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Showing posts from March 14, 2016

From wee rex to T. rex: modest forerunner to huge predator found

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fossils unearthed in northern Uzbekistan's remote Kyzylkum Desert of a smaller, older cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex are showing that the modest forerunners of that famous brute had already acquired the sophisticated brain and senses that helped make it such a horrifying predator. Researchers said on Monday the horse-sized Cretaceous Period dinosaur, named Timurlengia euotica, that roamed Central Asia 90 million years ago sheds new light on the lineage called tyrannosaurs that culminated with T. rex, which stalked North America more than 20 million years later. The make-up of the inner ear indicated Timurlengia, like T. rex, excelled at hearing lower frequency sounds.


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John Grisham book turns spotlight on futuristic cancer treatment

A new book by bestselling author John Grisham is giving new impetus to a handful of companies striving to develop what they say could be a trailblazing treatment for cancer and Alzheimer's disease. "The Tumor" is a fictional account of a 35-year-old man with brain cancer who, a decade into the future, is treated with focused ultrasound - a real-life technology that is currently being researched as a potential cure for more than 50 diseases. Focused ultrasound uses soundwaves to destroy damaged tissue deep within the body, doing away with the need for incisions or radiation therapy.


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From wee rex to T. rex: modest forerunner to huge predator found

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fossils unearthed in northern Uzbekistan's remote Kyzylkum Desert of a smaller, older cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex are showing that the modest forerunners of that famous brute had already acquired the sophisticated brain and senses that helped make it such a horrifying predator.    Researchers said on Monday the horse-sized Cretaceous Period dinosaur, named Timurlengia euotica, that roamed Central Asia 90 million years ago sheds new light on the lineage called tyrannosaurs that culminated with T. rex, which stalked North America more than 20 million years later.    The researchers used CT scans to look inside Timurlengia's braincase and digitally reconstruct its brain, sinuses, nerves, blood vessels and inner ear. The make-up of the inner ear indicated Timurlengia, like T. rex, excelled at hearing lower frequency sounds.    Timurlengia was relatively small but boasted the advanced brain and senses of the colossal apex predators like Tyranno…

Ancient Dust Found in Meteorites Came from Exploding Stars

Microscopic dust grains extracted from meteorites that landed on Earth had ancient and explosive origins, scientists have discovered. The dust grains — also known as presolar grains, since they're older than Earth's sun — were likely spewed out by stars that blew up hundreds of millions of years before Earth's solar system formed. To trace the origins of the stardust's subatomic "fingerprints," scientists built computer models simulating the explosive conditions that could have produced them, to test whether the dust grains' point of origin might have been an exploding white dwarf star in a double-star system.


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Plastic-Munching Bacteria Can Make Trash Biodegradable

A durable plastic called PET is considered a major environmental hazard because it's highly resistant to breakdown. Most plastic degrades extraordinarily slowly, but PET — short for poly(ethylene terephthalate) — is especially durable, and about 61 million tons (56 metric tons) of the colorless plastic was produced worldwide in 2013 alone, according to the researchers. Previously, the only species found to break down PET were rare fungi.

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John Grisham book turns spotlight on futuristic cancer treatment

A new book by bestselling author John Grisham is giving new impetus to a handful of companies striving to develop what they say could be a trailblazing treatment for cancer and Alzheimer's disease. "The Tumor" is a fictional account of a 35-year-old man with brain cancer who, a decade into the future, is treated with focused ultrasound - a real-life technology that is currently being researched as a potential cure for more than 50 diseases. Focused ultrasound uses soundwaves to destroy damaged tissue deep within the body, doing away with the need for incisions or radiation therapy.


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New Anti-Snore Patch Targets the Science of Sound Waves

The aptly named "Silent Partner" snore patch addresses the sound, rather than the cause, of snoring, according to Netanel Eyal, co-founder of the startup Silent Partner. It uses a sensor on one side of the nose to detect snore sounds.


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Irrational Partying: Happy Pi Day!

Doesn't matter — for the purposes of today's date, the first three digits of pi are the important ones. Today, 3/14, is Pi Day, the math nerd's holiday celebrating the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi Day was the brainchild of physicist Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium, which has been holding special events on March 14 for 28 years running.

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CORRECTED: FDA says engineered anti-Zika mosquito environmentally safe (March 11)

(Corrects to remove reference to investigational trial by U.S. FDA in paragraph 3, adds paragraph 4 to say Oxitec plans to conduct an investigational trial) REUTERS - U.S. health regulators said a genetically engineered mosquito being used in the fight against Zika will not have a significant impact on the environment, possibly paving the way for the technique to be used in the country. The self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito was developed by Oxitec, the U.K.-subsidiary of U.S. synthetic biology company Intrexon Corp. The male mosquitoes are modified so their offspring will die before reaching adulthood and being able to reproduce. The FDA agreed with an environmental assessment submitted by Oxitec, saying preliminary findings suggested that the genetically modified mosquitoes will not have a significant impact on the environment.


