Friday, March 27, 2015 8:47:29 PM CST
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, sending a U.S.-Russia crew to the International Space Station for a year-long flight, a NASA Television broadcast showed. Four Soviet-era cosmonauts lived on the now-defunct Mir space station for a year or longer, but the missions, which concluded in 1999, did not have the sophisticated medical equipment that will be used during International Space Station investigations, NASA said.
Friday, March 27, 2015 5:42:29 PM CST
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fossil site in the Canadian Rockies that provides a wondrous peek into life on Earth more than half a billion years ago has offered up the remains of an intriguing sea creature, a four-eyed arthropod predator that wielded a pair of spiky claws. Scientists said on Friday they unearthed nicely preserved fossils in British Columbia of the 508 million-year-old animal, named Yawunik kootenayi, that looked like a big shrimp with a bad attitude and was one of the largest predators of its time. The fossil beds in Kootenay National Park where it was found were in a previously unexplored area of the Burgess Shale rock formation that for more than a century has yielded exceptional remains from the Cambrian Period, when many of the major animal groups first appeared. Yawunik, whose name honors a mythical sea monster in the native Ktunaxa people's creation story, was a primitive arthropod, the highly successful group that includes shrimps, lobsters, crabs, insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes.
Friday, March 27, 2015 8:55:00 AM CST
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) - French auto parts maker Valeo plans to draw on drone software and other military technologies from partner Safran to offer self-driving vehicle platforms to carmakers by the end of the decade. While demonstrating an autonomous car and other prototype systems jointly developed with Safran, the French defense and aerospace group, Valeo said on Friday the first applications may reach carmaker clients within three years. "We realized very quickly that we had much more in common than we'd expected," Valeo innovation chief Guillaume Devauchelle told Reuters. "It turns out that an autonomous vehicle is really a terrestrial drone." Cars that complete whole journeys without human input are still many years away, but creeping automation is well underway, with models already on sale that can pilot themselves through slow traffic and hit the brakes when a pedestrian steps out.
Thursday, March 26, 2015 2:02:31 PM CST
By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force overstepped its bounds as it worked to certify privately held SpaceX to launch military satellites, undermining the benefit of working with a commercial provider, an independent review showed on Thursday. The report cited a "stark disconnect" between the Air Force and SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, about the purpose of the certification process and recommended changes. Air Force Secretary Deborah James ordered the review after the service missed a December deadline for certifying SpaceX to compete for some launches now carried out solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. The Pentagon is eager to certify SpaceX as a second launch provider, given mounting concerns in Congress about ULA's use of a Russian-built engine to power its Atlas 5 rocket.
Thursday, March 26, 2015 12:08:44 PM CST
By Francesco Guarascio BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to send two navigation satellites into orbit on Friday aboard a Russian rocket, in its first launch since a botched deployment in August that cost several million euros to fix. The Galileo project to set up an EU alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) is obliged to use the Russian Soyuz system until a development of Arianespace's European Ariane 5 rocket is ready around the end of the year, despite strained relations with Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. An official at the European Commission, which oversees the program, said the EU executive was tendering for insurance cover for future satellites and had set up an insurance scheme for the launches. The two launched in August have since been nudged into viable orbits and are fit for use, a spokesman for the European Space Agency said.
Sunday, March 29, 2015 12:17:29 PM CST
If you're trying to stabilize nuclear waste, don't use organic kitty litter. That's the take-away of a 277-page report, just released by the Department of Energy (DOE), on a radioactive leak that occurred at the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, on Feb. 14, 2014. Investigators confirmed that a 55-gallon metal drum of nuclear waste burst open after it was packed with the wrong kind of cat litter, as had been suspected since last year. Traditional cat litter is usually made from inorganic silicates that can stabilize nitrate salts found in nuclear waste, James Conca explained in Forbes last year.
Friday, March 27, 2015 12:51:55 PM CST
It is the first new species reported from a stunning fossil find in Marble Canyon in British Columbia's Kootenay National Park. The Marble Canyon fossil beds, located in 2012, rival the iconic Burgess Shale for their diversity of soft-bodied fossils and exquisite preservation, scientists said. Yawunik is one of the most abundant species at the Marble Canyon site, and so, as a predator, likely held a key position in the food chain, said lead study author Cédric Aria, a graduate student in paleontology at the University of Toronto in Canada. The animal was named Yawunik kootenayi after the Ktunaxa people who have long inhabited the Kootenay area where the Marble Canyon locality was found.
