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Obama's BRAIN initiative awards $46 million in grants

U.S. President Obama announces his administration's BRAIN Initiative at the White House in WashingtonBy Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wearable brain scanners and lasers that can turn hundreds of cells on and off were among 58 projects awarded $46 million in federal grants as part of President Obama's $100 million initiative to unlock the secrets of the human brain. Launched in 2013, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is designed to give scientists greater insight into how the healthy brain works and a better understanding of what systems go awry in diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to schizophrenia. ...


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China launches media campaign to back genetically modified crops

By Dominique Patton BEIJING (Reuters) - China's government has kicked off a media campaign in support of genetically modified crops, as it battles a wave of negative publicity over a technology it hopes will play a major role in boosting its food security. The agriculture ministry earlier this week announced it would try to educate the public on GMO via TV, newspapers and the Internet. It hopes to stifle anti-GMO sentiment that has gathered momentum in the wake of incidents such as reports that genetically-modified rice had been illegally sold at a supermarket in the center of the country. ...

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Protest over contract award to delay work on NASA space taxi

NASA handout shows the Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser flight vehicle being readied for 60 mph tow tests at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in EdwardsBy Irene Klotz TORONTO (Reuters) - Work on a pair of U.S. commercial spaceships to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station will be delayed after a losing contender protested the NASA awards, agency Administrator Charles Bolden said on Monday. The U.S. space agency awarded contracts worth up to $6.8 billion to Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to finish designs, build, test and ultimately fly crews to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that orbits about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth. The awards, announced on Sept. ...


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Global wildlife populations down by half since 1970: WWF

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday. The conservation group's Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind's demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover. ...

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Sierra Nevada challenges NASA 'space taxi' contracts to Boeing, SpaceX

An interior view of Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is seen in an undated NASA handout imageWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) said it had filed a legal challenge to NASA's award of contracts totaling $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to build commercially owned and operated "space taxis" to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA had considered a bid by privately owned Sierra Nevada, but U.S. officials said on Tuesday the U.S. space agency had opted to award long-time aerospace contractor Boeing and SpaceX with contracts to develop, certify and fly their seven-person capsules. ...


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Ebola Update: 1st Case Diagnosed in the US

A patient in Texas is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient had previously traveled to West Africa, a region that is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. The man flew out of Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in the United States on Sept. 20. He did not have symptoms during his flight or when he landed, but began showing symptoms around Sept. 24, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said at a news conference today.

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Ape See, Ape Do: Chimps Learn Skills from Each Other

Ape See, Ape Do: Chimps Learn Skills from Each OtherScientists may have recorded chimpanzees learning skills from each other in the wild for the first time, according to a new study. For decades, scientists have known that chimpanzee troops are often distinct from one another in the wild, possessing collections of behaviors that seem to form unique cultures. "Researchers have been fascinated for decades by the differences in behavior between chimpanzee communities — some use tools, some don't, some use different tools for the same job," lead study author Catherine Hobaiter, a primatologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said in a statement. The new findings "finally bring the last piece of the puzzle by showing that this is also happening in the wild," said study co-author Thibaud Gruber, a primatologist at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.


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Brain Tech Projects Get $46 Million in Funding

Brain Tech Projects Get $46 Million in FundingDeveloping wearable brain scanners and devising tools to watch a brain's signaling chemicals in real time are among the 58 research projects that now have funding, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today (Sept. 30). These and other projects received the first wave of funding in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the U.S. The NIH awarded $46 million in grants to these projects, which will focus on developing "transformative technologies" that can help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the brain, NIH Director Francis Collins told reporters today. "There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible," Collins said. [5 Crazy Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]


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Trade You a Dragon? NASA's Private Crew Capsules Now Collectible Cards

Trade You a Dragon? NASA's Private Crew Capsules Now Collectible CardsNASA's newly-drafted picks for its private spacecraft team now have their own rookie cards. The agency this week debuted "collectible cards" featuring the space capsules it chose on Sept. 16 to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. "We have quick-reference collectible cards with highlights of Boeing's CST-100, SpaceX's Crew Dragonand NASA's Commercial Crew Program that you can print and share with your friends," NASA's website promotes. The three-card set, which the space agency is offering as free downloadable PDFs, include the "Launch America" art that was revealed during the announcement of $6.8 billion in awards to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to certify their capsules for crewed flights to the space station.


