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Showing posts from February 16, 2017

Leading US science group backs genetically modifying human embryos

An influential US science advisory committee this week said genetic modification of human embryos should be allowed in the future to eliminate diseases, sparking new debate on this controversial topic. The report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) caused concern among some researchers who fear that genetic tools could be used to boost certain people's intelligence or create people with particular physical traits. "Clinical trials for genome editing of the human germline - adding, removing or replacing DNA base pairs in gametes or early embryos - could be permitted in the future," said the report, released Tuesday.


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Lost Winston Churchill essay reveals his thoughts on alien life

A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the Universe? Astrophysicist Mario Livio, who was the first scientist to analyze the article, says it shows that the statesman was very up-to-date with the scientific research of his time. Churchill’s interest for science should serve as an example to today’s politicians, Livio writes in a comment published today in Nature.


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‘Key ingredients for life’ found on dwarf planet Ceres

Researchers have detected organic compounds on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Organic compounds are the building blocks of life on Earth, and the discovery could mean "that primitive life could have developed on Ceres," Michael Küppers, a planetary scientist with the European Space Agency, writes in a commentary piece published today in Science. The organic compounds were detected by the Visible and InfraRed Mapping Spectrometer on the Dawn spacecraft, which was launched by NASA in 2007 and has been orbiting Ceres since 2015.


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Scientists uncover a way to predict autism in high-risk babies

Researchers used brain scans and an algorithm to improve early diagnosis of autism among several high-risk children.


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Harvard, MIT research institute holds on to gene-editing patent rights

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Alexandria, Virginia, rejected a claim by a rival team, associated with the University of California at Berkeley and University of Vienna in Austria, that they invented the technology first. The patent rights could be worth billions of dollars, as the technology could revolutionise treatment of genetic diseases, crop engineering and other areas.


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Researchers Find Reason For Honeybees’ ‘Whoop’ Sound

The research, published in the PLOS journal, calls into questions the previously suggested scientific explanations for the phenomenon.


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Fed up with lousy ‘internet’ speeds in space, NASA is doing something about it

NASA, like a lot of people with lousy internet, is fed up with slow data-transfer speeds between spacecraft and Earth. Which is why it's developing a laser-based system that could one day see speeds increase by up to 100 times.


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Even the Deepest Depths of the Ocean Are Polluted

Remote areas like the Mariana Trench and Kermadec Trench cannot escape.


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TV Review: ‘Planet Earth II’

Simply put, “Planet Earth” is the most important program of our generation. It makes writing about it almost beside the point; the program, whose second installment “Planet Earth II” is debuting on BBC America this Saturday, is an exquisitely rendered documentary of the natural world. It’s a uniquely dichotomous achievement, one that combines our expanding technologies... Read more »


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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's iffy grasp of autism research

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has weighed in on child autism, apparently without a complete grasp of the research.


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India launches record 104 satellites in single mission

The mission overtakes the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014.


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Nodding Syndrome: Parasitic worm found to trigger mysterious, incurable and fatal disease

The cause of a mysterious, incurable and often fatal disease that affects children has finally been identified 50 years after the first recorded case. Scientists discovered that a parasitic worm triggers nodding syndrome – a form of epilepsy that is characterised by episodes of repetitive nodding. Nodding syndrome first emerged in the 1960s and it is only found in small regions in South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


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Antarctica just shed a Manhattan-sized iceberg, and a bigger one is coming soon

An iceberg the size of Manhattan has cleaved off of Antarctica's rapidly melting Pine Island Glacier on the southwest coast of the continent. NASA released the new data showing the iceberg's birth on Feb. 15, though the imagery was acquired between Jan. 26 and Jan. 31.  The agency says "about a kilometer or two of ice" broke off the glacier's floating ice shelf during this period, making it a large iceberg but comparitively small in the recent history of this particular area.  SEE ALSO: This 'GOT' star teamed up with Google to capture Greenland's melting ice According to Ian Howat, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, the event was about 10 times smaller than the chunk of ice that broke off the same glacier in July 2015, when a 20-mile, or 30-kilometer, rift developed and calved an iceberg spanning 225 square miles. “I think this event is the calving equivalent of an ‘aftershock’ following the much bigger event,” Howat said in a press release.  “A…

Dwarf planet Ceres boasts organic compounds, raising prospect of life

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A NASA spacecraft has detected carbon-based materials, similar to what may have been the building blocks for life on Earth, on the Texas-sized dwarf planet Ceres that orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, scientists said on Thursday. The finding puts Ceres, a rock-and-ice world about 590 miles (950 km) in diameter, on a growing list of places in the solar system of interest to scientists looking for life beyond Earth. The discovery, published in the journal Science, was made by a team of researchers using NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres for nearly two years.


