Posts

December 16, 2014

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6:00 PM | New law for superconductors
Mathematical description of relationship between thickness, temperature, and resistivity could spur advances. MIT researchers have discovered a new mathematical relationship — between material thickness, temperature, and electrical resistance — that appears to hold in all superconductors. They describe their findings in the latest issue of Physical Review B. Subject:  Computer Science
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5:55 PM | People may inherit 'gut' bacteria that cause Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
A new study by an international team of researchers shows for the first time that people may inherit some of the intestinal bacteria that cause Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively know as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study, recently published in Genome Medicine, also confirmed that antibiotics could worsen the imbalance in the gut microbes. Subject:  Health & Medicine
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5:31 PM | Naming people and objects in baby's first year may offer learning benefits years later
In a follow-up to her earlier studies of learning in infancy, developmental psychologist Lisa Scott and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are reporting that talking to babies in their first year, in particular naming things in their world, can help them make connections between what they see and hear, and these learning benefits can be seen as much as five years later. Subject:  Brain & Behavior
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5:23 PM | Study to examine effects of artificial intelligence
Scientists have begun what they say will be a century-long study of the effects of artificial intelligence on society, including on the economy, war and crime, officials at Stanford University announced Monday. The project, hosted by the university, is unusual not just because of its duration but because it seeks to track the effects of these technologies as they reshape the roles played by human beings in a broad range of endeavors. Subject:  Artificial […]

December 15, 2014

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10:06 PM | Shame on us
Emotions are complicated and never more so than in the realm of the scientific, where commonly accepted definitions are lacking. In a paper published in the journal Qualitative Inquiry, UC Santa Barbara's Thomas Scheff examines the basic emotions of grief, fear/anxiety, anger, shame and pride as they appear in scientific literature in an attempt to take a first step in defining them. "Emotion terms, especially in English, are wildly ambiguous," Scheff writes in the paper's […]
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8:31 PM | Impacts, extinctions and climate in the search for life elsewhere
Every so often our Earth encounters a large chunk of space debris which reminds us that our solar system still contains plenty of debris that could potentially have an impact on life on Earth. While the great bulk of planetary accretion occurs in the first few hundred million years after the birth of a given system, the process never really comes to an end. Subject:  Astronomy/Cosmology
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4:21 PM | It’s American Atheists billboards time, again!
Christmas is fast approaching. So, naturally, American Atheists has launched its usual billboard campaign to nudge closeted atheists to come out and embrace the good news. AA President David Silverman is again spearheading what he calls the organizations’ “firebrand” approach to fighting religion. Despite being a lifetime member of American Atheists, I have criticized the group on this issue before [1], and recently, I did so again, on Twitter, which led to a back and […]
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4:07 PM | Engineering students aim to generate first breathable air on Mars
A project by students from The Univ. of Western Australia and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards has reached the finals of an international competition to land vital experiments on the Red Planet. The Helena Payload project, which aims to generate the first breathable air on Mars, is one of 10 finalists in the Mars One University Competition and is the only successful entry from the southern hemisphere. Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that aims to establish permanent […]
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3:59 PM | Neurons listen to glia cells
Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have discovered a new signal pathway in the brain that plays an important role in learning and the processing of sensory input. Subject:  Brain & Behavior
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3:49 PM | Scientists decipher conversations between cattle
The team from The University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University of London, spent ten months studying to the ways cows communicate with their young, carefully examining acoustic indicators of identity and age. They identified two distinct maternal 'calls'. When cows were close to their calves, they communicated with them using low frequency calls. When they were separated - out of visual contact - their calls were louder and at a much higher frequency. Subject:  […]

December 14, 2014

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8:45 PM | The strange case of the Sony hack
The last few weeks we have seen reports of a massive hack into the Sony Pictures Entertainment system where the hackers seems to have seized an immense amount of confidential internal documents about everyone who was even remotely connected to the company. On November 24 the world found out that Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked and had disabled its entire corporate network, including locations that spanned Culver City, New York, and overseas. Subject:  […]

December 13, 2014

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5:04 PM | Fat cells reprogrammed to increase fat burning
White adipose tissue stores excess calories as fat that can be released for use in other organs during fasting. Mammals also have small amounts of brown adipose tissue, which primarily acts as an effective fat burner for the production of heat. Now researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have uncovered the mechanism by which white fat cells from humans gets reprogrammed to become browner. Subject:  Biology & Aging
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5:01 PM | How bird eggs get their bling
Splashy blue and green hues pop from under the glassy finish of the Tinamou species' (bird relatives of ostriches, rheas and emus) eggs. Pigments covered by a thin, smooth cuticle reveal the mystery behind these curious shells, University of Akron researchers discovered. The finding could lead to the development of glossy new coatings for ceramics and floors, potentially enhancing their aesthetic qualities and durability. Subject:  Animal Research

