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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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July 25 2014

All You Need To Know About the 10% Brain Myth, in 60 Seconds


The new Luc Besson movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, opens in theatres countrywide tomorrow. It’s based on the immortal myth that we use only 10 percent of our brains. Johansson’s character is injected with drugs that allow her to access 100 percent of her brain capacity. She subsequently gains the ability to learn Chinese in an instant, beat up bad guys, and throw cars with her mind (among other new talents). Morgan Freeman plays neuroscientist Professor Norman, who’s built his career around the 10 percent claim.

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July 25 2014

Smarter than a first-grader? Crows can perform as well as 7- to 10-year-olds on displacement tasks


In Aesop's fable about the crow and the pitcher, a thirsty bird happens upon a vessel of water, but when he tries to drink from it, he finds the water level out of his reach. Not strong enough to knock over the pitcher, the bird drops pebbles into it -- one at a time -- until the water level rises enough for him to drink his fill. New research demonstrates the birds' intellectual prowess may be more fact than fiction.

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July 25 2014

Monkeys use researchers 'as human shields' to avoid leopards and big cats in the wild


The samango monkeys of South Africa usually have a good reason not to stray too far from the forest. Although they spend much of their time loping through the trees they know to keep within a certain range: climb too high and they're targets for eagles, too low and they could be a big cat's lunch.

However, it seems there is an exception to this behaviour - and that’s when people are around. A new study from the journal of Behavioural Ecology reports that samango monkeys under observation by scientists use the researchers as “human shields”, counting on their presence to avoid being picked off by a leopard.

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July 25 2014

Dogs feel jealous of rival pets, study finds


To legions of dog-owners, the finding will come as no surprise: it does not take much to make a dog feel jealous.

Researchers in the US studied 36 dogs and found that most were indifferent when their owners ignored them and read aloud from a children's pop-up book. But when the owners showered their attention on a stuffed dog – or even played with a bucket with a face painted on the side – the dogs' behaviour changed dramatically.

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