Friday, March 27, 2015 7:05:01 AM CST
A damaging tornado touched down outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, last night (March 25). A small twister was also reported in Moore, the Oklahoma City suburb that has been repeatedly ravaged by deadly twisters this decade. The two weak tornadoes ended a long dry streak for the 2015 tornado season. For only the second time since the 1950s — when good record keeping began — the first three weeks of March were tornado-free throughout the United States, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Friday, March 27, 2015 10:31:46 PM CST
Friday, March 27, 2015 10:31:41 PM CST
Three new crewmembers just arrived at the International Space Station, and two of them won't be leaving for about one year. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are expected to spend about 342 days living and working on the International Space Station — marking the orbiting outpost's first yearlong space mission. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka also joined Kornienko and Kelly on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the space station at 8:33 p.m. EDT (0033 GMT). Padalka will stay on the space station for about six months, the usual amount of time people live on the space laboratory.
Friday, March 27, 2015 8:54:53 PM CST
An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals. The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world's best selling weed killer, is "probably carcinogenic to humans." Roundup is made by Monsanto Co. The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent "political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct." According to the petition, some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests.
Friday, March 27, 2015 10:19:37 AM CST
By Randi Belisomo (Reuters Health) - Thanks to a generous benefactor, young mothers doing laboratory research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston can receive major grants to keep them from falling behind while they raise their children. Since 1993, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards at MGH have helped junior female faculty with young children keep pace with their male peers, who don’t face the same challenges to research productivity that women do during their child-rearing years. Every year, five women are awarded $100,000 Claflin grants - named for benefactor Jane D. Claflin - to fund a research assistant for two years.
Thursday, March 26, 2015 12:11:14 PM CST
A World Health Organization group's controversial finding that the world's most popular herbicide "probably is carcinogenic to humans" was based on a thorough scientific review and is a key marker in ongoing evaluations of the product, the scientist who led the study said Thursday. There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations ... and damaged chromosomes," Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute, said in an interview. Blair chaired the 17-member working group of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which rocked the agricultural industry on March 20 by classifying glyphosate as "probably" cancer-causing. Monsanto Co , which has built a $15 billion company on sales of glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and crops genetically engineered to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup, has demanded a retraction and explanation from WHO.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 4:46:49 PM CST
The remains of Richard III may be locked away in a coffin to be reburied this week, but the 15th-century king's genome is still offering scientists a chance to unravel royal mysteries. "Having worked in the world of genetic genealogy for years, this is not at all surprising to me," said Turi King, a geneticist at the University of Leicester. In the general population, false paternities occur in about 1 percent to 2 percent of births, King said. They found a match between Richard's mitochondrial DNA (which is passed down only through the mother) and the mitochondrial DNA from two living female-line descendants of Richard's sister Anne of York: Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:10:09 AM CST
Science experiments conducted on the International Space Station during the orbiting outpost's first yearlong mission could help open the door to deep space for NASA. Officials hope that one-year stint on the space station by astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will provide them with valuable health data that may help when the space agency decides to send humans to Mars sometime in the future, a major goal for NASA. Scientists have collected a lot of data about how the human body behaves after six months in orbit on the space station, but what happens to a person after a year in space? When NASA's Kelly and Russia's Kornienko launch to space on March 27 for their yearlong stay in space, researchers will get one of their first chances to answer this question.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 1:35:45 PM CST
By Robert Evans GENEVA (Reuters) - Scientists at Europe's CERN research centre have had to postpone the imminent relaunch of their refitted 'Big Bang' machine, the Large Hadron Collider, because of a short-circuit in the wiring of one of the vital magnets. "Current indications suggest a delay of between a few days and several weeks," a statement from the world's leading particle physics research centre said on Tuesday. Engineers had been expected to start on Wednesday pumping proton beams in opposite directions all the way round the two 27-km (17-mile) underground tubes in the LHC, closed down for the past two years for a refit. The smashing-together of particles inside the LHC is designed to mimic conditions just after the Big Bang at the dawn of the universe.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 12:15:11 PM CST
By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Wild animals can predict earthquakes several weeks before they strike, and motion-activated cameras that track their movements could be adopted in quake-prone countries as an affordable early warning system, scientists said on Tuesday. Scientists using a series of cameras in an Amazon region of Peru noticed changes in animal behaviour three weeks before a 7.0 magnitude quake hit the area in 2011, according to a study published in the journal Physics and Chemistry of the Earth. Scientists have long believed that animals can predict earthquakes, but have until now relied on anecdotal evidence of changes in animal behaviour, they said. Rachel Grant, lead author of the report and lecturer in Animal and Environmental Biology at Britain's Anglia Ruskin University, said the study was the first to document a fall in animal activity before an earthquake.
