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September 8 2014

Talking to Strangers Makes You Happy


Consider the times you’ve hopped on a subway, boarded a plane or entered a waiting room. Chances are, you probably avoided engaging with any fellow commuters or patients. But contrary to what we might think, we’d be happier if we did strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

In a study, commuters in Chicago were asked to either talk with a stranger on a train, or sit quietly alone, or just do whatever they’d normally do on their commute.

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September 8 2014

Study: Marijuana could be effective in treating PTSD


Marijuana may be effective in preventing post-traumatic stress symptoms, according to new research on rats conducted at Haifa University's Department of Psychology.

“The findings of our study suggest that the connectivity within the brain’s fear circuit changes following trauma, and the administration of cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) prevents this change from happening," the researchers said in a press release.

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September 8 2014

Father’s smoking prior to conception could increase asthma risk for baby


A baby has a greater risk of asthma if his or her father smoked prior to conception.

The research, presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich today (08 September 2014), is the first study in humans to analyse the link between a father’s smoking habits before conception and a child’s asthma. The findings add to growing evidence from animal studies which suggest that the father’s exposures before parenthood can harm his child.

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September 7 2014

Has Jack the Ripper's identity really been revealed using DNA evidence?


An amateur sleuth with a book to sell and a scientist working in his spare time claimed to have solved one of the biggest murder mysteries in history by naming Jack the Ripper as a Polish immigrant in the 19th Century after discovering what they said was conclusive DNA evidence.

Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew whose family had emigrated to London to escape pogroms, is “definitely, categorically and absolutely” the man behind the grisly series of murders in 1888 that left at least five women dead and mutilated in the streets of London’s East End, said Russell Edwards, the author of the latest in a long-line of speculative books on the affair.

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September 7 2014

Giant Geysers on Jupiter's Icy Moon Europa Mysteriously Disappear


The huge plumes of water vapor erupting from Jupiter's ice-covered moon Europa seem to have vanished, and scientists aren't sure why.

In December 2013, researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope announced that they had spotted evidence of geysers blasting into space from Europa's south polar region. The discovery sparked a great deal of excitement among space scientists, as it suggested that a robotic flyby probe might be able to sample Europa's subsurface ocean of liquid water without even touching down.

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September 7 2014

Mother of Higgs boson found in superconductors


A weird theoretical cousin of the Higgs boson, one that inspired the decades-long hunt for the elusive particle, has been properly observed for the first time. The discovery bookends one of the most exciting eras in modern physics.

But the idea was actually borrowed from the behaviour of photons in superconductors, metals that, when cooled to very low temperatures, allow electrons to move without resistance.

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September 7 2014

New Quantum Particle Calculations Make Waves in Field


Quantum computing, secure wireless communication and advances in quantum teleportation could be closer to reality now that a team of researchers has developed a more efficient way of measuring wave functions that describe the strange behavior of these subatomic particles.

In the realm of the very small, a field called quantum mechanics, particles can exist in multiple places at once, a phenomenon called superposition. To describe the huge numbers of positions and velocities a particle can have at any given moment, physicists use wave functions, which are essentially probability equations.

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September 7 2014

Could Deep-Brain Stimulation Fortify Soldiers’ Minds?


In 2010, at least 22 veterans committed suicide each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In her book, Demon Camp, the author Jen Percy describes damaged veterans who have even resorted to exorcism to alleviate their PTSD symptoms.

About 100,000 people around the world today have a DBS implant to ameliorate the effects of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and major depression. There is evidence that DBS can also help with PTSD. DARPA wants to develop the next-generation, deep brain stimulators (call them DBS+) that do not require user input.

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September 7 2014

Body upgrades may be nearing reality, but only for the rich


Homo sapiens were not always so special. In the ancient past, other human forms lived beside us. The Neanderthals in Eurasia. Small, hobbit-like humans in Indonesia. The mysterious Denisovans in the Ural mountains.

But our time alone may be nearing its end. Through the power of technology, humans are set to take on the role of Intelligent Designer. We can upgrade ourselves and surmount evolution. Ultimately, we can become entirely new beings that set the stage for a posthuman future.

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September 7 2014

What is keeping your kids up at night? Turning off electronics helps everyone sleep better


Sleep, or lack thereof, and technology often go hand in hand when it comes to school-aged kids. Nearly three out of four children (72%) between the ages of 6 and 17 have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms while sleeping, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey. Children who leave those electronic devices on at night sleep less -— up to one hour less on average per night.

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September 7 2014

Breast vs. bottle feeding in rhesus monkeys: Marked differences


Infant rhesus monkeys receiving different diets early in life develop distinct immune systems that persist months after weaning, a study has shown. While the researchers expected different diets would promote different intestinal bacteria (microbiota), they were surprised at how dramatically these microbes shaped immunologic development. Specifically, breast-fed macaques had more "memory" T cells and T helper 17 (TH17) cells, which are known to fight Salmonella and other pathogens.

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September 7 2014

Desert Plant Derives Up To 90% Of Water-Intake From Gypsum Rock


Plant physiologists have discovered that the shallow rooted plant Helianthemum squamatum, derives up to 90% of its fluid requirements from crystallization water trapped in gypsum rock. The finding represents a completely new kind of water source for life.

The team of researchers, led by primary author Dr. Sara Palacio of the Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología in Spain, and senior author Dr. Juan Pedro Ferrio of the University of Lleida exploited differences in gypsum water and free soil water. The two kinds of water differ in their amounts of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes.

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September 7 2014

Did The Giant Sloth Die Out Less Than 150 Years Ago?


The giant sloth, or mylodon, was once thought to to have gone extinct long before humans arrived in South America. Some people now think that it may have been alive in the 1800s. You decide.

It started with archaeological evidence of a giant sloth that died from being roasted alive in a pit — either the work of humans or very smart and envious smaller sloths. Then there was a dig that turned up two human skeletons, and the partial remains of the giant sloth they'd been eating.

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September 7 2014

Are 75pc of Australia's living species unknown?


Australia may be known for its unique plants and animals, but how many do we actually know about?

Jo Harding is the manager of Bush Blitz, a program supported by federal and state government agencies and research institutions, which documents plants and animals around Australia, leading to the discovery of hundreds of new species.


Related: Dendrogramma: Two Unclassifiable Deep-Sea Animals Discovered off Australia

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September 7 2014

Life forms appeared at least 60 million years earlier than previously thought


Geologists in Ireland have rewritten the evolutionary history books by finding that oxygen-producing life forms were present on Earth some 3 billion years ago -- a full 60 million years earlier than previously thought. These life forms were responsible for adding oxygen to our atmosphere, which laid the foundations for more complex life to evolve and proliferate.

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September 7 2014

Artificial cells take their first steps: Movable cytoskeleton membrane fabricated for first time


Using only a few ingredients, the biophysicist Prof. Andreas Bausch and his team at the Technische Universität München (TUM) have successfully implemented a minimalistic model of the cell that can change its shape and move on its own. They describe how they turned this goal into reality in the current edition of the journal Science, where their research is featured as cover story.

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September 7 2014

Plastic Microparticles Found In Beers


Beer lovers: there may be more to your brew than dazzling citrus overtones or a subtle chocolatey aroma.

The authors of a new study went to a local supermarket in Germany and picked up 24 brands of beer, including the 10 most popular in the country. In the lab, they found plastic particles and other debris in everything they tested. The study was part of a larger investigation of plastic microfibres that are turning up all over the natural world as larger plastics break down. (In June, Illinois became the first state to ban plastic beads in cosmetics, which are thought to be one source of the pollution.)

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