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NASA puts out call for satellite communication services – on Mars

Handout of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passing above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration released by NASABy Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - In what may be the ultimate in long-distance telephone service, NASA on Wednesday put out a call for a commercially owned and operated satellite network on Mars. The robotic probes, however, are useless if they cannot relay their results, and the two communication satellites currently in orbit are getting old. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter followed in 2005. The aging of NASA’s Mars communications system comes as the United States, Europe, Russia and India mount a fresh wave of science campaigns, including two atmospheric probes slated to arrive at Mars in September and two life-hunting rovers due to launch in 2018 and 2020.


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U.S. scientists to map interior of Mount St. Helens volcano

Aerial view of Mt St Helens as it spews steam and ash.By Victoria Cavaliere SEATTLE (Reuters) - A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists were expected to rattle Washington state's Mount St. Helens on Wednesday as researchers map the interior of the volcano, whose 1980 eruption was the deadliest in U.S. history. Mount St. Helens, about 95 miles (150 km) south of Seattle and 50 miles (80 km) north of Portland, erupted in an explosion of hot ash in May 1980, spewing debris over a wide area, killing 57 people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage. Scientists from across the United States are trying to get a better handle on the magma stores and internal workings of the 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) volcano to improve warning systems prior to eruption. "Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland," lead scientist Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston said in a statement.


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Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds

By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Paracetamol, a painkiller universally recommended to treat people with acute low back pain, does not speed recovery or reduce pain from the condition, according to the results of a large trial published on Thursday. A study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the popular pain medicine was no better than placebo, or dummy pills, for hastening recovery from acute bouts of low back pain or easing pain levels, function, sleep or quality of life. Researchers said the findings challenge the universal endorsement of paracetamol as the first choice painkiller for lower back pain. "We need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment," said Christopher Williams, who led the study at the University of Sydney in Australia.

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Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy: U.S. study

Dogs wear traditional red scarves in PamplonaDogs are capable of feeling a basic form of jealousy, according to a study published in the PLOS ONE scientific journal. The research, said to be the first experiment on canine jealousy, could redefine the view that the complex emotion of envy is a human construct, said Christine Harris, University of California, San Diego psychologist and an author of the study.


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Hacking experts build device to protect cars from cyber attacks

By Jim Finkle (This July 22 story is refiled to include omitted title for Chris Valasek, paragraph 3) BOSTON (Reuters) - Two security experts who a year ago exposed methods for hacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape say they have developed technology that would keep automobiles safe from cyber attacks. At last summer's Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the two researchers, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, described ways to launch dangerous attacks, including manipulating the brakes of the moving Prius and the Ford Escape.

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Acetaminophen Doesn't Reduce Lower-Back Pain, Study Suggests

Acetaminophen Doesn't Reduce Lower-Back Pain, Study SuggestsAcetaminophen, the drug found in Tylenol, works no better than a dummy pill at reducing lower-back pain in some people, nor does it help these patients get better any faster, a new study finds. The study involved more than 1,600 people in Australia who experienced sudden (acute) lower-back pain, and were randomly assigned to either take acetaminophen tablets regularly three times a day, to take acetaminophen only as needed, or to take placebo tablets. None of the participants were told whether they were taking acetaminophen or a placebo, and they took the tablets until they were pain-free, for up to four weeks. Guidelines for treating people with acute low-back pain recommend acetaminophen as the first-choice painkiller, but until now, no rigorous studies have been done to show that the treatment actually works better than a placebo, the researchers said in their study, published today (July 23) in the journal The Lancet.


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Happy Birthday, Landsat: Space Science Project Turns 42

Happy Birthday, Landsat: Space Science Project Turns 42The Landsat 1 satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, flew into orbit on July 23, 1972, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The camera was designed to be the primary observation instrument, according to NASA, but scientists soon discovered that the scanner was sending back far better data. In 1976, scientists combing through Landsat images found a tiny scrap of land never seen before. To verify the island's existence, Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrologist Frank Hall took a helicopter to the island.


