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December 12 2014

Radiation Belts Shield Earth From High-Energy Particles


The pair of radiation belts surrounding Earth stop high-energy particles in their tracks, a new study reveals.

Data gathered by NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes, which launched in August 2012, show that the donut-shaped Van Allen belts present a nearly impenetrable barrier to high-energy electrons, keeping them from hitting Earth.


Related: NASA 'Admitted To Apollo Hoax' In Orion Video, Say Obviously Mistaken Conspiracy Theorists

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December 12 2014

Cosmic Mystery Solved? Possible Dark Matter Signal Spotted


Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe.


Alt: Researchers detect possible signal from dark matter

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December 11 2014

Mystery of where Earth's water came from deepens: Comet water is different


The mystery of where Earth's water came from got murkier Wednesday when some astronomers essentially eliminated one of the chief suspects: comets.

Over the past few months, the European Space Agency's Rosetta space probe closely examined the type of comet that some scientists theorized could have brought water to our planet 4 billion years ago. It found water, but the wrong kind.


Alt: Rosetta discovers water on comet 67p like nothing on Earth

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December 11 2014

Massive merger: Two giant blue stars are about to meld


The brightest object in a nearby star cluster, thought for decades to be a single star, is actually two massive stars in the process of merging. The pair lies about 13,000 light-years from Earth in the minor Northern Hemisphere constellation of the Giraffe. Astronomers have long known the object as MY Camelopardalis.

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December 11 2014

Lunar Mission One: A chance to bury your DNA on the dark side of the Moon


A proposed mission to the Moon led by British scientists – largely funded by donations from the public – could pave the way for the construction of a lunar observatory, organisers have claimed.

If successful, it will involve the first exploration of the Moon’s south pole, the site of the deepest impact crater in the solar system.

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December 11 2014

New 'high-entropy' alloy is as light as aluminum, as strong as titanium alloys


Researchers from North Carolina State University and Qatar University have developed a new "high-entropy" metal alloy that has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any other existing metal material.

High-entropy alloys are materials that consist of five or more metals in approximately equal amounts. These alloys are currently the focus of significant attention in materials science and engineering because they can have desirable properties.

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December 11 2014

Halving of malaria deaths 'tremendous achievement'


Global efforts have halved the number of people dying from malaria - a tremendous achievement, the World Health Organization says.

It says between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million deaths were averted, 3.9 million of which were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.


Related: Promising compound rapidly eliminates malaria parasite

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December 11 2014

Nature's Dark Side: Symbiotic Relationships Can Produce Vampire Birds


Have you seen those birds that climb around the rhinos, picking away parasites, and thought, "Ah, nature can provide inspirational stories of peaceful cooperation"? Get ready to have your illusions shattered. Those birds are on their way to being vampires.

The creation of a vampire starts innocuously. A bird notices a tasty-looking bug on a large animal, and down it goes to eat the bug. Over time, the animal adjusts to the bird's diet, and ignores the bird's light pecks and tweaks at its body.

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December 11 2014

Researchers document aviary eggshell with iridescence for the first time


A team of researchers with members from New Zealand, Czech Republic and the U.S. has documented for the first time an example of an aviary egg that has iridescence. In their paper published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the team describes their study of eggs laid by great tinamou, which revealed the nature of the egg coloring.

In investigating the eggs, the researchers found that they were iridescent—they look to be different colors depending on the angle they are viewed from—a first for an avian eggshell.

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December 11 2014

Mystery Solved? How Butterflies Came to Look Like Dead Leaves


The secret of how butterflies came to look like leaves may have been revealed—fittingly, by an insect that gave wings to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The question of how the closed wings of dead leaf (or oakleaf) butterflies from the Kallima genus came to perfectly resemble brown leaves—from their veins down to tiny fungus spots—has been hotly debated.

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December 11 2014

Fate of ocean plastic remains a mystery


More than 5 trillion plastic pieces, with a combined mass of more than 250,000 tonnes, are floating in the ocean, researchers reported on 10 December in PLoS ONE.

On its face, the estimate is shockingly high — but it is still much lower than expected, amounting to less than 1% of the annual global production of plastic, says study co-author Hank Carson, a marine biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia.

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December 11 2014

How Did Moses Part the Red Sea?


The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians.

In the biblical account, the children of Israel were camped on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez when the dust clouds raised by Pharaoh’s chariots were seen in the distance.


Alt: How the Red Sea really parted? Moses used knowledge of tides to ensure a safe crossing for the Israelites - instead of waiting for a miracle, expert claims.

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December 11 2014

Mongol-smashing Kamikaze typhoons may have been genuine


Near the end of the 13th century, the emperor Kublai Khan and his Mongol Empire were gearing up to invade Japan. They had more boats, more men, and had already conquered a large part of China; but according to Japanese legend, massive typhoons powered by the divine Kamikaze winds smashed the Mongolian fleet in 1274 and again in 1281.


Alt: “Kamikaze” Typhoons Reflected in Japanese Lake Sediments

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December 11 2014

Drugs in Early Americas Included 'Magic' Mushrooms and Toad Skins


From hallucinogenic mushrooms and cacti to alcohol-infused enemas and psychoactive dried toad skins, the array of consciousness-altering substances that people in the early Americas used was wider than thought, a new report suggests.

People living in Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans used such psychotropic drugs primarily in medicine and religious rituals, said study author Francisco Javier Carod-Artal of Hospital Virgen de la Luz in Cuenca, Spain. (Mesoamerica is a region defined more by shared cultures than by geographical boundaries, but it can roughly be considered as the southernmost region of North America.

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December 11 2014

Bunny-Size Dinosaur Was First of Its Kind in America


A tiny horned skull discovered 17 years ago has now been named Aquilops americanus, and marks the earliest arrival of horned dinosaurs in North America.

The fossil skull is the oldest definitive evidence of a ceratopsian, the group of horned dinosaurs that includes Triceratops, on the continent. Paleontologists describe the dinosaur Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

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December 11 2014

Feathered Fossils Give Scaly Dinosaurs a Makeover


Which came first, the feathers or the birds? Feathers first, scientists now say definitively. Yet this feathery revelation doesn't arise from discoveries of ancient birds, but of birds' ancestors—dinosaurs.

At a recent Berlin conference, scientists celebrated continuing revelations from the most famous feathered dinosaur, Archaeopteryx, in the city where the most complete specimen resides. Long considered the "first bird," it lived 150 million years ago and sparked the notion that birds are the living remnants of the dinosaur line, intriguing even Darwin.

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December 11 2014

Dappled Horse Paintings Decoded by DNA


Genetic material from the bones and teeth of wild horses, some of which died more than 20,000 years ago, has answered a longstanding debate about some Paleolithic cave artists: Were these ancient painters realists, depicting the natural world they saw around them, or did they portray more imaginative representations?

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