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Showing posts from December 14, 2015

Study documents sea lion brain damage due to algae's toxin

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A toxin produced by marine algae is inflicting brain damage on sea lions along California's coast, causing neurological and behavioral changes that can impair their ability to navigate in the sea and survive in the wild, scientists said on Monday. Brain scans on 30 California sea lions detected damage in the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory and spatial navigation, in animals naturally exposed to the toxin known as domoic acid, the researchers said.


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In Chile, world's astronomy hub, scientists fear loss of dark skies

By Gram Slattery CERRO LAS CAMPANAS, Chile (Reuters) - When some of the world's leading astronomers scaled a frosty, Chilean peak in mid-November to break ground on a state-of-the-art, $1 billion telescope, they were stunned by an unexpectedly hazy glow. On the floor of the Atacama Desert, some 1,700 meters (5,600 ft) below the planned Giant Magellan Telescope, new streetlights lining Chile's north-south highway shone brightly. "It's like putting an oil rig in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef," said Guillermo Blanc, a University of Chile astronomy professor, who first saw the lights at the opening.

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It Ain't Got That Swing: Putin's Unusual Walk Shaped by KGB

A long-standing peculiarity in Russian president Vladimir Putin's walk — with his right arm held almost immobile, while his left arm swings freely — has sparked speculation over the years about its origins, with rumors ranging from an in-utero stroke to a childhood bout with polio. Now, a new study by a group of neurologists reaches a very different conclusion, pinning the source of Putin's gait on the training he received while he was in the Soviet Union's KGB, the nation's national security agency. In the study, published online today (Dec. 14) in the journal The BMJ, the researchers discovered that several other prominent Russian officials displayed a similar gait, which they say could also be linked to KGB training intended to keep a man's "gun arm" close to his holster, ready to draw a weapon at a moment's notice.

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Why Are There So Many Bob Dylan Lyrics in Medical Lit? The Answer, My Friend…

Hey, Mr. Scientist man: Bob Dylan references in biomedical literature have increased "exponentially" since 1990, a new study finds. In the study, the researchers conducted a search of the biomedical papers published through May 2015 and found 213 references "unequivocally citing" the singer/songwriter. The most popular Dylan songs referenced were "The Times They Are a-Changin'," which had 135 citations, and "Blowin' in the Wind," which had 36 citations, according to the study, which was published in the annual Christmas issue of The BMJ (a lighthearted edition of the medical journal that normally publishes serious research).

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Antidepressants May Raise Autism Risk in Later Pregnancy Stages

Women in a new study who took antidepressants during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy showed an 87 percent increased risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder, compared with women who did not take medications for depression while expecting. The researchers also found that mothers who used a certain class of antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), had more than double the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the study published today (Dec. 14) in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. ASD is a group of conditions that includes autism, Asperger syndrome or other pervasive developmental disorders.

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In Chile, world's astronomy hub, scientists fear loss of dark skies

By Gram Slattery CERRO LAS CAMPANAS, Chile (Reuters) - When some of the world's leading astronomers scaled a frosty, Chilean peak in mid-November to break ground on a state-of-the-art, $1 billion telescope, they were stunned by an unexpectedly hazy glow. On the floor of the Atacama Desert, some 1,700 meters (5,600 ft) below the planned Giant Magellan Telescope, new streetlights lining Chile's north-south highway shone brightly. "It's like putting an oil rig in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef," said Guillermo Blanc, a University of Chile astronomy professor, who first saw the lights at the opening.

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Too Much Sleeping & Sitting as Bad as Smoking & Drinking

For each participant, the researchers counted how many unhealthy behaviors he or she engaged in, including smoking, drinking alcohol, eating unhealthy foods, being physical inactive, exhibiting sedentary behaviors and sleeping too much (which the researchers defined as more than 9 hours per night). But the study also showed that the combination of physical inactivity with sedentary behavior, or physical inactivity with too much sleep, were as strongly linked to mortality among the participants as the combination of smoking with heavy drinking. "Physical inactivity alone had a strong association with mortality," Melody Ding, lead author on the study and senior research fellow at the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, told Live Science in an email.


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Traveling for the Holidays with Kids? How to Keep Them Safe

If you're a parent traveling with young children this year, or a host welcoming friends' or relatives' babies into your home, check out the following tips from pediatricians on how to create a safe environment and ease holiday stress. The biggest dangers in a non-baby-proofed house are typically everyday things, pediatricians say. Electrical wires, steep stairs and choking hazards are common dangers, said Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Earth May Spin Faster as Glaciers Melt

Melting ice triggered by global warming may make Earth whirl faster than before and could shift the axis on which the planet spins, researchers say. Prior research found the rate at which Earth spins has changed over time. In general, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun on Earth is relentlessly slowing the planet's rate of spin.


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Prairie Voles' Cheatin' Heart Tied to Genes

The latter may be true for prairie voles, and this absentmindedness could be inherited, according to a new study. Unlike most mammals, prairie voles bond for life (which is pretty short — only one to two years.) Once they've paired off, the males establish territories that they fiercely defend against trespassers. To investigate what might lead some males to stray, the scientists zeroed in on a gene called avpr1a, already known for its associations with both sexual fidelity and spatial memory, and a receptor — a protein molecule that receives signals and converts them to trigger responses — known as V1aR, in memory structures.


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'Impossible' Feat: Scientists Measure Energy of Atoms During Reactions

For the first time, scientists have accomplished a feat long thought impossible — they have measured the energy of incredibly short-lived arrangements of atoms that occur as chemical reactions are happening. This finding could help shed light on the precise inner workings of chemical reactions too complex to understand by other methods, the researchers said. The chemical reactions responsible for life, death and everything in between involve molecules transforming from one kind to another — essentially, from reactants to products.


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Bon Voyage: US Navy's Futuristic Destroyer Sails Out to Sea

The U.S. Navy's giant new warship finally sailed out to sea this week to complete its first-ever round of tests and trials in the Atlantic Ocean. On Monday (Dec. 7), the 610-foot-long (186 meters) destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, made its way from the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine, to the high seas. The massive ship tips the scales at 15,480 tons (that's nearly 31 million lbs., or more than 14 million kilograms) and cost more than $4 billion to design and build, according to a report by The Washington Post.


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Bomb-proof bag could suppress explosion on aircraft

By Matthew Stock A controlled explosion in the luggage hold of an aircraft was successfully contained by a bomb-proof lining developed by an international team of scientists. The technology shows how a plane's luggage hold may be able to contain the force of an explosion if a device hidden in an item of luggage detonates. The lining's flexibility increases its resilience in containing an explosion and any blast fragments, said Dr. Andrew Tyas, of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, who is leading the research at the University of Sheffield.

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'Star Wars' Creature: Giraffe Relative Named After Queen Amidala

The "Star Wars" franchise may need to update its menagerie of wonky, alienlike creatures to include a boneheaded, short-necked relative of the giraffe. The extinct relative of giraffes, Xenokeryx amidalae, takes its moniker from Queen Padmé Amidala, the wife of Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) in the "Star Wars" prequels. The weird-looking creature may give Queen Amidala's hat maker a run for its money: X. amidalae had two ossicones (similar to horns) and a bizarre, T-shaped appendage sprouting from the top of its head, researchers noted in a study describing the creature.


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Elf on the Shelf: Cute or Creepy?

Ten years ago, a self-published Christmas book launched a new holiday tradition: the Elf on the Shelf. In fact, experts say, the Elf on the Shelf could send some less-than-appealing messages on proper behavior, privacy and surveillance. "Think about it," said Emily Gifford, a psychologist at Child Development Associates in Scarsdale, New York.


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