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Showing posts from September 22, 2016

Work on sex life of rats, life as a badger honored at Ig Nobel Prizes

By Scott Malone CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Scientific research into how polyester pants affect the sex life of rats, what it's like for a human to live like a badger and how different the world looks when viewed through your legs was honored at this year's Ig Nobel spoof awards. The group also took a dig at Volkswagen AG, lauding it in chemistry for engineering its vehicles to produce fewer emissions "whenever the cars are being tested." The prizes will be awarded for a 26th straight year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday by a group of actual Nobel Prize winners, and are intended to honor accomplishments in science and humanities that make one laugh, then think. "The prizes are for something pretty unusual," said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, and host of the awards.


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Hard-headed: prehistoric Texas reptile boasted bony domed skull

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a warm, lush region of West Texas crisscrossed with rivers, a bizarre reptile roamed the Triassic Period landscape about 228 million years ago, boasting a bony domed head unlike almost any creature that ever appeared on Earth. Scientists on Thursday described the reptile, named Triopticus primus, based on a fossilized partial skull dug up in 1940 near Big Spring, Texas, that had long languished in a drawer in a University of Texas paleontology collection. The only other animals with comparable craniums were dinosaurs called pachycephalosaurs that appeared about 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period and were only distantly related to Triopticus.


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Moonlight sonata: fish's nocturnal 'singing' secrets revealed

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In one of the marvels of nature, males of a fish species called the plainfin midshipman that dwells in Pacific coastal waters from Alaska to Baja California court females during breeding season using a nocturnal "love song" with an otherworldly sound. "They are among the vocal champions of the marine environment along with whales and dolphins," said Cornell University professor of neurobiology and behavior Andrew Bass. "The production and hearing of vocal signals plays a central role in their social interactions and reproductive behavior." The plainfin midshipman, up to 15 inches (38 cm) long, generally has an olive-brown color.


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Scientists Look Back in Time at 'Golden Age' of Star Formation

Researchers have looked at a famous sliver of sky with new eyes, revealing clues about galaxies' star-forming potential over time and verifying the early "golden age" of rapid star formation. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an enormous radio telescope in Chile, an international team of astronomers has pinpointed star-forming gas interspersed among the ancient galaxies of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field — a region first observed in detail by the Hubble Space Telescope. Although researchers have examined the region at radio wavelengths before, this is the most detailed and sharpest view, and it lets researchers see how star-forming potential has changed over the universe's life span.


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Brangelina Breakup: What Social Science Says About Divorce

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fans were left reeling Tuesday morning after news broke that the couple is getting divorced. According to the Associated Press, in the divorce papers she filed, Jolie Pitt cited "irreconcilable differences," a vague term that could apply to any number of reasons. The most common cause for divorce, however, comes down to communication differences, said Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah.


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Feeding Kids Peanuts & Eggs Early May Lower Allergy Risk

Having kids eat eggs and peanuts early in life may reduce their risk of developing allergies to these foods later, a new analysis suggests. The results showed that kids who were fed eggs when they were ages 4 to 6 months old were 40 percent less likely to develop an egg allergy, compared with those who were introduced to eggs later, the study found. In addition, kids who were fed food that contained peanuts (such as peanut butter) when they were 4 to 11 months old were 70 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy, compared with those who were introduced to peanuts later.

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Jim Carrey Drug Accusations: What to Do in Opioid Overdose

Actor Jim Carrey is being sued for the wrongful death of his ex-girlfriend, Cathriona White, who died of a drug overdose in 2015, USA Today reports. The Los Angeles County coroner reported that White was found alone, in a home owned by Carrey, with a combination of drugs in her body, including prescription opioids, according to USA Today. Officials ruled her death a suicide, NBC News reported.

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How Much Fuel Is Inside Earth?

