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Showing posts from December 21, 2015

SpaceX Falcon rocket blasts off and returns to safe landing

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Monday with a payload of communications satellites before the reusable main-stage booster turned around, soared back to Cape Canaveral and landed safely near its launch pad in a dramatic spaceflight first. The launch and successful return of the rocket's first stage, followed by deployment of all 11 satellites delivered to orbit for customer ORBCOMM, marked the first SpaceX flight since a June accident that destroyed a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. ...


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Wild bee populations dwindle in main U.S. crop regions: study

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wild bees, crucial pollinators for many crops, are on the decline in some of the main agricultural regions of the United States, according to scientists who produced the first national map of bee populations and identified numerous trouble spots. The researchers on Monday cited 139 counties as especially worrisome, with wild bee numbers decreasing while farmland for crops dependent on such pollinators is increasing. The counties included agricultural regions of California such as the Central Valley, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley.


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Flu Season Will Likely Peak in February, Model Suggests

This flu season will likely peak in February and could be a mild one, according to a new model that aims to forecast the flu in the United States this winter. The model uses information from past flu seasons, along with a mathematical representation of how influenza spreads through a population and the latest data on the current flu season, to predict how seasonal flu will pan out in the coming months. According to the new model, there's a less than 1 percent chance that the flu season will peak before January in most of the country, and a less than 20 percent chance that it will peak in January.

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Flu Season Will Likely Peak in February, Forecast Suggests

This flu season will likely peak in February and could be a mild one, according to a new model that aims to forecast the flu in the United States this winter. The model uses information from past flu seasons, along with a mathematical representation of how influenza spreads through a population and the latest data on the current flu season, to predict how seasonal flu will pan out in the coming months. According to the new model, there's a less than 1 percent chance that the flu season will peak before January in most of the country, and a less than 20 percent chance that it will peak in January.

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Take a Gander: Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count Begins

Last week marked the start of the National Audubon Society's 116th annual Christmas Bird Count, which means it's the perfect time to unleash your inner birder and take a gander at migratory bird species as they fly south for the winter. Every winter, citizen scientists participate in bird-counting events across North America, from mid-December until early January, to collect data on bird migrations for the National Audubon Society. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife census in the United States.


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Fearing pollution, Chinese families build 'bubbles' at home

By Alexandra Harney SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Liu Nanfeng has five air purifiers, two air quality monitors and a water purification system in his Beijing apartment. "It feels hopeless." China's persistent pollution and regular product safety scandals are driving an increasing number of consumers to build bubbles of clean air, purified water and safe products at home and in their cars. Beijing's city government has twice this month issued pollution "red alerts", the first time it has triggered its most severe smog warning.


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Penguin Candid Camera: Little Birds Reveal Hunting Secrets

Wearing video cameras, the world's smallest penguins have revealed their hunting secrets: The little blue-hued birds swim together to stalk groups of prey, but when it comes to catching and killing their meals, it's every penguin for itself. Researchers wanted to learn more about why these birds formed groups when foraging, such as whether doing so gives them a better chance at capturing anchovies, krill, jellyfish and other prey. The video cameras faced forward to give a penguin's-eye view.


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'Heavy Metal' Bee Is a Headbanging Pollinator (Video)

Australia's blue-banded bee is a successful pollinator because it uses its head — literally, scientists have found. Like a heavy-metal fan headbanging to Iron Maiden, this species of blue-banded bee (Amegilla murrayensis) vibrates its head rapidly when visiting flowers. Native to Australia, blue-banded bees are solitary, with females building individual burrows in soil or clay.


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Bigger Earthquakes May Be Coming to Nepal

The terrifying magnitude-7.8 Gorkha earthquake that rattled Nepal in April is nothing compared to the temblors scientists predict could happen in the future. The shaking observed was "unusually gentle" given the magnitude of the earthquake, leading to far fewer landslides and glacial lake overflows than could have been seen, researchers said here today (Dec. 16) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "The situation could have been far, far worse," said Jeffrey Kargel, who was a co-author on one of two related papers published today in the journal Science and presented at the meeting.


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The Art of Science: Why Researchers Should Think Like Designers (Op-Ed)

Ten Speed Press is an imprint of Penguin Random House. This fall I read "The Martian" (Crown, 2014) by Andy Weir, and it made me want to be a scientist. It's because I share those three traits — optimism, creativity and problem solving — that I'm a product designer.


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Sickle-Wearing Skeletons Reveal Ancient Fear of Demons

A few skeletons unearthed in a 400-year-old Polish cemetery have been discovered with sickles placed around their necks. Archaeologists believe this strange burial practice is evidence of a belief in magic and a fear of demons. The sickle burials were found at Drawsko cemetery, a site in northeastern Poland that dates from the 17th to the 18th centuries.


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Dinosaur's Curious Back Sail May Have Aided Migration

The bizarre rigid "sail" on the back of a newfound species of herbivorous dinosaur may have helped the paleo-beast survive in a variety of climates, a new study finds. The dinosaur lived during the Early Cretaceous period about 125 million years ago in ancient Spain, the researchers said. Perhaps the dinosaur used its sail to regulate its body temperature, much like an elephant uses its large ears to release excess body heat, the researchers said.