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Neil Armstrong Biopics Take Small Steps Toward TV and Big Screen

Neil Armstrong Biopics Take Small Steps Toward TV and Big ScreenThe life story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has taken not one, but two small steps towards landing on both the big and small screens. A newly-acclaimed director and a television network have each reportedly turned their attention to Neil Armstrong, the late Apollo 11 moonwalker, as the inspiration for a feature-length film and TV miniseries, respectively. Damien Chazelle, who directed the upcoming jazz drama "Whiplash," is in talks to direct "First Man," a biopic about Armstrong for Universal Studios. Meanwhile, the TV network TNT has dusted off its plans for "One Giant Leap," an almost 10-year-old project to adapt Armstrong's life as a four-hour miniseries.


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Weird 'Island' on Saturn Moon Titan Puzzles Scientists (Video, Photos)

Weird 'Island' on Saturn Moon Titan Puzzles Scientists (Video, Photos)Saturn's huge moon Titan just got a little more mysterious. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted an odd islandlike feature in Ligeia Mare, one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas. "Science loves a mystery, and with this enigmatic feature, we have a thrilling example of ongoing change on Titan," Cassini radar team deputy leader Stephen Wall, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. Cassini team members are confident it's real rather than an artifact or data flaw, NASA officials said.


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Higgs Boson to the World Wide Web: 7 Big Discoveries Made at CERN

Higgs Boson to the World Wide Web: 7 Big Discoveries Made at CERNThe world's biggest atom smasher, where monumental discoveries such as the detection of the once-elusive Higgs boson particle and the creation of antimatter have occurred, is celebrating its 60th anniversary today (Sept. 29). The physics world erupted in excitement in July 2012, when scientists using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN announced they had detected a particle that looked to be the so-called Higgs boson. In the 1960s, British physicist Peter Higgs hypothesized the existence of a field through which all particles would be dragged — like marbles moving through molasses — giving the particles mass. This particle became known as the Higgs boson.


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Stanford scientists say greenhouse gases worsen California drought

The remains of an automobile is pictured on the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, CaliforniaBy Joaquin Palomino SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California’s catastrophic drought has most likely been made worse by man-made climate change, according to a report released Monday by Stanford University, but scientists are still hesitant to fully blame the lack of rain on climate change. The research, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society as part of a collection of reports on extreme weather events in 2013, is one of the most comprehensive studies linking climate change and California's ongoing drought, which has caused billions of dollars in economic damage. ...


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NASA Exoplanet Mission to Hunt Down Earth-sized Worlds

Set to launch in 2017, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will monitor more than half a million stars over its two-year mission, with a focus on the smallest, brightest stellar objects. "Bright host stars are the best ones for follow-up studies of their exoplanets to pin down planet masses, and to characterize planet atmospheres," said TESS principal investigator George Ricker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics, in an email. "TESS should be able to find over 200 Earths and super-Earths — defined as being twice the size of Earth," said Peter Sullivan, a physics doctoral student at MIT. Sullivan, who works with Ricker on TESS, led an analysis of the number of planets TESS would likely find based on the number and types of planets found by NASA's Kepler mission.

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Blind Cavefish Froze Its Internal Clock to Save Energy

Blind Cavefish Froze Its Internal Clock to Save EnergyThe blind Mexican tetra or cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) saves energy by forgoing circadian rhythms, according to researchers at Lund University in Sweden. Sometimes referred to as an internal clock, circadian rhythms help many organisms — including animals, plants, fungi and even certain bacteria — coordinate their behavior and physiology with the day-night cycle, according to study researcher Damian Moran, a postdoctoral student in the Lund University department of biology. Circadian rhythm helps ensure these reactions occur in advance of when an organism will most need energy, Moran told Live Science. But unlike most organisms, blind Mexican cavefish don't control their metabolism with a circadian clock, the researchers found.


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USC memory scientist Richard Thompson dies at 84

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard F. Thompson, the University of Southern California neuroscientist whose experiments with rabbits led to breakthrough discoveries on how memories are physically stored in the brain, has died. He was 84.

