Posts

July 22, 2014

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10:02 PM | Uncontacted Amazonian Tribe Voluntarily Contacts Scientists, Catches Flu
Amazon Rainforest This photo was taken near the city of Manaus, Brazil, which is northeast of the Acre region discussed below. Phil P. Harris on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5 Late last month, something extraordinary happened at the edge of the rainforest in Acre, Brazil. Members of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe voluntarily approached scientists from the Brazilian government, Science magazine reports. This is the first time in decades that an uncontacted community chose to meet with […]
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8:47 PM | How Climate Science Gets Done In The Icy Fjords of Greenland
View from an Iceberg Magnus Petersen and Dave Porter prepare to lower a temperature-depth-salinity sensor into a fjord near the village of Kullorsuaq, as part of a study into changing conditions where Greenland's melting glaciers meet the ocean. Margie Turrin/LDEO Do you wonder what doing climate science in remote locations might be like? Read the Greenland Thaw blog, which is being updated regularly from the fjords of northwest Greenland, where the giant island's glaciers meet the […]
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6:57 PM | MERS Virus May Be Able To Spread Through The Air
Dromedary camels, which can carry MERS. Wilson44691 via Wikimedia Commons Research strongly suggests that camels carry Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a viral illness that has sickened nearly 700 and killed at least 209 people as of early June, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization. For this reason, the government of Saudi Arabia recently warned people to stay away from close contact with camels, at least those that appear to be sick, which […]
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5:15 PM | How To Watch An Animal Develop Cell By Cell
2,458 Cells Fernando Amat et al., "Fast, accurate reconstruction of cell lineages from large-scale fluorescence microscopy data," Nature Methods, 2014 What is this fuzzy creature? Sadly, it's not pettable. This is a microscope image of a fruit fly embryo, showing the individual cells within it. That's 2,458 cells, to be exact. The bottom image shows each cell in a different color, with lines to show how those cells moved around. The image comes from a new technique scientists developed to […]
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4:31 PM | Could Lasers Be The Future Of Anti-Missile Weapons?
American Concept Art Of Soviet Laser. From 1986. Edward L. Cooper, via Wikimedia Commons On Thursday, July 18th, Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 was struck by a missile. The United States believes the missile was a Soviet-designed Buk, and American infrared satellites pinpoint the location of that missile's launch to territory in Eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. Is it possible that, while Cold War technology launched the missile, and modern […]
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2:16 PM | U.K. Supermarket To Run On Electricity Made From Its Own Rotting Food
An Anaerobic Digestion Plant City of Lincoln, Nebraska One U.K. grocery store plans to power itself using biogas harvested from its own unsold, rotting produce. Yum. A Sainsbury's store in Cannock in central England is getting access to anaerobic digesters. The store plans to use electricity solely from the digesters, taking no electricity from the U.K.'s national power grid, which is fed by a combination of coal, natural gas, nuclear power plants and other sources. Sainsbury's will […]

July 21, 2014

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9:00 PM | Welcome To The Lab Of An Apollo Computer Anatomist
Blanche in her workshop. Photograph by Ray Lego Fran Blanche’s workshop is more than a place to unwind. It’s home. “I put a bed in my office,” she says. Her fashion business is downstairs; upstairs is a music studio and a laboratory with 30 years’ worth of tools. A private collector recently asked Blanche to study part of his Apollo-era Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC), which NASA designed to fly a Saturn V rocket. “All modern boards would […]
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8:39 PM | Eating Poo Helps Packrats Digest Toxic Plants
A desert woodrat Kevin Kohl, University of Utah Desert woodrats are picky, but not in the way you might expect: several woodrat populations in the U.S. Southwest specifically eat a type of highly toxic creosote bush. Another group eats juniper, which is also toxic to many animals. This gives the woodrats (Neotoma lepida) a nice niche, allowing them to dine on a plant that others avoid. But how do they do it? A new study suggests that the microbes in their gut break down the toxic […]
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5:41 PM | Ask Anything: Can Humans Smell Fear?
Illustrations by Jason Schneider If humans can indeed smell fear they wouldn’t be unusual in the animal kingdom. Sea anemones, earthworms, minnows, fruit flies, rats, mice, and deer, among others, have all been shown to signal unease through odor. Some responses are even more overt. For example, the offspring of one bird species vomits up a pungent, orange liquid when frightened by a predator; if a parent catches a whiff, it becomes warier in the nest.  From an evolutionary […]
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4:51 PM | Tiny Traps Capture Individual Blood Cells
Trapped! An illustration and two microscope images showing the pyramidal self-folding traps and round cells. From Kate Malachowski et al., "Self-Folding Single Cell Grippers," Nano Letters 2014 Gotcha! These little pyramids are actually microscopic traps designed to gently enclose single cells without killing them. The idea is that in the future, such traps could be a part of a system for capturing and analyzing individual cells, perhaps as a part of cancer monitoring. The traps, which […]
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3:57 PM | Squid Protein Could Help Brains 'Talk' to Computers
The Caribbean reef squid, in the pencil squid family. Public Domain via Wikipedia In the most advanced prosthetics--such as this crazy mind-controlled robotic arm--electronic hardware interfaces directly with nerves and muscles in the human body. But getting living tissue to play nice with a circuit board is anything but easy, for a number of reasons. One fundamental obstacle you may not have considered: electronics send signals via negatively charged electrons, […]
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2:00 PM | The Science of Lightning
Shocking! Photograph by Travis Rathbone When it comes to thunderheads, lightning is the great equalizer. Essentially a giant spark, lightning relieves the charge differentials that build up in storm systems. But it’s also one of the greatest mysteries in atmospheric science. Recently, scientists have started to explore lightning’s lesser-known siblings, which appear in ash plumes, labs, and even on other planets. Odds of Survival A typical lightning bolt carries 100 million […]
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1:00 PM | Ask Anything: Could Scientists Put Sunscreen In A Pill?
Illustrations by Jason Schneider Turns out, a few oral sunscreens already exist, based on the theory that antioxidants offer sun protection. Laboratory studies provide some evidence in support of this idea. When scientists feed vitamin E to hairless mice, the animals show less skin damage upon exposure to ultraviolet light. Dermatologist Salvador González Rodríguez has studied an extract made from a fern called Polypodium leucotomos. The substance, which is high in […]

