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Showing posts from November 2, 2015

Micro Mollusk Breaks Record for World's Tiniest Snail

An itsy-bitsy mollusk in Borneo is the new record holder for the world's smallest known snail, a new study finds.


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Low-hanging fruit: scientists unlock pineapple's genetic secrets

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The pineapple, the tropical fruit enjoyed by people worldwide in slices, chunks, juice, upside-down cakes, jam, tarts, ice cream, yogurt, stir-fry dishes, piña coladas, glazed ham and even Hawaiian pizza, is finally giving up its genetic secrets. Scientists on Monday said they have sequenced the genome of the pineapple, learning about the genetic underpinning of the plant's drought tolerance and special form of photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert light into chemical energy. The genome provides a foundation for developing cultivated varieties that are improved for disease and insect resistance, quality, productivity and prolonged shelf life, University of Illinois plant biologist Ray Ming said.


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Low-hanging fruit - scientists unlock pineapple's genetic secrets

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The pineapple, the tropical fruit enjoyed by people worldwide in slices, chunks, juice, upside-down cakes, jam, tarts, ice cream, yogurt, stir-fry dishes, piña coladas, glazed ham and even Hawaiian pizza, is finally giving up its genetic secrets. Scientists on Monday said they have sequenced the genome of the pineapple, learning about the genetic underpinning of the plant's drought tolerance and special form of photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert light into chemical energy. The genome provides a foundation for developing cultivated varieties that are improved for disease and insect resistance, quality, productivity and prolonged shelf life, University of Illinois plant biologist Ray Ming said.


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The Active Sun: US Unveils Plan to Deal with Space Weather

On Thursday (Oct. 29), the White House released two documents that together lay out the nation's official plan for mitigating the negative impacts of solar flares and other types of "space weather," which have the potential to wreak havoc on power grids and other key infrastructure here on Earth. The new "National Space Weather Strategy" outlines the basic framework the federal government will pursue to better understand, predict and recover from space-weather events, while the "National Space Weather Action Plan" details specific activities intended to help achieve this broad goal. "The efforts undertaken to achieve the objectives of this strategy will establish a national approach to the security and resilience in the face of our improved understanding of the seriousness of the space-weather risk, and the steps we must take to prepare for it," Suzanne Spaulding, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Pro…

New 'Star Trek' TV Series Warps Into Action in 2017

The folks at CBS Television Studios announced today (Nov. 2) that a new "Star Trek" series will launch in January 2017, with the premiere episode airing on CBS's television network. The rest of the episodes to the as-yet unnamed series will air first on CBS All Access, the studio's digital streaming arm. Alex Kurtzman, a co-writer and producer on the Trek reboot films "Star Trek" (2009) and "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013), will serve as executive producer of the new TV series alongside Heather Kadin.


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Scientists dispute study touting vocal learning in chimpanzees

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A team of scientists took issue on Monday with a study published in February claiming to demonstrate vocal learning by chimpanzees in their food grunts, saying the researchers offered exaggerated assertions backed by scant evidence. Julia Fischer of the German Primate Center, New York University's James Higham and the University of Kent's Brandon Wheeler, re-analyzing the study for the same journal, questioned its methods and said the researchers misrepresented data and failed to rule out alternative explanations. "This was a pretty drastic example of exaggerated claims based on a thin data set," Fischer said.


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Rare Case: Man with Brain Disorder Can't Recognize His Reflection

A man who thought he saw a "stranger" in the bathroom mirror, when he was actually looking at his own reflection, turned out to have a rare neurological condition, a new case report finds. Mr. B said that the stranger looked just him, but stayed in the bathroom mirror, according to the authors of the report published online Aug. 25 in the journal Neurocase. "Eventually, the patient told his daughter that the stranger [had] became aggressive, and she decided to drive her father to the hospital," said Dr. Capucine Diard-Detoeuf, a neurologist at the University Hospital of Tours in France, who treated the man and is one of the co-authors of the report.

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15 Years Later, Space Station Commander Recalls 1st Expedition

A week into taking up residency on board the International Space Station, Bill Shepherd closed out the first entry in his new (space) ship's log with a note to those supporting him and his crewmates on the ground. Now, 15 years later, Shepherd's focus is on the future and how what he helped start might influence what happens next. "What does Space Station mean in the context of the next century, the next millennium?