Monday, March 23, 2015 1:03:03 PM CST
WASHINGTON (AP) — The small Lego machine inside the White House whirred, and in a moment it was turning the pages of a story book. One page flipped, then another, ever faster as President Barack Obama marveled at its efficiency.
Monday, March 23, 2015 10:29:23 AM CST
In a recent article (Human Nature May Seal the Planet's Warming Fate), I used the allegory of "Who Moved my Cheese?" to suggest that people's innate biases may in fact be an evolutionary adaption, one that thwarts the changes demanded by climate change. This in contrast to simpler life forms such as mice: They have seemingly lower cognitive abilities, yet adapt far easier and more willingly to changes in their habitat.
Monday, March 23, 2015 9:52:33 AM CST
The marijuana that is available today may be much more potent than marijuana cultivated in the past, according to the results of new tests. The psychoactive component in the marijuana plant is the chemical THC, and the new tests showed that today's marijuana may contain 30 percent THC, Andy LaFrate, the author of the new report, said in a statement. By contrast, THC levels in marijuana 30 years ago were lower than 10 percent, said LaFrate, who is the president and research director at Charas Scientific, one of eight labs certified by the state of Colorado to conduct marijuana potency testing. At the same time, the marijuana samples tested had very low levels of a compound called cannabidiol, or CBD, that is touted for its medicinal properties.
Monday, March 23, 2015 9:44:26 AM CST
The findings show that "protruding ears catch the eye, but not necessarily the imagination in a negative way," said Dr. Ralph Litschel, the lead author of the study. For some kids in the study, "protruding ears may have added to their cuteness," said Litschel, an ear, nose and throat specialist and facial plastic surgeon at Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen in Switzerland.
Monday, March 23, 2015 9:25:02 AM CST
Now, a Big Wheel-style bike is available for adults, thanks to the work of a former aerospace engineer. As a kid, Matt Armbruster dreamed of being an astronaut. It may not seem quite as noble as building things that expand humanity's understanding of the universe, but Armbruster said the power of these trikes — which look like adult-size versions of the Marx Big Wheel for kids — is something to behold. "The original Marx Big Wheel was kind of like the best toy ever for entire generations," Armbruster said.
Thursday, March 19, 2015 12:39:29 PM CST
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If you think you see a glowing mushroom, you might not be having a psychedelic hallucination. Some mushrooms indeed are bioluminescent, including one that sprouts among decaying leaves at the base of young palm trees in Brazilian coconut forests. Researchers said on Thursday that experiments in Brazil involving the big, yellow mushroom called "flor de coco," meaning coconut flower, showed its nighttime bioluminescence attracted insects and other creatures that could later spread its spores around the forest. "The answer appears to be that fungi make light so they are noticed by insects who can help the fungus colonize new habitats." Geneticist and molecular biologist Jay Dunlap of Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine said bioluminescence had independently evolved many times in such diverse life forms as bacteria, fungi, insects and fish.