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Fossils show quick rebound of life after ancient mass extinction

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fossils including sharks, sea reptiles and squid-like creatures dug up in Idaho reveal a marine ecosystem thriving relatively soon after Earth's worst mass extinction, contradicting the long-held notion life was slow to recover from the calamity. Scientists on Wednesday described the surprising fossil discovery showing creatures flourishing in the aftermath of the worldwide die-off at the end of the Permian Period about 252 million years ago that erased roughly 90 percent of species.


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Harvard, MIT research institute holds on to gene-editing patent rights

The Broad Institute, a biological and genomic research center affiliated with MIT and Harvard, will keep valuable patents on a revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, a U.S. patent agency ruled on Wednesday. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Alexandria, Virginia, rejected a claim by a rival team, associated with the University of California at Berkeley and University of Vienna in Austria, that they invented the technology first. The patent rights could be worth billions of dollars, as the technology could revolutionize treatment of genetic diseases, crop engineering and other areas.


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How Unlearning Makes You Smarter

Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” That piece of advice is particularly valuable in today’s professional environment where large, too-big-to-fail organizations are regularly disrupted by scrappy, think-outside-the-box startups. Groupthink is a rationally justified consensus that rewards conformity. Perhaps you’ve experienced an environment where groupthink has stifled originality.


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The UAE has a plan to colonize Mars in the next 100 years, and the oil money to finance it

When Elon Musk went before an international space conference in Mexico and announced his vision of a Mars transportation system built by his company SpaceX, attendees were enthralled by the technology—and despairing of the price tag, which at a bare minimum of $10 billion seemed out of reach for the private sector and the United…


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Rocket Lab’s experimental rocket arrives at New Zealand launch pad for debut flight

After three years of developing a brand new rocket, aerospace startup Rocket Lab has finally transported a finished vehicle to the New Zealand launch pad where it will take its first flight. The rocket, called the Electron, has been tested on the ground over the last year but has never been flown to space before.


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Depression may be our brain's way of telling us to stop and solve a problem

At any given time, about 5% of Americans are reporting symptoms of moderate or severe depression....


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Scientists uncover a way to predict autism in high-risk babies

Researchers used brain scans and an algorithm to improve early diagnosis of autism among several high-risk children.


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Autism detectable in brain long before symptoms appear

The discovery could lead to better tests and therapies for children with autism.


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Sweeping Ceres for the Building Blocks of Life

Scientists are discovering more ingredients for life on Ceres. For the first time, researchers have detected organic compounds on the dwarf planet, the second-biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The materials contain hints of carbon and ammonia, the chemical components that exist in all known life on Earth. The scientists don’t know exactly what these compounds are, but they say they resemble some tar-like substances that can be found here.


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United Arab Emirates Plans To Build First City On Mars

The UAE planned for the "mini-city" to have a population of 600,000.


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European science bodies 'concerned' about Trump

Principles such as transparency, information-sharing and the physical mobility of scientists were vital to scientific development and the benefits they bring to societies and economies, the letter said. The authors cited the new US president's attempts to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and threats to stop government scientists from talking to the press or publishing findings without permission. There was no place in modern science for restrictions on research in "inconvenient areas", the letter said.


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AP, HHMI collaborate on expanded science, health coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press is teaming up with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education to expand its coverage of science, medicine and health journalism.


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India puts record 104 satellites into orbit

India successfully put a record 104 satellites from a single rocket into orbit on Wednesday in the latest triumph for its famously frugal space programme. Celebrations erupted among scientists at the southern spaceport of Sriharikota as the head of India's Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced all the satellites had been ejected as planned. "My hearty congratulations to the ISRO team for this success," the agency's director Kiran Kumar told those gathered in an observatory to track the progress of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).


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Even the Deepest Depths of the Ocean Are Polluted

Remote areas like the Mariana Trench and Kermadec Trench cannot escape.


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Enjoy this livestreamed expedition to the ocean floor

Camera two on the expeditionNOAA Okeanos Explorer ProgramAh yes, the ocean: a place where most living things appear to have conjured themselves directly from my nightmares. We know very little about the sea floor, which we have barely observed. In the hopes of expanding our knowledge, the Okeanos Explorer — a project from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — will head to the sea mounts 250 to 6,000 meters deep near American Samoa. What horrors lurk there?Well, there was that adorable octopod, likely a new species, that the Okeanos Explorer found last year. ...


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Dwarf planet Ceres boasts organic compounds, raising prospect of life

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A NASA spacecraft has detected carbon-based materials, similar to what may have been the building blocks for life on Earth, on the Texas-sized dwarf planet Ceres that orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, scientists said on Thursday. The finding puts Ceres, a rock-and-ice world about 590 miles (950 km) in diameter, on a growing list of places in the solar system of interest to scientists looking for life beyond Earth. The discovery, published in the journal Science, was made by a team of researchers using NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres for nearly two years.


