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Showing posts from February 7, 2017

Major global warming study again questioned, again defended

WASHINGTON (AP) — Another round of bickering is boiling over about temperature readings used in a 2015 study to show how the planet is warming.


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Deadly Fruit: Cause of Mysterious Brain Illness in India is Found

The mystery of why hundreds of children in an Indian city become sick every summer with a deadly brain illness has been solved, researchers say. According to a new report, the cause of the illness appears to be the lychee fruit, which is grown widely in orchards in the city of Muzaffarpur, where the illnesses occur. Critically, the children who get sick often eat the fruit on an empty stomach, which contributes to the development of the illness, the researchers said.


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Dutch Zoo Tests 'Tinder for Orangutans' Mating Program

Think of it like online dating, but for primates: A Dutch zoo is using a series of photographs on a screen to help one orangutan kick off the mating process. Breeding programs often involve international partnerships and long-distance travel of potential mates, so the Apenheul primate park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, recently launched a four-year experiment dubbed "Tinder for orangutans." Rather than hope for the best once a male arrives at the zoo, researchers are first presenting pictures of the potential mates to a female orangutan to see how she reacts. "Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating," Thomas Bionda, a behavioural biologist at the zoo, told Dutch broadcaster NOS.


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RoboDragonfly: Tiny Backpack Turns Insect into a Cyborg

To that end, engineers have fitted dragonflies with tiny, backpack-mounted controllers that issue commands directly to the neurons controlling the insects' flight. This project, known as DragonflEye, uses optogenetics, a technique that employs light to transmit signals to neurons. Dragonflies have large heads, long bodies and two pairs of wings that don't always flap in sync, according to a 2007 study published in the journal Physical Review Letters.


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Are Solar Storms Causing Mysterious Sea Animal Beachings?

Why do otherwise healthy sea creatures end up stranded along coastal areas around the world? NASA scientists are searching for the answer. Whales, dolphins and porpoises — known collectively as cetaceans — partially use magnetic-field sensing to navigate.


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Here's Why Synthetic Marijuana Isn't Safe

Synthetic marijuana compounds, sometimes called K2 or Spice, are actually chemically different from marijuana, and are more dangerous than pot, according to a new review of studies. Synthetic marijuana compounds are linked to a number of serious side effects, including seizures, psychosis and even death, the review's authors said. These compounds "produce a variety of dangerous acute and chronic adverse effects … with a greater severity and frequency than observed following marijuana use," the researchers wrote in their review, which was published Feb. 2 in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.


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Here's How Camping Helps You Fall Asleep

For people who have trouble falling asleep, a weekend camping trip could help, a new study finds. A person's biological clock is set in part by exposure to light, the researchers wrote in the study. The findings show "that a weekend camping trip can reset our [biological] clock rapidly," senior study author Kenneth Wright, an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and applied physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, said in a statement.


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478-Million-Year-Old Spiky Slug Solves Long-Held Mollusk Mystery

The specimens — seven in all — were discovered in the late 2000s by Mohamed 'Ou Said' Ben Moula, a self-taught fossil collector who has uncovered hundreds, if not thousands, of specimens with fossilized soft tissues in Morocco's Fezouata Biota. Ben Moula has a working relationship with paleontologists at Yale University, and shipped the fossils to Yale, in Connecticut, so they could be studied. "I describe them as an armored, spiny slug with one single shell at the head end," said the study's co-lead researcher, Luke Parry, a doctoral student in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol in England.


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Hunting or Angry? Scientists Can't Agree on Odd Octopus Behavior

A wild octopus surprised an Australian diver this week by suddenly, and quite dramatically, inflating itself with water, ballooning up like a parachute. Later, when the diver posted a video of the interaction online, she wondered whether the octopus was trying to intimidate her with its grandiose size. That's possible, marine biologists said, but they can't agree on what caused the curious behavior.


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Watch This Squishy, See-Through Robot Grab a Live Goldfish

Squishy, nearly transparent robots that flap, squeeze and kick when pumped with water could be the next underwater spies, at least when it comes to sneaking up on aquatic life. The researchers, led by engineer Xuanhe Zhao and graduate student Hyunwoo Yuk, created a series of the transparent robots from a rubbery material called hydrogel, including a fin-like bot that can flap back and forth, a "limb" that can kick, and a hand-shaped structure that can squeeze and let go. Because the material is composed mostly of water, the resulting robots could also have biomedical applications, the researchers said.


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Smile! New Bucktoothed Ghost Shark Species Discovered

At nearly 3 feet (1 meter) in length — about half as long as the height of a refrigerator — the newfound creature is the second largest species of ghost shark ever discovered, the researchers said. This one was really chunky in the front, and just a big bulky specimen," said Kristin Walovich, a graduate student at the Pacific Shark Research Center at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, and the lead researcher of a new study. Kristin Walovich holds the 50th described species of ghost shark on record.


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