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July 19 2014

Panning for dark matter in an Australian gold mine


"LV IN the hole!" Luke Norsworthy barks into the radio as our light vehicle bounces into a shaft in the Australian outback.

Norsworthy is the electrical supervisor at Stawell mine, 3 hours' drive from Melbourne. The mine yields some 85 kilograms of pure gold every month. But it may also soon host one of the most important experiments in particle physics – one capable of confirming our best direct observations of dark matter.

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July 19 2014

Is the universe a bubble? Let's check: Making the multiverse hypothesis testable


Scientists are working to bring the multiverse hypothesis, which to some sounds like a fanciful tale, firmly into the realm of testable science. Never mind the Big Bang; in the beginning was the vacuum. The vacuum simmered with energy (variously called dark energy, vacuum energy, the inflation field, or the Higgs field). Like water in a pot, this high energy began to evaporate -- bubbles formed.

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July 19 2014

Strange dark stuff is making the universe too bright


LIGHT is in crisis. The universe is far brighter than it should be based on the number of light-emitting objects we can find, a cosmic accounting problem that has astronomers baffled.

"Something is very wrong," says Juna Kollmeier at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Pasadena, California.

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July 19 2014

Suddenly, the sun is eerily quiet: Where did the sunspots go?


Our sun has gone quiet. Almost too quiet.

A few weeks ago it was teeming with sunspots, as you would expect since we are supposed to be in the middle of solar maximum -- the time in the sun's 11-year cycle when it is the most active.

But now, there is hardly a sunspot in sight.

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July 19 2014

Could This Lunar Cave Provide Shelter for a Future Moon Colony?


What you're looking at here is not an impact crater. It's a large hole on the Moon's surface that formed when the ground above a lava tube collapsed. NASA believes these pits widen underground and contain tunnels — which would be very handy for the first wave of lunar colonists.

Since 2009, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has found over 200 pits on the Moon's surface. They range in size from about 16 feet (5 meters) across to more than 2,950 feet (900 m) in diameter.

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July 18 2014

Earth-like soils on Mars? Ancient fossilized soils potentially found deep inside impact crater sugge


Soil deep in a crater dating to some 3.7 billion years ago contains evidence that Mars was once much warmer and wetter, saysUniversity of Oregon geologist Gregory Retallack, based on images and data captured by the rover Curiosity.

NASA rovers have shown Martian landscapes littered with loose rocks from impacts or layered by catastrophic floods, rather than the smooth contours of soils that soften landscapes on Earth.

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July 18 2014

Magic Mushrooms were the Inspiration for Frank Herbert's Science Fiction Epic 'Dune'


One of the central plot devices in Frank Herbert's 1965 science-fiction epic Dune is melange - colloquially known as 'spice' - a naturally-occurring drug found only on the planet Arrakis which has numerous positive effects, including heightened awareness, life extension, and prescience. These effects make it the most important commodity in the cosmos, especially as the prescience allows for faster-than-light interstellar starship navigation (and thus trade) by the 'Guild Navigators'.

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July 18 2014

What’s Up With That: Why You Always Seem to Choose the Slowest Line


You run into the grocery store to quickly pick up one ingredient. You grab what you need and head to the front of the store. After quickly sizing up the check-out lines, you choose the one that looks fastest.

You chose wrong. People you could swear got in other lines long after you chose yours are already checked out and headed to the parking lot. Why does this seem to always happen to you? What kind of a cruel universe would allow such a thing to happen? It’s not fair!.

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July 18 2014

People are more likely to lie and cheat when they're tired, research suggests


If you ever feel frustrated by people who seem to be able to exist on just a few hours kip, you might be glad to hear that new studies suggest it may be better to stay in bed.

People who rise with the lark are more likely to lie and cheat in the evening, American researchers have found.

And people who identity as night owls are more likely to behave “unethically” in the morning.

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July 18 2014

Danish DNA could be key to happiness


Genetics could be the key to explaining nation’s levels of happiness, according to research from the University of Warwick.

Economists at the University’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) have looked at why certain countries top the world happiness rankings. In particular they have found the closer a nation is to the genetic makeup of Denmark, the happier that country is. The research could help to solve the puzzle of why a country like Denmark so regularly tops the world happiness rankings.

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July 18 2014

Is your happy like my happy? New research throws light on subjective feeling


Whenever we perceive something, we make an instant judgement on whether what we see, hear, taste, smell or feel is positive or negative. This subjective colouring of our perceptions is such a pervasive aspect of human experience that we are almost unable to sense anything without automatically valuing it according to its pleasantness or unpleasantness. Taking in the world this way means that even when we observe the same object or situation, we each form a unique and personal impression of it.

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July 18 2014

You’d Be Happier If You Talked to Strangers More Often


Humans are some of the most social creatures on this planet, but step into an elevator, train or public bus and something strange happens: we fall silent, stare at the wall and ignore the strangers surrounding us. But in doing so, we might be missing out on an easy way to make ourselves happier people.

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July 18 2014

To change attitudes, don't argue — agree, extremely


What if the best way to change minds isn’t to tell people why they’re wrong, but to tell them why they’re right? Scientists tried this recently and discovered that agreeing with people can be a surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs.

Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed — not contradicted — their opinions on a deeply divisive issue actually caused them to reconsider their stance and become more receptive to other points of view.

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July 18 2014

What's Going On In There? How Babies' Brains Practice Speech


A baby's first words may seem spur of the moment, but really, the little ones have practiced their "Mamas" and "Dadas" for months in their minds.

Using what looks like a hair dryer from Mars, researchers from the University of Washington have taken the most precise peeks yet into the fireworks display of neural activity that occurs when infants listen to people speak.

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July 18 2014

Birdsongs automatically decoded by computer scientists


Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have found a successful way of identifying bird sounds from large audio collections, which could be useful for expert and amateur bird-watchers alike.

The analysis used recordings of individual birds and of dawn choruses to identify characteristics of bird sounds. It took advantage of large datasets of sound recordings provided by the British Library Sound Archive, and online sources such as the Dutch archive called Xeno Canto.

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July 18 2014

Larger animals are 'better' at eliminating cancer-causing viruses from their DNA


A scientific paradox that has baffled biologists for nearly 40 years may have been solved – at least in part– by a study that could explain why bigger animals do not suffer higher rates of cancer than smaller animals.

Larger species tend to live longer and have many more cells than smaller animals, which means they should in principle be at greater risk of developing cancer during their lifetimes.

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July 18 2014

Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac


In May 1950 Henry Hoyt and Frank Berger, researchers at a small pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, submitted a patent application for a substance called meprobamate. They were impressed with the way the drug relaxed muscles in mice and calmed their notoriously testy lab monkeys: “We had about 20 rhesus and java monkeys. They’re vicious, and you’ve got to wear thick gloves and a face guard when you handle them. After they were injected with meprobamate though, they became very nice monkeys—friendly and alert.

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