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August 10 2014

The black hole at the birth of the Universe


Our universe may have emerged from a black hole in a higher-dimensional universe, propose a trio of Perimeter Institute researchers.

The big bang poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it?

Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang.

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August 10 2014

Speed of a Planet's Rotation Has Huge Effect on Possibility of Life


“Rotation can have a huge effect, and lots of planets that we previously thought were definitely not habitable now can be considered as candidates,” says Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago. New research has revealed that the rate at which a planet spins is instrumental in its ability to support life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, it can also tug on the winds that blow through the atmosphere and ultimately influence cloud formation.

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August 10 2014

‘Magnetic microhairs’ make water run uphill


Inspired by small hairs known as cilia that shift back and forth in the human nose to filter out debris and dust, researchers from MIT have created a flexible material that uses thousands of ‘microhairs’ to shed raindrops, even making water flow up vertical walls.

Each of the nickel microhairs is about one-fourth the diameter of a human hair and can be controlled en masse by an external magnetic field.

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August 10 2014

Computer Games Better Than Medication in Treating Elderly Depression


Computer games could help in treating older people with depression who haven't been helped by antidepressant drugs or other treatments for the disorder, researchers say.

In a study of 11 older patients, researchers found playing certain computer games was just as effective at reducing symptoms of depression as the "gold standard" antidepressant drug escitalopram. Moreover, those patients playing the computer games achieved results in just four weeks, compared to the 12 weeks it often takes with escitalopram (also known by its brand name, Lexapro).

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August 10 2014

Like cling wrap, new biomaterial can coat tricky burn wounds and block out infection


Wrapping wound dressings around fingers and toes can be tricky, but for burn victims, guarding them against infection is critical. Today, scientists are reporting the development of novel, ultrathin coatings called nanosheets that can cling to the body's most difficult-to-protect contours and keep bacteria at bay.

The researchers are speaking about their materials, which they've tested on mice, at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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August 10 2014

Secrets of the Water Bear, the Only Animal That Can Survive in Space


Tardigrades are a class of microscopic animals with eight limbs and a strange, alien-like behavior. William Miller, a leading tardigrade researcher at Baker University, says these creatures are remarkably abundant. Hundreds of species "are found across the seven continents; everywhere from the highest mountain to the lowest sea," he says. "Many species of tardigrades live in water, but on land, you find them almost everywhere there’s moss or lichen." In 2007, scientists discovered that these microscopic critters can survive an extended stay in the cold, irradiated vacuum of outer space.

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August 10 2014

Your Belly is Crawling with Undiscovered Viruses


The average human body contains 2 to 5 pounds of bacteria. And if your first thought is “that’s an awful lot of perfectly good protein going to waste,” you’ll be relieved to hear that a large class of bacteria-eating viruses—called bacteriophages—agree with you, and a vast number of them (all but a few unknown to science) are chowing down on your body’s crunchy, delicious bacterial flora as we speak.

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August 10 2014

Monkeys Recognize Family, Even if Separated at Birth


Macaque monkeys grow up with their mothers and are often not familiar with their fathers. But they can recognise the paternal side of the family even without ever being introduced to them, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology. The researchers suggest that just looking at another monkey is enough to know whether they are related.

“There is some evidence that non-human primates can recognise facial resemblances between two other individuals, just like us,” Dana Pfefferle, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at Duke University, said. “We found that the macaques could detect their own relatives without being familiar with members of that side of the family.”

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August 10 2014

Why We Can’t Rule Out Bigfoot


I recently got an email from an anthropologist commenting on a new report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The topic of that report was Bigfoot—or rather, a genetic analysis of hairs that people over the years have claimed belong to a giant, hairy, unidentified primate.

The international collaboration of scientists, led by University of Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, found no evidence that the DNA from the hairs belonged to a mysterious primate. Instead, for the most part, it belonged to decidedly unmysterious mammals such as porcupines, raccoons, and cows.

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August 9 2014

Peru Has Reopened Its Office of UFO Investigations


“What the f*** is that?” I shout, pointing at a light above me. The night sky is incredibly clear, which is one of the reasons so many ET-chasing stargazers come up here to the mountains of Marcahuasi, Peru. I’ve managed to pitch a tent and build a fire, and I’m warming my hands with the flames and the rest of my body with a bottle of rum when I spot it.

It looks like a plane at first, faintly flashing blue, gliding towards Orion’s Belt. Then I realize it’s not gliding at all, but performing a zig-zag that, as far as I’m aware, is impossible for a 500-ton block of flying metal to achieve.

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August 9 2014

Self-folding 'origami' robots could be the future of space exploration or search-and-rescue


They sound like real-life transformers – the toys that can change from one shape into another – but these robots are perhaps more akin to the flat-packed world of an Ikea catalogue.

Scientists have taken the idea of self-assembly so seriously they have come up with a self-folding robot that can spring out of a flat surface, create its own legs and spontaneously crawl away – something that no Ikea table has yet done.

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August 9 2014

Moon’s Insides Still Hot, Hot, Hot After Billions Of Years Of Formation: Study


Rather than being dead inside, the Moon still has a warm interior that is due to the effect of the Earth’s gravity on our closest major celestial neighbor, a new study says. The results came after looking at results from the SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) spacecraft as well as other missions exploring the Moon.

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August 9 2014

Power Up! Distant Uranus Sees A Storm Surge Of ‘Monstrous’ Proportions


Who can imagine Uranus as a quiet planet now? The Keck Observatory caught some spectacular pictures of the gas giant undergoing a large storm surge a few days ago, which took astronomers by surprise because the planet is well past the equinox in 2007, when the sun was highest above the equator.

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August 9 2014

NASA bets on asteroid mission as best path to Mars


Somewhere above the clouds, way up into the deep space of the inner solar system, there’s an asteroid tumbling near Earth with NASA’s name on it.

Within the next decade or so, the space agency wants to snag the space rock and haul it to the moon. And they’ve hatched two fantastical plans to do it. One would snare an asteroid with a gigantic inflatable bag; the other might send a sticky-fingered robot out to grab a golf cart–sized boulder off an even bigger rock.

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August 9 2014

NASA 'Flying Saucer' Air Brake Aces Test Flight


A prototype inflatable braking system to land heavy payloads on Mars aced a debut test flight in June, but its supersonic parachute will need to be reshaped to better accommodate the turbulent airflow of rapid descent, NASA engineers said Friday.

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) rocketed to an altitude of 190,000 feet after being carried into the stratosphere by a massive helium balloon.

The thin air and low pressure at that altitude is as close as engineers can come to simulating flight in Mars’ atmosphere.

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August 9 2014

Twin Alien Planets Could Boost Chances for Extraterrestrial Life


Alien planets could host life well into their old age if they have companion worlds tugging at them, researchers say.

Such exoplanets could potentially be the longest-lived life-friendly areas in the universe, enduring for up to 10 trillion years, scientists added.

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August 9 2014

Dramatic 'supermoon' and Perseid meteor shower to light up night skies on Sunday


A 'supermoon' will light up the night sky on Sunday as it coincides with a meteor shower in one of the most dramatic events on the astronomical calendar.

The moon will be at its biggest and brightest for 20 years as it reaches the point in its orbit closest to Earth – known as perigee – at the same time as it becomes full.

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