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March 16 2015

Ring brings ancient Viking, Islamic civilizations closer together


More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.

Excavators of a Viking trading center in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s. Until now, it was thought that it featured a violet amethyst engraved with Arabic-looking characters. But closer inspection with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the presumed amethyst is colored glass (an exotic material at the time).

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March 16 2015

Robot Funerals Reflect Our Humanity


A Japanese funeral service held for broken AIBO robot dogs may seem strange in the eyes of many Westerners. Owners of AIBOs often treat their robots as beloved pets and family members rather than just machines—an openness that arises in part from Japan’s cultural attitudes toward robots. But the robot funeral also reflects more universal tendencies of human psychology that go beyond Japanese culture.


Related: Teaching Robots To Be Moral

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March 16 2015

The Plan to Build a Skyscraper That Doesn’t Cast a Shadow


Growing cities around the world have nowhere to go but up, leading to taller and taller buildings. But while mega-skyscrapers are the most efficient way to build new homes, they also cast long shadows, drawing the ire of people living and working below. One solution: a pair of buildings that work together, reflecting sunlight to minimize shade.

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March 16 2015

For the first time, the world economy grows while carbon emissions don't


For the last 40 years, whenever the world economy grew, so did the Earth's carbon dioxide levels — until 2014, The Washington Post reports. The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that in 2014, the economy grew and CO2 levels didn't.

In the past, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was due to an economic downturn. That's because economic growth is often linked to increased energy use, which in turn increases emissions. The "decoupling" of the economy and carbon emissions was likely the result of efforts by energy companies to fight climate change, the IEA says.

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March 16 2015

Light pollution shown to affect plant growth and food webs


Artificial night time light from sources such as street lamps affects the growth and flowering of plants and even the number of insects that depend on those plants for food, a study published today confirms.

The research shows that light pollution can impact the natural environment in complex ways that may be hard to predict. Due to the global extent of artificial light at night, there are concerns that these ecological impacts may be widespread.

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March 16 2015

The Fate Of The World's Chocolate Depends On This Spot In Rural England


Walk into a row of greenhouses in rural Britain, and a late English-winter day transforms to a swampy, humid tropical afternoon. You could be in Latin America or Sub-Saharan Africa. Which is exactly how cocoa plants like it.

"It's all right this time of year. It gets a bit hot later on in the summer," says greenhouse technician Heather Lake as she fiddles with a tray of seedlings — a platter of delicate, spindly, baby cocoa plants.

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March 16 2015

The world is running out of burial space


There is a looming problem in many parts of the world over what to do with dead bodies, as pressure on burial space intensifies.

The industrial revolution, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, saw a mass migration from small villages and towns to cities. Previously, most people had lived in rural locations and would be buried in the local church's graveyard.

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March 16 2015

There are too many studies, new study finds


Science is drowning in studies, and it took a study to expose it.

In a paper entitled 'Attention decay in science', professors from universities in Finland and California conclude that "the exponential growth in the number of scientific papers makes it increasingly difficult for researchers to keep track of all the publications relevant to their work.

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March 16 2015

Love Hormone Makes Dogs Even Better Friends


Does your dog obey your every command? It might be thanks to the bonding hormone oxytocin.

A new Australian study has found that dogs were better at following cues to find a hidden treat after they were given oxytocin.

The findings provide the best clues yet on how dogs might have evolved to be humans' best friend, and could help pave the way for breeding dogs that respond even better to human cues, said researcher Jessica Oliva, who carried out the research as part of her PhD in biological sciences at Monash University.

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March 16 2015

Science of love: It really is all in the mind, say experts


What is this thing called love? Cole Porter wasn’t the first to ask. From mystified poets to angst-ridden teens, the question of what exactly love is has troubled us since long before the master songwriter put pen to paper.

Now, though, scientists claim to have uncovered the secrets of how the emotion affects the brain, paving the way for the creation of a love test.

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March 16 2015

Female mice do not avoid mating with unhealthy males


Female mice are attracted more strongly to the odour of healthy males than unhealthy males. This had already been shown in an earlier study by researchers from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Vienna. Now the team of behavioural scientists went one step further - and tested a common assumption that more attractive males have better mating success than other males.

Females also mate with unhealthy males.

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March 16 2015

Editing human embryos is genetics' new battleground


Replacing faulty genes in early human embryos and germ cells is within our grasp. Such changes affect DNA in the nucleus and so would be heritable; ultimately, they could be used to make a genetically modified baby.

There are already reports that groups in China, the US and the biotech industry have done this kind of genetic engineering in the lab, prompting some scientists to call for a moratorium on this work. But the underlying technology is potentially hugely disruptive, offering easier and more precise ways to manipulate genes.

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March 16 2015

Are Psychedelics The Wonder Drug We've Been Waiting For?


The idea that psychedelics cause psychosis has a long history in urban mythology. Back in the 1980s, when I was a teenager, the way I heard the story was “seven hits of acid make you legally insane.”

Of course, the number fluctuated through the years, but the core idea—drugs like LSD and psilocybin are dangerous to our long term mental health—remained a constant. Until now.


Related: Psychedelics May Improve Mental Health Disorders, But We'll Have To Support The Research To Find Out

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March 16 2015

Teen cannabis users have poor long-term memory in adulthood


Teens who were heavy marijuana users - smoking it daily for about three years -- had an abnormally shaped hippocampus and performed poorly on long-term memory tasks, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.


Related: Small Washington town becomes first to open government-run pot shop

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March 15 2015

Ancient Receipt Proves Egyptian Taxes Were Worse Than Yours


Tax day is nearing in the United States, and people are scrambling to file their returns before the April 15 deadline. While this is never fun, people can take solace in a new finding: A recently translated ancient Egyptian tax receipt shows a bill that is (literally) heavier than any American taxpayer will pay this year — more than 220 lbs. (100 kilograms) of coins.

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March 15 2015

Listening to classical music modulates genes that are responsible for brain functions


Although listening to music is common in all societies, the biological determinants of listening to music are largely unknown. According to a latest study, listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and down-regulated the genes mediating neurodegeneration. Several of the up-regulated genes were known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a common evolutionary background of sound perception across species.

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March 15 2015

These Tunes Are Music To Your Cats' Furry Ears


When you leave the house, do you ever turn on some music to keep your cat company?

What kind do you choose? Tom Jones crooning "What's New Pussycat?" A ballad by Cat Stevens? Perhaps Al Stewart's "The Year of the Cat"?

Nonsense. Cats don't to want to hear humans singing about them, says composer and University of Maryland music professor David Teie.

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