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October 22 2014

Let there be light: Evolution of complex bioluminescent traits may be predictable


A longstanding question among scientists is whether evolution is predictable. A team of researchers from University of California Santa Barbara may have found a preliminary answer. The genetic underpinnings of complex traits in cephalopods may in fact be predictable because they evolved in the same way in two distinct species of squid.

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October 22 2014

Scientists create possible precursor to life


How did life originate? And can scientists create life? These questions not only occupy the minds of scientists interested in the origin of life, but also researchers working with technology of the future. If we can create artificial living systems, we may not only understand the origin of life - we can also revolutionize the future of technology.

Protocells are the simplest, most primitive living systems, you can think of. The oldest ancestor of life on Earth was a protocell, and when we see, what it eventually managed to evolve into, we understand why science is so fascinated with protocells. If science can create an artificial protocell, we get a very basic ingredient for creating more advanced artificial life.

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October 22 2014

Major breakthrough could help detoxify pollutants


Scientists at The University of Manchester hope a major breakthrough could lead to more effective methods for detoxifying dangerous pollutants like PCBs and dioxins. The result is a culmination of 15 years of research and has been published in Nature. It details how certain organisms manage to lower the toxicity of pollutants.

The team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology were investigating how some natural organisms manage to lower the level of toxicity and shorten the life span of several notorious pollutants.

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October 22 2014

‘Starfish’ crystals could lead to 3D-printed pills


Engineers have figured out how to make rounded crystals with no facets, a design that mimics the hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells.

The discovery could one day lead to 3D-printed medications that absorb better into the body.

Both the crystals’ shape and the way they’re made—using organic vapor jet printing—have other promising applications, researchers say. The geometry could potentially be useful to guide light in advanced LEDs, solar cells, and nonreflective surfaces.

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October 22 2014

4-D Printer Makes Shape-Shifting Wood


Just as 3-D printers create objects that have three-dimensional characteristics, 4-D printers create objects that have four-dimensional characteristics, in that they include a dynamic component that causes their structure to change over time -- relying on water, heat, or light to activate them.

Using a multi-material printer, it’s possible to generate objects with these properties all in one go. Such “programmable materials” may one day mean that you can buy flat-pack furniture at Ikea, take it home, spray it with a garden hose and then watch it assemble itself. We don’t even have to speculate: MIT is working on this exact thing.

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October 22 2014

Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after pioneering surgery


A man who was completely paralysed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough which offers hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries.

Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian man who was injured four years ago, to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.

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October 22 2014

The Real Cyborgs


Forget wearable tech. The pioneers of our “post-human” future are implanting technology in to their bodies and brains. Should we stop them or join them?

Ian Burkhart concentrated hard. A thick cable protruded from the crown of his shaven head. A sleeve sprouting wires enveloped his right arm. The 23 - year-old had been paralysed from the neck down since a diving accident four years ago. But, in June this year, in a crowded room in the Wexner Medical Centre at Ohio State University, Burkhart’s hand spasmed into life.

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October 22 2014

Wearable tech lets boss track your work, rest and play


How will our lives change as more and more firms digitally monitor their employees' movements and health, at work and beyond. We're about to find out

Many companies – including BP, eBay and Buffer – already encourage employees to wear activity trackers like the Fitbit, often in exchange for discounts on health insurance. Last month, California-based Misfit, which makes a sleep and fitness monitor called Shine, announced that it is teaming up with Coca-Cola as part of the drink-maker's employee well-being programme. Several professional sports teams even monitor their athletes' sleep habits

In cases like these, wearables are designed to boost the health and general productivity of the employees.

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October 22 2014

Sony Tests a Ball That Hovers


In many sports, mastery of the ball is crucial to success. But what happens if the ball disobeys the laws of physics? Researchers at the Sony Computer Science Laboratory and the University of Tokyo are working on just such a device: HoverBall.

HoverBall is a 90-millimeter-wide quadcopter enclosed in a cage a bit bigger than a bocce ball.

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October 21 2014

Hoverboard? Still in the Future


LOS GATOS, Calif. — A lot of things can hover. There are helicopters. There are hovercraft. But for the last three decades, a generation of engineers and movie fans have been waiting for something else: a hovering skateboard like the one in “Back to the Future Part II.”

Inside a drab office park here in Northern California, Greg and Jill Henderson are working on the latest effort. On a recent visit the couple allowed a reporter to stand atop a noisy magnetic skateboard that can float above a copper surface.

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October 21 2014

Aussie bees fight 'hive wars'


Bee colonies in Brisbane are waging war for months on end, sending waves of workers who collide, grapple and die.

A genetic analysis of the battlefield fatalities showed that two different species of stingless bees were fighting for control of a single hive.

The attacking swarm eventually took over the hive entirely, placing a new queen of its own in the usurped nest.

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October 21 2014

Scientist catches spider the size of a puppy


Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

"When I turned on the light, I couldn't quite understand what I was seeing," said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology.

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October 21 2014

The north pole moved to the North Pole in a single human lifetime


Geology rewards an active imagination. It gives us a lot of tantalizing clues about very different times and places in Earth’s history, leaving us to try to answer “Man, what would that be like?” One of the things that's tough to imagine involves changing something that most of us never give a second thought—the fact that compasses point north. That’s plainly true today, but it hasn’t always been.

What we call the “north” magnetic pole—the object of your compass’ affection—doesn’t need to be located in the Arctic (it noticeably wanders there, by the way).

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October 21 2014

A different kind of green movement: Seedling growth in space


Plants—literally rooted in Earth—lack locomotion. And although plants may appear static, even the tiniest seedlings are sophisticated organisms that sense and respond to their environment. Seedlings may not travel, but they do move.

An international team of NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) researchers are studying the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings - also known as "thale cress" - aboard the International Space Station to gain a better understanding of how plants adapt to weightless and low-gravity environments.

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October 21 2014

Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program, scientists warn


The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned.

The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding.

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October 21 2014

Flares Erupt from An Active Region on the Sun


The Sun has been acting up lately, producing one powerful X-class flare and several more moderate flares over the past 72 hours.

You can see the X-class flare exploding off the lower left aspect of the Sun in the false-color image above, which was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 131 Angstroms. This wavelength is ideal for seeing the intense heat of a flare.

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October 21 2014

Water On The Moon Was Blown in by Solar Wind


When they first set foot on the Moon, the Apollo 11 astronauts painted a picture of the landscape as a bone-dry desert. So astronomers were naturally surprised when in 2009, three probes showed that a lot of water is locked up in minerals in the soil. There has been some debate as to where the water came from, but now two researchers with the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, have determined that most of the water in the soil on the surface of the Moon was formed due to protons in the solar wind colliding with oxygen in lunar dust, rather than from comet or meteorite impacts.

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