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November 7 2014

Fossil’s Unusual Size and Location Offer Clues in Evolution of Mammals


Four years ago, while searching for fish fossils on Madagascar, paleontologists came upon what proved to be a well-preserved cranium of a mammal that lived about 66 million to 70 million years ago, in the closing epoch of the mighty dinosaurs.

Such a discovery, expected to provide new and important insights into early mammalian evolution, is rare anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.


Alt: 66-million-year-old critter from Madagascar rewrites early mammalian history

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November 7 2014

Limb cells turned into genitals in lab


In order for vertebrates to evolve from the sea to the land, some drastic evolutionary changes were needed.

Their ancient sea-dwelling ancestors had no need for external sex organs whereas their land relatives did.


Alt: Genesis of genitalia: We have one. Lizards have two. Why?.

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November 6 2014

Egg shape 'helped birds survive' asteroid impact


The shape of birds' eggs could have helped them survive the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs, new research proposes.

A team analysed the geometric properties of eggs from 250 million years ago (Mesozoic Era) to today.

Before the extinction event about 65 million years ago, eggshells had notable differences to the lineage that survived.

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November 6 2014

How to talk like a stone-age man: A fascinating new book reveals how our ancient ancestors spoke


Here’s how to talk like a stone-age man: say the word ‘pu’. Your mouth is pursed, your nose is narrowed. You are blowing out a breath, as if to dispel a bad smell.

In the Stone Age, the sound pu meant exactly what it means today.

This is how language began. The earliest words in English date back at least 8,000 years — and they describe themselves: we can work out what the words meant by the shapes our lips form when we say them.

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November 6 2014

Landmark archive of 10 million Gaelic words launched


Researchers have completed the first phase of the world's most extensive digital archive of Scottish Gaelic texts as part of a landmark project to revolutionise access and understanding of the language to public around the world.

The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG) project is already the most comprehensive publicly accessible reference point for the Gaelic language and culture, having been worked on by researchers from Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow for the past eight years.

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November 6 2014

Japan's Kamikaze Winds, the Stuff of Legend, May Have Been Real


An ancient story tells of the kamikaze, or "divine wind," that twice saved Japan from Kublai Khan's Mongol fleets. So powerful was the legend that centuries later thousands of World War II pilots known as kamikazes would sign up to protect Japan again, by crashing their planes in suicide missions.

Now University of Massachusetts Amherst ecologist Jon Woodruff says he has uncovered evidence of some truth to the legend of the ancient kamikazes, typhoon-strength winds that saved Japan from Kublai Khan in the 13th century.

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November 6 2014

270-Year-Old Shipwreck May Soon Reveal Its Secrets


A British warship that sank off the coast of England 270 years ago may soon reveal its secrets.

The U.K. Secretary of State for Defense has given the go-ahead to Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., a deep-ocean exploration company based in Tampa, Florida, to mine the HMS Victory for archaeological artifacts at risk of being damaged.


Related: Wreck of 17th-Century Dutch Warship Discovered

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November 6 2014

Woman ‘pushed by the weight of her conscience’ returns stolen artifact to Pompeii after 50 years


Fifty years after a Canadian woman stole a precious antiquity while on a tour of the ruins of Pompeii, regret finally got the better of her, so she made a pilgrimage back to the site near Naples to return it, according to Italian authorities.

The woman, unnamed but identified as a 70-year-old Canadian from Montreal, whose identity the National Post has learned independently, illustrates the abiding power of regret, and how the urge for atonement can persist even when the crime is long forgotten.

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November 6 2014

The Positive Emotional Impact of Sad Music


A personal memory: One day during my teen years, a period when I was discovering classical music, I put on a recording of Brahms’ wistful “Clarinet Quintet.” I distinctly remember my mother’s reaction to what she was hearing: “It’s beautiful, but why would you want to listen to something so sad?”

Why indeed? Few people seek out sadness, but most of us do turn to melancholy music from time to time. What do we get out of the experience?.

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November 6 2014

Working irregular shifts can age the brain by extra 6.5 years, study finds


Working shifts significantly damages people’s ability to think and remember, and doing so for at least a decade “ages” the brain by an extra six and a half years, new research has found.

The findings are the latest to link working outside normal hours to an increased risk of health problems.

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November 6 2014

A Push to Back Traditional Chinese Medicine With More Data


Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that some people have hot constitutions, making them prone to fever and inflammation in parts of the body, while others tend to have cold body parts and get chills.

Such Eastern-rooted ideas have been developed over thousands of years of experience with patients. But they aren’t backed up by much scientific data.

Now researchers in some the most highly respected universities in China, and increasingly in Europe and the U.S., are wedding Western techniques for analyzing complex biological systems to the Chinese notion of seeing the body as a networked whole.

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November 6 2014

D.C., Oregon and Alaska Vote to Legalize Marijuana


Two more states and the District of Columbia passed marijuana legalization initiatives on Tuesday.

In the nation’s capital, 69 percent of voters approved legalization, while the measures passed in Oregon with 55 percent support and in Alaska with 52 percent, according to The Associated Press.

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November 6 2014

Urban Legend Debunked: Rats Don't Outnumber People in NYC


An unsettling urban legend claims that there are as many rats as people in New York City. But that's simply not true, according to a statistician who found that a generous estimate for the rat population would actually be 2 million — far fewer than New York's 8 million humans.

To estimate animal populations, ecologists often use a "capture–recapture" method. First, researchers capture and mark a random sample of a species, and then later, they round up a second random sample of the animals.

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November 6 2014

Compared with apes, people's gut bacteria lack diversity, study finds


The microbes living in people's guts are much less diverse than those in humans' closest relatives, the African apes, an apparently long evolutionary trend that appears to be speeding up in more modern societies, with possible implications for human health, according to a new study.


Alt: Gut microbes changed rapidly as humans evolved

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November 6 2014

Isolated Amazon Tribes Monitored with Space-Age Technology


The vast jungles of the Amazon rainforest harbor tribes mostly isolated from the outside world, whose way of life, largely unchanged for millennia, is now increasingly threatened by intrusions from modern civilization.

Now, scientists reveal they can monitor these "uncontacted tribes" using satellites, which would allow safe, inexpensive and noninvasive tracking of these tribes in order to protect them from outside threats.

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November 6 2014

New Clock May End Time As We Know It


Scientists working to create the perfect atomic clock have a fundamental problem: Right now, on the ceiling, time is passing just a bit faster than it is on the floor.

"My own personal opinion is that time is a human construct," says Tom O'Brian. O'Brian has thought a lot about this over the years. He is America's official timekeeper at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.


Related: "Time is Slowly Disappearing from Our Universe" (Or, is It Timeless?)

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November 6 2014

New Experiment Aims to Crack Neutrino Mass Mystery


Neutrinos are everywhere in the universe, but we cannot see them or feel them and can almost never stop them. They stream through our bodies by the trillions every second, flitting through the spaces between our atoms with nary a collision. These ghostly particles were created in abundance during the big bang, and stars like the sun pump out more all the time. Yet for all their plentitude, neutrinos may be the most mysterious particles in the cosmos.

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