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February 18 2014

New evidence for ancient ocean on Mars


Did a vast ocean once cover Mars' northern plains? The idea has been hotly debated among scientists for the past 20 years, ever since Viking Orbiter images revealed possible ancient shorelines near the pole. Later findings even suggested that the primordial ocean—dubbed Oceanus Borealis—could have covered a third of the planet.

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February 18 2014

From India, Proof That a Trip to Mars Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank


BANGALORE, India — While India’s recent launch of a spacecraft to Mars was a remarkable feat in its own right, it is the $75 million mission’s thrifty approach to time, money and materials that is getting attention.

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February 18 2014

The medicine in our minds


They are the miracle pills that shouldn't really do anything. Placebos come in all shapes and sizes, but they contain no active ingredient. And yet, mysteriously, they often seem to work.

Over the last couple of decades, there has been a huge amount of research into what dummy pills can do and how they work.

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February 18 2014

'Bigfoot DNA' study seeks Yeti rights


A team of researchers led by Melba Ketchum, a Texas veterinarian, claims to have not only conclusively proven the existence of Bigfoot through genetic testing, but also that the mysterious monster is a half-human hybrid, the result of mating with modern human females about 15,000 years ago.


Related: U.S. scientist claims to have found DNA of bigfoot - but is CHARGING to see her results (in a journal she set up)

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February 18 2014

Tomatoes Watered by the Sea: Sprouting a New Way of Farming


The concept is to turn sunlight and seawater (“sundrops”) into clean food, water and energy. It harnesses the sun’s energy to produce heat that is then used to desalinate seawater and supply freshwater to a greenhouse; to power the greenhouse with a linked concentrated solar power plant; and to produce the heat needed to warm (and cool) the greenhouse.

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February 18 2014

The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean


I have to admit, I melt at the creaminess of full-fat yogurt.

It's an indulgence that we're told to resist. And I try to abide. (Stealing a bite of my daughter's YoBaby doesn't count, does it?

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February 18 2014

Mother's milk made to order for boys, girls


Mothers may say they don't care whether they have a son or a daughter, but their breast milk says otherwise.

"Mothers are producing different biological recipes for sons and daughters," says Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

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February 18 2014

Are Democratic Presidents Better for Babies?


Having a Democratic president in the United States is linked with a reduction in infant mortality rates, according to a controversial new study.

Researchers analyzed U.S. infant mortality rates from 1965 to 2010, a period that spans nine presidencies (four Democratic and five Republican).

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February 18 2014

Scientists Grow First Functioning Human Lungs


Lungs are a notoriously delicate organ. That makes useable donor lungs hard to come by—in 2010, just 1,800 lung transplants took place in the United States. However, researchers are getting closer to addressing the shortage by growing lungs, for the first time, in the lab. Although these lungs haven’t been actually transplanted, the technology could someday help shorten the list of people waiting for donors.

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February 18 2014

Theory on origin of animals challenged: Earliest animal life may have required little oxygen


One of science's strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow.

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February 18 2014

Coral bleaching makes fish behave recklessly


Fish on bleached coral reefs are fearless. Instead of staying hidden at home, they stray out, making them easy prey for predators.

Coral reefs are rich ecosystems, home to thousands of animals. But if the water gets too warm, the corals expel the algae that live in them, leaving them bleached and sometimes killing them.

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February 18 2014

The Sixth Extinction: Earth is on the brink of another massive loss of animal species


There have been five mass extinction events in Earth’s history. In the worst, 250 million years ago, 96 per cent of marine species and 70 per cent of land species died off. It took millions of years to recover.

Nowadays, many scientists are predicting that we’re on pace for a sixth mass extinction.

See: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

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February 18 2014

Deep-sea mining 'must responsibly respect ecosystems'


Scientists have made an impassioned plea for humanity to pause and think before making a headlong rush to exploit the deep sea.

The researchers said the oceans' lowest reaches had untold riches that could benefit mankind enormously, but not if the harvesting were done destructively.


Related: Dolphins 'suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill' researchers claim

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February 18 2014

Chaohusaurus Fossil Shows Oldest Live Reptile Birth


A team of paleontologists led by Dr Guan-bao Chen of Anhui Geological Museum, China, says a newly discovered fossil of a Mesozoic ichthyosaur reveals the earliest live reptile birth.

