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Showing posts from October 21, 2015

Shell game: New species of Galapagos giant tortoise identified

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have identified a new species of giant tortoise on the Galápagos Islands, using genetic data to determine that a group of 250 of the slow-moving grazing reptiles was distinct from other tortoise species residing in the Pacific archipelago. The newly identified species lives in a 15-square-mile (40-square-km) area of Santa Cruz Island and is as different genetically from the other giant tortoise species on the island as species from other islands, the scientists said on Wednesday. The research differentiated the new Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise, given the scientific name Chelonoidis donfaustoi, from a larger population of about 2,000 tortoises living about 6 miles (10 km) away on the western part of the island that belong to the species Chelonoidis porteri.


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Cuba launches initiative to protect sharks

By Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba on Wednesday launched an initiative to protect sharks in some of the most pristine habitat for the predators whose populations have been in steep decline. The action plan, reached through two years of collaborative research with the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), will impose size and capture limits on fishermen, set aside protected areas and create closed seasons for shark-fishing, officials said. The Cuban government has recognized its special place in the world of sharks as scientists believe nearly 100 of the world's 500 shark species swim in Cuban waters, sustained by a relatively healthy coral reefs, the EDF says.


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Brilliant Venus to Join Jupiter and Mars in Pre-Dawn Sky Monday: How To See It

Venus has been dominating the morning sky for the past two months, and Monday (Oct. 26), it will form a vivid tableau with Jupiter and Mars as it reaches its farthest point from the sun. In the early morning of Oct. 26, Venus will reach its greatest elongation west — 46 degrees west of the sun, or to the right in the sky. The inner planets, Mercury and Venus, never stray far from the sun in Earth's sky.


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Look Ahead on Back to the Future Day!

Today, the White House is marking "Back to the Future Day" with a series of conversations with innovators across the country. The White House site says "Get excited, and remember: Where we're going, we don't need roads," but adds: "Just kidding. "We've come a long way in the 30 years that have passed since the original Back to the Future came out.


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Chances of Earthquake Hitting L.A. Area Soon: Like, for Sure

The chance of a moderate-size earthquake striking the Los Angeles area soon is almost guaranteed, if a new study is correct. The Greater Los Angeles area has a 99.9 percent chance of having an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater in the next two and a half years, thanks to several hidden faults that have built up considerable strain, according to a study published Sept. 30 in the journal Earth and Space Science. "Identifying specific fault structures most likely to be responsible for future earthquakes for this system of many active faults is often very difficult," Andrea Donnellan, a geologist in the Science Division of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.


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Earth's Photo Diary: See New Glamour Shots of Blue Marble Daily

Stunning images of Earth's sunlit face, snapped by a satellite located 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away from the planet, will be available daily for people to browse on a new NASA website. The agency plans to post at least 12 new color images of Earth each day, taken by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). "Each daily sequence of images will show the Earth as it rotates, thus revealing the whole globe over the course of a day," according to a NASA statement.


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Big, 'Spooky' Asteroid to Fly by Earth on Halloween

An asteroid the size of a football stadium will zoom past Earth on Halloween, in a close encounter that astronomers view as far more treat than trick. The massive asteroid 2015 TB145 will come within 310,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) of the planet — or about 1.3 times the distance from Earth to the moon — on the afternoon of Oct. 31, just three weeks after the space rock was discovered, according to NASA. There's no threat of an impact on this pass, NASA officials said.


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'Death Star' Vaporizes Its Own Planet: 1st Evidence

The planet-destroying Death Star from "Star Wars" may be fictional, but a star at the end of its life and only a bit bigger than Earth could be its real-world twin: The star is currently destroying and disintegrating an orbiting planet bit by bit. The ill-fated planetary body and its debris are about the size of Texas or the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest asteroid in Earth's solar system, and it will be fully destroyed within about a million years, researchers said. Scientists watching the object disintegrate will get the best-ever view of a solar system's death — and a look at the likely future of our own system.


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Einstein wouldn't like it: New test proves universe is "spooky"

By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - The universe really is weird, which is bad news both for Albert Einstein and for would-be hackers hoping to break into quantum encryption systems. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers detailed an experiment showing how two electrons at separate locations 1.3 km (0.8 mile) apart on the Delft University of Technology campus demonstrated a clear, invisible and instantaneous connection. Importantly, the new study closed loopholes in earlier tests that had left some doubt as to whether the eerie connection predicted by quantum theory was real or not.

