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Posts

April 23, 2014

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9:29 PM | Human Gut Has The Surface Area Of A Studio Apartment
Micrograph Image Showing Intestinal Villi Photo hosted on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 Textbooks (here are just a few) say the surface area of the human gut is about 300 square meters, or about the size of a tennis court. But who will fact-check the fact-makers, hmm? HMMMM? Never fear, two researchers recently revisited this question and came up with a correction. "Actually, the inner surface of the gastro-intestinal tract is only as large as a normal studio apartment," gastrointestinal […]
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7:08 PM | An Algorithm That Recognizes Faces Better Than People Can
Faces from the Dataset Used to Test the Algorithm Described Below Labeled Faces in the Wild, University of Massachusetts It's already a little eerie when Facebook suggests tags for who it recognizes in your photo, especially for faces that are small, blurry, or otherwise difficult to distinguish. What if Facebook were even better--better at recognizing people in pictures than you are? Two computer scientists are announcing they've made a program that is better at matching photos than […]
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3:00 PM | Q&A: What Is Feminist Biology?
A Fertilized Human Egg Wellcome Images The University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for a particular kind of biologist: a feminist one. The university has set up a fellowship, administered by its women's studies department, for life sciences research. While it may sound strange for a social sciences department to host a biologist, the researchers in charge of the new fellowship are hoping to make it more of a norm. Scholars have long talked about how gender bias affects biology research. […]

April 22, 2014

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8:00 PM | Use Your Tongue To Check Your Smartphone
Check Your Email While Here Screenshot from "World's Fastest Electric Superbike – Mojave Mile!" by Chip Yates on YouTube Among the muscles in the body, the ones in the tongue are probably the most overlooked. You don't go to the gym to work out your tongue. (Please do not tell me about your tongue workouts, thx.) Still, it's strong and dexterous. That's why engineers are looking into making tongue-controlled wheelchairs for people who aren't able to steer themselves with […]

April 21, 2014

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7:30 PM | A Test That Quantifies Basic Language-Learning Ability
Teaching An Old Dog New Words A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet at the board in Chinese class. U.S. Department of Defense Until recently, it's been used exclusively in U.S. government agencies and military schools. But now, a test for how easily a person will become fluent in a foreign language could be made available for civilians. Nautilus calls the test "one of the first civilian benefits to come out of America's war on terror." Nautilus looks at some of the science—and […]
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3:00 PM | Hunting For The Genetic Secret To A Rare Disease
Geneticist Ohad Birk Consults with a Doctor in a Bedouin Village Before Birk discovered the genes responsible for PCCA, he worked on uncovering the genetic causes of certain birth defects among Bedouin people. Dani Machlis It was more than ten years ago that Dr. Tally Lerman-Sagie first saw babies with PCCA, a genetic disorder that causes severe mental and physical disabilities and brain atrophy—all before age three. Parents would bring in […]
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1:00 PM | Left To Their Own Devices, Robots Evolve Into Diverse Populations
Eat or Mate? Two robots spot one another across a field of six batteries. Stefan Elfwing and Kenji Doya, PLOS ONE, 2014 There are a few different ways you can study evolution. You could live for months at a time in a tent on tiny island with an isolated population and no fresh water. Or you could program a computer model and some squirrel-sized robots to act out a thousand generations of sex and death in the comfort of your own lab. Two researchers from the Okinawa Institute of […]

April 18, 2014

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4:24 PM | First Human Clone Embryos Created From Adults' Skin Cells
Human Embryonic Stem Cells—Not the Cloned Cells Described Below This image comes from a lab unrelated to the research described below. Clay Glennon, University of Wisconsin-Madison Scientists have created cloned embryos from the cells of two adults. This feat is the first hard evidence that it's possible to create clones from cells taken from adult humans. The idea is that in the future, doctors could create cloned embryos of patients when the patients need an organ transplant, for […]

April 17, 2014

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6:02 PM | Found: The Most Potentially Life-Friendly Exoplanet So Far
What Kepler-186f Might Look Like If It Has Clouds and Seas NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech Five hundred light-years away, Earth has a cousin. Kepler data has revealed there's rocky planet out there that's similar in size to Earth and may have the right conditions for liquid water on its surface. It's the first planet ever discovered with both these Earth-like qualities. Astronomers are constantly seeking more Earth-like exoplanets because, well, Earth is the only planet we know […]

April 16, 2014

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7:09 PM | A Proposal To Save Electricity By Brightening The Moon
Before and After Moon Brightening Foreo Well, it gets points for creativity. Some pranksters—or perhaps just PR folks—at Foreo have put up a page proposing humankind solve its energy crisis by brightening the moon. A brighter moon would eliminate the need for nighttime streetlights, Foreo proposes. Super-moonlit streets would thus save electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the page says. Now, I know Foreo is not serious, not least because it's a cosmetics company, […]
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3:45 PM | First Red Blood Cells Made From Adult Cells Ready For Human Transfusions
Red Blood Cells A mass of our most common type of blood cell. Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images One team of researchers has created red blood cells that are ready to go into human study volunteers. When the clinical trial testing the cells' safety starts, it will be the first time humans have ever received red blood cells made from adult cells, according to the Wellcome Trust, the project's funder. The cells are made from skin cells taken from a human donor. Researchers have long been […]