July 18, 2014

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10:00 PM | This Week In Numbers: A Surprising Comet, A Creepy Robot, And More
250,000,000 miles: how far away the Rosetta spacecraft is from Earth. However, Rosetta is just 8,000 miles from its target, a comet that is called 67P and is surprisingly shaped like a rubber ducky. 2,700,000: the number of Wikipedia articles written by this one bot. That's 8.5 percent of all the articles on Wikipedia. The bot mostly creates those short "stubs" you might have run into on the online encyclopedia. 2,000: approximate number of people who attended this year's Porcupine Freedom […]
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9:00 PM | The Week In Drones: Wedding Photographers, Prison Guards, And More
Cold Spring, New York. An aerial view of the town where NY Representative Sean Patrick Maloney used a drone to film his wedding. Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft. Weddings, Investigated When New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney got married in upstate New York in June, he did something fairly common: took video of the wedding, […]
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8:27 PM | Woman Grows A Nose On Her Spine After Stem Cell Experiment
Just a regular nose on somebody's face. David Goehring via Flickr CC 2.0 Eight years ago, doctors took nasal tissue samples and grafted them onto the spines of 20 quadriplegics. The idea was that stem cells within the nasal tissue might turn into neurons that could help repair the damaged spinal cord, and the experiment actually worked a few of the patients, who regained a little bit of sensation. But it didn’t go well for one woman in particular, who not only didn’t experience […]
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7:36 PM | DARPA's Silicon "System On A Chip" Is Pretty
DARPA ELASTx Microchip ELASTx stands for "Efficient Linearized All-Silicon Transmitter ICs" DARPA The future of silicon transmitters looks a lot like an 8-bit adventure game. Developed by DARPA, the Efficient Linearized All-Silicon Transmitter ICs (ELASTx) is a complete, all-on-one chip system that operates at 94 gigahertz. This means it transmits in the millimeter-wave frequencies, which are a relatively untapped part of the electromagnetic spectrum that's particularly useful […]
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7:00 PM | Rogue Geoengineering Project May Have Increased Salmon Numbers
Algal Blooms Along Canada's West Coast Left: George dumping iron into the ocean (via New Energy Times). Right: This August 2012 NASA satellite data shows relatively high concentrations of chlorophyll as yellows and oranges in the region of the Pacific where George claims to have dumped more than 100 tons of iron. Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA California businessman Russ George made headlines in 2012 when he, in cooperation with a group from a […]
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5:45 PM | Computer Models Show What Exactly Would Happen To Earth After A Nuclear War
Wasp Prime Test From Operation Teapot Wikimedia Commons You've seen what a nuclear winter looks like, as imagined by filmmakers and novelists. Now you can take a look at what scientists have to say. In a new study, a team of four U.S. atmospheric and environmental scientists modeled what would happen after a "limited, regional nuclear war." To inexpert ears, the consequences sound pretty subtle—two or three degrees of global cooling, a nine percent reduction in yearly rainfall. […]
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4:58 PM | You Can Own The Longest Piece Of Fossilized Feces Ever Sold
A poop for the ages. Copyright Chait.com Remnants of prehistoric beasts are top-ticket items at auctions worldwide. Objects ranging from eggs to imprints of their skin have found new homes in museums and private collections. But a new paleontological oddity has made its way to auction, and it’s a biggie: a coprolite, or piece of fossilized feces, that is allegedly the longest ever to go on sale. The fossil is being auctioned by the I. M. Chait gallery in Los Angeles, […]
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3:07 PM | Super Moons, Huge Typhoons, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week
That's One Super Moon This past week we were all treated to the first of three "super moons" of 2014. A super moon happens when the moon is at its perigree, or the point in its orbit at which it's closest to the Earth. It also appears larger when it's close to the horizon, which is just an optical illusion. This is a photo of the moon over the Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jaipur, India. Gk1089 via Wikimedia Commons
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1:00 PM | What Happens When Your Kid Has A Genetic Disorder New To Science
(This isn't actually Bertrand Might, though the child did require repeated hospitalizations.) Philippe Put via Flickr CC2.0 When young Bertrand Might was born, his parents at first thought nothing was amiss. But then they began to worry, as his body appeared to be constantly moving, a state they called "jiggly." Then, he seemed to be constantly distressed, and the efforts of his father Matt to calm Bertrand "enraged" him. Matt and his wife Cristina had a series of tests done on Bertrand, […]