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'Space Bubbles' May Have Doomed Key Afghan War Mission

'Space Bubbles' May Have Doomed Key Afghan War MissionA Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. Michael Kelly, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, started to put the pieces together after reading a journalist's account of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Since the plasma in this part of the atmosphere is less dense, it rises and burrows into the denser plasma above. This causes giant bubbles of charged particles to form, similar to the way air bubbles rise from a submerged diver.


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Scientists grapple with ethics in rush to release Ebola vaccines

Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, and Chief Investigator of the trials, holds a phial containing the Ebola vaccine at the Oxford Vaccine Group Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine (CCVTM) in OxfordLONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Normally it takes years to prove a new vaccine is both safe and effective before it can be used in the field. But with hundreds of people dying a day in the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, there is no time to wait. In an effort to save lives, health authorities are determined to roll out potential vaccines within months, dispensing with some of the usual testing, and raising unprecedented ethical and practical questions. "Nobody knows yet how we will do it. ...


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New York scientists unveil 'invisibility cloak' to rival Harry Potter's

Handout photo of cloaking device using four lenses developed by University of Rochester physics professor Howell and graduate student Choi is demonstrated in RochesterBy Caurie Putnam ROCHESTER N.Y. (Reuters) - Watch out Harry Potter, you are not the only wizard with an invisibility cloak. Scientists at the University of Rochester have discovered a way to hide large objects from sight using inexpensive and readily available lenses, a technology that seems to have sprung from the pages of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series. Cloaking is the process by which an object becomes hidden from view, while everything else around the cloaked object appears undisturbed. ...


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Science fiction author Bradbury's estate auction nets nearly $500,000

Author Ray Bradbury poses during Disneyland's 50th anniversary party.By Eric M. Johnson REUTERS - A portion of late science fiction author Ray Bradbury's estate, including George Bernard Shaw's garden spade and artworks both comedic and surreal, sold for $493,408 in California, the auctioneer said. Bradbury, who died in 2012, was perhaps best known for his dystopian classic, "Fahrenheit 451.," the auctioneer said. In a career spanning more than 70 years, the Waukegan, Illinois, native also wrote "Dandelion Wine," "I Sing the Body Electric" and "From the Dust Returned" as hundreds of short stories, poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays and screenplays. ...


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Artificial Atoms Talk ... and Scientists Listen

Artificial Atoms Talk ... and Scientists ListenFor the first time, physicists have figured out how to communicate with an artificial atom using sound instead of light. The photons belong to the wacky world of quantum mechanics where they behave as both particles and waves, and scientists have been studying their bizarre behavior for decades. To create the stream of sound particles, the researchers used a superconducting circuit, which represented an "artificial atom." Artificial atoms can be charged up across multiple energy levels just like a real atom, and scientists can study the quantum behavior of the particles they emit. For the experiment, the researchers cooled the artificial atom to near absolute zero so that heat would not disturb the delicate quantum system.


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Nobel Prize science predictions see honors for pain, LEDs and more

Snow flakes fall on a statue of the founder of the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel, outside the Norwegian Nobel Institute in OsloBy Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists who discovered phenomena as different as the molecular mechanisms of pain, organic light-emitting diodes that illuminate mobile phones and a new quantum state of matter are top contenders for Nobel prizes next month, according to an annual analysis by Thomson Reuters. The predictions announced on Thursday come from the Intellectual Property & Science unit of Thomson Reuters (which also owns the Reuters news service). ...


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Americans Respect (But Don't Always Trust) Scientists

More than 100 adult volunteers were asked in an online survey to rate 42 professions by their perceived warmth (a mixture of friendliness, trustworthiness and good intentions) and competence. For the second part of their study, Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, and Cydney Dupree,a graduate student in Fiske's lab, focused on the perception of climate scientists — a group for whom credibility and trustworthiness could be all-important for influencing public policy. Fiske and Dupree asked a new group of 52 online participants to rate, on a five-point scale (1 being the lowest), how much they agreed with each of the following explanations for why climate scientists argue that human activity is largely responsible for climate change worldwide: Climate scientists wish to: lie with statistics;

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TV dwells on disaster in covering climate science: study

OSLO (Reuters) - Television news tends to focus on disasters such as droughts or floods in covering scientific findings about climate change, an approach that may exaggerate pessimism about the subject, according to a new study. The review of coverage by leading television news shows in Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, Germany and India found that they most often framed reports about the science of global warming in terms of crisis. ...

