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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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September 7 2014

California to be first US state to ban plastic bags


California governor Jerry Brown said he will approve a ban on single-use plastic bags, in what would make the western US state the first to outlaw them.

Lawmakers passed the bill late last Friday, and it now only requires Brown's signature to pass into law. The governor must do so before the end of September.

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September 7 2014

Is this the end of the war on trees? UN members pledge to restore woodland and safeguard rainforests


Since the birth of agriculture thousands of years ago, humans have cut down the world's forests to grow food and expand their population.

But now experts believe the end of our "war on trees" is in sight amid what some are calling a new "green revolution" – finally breaking the causal link between growing numbers of people and falling numbers of trees.

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September 6 2014

99 percent of Sweden’s waste is now reused


Sweden is so efficient at managing waste they’re now importing garbage from other European countries.

Swedes generally waste as much as people in other countries, around 461 kilograms per person each year - but only one percent of that is ending up in landfill, thanks to the country’s innovative “recycling” program.

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September 6 2014

California blue whales bounce back to near historic numbers


Researchers believe that California blue whales have recovered in numbers and the population has returned to sustainable levels.

Scientists say this is the only population of blue whales to have rebounded from the ravages of whaling.

The research team estimate that there are now 2,200 of these giant creatures on the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean.

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September 6 2014

Bill Gates's epic project transforms farming in Africa


"IT'S like having a new life," says Lucy Banda, a farmer in Mwambaso village in western Malawi. Over the past three years she has trebled her farm's output and increased her income 15-fold (see "A life transformed").

Banda is one of 1.75 million African smallholder farmers, 40 per cent of them women, enrolled in a $180-million five-year programme run by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. AGRA was set up in 2006 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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September 6 2014

Long-lost satellite data reveal new insights to climate change


Once stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA’s first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth’s clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009.

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September 6 2014

How Do You Land on a Comet? Very Carefully.


ESA has announced that on September 15, the team from the Rosetta mission will reveal the landing site for the Philae lander. After traveling on a 10-year, 6.4 billion kilometer journey, Rosetta has been gently captured by comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, an oddly-shaped and mysterious two-lobed comet. Yet, how will the small Philea attempt the landing?


Related: Rosetta mission: Potential comet landing sites chosen.

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September 6 2014

Newfound Asteroid Will Give Earth Super-Close Shave on Sunday


Earth is about to have a close encounter with a house-sized asteroid on Sunday (Sept. 7), when a space rock discovered just days ago will zoom by our planet at a range closer than some satellites. But have no fear, NASA says the asteroid won't hit Earth.

The asteroid 2014 RC will safely buzz Earth at 2:18 p.m. EDT (1818 GMT) on Sunday. At that time, the asteroid will pass over New Zealand and fly just inside the orbits of the geosynchronous communications and weather satellites orbiting Earth about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the planet's surface, according to a NASA statement.

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September 6 2014

Memory Problems On Mars Will Force Opportunity Rover Reformat From Earth


NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been roaming Mars for more than 10 Earth years, requires a flash memory reformat to keep doing science on the Red Planet, the agency wrote in an update Aug. 29 along with its intentions for making that possible quickly.

“Flash-memory induced resets have increased in occurrence, preventing meaningful science until this problem can be corrected,” NASA said on the Opportunity website. “The project is developing plans to reformat the flash file system to correct the problem."

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September 6 2014

Atom-Sized Construction Could Shrink Future Gadgets


The U.S. military doesn't just build big, scary tanks and giant warplanes; it's also interested in teeny, tiny stuff. The Pentagon's latest research project aims to improve today's technologies by shrinking them down to microscopic size.

The recently launched Atoms to Product (A2P) program aims to develop atom-size materials to build state-of-the-art military and consumer products.

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