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December 27 2014

Biggest Cloud-Seeding Experiment Yet Only Sparks More Debate


Meteorologists first conceived of seeding clouds as a way to increase rainfall in 1946, working at General Electric's laboratories in Schenectady, New York. But in the nearly 60 years since then, it has remained unclear whether human attempts to make it snow actually work.

Now, the results of the most scientific study of cloud seeding done yet are in. Researchers found that seeding clouds with droplets of silver iodide does slightly increase precipitation, boosting levels by 5 to 15 percent. However, experts disagree about whether this small increase means cloud-seeding efforts should expand.

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December 27 2014

Archaeologists Have Dig Licenses Revoked After "Million Mummies" Claim


A team of archaeologists from Brigham Young University in Utah have had their excavation license revoked by the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry after claiming to have discovered "one million mummies."

Last week, BYU team leader Kerry Muhlestein announced the discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of many ordinary citizens located at the Fag el-Gamous cemetery southwest of Cairo. The team unearthed a densely populated cemetery in which 40 individual burials could be found within a 16.4 x 16.4 feet (5 x 5 meter) area and 6.5 feet (2 meters) deep.

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December 27 2014

Megalodon Molar Discovered in Santa Cruz Mountains


The Santa Cruz Mountains seem like an unlikely spot to stumble upon a 10 million year old tooth from a 60-foot shark that lived during the Cenozoic Era ... but that's exactly what happened to scientist Giancarlo Thomae this week.

"I was ecstatic when I found it," Thomae — who works for a whale watching company and has been a fossil hunter for 20 years — told the New York Daily News.

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December 27 2014

Modern genetics confirm ancient relationship between fins and hands


Efforts to connect the evolutionary transition from fish fins to wrist and fingers with the genetic machinery for this adaptation have fallen short because they focused on the wrong fish. Now, researchers describe the genetic machinery for autopod assembly in a non-model fish, the spotted gar.

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December 27 2014

Surprisingly smart crows ace card game


Crows can remember faces and use tools. Now new research shows they also have the brain power to spontaneously solve higher-order matching tasks—without being trained to do so.

That means crows join humans, apes, and monkeys in exhibiting advanced relational thinking.

“What the crows have done is a phenomenal feat,” says Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa and corresponding author of the study.

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December 27 2014

The ants that conquered the world


About one tenth of the world's ants are close relatives; they all belong to just one genus out of 323, called Pheidole. New research suggests that Pheidole evolved the same way twice, once to take over the New World, and then again to take over the Old World.

"If you go into any tropical forest and take a stroll, you will step on one of these ants," says Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University's Professor Evan Economo.

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December 27 2014

Putting bedbugs to bed forever


A team of scientists has found a way to conquer the global bedbug epidemic. By lending their own arms for thousands of bed bug bites, they have finally found the solution -- a set of chemical attractants, or pheromones, that lure the bedbugs into traps, and keep them there.

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December 27 2014

How guilt can hold back good employees


People with a tendency to feel guilty for disappointing their coworkers are among the most ethical and hard-working people to work with. However, these highly guilt-prone people may be the most reticent to enter into partnerships.

By understanding this phenomenon, managers can make the best decisions about team-building and increase productivity.

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December 27 2014

The Khoisan Once Were Kings Of The Planet. What Happened?


Some 22,000 years ago, they were the largest group of humans on earth: the Khoisan, a tribe of hunter-gatherers in southern Africa.

Today, only about 100,000 Khoisan, who are also known as Bushmen, remain. Stephan C. Schuster, professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has published new research about the tribe, many of whom now live in poverty, their cultural traditions endangered.

How did it happen that a group that was once in the majority is now so small?

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December 27 2014

Teams Turn to a Face Reader, Looking for That Winning Smile


When two financiers purchased the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million last April, they promised to pour not only money and new management into the moribund franchise, but also the same kind of creative and critical thinking that had helped make them hedge fund billionaires.

It was not enough to increase the franchise’s sales force or beef up the team’s analytics department — the Bucks were looking for a more elusive edge. So in May, the team hired Dan Hill, a facial coding expert who reads the faces of college prospects and N.B.A. players to determine if they have the right emotional attributes to help the Bucks.

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December 27 2014

Puberty Is Beginning Earlier in Girls, So What Can Parents Do?


Acne, awkwardness, body odor—puberty can be a tough time. But things get even more complicated when puberty starts at an exceptionally young age, and today many girls are beginning the process younger than ever before.

Puberty begins well before a girl's first menstruation, usually starting when hormone secretion from the brain's pituitary gland spurs the development of breasts and the growth of pubic hair. A few decades ago, doctors were taught that less than 5 percent of girls should be showing such signs of puberty, particularly breast development, before age 8.

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December 27 2014

Our brains are being “continuously reshaped” by smartphone use


Extensive use of smartphone touch screens is changing the sensory relationship between our brains and our thumbs, a study published in Current Biology has revealed.

The plasticity of the human brain and how it adapts to repetitive gestures has been tested in multiple contexts previously, including in musicians and gamers, but neuroscientists from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich believe smartphones provide a unique opportunity to understand how everyday life can shape the human brain on a huge scale.

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December 27 2014

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study


Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

The revelations come a week after a young researcher at the centre of the scandal, which has rocked the country's scientific establishment, said she would resign after failing to reproduce the successful conversion of an adult cell into a stem cell-like state, known as "STAP" cells.

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December 27 2014

Study Sheds Light on What Causes Cells to Divide


When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ever larger?

A novel study published online today in the journal Current Biology has finally provided an answer to this long unsolved conundrum. And it’s not what many biologists expected.

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December 27 2014

Half-male, half-female bird has a rough life


This bird might look like a holiday ornament, but it is actually a rare half-female, half-male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, pictured with female plumage on the left and male plumage on the right) spotted a few years ago in Rock Island, Illinois. Researchers have long known such split-sex “gynandromorphs” exist in insects, crustaceans, and birds.

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December 26 2014

Skin cells can help IVF couples have children of their own


Infertile couples who cannot produce their own sex cells may finally be able to have children through IVF after scientists achieved a key breakthrough in making sperm and eggs from skin cells.

For the first time, researchers have converted human skin cells in a laboratory into the “primordial germ cells” normally found within the testes and ovaries, which develop into mature sperm and eggs. It is the first and most crucial stage in making male and female sex cells in a test tube.

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December 26 2014

Fly Swarms Reveal Something Profound About the Human Brain


We think of our brains as single, unified organs. But a new set of experiments with flies reveals that certain brain cells in these insects respond exclusively to crowd behavior. And that leads to an interesting question: Did cells in the animal brain evolve to think using something akin to the wisdom of fly swarms?

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