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July 26 2014

North Atlantic right whales have a ‘baby boom’


In the past decade, an unexpectedly high number of calves have been born to North Atlantic right whales—a species once projected for extinction.

The baby boom is linked to a climate-induced shift in the oceanic ecosystem, one that has improved the feeding conditions for the whales in the northwest Atlantic and especially the Gulf of Maine during the first decade of the 2000s.

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July 26 2014

Humans share fairness concerns with other species


Humans aren't the only species to react strongly to actions they consider unfair. A similar drive for fairness in monkeys and some dogs may offer insight into people's desire for equity.

Psychologists will talk about how studies of other species help explain how humans came to care so much about fairness and why they invest so strongly in actions that benefit others, rather than just themselves.

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July 26 2014

Moth Eyes Inspire Different Solar Cell


You wouldn’t think that things as mundane as rust or the eyes of a garden-variety moth would have much in common with advances in sustainable energy. But Swiss researchers report that a way to create highly efficient solar panels may involve photocells incorporating light-absorbing qualities of iron oxide within a structure similar to moth eyes.

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July 26 2014

Bats use polarized light to navigate: First mammal known to use polarization to navigate


Scientists have discovered that greater mouse-eared bats use polarisation patterns in the sky to navigate -- the first mammal that's known to do this.

The bats use the way the Sun's light is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps them to fly in the right direction, a study published in Nature Communications has shown.

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July 26 2014

World's Largest Aquatic Insect Reportedly Found In China


Gadzooks! The world's largest aquatic insect has reportedly been found in China. This cute/terrifying little creature, which is definitely worth writing home about, was found in the the mountains of Chengdu in Sichuan province, Scientific American reports. It boasts a wingspan of 8.3 inches. That breaks the previous record held by a species of South American helicopter damselfly, with a wingspan of 7.5 inches.

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July 26 2014

Newly Discovered Virus Lives in Half the World's Population


A virus that lives in the human gut has just been discovered, and to the surprise of scientists, it can be found in about half the world's population, according to a new study.

While it's not yet clear exactly what the virus does, scientists are eager to find out whether it promotes health or influences susceptibility to certain conditions, said Robert Edwards, a bioinformatics professor at San Diego State University and one of the researchers who worked on the study.

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July 26 2014

Is Your Life Story Written in Your Poop?


Doing things such as travelling to another country or contracting a disease could change the makeup of the bacteria community living in the gut. But how much of a person's life story could be told by tracking such bacterial changes?

In a new experiment, researchers studied gut and saliva bacteria in two people over a year, to investigate how microbial communities in people's bodies, called their microbiota, changed over time.

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July 26 2014

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate


For the first time, researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water that is left to dry, bacteria manipulate the sodium chloride crystallization to create biomineralogical biosaline 3-D morphologically complex formations, where they hibernate.

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July 26 2014

Therapeutic bacteria prevent obesity in mice, study finds


A probiotic that prevents obesity could be on the horizon. Bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance and other adverse effects of a high-fat diet in mice, investigators have discovered. Regulatory issues must be addressed before moving to human studies, but the findings suggest that it may be possible to manipulate the bacterial residents of the gut to treat obesity and other chronic diseases.

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July 26 2014

Bug ‘tunnels’ suggest quick rebound after asteroid


Leaf-mining insects disappeared from the western United States after the late-Cretaceous asteroid impact that also triggered the extinction of dinosaurs.

Only a million years later, at Mexican Hat, in southeastern Montana, fossil leaves show diverse leaf-mining traces from new insects that were not present during the Cretaceous, according to paleontologists.

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July 26 2014

Bloodsuckers fed on dinosaurs 130 million years ago


Blood-sucking insects may have been around for a lot longer than we thought. Newly discovered fossils show that bugs have been feeding on blood since the height of the dinosaur era. One of the fossilised bugs found seems to have died just after feasting on blood.

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July 25 2014

'Fluffy and feathery' dinosaurs were widespread


All dinosaurs were covered with feathers or had the potential to grow feathers, a study suggests.

The discovery of 150-million-year-old fossils in Siberia indicates that feathers were much more widespread among dinosaurs than previously thought.


Related: Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

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July 25 2014

Earlier Stone Age artifacts found in Northern Cape of South Africa


Excavations at an archaeological site at Kathu in the Northern Cape province of South Africa have produced tens of thousands of Earlier Stone Age artifacts, including hand axes and other tools. These discoveries were made by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and the University of Toronto (U of T), in collaboration with the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa.

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July 25 2014

'Extreme solar storm' could have pulled the plug on Earth


The date of 23 July 2012 could have been the day the lights went out, along with suddenly not-so-smart phones, computers, satellite transmissions, GPS navigation systems, televisions, radio broadcasts, hospital equipment, electric pumps and water supplies.

On that day an "extreme solar storm" did its best to end life on Earth as we know it.

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July 25 2014

Space Junk Is Becoming a Serious Security Threat


Space debris is a serious problem, particularly in the heavily used Low Earth Orbits (LEO). As of 2013, NASA estimated a population of 500,000 pieces of space debris (between 1 and 10 cm in diameter); some 21,000 pieces of which are larger than 10 cm. Unfortunately, NASA estimates that there are more than 100 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm that cannot be seen.

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July 25 2014

Our Alien DNA


A paper published last year in Icarus, the prestigious journal of planetary science, asked if it was possible that terrestrial life on Earth had been 'seeded' from beyond the Earth - and if so, does the building block of that life, DNA, contain any sort of message from our alien creators. Using mathematics, the authors of the paper - "The "Wow! signal" of the terrestrial genetic code" - looked for evidence of a statistically strong 'informational' signal in the genetic code, with surprising results.

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July 25 2014

Less than 10% of human DNA has functional role, claim scientists


More than 90% of human DNA is doing nothing very useful, and large stretches may be no more than biological baggage that has built up over years of evolution, Oxford researchers claim.

The scientists arrived at the figure after comparing the human genome with the genetic makeup of other mammals, ranging from dogs and mice to rhinos and horses.

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