18 Dec 2014

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Daring Philae Comet Landing Named Top Breakthrough of 2014

Daring Philae Comet Landing Named Top Breakthrough of 2014The first-ever soft landing of a robotic probe the surface of a comet has just been named the top scientific breakthrough of 2014 by the journal Science. The European Space Agency's comet-studying Rosetta mission is telling scientists more about the origins of the solar system, according to representatives with Science. Rosetta has been orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August and released the Philae lander down to the icy cosmic body's surface in November. "Even though the landing was rougher than expected - Philae bounced off the unforgiving surface of 67P and came to rest on its side, quite a distance from its target - it was nonetheless the first-ever soft landing on a comet," Science representatives said in a statement.

18 Dec 2014 8:35pm GMT

Songbirds fly coop long before tornadoes arrive in Tennessee

Henry Streby holds a male golden-winged warbler and the geolocator that the bird carried in the Cumberland Mountains of TennesseeBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - You might want to be careful about who you call a birdbrain. Some of our feathered friends exhibit powers of perception that put humans to shame. Scientists said on Thursday that little songbirds known as golden-winged warblers fled their nesting grounds in Tennessee up to two days before the arrival of a fierce storm system that unleashed 84 tornadoes in southern U.S. states in April. The researchers said the birds were apparently alerted to the danger by sounds at frequencies below the range of human hearing. ...

18 Dec 2014 5:13pm GMT

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Finds 1st Alien Planet of New Mission

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Finds 1st Alien Planet of New MissionNASA's Kepler space telescope is discovering alien planets again. "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries," study lead author Andrew Vanderburg, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said in a statement. The spacecraft has been incredibly successful to date, finding nearly 1,000 confirmed planets - more than half of all known alien worlds - along with about 3,200 other "candidates," the vast majority of which should turn out to be the real deal. The spacecraft finds planets by the "transit method," watching for the telltale dimming caused when a world cross the face of, or transits, its parent star from Kepler's perspective.

18 Dec 2014 4:58pm GMT

Strange Fossil Shows How Life Responded After Mass Extinction

A strange marine reptile from the age of dinosaurs that was recently unearthed in China may shed light on how life recovered after the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history, researchers say. The creatures were odd-looking predators that grew to about 6 feet (2 meters) in size, and have so far only been found in the province of Hubei in central China. "Hupehsuchia is a group of bizarre marine reptiles unlike anything living today," said study co-author Ryosuke Motani, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of California, Davis.

18 Dec 2014 3:11pm GMT

Ancient Farmhouse Found in Israel Reveals Agricultural Secrets

Ancient Farmhouse Found in Israel Reveals Agricultural SecretsOver the past few weeks, archaeologists have uncovered the sprawling stone house in Rosh Ha-'Ayin, in central Israel. Archaeologists found the farmhouse during an excavation that the government required be done before construction could begin to enlarge the modern city. The house, which measures 98 by 131 feet (30 by 40 meters), is "extraordinarily well preserved," Amit Shadman, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement. The farmhouse dates back to the time of the Assyrian conquest, when the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel, the researchers said.

18 Dec 2014 3:09pm GMT

Parents: How to Help a Shy Kid

Shy babies and toddlers are at greater risk of developing anxiety later in life, compared with outgoing kids. In fact, shyness and withdrawal from new situations is linked to later anxiety only in babies and toddlers without a secure attachment to their caregivers, according to new research published today (Dec. 18) in the journal Child Development. A secure attachment is a warm, nurturing relationship in which kids feel confident to explore when their mom or dad is around, and also feel comfortable seeking reassurance from them when upset. "For those [kids] that do show inhibition across many years, having a secure attachment could be really protective," said study researcher Erin Lewis-Morrarty, a research associate in child development at the University of Maryland.

18 Dec 2014 3:08pm GMT

SpaceX delays planned cargo run to space station to early January

Falcon 9 rocket is launched by Space Exploration Technologies on its fourth cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in FloridaCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies is delaying the planned launch on Friday of an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry a cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA, to early January, officials said on Thursday. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida had been planned for 1:22 p.m. EST, but an undisclosed technical issue with the rocket prompted SpaceX, as the company is known, to postpone the flight until Jan 6. The problem surfaced during routine prelaunch test firing of the rocket's engines, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said. ...

18 Dec 2014 1:07pm GMT

India tests its heaviest space launch vehicle, eyes global market

By Aditya Kalra NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's space agency successfully tested on Thursday its most powerful satellite launch vehicle that can put heavier payloads into space, and, it hopes, win India a bigger slice of the $300 billion global space industry. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also checked the working of an unmanned crew module on the vehicle, which could give the agency the option of manned missions. ...

