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Showing posts from August 22, 2016

What are the origins of life? There's a rocket for that

By Ben Gruber CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA scientists are putting the finishing touches on a spacecraft designed to rendezvous with Asteroid Bennu in 2018 to find clues about the origins of life. "We are days away from encapsulating into our rocket faring and lifting this spacecraft on to the Atlas V vehicle and beginning the journey to Bennu and back," Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the mission told Reuters at the Kennedy Space Center. The $1 billion mission, known as OSIRIS-REx, is scheduled for launch on Sept. 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.


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Eat your food packaging, don't bin it - scientists

By Alex Whiting ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists are developing an edible form of packaging which they hope will preserve food more effectively and more sustainably than plastic film, helping to cut both food and plastic waste. The packaging film is made of a milk protein called casein, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. The film looks similar to plastic wrapping, but is up to 500 times better at protecting food from oxygen, as well as being biodegradable and sustainable, the researchers said at the meeting in Pennsylvania, which runs until Thursday.

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Glass Half Empty? Why You May Be Less Optimistic Than You Think

The studies that have suggested that people tend to be inherently optimistic may have had flawed methods of measuring this so-called "optimism bias," the researchers said. Optimism bias, for example, is thought to occur in people who are told their statistical chance of experiencing a bad life event such as cancer. "Previous studies, which have used flawed methodologies to claim that people are optimistic across all situations and that this bias is 'normal,' are now in serious doubt," Adam Harris, a psychologist at University College London and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

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'RNA World': Scientists Inch Closer to Recreating Primordial Life

Scientists studying the origin of life think that the first molecules to replicate themselves — the very first living things — lived in what is called "RNA world." The RNA world hypothesis says that before there was DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, there was RNA (ribonucleic acid) serving as a kind of primitive genetic material and simple enzymes. This is simpler than the protein-based chemistry that governs life today, in which the genetic material and enzymes are separate. In the new study, David Horning and Gerald Joyce, both at The Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California, mixed a cocktail of water, RNA and an enzyme called ribozyme.


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Smartphone-Connected Contact Lenses Give New Meaning to 'Eye Phone'

Apps allow you to link your smartphone to anything from your shoes, to your jewelry, to your doorbell — and soon, you may be able to add your contact lenses to that list. Engineers at the University of Washington have developed an innovative way of communicating that would allow medical aids such as contact lenses and brain implants to send signals to smartphones. The new tech, called "interscatter communication," works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi signals, the engineers wrote in a paper that will be presented Aug. 22 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communication conference in Brazil.

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500-Year-Old Hidden Images Revealed in Mexican 'Manuscript'

Storytelling images on a deer-hide "manuscript" from Mexico have been seen for the first time in 500 years, thanks to sophisticated scanning technology that penetrated layers of chalk and plaster. This "codex," a type of book-like text, originated in the part of Mexico that is now Oaxaca, and is one of only 20 surviving codices that were made in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans. Other Mexican codices recovered from this period contained colorful pictographs — images that represent words or phrases — which have been translated as descriptions of alliances, wars, rituals and genealogies, according to the study authors.


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Eat your food packaging, don't bin it - scientists

By Alex Whiting ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists are developing an edible form of packaging which they hope will preserve food more effectively and more sustainably than plastic film, helping to cut both food and plastic waste. The packaging film is made of a milk protein called casein, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. The film looks similar to plastic wrapping, but is up to 500 times better at protecting food from oxygen, as well as being biodegradable and sustainable, the researchers said at the meeting in Pennsylvania, which runs until Thursday.

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Scotland's Ancient Stone Circles Built to Align with Solstice Sun

Scientists have statistically proven that two 5,000-year-old stone circles located on islands in Scotland have a series of astronomical alignments that ancient builders intentionally created. The circles also align with the moon during a "major lunar standstill," an event that happens once every 18.6 years. During a major lunar standstill (the next one will occur in 2025), the moon can move through the sky at points that appear very high or very lowon the horizon.


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Earth's Oldest Oceanic Crust Uncovered in Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is home to what could be the world's oldest oceanic crust, an undisturbed section of Earth's outermost shell that scientists say is about 340 million years old. Most oceanic crust is less than 200 million years old, because it is typically recycled back into the Earth's mantle at subduction zones (where two tectonic plates collide). In the new study, researchers used magnetic sensing equipment to profile areasof the eastern Mediterranean.

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