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February 18 2014

Atopodentatus unicus: Bizarre New Fossil Reptile Discovered in China


Paleontologists led by Dr Xiao-Chun Wu from Canadian Museum of Nature say they have discovered a new genus and species of reptile that lived in what is now China during the middle Triassic, between 247 and 242 million years ago.

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February 17 2014

In memoriam of a great free thinker

In memoriam of a great free thinker, Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake in Rome 414 years ago today, on 17 February 1600. Bruno was a proponent of the Copernican 'heliocentric' model of the solar system in which the earth and other planets orbit the sun (whereas it was wrongly believed by the Church and other authorities of the time that the sun and the planets orbit the earth). In his courageous advocacy of the heliocentric model, as in many other things, Bruno was correct and he was killed, quite simply, for speaking this truth aloud and refusing to be silenced by the voices of orthodoxy. His life, and his death, should serve as reminders to us that those who think outside the box, though no longer burnt at the stake, face great risks, persecution and vilification even today and often pay a heavy price for speaking their truth. Yet ultimately, in the longer picture of centuries and millennia we can see that it is precisely those outside-the-box thinkers who allow human society and human knowledge to advance for the benefit of us all.

For his out-of-the-box thinking and his courage in speaking his truth, Bruno suffered an eight-year ordeal at the hands of the Roman Inquisition. Tortured and tormented in the Vatican dungeons, he stood accused of heresy on several counts, including his claims that stars are other suns, such as our own (they are), that they are orbited by planets (they are), that these planets are likely to be populated by intelligent beings (21st century science is just beginning to catch up with this idea), that the earth itself is a planet (it is), and that the symbol of the cross was known to the ancient Egyptians (it was, in the form of the ankh, or crux ansata, symbolising the life-force).

Ordered to retract these and his other “heresies” or face death by burning, Bruno courageously stood firm. Fired by his convictions, he defiantly told his accusers that he had neither said nor written anything that was heretical, but only what was true. When his sentence was passed, Bruno bravely stared at the cardinals lined up in front of him and calmly told them: “Perchance your fear in passing judgement on me is greater than mine in receiving it.”

On the morning of 17 February 1600, Bruno, garbed with a white shirt, was taken to the Campo de Fiori, the Camp of the Flowers, a small piazza not far from the Roman Pantheon. There, he was securely tied to a wooden pole around which were stacked planks of wood and bundles of sticks. “I die a willing martyr”, he is said to have declared as the fire was being lit all around him, “and my soul will rise with the smoke to paradise.” A young protestant, Gaspar Schopp of Breslau, who had recently converted to Catholicism and thus enjoyed the favours of the Pope, was an eyewitness to the burning, and reported that “when the image of our Saviour was shown to him before his death he [Bruno] angrily rejected it with averted face”. The truth is that a Dominican monk had tried to brandish a crucifix in Bruno’s face while he suffered in the flames. Poor Bruno, his legs now charred to the bone, mustered enough strength to turn his head away in disgust.

A few days earlier Bruno had written his own epitaph:

I have fought…It is much… Victory lies in the hands of Fate. Be that with me as it may, whoever shall prove conqueror, future ages will not deny that I did not fear to die, was second to none in constancy, and preferred a spirited death to a craven life.”

Photo by Santha Faiia. This statue of Bruno, created in his honour in the 19th century, stands on the exact spot of his death in the Campo de Fiori, south of Piazza Navona in Rome.

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February 17 2014

‘New’ Luxor mummy is 3,600 years old


Spanish archeologists have unearthed a 3,600-year-old mummy in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister has said.

Mohammed Ibrahim said the rare find in a preserved wooden sarcophagus dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned. He said the mummy appears to belong to a high official. The sarcophagus is engraved with hieroglyphs and decorated with inscriptions of bird feathers.

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February 17 2014

Aztec dog burials puzzle archaeologists


During salvage excavations in Azcapotzalco (Northwest Mexico City), archaeologists from the National Institute of anthropology and history (INAH) discovered the remains of 12 dogs.

The dogs were placed there around 500 years ago, but unusually, without any apparent association to human burial – acting as a guide for the soul to the underworld, or as an offering dedicated to a temple or building.

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