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Ebola Returns: 2nd Case of Relapse Raises Questions

Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey — who became sick with Ebola about a year ago and recovered, but then became very ill again last week with what may be a relapse of the deadly virus — is now improving. "Pauline Cafferkey's condition has improved to serious but stable," representatives from London's Royal Free Hospital said in a statement Monday (Oct. 19). Hospital representatives said on Oct. 9 that the nurse had developed an "unusual late complication" of the virus, and reported last week that she was "critically ill." Cafferkey originally became sick with the disease in 2014 while caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, becoming the United Kingdom's first Ebola patient.


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What Do Americans Fear Most? Big Brother & Cybercrime

Americans' biggest fears are related to government and technology, not ghosts and goblins, according to the Survey of American Fear by researchers at Chapman University in California. For the survey, the researchers polled a representative sample of approximately 1,500 Americans and found that the majority of Americans (58 percent) are either "afraid" or "very afraid" of the corruption of government officials. Fears related to the government and the malicious use of technology beat out what some people may view as much spookier stuff — things like biological warfare, being murdered or ghosts.


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Poof! Futuristic Flying Vehicles Could Vanish After Deliveries

The development of this far-out delivery system is being led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense charged with developing new technologies for the U.S. military. Several years ago, DARPA launched its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, which is devoted to building small electronic systems that do their jobs and then self-destruct. Although it might sound counterintuitive to build something that's going to disappear, self-destructing systems are useful for a range of situations, according to DARPA.


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60 Days in Bed: Study Tests Spaceflight's Effect on Human Body

On Sept. 9, the first of those brave volunteers took to his bed for a study that will hopefully lead to better understanding of the ways spaceflight affects the human body — and how to stop the muscle and bone loss that comes with extended time spent in orbit. The study requires volunteers to lie in a bed with their feet inclined at a 6-degree angle — meaning their heads will be lower than the rest of their body throughout all 60 days of the experiment. "Organizing month-long scientific studies is a huge task, and, aside from coordinating the researchers from all over Europe, choosing the test subjects is extremely important as the success of the study depends on their commitment," Jennifer Ngo-Anh, head of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Human Research Office, said in a statement.


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Obama Greets Young Stargazers for White House Astronomy Night

Last night on the White House's chilly South Lawn, under a vividly glowing crescent moon, future scientists and astronaut-hopefuls gathered to learn and celebrate the science of the stars — and across the country more than 80 other sites joined in with their own stargazing events. The event featured NASA astronauts, science celebrities and President Barack Obama. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…" began the president in a speech to the attendees, referencing the famous starting line of the "Star Wars" movies.


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Robot builder designed for construction sites

Designers at the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication laboratory believe a future generation of the robot could be used widely on building sites. Matthias Kohler, of ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich), is one of the supervising professors on the research team. According to Kohler, who is also an architect, it is "the first machine that can actually go on construction sites and build non-standard designs, meaning designs which can vary and adapt to the local conditions directly in the building site." Professor Jonas Buchli supervises the research.

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Marble Medusa Head Unearthed in Ancient Roman Ruins

In the ruins of a Roman city in southern Turkey, archaeologists have discovered a marble head of Medusa, somehow spared during an early Christian campaign against pagan art. The head was unearthed at Antiochia ad Cragum, a city founded during the first century, around the rule of Emperor Nero, that has all the marks of a Roman outpost —bathhouses, shops, colonnaded streets, mosaics and a local council house. At Antiochia, a Medusa architectural sculpture would have served an apotropaic function, intended to avert evil —but later, her likeness would have been considered idolatrous by the Christians who came to live at the site.


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Begin Mammograms at Age 45, New Guidelines Say

Women with an average risk of breast cancer should begin getting mammograms annually at age 45, according to new guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS). "The guideline-development group concluded that the risk of cancer is lower for women ages 40 to 44," and the risk of false positives is somewhat higher, compared with women in the 45-to-49 age group, said Elizabeth T. H. Fontham, a co-author of the guidelines and the dean of the Louisiana State University's School of Public Health in New Orleans. "So a direct recommendation to begin screening at age 40 was no longer warranted." A false positive is an error in a test result that indicates a woman has breast cancer when she actually does not.

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11 Moles on Your Arm May Signal Higher Melanoma Risk

People who have 11 or more moles on one of their arms could have a higher risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma, according to a new study. Researchers counted the number of moles that study participants had on 17 sites on the skin of their bodies — such as the left leg, the chest and the back — and found that the arms were the site that was the best indicator of the total number of moles on the whole body. For example, women with at least seven moles on an arm were nine times more likely to have at least 50 moles on their entire body than those who had fewer than seven moles on their right arm.

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Different Drums: Male and Female Hearts Don't Age the Same

Men and women will always have their differences, but a new analysis finds that these differences extend to heart anatomy. The study focused on one heart chamber, the left ventricle, which pumps oxygenated blood out of the heart into the body. As people age, the left ventricle declines in its capacity to pump blood.

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