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December 26 2014

Skin cells can help IVF couples have children of their own


Infertile couples who cannot produce their own sex cells may finally be able to have children through IVF after scientists achieved a key breakthrough in making sperm and eggs from skin cells.

For the first time, researchers have converted human skin cells in a laboratory into the “primordial germ cells” normally found within the testes and ovaries, which develop into mature sperm and eggs. It is the first and most crucial stage in making male and female sex cells in a test tube.

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December 26 2014

Fly Swarms Reveal Something Profound About the Human Brain


We think of our brains as single, unified organs. But a new set of experiments with flies reveals that certain brain cells in these insects respond exclusively to crowd behavior. And that leads to an interesting question: Did cells in the animal brain evolve to think using something akin to the wisdom of fly swarms?

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December 26 2014

Imagination, Reality Look Different in the Brain


"Turn off your mind, relax, and float down stream..."

Maybe John Lennon was onto something when he wrote those words for the Beatles' song "Tomorrow Never Knows."

It turns out that that reality and imagination flow in different directions in the brain, researchers say. The visual information from real events that the eyes see flows "up" from the brain's occipital lobe to the parietal lobe, but imagined images flow "down" from the parietal to the occipital.

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December 26 2014

What Would Jesus Drink? A Class Exploring Ancient Wines Asks


Inside the Boston Wine School, Jonathon Alsop places empty glasses and plate of figs and cheese before a small group of students. Alsop, who founded the school in 2000, is doing a test run of a new class that poses the question: What would Jesus drink?

"This is ... a cheese that Jesus might have eaten," he tells students. "It's called Egyptian Roumy it was a cheese that was introduced to the Egyptians by the Romans. It's a sheep's milk cheese.".

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December 26 2014

Shaman Claus: The Shamanic Origins of Christmas


Have you ever wondered why in modern Christmas tradition we do the things we do? What is the origin of the Christmas tree, with the star on top, decorations about, and all the brightly wrapped presents beneath? Or the idea behind Santa Claus who jets around the globe in a magic sleigh with flying reindeer – defying both time and space – to deliver the world’s children a bounty of Christmas gifts?


Related: Santa Traditions Around the World

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December 26 2014

‘Many of these gods come from stars’: The fascinating true story of angels, virgin birth and Jesus


Many Americans have heard that December 25 was a birthday of Roman gods long before it was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some people also know that our delightful mélange of Christmas festivities originated in ancient Norse, Roman and Druid traditions – or, in the case of Rudolph, on Madison Avenue. But where does the Christmas story itself come from: Jesus in the manger, the angels and wise men?

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December 26 2014

First evidence that a mysterious phase of matter competes with high-temperature superconductivity


Scientists have found the first direct evidence that a mysterious phase of matter known as the "pseudogap" competes with high-temperature superconductivity, robbing it of electrons that otherwise might pair up to carry current through a material with 100 percent efficiency.

"Now we have clear, smoking-gun evidence that the pseudogap phase competes with and suppresses superconductivity".

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December 26 2014

Mathematicians Make a Major Discovery About Prime Numbers


In May 2013, the mathematician Yitang Zhang launched what has proven to be a banner year and a half for the study of prime numbers, those numbers that aren’t divisible by any smaller number except 1. Zhang, of the University of New Hampshire, showed for the first time that even though primes get increasingly rare as you go further out along the number line, you will never stop finding pairs of primes that are a bounded distance apart — within 70 million, he proved.

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December 26 2014

Quantum Physics Just Got A Tiny Bit Easier To Understand, As Two Oddities Merge Into One


No one is about to claim that quantum physics is now easy to understand, but maybe it's not quite as devilishly complicated as we thought.

New research suggests that two of the quantum world's most mysterious features--the uncertainty principle and wave-particle duality--are simply two sides of a single coin.

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December 26 2014

Origin of 'theta aurora'—long-standing space mystery—revealed


Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the sun's effect on Earth, but many aspects of these spectacular displays are still poorly understood. Thanks to the joint European Space Agency and NASA's Cluster mission combined with data from a past NASA mission called the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, a particular type of very high-latitude aurora has now been explained.

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December 26 2014

The Stellar Origins of Your Toothpaste


It may only take brushing your teeth to help you feel connected to the cosmos.

New research suggests that fluorine, an element in toothpaste, may have been forged billions of years ago inside stars that are now long dead. Fluorine is commonly found in products like toothpaste, refrigerants and pharmaceuticals, and it's the 13th most abundant element on Earth.

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December 26 2014

Mercury Once Oozed With Lava—Until the Planet Shrank


SAN FRANCISCO—Smaller things cool faster, so being the solar system’s smallest planet, Mercury cooled rapidly after it formed 4.6 billion years ago. As it cooled, it also shrank—by as much as 6.8 miles in diameter. Now, a new analysis of Mercury’s surface suggests that this shrinking may have abruptly squeezed off volcanic activity that once oozed lava across the planet up until 3.8 billion years ago.

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December 26 2014

New chemical analysis of ancient Martian meteorite provides clues to planet's history of habitabilit


A new analysis of a Martian rock that meteorite hunters plucked from an Antarctic ice field 30 years ago this month reveals a record of the planet's climate billions of years ago, back when water likely washed across its surface and any life that ever formed there might have emerged.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego, NASA and the Smithsonian Institution report detailed measurements of minerals within the meteorite in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

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December 26 2014

Meteoric Evidence Suggests Mars May Have a Subsurface Reservoir


It is a scientific fact that water exists on Mars. Though most of it today consists of water ice in the polar regions or in subsurface areas near the temperate zones, the presence of H²O has been confirmed many times over. It is evidenced by the sculpted channels and outflows that still mark the surface, as well as the presence of clay and mineral deposits that could only have been formed by water. Recent geological surveys provide more evidence that Mars’ surface was once home to warm, flowing water billions of years ago.

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December 26 2014

The Frosted Slopes of Mars


The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter constantly watches the red planet’s surface, keeping tabs on the Martian seasons.

In this observation, which covers an area of about 1.5 kilometers by 3 kilometers, the slopes of an equatorial crater are detailed, showing intricate gullies covered in ice. The presence of gullies in the crater rim suggest geological processes are occurring.

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December 26 2014

Scientists 'map' water vapor in Martian atmosphere


Russian scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), together with their French and American colleagues, have created a 'map' of the distribution of water vapour in Mars' atmosphere. Their research includes observations of seasonal variations in atmospheric concentrations using data collected over ten years by the Russian-French SPICAM spectrometer aboard the Mars Express orbiter. This is the longest period of observation and provides the largest volume of data about water vapour on Mars.

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December 25 2014

Students aim to put cyanobacteria on Mars to generate oxygen


Mars is a very harsh and hostile environment for future human explorers and like any other known planet it has no breathable air. That could change someday, and it may be soon enough for our generation to witness it, as the student team from Germany has a bold vision to make a first step to terraform the Red Planet, turning it more Earth-like. The plan is to send cyanobacteria to Mars to generate oxygen out of carbon dioxide which is the main component of Martian atmosphere (nearly 96%). "Cyanobacteria do live in conditions on Earth where no life would be expected.

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