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That's My Owner! Dogs Get Jealous, Too

That's My Owner! Dogs Get Jealous, TooThe first experimental test of jealousy in dogs shows that canines nip even at stuffed pooches when these fakes take away the attention of the dogs' owners. The results also show that jealousy does not require especially complex minds, the scientists said. "Jealousy is the third-leading cause of non-accidental homicide across cultures," said lead study author Christine Harris, an emotion researcher at the University of California, San Diego. It is commonly assumed that jealousy is unique to humans, in part because of the complexity of thought the emotion entails, such as gauging what threat a rival poses to a relationship.


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Robotic Russian Cargo Ship Launches on Express Trip to Space Station

Robotic Russian Cargo Ship Launches on Express Trip to Space StationAn unmanned Russian spacecraft filled with supplies for the six crewmembers living on the International Space Station launched on an express delivery run to the orbiting outpost today (July 23).


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Young Star Cluster Shines in Stunning Telescope Views (Video, Photo)

Young Star Cluster Shines in Stunning Telescope Views (Video, Photo)A family of bright young stars group together against a background of glowing clouds in a new photo from an observatory in the Southern Hemisphere. Located about 8,000 light-years from Earth, many stars of the star cluster NGC 3293 shine in blue with red clouds of gas and dust framing the image released by the European Southern Observatory today (July 23). NGC 3293 would have just been a cloud of dust about 10 million years ago, according to ESO officials. You can fly through the image of the star cluster taken by ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile in a new video of the star cluster from the astronomy organization.


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String Theory: The Physics of Master Guitar Playing

String Theory: The Physics of Master Guitar PlayingHow do great guitarists bend a string like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix? "Very good guitarists will manipulate the strings to make the instrument sing," David Robert Grimes, a physicist at Oxford University, in England, who plays guitar and was a member of a band in Dublin, Ireland, said in a statement. The physics of string instruments is fairly well understood, but "I wanted to understand what it was about these guitar techniques that allows you to manipulate pitch," Grimes said. Grimes, who normally works on mathematical models of oxygen distribution in radiation therapy for cancer, spent his spare time crafting equations for various guitar techniques, including bending (pushing the strings up or down), tapping (hitting the strings), vibrato (moving the wrist back and forth to change a string's tension) and whammy bar action (a mechanical form of vibrato).


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U.S. scientists urge 'national vision' to curb coastal risks in report

(Reuters) - A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday. Urging a "national vision" toward addressing coastal risks, the report comes on the heels of a Reuters analysis published earlier this month showing that coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years, with steep financial consequences. The great majority of money - most of it federal dollars -spent on coastal risks goes toward recovery after a disaster rather than on planning for and mitigating against storms, climate change and sea-level rise, the report said. Instead, the federal government should push for a national coastal risk assessment to identify best practices and uniform measures of progress, and move away from the current decentralized approach to coastal management, the report said.

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Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and Dogs

Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and DogsElephants are known for their impressively long trunks, but perhaps less well known is the large number of genes that code for their sense smell. "Rats had the record for the largest number of [these] genes," said the study's lead researcher Yoshiihito Niimura, a researcher of molecular evolution at The University of Tokyo in Japan. The findings support other research on the pachyderm's superior sense of smell. African elephants can smell the difference between two tribes living in Kenya: the Maasai, whose young men prove their virility by spearing elephants, and the Kamba, farmers who usually leave elephants alone, reported a 2007 study published in the journal Current Biology.


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Schizophrenia has many genetic links, study says

By Andrew M. Seaman NEW YORK - More than 100 locations on the human genome may play a role in a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study. While the results do not have an immediate effect on those living with the psychiatric disorder, one of the study’s authors said they open areas of research that had not seen advances in recent years. "The exciting thing about having little openings is it gives you a place to dig and make big openings,” said Steve McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. McCarroll is part of the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which published the study in the journal Nature.

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Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)

Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)Nora Beirne, a senior keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.  When I went to The College of New Jersey, I was an English major, but I took several pre-med classes. Then, in my senior year, Pat Thomas — associate director of the Bronx Zoo and vice president and general curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society — gave a talk to the biology department. In six years as a zoo keeper, I've trained red pandas for injections, fed black bears jelly off a spoon and held a komodo dragon.  