18 Dec 2014 7:12am GMT

17 Dec 2014

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U.S, China making progress on biotech crop talks: USDA's Vilsack

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The United States and China are making progress in talks over Beijing's acceptance of new biotechnology for crops, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Wednesday. The countries are "moving toward an understanding of how we might be able to establish a strategic dialogue on biotechnology," Vilsack told Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in a bilateral meeting in Chicago. Biotech crops are a key trade issue between the countries because China has rejected more than 1 million tons of U.S. ...

17 Dec 2014 4:46pm GMT

Voyager 1 Rides 'Tsunami Wave' in Interstellar Space

Voyager 1 Rides 'Tsunami Wave' in Interstellar SpaceIt turns out that sailing through interstellar space isn't so peaceful. NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft - the only object made by humans to reach interstellar space - might still be caught what scientists have described as a cosmic "tsunami wave," a shock wave that first hit the probe in February, according to new research. You can hear the eerie interstellar vibrations in a video, courtesy of NASA. "Most people would have thought the interstellar medium would have been smooth and quiet," study researcher Don Gurnett, professor of physics at the University of Iowa, and the principal investigator of Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument, said in a statement from NASA.

17 Dec 2014 9:39am GMT

SpaceX to attempt rocket landing at sea

Falcon 9 rocket is launched by Space Exploration Technologies on its fourth cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in FloridaBy Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies will attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a sea platform following launch on Friday, company officials said, a vital step to prove its precision landing capabilities needed before it can gain a ground landing license. SpaceX, as the California-based firm is known, has been working on developing technology to return its rockets intact so they can be refurbished and reflown, dramatically cutting costs. ...

17 Dec 2014 8:22am GMT

16 Dec 2014

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Back to the future: Scientists want 'rewilded' crops to boost agriculture

By Chris Arsenault ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists should "re-wild" food crops by inserting lost genetic properties of ancient, edible plants in order to boost agricultural output for a growing population, a new study said. Important properties of wild plants, including varieties of wheat and rice, have been unintentionally lost during thousands of years of breeding. When humans first domesticated wheat around 7500 BC, farmers chose to use seeds based on a few selected traits, particularly their yields. ...

16 Dec 2014 5:06pm GMT

NASA Probe Piecing Together How Mars' Atmosphere Escapes to Space

NASA Probe Piecing Together How Mars' Atmosphere Escapes to SpaceA NASA spacecraft that recently arrived in orbit around Mars is already helping to solve a Martian mystery. Scientists are using the space agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft to gather more data about how Mars' atmosphere bled molecules out into space over time. The agency released early results from the probe today (Dec. 15), showing how the continuous stream of particles emanating from the sun, called the solar wind, bury more deeply into the Martian atmosphere than scientists had previously thought. "Over the course of the full mission, we'll be able to fill in this picture and really understand the processes by which the atmosphere changed over time," Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, said in a statement.

16 Dec 2014 4:27pm GMT

12 Dec 2014

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Why Birds Don't Have Teeth

Why Birds Don't Have TeethThe common ancestor of all living birds sported a set of pearly whites 116 million years ago, a new study finds. In the study, researchers looked at the mutated remains of tooth genes in modern birds to figure out when birds developed "edentulism" - an absence of teeth. Ancient birds have left only a fragmented fossil record, but studying the genes of modern birds can help clarify how the bird lineage has changed over time. "DNA from the crypt is a powerful tool for unlocking secrets of evolutionary history," Mark Springer, a professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside and one of the study's lead researchers, said in a statement.

12 Dec 2014 11:01pm GMT

11 Dec 2014

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Actor Seth Green Designs Mission Patch for Space Station Science

Actor Seth Green Designs Mission Patch for Space Station ScienceLooking at the latest mission patch bound for the International Space Station, you would never know it was designed by actor Seth Green.

11 Dec 2014 5:14pm GMT

Scientists work to conserve 2,500-year-old mummy

FILE- In this Dec. 5, 2014, photo, the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy and his exposed toes lie in his opened coffin after J.P. Brown and his team of curators at the Field Museum opened the coffin for the first time in Chicago. The team opened the coffin of the 2,500-year-old mummy to perform conservation work before it becomes part of a traveling exhibition. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)CHICAGO (AP) - Conservation work has started at Chicago's Field Museum on the 2,500-year-old mummy of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy.

11 Dec 2014 4:30pm GMT