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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's iffy grasp of autism research

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has weighed in on child autism, apparently without a complete grasp of the research.


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A new 'continent's' been found under the magical land of New Zealand

New Zealand, the land of Hobbits, ridiculously beautiful landscapes and, uh, The Feebles, has just become a little bit more magical. An entire flipping continent might be hiding beneath New Zealand, geologists say. The area, named Zealandia, is massive. SEE ALSO: New 'world's longest flight' travellers endure 16 hours of just sitting there At 4.9-million square kilometers, or nearly 1.9-million square miles, it's bigger than all of India. Yet most of it — about 94 percent — is submerged in the ocean, according to a new study in the Geological Society of America's journal, GSA Today.  A map of Earth's tectonic plates and continents, including Zealandia. Image: Mortimer et AL, GSA Today (2017) Geologists haven't officially declared Zealandia a new continent. Instead, the study's authors make the case that it should be in the continent club with Africa, Asia, Australia, Eurasia, North America and South America. Zealandia was once part of Gondwana, the anci…

Indian Rocket Launch to Carry a Record-Breaking 104 Satellites to Orbit

Eighty-eight of those 104 satellites will help makeup the most extensive network of Earth-imaging sats ever deployed.


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Leading US science group backs genetically modifying human embryos

An influential US science advisory committee this week said genetic modification of human embryos should be allowed in the future to eliminate diseases, sparking new debate on this controversial topic. The report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) caused concern among some researchers who fear that genetic tools could be used to boost certain people's intelligence or create people with particular physical traits. "Clinical trials for genome editing of the human germline - adding, removing or replacing DNA base pairs in gametes or early embryos - could be permitted in the future," said the report, released Tuesday.


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Depression may be our brain's way of telling us to stop and solve a problem

At any given time, about 5% of Americans are reporting symptoms of moderate or severe depression....


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Fossils show quick rebound of life after ancient mass extinction

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fossils including sharks, sea reptiles and squid-like creatures dug up in Idaho reveal a marine ecosystem thriving relatively soon after Earth's worst mass extinction, contradicting the long-held notion life was slow to recover from the calamity. Scientists on Wednesday described the surprising fossil discovery showing creatures flourishing in the aftermath of the worldwide die-off at the end of the Permian Period about 252 million years ago that erased roughly 90 percent of species.


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Film Review: ‘Dream Big: Engineering Our World’

exploits the large-screen format to breathtaking effect, providing gorgeous panoramas of natural and man-made wonders as well as intimate snapshots of many men and women using their wits to achieve amazing feats.


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The Best Way to Get Ketchup Out of the Bottle, According to Science

Luckily, Dr. Anthony Strickland, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne in Australia, took the frustrating phenomenon into his own hands—and into the science lab. Strickland, whose research primarily focuses on the flow and deformation of particulate suspensions, determined that ketchup (and other concentrated suspensions, such as mayonnaise and melted chocolate), does not obey Sir Isaac Newton’s Law of Viscosity. “Suspension rheology explains all the phenomena seen in tomato sauce bottles and provides the answers to the perennial sauce question, which can be tackled in three main steps,” Dr. Strickland said in a statement.


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It just got a whole lot harder for you to contact Energy Department employees

The Department of Energy has taken down its public-facing employee directory, making it far more difficult for journalists and members of the public to locate email addresses and phone numbers for agency personnel.  The move, which was announced to agency contractors on Wednesday and implemented Thursday morning, was confirmed in an internal email shared with Mashable.  Making federal scientists and policy makers harder to contact isn’t a trivial matter. These kinds of moves toward opacity wall off employees from the outside world and make it more likely that they won’t experience public pressure related to their taxpayer-funded work.  SEE ALSO: Rick Perry regrets calling for abolishment of Energy Department It also makes it easier for public relations officers to assume more control over access to interview subjects, since journalists unfamiliar with agency sources will need to contact the central press office  to make headway on a story. The phonebook was functioning early Thursday …

Harvard, MIT research institute holds on to gene-editing patent rights

The Broad Institute, a biological and genomic research center affiliated with MIT and Harvard, will keep valuable patents on a revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, a U.S. patent agency ruled on Wednesday. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Alexandria, Virginia, rejected a claim by a rival team, associated with the University of California at Berkeley and University of Vienna in Austria, that they invented the technology first.


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104 satellites, 1 rocket: Watch ISRO launch multiple satellites at one go (and set a world record)

However, a former chairman says the mission is “nothing new”.


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A Knockout in the Biotech Fight of the Century

The CRISPR battle looks to be over. Did the refs blow the call?


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