July 17, 2014

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9:34 PM | 'State Of The Climate' Report: Continued Disruption
Cover Of The 'State of the Climate in 2013' Report Super Typhoon Haiyan's deadly impact on the Philippines was a standout indicator of climate disruption in 2013. The cover image of "State of the Climate in 2013," makes the impact of the report, which was released today, clear. Taken in late November on the island of Leyte, Philippines during the aftermath of Super Typhoon Hainan, it shows a wrecked mini-bus sits askew in a debris-scattered field, its front hood curved like a sneering lip, […]
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8:56 PM | Will There Be An Earthquake Near You? New Map Shows Risk
2014 USGS National Seismic Hazard Map, displaying intensity of potential ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (which is the typical lifetime of a building). USGS Will there be an earthquake near you in the near future? Well, I won't claim to be able to tell the future, but the U.S. Geological Survey has just released a new map using the the most up-to-date hazard assessments for a temblor in your region, which incorporates "more than 100 years of global earthquake […]
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8:22 PM | The Comet We've Targeted To Land On Turns Out To Be Duck-Shaped
At this moment, the Rosetta spacecraft is about 250,000,000 miles away from Earth and quickly approaching the (not-so-poetically named) comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency launched Rosetta in 2004 with a plan to send it to 67P and drop a robotic lander onto a comet's surface for the first time ever. But as Rosetta flies nearer and nearer to the comet, it has made an unexpected discovery. When Hubble imaged 67P back in 2003, scientists […]
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5:43 PM | What Sort Of Weapon Shot Down Flight MH-17?
Slovenian Soldiers With MANPADS These are SA-18 Igla Man Portable Air Defense Systems. MORS, via Wikimedia Commons Earlier today, Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people on board. Following Ukraine's ouster of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, and the subsequent seizure of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, a violent and armed separatist movement emerged in Eastern Ukraine, […]
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4:23 PM | One-Third Of Borneo's Rainforest Has Been Cut Down
In the image on the right, areas in red have been logged between 1973 and 2010. PLOS ONE In the last 40 years, nearly one-third of the rainforest on Borneo have been cut down. That's nearly twice as fast as the average deforestation rate for tropical rain forests worldwide. That raises the question: What's going on? In part, it's because of the high-quality forests on Borneo, the world's third-largest island, an incredibly biologically diverse landmass that is divided between Brunei, […]
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2:28 PM | This Grill Packs Power
BioLite BaseCamp Ralph Smith BioLite BaseCamp Energy output: 5 watts Weight: 20 pounds Cooktop diameter: 13.25 inches (fits eight burgers) Price: $299 Two years ago, BioLite introduced its CampStove, the first portable cooker to convert waste heat into electricity. The stove produced enough power to recharge a phone—perfect for an overnight in the woods—but lacked the juice to allow a whole campsite to go off the grid. The new BaseCamp […]
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1:00 PM | A Drone For Dangerous Missions
As early as next year, the Depart­ment of Defense will test-fly an entirely new type of combat drone. The craft is called Ares, for Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, and it’s designed to take off and land vertically. Unlike airplane-esque drones, which are cumbersome to launch and land, Ares could drop into a tight spot, unload supplies or rescue soldiers, and then zip up and away. The remote-controlled prototype, now under construction by helicopter manufacturer Pia­secki […]

July 16, 2014

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9:59 PM | The CDC Goes Before Congress And Five More News Updates Since Last Week's Smallpox Find
A CDC Scientist Puts Samples Into Liquid Nitrogen For Storage James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Last week, we learned that U.S. government scientists found six vials of smallpox virus that they didn't know they had. Because the virus is so deadly, only two labs in the world are supposed to hold samples of it. Other labs are not prepared to secure the vials as well as they should. Although nobody got sick from the smallpox discovery, it was an unsettling mistake for […]
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