com's staff. What might a supermoon lunar eclipse represent? NASA has contemplated the moon in song as well: Steven Williams from NASA's Planetary Science Division pulled together an infographic and long list of moon-inspired refrains.


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Some Fruits & Vegetables Are Better For Your Waistline

Eating more fruits — particularly berries, apples and pears — and nonstarchy vegetables, like soybeans and cauliflower, may help you lose weight over the long term, a new study suggests. However, adding starchy vegetables like peas, potatoes and corn to your diet may not be as good for your waistline: People who increased their consumption of these vegetables gained weight over time, the study found.

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More Evidence That Coffee Is Safe for Your Heart

Coffee lovers, rejoice. In the study, researchers found that drinking coffee was not associated with an increased risk of a condition called atrial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heartbeat, in either men or women. "This is largest prospective study to date on the association between coffee consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation.

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Health-Promoting Texts Could Help Battle Heart Disease

The health of heart disease patients might be improved by technology they're already carrying around in their pockets: cellphones. In a recent study, patients with coronary heart disease enrolled in a program to receive four text messages weekly on their cellphones, encouraging them to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices. For comparison, a separate group of patients with coronary heart disease didn't receive any text messages about their heart health.

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US Dumps Twice as Much Trash as EPA Estimated

The United States is sending more than twice as much solid waste into its landfills as previously thought, a new study finds. Researchers found that people threw away 289 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2012, a figure that is more than double the 135 million tons that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated for that same year. The new estimate also exceeds by 4 percent the World Bank's predictions for the amount of waste the United States will generate in 2025, the researchers said.

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Filmmakers Show the Scale of the Solar System in Amazing Video

If Earth were as small as a marble, the solar system out to Neptune would cover an area the size of San Francisco — and that's just in two dimensions. That point is driven home by a new video called "To Scale: The Solar System," which shows filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh, along with a few of their friends, building a size-accurate model of our cosmic backyard in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. "If you put the orbits to scale on a piece of paper, the planets become microscopic, and you won't be able to see them," Overstreet says in the 7-minute video, which has been viewed more than 1.4 million times since it was posted on YouTube Sept. 16.


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Bizarre Giant Hexagon on Saturn May Finally Be Explained

The huge, mysterious hexagon at Saturn's north pole may finally have an explanation. The bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern was first discovered in 1988 by scientists reviewing data from NASA's Voyager flybys of Saturn in 1980 and 1981, but its existence was not confirmed until NASA's Cassini spacecraft observed the ringed planet up-close years later. The structure, which contains a churning storm at its center, is about 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) wide, and thermal images show that it reaches roughly 60 miles (100 km) down into Saturn's atmosphere.


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