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September 26 2014

Harvesting hydrogen fuel from the Sun using Earth-abundant materials


The race is on to optimize solar energy's performance. More efficient silicon photovoltaic panels, dye-sensitized solar cells, concentrated cells and thermodynamic solar plants all pursue the same goal: to produce a maximum amount of electrons from sunlight. Those electrons can then be converted into electricity to turn on lights and power your refrigerator.

At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL, led by Michael Gratzel, where scientists invented dye solar cells that mimic photosynthesis in plants, they have also developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting.

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September 26 2014

Facebook to start testing internet beaming drones in 2015


There was an understandable amount of skepticism when Amazon announced its grand plans for delivery drones last year. But if the last twelve months are any indication, Jeff Bezos and his fellow tech heavyweights are actually kinda serious about the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles.


Related: Facebook says its internet drones will be the size of 747s and fly for years

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September 26 2014

Engineer Sees Big Possibilities in Micro-robots, Including Programmable Bees


Traditionally robots have been big, powerful, metallic objects that might weld doors onto cars in a factory," Wood says. "The robots we explore are dramatically different, some on a new, micro-sized scale, others made of soft rather than rigid materials.


Related: Robot Octopus Swims Faster Than Ever

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September 26 2014

Stone Age groups made similar toolmaking breakthroughs


Different palaeolithic populations around the world might have developed a crucial toolmaking skill independently. This conclusion, based on the analysis of hundreds of artefacts from a recently excavated archaeological site in Armenia, weakens a long-held theory that Stone Age people in Eurasia learnt sophisticated techniques from migrating African tribes.


Related: Prehistoric Stone Tools Evolved Independently Within Local Populations, Say Researchers

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September 26 2014

Modern humans may have migrated into Austria 43,500 years ago


Neanderthals' capabilities are still hotly debated. Some argue that before modern humans replaced them, Neanderthals showed cultural capabilities similar to those of modern humans, while others make a case that these similarities only appear once Neanderthals came in contact with modern humans. "The new data from Willendorf clearly shows that modern humans were present in what is now Austria while Neanderthals still occupied other regions of Europe suggesting that the two species met, and may have exchanged mates and ideas", explains Philip Nigst. "This means the changes in the material culture of some of the last Neanderthal groups are most probably related to direct or indirect contact with modern humans".

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September 25 2014

Water discovered in a small, warm exoplanet’s atmosphere for first time


Astronomers have detected water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system.

Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water vapour.

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September 25 2014

UNESCO to host meeting on controversial 'memory of water' research


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is potentially wading into hot water next month when it hosts a meeting set up by Nobelist Luc Montagnier to discuss his controversial research on what has become known as "the memory of water."


Related: Think You Know Everything About Water? Well, You Don’t

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September 25 2014

On a Shoestring, India Sends Orbiter to Mars on Its First Try


The Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, was intended mostly to prove that India could succeed in such a highly technical endeavor — and to beat China. As Mr. Modi and others have noted, India’s trip to Mars, at a price of $74 million, cost less than “Gravity,” the Hollywood movie. NASA’s almost simultaneous — and far more complex — mission to Mars cost $671 milliony.


Related: How India Mounted the World’s Cheapest Mission to Mars

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September 25 2014

Air-sniffing space probe arrives in Mars orbit. What will it smell?


Mars has welcomed a new robotic visitor from Earth.

After a 10-month journey through deep space, NASA's MAVEN probe arrived in Mars orbit late Sunday (Sept. 21), on a mission to help scientists figure out why the Red Planet changed from a relatively warm and wet place in the ancient past to the cold, arid world it is today.

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September 25 2014

Coronal mass ejections at Mars


Looking across the Mars landscape presents a bleak image: a barren, dry rocky view as far as the eye can see. But scientists think the vista might once have been quite different. It may have teemed with water and even been hospitable to microbial life. What changed?

One theory is that the continuous blast of solar particles from the sun – the constant stream of solar wind, coupled with more extreme explosions such as coronal mass ejections – might have been the culprit.

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September 25 2014

Seat of Selflessness Found in Brains of Extreme Altruists


Altruism has posed a puzzle for psychologists and evolutionary biologists for centuries. Why is it that humans will help others even to their own detriment?

A new study sheds light on the answer to that question by studying the brains of extreme altruists – people on the extreme end of the caring continuum. In this case researchers chose to study people who donated a kidney to a complete stranger.

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September 25 2014

Native tribes from Canada, U.S. sign treaty to restore bison to Great Plains


Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.

Leaders of about a dozen tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana's Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.

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September 25 2014

Plan Will Protect 770,000 Square Miles of Ocean, Working With World's Governments


The National Geographic Society announced a major expansion Monday of its campaign to help protect the planet's most species-rich marine areas, with a goal of convincing governments to officially safeguard more than 770,000 square miles (two million square kilometers) of ocean.


Related: U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California

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September 25 2014

Threatened birds of prey 'vanish'


Two of the rarest birds of prey in England, which had been satellite tagged, have vanished in unexplained circumstances, conservationists say.

The young female hen harriers had left their nest sites in Lancashire only a few weeks ago.

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September 25 2014

Cause of Mysterious Butterfly-Shaped Radar Blob Found


A mysterious butterfly-shaped cloud spotted over St. Louis last week was built from actual butterflies, the National Weather Service said.

In a rare coincidence, a giant swarm of migrating monarch butterflies resembled a butterfly on radar for a short time Friday afternoon (Sept. 19). Forecasters suspect a giant cluster of monarchs was flying between 5,000 feet and 6,000 feet (1,525 meters to 1,825 meters) above the ground, heading south to Mexico. Though small, their fluttering wings are good radar targets, the National Weather Service (NWS) said on Facebook. No one saw the butterflies, but the radar signals suggest the "targets" were flapping, flat and biological, similar to a monarch.

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September 25 2014

Brazil releases 'good' mosquitoes to fight dengue fever


Brazilian researchers in Rio de Janeiro have released thousands of mosquitoes infected with bacteria that suppress dengue fever.

The hope is they will multiply, breed and become the majority of mosquitoes, thus reducing cases of the disease.

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September 25 2014

Ancient African fish dust nourishes Amazon


The Amazon is being fertilised by the remains of ancient fish from Africa.

The nutrient-rich material is being carried in millions of tonnes of dust blown across the Atlantic from the Sahara every year.

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