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Scientists Lead Huge Climate Change March in NYC

Scientists Lead Huge Climate Change March in NYCNEW YORK — Lab-coat-clad and picket-sign-wielding scientists were on the frontlines of the People's Climate Change march yesterday (Sept. 21) along with hordes of students and others concerned about the planet's changing climate.


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Hints of Mysterious Dark Matter Revealed by Cosmic Rays

Hints of Mysterious Dark Matter Revealed by Cosmic RaysA particle detector floating 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth has analyzed 41 billion cosmic-ray particles, and the data have revealed new insights into the mysterious and invisible dark matter that physicists believe makes up 27 percent of the universe. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) detector aboard the International Space Station already gathered evidence of dark matter last year, but the new results are the most precise measurements of cosmic-ray particles yet. They include 50 percent more data, and have revealed new insights into the origin of the particles found in cosmic rays, Samuel Ting, a professor of physics at MIT and an AMS spokesman, said during a live webcast at the CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) lab in Switzerland yesterday (Sept. 18). Physicists theorized the existence of invisible, and so far undetectable, dark matter as a way to explain why galaxies and celestial bodies don't just unravel and fly apart.


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Experts: Science class can dazzle with less danger

This Friday, Sept. 19, 2014 photo shows the exterior of the Lalo Delgado school campus in Denver. Four students were injured, one seriously, when a teacher was pouring methanol onto a table top and igniting it during a chemistry class demonstration last Monday. Educators and investigators say some teachers lack the training required by law and don't know about standard safety measures that can dramatically lower the inherent dangers of hands-on experiments they say are vital to science education. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)DENVER (AP) — A dazzling show of fire and color can make science come alive for young students, but it can also inflict serious and painful injuries, as flash fires in Nevada and Colorado showed this month.


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Scientists see risk of mutant airborne Ebola as remote

MSF health workers prepare at ELWA's isolation camp during the visit of Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola David Nabarro, at the camp in MonroviaBy Kate Kelland LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - The Ebola virus raging through West Africa is mutating rapidly as it tears a deadly path through cities, towns and villages, but the genetic changes are for now not giving it the ability to spread more easily. Concern that the virus could gain capability to transmit through the air - creating a nightmare scenario of the disease being able to spread like a flu pandemic, killing millions - was fueled by a top infectious disease expert in the United States. ...


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Ig Nobel Prizes 2014: Jesus Toast, Dog Poop and Raucous Science

Ig Nobel Prizes 2014: Jesus Toast, Dog Poop and Raucous ScienceThe brilliant minds behind research studies about how Earth's magnetic field affects pooping dogs and why people see Jesus in toast were honored tonight (Sept. 18) during one of the most purposefully ridiculous ceremonies in all of science: the Ig Nobel Prizes. Each year, the Ig Nobel Prizes (a parody of the somewhat more famous Nobel Prizes) are awarded to scientists whose research "makes people laugh and then think." Improbable Research, the organization that awards the prizes, runs the annual ceremony here at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. "The achievements speak for themselves all too eloquently," Master of Ceremonies Marc Abrahams said during tonight's Ig Nobel presentations. For example, this year's prize in Arctic science went to a group of researchers who dressed up like polar bears to see how reindeer in Norway would react compared with their reactions to humans.


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Florida scientists urge state leaders to join climate summit

By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - A group of 42 scientists from Florida universities submitted a joint letter on Thursday urging Governor Rick Scott and other state leaders to participate in a summit this fall to seek solutions for climate change. The group plans to host a conference of state and national policymakers and scientists Oct. 6 in Tampa, along with engineers and entrepreneurs who have "job-creating solutions." Scott, who is a Republican, has come under fire from environmentalists for not taking stronger action over sea level rise and climate change. ...

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Celebrating Silly Science at the Ig Nobels: How to Watch Live Tonight

Celebrating Silly Science at the Ig Nobels: How to Watch Live TonightScience lovers with a sense of humor take note: it's time for the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.