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Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)

Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)Homer Hickam is The New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of "Rocket Boys" — also known as "October Sky" (Dell Publishing, 2000) following the book's adaptation to film — and the "Helium-3" novels "Crater" (Thomas Nelson, 2012), "Crescent" (Thomas Nelson, 2013) "Crater Trueblood and The Lunar Rescue Company" (Thomas Nelson, 2014), as well as a retired NASA engineer. There, a ghost town awaits, the previous residents scared off by weird emanations of LTP.


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Taller, Fatter, Older: How Humans Have Changed in 100 Years

middel aged fat manHumans are getting taller; Most of the transformations that occur within such a short time period "are simply the developmental responses of organisms to changed conditions," such as differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices, said Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. But the origin of these changes may be much deeper and more complex than that, said Stearns, pointing to a study finding that British soldiers have shot up in height in the past century. "Evolution has shaped the developmental program that can respond flexibly to changes in the environment," Stearns said.


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New Schizophrenia Gene Links Uncovered

A new genetic analysis of people with schizophrenia — and the largest study investigating the genetic basis of any psychiatric disorder to date — provides hints that the disease may sometimes be connected with infections as some researchers have long suggested. There have been few innovative drug treatments for schizophrenia over the last 60 years. "In the past, people thought schizophrenia must happen because of some really bad mutations in a person not seen in people around them," said study co-author Steve McCarroll, director of genetics at the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "This study shows a substantial part of the risk of schizophrenia comes from many tiny nudges to the genome that all humans share."

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Full Moon Looms Large Over Your Sleep

Some folk stories and superstitions hold that a full moon affects people's sleep, and new research lends support to this idea. In the study, researchers found that people slept for 20 to 25 minutes less on average on nights with a full moon, compared with how long they slept on nights with a quarter moon. The people in the study also said they had more trouble falling asleep during the full moon than the quarter moon, according to the results, published July 8 in the journal Current Biology. The researchers stressed that further studies are needed to confirm whether there is a relationship between moon phases and sleep duration.

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Genetic blueprint unveiled for vital food crop wheat

Wheat pours into a truck as a French farmer harvests his crop in Aigrefeuille-sur-Maine near NantesBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As far as agricultural genome research goes, this may be the best thing since sliced bread - wheat bread, that is. An international team of scientists on Thursday unveiled a genetic blueprint of wheat in an accomplishment that may help guide the breeding of varieties of the vitally important food crop that are more productive and more hardy. Researchers who are part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, formed in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists and breeders, unveiled what they called a chromosome-based draft genome sequence of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. The work makes it easier to identify genes controlling agriculturally important traits like yield, disease and pest resistance and drought tolerance, according to Frédéric Choulet, a plant genomicist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), one of the lead researchers.


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Stay Up Late? How It Could Hurt Your Fertility

Darkness is important for optimum reproductive health in women, and for protecting the developing fetus, said study researcher Russel J. Reiter, a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. In a review of studies published online July 1 in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Reiter and his colleagues evaluated previously published research, and summarized the role of melatonin levels and circadian rhythms on successful reproduction in females.

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4 Conditions Probiotics Are Likely to Treat

So it's no surprise that probiotics, and foods or supplements containing live organisms that can help maintain a normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, have also gained more attention. "There's been a tremendous increase in interest in probiotics among practicing physicians and the general public," said Dr. Allan Walker, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. "Over the last 10 to 15 years, research into probiotics and intestinal microbes has taken off, and many talented researchers have entered the field," Walker said. In his own research, Walker studies the use of probiotics in infants, and has also co-chaired the Yale Workshop, a group of experts who analyzed the scientific data and published recommendations for physicians on probiotic use in 2011.

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4 Conditions Probiotics Have Been Proven to Treat

So it's no surprise that probiotics, and foods or supplements containing live organisms that can help maintain a normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, have also gained more attention. "There's been a tremendous increase in interest in probiotics among practicing physicians and the general public," said Dr. Allan Walker, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. "Over the last 10 to 15 years, research into probiotics and intestinal microbes has taken off, and many talented researchers have entered the field," Walker said. In his own research, Walker studies the use of probiotics in infants, and has also co-chaired the Yale Workshop, a group of experts who analyzed the scientific data and published recommendations for physicians on probiotic use in 2011.

