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April 27 2015

Lower back pain linked to chimpanzee spine shape


People with lower back problems are more likely to have a spine similar in shape to the chimpanzee, our closest ape ancestor.

A lesion which forms in the disc between the bones of the spine is the reason for the differing shape.

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April 27 2015

Hopes of vaccine for Parkinson’s sufferers


Scientists have raised hopes that they may be able to create a vaccine to block the progress of Parkinson’s disease.

They believe new research provides evidence that an abnormal protein may trigger the condition. If the theory is correct, researchers say it might be possible to prime a person’s immune system – using a special vaccine – so it is ready to attack the rogue protein as it passes through the body. In this way, the protein would be prevented from destroying a person’s dopamine-manufacturing cells, where the disease inflicts its greatest damage.

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April 27 2015

What about Earth’s Microbiome?


The latest temperature readings from Antarctica are giving the world pause, along with the finding that 70 percent of the western Antarctic ice shelf has melted. As Earth day approaches, discussions around climate change tend to focus on rising temperatures and sea levels, stronger storms and disruption of agriculture. But one key player has been missing from this conversation: earth’s microbes.

We keep seeing news items related to the human microbiome. That is, the trillions of microorganisms living in our gut and on our bodies that are essential to our health and wellbeing, but which are threatened by modern life. Our planet also has a microbiome.

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April 27 2015

Could maple syrup help cut use of antibiotics?


A concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, according to laboratory experiments by researchers at McGill University.

The findings, which will be published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage. Overuse of antibiotics fuels the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public-health concern worldwide.

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April 27 2015

Paul Stamets Holds the Patent That Could Put Monsanto Out of Business


Paul Stamets, a leading mycologist, has discovered a way to keep insects off crops without the need for chemical-pesticides. Stamets’ “pesticide,” dubbed SMART pesticides, uses “entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that destroys insects).” It is able to control over 200,000 species of pests and he patented it back in 2006.

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April 27 2015

Could smell hold the key to ending pesticide use?


UK scientists may have uncovered a natural way of avoiding the use of pesticides and help save plants from attack by recreating a natural insect repellent.

Scientists from Cardiff University and Rothamsted Research have, for the first time, created tiny molecules which mirror a natural occurring smell known to repel insects.

The scientists were able to make similar smelling insect repellent molecules, by providing the enzyme, ((S)-germacrene D synthase), which creates the smell, with alternative substrate molecules.

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April 27 2015

Plausibility of the vibrational theory of smell


The vibrational theory of olfaction explains several aspects of odorant detection that theories based purely on receptor binding do not. It provides for additional selectivity through receptors that are tuned to specific vibrational bands of the odorants they bind, and also through the subsequent conduction of electrons across the odorant, presumably by a tunneling mechanism. A lot of people seem like the theory, or at least its main theorist, Luca Turin. Over the years, efforts to prove, or disprove the vibrational theory have progressed through a long series of olfactory touchstones.

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April 27 2015

Tiny robots climb walls carrying more than 100 times their weight


Mighty things come in small packages. The little robots in this video can haul things that weigh over 100 times more than themselves.

The super-strong bots – built by mechanical engineers at Stanford University in California – will be presented next month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington.

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April 27 2015

Asteroids Bear Scars of Moon’s Violent Formation


Nearly 4.5 billion years ago, a colossal impact between Earth and a Mars-size planet triggered the formation of the moon. But the giant collision did more than put a familiar face in our sky, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science: Fragments from the impact not only struck the asteroid belt, but appear to have left telltale scars behind on the asteroids.

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April 27 2015

Tau Ceti: The next Earth? Probably not


As the search continues for Earth-size planets orbiting at just the right distance from their star, a region termed the habitable zone, the number of potentially life-supporting planets grows. In two decades we have progressed from having no extrasolar planets to having too many to search.

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April 27 2015

Ceres' bright spots back in view


The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are back in view. Nasa's Dawn spacecraft, which arrived at the mini-world on 6 March, is now settling into its first science orbit some 13,500km above the surface.

The probe's approach took it around the back of the dwarf and on to the night side, hiding the spots from the camera system and remote sensing instruments.

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April 27 2015

It’s Time to Go to Europa


In the 4.6 billion years since our solar system formed, life could have emerged on several of its worlds. Aside from Earth, however, Jupiter's moon Europa seems to be the most likely to host it today. Early Venus and Mars probably had abundant liquid water, the essential elixir for life as we know it, but one became a hot hell and the other a frozen globe. Saturn's moon Enceladus also has a substantial reservoir of liquid water, but the U.S. scientific community, in its most recent decadal survey, prioritized studying Europa, which is nearer.

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April 26 2015

Nasa’s search for aliens steps up: agency puts together crack coalition to search for E.T. life


Nasa is bringing together scientists from a range of different fields to try and search for life on other planets.

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS, will bring together earth scientists, who will look to further understand how planets can support life.


Alt: NASA's NExSS Coalition to Lead Search for Life on Distant Worlds

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April 26 2015

The First Alien Planet Detected in Visible Light


A new technique has been developed that does not depend on finding a planetary transit, so it can potentially be used to study many more exoplanets. It allows the planetary spectrum to be directly detected in visible light, which means that different characteristics of the planet that are inaccessible to other techniques can be inferred. The challenge is similar to trying to study the faint glimmer reflected off a tiny insect flying around a distant and brilliant light.

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April 26 2015

Jaws meets kangaroo? Rare, cute pocket shark found


Think Jaws meets a kangaroo, with maybe a touch of cute kitten, and you've got the aptly named pocket shark — the newest and rarest species found off the U.S. coast.

Surprised scientists found a tiny, young version of the extraordinarily rare shark that was fished out of the deep Gulf of Mexico in 2010 with lots of other creatures in a government research trip.

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April 26 2015

Backyard birds enhance life in urban neighborhoods


How aware are you of the birds that live in your neighborhood? Do you know how many different species there are? Do enjoy your local birds, or find them annoying? A new paper provides a fascinating look at the relationship between people and nature in a city setting.


Related: Make your home a home for the birds
Related: Rewilding Farm Creates Refuge for England’s Rare Turtledoves

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April 26 2015

Mathematicians dispute claims that the 'golden ratio' is a natural blueprint for beauty


Revered as the formula that defines beauty, the golden ratio is a mathematically derived principle embodied in objects as diverse as a spiralled seashell and the Parthenon.

But the widespread belief that the golden ratio is the natural blueprint for beauty is pseudo-scientific “hocus-pocus” and a “myth that refuses to go away”, according to leading mathematicians.

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