01 Sep 2014

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Labor Day in Space: A Weightless Holiday for US Astronauts

Labor Day in Space: A Weightless Holiday for US AstronautsRight now, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson commands the International Space Station with fellow American Reid Wiseman serving as a flight engineer. The pair forms one-third of the space station's six-man Expedition 40 crew, with three Russian cosmonauts and European Space Agency astronaut rounding out the crew. "The entire six-man crew of Expedition 40 will have an off-duty day with only their exercise and one or two maintenance activities scheduled," NASA spokesman Daniel Huot told Space.com in an email. Swanson and Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev from the Russian Space Agency are due to return to Earth on Sept. 10, while Wiseman, Maxim Suraev from the Russian Space Agency and Alexander Gerst from ESA will remain in orbit until November.


01 Sep 2014 12:16pm GMT

31 Aug 2014

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Iceland Volcano Blasts Back to Life

Iceland Volcano Blasts Back to LifeThe crack feeding the lava flow has also expanded to the north and south, and is now almost 1 mile (1.5 km) long. The volcanic activity kicked off Aug. 16, when thousands of small earthquakes underneath the Bardarbunga volcano signaled fresh magma (molten rock) was burrowing underground. On Aug. 29, the dike punched through to the surface in the Holuhraun lava field, an older lava flow that erupted in 1797. Askja volcano is located 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Bardarbunga.


31 Aug 2014 6:35pm GMT

30 Aug 2014

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Ebola Outbreak: Do Hazmat Suits Protect Workers, or Just Scare Everyone?

For health care workers and researchers, wearing pressurized, full-body suits around Ebola patients may be counterproductive to treating the disease, say three Spanish researchers in a new letter published in the journal The Lancet. Health agencies often require that health care workers caring for Ebola patients wear hazardous material (hazmat) suits that protect against airborne diseases. Ebola is transmitted through contact with infected patients' secretions (such as blood, vomit or feces), and such contact can be prevented by wearing gloves and masks, the researchers wrote. It may also send the message that such protection against the virus is being preferentially given to health care workers and is out of reach to the general public, they wrote in their article.

30 Aug 2014 7:26pm GMT

1 in 10 Packaged Foods Has Trans Fat

People may be consuming more trans fat than they think, as a result of misleading food labels, according to a study from the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Researchers examined 4,340 top-selling packaged foodsand found that 9 percent contained partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fat. Under the rules of the Food and Drug Administration, foods that contain less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving must be labeled with "0 g" of trans fat. The FDA has tentatively determined that partially hydrogenated oils are not "generally recognized as safe" for consumption.

30 Aug 2014 7:24pm GMT

Labor Day Weekend Stargazing: See Moon, Mars and Saturn Meet Up

Labor Day Weekend Stargazing: See Moon, Mars and Saturn Meet UpThe yellowish-white object to the moon's right is the planet Saturn, while the one below and slightly to the moon's left is Mars. In April, Mars was 57.6 million miles (92.7 million kilometers) away from Earth, the Red Planet's closest pass with Earth for the year.


30 Aug 2014 1:36pm GMT

28 Aug 2014

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Scientists solve mystery of moving Death Valley rocks

By Alex Dobuzinskis LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A solution to the longstanding mystery of why rocks move erratically across an isolated patch of California's Death Valley finally emerged on Thursday, when researchers published a study showing the driving force was sheets of wind-driven ice. Trails from the movement of the rocks, which show them changing direction suddenly in their movement across the so-called Racetrack Playa, have long befuddled scientists and the general public. Paleobiologist Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who led the study, saw the rare phenomenon first-hand last December while standing with his cousin, engineer James Norris, at the spot.

28 Aug 2014 11:52pm GMT

Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone Began at a Funeral

Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone Began at a FuneralAn extensive look at the genome of the Ebola virus reveals its behavior, when it arrived in West Africa and how it spread in the region to cause the largest-ever recorded Ebola outbreak. Researchers sequenced 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients in Sierra Leone, one of the countries affected by the outbreak that started in the neighboring Guinea, and found that the virus' genome changes quickly, including parts of the genome that are crucial for diagnostic tests to work. "We've uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks," co-author Stephen Gire of Harvard said in a statement. The researchers studied the viruses isolated from the blood of these patients, as well as subsequent Ebola patients, to identify the genetic characteristics of the Ebola virus responsible for this outbreak.


28 Aug 2014 11:36pm GMT

Scientists solve mystery of moving Death Valley rocks

Handout shows a trail left by a rock implanted with a motion-activated GPS unit in the so-called Racetrack Playa of California's Death ValleyBy Alex Dobuzinskis LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A solution to the longstanding mystery of why rocks move erratically across an isolated patch of California's Death Valley finally emerged on Thursday, when researchers published a study showing the driving force was sheets of wind-driven ice. Trails from the movement of the rocks, which show them changing direction suddenly in their movement across the so-called Racetrack Playa, have long befuddled scientists and the general public. Paleobiologist Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who led the study, saw the rare phenomenon first-hand last December while standing with his cousin, engineer James Norris, at the spot.