April 15, 2014

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8:53 PM | When Predators Bite Off More Than They Can Chew
Bad Idea Arsovski et al., Ecologica Montenegrina, 2014 We were entranced recently by a report of a young snake that tried to eat an old centipede. It seems the snake managed to swallow the centipede live, but then the centipede fought back, attempting to escape by eating its way out of the snake's body. Really. Read the full story at NBC News—and read the paper, too, which was published in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina. It's only a page long and worth every sentence.   […]
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5:15 PM | Robot Sub Searching For Malaysian Jet Finds Itself Out Of Its Depth
A Bluefin-21 AUV at the Surface of the Water After a Mission Bluefin Robotics The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has moved underwater, but it's still not easy. A robotic submarine deployed yesterday returned to the surface sooner than expected because it encountered depths beyond its capabilities, Australian broadcaster ABC reports. The search is occurring in the southern Indian Ocean, northwest of the Australian city of Perth. BBC News has great graphics showing the sea-floor […]
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3:30 PM | How Carl Sagan Described Death To His Young Daughter
Sagan on Cosmos Publicity photo of Carl Sagan, made by PBS When your dad is Carl Sagan, your first lessons on death aren't sugar-coated. But they are nevertheless sweet and compassionate. That's how Sasha Sagan, Carl's daughter, describes them in a recent essay in New York magazine. Throughout his career, Carl worked as a science popularizer and as a professor of astronomy and critical thinking. He stayed true to his understanding of the world even in tough times—like when his little […]

April 14, 2014

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8:15 PM | Trolls In Their Natural Habitats: An Analysis Of Comments On TED Talks
Regina Dugan, Former Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Gave a TED Talk in 2012 Think of it as a study of the natural behaviors of the troll. A team of information science researchers recently analyzed the comments people make on recorded TED talks. Actually, the researchers found that the majority of comments related to the content of the talks (progress!). But they also found that about six percent of YouTube comments on TED talks are insults and that female TED […]
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4:21 PM | Big Pic: Robonaut Is Getting Legs
Robonaut Grips Handrails With Its Feet NASA The International Space Station's humanoid robot is getting a pair of legs. The fresh gams are scheduled to go up to space today aboard a SpaceX-operated resupply mission. Before this, Robonaut 2—the first humanoid robot in space—did not have legs. It was just a torso mounted on short post. The new limbs will give R2 a decidedly spidery nine-foot "leg span." The legs are also a bit more flexible than most humans'. They have seven […]
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2:39 PM | Explore The Deep Ocean While You Eat Lunch
The ship Okeanos Explorer set out last Thursday across the Gulf of Mexico for a three-week, deep-sea expedition… and you can follow along! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is livestreaming the whole trip. So far, the expedition has explored some gas seeps on the ocean floor and snapped a photo of an underwater brine pool. In the coming weeks, Okeanos' crew will send out remotely-operated vehicles to examine coral beds, deep-sea canyons and 200-year-old shipwrecks. You […]

April 11, 2014

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8:25 PM | Four Women Doing Fine After Getting Vagina Implants Made From Their Own Cells
Biodegradable Scaffolding for the Lab-Grown Vagina Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center So. Yes. A team of doctors is reporting that they grew vaginas in a lab and implanted them in four girls who had underdeveloped vaginas and uteruses because of a rare genetic condition. This is the first time anybody has reported growing vaginas in lab for human patients. About seven years after their initial surgeries, the girls are grown up and doing well. Two of the four could theoretically have […]
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6:45 PM | Software Shows What Children Will Look Like In 70 Years, With Unprecedented Accuracy
100 Years of Life, As Extrapolated By Software You might notice the algorithms were unable to remove the milk mustache from its original reference photo. U of Washington Look at a kid under the age of five, and it's hard to imagine what he'll look like in 70 years. But this new piece of software does just that. Check out this series of photos, which compares actual photos of a boy as he grows up (photos on the right) with photos generated by the new aging software, using only the […]
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4:30 PM | Big Pic: A Prettier Greenhouse For Growing Veggies In Space
A Vegetable Production System 'Plant Pillow' NASA/Bryan Onate The latest design for growing vegetables in space is a bit prettier than its predecessors. This is a collapsible growth chamber made by Orbital Technologies Corporation in Wisconsin. The lettuces inside live in individual "plant pillows." NASA plans to send the chamber and the plant pillows to the International Space Station on April 14, aboard a SpaceX launch. The growth chamber is not made of iridescent pink tulle, […]

