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June 12 2014

Can a solar-powered plane fly around the world in 25 days?


The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft relies on solar energy to get around… and its pilots want to take it on a trip around the world.

Weighing over 2,260 kg (5,000 pounds) and with a wingspan of more than 70 metres (240 feet), Solar Impulse 2 made its maiden flight on June 2, 2014. The aircraft flew for two hours and 17 minutes without complications at a speed of 55.6 km/h, and the test pilot was Markus Scherdel.

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June 12 2014

First Commercial Drone Use Approved in US


For the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the use of a commercial drone over land, authorizing it to fly over and inspect the largest oil field in the nation, the agency announced today (June 10).

With a special certificate from the FAA, drone-maker AeroVironment is now allowed to fly an unmanned vehicle over a BP-operated oil field in Alaska's remote Prudhoe Bay, which yields about two-thirds of the oil produced in the state.

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June 12 2014

Nanotube forests drink water from arid air


If you don't want to die of thirst in the desert, be like the beetle. Or have a nanotube cup handy. New research by scientists at Rice University demonstrated that forests of carbon nanotubes can be made to harvest water molecules from arid desert air and store them for future use.

The invention they call a "hygroscopic scaffold" is detailed in a new paper in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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June 12 2014

Tongue Has a Sixth Sense


The human tongue may have a sixth sense—and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with seeing ghosts. Researchers have found that in addition to recognizing sweet, sour, salty, savory, and bitter tastes, our tongues can also pick up on carbohydrates, the nutrients that break down into sugar and form our main source of energy.

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June 12 2014

How the Brain Awakens from Unconsciousness Becomes Clearer


Exactly what happens when people wake up from anesthesia or a coma has long baffled scientists, but now new research on rats suggests the path the brain takes to regain consciousness may be even more sophisticated than thought.

"It is commonly assumed that waking from anesthesia is a simple thing: The drugs leave the brain, and the effects they produced in the brain get washed out, and the brain somehow recovers," said Dr. Alex Proekt, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. "But that 'somehow' part is poorly understood.".

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June 12 2014

People who say 'like' all the time may be deeper thinkers


When you meet someone who trips up their sentences with 'likes' and 'you knows' and 'I means' your might pre-judge them as unintelligent or someone who has difficulty expressing themselves, but in fact the opposite may be true.

The filler word 'like' brings to mind airheaded characters like Cher from Clueless and sentences such as 'And now I, like, shop every day on Rodeo Drive,' but psychologists claim it is in fact an attempt to convey something in a more nuanced way and signals a conscientious person with complex thoughts to express.

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June 12 2014

Music Lessons Combat Poverty's Effect on the Brain


Scientists have observed that reading ability scales with socioeconomic status. Yet music might help close the gap, according to Nina Kraus and her colleagues at Northwestern University.

Kraus's team tested the auditory abilities of teenagers aged 14 or 15, grouped by socioeconomic status (as indexed by their mother's level of education, a commonly used surrogate measure). The researchers recorded the kids' brain waves with EEG as they listened to a repeated syllable against soft background sound and when they heard nothing.

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June 12 2014

Study: Gamers are more educated, more social than the people who make fun of them


Nearly everyone who plays video games has had to fight off the perception that gamers are just loser loners who set up in their parents' basements. But while armchair debaters have long pointed out that just isn't the case -- citing the rise of social gaming, mobile gaming, the fact that the U.S. spent $13.5 billion on gaming in 2013 -- there hasn't been a lot of hard data on hand.

Until now.

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June 12 2014

Cell Phone Exposure can Lead to Infertility in Men, Study


Keeping mobile phones in trouser pockets can significantly affect fertility in men, lowering their chances of becoming a father, according to a University of Exeter study.

Researchers said that 14 percent of couples in high and middle income countries find it difficult to conceive and they believe that mobile phones have a role to play. Previous studies showed that Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by the devices can have a harmful effect on male fertility.

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June 12 2014

Coral, human cells linked in death


Humans and corals are about as different from one another as living creatures get, but a new finding reveals that in one important way, they are more similar than anyone ever realized.

A biologist at San Diego State University has discovered they share the same biomechanical pathway responsible for triggering cellular self-destruction. That might sound scary, but killing off defective cells is essential to keeping an organism healthy.


Related: Marine scientist's quest to save coral

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June 12 2014

Bees can be more important than fertilizer


Insects play a key role in the pollination of cultivated plants, and a new study suggests that they can be even more important than fertilizer. In the study, fertilization and watering only had an effect on harvest yield in combination with pollination manipulations. Results led the scientists to the conclusion that an almond tree can compensate for a lack of nutrients and water in the short term by directing stored nutrients and water to the fruits but cannot compensate for insufficient pollination.

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June 12 2014

Bees Living in Cities Are Building Their Homes with Plastic


Bowerbirds love discarded plastic. The males use colorful pieces to woo mates in an elaborate courtyard outside their nests. New research shows that another animal is putting our plastic waste to good use: two species of city-living bee have started building bits of plastic into their nests.

The bees that J. Scott MacIvor, an ecologist at York University, studies aren't social and don't build hives.

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June 12 2014

Butterflies near salted roads grow larger eyes and muscles


You might be able to cut the salt in your diet, but the wildlife near salted roads doesn't have a choice. It's not all bad, though – salt may boost the brawn of butterflies.

When roads are salted in icy conditions, some of the run-off is taken up by plants. To find out if raised sodium levels in roadside plants might affect animals that feed on them, Emilie Snell-Rood at the University of Minnesota, St Paul, and her colleagues assessed local monarch butterflies, which feed on milkweed plants.

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June 11 2014

GM mosquitoes a ‘quantum leap’ towards tackling malaria


Scientists have hailed the genetic modification of mosquitoes that could crash the insect’s populations as a “quantum leap” that will make a substantial and important contribution to eradicating malaria.

Previous efforts to tackle the disease, that kills more than 1 million people each year – most of whom are African children – have included bed nets to protect people and insecticides to kill the mosquito species most responsible for the transmission of malaria.

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June 11 2014

Research team claims to have accurately 'teleported' quantum information ten feet


A team of researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands is reporting in a paper they have had published in the journal Science, that they have successfully used entanglement as a means of communication, over a distance of ten feet (three meters). Furthermore, they note, they did so with 100 percent reliability and without altering the spin state of the quantum bits (qubits) involved.

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June 11 2014

Hunt for Source of All Matter Continues


The question of why humans, the Earth and the universe exist will have to wait, at least for a little while.

A massive underground particle detector has so far failed to find evidence that mysterious subatomic particles, known as neutrinos, can act as their own antiparticles and annihilate each other.

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June 11 2014

Why haven’t we encountered aliens yet? The answer could be climate change


Enrico Fermi, when asked about intelligent life on other planets, famously replied, “Where are they?” Any civilization advanced enough to undertake interstellar travel would, he argued, in a brief period of cosmic time, populate its entire galaxy. Yet, we haven’t made any contact with such life. This has become the famous "Fermi Paradox.”

Various explanations for why we don’t see aliens have been proposed—perhaps interstellar travel is impossible or maybe civilizations are always self-destructive. But with every new discovery of a potentially habitable planet, the Fermi Paradox becomes increasingly mysterious.

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