By determining how much energy Earth has left, scientists will better understand the building blocks of the planet and its energy-spending processes. When all of the energy is used up, that means Earth will "die" in the sense that the moon is "dead" because it does not have the energy for mantle convection, volcanism, and other planetary processes. These planetary processes run on two types of energy: primordial energy, which is the heat left over from Earth's violent formation, and nuclear energy, or the heat produced during natural radioactive decay.


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Rattlesnake Ancestor Was Venom Factory

The ancestor of today's rattlesnakes was a serpent to be feared: It had genes to make venoms that would target the blood, the muscle and the nervous system. The eastern diamondback and the western diamondback both have venom that damages muscles, while the Mojave rattlesnake's toxins target the nerves. "This wholesale loss is unusual," study researcher Sean Carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said in a statement.

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No More Fires? MRI Scans of Batteries Show Explosive Potential

What looks like the liquid android from 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" stuck in the spin cycle is actually the insides of a lithium-ion battery. It might be a way to monitor rechargeable batteries in real time, preventing loss of performance and runaway explosions. "We believe these methods could become important techniques for the development of better batteries," study researcher Alexej Jerschow, a chemistry professor at New York University, said in a statement.


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Ottoman-Era Fisherman's House Unearthed in Israel

An Ottoman-era fisherman's house filled with metal fishhooks and lead weights has been discovered in the city of Ashkelon, Israel. The unprecedented find was dated back to the Ottoman Empire by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The Ottoman Empire ruled what is now Israel from 1517 until the end of World War I.


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DARPA's 'Aerial Dragnet' Will Monitor Drones in Cities

In recent years, small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as commercial quadcopters and hobby drones, have become less expensive and easier to fly — adding traffic to airspace that's already congested. Drones are also more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, and because they are currently flying unmonitored, U.S. forces want to be able to quickly detect and identify UAVs, especially in urban areas. A new project launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's research arm, wants to map all small drone activity in urban settings.


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Ancient Cult Site in Rugged Mountains Revealed with Drones

Ancient Roman ruins that lie hidden below the surface at the Apennine Mountains of Italy have largely escaped discovery because the rugged terrain makes them difficult to spot by foot and dangerous to find by airplane. Now, using small airborne drones, archaeologists have found that an ancient settlement in the Apennines was much more dense and organized than previously thought, a new study reveals. "The way this mountain society was organized remains poorly understood," said study author Tesse Stek, a Mediterranean archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


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Improbable Science Reigns at the Ig Nobel Prize Awards

This offbeat yearly event — celebrating somewhat strange scientific studies from around the world — is the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). The presentation is officially identified as both the 26th and the first of its kind because "every year is a new beginning," Abrahams told Live Science in an email. The ceremony will be webcast live on Live Science starting at 5:40 p.m. ET.


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1,700-Year-Old Dead Sea Scroll 'Virtually Unwrapped,' Revealing Text

Archaeologists found the scroll in 1970 in En-Gedi, where an ancient Jewish community thrived from about the late 700s B.C. until about A.D. 600, when a fire destroyed the site, the researchers said. The En-Gedi scroll is different than the original Dead Sea Scrolls, which a young shepherd discovered in caves near Qumran in the Judean Desert in 1947.


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Climate change could cross key threshold in a decade - scientists

By Laurie Goering OXFORD, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. Last December, 195 nations agreed to try to hold world temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, with an aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Climate change could cross key threshold in a decade: scientists

By Laurie Goering OXFORD, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. Last December, 195 nations agreed to try to hold world temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, with an aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius.


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Europe's Rosetta to wave goodbye in crash-landing on comet

By Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - After 12 years chasing a comet across more 6 billion km of space, European scientists will end the historic Rosetta mission by crash-landing the spacecraft on the surface of the dusty, icy body at the end of the month. Data collected by Rosetta, which has captured the public's imagination thanks in part to the European Space Agency's cartoon depictions of it and lander Philae, is helping scientists better understand how the Earth and other planets formed. The spacecraft has managed several historic firsts, including the first time a spacecraft has orbited a comet rather than just whizzing past to snap some fly-by pictures, and the first time a probe has landed on a comet's surface.


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