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August 2 2014

Rice genome could answer ‘the 9 billion-people question’


Researchers have sequenced the complete genome of African rice, a hardy crop that could help feed the world’s growing population.

“Rice feeds half the world, making it the most important food crop,” says Rod A. Wing, director of the Arizona Genomic Institute at University of Arizona and chair of the school of plant sciences with a joint appointment in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

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August 2 2014

The New Foodie: Chimps Are Food Critics, Too


Like a foodie hunting down a favorite taco truck, chimpanzees will travel further to their preferred fruit trees, says new study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. It’s more than the fact that chimps enjoy good fruit -- the apes actively look forward to eating at the best trees, the primatologists found.

The scientists followed five female chimps through Tai National Park, a rainforest in Cote d’Ivoire, and marked the trees where chimpanzees most regularly dined.

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August 2 2014

Giant Anteaters Can Kill People


They have poor vision, bad hearing and no teeth. And yet, anteaters can be deadly.

In a new case report, scientists detail a gruesome anteater attack that left one hunter dead in northwestern Brazil, just two years after another man was killed in a similar confrontation with one of the long-nosed creatures. While such incidents are rare and anteaters usually avoid contact with humans, the attacks should serve as a warning to humans encroaching on anteater turf, the authors wrote in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine this month.

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August 2 2014

Can Ants Save the World from Climate Change?


Ants may be some of Earth's most powerful biological climate brokers, a provocative new study claims.

The average ant lives and dies in less than a year, but a long-term experiment tracking the insects' effects on soil suggests they cooled Earth's climate as their numbers grew.

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August 2 2014

A Superplume Is the Reason Africa Is Splitting Apart


Africa is splitting in two. The reason: a geologic rift runs along the eastern side of the continent that one day, many millions of years in the future, will be replaced with an ocean. Scientists have argued for decades about what is causing this separation of tectonic plates. Geophysicists thought it was a superplume, a giant section of the earth's mantle that carries heat from near the core up to the crust. As evidence, they pointed to two large plateaus (one in Ethiopia and one in Kenya) that they said were created when a superplume pushed up the mantle. Geochemists were not able to confirm that theory.

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August 1 2014

Odd Cause of Gaping Siberian Holes Possibly Found


A trio of mysterious gaping holes in northern Siberia has spawned many theories about the craters' origin, but scientists have suggested some concrete explanations.

In mid-July, reindeer herders stumbled across a crater that was approximately 260 feet (80 meters) wide, on the Yamal Peninsula, whose name means "end of the world," The Siberian Times reported. Since then, two new chasms — a 50-foot (15 m) crater in the Taz district and a 200- to 330-foot (60 to 100 m) crater in the Taymyr Peninsula — have also been reported.


Related: Mysterious Siberian crater attributed to methane

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August 1 2014

Pigeon paradox reveals quantum cosmic connections


PARTICLES on opposite ends of the universe can link quantum mechanical hands. The phenomenon hints at an entirely new aspect of the quantum reality underlying all matter.

The effect is a sort of inversion of one of the most famous and profound quantum properties, called entanglement. Two entangled particles share a single quantum state: they behave as one and cannot be described individually. Measuring one instantaneously affects the other, no matter how far apart they become, an oddity that prompted Einstein to describe entanglement as "spooky action at a distance".

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August 1 2014

Algorithm predicts US Supreme Court decisions 70% of time


A legal scholar says he and colleagues have developed an algorithm that can predict, with 70 percent accuracy, whether the US Supreme Court will uphold or reverse the lower-court decision before it.

"Using only data available prior to the date of decision, our model correctly identifies 69.7 percent of the Court’s overall affirm and reverse decisions and correctly forecasts 70.9% of the votes of individual justices across 7,700 cases and more than 68,000 justice votes," Josh Blackman, a South Texas College of Law scholar, wrote on his blog Tuesday.

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August 1 2014

Robot 'learns to keep going with broken leg'


Engineers have taken a step towards having machines that can operate when damaged by developing a robot that can teach itself to walk, even with a broken leg.

Using "intelligent trial and error", their six-legged robot learned how to walk again in less than 2 minutes.

"This new technique will enable more robust, effective, autonomous robots," the engineers behind the robot said.

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August 1 2014

New meaning to refrigerator magnets: Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents


The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. A magnetically driven refrigerator would require no moving parts, unlike conventional iceboxes that pump fluid through a set of pipes to keep things cool.

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August 1 2014

In Two Years, Denmark's Wind Power Will Be Half the Cost of Fossil Fuels


Wind power is officially the cheapest source of energy in Denmark, according to the nation's government—and by 2016, it claims the electricity whipped up by its newest turbines will be half the price of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Denmark's Energy Association (everything about Scandinavia is friendlier, even its DEA) announced the news last week, and it's an achievement worth highlighting. Wind and solar are achieving grid parity with fossil fuels—that is, it's just as cheap—in many places around the world. Even without the tax breaks, declining manufacturing costs and growing scale have rendered wind power just as cheap as natural gas in many states right here in the gas-rich US.

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August 1 2014

UK to allow driverless cars on public roads in January


The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year.

It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time.

In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK's road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines.

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August 1 2014

Big Data Reveals How Cities Beckoned the Brainy for 2,000 Years


How do you keep them down on the farm, once they've seen Paris? You don't, suggests a study of 150,000 historical figures that shows cities have long acted as cultural magnets.

The brainy headed away from the hinterlands in the same migratory patterns centuries ago as they do today, finds a Science journal study released on Thursday.

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August 1 2014

Video of tribe's first contact shows both tension and friendly overtures


Today the Brazilian Indian affairs department, FUNAI, posted an 8-minute video (also above) of a complex contact episode between members of an isolated tribe and outsiders, some of whom appear to be Brazilian officials.

The video shows young tribesmen, all male, interacting with what appears to be the Brazilian government contact team and local villagers.


Related: 'Massacre' of Uncontacted Tribe in Peru Revealed in New Reports

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August 1 2014

Naughty Nuns, Flatulent Monks, and Other Surprises of Sacred Medieval Manuscripts


Flipping through an illustrated manuscript from the 13th century, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Jesus loved a good fart joke. That’s because the margins of these handmade devotional books were filled with imagery depicting everything from scatological humor to mythical beasts to sexually explicit satire. Though we may still get a kick out of poop jokes, we aren’t used to seeing them visualized in such lurid detail, and certainly not in holy books.

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August 1 2014

Ice age lion figurine: Ancient fragment of ivory belonging to 40,000 year old animal figurine


Archaeologists have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head.

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August 1 2014

What Somebody's Mummy Can Teach You About Heart Disease


We think of heart disease as a modern scourge, brought on by our sedentary lifestyles and our affinity for fast food.

But a few years ago, a team of researchers discovered something puzzling — CT scans of Egyptian mummies of hardened, narrow arteries. Further scans of mummies from other ancient civilizations turned up the same thing.

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