31 Jul 2014

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Lead in teeth holds secrets of person's origins, research shows

By Barbara Liston ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The lead in human teeth holds clues about where a person grew up and can help criminal investigators and archaeologists working with old or decomposed corpses, according to a University of Florida researcher. Because lead ore deposits around the world differ, and as young people's teeth absorb traces of the metal in the environment, the region where a person grew up can be distinguished through lead analysis of a tooth, said geologist George Kamenov. "If you were born in Europe and then came to the U.S., yes, I will be able to see that," Kamenov said. In addition to aiding authorities in identifying bodies, the analysis can help archaeologists locate human remains on an historical timeline, he said.

31 Jul 2014 12:11am GMT

30 Jul 2014

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Otzi 'The Iceman' Had Heart Disease Genes

Otzi 'The Iceman' Had Heart Disease GenesÖtzi the Iceman, a well-preserved mummy discovered in the Alps, may have had a genetic predisposition to heart disease, new research suggests. The new finding may explain why the man - who lived 5,300 years ago, stayed active and certainly didn't smoke or wolf down processed food in front of the TV - nevertheless had hardened arteries when he was felled by an arrow and bled to death on an alpine glacier. "We were very surprised that he had a very strong disposition for cardiovascular disease," said study co-author Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano in Italy. Past research has revealed that Ötzi likely suffered from joint pain, Lyme disease and tooth decay, and computed tomography (CT) scanning revealed calcium buildups, a sign of atherosclerosis, in his arteries.

30 Jul 2014 10:40pm GMT

Octopus mom protects her eggs for an astonishing 4-1/2 years

Handout of a deep-sea octopus is shown on the ledge near the bottom of Monterey CanyonBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If someone were to create an award for "mother of the year" in the animal kingdom, a remarkably dedicated eight-limbed mom from the dark and frigid depths of the Pacific Ocean might be a strong contender. Scientists on Wednesday described how the female of an octopus species that dwells almost a mile below the sea surface spends about 4-1/2 years brooding her eggs, protecting them vigilantly until they hatch while forgoing any food for herself. It is the longest known egg-brooding period for any animal, they wrote in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. ...

30 Jul 2014 10:27pm GMT

Blood Test Predicts Suicide Risk, Study Suggests

A new gene linked to suicide risk has been discovered, and researchers say the finding could lead to a blood test that predicts a person's risk of attempting suicide. The scientists found that a genetic mutation, in a gene called SKA2, was more common among the people who died by suicide. "We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors" having to do with suicide, said study researcher Zachary Kaminsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Next, the researchers examined whether these genetic changes could predict a person's risk of having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide.

30 Jul 2014 8:56pm GMT

Deep-Sea 'Octomom' Guards Eggs for Record 4.5 Years

Deep-Sea 'Octomom' Guards Eggs for Record 4.5 YearsA real-life "Octomom" off the coast of California has been declared a champion of parenting - and patience - in the animal world. After the deep-sea creature laid a clutch of eggs, she protected her babies until they hatched 4.5 years later, without even leaving to eat.

30 Jul 2014 6:13pm GMT

Airbus, Safran name Alain Charmeau to run space joint venture

A view of the Safran Composites, their new research center dedicated to next-generation aerospace materials in Itteville near ParisAirbus Group and Safran on Wednesday named Alain Charmeau as the head of a new venture designed to reorganize Europe's space launch activities. The two companies said in June they had agreed to create a 50-50 joint venture in space launchers, combining Airbus's launch systems with Safran's propulsion systems. The venture is expected eventually to incorporate the marketing teams for Europe's Ariane space rocket, currently in the European consortium Arianespace, and some design teams from French and German space agencies. It is the first concrete step toward consolidation after Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders called for a shake-up to preserve Europe's commercial access to space in the face of new competition.

30 Jul 2014 5:56pm GMT

Taking Sid Meier's 'Civilization' Beyond Earth (Op-Ed)

Taking Sid Meier's 'Civilization' Beyond Earth (Op-Ed)Will Miller and David McDonough are the lead designers for "Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth." They contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. When we were asked to design a new science-fiction entry in the "Sid Meier's Civilization" series, it was one of those amazing moments when we realized we were going to have the chance to combine a love of game design with a love of science and space exploration. For us, "Civilization: Beyond Earth" has been an opportunity to explore ideas about the future - technology, progress and culture - and think about how settling on a new planet could be the next stage for humanity's progress. In "Sid Meier's Civilization" (Civ), players choose one of the world's great civilizations and then lead their people from the Stone Age to the Space Age, researching technology and building wonders and declaring war, creating an alternate history of Earth along the way.

