18 Oct 2018

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Scientists spot six near-extinct vaquita porpoises

Scientists spot six near-extinct vaquita porpoisesThe near-extinct vaquita marina, the world's smallest porpoise, has not yet disappeared from its habitat off the coast of Mexico, a research team said Wednesday after spotting six of them. The vaquita has been nearly wiped out by illegal fishing in its native habitat, the Gulf of California, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned in May that it could go extinct this year. The team emphasized that the study was not a full population estimate, which they will present in January after further research.

18 Oct 2018 12:52am GMT

How keeping the windows clean and curtains open could stop you getting ill

How keeping the windows clean and curtains open could stop you getting illIt is a simple strategy for staying healthy, but a new study has found that allowing sunlight to stream in through windows could kill bacteria that live in dust. Researchers at the University of Oregon found that in dark rooms 12 per cent of bacteria on average were alive and able to reproduce. In comparison only 6.8 per cent of bacteria exposed to daylight and 6.1 per cent of bacteria exposed to UV light were able to replicate. Lead author Dr Ashkaan Fahimipour said: "Humans spend most of their time indoors, where exposure to dust particles that carry a variety of bacteria, including pathogens that can make us sick, is unavoidable. "Therefore, it is important to understand how features of the buildings we occupy influence dust ecosystems and how this could affect our health." The researchers made eleven identical climate-controlled miniature rooms that mimicked real buildings and seeded them with dust collected in residential homes. Sunlight may stop bacteria being able to replicate Credit: HO Reuters The authors applied one of three glazing treatments to the windows of the rooms, so that they transmitted visible, ultraviolet or no light. After 90 days, the authors collected dust from each environment and analysed the composition, abundance, and viability of the bacteria present. Dust kept in the dark contained organisms closely related to species associated with respiratory diseases, which were largely absent in dust exposed to daylight. The authors also found that a smaller proportion of human skin-derived bacteria and a larger proportion of outdoor air-derived bacteria lived in dust exposed to light that in than in dust not exposed to light. They believe it may suggest that daylight causes the microbiome of indoor dust to more strongly resemble bacterial communities found outdoors. Dr Fahimipour said: "Our study supports a century-old folk wisdom, that daylight has the potential to kill microbes on dust particles, but we need more research to understand the underlying causes of shifts in the dust microbiome following light exposure. "We hope that with further understanding, we could design access to daylight in buildings such as schools, offices, hospitals and homes in ways that reduce the risk of dust-borne infections." The researchers warn that homes and offices may contain architectural and geographical features that produce lower or higher dosages of light which would produce different results.

18 Oct 2018 12:00am GMT

17 Oct 2018

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'Bad news': CO2 emissions to rise in 2018, says IEA chief

'Bad news': CO2 emissions to rise in 2018, says IEA chiefEnergy sector carbon emissions will rise in 2018 after hitting record levels the year before, dimming prospects for meeting Paris climate treaty goals, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday. The energy sector accounts for 80 percent of global CO2 emissions, with most of the rest caused by deforestation and agriculture, so its performance is key to efforts to rein in rising world temperatures. "I'm sorry, I have very bad news for you," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told guests at a diplomatic function hosted by the Polish embassy in Paris.

17 Oct 2018 11:12pm GMT

Why the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson Is a Good Sign for U.S-Turkey Ties

Why the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson Is a Good Sign for U.S-Turkey TiesHere's how Erdogan and Trump can move forward on key issues

17 Oct 2018 10:04pm GMT

2,000-year-old graffiti just rewrote the history on Pompeii

2,000-year-old graffiti just rewrote the history on PompeiiPompeii, the Roman city preserved for two millennia thanks to a volcanic eruption that engulfed the area in ash in 79 AD, has long been studied as a window to the past. Newly discovered scribbles of graffiti, unearthed by archeologists excavating the site, just changed the historical narrative on precisely when the natural disaster occurred.…

17 Oct 2018 7:04pm GMT

Family Border Crossings Spiked in September: Report

Family Border Crossings Spiked in September: ReportThe Washington Post reports that arrests of family units were up in September, though official numbers have not been released

17 Oct 2018 6:48pm GMT

Glitzy 'Science Oscars' to make stars of researchers

Glitzy 'Science Oscars' to make stars of researchersNine scientists were recognized Wednesday with a "Breakthrough Prize," a $3 million Silicon Valley-funded award meant to confer Oscars-style glamour and prestige on the basic sciences. The prizes in physics, life sciences and mathematics went to six men and three women, including four researchers who shared two prizes and five who get the full reward to themselves. Five US-based researchers who won prizes in the life sciences included Frank Bennett and Adrian Krainer, from companies in Carlsbad, California and Long Island, New York.

