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February 26 2015

Egypt: After the Flood


In its 7000 years of history, no event changed Egypt more profoundly than the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

It was an engineering project to rival any of the works of the Pharaohs. Upon its completion in 1970, the Aswan High Dam forever changed the heartbeat of the river Nile. The cycle of floods and unpredictable famines came to an end, and for the first time Egypt appeared to have something that had previously seemed unimaginable: water security.

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February 25 2015

Renewable energy poised to overtake nuclear in the UK


A wind of change is blowing through the UK's power stations. Renewable sources of energy like wind turbines could soon generate more electricity than nuclear power stations.

The contribution of renewables towards keeping the lights on more than doubled from 6.8 per cent in 2010 to 14.9 per cent in 2013, according to the Office of National Statistics. Nuclear power, at 19 per cent, is in slow decline – no new power stations have been built since 1995, when it contributed more than 25 per cent of the UK's electricity.

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February 25 2015

Is the world ready for GM animals?


The use of genetically engineered animals could revolutionise whole areas of public health and agriculture, according to advocates. But is the world ready for modified mosquitoes and GM salmon?

Back in the 1950s, two American scientists came up with a revolutionary idea to eliminate a longstanding scourge of livestock farming.


Related: What Did Charles Darwin Put In His Mouth? Pretty Much Everything.

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February 25 2015

Bacteria Pipe Food To Each Other Using Tiny Tubes


Throw me a line here! Or how about a nanotube? In a new study, biologists discovered that hungry E. coli bacteria are able to request food from their neighbors by sending a tiny tube over to them. Other E. coli bacteria, or even bacteria of a different species, respond by piping nutrients into the tube, over to the requester. Efficient!

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February 25 2015

Carnivorous plant packs big wonders into tiny genome


Great, wonderful, wacky things can come in small genomic packages.

That's one lesson to be learned from the carnivorous bladderwort, a plant whose tiny genome turns out to be a jewel box full of evolutionary treasures.


Related: Tiny bat makes home in a carnivorous plant

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February 25 2015

New, useful feature of Moringa seeds revealed


Previous studies have shown that the extracts from seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree can be used for water purification. In a new study, researchers from Uppsala University show that the Moringa seeds can also be used for separation of different materials. Separation processes are very important in mining industries and the new knowledge could contribute to reduce the needs for expensive synthetic chemicals.


Related: Environmentally friendly procedure developed for extracting silver

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February 25 2015

Massive amounts of Saharan dust fertilize the Amazon rainforest


The Sahara Desert and the Amazon rainforest seem to inhabit separate worlds. The former is a vast expanse of sand and scrub stretching across the northern third of Africa, while the latter is a dense green mass of humid jungle covering northeast South America. And yet, they are connected: every year, millions of tons of nutrient-rich Saharan dust cross the Atlantic Ocean, bringing vital phosphorus and other fertilizers to depleted Amazon soils.


Alt: NASA Satellite Reveals How Much Saharan Dust Feeds Amazon’s Plants

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February 25 2015

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia


In 1972, animal behaviorist John Calhoun built a rat paradise with beautiful buildings and limitless food. He introduced eight mice to the population. Two years later, the mice had created their own apocalypse. Here's why.

Universe 25 was a giant box designed to be a rodent utopia. The trouble was, this utopia did not have a benevolent creator.

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February 25 2015

'Gerbils replace rats' as main cause of Black Death


Black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe, a study suggests.

Scientists believe repeat epidemics of the Black Death, which arrived in Europe in the mid-14th Century, instead trace back to gerbils from Asia.


Alt: Asian tree rings explain historical plague outbreaks in Europe

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February 25 2015

Rats Remember Who's Nice to Them—and Return the Favor


Rats can remember acts of kindness by other rats—and treat them accordingly, a new study says.

In experiments, Norwegian rats were most helpful to individuals that had previously helped them—perhaps to try and secure their assistance again, scientists suggest.

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February 25 2015

Longer Eyelashes May Be Sexier, But Not Always Better


Sure, eyelashes are good for batting. But the delicate hairs have a serious purpose: protecting the eyes and keeping them moist.

What's more, a recent study—perhaps the most rigorous study of eyelash aerodynamics ever conducted—found the optimal lash length for protecting the eye and discovered a number of animals that have it.

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February 25 2015

How the length of a woman's fingers reveals her career


A woman’s choice of career is linked to the length of her fingers, according to a study.

Women whose index finger was short compared to their ring finger were more likely to have what was regarded as a traditionally male job, such as a lawyer or a manager in industry, the researchers found.

And those whose index finger was longer than their ring finger were more likely to be employed in a stereotypically female career, such as nursing or primary school teaching.

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February 25 2015

Gut feeling key to fingerprint matching


Forensic experts rely on a surprising level of gut instinct to accurately match fingerprints to catch criminals, according to a new study

"Gut feeling is responsible for a lot more of the accuracy than many people think, even the experts themselves," says Dr Matthew Thompson of the University of Queensland School of Psychology.

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February 25 2015

Why Don’t You Want to Sing and Dance in Public?


Picture two birthday parties: one for 4 year olds, and one for 14 year olds. The former conjures kids bellowing “Happy Birthday” and putting their left feet in during the “Hokey Pokey”; the second conjures slump-shouldered teens huddled in corners furtively glancing at each other—even as loud music blares in the background. Why the difference?


Related: Your subconscious is smarter than you might think
Related: Newborn neurons in adult brain may help us adapt to environment

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February 25 2015

Sound of mom’s voice boosts brain growth in premature babies


Infants born prematurely are more than twice as likely to have difficulty hearing and processing words than those carried to full-term, likely because brain regions that process sounds aren’t sufficiently developed at the time of delivery. Now, an unusual study with 40 preemies suggests that recreating a womblike environment with recordings of a mother's heartbeat and voice could potentially correct these deficits.


Related: Breastfeeding, other factors help shape immune system early in life

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February 25 2015

Pregnancy Has an Odor that Reveals Unborn Baby's Sex


It’s long been suspected that males of many species, including humans, can sniff out whether a female is pregnant, and now new research suggests that some — if not all — female primates release a natural “pregnancy perfume” that males can probably detect.

What’s more, such scents appear to broadcast whether the mom-to-be is carrying a boy or a girl.

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February 25 2015

Three-parent babies: Britain becomes first country to allow technique


The UK has become the first country in the world to legalise so-called three-parent babies after the House of Lords backed the idea despite objections from church leaders and pro-life groups.

Opponents had warned that the change has been brought about too hastily and marked the start of a “slippery slope” towards designer babies and eugenics.

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