30 Jul 2014 5:37pm GMT

Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness

The 17th century French philosopher René Descartes proposed the notion of "cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"), the idea that the mere act of thinking about one's existence proves there is someone there to do the thinking. "The only thing you know is, 'I am conscious.' Any theory has to start with that," said Christof Koch, a neuroscientist and the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Neuroscience in Seattle. In the last few decades, neuroscientists have begun to attack the problem of understanding consciousness from an evidence-based perspective. In fact, Koch and Francis Crick, the molecular biologist who famously helped discover the double-helix structure of DNA, had previously hypothesized that this region might integrate information across different parts of the brain, like the conductor of a symphony.

30 Jul 2014 5:15pm GMT

How the Moon Got Its Lemon Shape

How the Moon Got Its Lemon Shape"What is the origin of that asymmetry?" study lead author Ian Garrick-Bethell, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said. The newborn moon was thus primed to be sculpted by Earth's gravity, and that's exactly what happened, researchers say. Indeed, scientists have posited for more than a century that tidal forces helped shape the molten moon, causing bulges that froze into place when Earth's natural satellite cooled down and solidified. For example, tidal forces pulled on the lunar crust, stretching it out and heating it up in places.

30 Jul 2014 5:08pm GMT

29 Jul 2014

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No Fukushima radiation in tests off U.S. West Coast: scientists

By Courtney Sherwood PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Tests of water off the U.S. West Coast have found no signs of radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, although low levels of radiation are ultimately expected to reach the U.S. shore, scientists said on Tuesday. Results obtained this week in tests of water gathered by an Oregon conservation group and tested by East Coast scientists came in as expected with no Fukushima-linked radiation, and five more tests are planned at six-month intervals to see if radiation levels will climb. "We've seen radiation halfway across the Pacific, north of Hawaii, but in U.S. waters there has been none, yet," Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution senior scientist Ken Buesseler said. Tests of some fish species, which can race across the ocean more quickly than slow-moving currents, have shown higher levels of radiation, although radiation levels in sea life off the U.S. shore are still safe, Buesseler said.

29 Jul 2014 11:14pm GMT

NASA's Mars rover sets off-Earth, off-road distance record

Handout photo of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover OpportunityBy Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NASA's decade-old Mars rover Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. Opportunity, which arrived on Mars in January 2004, a few weeks after its now-defunct rover twin Spirit, was built to drive only about a single kilometer but has continued to operate far beyond its design capabilities. On Sunday, the robot rover advanced another 157 feet (48 meters) as it continued along the rim of a Martian crater, putting Opportunity's total odometer at 25.01 miles (40.25 km), according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. By comparison, the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover drove about 24.2 miles (39 km) in less than five months after landing on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, JPL said.

29 Jul 2014 7:20pm GMT

Quantum Wonderland: Neutron 'Cheshire Cats' Created

Quantum Wonderland: Neutron 'Cheshire Cats' CreatedThe Cheshire Cat of the classic children's book "Alice in Wonderland" had a smile that could disconnect from its body. For instance, a particle can apparently exist in two or more places at once or spin two opposite directions at the same time, a property known as superposition. Theoretical physicists last year predicted that the peculiar nature of quantum physics might allow the properties of particles to exist in two or more places simultaneously. This mimics the story of the Cheshire Cat, in which Alice notes, "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin … but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"

29 Jul 2014 3:33pm GMT

28 Jul 2014

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Is Your Life Story Written in Your Poop?

In a new experiment, researchers studied gut and saliva bacteria in two people over a year, to investigate how microbial communities in people's bodies, called their microbiota, changed over time. The study participants provided stool and saliva samples nearly every day during the study period, and chronicled their daily health and behavior, including their diet, exercise, bowel movements and mood, using a diary app. The ratio then returned to normal when the study participant returned home, according to the study, led by Lawrence David, an assistant professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. In the other study participant, an intestinal infection with Salmonella, resulted in the permanent decline of most gut bacterial types, which were replaced by genetically-similar species, according to the study published today (July 24) in the journal Genome Biology.

28 Jul 2014 2:49pm GMT

25 Jul 2014

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Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday. The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s.

25 Jul 2014 4:36am GMT

24 Jul 2014

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Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth

NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture of MarsFor the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I haven't seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months," Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. "We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation," the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday.

24 Jul 2014 11:45pm GMT

People Use Just 8.2% of Their DNA, Study Finds

More than a decade has passed since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the international collaboration to map all of the "letters" in our DNA. The huge effort led to revolutionary genomic discoveries, but more than 10 years later, it's still unclear what percentage of the human genome is actually doing something important. The results are higher than previous estimates of 3 to 5 percent, and significantly lower than the 80 percent reported in 2012 by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project (ENCODE), a public research project led by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute to study the role of the 3 billion total letters in human DNA. The differences may stem from the nuanced definition of "functional DNA," said the study's co-lead researcher Chris Ponting, a professor of genomics at the University of Oxford in England.

24 Jul 2014 6:24pm GMT