17 Oct 2018 6:11pm GMT

Want to test your DNA? Amazon has AncestryDNA kits on sale for $30 off.

Want to test your DNA? Amazon has AncestryDNA kits on sale for $30 off.Besides the flaming mess that is the current political climate, DNA testing is a huge thing in the news right now. If you've checked social media at all recently, you've more than likely seen something about it. We're not sure if that has anything to do with Amazon putting AncestryDNA test kits on sale for $30 off, but hey - we'll take it. Elizabeth Warren is usually making headlines for calling out Donald Trump - but this time, it's her recently released DNA test results that have people talking. In fact, the test itself was meant to be a clapback at Trump. According to Rolling Stone, "At a rally in July, the president bet a million dollars that Warren wouldn't submit to DNA testing - and if she did, it would not validate her claims of Native ancestry." But now that she's done it, many are not happy, and some Cherokee tribe members are actually demanding an apology. We won't get into it here, but generally speaking, let this be a lesson that a DNA match doesn't mean you can automatically claim to be part of that culture. Moving on. SEE ALSO: Which DNA test kit should you get? This guide can help. DNA testing is also the basis of a new TV drama, because of course it is. Family History dives into the nature versus nurture debacle and shows how much deep family stuff can come out of a simple DNA test. The show just got the green light for a pilot on ABC. Our point: Doing a DNA test is on its way to becoming just as mainstream as owning a smartphone. With the news plus the rise in at-home test kit stats (it doubled in the last year), tracing your roots is basically a must-do - and this clutch sale on AncestryDNA kits is your foot in the door. AncestryDNA is one of the most popular at-home DNA services, famous for its pie chart breakdowns and it's assistance in helping you find distant relatives. They use an autosomal (family finder) DNA test to survey your whole genome at over 700,000 locations, covering both your father's and your mother's lineage (though it won't say what DNA came from which parent). That massive genealogical pool plus the high chance of connecting with found relatives via their huge user database makes it one of the best on the market. Just fill the included tube with your spit, send it back for testing, and you'll receive results in 6-8 weeks. Regularly $99, you can save $30 and get your test kit for just $69. (Psst: This would make a super unique holiday gift as well, so feel free to stock up.) Image: ancestrydna Save $30 on AncestryDNA test kits - $69 See Details

17 Oct 2018 6:07pm GMT

Oldest fossils on Earth? New look finds might just be rocks

Oldest fossils on Earth? New look finds might just be rocksWASHINGTON (AP) - What were billed as the oldest fossils on Earth may just be some rocks, according to a new study.

17 Oct 2018 5:48pm GMT

Exclusive: Science journal to withdraw chronic fatigue review amid patient activist complaints

Exclusive: Science journal to withdraw chronic fatigue review amid patient activist complaintsEmails seen by Reuters show editors at the influential Cochrane Review journal asking researchers who conducted the analysis, which was published in April 2017, to agree to it being temporarily withdrawn. They also ask the review's authors to agree to a statement saying their analysis requires "further work in response to feedback and complaints". Published on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane's evaluations are considered a gold standard in scientific literature and known internationally as dispassionate analyses of the best evidence on a given subject. It is unusual for Cochrane to withdraw a review without the authors' agreement and unless new scientific evidence emerges for inclusion in an update. Research into CFS and ME, widely referred to by the joint acronym CFS/ME, is highly contentious -- in part because the illness is poorly understood.

