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Showing posts from December 18, 2015

Hubble telescope shows image of new 'lightsaber' star system

GREENBELT, Md. - NASA'S Hubble telescope captured an image of a baby star buried in interstellar gas and dust with massive jets emitting from it that seem to resemble a double-bladed lightsaber from the new film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Dr. Jennifer Wiseman said the image of dark clouds with a long gold line through it shows the birth stage of a new star system. "This particular protostar system looks like a double-bladed lightsaber, which is timely with all the Star Wars frenzy going on right now," she added.

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Elephant Daughters Step into Murdered Matriarchs' Roles

When older members of an elephant family are killed, younger female elephants assume the roles once held by their mothers, maintaining the networks that keep extended families together, a new study has found. Over a 16-year period, researchers evaluated the changing social dynamics in groups of elephants in western Kenya as mature matriarchs were killed by poachers who hunt elephants for the ivory in their tusks. Not only did younger female elephants take up new social positions when an older matriarch died, but the links they forged with other elephant daughters mirrored connections once held by their mothers.


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Ancient Marine Reptiles Flew Through the Water

The ancient, four-flippered plesiosaur didn't swim like a fish, whale or even an otter — but instead like a penguin, a new study finds. Plesiosaurs, giant marine reptiles that lived during the dinosaur age, likely propelled themselves forward underwater by flapping their two front flippers, much like penguins do today, the researchers said. "This is the first time plesiosaur locomotion has been simulated with computers, so our study provides exciting new information on how these unusual extinct animals may have swum," said study co-author Adam Smith, a curator of natural sciences at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom.


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Adorable 'Star Wars' BB-8 Droid Brought to Life with 3D Printing

A software engineer in Canada recently created a 3D-printed replica of the adorable BB-8 robot from the new "Star Wars" movie. J.R. Bedárd was inspired to build his own version of the roly-poly robot after the real BB-8 droid (the one used in the film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens") took to the stage at Star Wars Celebration, a fan convention held in April in Anaheim, California. Fans like Bedárd were amazed that the bot — which has a half dome for a head and a spherical body that rolls over the ground — actually appeared in the film and that the robot was not the product of computer-generated imagery (CGI).


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Beware 'Star Wars' Spoilers: Enjoyment Suffers When Plot Revealed

The much-anticipated film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens in U.S. theaters Friday (Dec. 18), and if you're not already waiting in line to see the very first screenings, you might be worried about spoilers ruining the experience. A recent study found that spoilers — or giving away key plot details — may not ruin an experience entirely, but can reduce suspense and decrease overall enjoyment. "Our study is the first to show that people's widespread beliefs about spoilers being harmful are actually well-founded and not a myth," the study's corresponding author, Benjamin Johnson, an assistant professor of communication science at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said in a statement.


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Paris Climate Deal Could Stave Off Disaster, Al Gore Says

The world may have just turned the corner in the battle against climate change, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore says. The Paris agreement, which 195 nations signed over the weekend, could be the breakthrough that lets humanity avoid a looming climate catastrophe, Gore said here Wednesday (Dec. 16) at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The plan of action laid out by the accord, "while far from ideal, nevertheless sets in motion a process of change that gives us an excellent chance of accelerating the measures that could actually bring us to a point where we can start stabilizing the climate," Gore said.


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How Forests Could Bridge the Energy Transition (Op-Ed)

Richard Houghton is a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, an independent research institute where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration and economic development. Negotiators in Paris face a tough job hammering out a global agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions far enough and fast enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. If governments could reverse tropical deforestation, the planet could buy some time, a point my colleagues and I highlighted in a recent commentary in the current issue of Nature Climate Change.


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7 Animals with 'Star Wars'-Inspired Names

Species' scientific names are in Latin and have two parts. Take our own scientific name, Homo sapiens, for example — the first part of the name, Homo, describes our genus, a grouping that includes our closest relatives. If it shares enough traits with a known genus, the scientist who discovered the new species starts there, selecting a species name that can reflect anything from the new species' looks to the scientist's favorite celebrity.


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For Hippos, Their Charismatic Looks Won't Keep Them Safe (Photos)

Julie Larsen Maher is staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the first woman to hold the position since the society's founding in 1895. Hippos rely on freshwater habitats, which puts the animals at odds with humans, who have growing needs for the same.


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Shields Up! How the Earth Got a Force Field

Paul Sutter is a visiting scholar at the Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics (CCAPP). Sutter is also host of the podcasts Ask a Spaceman and RealSpace, and the YouTube series Space In Your Face. He contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.


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Is a Real Lightsaber Possible? Science Offers a New Hope

Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab, the United States' biggest Large Hadron Collider research institution. Lincoln contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. This is the how a lightsaber was introduced to viewers nearly 40 years ago.


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Analysis of crickets' jumps could lead to new, tiny robots

By Jillian Kitchener Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are dissecting crickets' jumps, not with a scalpel, but with high-speed cameras to analyze their patterns of movement. Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Rajat Mittal, says he now sees spider crickets as much more than pests. Spider crickets are said to leap a distance equal to about 60 times their body length.

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