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Showing posts from November 9, 2015

CORRECTED - Science's 'Breakthrough' winners earn over $21 million in prizes

(Corrects paragraph 3 to physicists instead of physicians) By Sarah McBride SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Academia just turned a little more glitzy for a select group of scientists. Russian billionaire Yuri Milner handed out $21 million Sunday in seven Breakthrough Prizes, the award for scientific accomplishment he created three years ago alongside technology giants including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 23andme founder Anne Wojcicki and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The prizes are worth $3 million, around three times the sum a Nobel Prize winner receives.


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Scientists warn of health damage from Indonesia's haze fires

By Alisa Tang BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Toxic fumes from the Indonesian fires that have spread a chohttp://cdn.pictures.reuters.com/Doc/RTR/Media/TR3_UNWATERMARKED/8/5/6/6/RTS58G8.jpgking haze across Southeast Asia may be doing more harm to human and plant health than officials have indicated, scientists measuring the pollution say. Farmers are expecting a poor harvest because plants have too little sunlight for normal photosynthesis, while government figures of half a million sickened by the smoke are only the "tip of the iceberg", said Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Meanwhile, the fires are converting carbon stored in burning peatlands into greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.


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Mountains on Pluto believed to be ice volcanoes, scientists say

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered what appear to be ice-spewing volcanoes on the surface of Pluto, raising questions about how the tiny, distant world has been so geologically active, according to research presented on Monday. The findings, released at an American Astronomical Society meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, paint a far more complicated picture of Pluto and its moons than scientists imagined. "The Pluto system is baffling us," planetary scientist Alan Stern, with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, told reporters during a webcast news conference.


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Icy Volcanoes May Erupt on Pluto

Icy volcanoes may lie on the southern rim of Pluto's frozen heart. Images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft have identified two peaks that tower nearly 4 miles (6 kilometers) high over the surface of the dwarf planet, and scientists say the peaks' physical features suggest they might be volcanoes. "These are two really extraordinary features," Oliver White, a New Horizons postdoctoral researcher with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said today (Nov. 9) during a news conference here at the 47th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).


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The Science of Vitamin C: Can Taking It Prevent a Cold?

But does boosting your vitamin C intake do anything to prevent or shorten colds? Some studies suggest taking vitamin C has a modest effect on the common cold, but don't expect miracles, one expert says. "It's fair to say that vitamin C supplementation both shortens duration of cold and offers some protection against colds, though it's not very dramatic," said Stephen Lawson, a researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, who studies micronutrients.

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The Future of Drones: Uncertain, Promising and Pretty Awesome

The first drone delivery in the United States took place this past summer, marking an important milestone in the development of the new technology. Instead, Australian startup Flirtey, in partnership with Virginia Tech and NASA, used a drone to carry 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of medical supplies from an airfield in Virginia to a remote clinic about a mile away over three 3-minute flights. While the demonstration was a landmark moment for drone technology and policy, it was a far cry from Amazon's vision of a fleet of drones delivering online purchases to customers' doorsteps within 30 minutes.


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Meet Your Microbes: Museum Exhibit Reveals a 'Secret World'

This spectacular hidden world is explored in a new exhibit, called "The Secret World Inside You," that opens today (Nov. 7) here at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Why is the microbiome such a significant part our make up? This doesn’t mean that human bodies are mostly made of microbes — human cells take up a lot more space.


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'Mirror Universes' Might Look and Behave Like Ours, Study Finds

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) discovered that antimatter protons, called antiprotons, act just like their ordinary-matter cousins when they are close enough to interact via the so-called strong nuclear force, which binds protons and neutrons together into atomic nuclei. Antimatter is essentially the opposite of matter, in which the subatomic particles (protons and electrons) of antimatter have charges opposite to those of ordinary matter. In antimatter, the antiprotons are negatively charged, while the antielectrons (called positrons) are positively charged.


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What the Flux? No Sign of Aliens Around Strange, Dimming Star

If alien civilizations are broadcasting from around a strangely behaving star, they aren't chatting loud enough for humans to hear them from Earth, new observations show. The star KIC 8462852 garnered popular attention in October, when scientists announced that it showed evidence of periodically dimming by 20 percent or more, which some people theorized could be caused by the shadow of an alien megastructure. "The history of astronomy tells us that, every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong," SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak said in a statement.