17 Oct 2018 5:31pm GMT

Terrifying video shows a bridge sagging under the weight of a massive bus

Terrifying video shows a bridge sagging under the weight of a massive busPlease enjoy this deeply terrifying video of a bridge flexing under the weight of a bus. The historic Beaver Bridge in Arkansas is a one-lane suspension bridge built in 1949 that offers picturesque views of Table Rock Lake. It's delicate - and the lane is made out of wood. SEE ALSO: This viral mashup of Kendrick Lamar and 'Take On Me' is the catchiest thing you'll hear today A viral video shows a massive 35 ton bus - weighing more than three times the bridge's 10 ton weight limit - ambitiously driving across. As the bus ambles along, the bridge's suspension sags and the road seems to dip with the vehicle. Nearby cars honk at the bus, and the person recording the video says, "Holy cow, look at that!" It seems pretty unsafe. A spokesperson from the Arkansas Department of Transportation told 40/29 News that the local highway police are supposed to enforce the bridge's 10 ton weight limit. State officials shut the bridge down on Tuesday for a structural inspection. In an announcement, the Arkansas Department of Inspection said: Holy cow, indeed. WATCH: Boston Dynamics 'parkour' robot took more than 20 attempts to nail it

17 Oct 2018 5:28pm GMT

She Had a Nobel Prize—But Not a Wikipedia Page

She Had a Nobel Prize—But Not a Wikipedia PageShe Had a Nobel Prize-But Not a Wikipedia Page

17 Oct 2018 5:24pm GMT

EPA puts off final say on science transparency rule

EPA puts off final say on science transparency ruleWASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it is putting off for at least a year any final announcement on a controversial proposal overhauling how the agency evaluates science.

17 Oct 2018 5:16pm GMT

Secret of dandelion flight discovered by scientists 

Secret of dandelion flight discovered by scientists Fluffy dandelion seeds are known to travel 500 miles on the wind, but until now it has been a mystery how they did it. Although light enough to be whisked into the air in updrafts, their downy heads are 90 per cent empty space - a poor design for a parachute - and scientists have puzzled as to how they manage to stay afloat for so long. Now researchers at Edinburgh University have discovered that the soft bristles work together to create a ring-shaped bubble of air which keeps the seed aloft. This type of flight has never before been seen in nature and the experts believe that the technique could be used to help windbourne micro-drones stay in the air without using power so they can explore remote and inhospitable regions, or even other planet in the Solar System. Dr Cathal Cummins, of the University of Edinburgh's Schools of Biological Sciences and Engineering, who led the study, said: "Taking a closer look at the ingenious structures in nature - like the dandelion's parachute - can reveal novel insights. "We found a natural solution for flight that minimises the material and energy costs, which can be applied to engineering of sustainable technology. "The dandelion has managed to create a parachute which is virtually entirely empty space. Our research is suggesting that basically, less is more." Dandelion seeds balancing on top of each other Credit: University of Edinburgh The unique aerodynamic capabilities of dandelions make them one of the most successful of all wind pollinators, and a single plant can produce 12,000 seeds in its clocks. A 2003 study at the University of Regensburg in Germany found that 99.5 per cent of dandelion seeds land within 10 metres of their parent, but the University of Cornell calculated that some can travel for 500 miles. To find out how dandelion seeds achieved the feat, researchers at Edinburgh built a tiny vertical wind tunnel which blew air softly upwards, allowing seeds to hover at a fixed height so they could study how air moved around the fluffy seed head, known as a pappus. They then recorded how air currents moved around the fluffy seed head - known as a pappus - using long-exposure photography and high-speed imaging. The images revealed that a ring-shaped air bubble forms as air moves through the bristles, enhancing the drag that slows each seed's descent to the ground. A single dandelion plant can produce up to 12,000 seeds Credit: Rolfo The newly found air bubble - which scientists have named the separated vortex ring -follows the seed like a little halo. This mass of whirling air helps increase the drag on the seed, and is created when neighboring filaments on the seed interact with each other as it floats along. The amount of air flowing through, which is critical for keeping the bubble stable and directly above the seed in flight, is precisely controlled by the spacing of the bristles. According to the researchers, it is four times more efficient than what is possible with conventional parachute design, according to the research. Researchers suggest that the dandelion's porous parachute might inspire the development of small-scale drones that require little or no power consumption. Such drones could be useful for remote sensing or air pollution monitoring. The study was published in Nature.

17 Oct 2018 5:00pm GMT

Mysterious U.S. whale die-off is now deep in its 2nd year. We still don't know the cause.