Thursday, March 19, 2015 11:37:43 AM CST
The crabs come from the island of Java in Indonesia, according to the scientists who officially describe the species in a new report. People in the aquarium trade have known of the two crab species described in the report for at least a decade, said Peter Ng, a biology professor at the National University of Singapore and an author of the report.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 8:51:22 AM CST
The up-and-coming professional football player Chris Borland, of the San Francisco 49ers, is now leaving the sport out of concern that a career in football would increase his risk of brain disease. On Monday (March 16), Borland announced he was retiring from football after studying the link between football head injuries and degenerative brain disease, and discussing his decision with friends, family members, concussion researchers and teammates, according to ESPN. The types of brain damage that can occur as a result of being a professional football player have received increased attention in recent years. For example, there is growing awareness of a particularly severe degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 6:44:17 AM CST
"Although many politicians and the media at large portray evangelicals as distrustful of science, we found that this is more myth than reality," Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice University who orchestrated the survey, said in a statement. Among evangelical Christians, about 48 percent said they see science and religion as complementary to one another, while 21 percent think science and religion refer to different aspects of reality and see them as entirely independent of one another, the survey found. Still, the share of evangelical Christians who think religion and science are in conflict (and see themselves on the side of religion) is 29 percent — more than double the figure in the general population (14 percent), the study found.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 11:11:32 AM CST
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - Although numerous studies have shown that regular use of aspirin or related drugs can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by about 30 percent, scientists have found an important exception: The medicines can actually increase the risk in people with certain genetic variants, new research shows. The result, published on Tuesday, is yet another step on the road to "precision medicine," which aims to match treatments to patients' genetic make-up. If confirmed, it could alter recommendations for preventing colorectal cancer, which is projected to kill 49,700 people in the United States this year. In an editorial accompanying a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society and Thomas Jefferson University called the discovery "scientifically noteworthy." "I anticipate the time when genome sequencing to determine a lifelong (colorectal-cancer) prevention and screening strategy is a reality, although it's some time off," he said in an interview.
Monday, March 16, 2015 11:18:43 AM CST
The yeti, a legendary shaggy, bipedal beast from the Himalayas, made headlines last year when a geneticist said he had solved the mystery of its origins. "There is essentially no reason to believe that they [the hairs] belong to a species other than the brown bear," said one the new study's researchers, Eliécer Gutiérrez, a postdoctoral fellow of evolutionary biology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Monday, March 16, 2015 10:31:55 AM CST
Now an academic panel has developed a seven-point plan for achieving gender equity in so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. The 28-member Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering Working Group hopes to “ensure that women not just enter science, but remain, compete, and truly excel in scientific careers.” Women account for half the college-educated American workforce but only 28 percent of science and engineering workers, according to the National Science Board. Susan Solomon, CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, who convened the panel, says STEM fields are too critical to leave behind half the nation’s brainpower. Co-author Paola Arlotta, a Harvard University professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, won such an award at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award helps sustain research productivity during child-rearing years.
Monday, March 16, 2015 5:29:00 AM CST
Chemists around the world are involved in a race against time to find a solution to the growing problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. It's a major threat to the health of the global population, which had long assumed that antibiotics would always be available to cure bacterial illness. The scientific community hopes to be able to develop a new range of antibiotics to replace those that are increasingly losing their ability to work against infections like Tuberculosis (TB). A research team led by Markus Aebi, Professor of Mycology at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich), believe they may have found the answer.
Thursday, March 12, 2015 12:46:32 PM CST
By Robert Evans GENEVA (Reuters) - Scientists at the CERN physics research center said on Thursday the mystery dark matter that makes up 96 percent of the stuff of the universe will be a prime target for their souped-up Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the coming years. I want to see the first light in the Dark Universe," CERN chief Rolf Heuer told a news conference, referring to a concept that includes not just dark matter but the dark energy believed to be driving the universe apart. "We don't know what dark matter is, but maybe there is a place where we can find it (in the LHC)," said Dave Charlton, spokesman for the ATLAS experiment at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research near Geneva. The press conference was called before the relaunch of the subterranean LHC later this month, after a two-year shutdown that saw its energy power doubled.