December 12, 2014

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11:31 PM | It had to happen sooner or later: retail robots
A hardware store in San Jose has a new star employee. It can speak English and Spanish, recognise any part at sight, and knows what the shop has in stock on a second by second basis. And it's also a robot. OSHbot, as it is called, measures roughly 5ft, and boasts a 3D scanner and touchscreen. "It's not just robots for robots' sake, or a marketing gimmick," insists Kyl Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs. Lowe's is an American DIY chain, and the robot's ultimate […]
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8:30 PM | New theory suggests alternate path led to rise of the eukaryotic cell
As a fundamental unit of life, the cell is central to all of biology. Better understanding how complex cells evolved and work promises new revelations in areas as diverse as cancer research and developing new crop plants. But deep thinking on how the eukaryotic cell came to be is astonishingly scant. Now, however, a bold new idea of how the eukaryotic cell and, by extension, all complex life came to be is giving scientists an opportunity to re-examine some of biology's key dogma. […]
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8:25 PM | Discovery may explain why we gain weight
University of Rochester researchers believe they’re on track to solve the mystery of weight gain – and it has nothing to do with indulging in holiday eggnog. They discovered that a protein, Thy1, has a fundamental role in controlling whether a primitive cell decides to become a fat cell, making Thy1 a possible therapeutic target, according to a study published online this month by the FASEB Journal. Subject:  Health & Medicine
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8:17 PM | Freak fast winds created Titan’s massive, mysterious dunes
Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and is constantly surprising scientists as the Cassini spacecraft probes under its thick atmosphere. Take its dunes, for example, which are huge and pointed the wrong way. Why are they pointing opposite to the prevailing east-west winds? It happens during two rare wind reversals during a single Saturn year (30 Earth years), investigators suggest. Subject:  Astronomy/Cosmology
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8:00 PM | The science of torture
The Senate Intelligence Committee report on its years-long investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency’s immoral torture-based interrogation methods says the CIA got no information that stopped terror attacks. Which is not surprising. Scientists have been telling us for a long time that torture is a lousy way to get people to tell you the things you want to know. Subject:  Brain & Behavior
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6:52 PM | Human DNA shows traces of 40 million-year battle for survival between primate and pathogen
Examination of DNA from 21 primate species -- from squirrel monkeys to humans -- exposes an evolutionary war against infectious bacteria over iron that circulates in the host's bloodstream. Supported by experimental evidence, these findings, published in Science on Dec. 12, demonstrate the vital importance of an increasingly appreciated defensive strategy called nutritional immunity. Subject:  Evolution
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6:05 PM | Lining up for molecular memory devices
A way to use weak molecular bonding interactions to create well-ordered and stable metal–organic monolayers with optoelectronic properties has been found by researchers from the RIKEN Surface and Interface Science Laboratory. The development could form the basis for the scalable fabrication of molecular optoelectronic devices. Subject:  Computer Science
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6:01 PM | Using real data rather than theory to measure the cosmos
For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity. A research team from Imperial College London and the University of Barcelona has used data from astronomical surveys to measure a standard distance that is central to our understanding of the expansion of the universe. Subject:  Astronomy/Cosmology
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3:55 AM | The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you
A very unsexy-sounding piece of technology could mean that the police know where you go. These cameras are innocuously placed all across small-town America to catch known criminals, but as lawyer and TED Fellow Catherine Crump shows, the data they collect in aggregate could have disastrous consequences for everyone the world over.
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2:47 AM | What really killed the dinosaurs?
Before an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, Earth experienced a short burst of intense volcanism. Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid more than five miles wide smashed into the Earth at 70,000 miles per hour, instantly vaporizing upon impact. The strike obliterated most terrestrial life, including the dinosaurs, in a geological instant: Heavy dust blocked out the sun, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events from the bottom of the food chain to the top, killing off more than […]
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2:04 AM | Why are magazines in practice waiting rooms mainly old?
Fed up with complaints about the lack of up to date magazines in the waiting room of his general practice, Professor Bruce Arroll and colleagues set out to answer the question. Their findings are published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ. Subject:  Brain & Behavior
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1:24 AM | Rosetta data suggests Earth's water did not come from comets
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapour from its target comet to be significantly different to that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet’s oceans. The measurements were made in the month following the spacecraft’s arrival at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 6 August. It is one of the most anticipated early results of the mission, because the origin of Earth’s water is still an open question. […]
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12:40 AM | Study supports the theory that men are idiots
Sex differences in risk-seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. Males are more likely to be admitted to an emergency department after accidential injuries, more likely to be admitted with a sporting injury, and more likely to be involved in a fatal road traffic collision. Subject:  Brain & Behavior

December 11, 2014

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11:16 PM | Memory lapses among highly educated may signal higher stroke risk
People with a high level of education who complain about memory lapses have a higher risk for stroke, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. "Studies have shown how stroke causes memory complaints," said Arfan Ikram, M.D., associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands. "Given the shared underlying vascular pathology, we posed the reverse question: 'Do memory complaints indicate an increased risk of […]
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10:41 PM | Rapid bird evolution occurred after the age of dinosaurs
The most ambitious genetic study ever undertaken on bird evolution has found that almost all modern birds diversified after the dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago. "The popular view until now has been that the extraordinary diversity of birds began during the dinosaur age but we found little support for this," said Associate Professor Simon Ho, from the University of Sydney who led a major component of the research looking at evolutionary timescale. Subject:  […]
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5:34 PM | Interstellar mystery solved by supercomputer simulations
An interstellar mystery of why stars form has been solved thanks to the most realistic supercomputer simulations of galaxies yet made. Theoretical astrophysicist Philip Hopkins of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) led research that found that stellar activity -- like supernova explosions or even just starlight -- plays a big part in the formation of other stars and the growth of galaxies. Subject:  Astronomy/Cosmology
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5:24 PM | Google CEO: Fears about artificial intelligence are misguided
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says fears over artificial intelligence and robots replacing humans in jobs are “misguided”. In fact the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful tech companies says AI is likely going to make humanity better. “These concerns are normal,” he said during a talk the Financial Times Innovate America event in New York this week. "Go back to the history of the loom. There was absolute dislocation… but I think all of us […]
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