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November 12 2014

Dolphin-like robots help scientists explore melting polar ice


Ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are rapidly melting and it's predicted that if they continue to collapse, sea levels will rise by at least 3 metres. Scientists have been keeping a close eye on the warm water near the coast, which they think is the main factor causing the ice to melt. But exactly how this is happening has remained a mystery, and now scientists from the California Institute of Technology in the US have obtained some important information on the melting Antarctic ice, with the help of three dolphin-like robots.

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November 12 2014

New Amazon Carbon Maps May Help Limit Deforestation


The vast jungle canopy of the Amazon looks like a solid wall of green from space to the human eye. But satellites and other high tech instruments can provide a much more nuanced view right down to the household level.

That might sound like something the CIA would be interested in, but there’s another audience that could benefit even more: forest managers and scientists looking to sequester the most carbon possible. Now a new study has provided them with that view by creating the most detailed carbon maps ever produced for the Amazon.

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November 12 2014

Anti-organic: Why do some farmers resist profitable change?


Why do some chemical farmers resist a profitable conversion to organic methods? A new study in the Journal of Marketing suggests it may be because making that change feels like switching belief systems.

"The ideological map of American agriculture reveals an unfolding drama between chemical and organic farming... Chemical farmers argue that to make money, one must follow chemical traditions; when organic farmers make more money, it seems "wrong."

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November 12 2014

Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers


A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer.

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November 12 2014

Cancer's 'Frankenstein' DNA mystery solved


The creation of a 'Frankenstein' chromosome that steals the DNA it needs to grow and survive has been detailed for the first time in research led by Australian scientists.

The work, published today in the journal Cancer Cell , shows how an extra chromosome, known as a neochromosome, found in up to three per cent of all cancers, is created.

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November 12 2014

Wirelessly Control Mice With the Power of Your Mind


Tibetan nuns can raise their body temperature to 101 degrees Fahrenheit through their mastery of certain meditation techniques. But in the future, even a spiritual novice could use mind power to control their body’s biological functions such as pain management or the secretion of hormones. And when we say future, we’re talking decades and not centuries.


Alt: Human thoughts used to switch on genes

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November 11 2014

Alien Abduction or “Accidental Awareness”?


“So then they roll me over on my back, and the examiner has a long needle in his hand. And I see the needle. And it’s bigger than any needle that I’ve ever seen.” So testifies Betty Hill, of her experience inside a flying saucer near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, in 1961. Betty and her husband, Barney Hill, are the earliest known victims of alien abduction, and the 1966 bestseller The Interrupted Journey describes how they recalled the event under hypnosis. Their story includes nude medical exams and invasive probing—an alien abduction scenario many of us recognize from the TV shows and movies of the past 50 years.

But in 2008 a Columbia University psychoanalyst published “Alien Abduction: A Medical Hypothesis” which suggested that what is known as “accidental awareness under general anesthesia”—in which a patient awakens on the table during surgery—might lie behind stories of alien abduction.

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November 11 2014

Of gods and men: Societies in harsh environments are more likely to believe in moralizing gods


Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing, high gods might be similarly advantageous for human cultures in poorer environments. A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that societies with less access to food and water are more likely to believe in these types of deities.

"When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," says Russell Gray, a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. "Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.".

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November 11 2014

Unique Roman relief discovered: Depiction of unknown god in Turkey


A bearded deity has been discovered with astral symbols. Archaeologists excavated the unique Roman relief depicting an unknown god in an ancient sanctuary in Turkey. According to a first assessment, the one and a half meter (five foot) high basalt stele which was used as a buttress in the wall of a monastery shows a fertility or vegetation god, as classical scholar and excavation director said.

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November 11 2014

Brains of regular marijuana smokers are smaller – but work faster


A new study into the effects of cannabis has discovered that regular users have smaller brains than those who never smoke the substance.

The research into “chronic” marijuana use confirms in humans a phenomenon that has previously been observed in laboratory mice – the existence of reduced grey matter.


Alt: Smoking cannabis every day ‘shrinks brain but increases its connectivity’

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November 11 2014

Woolly Mammoth Mummy Yields Well-Preserved Brain


The mummified brain of a well-preserved woolly mammoth found in the Siberian permafrost is the only mostly intact mammoth brain known to science, which has been described in a new study.

The mummified carcass of the 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth, which included the brain with folds and blood vessels visible, was found in August 2010 on the Laptev Sea coast near Yukagir, Russia. The mammoth, named Yuka, was 6 to 9 years old when it died, the researchers found.

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November 11 2014

The origins of multicellular life


The biological world around us is dominated by multicellular plants and animals. All of these intricate forms have evolved from far simpler, single celled ancestors.

What could explain the transition from single cells to cooperative groups, to groups of cells that put the prosperity of the whole group before the one? This is the essential question of how organisms evolved from single celled types and it is one of life's greatest mysteries.

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November 11 2014

Ice Age Babies Surrounded by Weapon Parts Found in Alaska


Around 11,500 years ago, a band of hunters buried two human babies in a pit in what is now Alaska. Surrounded by components of ancient weapons, the skeletons are giving archaeologists a unique look at cultural practices at the end of the last Ice Age, when people began to colonize North America.

“Prior to these finds, we really did not have evidence of that facet of settlement and traditional systems for the early Americans who once inhabited this area,” says Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. “These are new windows into these ancient peoples’ lifestyle.”.

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November 11 2014

47-Million-Year-Old Pregnant Mare Sheds Light on Ancient Horses


When a thirsty pregnant horse drank from a freshwater lake 47 million years ago, she was unaware that poisonous volcanic gases might lead to her sudden demise. Now, the fossilized remains of the mare and her tiny, unborn foal are revealing new insights into reproduction in ancient horses, including surprising reproductive similarities with today's horses, according to a new study.

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November 11 2014

Wild cats were tamed with strokes and treats, genetic analysis suggests


Cat owners will recognise the purr of pleasure from their pets when they are tickled behind the ears, but a new analysis comparing the domestic cat’s genome with that of its wild relatives suggests this may also have been key to taming the animals in the first place.

The analysis has identified some of the crucial changes in feline DNA that have occurred as the animals were domesticated over the past 9,000 years.

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November 11 2014

Killer whales can learn to “speak dolphin”


Even if you haven’t watched Star Trek IV, you are probably aware of the fact that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are among the smartest animals on the planet. In fact, this study suggests that, given a chance, different species of cetaceans may be able to learn to communicate with each other. Scientists noticed that killer whales who had spent time with bottlenose dolphins incorporated more clicking and whistles in their vocalizations than other whales, making their “language” a mashup of the two.

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November 11 2014

Chimps plan for their morning meals, helping fuel their big brains


A big brain is a resource-hungry organ, demanding large amounts of energy-rich foods to keep it functioning. Understanding how species like humans and chimpanzees evolved large, energy-hungry brains is a difficult task: explanations must account for not only how the large brain provided an evolutionary advantage, but also how its energy demands could have been met.

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