Mysterious U.S. whale die-off is now deep in its 2nd year. We still don't know the cause.Using a tractor, state and town officials in coastal New Hampshire attempted to drop the carcass of a minke whale into a dumpster in mid-September. But the dead cetacean proved too big, bouncing off the red bin and flopping onto the pavement of a beachside parking lot. The minke whale - which can weigh up to 20,000 pounds - is one of 55 that have turned up dead on East Coast shores of the United States since January 2017. The strange die-offs have officially been labeled as an "Unusual Mortality Event" (UME) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The cause of whale deaths in this vastly-understudied species largely remain an inconsistent puzzle. "We have had 12 minke whales stranded in Massachusetts alone in 2018, so the numbers are still very high for this species," Jennifer Goebel, NOAA's public affairs officer in the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, said via email. A healthy minke whale.Image: noaaBut abundant minke whales aren't the only Atlantic species dying strange deaths in high numbers. Both the famously charismatic humpbacks and endangered North Atlantic right whales are experiencing Unusual Mortality Events. Yet, there's no clear link or commonalities between any of their deaths. "We currently do not have one cause of stranding or death that is common across the three species involved in the different UMEs, additionally strandings across the three species are not clustering in space or time," said Goebel. Finding a clear cause for the spike in deaths of these wild seafaring animals is daunting. This year, scientists have performed 18 necropsies - examinations of corpses - on dead minke whales. SEE ALSO: The wilderness has returned to idyllic Cape Cod. That means great white sharks. "Final results are still pending for the majority of the cases," noted Goebel, but eight are suspected to have died from an infectious disease, two appear to be have been struck by vessels, and nine show evidence of having been entangled in fishing lines. "These are the known deaths," Tony LaCasse, a spokesperson for the New England Aquarium, said in an interview. The unknown deaths could be twice that number, he added. Sleuthing out an explanation A notable problem in determining why minkes are experiencing such a mortality event is that the species, while known to be abundant in oceans globally, isn't well understood. 2nd dead minke whale found in Bay of Fundy in less than a monthhttps://t.co/3yECgnneoO pic.twitter.com/LUrA0QUZ85 - CBC Nova Scotia (@CBCNS) October 1, 2018 "There is an absolute dearth of information on them," Rachel Cartwright, a whale biologist at Cal State Channel Islands who has studied minke whales, said in an interview. "They're very understudied," added LaCasse. "There's literally nobody that I know of on the U.S. East Coast that studies these animals full time." Regardless, the health of baleen whales - who consume tiny fish and plankton - are visible indicators of greater problems in the seas. "Baleen whales are recognized as indicator species," said Cartwright. "They can tell you that there's something larger amiss in the food chain." And although NOAA has been very clear that there's presently still no smoking gun for these mortality events, "there's speculation that there's a disease element to this," said LaCasse. Fortunately for minkes, they're an abundant, stable species - so they may withstand a bout of infectious, spreading disease. However, the same cannot be said of the 450 or so right whales remaining in the Atlantic. The rise of minke whale deaths since Jan. 2017.Image: noaaWeird things are also transpiring in the Pacific - though there's certainly no evidence these disparate marine events are related. Cartwright researches humpback populations that migrate between Hawaii and southeastern Alaska. They've experienced a recent, severe decline. "It's an unusual time for a lot of whale populations," she said. "Our populations in Hawaii have dropped dramatically in the last few years. Suffice to say, the mother and calves are going down by 80 percent." The humpbacks leave their winter Hawaiian breeding grounds to feed on fish in the frigid southeastern Alaskan waters. Typically, Cartwright observes plenty of calves there who have made the long journey with their mothers. This year she noticed very few calves, but notes a systematic survey needs to be done. Humpback whales are considered to be the most charismatic whale species.Image: noaaIn the Pacific Ocean, unusually warm waters due to a recent wide-scale marine heat wave may be to blame, noted Cartwright. This could have caused the food chain to crash and drive prey species well north - ultimately imperiling the vulnerable calves. But out on the East Coast, it appears the minkes have bounties of food. "The minkes we're seeing are often young and underweight, which is a little puzzling because there's a lot of forage fish around," said LaCasse. "They've [forage fish] been really exceptional near the shore." Whatever the ultimate cause of the Atlantic whale mortality events, the unusual deaths may very well be connected, and the dead whales are still coming ashore. "This event started in January 2017, and is continuing through today," said Goebel. WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?

17 Oct 2018 4:59pm GMT

Israel Retaliates With Airstrikes After Rocket Fired From Gaza Hits House

Israel Retaliates With Airstrikes After Rocket Fired From Gaza Hits HouseA rocket fired from Gaza struck a residential home in southern Israel early Wednesday and the Israeli military began attacking militant sites in Gaza in response after days of rising tensions

17 Oct 2018 2:58pm GMT