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Record surge in 2016 temperatures adds urgency to climate deal, say scientists

A record surge in temperatures in 2016, linked to global warming and an El Nino weather event in the Pacific, is adding urgency to a deal by 195 governments in December to curb greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change, scientists said on Monday. Average global temperatures last month were 1.35 degree Celsius (2.4 Fahrenheit) above normal for February, the biggest temperature excess recorded for any month against a baseline of 1951-80, according to NASA data released at the weekend. The previous record was set in January, stoked by factors including a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the strong El Nino event, which releases heat from the Pacific.


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Scientists find gene fault that raises schizophrenia risk 35-fold

By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists say they have conclusive evidence that changes to a gene called SETD1A can dramatically raise the risk of developing schizophrenia - a finding that should help the search for new treatments. The team, led by researchers at Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said damaging changes to the gene happen very rarely but can increase the risk of schizophrenia 35-fold. Changes in SETD1A also raise the risk of a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, the researchers said.

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FDA says engineered anti-Zika mosquito environmentally safe (March 11)

(Reuters) - U.S. health regulators said a genetically engineered mosquito being used in the fight against Zika will not have a significant impact on the environment, possibly paving the way for the technique to be used in the country. The self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito was developed by Oxitec, the U.K.-subsidiary of U.S. synthetic biology company Intrexon Corp. The male mosquitoes are modified so their offspring will die before reaching adulthood and being able to reproduce. The FDA agreed with an environmental assessment submitted by Oxitec, saying preliminary findings suggested that the genetically modified mosquitoes will not have a significant impact on the environment.


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Maria Sharapova's Failed Doping Test: What Is Meldonium?

Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been provisionally suspended from competition after testing positive for the recently banned drug meldonium. On Monday (March 7), Sharapova admitted to failing a drug test for the upcoming Australian Open because she had been taking meldonium (sold under the brand name Mildronate). Sharapova said she had been taking the drug for 10 years as advised by her family doctor.

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Kids Are Eating Nuts, Despite Rise in Allergies

About one-third of U.S. children and teens eat nuts on any given day, mostly in the form of seeds and nut butters, according to a new government report. The report, which is based on a national survey, found that 32 percent of children ages 2 to 19 ate nuts on any given day between 2009 and 2012. About 40 percent of the nuts that kids ate were from a single product, like seeds or peanut butter.

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Risk of Zika Infection Is Low at High Altitudes, CDC Says

Pregnant women may not need to avoid travel to all areas where the Zika virus is spreading — health officials say that, in high elevations, there is a low risk of becoming infected with the virus. The new recommendations, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, come after the agency analyzed data from 16 countries with elevations above 4,900 feet (1,500 meters). "Consequently, at elevations above [6,500 feet], the risk for mosquito-borne exposure to Zika virus is considered to be minimal," researchers from the CDC said in a report published today (March 11).

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Human Trials of Zika Vaccine May Begin This Fall

The first vaccine trials against the Zika virus will likely start this fall, federal health officials announced today (March 10). President Barack Obama has asked Congress to approve $1.8 billion in federal spending to battle Zika virus, but so far, Republicans in Congress have put up a fight, insisting that health officials should use federal money left over from the Ebola crisis, according to USA Today. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a news briefing today that it will be difficult for vaccine trials to move forward to subsequent stages unless Congress grants the funds needed to fight the disease.

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European-Russian spacecraft blasts off in search of life on Mars

(Reuters) - Europe and Russia launched a spacecraft in a joint mission on Monday to sniff out signs of life on Mars and bring humans a step closer to flying to the red planet themselves. The craft, part of the ExoMars program, blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on board a Proton rocket, starting a seven-month journey through space. It carries an atmospheric probe that is to study trace gases such as methane -- a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life -- that previous Mars missions have detected in the planet's atmosphere.


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The Science of ExoMars: New Mission to Hunt for Mars Life

If the European-led ExoMars mission successfully launches into space tomorrow (March 14) as planned, scientists will have two intrepid new scouts in their search for life on the Red Planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will look for key elements in Mars' thin, dusty atmosphere, while the Schiaparelli lander will serve as a short-lived Red Planet weather station. One goal of the mission is to prove out technology for a more ambitious life-hunting rover that's scheduled to launch in the second phase of the ExoMars program in 2018.


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