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December 2 2014

Human Ancestors Were Consuming Alcohol 10 Million Years Ago


The holidays are packed with opportunities to raise a glass of our favorite boozy beverages and toast family, friends and good fortunes. But our ability to digest rum-spiked eggnog may be due to a massive climate shift that occurred millions of years ago.

Using the tools of paleogenetics, scientists have recently traced the evolutionary history of an enzyme that helps us metabolize ethanol, the principal type of alcohol found in adult beverages.


Alt: Ability to consume alcohol may have shaped primate evolution

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December 2 2014

Found: An Insect-Eating Plant Sealed In Amber


Thirty-five million to 47 million years ago, a carnivorous plant lived in what's now Russia. The dinosaurs were long gone, but various groups of mammals were still just evolving. The plant paid most of its attention, however, to smaller animals. Its leaves sported tentacley hairs that exuded a sticky fluid, designed to trap insects.

Then, one unlucky day, two of the plant's leaves got glopped in the sticky fluid of another plant—a tree, whose sap both killed the leaves and preserved them for human scientists to find. Now, these amber-encased leaves are science's first examples of preserved carnivorous plant traps.

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December 2 2014

American Mastodons Made Warm Arctic, Subarctic Temporary Home 125,000 Years Ago


New findings published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences byan international team of researchers, including Museum Curator Ross MacPhee, are revising estimates of the age of American mastodon fossils—and helping to resolve a quandary about how these extinct relatives of elephants once lived in the Arctic and Subarctic.

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December 2 2014

Scans map the brain as people read ‘Harry Potter’


Scientists have used a chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to identify what different regions of the brain are doing while people read.

Researchers from the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans on eight people as they read a chapter of the Harry Potter book.

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December 2 2014

Sound Waves Can Heal Brain Disorders


The brain is protected by formidable defenses. In addition to the skull, the cells that make up the blood-brain barrier keep pathogens and toxic substances from reaching the central nervous system. The protection is a boon, except when we need to deliver drugs to treat illnesses. Now researchers are testing a way to penetrate these bastions: sound waves.


Related: Tongue Shocks Hasten Healing

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December 2 2014

Haptic holograms let you touch the void in VR


Feeling is believing. A system that uses sound waves to project "haptic holograms" into mid-air – letting you touch 3D virtual objects with your bare hands – is poised to bring virtual reality into the physical world.

Adding a sense of touch as well as sight and sound will make it easier to completely immerse yourself in VR. And the ability to feel the shape of virtual objects could let doctors use their hands to examine a lump detected by a CT scan, for example. What's more, museum visitors could handle virtual replicas of priceless exhibits while the real thing remained safely behind glass.

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December 2 2014

Ambulance drone can help heart attack victims in under 2 minutes


Drones get a bad rap from the FAA but there’s growing evidence that more unmanned aircraft in the sky would do more good than harm. We’ve already seen how drones can save the day in search-and-rescue situations, and now a Dutch student is showing people how the devices, which can weigh under 5 pounds, could be a game-changer in medical emergencies.

Alex Momont, an engineer at the Technical University of Delft, has created an airborne defibrillator-delivery system that can reach anyone with a five-square-mile area in less than minutes.

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December 2 2014

Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind


Stephen Hawking: "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded"

Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence.

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December 2 2014

Photons double up to make the invisible visible


People have infrared vision — and it could be the result of pairs of photons combining their energies to appear as one 'visible' photon.

Although we do not have X-ray vision like Superman, we have what could seem to be another superpower: we can see infrared light — beyond what was traditionally considered the visible spectrum. A series of experiments now suggests that this little-known, puzzling effect could occur when pairs of infrared photons simultaneously hit the same pigment protein in the eye, providing enough energy to set in motion chemical changes that allow us to see the light.

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December 2 2014

Engineers make sound loud enough to bend light on a computer chip


During a thunderstorm, we all know that it is common to hear thunder after we see the lightning. That's because sound travels much slower (768 miles per hour) than light (670,000,000 miles per hour).

Now, University of Minnesota engineering researchers have developed a chip on which both sound wave and light wave are generated and confined together so that the sound can very efficiently control the light. The novel device platform could improve wireless communications systems using optical fibers and ultimately be used for computation using quantum physics.

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December 2 2014

New Twist Found in the Story of Life’s Start


All life on Earth is made of molecules that twist in the same direction. New research reveals that this may not always have been so.

For 30 years, Gerald Joyce has been trying to create life. As a graduate student in the 1980s, he studied how the first RNA molecules — chemical cousins to DNA that can both store and transmit genetic information — might have assembled themselves out of simpler units, a process that many scientists believe led to the first living things.

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December 2 2014

Scientists hail the most 'advanced anti-ageing serum' in the world


New research suggests skincare tailored to individuals' DNA may be the best way to combat the appearance of ageing

Those who believe that beauty is only skin deep may need to think again.

A most advanced anti-ageing serum ever created is going far deeper in the pursuit of the ultimate skincare regime, right into our DNA.

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December 2 2014

Synthetic enzymes hint at life without DNA or RNA


Enzymes that don't exist in nature have been made from genetic material that doesn't exist in nature either, called XNA, or xeno nucleic acid.

It's the first time this has been done and the results reinforce the possibility that life could evolve without DNA or RNA, the two self-replicating molecules considered indispensible for life on Earth.


Alt: Scientists make enzymes from scratch

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December 2 2014

HIV evolving 'into milder form'


HIV is evolving to become less deadly and less infectious, according to a major scientific study.

The team at the University of Oxford shows the virus is being "watered down" as it adapts to our immune systems.

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December 2 2014

Natural 'high' could avoid chronic marijuana use


Replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain could relieve mood and anxiety disorders and enable some people to quit using marijuana, a Vanderbilt University study suggests.

Cannabinoid receptors are normally activated by compounds in the brain called endocannabinoids, the most abundant of which is 2-AG. They also are "turned on" by the active ingredient in marijuana.

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December 2 2014

Nature makes all articles free to view


All research papers from Nature will be made free to read in a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed or downloaded, the journal’s publisher Macmillan announced on 2 December.

The content-sharing policy, which also applies to 48 other journals in Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group (NPG) division, including Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine and Nature Physics, marks an attempt to let scientists freely read and share articles while preserving NPG’s primary source of income — the subscription fees libraries and individuals pay to gain access to articles.

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December 1 2014

Search for the world's first zero leads to the home of Angkor Wat


The first recorded zero has been rediscovered on a stone tablet deep in the Cambodian jungle - a single dot chiseled into stone, hidden decades ago from the grasp of the Khmer Rouge. This is one of the only photos in existence of the priceless find.

US-based mathematician, Amir Aczel, made it his life’s work to find the world’s first zero. Having already discovered the first magic square inscribed on the doorway of a 10th-century Indian temple, this ‘mathematical archaeologist’ had come to know of K-127 - a stone stele first documented in 1931 that clearly held the inscription “605”. Dated to AD 683, it’s the oldest known representation of zero - a numeral that Aczel describes as the most significant of them all.

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