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On Pluto Time: Q&A with New Horizons Leader Alan Stern

This past July, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft provided the first good looks at Pluto, and the piano-size probe might not be done exploring the solar system's outer reaches. New Horizons performed the first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14, revealing the dwarf planet to be a complex and diverse world with tall mountains, nitrogen-ice glaciers and some areas of surprisingly young terrain. The spacecraft is now cruising through the frigid Kuiper Belt — the ring of bodies beyond Neptune's orbit —  and could make even more history during a potential extended mission.


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Math of 'The Martian': How It Adds Up

The movie glosses over many of the solutions vital to protagonist Mark Watney's continued existence, whereas the book explains them fully. In both cases, however, almost all of the solutions take calculation and detailed planning to get off the ground.


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Tennis study serves up the science of sliding

By Matthew Stock Engineers at the University of Sheffield have teamed up with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to measure the effects of friction between tennis court surfaces and footwear in a bid to ensure the world's top players can play their natural game and slide in a controlled manner, with a reduced risk of injury. Sliding is a key skill on clay courts, mastered by the likes of one-time 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal, who enjoyed years of success in the French Open at Roland Garros. The increase in sliding among top players could be a natural reaction to more powerful racket technology, according to mechanical engineering PhD student Daniel Ura.

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'Pompeii of the New World' Reveals Power of Mayan Commoners

A Mayan village frozen in time 1,400 years ago by a volcanic eruption reveals that commoners had power in a culture best known for the works of the elite class. Though elites in city centers had an impressive record in developing arts, hieroglyphs and a complex calendar, rural villagers weren't under the thumb of this ruling class, excavations in El Salvador suggest. In fact, nearly all decisions appeared to be under local control, and villagers had a remarkable quality of life, said Payson Sheets, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


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Parents Targeted by TV Ads Putting 'Healthful' Spin on Kid's Drinks

By using this two-pronged approach to marketing to parents and kids, food-manufacturing companies may be trying to increase the chance that their products will be purchased, said study author Jennifer A. Edmond, an instructor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. "But then they are marketing to parents with a separate set of ads that promote nutrition and a healthy lifestyle," in what might be the hope of preventing the parents from feeling guilty about buying this product for the child, Edmond told Live Science. This approach to marketing to both kids and parents is concerning when it comes to those children's foods and beverages that may not be that healthy, Edmond said.

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Rare Dinosaur Find: Fossil Covered in Feathers, Skin

The skeleton of a heavily feathered, ostrichlike dinosaur has "unparalleled" fossilized feathers and skin — anatomical features that aren't usually preserved in dinosaur remains, a new study reports. The remains indicate that the dinosaur — an Ornithomimus, a fast-moving theropod (bipedal, mostly meat-eating dinosaurs) with an uncanny resemblance to an ostrich — sported a feathery coat during the Late Cretaceous, more than 66 million years ago. Study lead researcher Aaron van der Reest found the partial skeleton in Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park in 2009, during his first undergraduate year at the University of Alberta.


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Mysterious Symbols in Kazakhstan: How Old Are They, Really?

Sprawling earthen swastika designs, crosses and rings that cover part of Kazakhstan are becoming a little less mysterious: Archaeologists have found and investigated 60 of these symbols, called geoglyphs, and determined when they were created and what their potential function might have been. Using a dating technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), the archaeologists recently found that the structures were constructed starting around 2,800 years ago.


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Eye-tracking sensor maker makes play for big time

By Helena Soderpalm STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - An accidental breakthrough in a Stockholm laboratory 15 years ago could reap a fortune for the engineers who made it - as long as they can win over some of the most demanding consumers: video gamers. Since John Elvesjo noticed a sensor tracking his eye movements in a lab experiment, the technology he developed with Henrik Eskilsson and Marten Skogo has helped disabled people use a computer by identifying where they are looking on the screen. Eskilsson says eye tracking will one day be found in all laptops, smartphones, tablets and automobiles.


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