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Secrets of Sun's 'Coronal Rain' Revealed (Video)

Secrets of Sun's 'Coronal Rain' Revealed (Video)Earth's nearest star has bad weather, too. The mechanisms driving coronal rain are similar to the way rain forms on Earth, according to a statement released by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in the United Kingdom. Scientists found that clouds of plasma in the corona cool, condense and fall back to the sun's surface in a waterfall-like arch if solar conditions are just right. "Showers of 'rain' and waterfalls on the sun are quite something, though I wouldn't recommend taking a stroll there anytime soon," Eamon Scullion of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, who led the solar physics research, said in a statement.


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Surfin' Birds Just Wanna Have Fun (Video)

A group of "surfing" black swans were caught catching some waves at a beach on Australia's Gold Coast, in a video posted on YouTube. "There're good biological reasons to think that animals have fun," said Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "Probably as few as five years ago, scientists wondered, do animals have fun or make friends — and I think that's just the silliest thing in the world," Bekoff told Live Science. The swans in the video aren't the only ones enjoying themselves at the shore.

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Citizen scientists out of options to rescue old NASA satellite

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - A valiant effort to put a defunct NASA science satellite back to work came to a disappointing end this week after the 36-year-old spacecraft’s propulsion system failed, project organizers said. An ad hoc team of engineers and scientists won permission from NASA to try to take control of the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, or ISEE-3. As ISEE-3 neared Earth’s orbit this spring, a volunteer team launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money, eventually ending up with nearly $160,000. The group also petitioned NASA to let it try to redirect the probe into a stable orbit around Earth so it could resume science operations.

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Why Some Chimps Are Smarter Than Others

Why Some Chimps Are Smarter Than OthersChimpanzees don't just get their smarts by aping others — chimps, like humans, inherit a significant amount of their intelligence from their parents, new research reveals. Researchers measured how well 99 captive chimpanzees performed on a series of cognitive tests, finding that genes determined as much as 50 percent of the animals' performance. "Genes matter," said William Hopkins, a neuroscientist at Georgia State University in Atlanta and co-author of the study published today (July 10) in the journal Current Biology. "We have what we would call a smart chimp, and chimps we'd call not so smart," Hopkins told Live Science, and "we were able to explain a lot of that variability by who was related to each other."


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Research shows Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused lesions in fish: scientists

By Barbara Liston ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Oil that matches the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been found in the bodies of sickened fish, according to a team of Florida scientists who studied the oil's chemical composition. "We matched up the oil in the livers and flesh with Deepwater Horizon like a fingerprint," lead researcher Steven Murawski, a professor at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science in Tampa, told Reuters. BP, whose oil rig caused the spill, rejected the research, stating in an emailed response that it was "not possible to accurately identify the source of oil based on chemical traces found in fish livers or tissue." BP's statement added, "vertebrates such as fish very quickly metabolize and eliminate oil compounds.

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Science As Art: Soundscapes, Light Boxes and Microscopes (Op-Ed)

Science As Art: Soundscapes, Light Boxes and Microscopes (Op-Ed)These questions lie at the heart of the work of visual artist Patricia Olynyk. I had some interest in science, but I didn't really have access to labs or to teaching art and science until I got a full-time position at the University of Michigan in 1999.


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The Three Policies That Can Counter Global Warming (Op-Ed)

The Three Policies That Can Counter Global Warming (Op-Ed)For example, one such policy is to convert heavy-duty trucks to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) rather than diesel fuel. Ramón Alvarez and his colleagues at the Environmental Defense Fund, Princeton University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Duke University studied this option and found that it is "not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change," as it would be nearly 300 years after the fuel switch before net climate benefits are achieved. Policies that are effective at reducing emissions generally come in three types: economic signals, performance standards and policies to support innovation. Economic signals are policies that change the price of goods or activities in order to influence the choices made by people and businesses. Economic signals counter a key failure of markets: they do not properly value "externalities" (the positive and negative effects of an activity on society).  These effects are not limited to climate change.


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Global warming requires more frequent rethink of 'normal' weather: U.N.

The baseline for "normal" weather used by everyone from farmers to governments to plan ahead needs to be updated more frequently to account for the big shifts caused by global warming, the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization said on Wednesday. The WMO's Commission for Climatology believes rising temperatures and more heatwaves and heavy rains mean the existing baseline, based on the climate averages of 1961-90, is out of date as a guide, the WMO said in a statement. "For water resources, agriculture and energy, the old averages no longer reflect the current realities," Omar Baddour, head of the data management applications at the WMO, told Reuters.