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'Alien Megastructure' Mystery May Soon Be Solved

Astronomers around the world are keeping a close eye on the star KIC 8462852, which has dimmed dramatically numerous times over the past few years, dropping in brightness by up to 22 percent. "As long as one of those events occurs again, we should be able to catch it in the act, and then we'll definitely be able to figure out what we're seeing," said Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University. KIC 8462852 is a large star that lies about 1,500 light-years from Earth.


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Giant Pterosaur Sported 110 Teeth (and 4 Wicked Fangs)

A little more than 200 million years ago, a four-fanged pterosaur flew over the vast desert of Triassic Utah snagging other reptiles with its toothy mouth, until it met its untimely end on the banks of a dried-up oasis, new research finds. The pterosaur had a massive wingspan of about 4.5 feet (1.3 meters) — about as wide as a 10-year-old child is tall — and sported a total of 110 teeth, four of them inch-long (2.5 centimeters) fangs, said study researcher Brooks Britt, an associate professor of geology at Brigham Young University in Utah. Brigham Young University student Scott Meek found the specimen, including its skull and bones from its body, in 2014 when he was excavating bones from a 300-lb. (136 kilograms) chunk of sandstone.


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No Crap: Missing 'Mega Poop' Starves Earth

"This broken global cycle may weaken ecosystem health, fisheries and agriculture," study researcher Joe Roman, a biologist at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. As a result, natural poop-fertilization by land animals has dropped to 8 percent of what it was at the end of the last ice age, Roman and his colleagues report today (Oct. 26) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The situation is even worse in the ocean, where nutrient transport via pooping is estimated at a mere 5 percent of historic values.


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Ancient Native American 'Twins' Had Different Mothers

Native American "twins" who died 11,500 years ago in the area that's now Alaska actually had different mothers, a new genetic analysis suggests. The genetic lineage of one of the fake twin babies suggests all Native Americans can trace can trace their lineage to a single wave of migrants who crossed the Bering Strait, said study co-author Justin Tackney, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Utah. Native Americans descend from people who first left Siberia and crossed the Bering Strait when sea levels were lower and the region formed a land bridge, sometime between 23,000 and 30,000 years ago.


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Next Higgs? Atom Smasher Probes Highest Energies Yet

Scientists at the world's largest atom smasher have made a precise tally of the jumbled cascade of particles produced when two proton beams are smashed together. The results could help researchers discover new types of particles, akin to the now-famous Higgs boson. Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland sent two beams of protons hurtling in opposite directions and crashed them together at the highest energy level yet achieved at the LHC.


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No Digital Divide: Mobile Media Plentiful in Low-Income Families

Babies and toddlers are spending plenty of time using mobile media devices at their homes, including children whose families are not well-off financially, a new study reveals. The researchers looked at families with children under age 4 in an urban, low-income, minority community, and found that nearly all the children had access to popular electronics, such as televisions, computers, smart phones and tablets. The investigators also found that children's use of these devices began at very early ages.

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Third Observatory to Close on Sacred Hawaiian Mountain

A British-built observatory located on Hawaii's tallest mountain announced last week that it would be closing, meeting the request of Hawaii's Gov. David Ige to shut down 25 percent of the telescopes on the mountain, in order to facilitate the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT). The UKIRT observatory, located on the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, "had already been identified in the Mauna Kea management plan … as one of the telescopes that will not be recycled after the end of its productive life," Guenther Hasinger, director of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, which runs the telescope, told Space.com by email.


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Star Ships: New Science Cruises Offer Pristine Cosmic Views

Princes Cruises and Discovery Channel have created a line of science-themed cruises called "Discovery at Sea." The excursions feature activities like diving with sharks, spending time with exotic wildlife, looking at auroras and stargazing. For the cruise program, he helped develop the "tour of the sky" that is presented to passengers, he told Space.com.


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Fossil unearthed in Spain sheds light on ape evolution

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The well-preserved partial skull and skeleton of a gibbon-like creature that lived 11.6 million years ago in Spain is shedding new light on the evolutionary history of modern apes. The remains include 70 bones or bone fragments including a skull exceptionally complete for a primate from that time.


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