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The World Needs a Carbon Tax, Elon Musk Says

The world's leaders should institute a carbon tax to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and help shift the global economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said. The current lack of a carbon tax amounts to a hidden subsidy that incentivizes "bad behavior," Musk said here Tuesday (Dec. 15) at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).


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Deck the Halls — Scientifically! 5 Smart Tips for Holiday Decorating

'Tis the season of tangled Christmas tree lights, burnt-out menorah bulbs and dried-up mistletoe. From how to keep a Christmas tree fresh and green to ensuring that festive lights don't interfere with your home's Wi-Fi signal, here are five scientific tips that will help you stress less this holiday season. You may have heard rumors that holiday lights can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, causing slow Internet connections and, subsequently, a very frustrating holiday.

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Spacewalking astronauts fix station's stuck rail car

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two U.S. astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Monday in a hastily planned spacewalk to move a stuck rail car before a Russian cargo ship reaches the outpost on Wednesday, NASA said. Station commander Scott Kelly and newly arrived flight engineer Timothy Kopra were due to spend about 3.5 hours on an abbreviated spacewalk to latch the stalled car into a parking spot along the station's exterior truss. The rail car jammed about 4 inches (10 cm) short of its intended latching point last Wednesday, blocked by a crew equipment cart that was left with its brake on.

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30 year sweatshirt tackling 'fast fashion'

By Jim Drury A young British entrepreneur has created the 30 Year Sweatshirt - a sustainable, ethical range of clothing that he says offers a practical solution to the cycle of consumption and waste caused by so-called 'fast fashion'. Londoner Tom Cridland, 25, told Reuters he has combined old-fashioned craftsmanship with a unique silicon treatment applied to fabric that prevents shrinking. The result is a sweatshirt that he guarantees will last three decades, and because the items are priced at an affordable £55 ($83 USD), he insists that buyers will also save money in the long-term.

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Microwavable Mantle: Physicists Nuke Mock Earth Layer, for Science

Scientists have jury-rigged a microwave oven and a liquid made of food and cosmetics thickener to recreate the Earth's mantle, the mysterious middle layer of the planet. The mock-up mantle could help scientists determine whether a hidden pool of radioactive elements is producing heat deep in Earth's interior, Angela Limare, a physicist at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France, said Tuesday (Dec. 15) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "It looks like the upper mantle is really depleted of radioactive elements," Limare said.

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Here’s How To Extend Your iPhone’s Battery Life

Apple's new case contains a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that doubles the time you can use your phone before it goes kaput. Gordon Gottsegen at Wired said the case makes it look like the iPhone has a "strange-looking growth on its backside." Lauren Goode at The Verge said it looks like an iPod that swallowed an iPhone.


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Futuristic Kicks: 3D-Printed Sneakers Are Tailor-Made to Your Feet

Imagine walking into a store, running on a treadmill for a few minutes and then purchasing a pair of shoes tailored precisely to the contours of your feet. The shoe and clothing company recently unveiled its Futurecraft 3D sneaker — a running shoe with a 3D-printed midsole (the part between the inner sole that touches your foot and the outer sole that touches the ground). Adidas said the midsole can be tailored to fit the "cushioning needs" of your feet, whatever those may be.


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The Key to Making Baby Pandas? Love

There's a secret to making panda babies, and it looks a little bit like love. Pandas are more likely to produce young when they have a preference for the partner they're meant to mate with, a new study finds. In a new study published Tuesday (Dec. 15) in the journal Nature Communications, researchers allowed pandas to pick their own mates by letting them observe a pair of opposite-sex bears through barriers in a special enclosure.


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The Beard Is Back: Beeswax Fixes King Tut's Broken Goatee

The imperial goatee on King Tutankhamun's golden burial mask is back in business after scientists reattached it with beeswax, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Staff workers at Cairo's Egyptian Museum mistakenly reattached it with epoxy glue, leaving scratch marks on the famous artifact after they used a spatula to wipe off the excess glue, Live Science reported in January. But now, after a nine-week restoration, the mask has returned to public display at the museum, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said at a news conference yesterday (Dec. 17) at the museum.


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Self-driving delivery robots could be Santa's new helper

By Matthew Stock Fleets of small autonomous robots could soon become a familiar presence on public pathways with the advent of ground-based drones that aim to improve local delivery of goods and groceries.     Former Skype co-founders have launched a new company, Starship Technologies, which is preparing to test their self-driving delivery robots in London. The as yet unnamed robots are small, safe, practical and free from CO2 emissions, according to the developers.     "When you place your order online, as you do right now, but instead of getting the delivery by somebody coming up to your door and knocking on your door, you would get it by a robot," said Ahti Heinla, a Skype co-founder and CEO at Starship Technologies.    The robots can carry the equivalent of two bags of shopping and complete local deliveries in between five and 30 minutes from a designated hub or retail outlet.

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