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Giant Ancient Sea Scorpions Had Bad Eyesight

Giant Ancient Sea Scorpions Had Bad Eyesight"These things were almost certainly still predators of some kind, but the imagined notion that they were swimming around terrorizing anything that looked edible is probably an exaggeration," said Derek Briggs, a paleontologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and co-author of the new study, published today (July 8) in the journal Biology Letters. Pterygotids were a type of eurypterid, an extinct type of sea scorpion related to arachnids. Their closest living relatives are horseshoe crabs or modern sea scorpions, he said. Previously, these spooky sea monsters were thought to be fearsome predators, devouring armored fishes and giant cephalopods (related to modern squids and nautiluses).


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Scientists Demand Overhaul of Europe's $1.4 Billion Brain Project

More than 150 researchers signed an open letter to the commission in charge of Europe's Human Brain Project (HBP), a 10-year, $1.4 billion (1 billion euros) effort to simulate the human brain on a computer. "We wish to express the view that the HBP is not on course and that the European Commission must take a very careful look at both the science and the management of the HBP before it is renewed," the scientists wrote in the open letter. The Human Brain Project was launched in 2013 by the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, and is funded primarily by the European Union. The project is Europe's equivalent of the United States' BRAIN Initiative, a proposed $4.5 billion, 12-year brain-mapping effort that President Obama launched in April 2013.

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Scientists criticize Europe's $1.6B brain project

BRUSSELS (AP) — Dozens of neuroscientists are protesting Europe's $1.6 billion attempt to recreate the functioning of the human brain on supercomputers, fearing it will waste vast amounts of money and harm neuroscience in general.

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Fish Oil Supplements: Sound Science or Mostly Hype?

Among the many nutrition supplements trumpeted for potential health benefits, fish oil supplements have been among the most ballyhooed. Since then, long-term studies have revealed potential harms from taking fish oil unnecessarily. Fish oil supplements contain several vitamins and two significant omega-3 fatty acids, called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are found in a number of fish, so it is often recommended to get proper doses by eating oily fish twice a week.

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Soccer-More science than art to penalty shootout success

(Repeats deleting extraneous word) By Mitch Phillips RIO DE JANEIRO, July 3 (Reuters) - Penalty shootouts have been used at the World Cup since 1982 but while every one of the 24 to date has routinely been described as "dramatic" there is a deal more science than art when it comes to converting successfully from 12 yards. The first penalty shoot-out to decide a major international match came after the final of the 1976 European championship when the Czechoslovakia beat West Germany 5-3 with the famously dinked final effort by Antonin Panenka. Uli Stielike did miss during their win over France in the first-ever World Cup shootout in the 1982 semi-final but in their three since they have converted every shot and have won four out of four. Brazil's win over Chile last week took their record to 3-1, while Argentina also boast a 3-1 record.

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More science than art to penalty shootout success

Costa Rica's Michael Umana scores during a penalty shootout against Greece in their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Pernambuco arenaBy Mitch Phillips RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Penalty shootouts have been used at the World Cup since 1982 but while every one of the 24 to date has routinely been described as "dramatic" there is a deal more science than art when it comes to converting successfully from 12 yards. The first penalty shoot-out to decide a major international match came after the final of the 1976 European championship when the Czechoslovakia beat West Germany 5-3 with the famously dinked final effort by Antonin Panenka. Uli Stielike did miss during their win over France in the first-ever World Cup shootout in the 1982 semi-final but in their three since they have converted every shot and have won four out of four. Brazil's win over Chile last week took their record to 3-1, while Argentina also boast a 3-1 record.


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Scientists find how magic mushrooms alter the mind

Boxes containing magic mushrooms sit on counter at coffee and smart shop in RotterdamScientists studying the effects of the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms have found the human brain displays a similar pattern of activity during dreams as it does during a mind-expanding drug trip. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can profoundly alter the way we experience the world, but little is known about what physically happens in the brain. In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, researchers examined the brain effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, using data from brain scans of volunteers who had been injected with the drug. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered," said Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi, who led the study at Germany's Goethe University.






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