April 10, 2014

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3:42 PM | 'Indisputable' Proof Of A New Four-Quark Particle
Large Hadron Collider CERN Using the most powerful particle collider in the world, a research group at CERN has forged a particle made of four quarks, the European organization announced yesterday. Most particles of matter in the universe today consist of two or three quarks. Over the past decade, however, particle-accelerator projects all over the world have gathered some evidence that a few different kinds of four-quark particles might exist. Physicists give such […]

April 09, 2014

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5:45 PM | How To Make A More Environmentally Friendly Cow
Measuring A Cow's Methane Production Marcos Brindicci Scientists around the world have worked on making buildings, cars and light bulbs more environmentally friendly. What's next? Cows. Cattle emit methane, a greenhouse gas that's less abundant than carbon dioxide, but, pound for pound, has contributed more to global warming than CO2 over the last 100 years. Methane is often an underappreciated greenhouse gas, but it's been back in the news lately. Late last month, the Obama […]

April 08, 2014

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9:15 PM | First Successful Regeneration Of An Organ In A Mammal
Lab Mouse Photo by Rama on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR Oh, to be a mouse. You'd have been cured of every conceivable cancer and now, you'd have something of a fountain of youth, too, at least for your thymus. A team of researchers has gotten immune-system organs called thymuses in mice to grow, The Economist reports. After the researchers' treatment, the mice's thymuses grew more than twice as large. The thymuses, which normally change in structure and become less […]
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7:00 PM | For 21st-Century Kids, Home Microfluidics And Neurology Kits
Hand-Cranked Microfluidics Machine Courtesy of George Korir We've seen a lot of nostalgia for ye olde chemistry sets lately. Nobel Laureates have reminisced about playing with them. These days, sets containing radioactive uranium dust or toxic lead are not going to cut it anymore, but that doesn't mean kids can't get exposure to real science. The Society for Science & the Public—the nonprofit that runs the Intel ISEF science fair—recently held a competition to see […]
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3:00 PM | Electric Stimulation To Spine Gets Paralyzed Patients Moving Again
Study Volunteers Andrew Meas, Dustin Shillcox, Kent Stephenson and Rob Summers in the University of Louisville lab where they get specialized training to work with electrical stimulation to move parts of their bodies below their spinal cord injuries. Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation After you've injured your spinal cord, getting a "motor complete" diagnosis means you're unable to move your legs—or anything on your body, below the injury—under your own volition. Stay […]

April 07, 2014

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8:05 PM | Watch This Charger Fully Juice A Smartphone In 30 Seconds
I still remember flipping through paper magazines while waiting for webpages to load on my family's PC, in the 1990s. Maybe one day waiting for your phone to charge will seem as antiquated. An Israeli startup recently demonstrated a prototype charger that fully charges a smartphone in 30 seconds. You can watch it above, oooh. As you can probably guess, the charger isn't exactly ready for the market yet. It's about the size of a laptop charger, so its creators are working on making it smaller, […]

April 04, 2014

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6:19 PM | How Global Warming Will Affect Your Beer
Growing Barley Photo by Lucash on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 There are many things that will change as Earth's climate warms. Doctoral student Peter Gous is worried about the price and quality of beer. The aspiring plant bioengineer worked with a team of scientists to test how not getting enough water altered the quality of barley grains. In a small pilot study, the scientists found that the starches inside barley grains grown with too little water are different from starches found […]
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3:35 PM | Video: Watch A Privately-Funded Moon Lander's Fiery Test
Astrobotic Technology It's not easy to land a robot on the moon. Only the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and China have succeeded; other nations have only managed to make debris-strewn craters with their landing vehicles. Eighteen privately funded groups, however, think they can safely land a privately funded spacecraft in 2015, rove around the lunar surface, and claim tens of millions of dollars in prize money for the feat. To that end, a […]

April 03, 2014

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6:00 PM | Saturn's Moon Enceladus Is Now A Top Candidate For Life
Ocean Inside This illustration shows what astronomers think the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus looks like. There's a big rocky core, an icy exterior, and a large liquid sea in the south, between the core and the exterior. The illustration also shows jets of water vapor discovered on Enceladus's southern surface in 2005. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech Buried under miles of ice, astronomers have detected a liquid water sea on one of Saturn's moons, Enceladus. The sea is about the […]

April 02, 2014

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9:27 PM | Super-Intense Laser Stretches Farther Than Ever
Tsew Tsew A laser experiment setup, not the same setup as the one described below Image courtesy of the University of Colorado and NSF Scientists have been able to get a super-high-energy beam of laser light to travel farther than ever—a little more than seven feet, in a lab demonstration. In the future, such lasers could go into long-distance sensors, or chemical-identifying spectrometers. One more unusual application scientists have thought of is directing lightning. In 2008, a […]
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