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Ig Nobels to Honor the Hilarious Side of Science on Thursday

Celebrating Silly Science at the Ig Nobels: How to Watch Live TonightYou can see for yourself on Thursday (Sept. 18) at the 24th annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, an event that honors the hilarious (and sometimes ridiculous) side of scientific research and discovery. Much like its slightly more famous counterpart, the Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel Prize is bestowed upon those who have recently made significant contributions in such fields as chemistry, physics and biology. "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think," according to a statement from Improbable Research, the organization behind the award ceremony. Ten Ig Nobels are awarded each year at Harvard's Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and this year's ceremony will be webcast live on Live Science.


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Scientists locate 'ghost' ship wrecks in San Francisco waters

By Daniel Wallis (Reuters) - U.S. government researchers working with divers and sonar equipment have located the wrecks of what they dubbed "forgotten ghost ships" in waters just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait. The discoveries by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists follow a two-year project to find, identify and better understand some of the estimated 300 wrecks in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area. ...

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Asteroid Science: How 'Armageddon' Got It Wrong

In the 1998 movie "Armageddon," an asteroid the size of Texas threatens to collide with Earth in 18 days. To save the planet from destruction, a ragtag team of deep-sea oil drillers volunteers to divert the massive space rock by burying a nuclear bomb beneath its surface and blasting it into two pieces that will fly past Earth. But despite its entertainment value, the film is fantastically inaccurate, said astronomer Phil Plait, who writes the "Bad Astronomy" blog on Slate.com. During his talk, Plait showed a clip from "Armageddon" in which Bruce Willis' character struggles to detonate the bomb, by hand, before the asteroid smacks into Earth and destroys all life.

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Climate Change Affects Shark Swimming in Strange Way

Climate Change Affects Shark Swimming in Strange WaySharks exposed to ocean water acidified by too much carbon dioxide alter their behavior, swimming in longer spurts than sharks in typical ocean water, particularly during their nighttime wanderings. The new findings, published today (Sept. 16) in the journal Biology Letters, are troubling, given that one effect of the human consumption of fossil fuels is to make ocean water more acidic. "Usually when you expose a fish to some kind of environmental stressor, they usually acclimate to that stressor, and that makes them less vulnerable to that stressor," said study researcher Fredrik Jutfelt, an animal physiologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. "But here, it seemed like this high CO2 [carbon dioxide] continued to be a stressor to these sharks for quite a long time." [On the Brink: A Gallery of Wild Sharks (Photos)]


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Scientists' colossal squid exam a kraken good show

colossal squidWELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — It was a calm morning in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea, during the season when the sun never sets, when Capt. John Bennett and his crew hauled up a creature with tentacles like fire hoses and eyes like dinner plates from a mile below the surface.


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Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have agreed to pay nearly $146,000 to settle civil claims that they misused money from a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, federal officials said Tuesday.

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Astronomy Detectives Reveal Origin of Monet's 'Impression' Painting

Astronomy Detectives Reveal Origin of Monet's 'Impression' PaintingAstronomical clues could pinpoint the day Claude Monet painted "Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise)," the art piece that lent its name to the Impressionist art movement. Based on the celestial detective work of Donald Olson, a Texas State University astronomer and physics professor, curators think they've identified the moment that Monet attempted to capture from his hotel room in the city of Le Havre, France: Nov. 13, 1872, 7:35 a.m.


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Saturn's Weird Fast-Changing Ring Baffles Scientists

Saturn's Weird Fast-Changing Ring Baffles ScientistsOne of Saturn's iconic rings looks much different today than it did just a few decades ago, and scientists aren't sure why. NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft spotted many bright clumps in Saturn's F ring when they flew by the gas giant in the early 1980s. "Saturn's F ring looks fundamentally different from the time of Voyager to the Cassini era," study lead author Robert French, of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, said in a statement. French and his team have a hypothesis that could explain what's going on, and it's tied to the number of Saturn "moonlets" found near the F ring over the decades.


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US Military's Meteor Explosion Data Can Help Scientists Protect Earth

US Military's Meteor Explosion Data Can Help Scientists Protect EarthAir Force and NASA have ironed out problems that prevented scientists from obtaining a steady stream of military tracking data on meteor explosions within Earth's atmosphere. Meteor detonations within Earth's atmosphere can be seen by U.S. Using this government data, in early 2013, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) launched a new website to share the details of meteor explosion events. Due to budget cuts and personnel reductions, NASA's military partner was no longer able to carry out the work.






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