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Showing posts from October 20, 2016

'Planet Nine' Can't Hide Much Longer, Scientists Say

Planet Nine's days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered. The hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted. "I'm pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there'll be enough people looking for it that … somebody's actually going to track this down," Brown said during a news conference Wednesday (Oct. 19) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.


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Smart mouth: Chinese fish fossil sheds light on jaw evolution

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bottom-dwelling, mud-grubbing, armored fish that swam in tropical seas 423 million years ago is fundamentally changing the understanding of the evolution of an indisputably indispensable anatomical feature: the jaw. "Now we know that one branch of placoderms evolved into modern jawed vertebrates," said study co-leader Zhu Min, a paleontologist at Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.


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Hot Flash Genes? Symptom Linked to DNA Variation

The reason one woman gets hot flashes while another woman stays cool and comfortable through menopause may come down to differences between their genes, a new study finds. Researchers have identified several genetic variations that increase the likelihood that a woman will experience hot flashes and night sweats during or after menopause, the study said. More than 70 percent of women experience hot flashes and night sweats, according to the study, published today (Oct. 19) in the journal Menopause.


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Placebo Pills May Help with Back Pain

People who take a placebo, sometimes called a "dummy pill," along with their regular over-the-counter pain medication may get additional relief from their low-back pain, even if they know the placebo is essentially a dud, a new study finds. Most of these people were already taking pain medications, primarily nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Each of the patients was randomly assigned to one of two groups: The first group took their usual medication only, while the second group took their usual medication plus a placebo.


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Spiders can 'tune' webs for good vibrations, researchers say

Spiders can control the tension and stiffness of their webs to optimize their sensory powers, helping them locate and identify prey as well as partners, according to researchers at Oxford University. "Spiders use vibrations not only from prey which is caught in their web, where obviously it's important that they know ...where it is and what it might be," researcher Beth Mortimer told Reuters. "But vibrations are also important in courtship ... A lot of males will actually generate a very specific kind of musical pattern which the females can use to determine not only that they're a male but they're the right species and whether she might want to mate with them as well." Spiders can also use the information to assess their web's condition, she said.


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Two Faults 'Holding Hands' Could Trigger Big Earthquakes in California

Two faults in the San Francisco Bay Area are "holding hands" and could trigger a devastating earthquake, a new study finds. In a new study, researchers have determined that the Hayward Fault and Rogers Creek Fault connect beneath San Pablo Bay, the estuary that forms the northern part of San Francisco Bay. Using a specially designed seismic profiler for shallow waters, the scientists were able to gather sufficient data to build a new map showing where the Hayward and Rogers Creek faults link.


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3D-Printed Gadget Lets Kids Turn Smartphone into Microscope

A 3D-printed smartphone microscope system is making microbiology interactive by allowing schoolkids to experiment and play games with light-seeking microbes. The so-called LudusScope borrows its name from the Latin word "ludus," which means "play," "game" or "elementary school." The device looks similar to a standard microscope, but can be docked with a smartphone and features LED lights controlled with a joystick. Students use these to influence the swimming direction of Euglena microbes, which exhibit characteristics of both plants and animals because they feed like animals but photosynthesize like plants.


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Should Marijuana Be Legal? 60 Percent of Americans Now Say Yes

As the question of whether marijuana should be legal comes up for a vote in several U.S. states in this upcoming election, support for legal pot is at its highest in nearly 50 years, according to a new poll. The poll, from Gallup, found that 60 percent of Americans now say that using marijuana should be legal. The year 2013 marked the first time that more than 50 percent of Americans polled said that they supported legalizing marijuana — the same year that Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, Gallup said.


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Scientists in Europe downplay likely loss of Mars lander

BERLIN (AP) — Scientists at the European Space Agency downplayed the likely loss of its Mars lander, saying Thursday that a wealth of data sent back by the experimental probe would help them prepare for a future mission to the red planet.


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European scientists puzzle over Mars lander's radio silence

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - A European lander that descended to Mars on Wednesday has failed to send signs of life to its mothership, leaving scientists uncertain whether it touched down on the Red Planet gently as planned, or crashed and broke apart, the European Space Agency (ESA) said. "We've had two overflights (by Mars orbiters) and there was no signal," ESA Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo told journalists on Thursday. The disc-shaped 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli, which is testing technologies for a rover due to follow in 2020, represents only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars.


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European Mars lander's fate still uncertain: ESA

European scientists are still not certain whether a space lander that reached Mars on Wednesday touched down on the Red Planet in good working condition, the European Space Agency (ESA) said. "The landing test still gives us some open questions we have to analyze," ESA Director General Jan Woerner told journalists on Thursday, adding he could not say whether the disc-shaped 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli probe was still in one piece. Scientists said data had been received showing the lander's heat shield and parachutes deployed successfully, but that it was unclear what happened in the final seconds before landing and no data had yet been received from the surface.


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