04 Mar 2015

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Jaws, Not Brains, Define Early Human Species

Jaws, Not Brains, Define Early Human SpeciesThe extinct human species long thought of as the earliest known member of the human family may be at least a half million years older than previously thought, according to state-of-the-art computer models of the species. These extinct species, like modern humans, were members of the genus Homo. The species long thought of as the earliest known member of that genus was Homo habilis, or "handy man," which paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey and his colleagues discovered in 1964. Thekey Homo habilis fossil is known as Olduvai Hominid 7, or OH 7 for short, which consists of a lower jaw, parts of a braincase and hand bones of a single individual.

04 Mar 2015 6:34pm GMT

In a Zombie Outbreak, Head for the Rocky Mountains

In a Zombie Outbreak, Head for the Rocky MountainsIn the event of a zombie outbreak, the best way to avoid getting infected is to stay away from populated areas, according to a new study. To figure out the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse, a team of researchers modeled what would happen if an epidemic of the undead were to hit the United States. "We did a full U.S.-scale simulation of 307 million individuals and thousands of outbreaks, to see who ended up infected and who did not," said Alex Alemi, a graduate student in theoretical physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

04 Mar 2015 3:21pm GMT

Heroin Overdose Deaths Nearly Quadruple in 13 Years

In 2000, the group with the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths was black adults ages 45 to 64, with a rate of 2 deaths per 100,000 yearly. In contrast, in 2013, the group with the highest death rate was white adults ages 18 to 44, with a rate of 7 deaths per 100,000, according to the report. Heroin overdose deaths were more common among men than women. Doctors don't know for certain the reasons why heroin deaths are increasing, but it's thought that the increase in prescription pain medication use and abuse has been a contributing factor, said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, who was not involved with the report.

04 Mar 2015 3:13pm GMT

NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Sidelined By 'Short Circuit' Glitch

NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Sidelined By 'Short Circuit' GlitchNASA's Mars rover Curiosity experienced an electrical problem last week, and the robot will stay put for a few days while mission engineers try to figure out exactly what happened. The car-size Curiosity rover suffered a "transient short circuit" on Feb. 27 while it was transferring sample powder from its robotic arm to instruments on its body, NASA officials said. Curiosity halted the activity in response, as it was programmed to do in such situations. "We are running tests on the vehicle in its present configuration before we move the arm or drive," Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Tuesday (March 3).

04 Mar 2015 2:39pm GMT

Norm Carlson, Who Gave 'Go' for NASA's Saturn V, Shuttle and Beans, Dies at 81

Norm Carlson, Who Gave 'Go' for NASA's Saturn V, Shuttle and Beans, Dies at 81When NASA astronauts next launch to space from Florida, the flight control team that oversees their liftoff may celebrate with a traditional crock of beans. The test director who oversaw the launch countdowns for Apollo 11, the first moon landing in 1969, and STS-1, the first space shuttle flight in 1981 - as well as many more missions, Carlson died Sunday (March 1) of complications from congestive heart failure. "Norm left us his recipe," Bob Cabana, director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and former space shuttle astronaut, said in a statement. But celebratory beans (and cornbread, another part of the tradition) were not the only element that Carlson added to the countdown.

04 Mar 2015 2:39pm GMT

UK scientists work out weight of Sophie the Stegosaurus

This undated handout photo issued by the Natural History Museum, shows an artist's impression of how Sophie, the world's most complete Stegosaurus skeleton, may have looked. Scientists at a British museum have worked out the weight of Sophie, one of the world’s most complete Stegosaurus skeletons, it was reported on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. London’s Natural History Museum says Sophie, a young adult when it died, weighed around 1.6 tons and was about the same size as a small rhinoceros. The scientists worked out the dinosaur's body mass after creating a 3D digital version of its skeleton, calculating the volume of flesh around the bones, and comparing the data with information from similar-sized modern animals. (AP Photo/PA, Bob Nicholls/Natural History Museum)LONDON (AP) - Scientists at a British museum have worked out the living weight of Sophie, one of the world's most complete Stegosaurus skeletons.

04 Mar 2015 2:00pm GMT

Israel uses military expertise to join commercial space race

A SpacePharma employee works on a miniature laboratory that will carry out experiments in space, in their offices near Tel AvivBy Ari Rabinovitch HAIFA, Israel (Reuters) - Israel is embarking on a five-year mission to stake its claim on a crowded new frontier, the $250 billion a year commercial space market. Using the expertise of a defense industry that created technology such as the "Iron Dome" missile interceptor, Israel plans to move beyond its current focus on spy and military communications satellites into producing civilian devices, some small enough to fit in your hand. "The idea was that we have a well-developed space infrastructure for our defense needs, and without a big financial investment, we can use it to grab a few percentage points of the commercial market as well," said Issac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency. Ben-Israel hopes the country will capture at least a three percent market share, but it faces competition from global technology giants looking for new markets and industries.

04 Mar 2015 1:24pm GMT

Image Captures Light's Spooky Dual Nature for 1st Time

Image Captures Light's Spooky Dual Nature for 1st TimeThis strange behavior is a consequence of quantum mechanics, bizarre rules of physics that govern the behavior of subatomic particles. "This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics - and its paradoxical nature - directly," study co-author Fabrizio Carbone, a researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, said in a statement.