Thursday, March 12, 2015 11:19:29 AM CST
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - With rumors that scientists are about to announce they have modified the genes of human eggs, sperm, or embryos, five prominent researchers on Thursday called on biologists to halt such experiments due to fears about safety and eugenics. The call for a self-imposed research moratorium, which is extremely rare in science, was based on concerns that the work crosses an ethical line, said Edward Lanphier, president and chief executive officer of California-based Sangamo BioSciences Inc, senior author of the commentary published in the science journal Nature. "The research should stop." Rumors that one or more labs are on the verge of genetically-engineering a human embryo have swirled for months, he said. Critics of the work say the experiments could be used to try to alter the genetic quality of humans, a practice and belief known as eugenics.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 12:31:17 PM CST
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - A wave of H7N9 bird flu in China that has spread into people may have the potential to emerge as a pandemic strain in humans, scientists said on Wednesday. The H7N9 virus, one of several strains of bird flu known to be able to infect humans, has persisted, diversified and spread in chickens across China, the researchers said, fuelling a resurgence of infections in people and posing a wider threat. "The expansion of genetic diversity and geographical spread indicates that, unless effective control measures are in place, H7N9 could be expected to persist and spread beyond the region," they said in a study published in the journal Nature. The H7N9 bird flu virus emerged in humans in March 2013 and has since then infected at least 571 people in China, Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Canada, killing 212 of them, according to February data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 9:22:13 AM CST
In 1915, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity, which described gravity as a fundamental property of space-time. Now, scientists have the technology to begin looking for evidence that could reveal physics beyond general relativity. "To me, it is absolutely amazing how well general relativity has done after 100 years," said Clifford Will, a theoretical physicist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. General relativity describes gravity not as a force, as the physicist Isaac Newton thought of it, but rather as a curvature of space and time due to the mass of objects, Will said.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 10:42:15 PM CST
California has a 7 percent chance of experiencing an earthquake of magnitude 8 or larger over the next three decades, U.S. government scientists said on Tuesday, higher than thought before. The 7 percent probability is based on new modeling, the United States Geological Survey said in a new study. "We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century," said Tom Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and a co-author of the study. "But we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable." The new modeling system takes into account shaking that might occur on several different faults, rather than looking at each rupture as a separate incident, said Ned Field, the lead author of the USGS report.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:47:27 AM CST
The famous Chinchorro mummies, which have remained preserved in Chile for more than 7,000 years, are now under threat from increased levels of moisture. Humid air is allowing bacteria to grow, causing the mummies' skin "to go black and become gelatinous," said Ralph Mitchell, a professor emeritus of applied biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who examined the rotting mummies.
Monday, March 9, 2015 1:01:02 PM CST
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday released ResearchKit, an open-source software tool designed to give scientists a new way to gather information on patients by using their iPhones. Several top research institutions have already developed applications to work on the ResearchKit platform, including those pursuing clinical studies on asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. They include Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College. "With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research," said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations, said in a statement.
Monday, March 9, 2015 7:59:37 AM CST
Einstein's breakthroughs in 20th-century physics made him the world's most famous scientist. In the 1870s, British chemist Sir William Crookes developed a neat little curiosity called the radiometer, or the light mill. The contraption was made up of a glass bulb with most of the air sucked out, with several metal, rectangular pieces aligned inside, like a windmill. He even convinced his niece Edith Einstein to focus on the topic for her research, said Daniel Kennefick, a physicist at the University of Arkansas and author of "Traveling at the Speed of Thought: Einstein and the Quest for Gravitational Waves" (Princeton University Press, 2007).
Friday, March 6, 2015 9:13:21 PM CST
Female killer whales live long and productive lives after they stop having babies, playing a critical role in survival of the pod as they lead the hunt for food, particularly in lean times, according to a study released on Friday. Resembling in many ways their human counterparts, female killer whales breed between ages 14 and 40 but can survive well into their 90s, while male orcas, by contrast, die much younger, rarely making it past 50, according to the study in the journal Current Biology. Killer whales join short-finned pilot whales and humans as the only species in which the females can live decades after menopause. In that time, the female killer whales, not burdened by childbearing, pass on important information to the other whales, says the study.
Friday, March 6, 2015 6:31:32 AM CST
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful, recently apologized for a statement in which he said being gay is "absolutely" a choice. In an interview on CNN, the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate commented that "a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out they're gay, so did something happen while they were in there?