28 Aug 2014 10:52pm GMT

'Jeopardy!'-Winning Computer Now Crunching Data for Science

'Jeopardy!'-Winning Computer Now Crunching Data for ScienceWatch out, Sherlock, there's a new Dr. Watson in town. IBM's Watson, the computer that famously won the quiz show 'Jeopardy!', is now helping researchers make scientific discoveries. The new system, known as the Watson Discovery Advisor, could accelerate the scientific process by sifting through massive amounts of information and visualizing patterns in the data. But unlike when Watson was on 'Jeopardy!,' its new role as Discovery Advisor is "not about getting to an answer, but [rather] gaining insight into a large body of information," Merkel told Live Science.


28 Aug 2014 10:23pm GMT

Brutal Winter? Almanac Could Be Wrong, Scientists Say

The United States is in for another long, cold winter, according to the newest edition of the Farmers' Almanac. This winter will see "below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation," the Almanac reads. But the predictions included in the Farmers' Almanac are just that: predictions. While NOAA's official three-month outlook for the coming winter months isn't due out until around mid-October, Artusa said that meteorologists are not seeing the climate conditions that would indicate what the Almanac refers to as a "record breaking winter."

28 Aug 2014 1:57pm GMT

27 Aug 2014

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NASA says new heavy-lift rocket debut not likely until 2018

NASA’s Space Launch System 70-metric-ton configuration is seen launching to space in this undated artist's renderingBy Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, designed to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars, likely will not have its debut test flight until November 2018, nearly a year later than previous estimates, agency officials said on Wednesday. NASA is 70 percent confident of making a November 2018 launch date, given the technical, financial and management hurdles the Space Launch System faces on the road to development, NASA associate administrators Robert Lightfoot and Bill Gerstenmaier told reporters on a conference call. NASA estimates it could spend almost $12 billion developing the first of three variations of the rocket and associated ground systems through the debut flight, and potentially billions more to build and fly heavier-lift next-generation boosters, a July 2014 General Accountability Office report on the program said. While the rocket might be ready for a test flight in December 2017, as previously planned, the new assessment showed the odds of that were "significantly less" than the 70 percent confidence level NASA requires of new programs, Gerstenmaier said.


27 Aug 2014 11:06pm GMT

Scientists find mild cases of MERS among patients' families

Handout transmission electron micrograph shows the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirusBy Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fewer than half of Saudi Arabian patients in a study passed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus to household members, and many of those who developed secondary infections contracted mild cases of MERS, global researchers reported on Wednesday. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed observations that the virus can cause mild disease, but overall transmission rates are low. "If less than half of infected patients transmit the virus to contacts, such as in this study, we can be pretty sure that this virus will not be able to start an epidemic in humans," co-author Christian Drosten of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Center said in an email. MERS, thought to originate in camels, causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, and kills about a third of its victims.


27 Aug 2014 9:30pm GMT

Schrödinger's Cat Comes into View with Strange Physics

By sending green, red and yellow laser beams down a path to detector, researchers have shed light on the famous physics idea known as the "Schrödinger's cat" thought experiment. Over any given period there's a 50-50 chance the poison vial will open, and a person who opens the box after a given time and looks at the cat will then observe that it is either dead or alive.

27 Aug 2014 8:37pm GMT

Tricking memory in lab animals stokes hope for PTSD

By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - The frailty of remembrance might have an upside: When a memory is recalled, two research teams reported on Wednesday, it can be erased or rewired so that a painful recollection is physically linked in the brain to joy and a once-happy memory to pain. "Recalling a memory is not like playing a tape recorder," said Susumu Tonegawa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led one of the studies. The mice had been engineered so specific brain neurons could be activated with light, a technique called optogenetics.

27 Aug 2014 6:12pm GMT

SpaceX delays launch after test rocket explosion

By Irene Koltz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla (Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies will delay the launch of its next Falcon 9 rocket by up to two weeks following Friday's explosion of a related prototype vehicle during a flight test, officials said on Tuesday. The privately owned company, also known as SpaceX, had planned to launch a communications satellite owned by Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On Sunday, SpaceX announced it would delay the launch of the AsiaSat 6 spacecraft for one day to review data collected during the botched test flight of a Falcon rocket demonstration vehicle that on Friday. The Falcon 9R exploded about 17 seconds after liftoff from SpaceX's McGregor, Texas, rocket development and testing facility, video posted on YouTube by spectators showed.

27 Aug 2014 3:12am GMT

Lava flow from Hawaii volcano could threaten homes, scientists say

By Malia Mattoch McManus HONOLULU (Reuters) - State scientists and officials are warning some residents of Hawaii's Big Island that their homes could be jeopardized by a lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that is moving through a forest preserve toward their neighborhood. Geological Survey scientist said that while the lava flow did not pose an imminent threat to residents of the Kaohe Homesteads of the island's Puna area, it was less than 2 miles (3 km) away and appeared to be advancing. "We are observing steam plumes," said Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory and Hawaii County Civil Defense are holding meetings throughout the week to update residents on the potential threat, and the county was conducting daily flights over the area to assess the danger. "It's very difficult to forecast what direction it could take," said Darryl Oliveira, Director of Hawaii County's Civil Defense, noting the flow has averaged a rate of travel of 200 to 300 feet (60 to 90 meters) a day.

27 Aug 2014 12:07am GMT