04 Mar 2015 12:56pm GMT

03 Mar 2015

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U.S. ends program flagging 'sensitive' patent requests

A little known but controversial program that flagged sensitive patent applications involving potentially touchy subjects such as AIDS vaccines and abortion devices has been scrapped by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The program, called the Sensitive Application Warning System, began in 1994 and was meant to notify the agency's leadership of applications that could generate extensive or unfavorable publicity. "Upon careful consideration, the USPTO has concluded that the SAWS program has only been marginally utilized and provides minimal benefit," the agency said in a notice posted to its website on Monday night. The agency's review of the program, conducted in January, came after attorneys Kate Gaudry and Thomas Franklin at law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton revealed details of the program in December from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

03 Mar 2015 8:09pm GMT

U.S. satellite likely exploded after temperature spike: Air Force

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A U.S. military weather satellite appears to have exploded while in orbit last month after a sudden temperature spike in its power system, producing 43 pieces of new space debris, the Air Force said on Tuesday. The blast, which was first reported by the industry trade publication Space News, was the second Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft to experience a catastrophic breakup in 11 years. Launched in 1995, the Air Force satellite was serving as an operational spare in the seven-member DMSP network. On Feb. 3, flight controllers observed a sudden temperature spike in the DMSP-F13 satellite's power system and quickly shut down its non-essential systems, but the spacecraft lost the ability to position itself, the Air Force said in a statement.

03 Mar 2015 4:40pm GMT

Ceres Science: NASA Probe to Study Dwarf Planet's Bright Spots and More

Ceres Science: NASA Probe to Study Dwarf Planet's Bright Spots and MoreThere's something highly reflective on Ceres twinkling at NASA's Dawn spacecraft, and scientists hope to figure out what it is after the probe arrives at the dwarf planet later this week. The bright-spot mystery is just one question Dawn will tackle after it enters orbit around Ceres at about 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) on Friday (March 6). "Ceres has really surprised us, and the first images have produced some really puzzling features that have got the team, and I think some other people, really excited," Dawn Deputy Principal Investigator Carol Raymond, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said during a news conference Monday (March 2). The two bright spots are close to each other inside a 57-mile-wide (92 kilometers) crater that sits at about 19 degrees north latitude on Ceres, which is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

03 Mar 2015 3:20pm GMT

Global Warming Brought on California's Severe Drought

Global Warming Brought on California's Severe DroughtCalifornia's severe and ongoing drought is just a taste of the dry years to come, thanks to global warming, a new study finds. "California's warming trend is driving an increase in the risk of drought," said study co-author Daniel Swain, a doctoral student in climate science at Stanford University in California. "Warming in California has made it more probable that when a low precipitation year occurs, it occurs in warm conditions and is more likely to produce severe drought," said lead study author Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford.

03 Mar 2015 1:25pm GMT

Harvard prevention trial studies tau, Alzheimer's other protein

By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Alzheimer's researchers at Harvard for the first time are scanning the brains of healthy patients for the presence of a hallmark protein called tau, which forms toxic tangles of nerve fibers associated with the fatal disease. The new scans are part of a large clinical trial called Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's or A4, the first designed to identify and treat patients in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's, before memory loss begins. Patients accepted into the A4 trial already have deposits of beta amyloid, the other protein associated with Alzheimer's. The addition of the tau scan will allow scientists to get a much clearer picture of the events that lead to Alzheimer's. The disease affects 5 million Americans, and 16 million are projected to be afflicted by 2050. Dr. Reisa Sperling of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who is leading the 1,000-patient trial, said tau is commonly found in small amounts in healthy people over age 70, but it is generally confined to an area of the brain called the medial temporal lobe.

03 Mar 2015 6:01am GMT

02 Mar 2015

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Curt Michel, Scientist-Astronaut Who Left NASA After Losing the Moon, Dies at 80

Curt Michel, Scientist-Astronaut Who Left NASA After Losing the Moon, Dies at 80Curt Michel, an astrophysicist who was among NASA's first scientist-astronauts but who resigned when it became clear he would not fly to the moon, died on Feb. 23. Curt Michel's death was reported on Friday (Feb. 27) by Rice University in Houston, where served as a faculty member before and after his time with NASA. "Although he retired in 2000 after 37 years at Rice, Michel continued to keep an office on campus, where he pursued his studies of solar winds [and] radio pulsars," stated the university in a press release. Michel was an assistant professor for space science at Rice when he was selected with NASA's fourth group of astronauts in June 1965.

02 Mar 2015 10:40pm GMT

Disney's 'Miles from Tomorrowland': A Space Romp for Kids with Real Science

Disney's 'Miles from Tomorrowland': A Space Romp for Kids with Real ScienceA new animated TV show from Disney Junior is letting the imaginations of young space fans of tomorrow run wild through the universe, and it's even trying to teach them a little space science along the way. "As a young, impressionable person, stories that have good values to them - never give up, that science and technology can help us and make life better … that you can be part of this whole thing - those are really important stories," John Spencer, one of the "Miles" consultants, said. Spencer, the founder of the Space Tourism Society, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Randii Wessen helped the "Miles from Tomorrowland" team craft the show.

02 Mar 2015 10:40pm GMT

Against the Science, Meat Pushes Back into U.S. Diet (Op-Ed)

Dr. Michael Greger is the director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," which are intended to encourage individuals to eat a healthful diet. The advisory council's report, just published for the 2015 guidelines, is cause for celebration on many fronts. The nutrition experts who created it seemed to be less susceptible to industry influence, and their report could lead to the most evidence-based dietary guidelines the nation has ever adopted.

02 Mar 2015 9:50pm GMT