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January 30 2015

‘Island on Fire’ recounts enormous 18th century eruption


In the last five years, volcanic eruptions in Iceland have disrupted air travel twice, triggering the cancellation of thousands of flights and causing billions of dollars of losses to airlines. But those geophysical flare-ups are brief whiffs compared with past eruptions on the island: Starting in June 1783, one of the largest lava flows in modern times spilled from a 27-kilometer-long volcanic fissure called Laki in southern Iceland.

In Island on Fire, science writers Kanipe and Witze, recount that fateful eight-month-long eruption.


Alt: A Visit to the Forgotten Volcano That Once Turned Europe Dark

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January 30 2015

Global warming won't mean more storms: Big storms to get bigger, small storms to shrink


Atmospheric physicists predict that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged.


Related: 'World can cut carbon emissions and live well'

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January 30 2015

Satire has a history of informing during times of crisis


Just as only the jester can tell the King the truth, satire performs a vital function in democratic society by using humor to broach taboo subjects, especially in times of crisis, according to a book by Penn State researchers.

"Robust satire is often a sign of crisis and the ability to share and consume it is a sign of a free society," said Sophia McClennen, professor of international affairs and comparative literature and director of Penn State's Center for Global Studies. "We see satire emerge when political discourse is in crisis and when it becomes important to use satirical comedy to put political pressure on misinformation, folly and the abuse of power.".

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January 30 2015

Unconscious Thought Not So Smart after All


If you have to make a complex decision, will you do a better job if you absorb yourself in, say, a crossword puzzle instead of ruminating about your options? The idea that unconscious thought is sometimes more powerful than conscious thought is attractive, and echoes ideas popularized by books such as writer Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling Blink.

But within the scientific community, ‘unconscious-thought advantage’ (UTA) has been controversial. Now Dutch psychologists have carried out the most rigorous study yet of UTA—and find no evidence for it.

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January 30 2015

Menstrual Cycle May Affect Attempts to Quit Smoking


A woman's menstrual cycle may have an effect on her nicotine cravings, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal found that women crave cigarette more strongly during their periods.

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January 30 2015

Your Immune System Is Made, Not Born


Some people seem better than others at fighting the flu, and you might suspect they were born that way. A new study of twins, however, suggests otherwise.

In one of the most comprehensive analyses of immune function performed to date, researchers analyzed blood samples from 105 sets of healthy twins. They measured immune cell populations and their chemical messengers—204 parameters in all—before and after participants received a flu shot.

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January 30 2015

'Alcohol archaeologist' creates authentic ales and wines using 2,000-year-old residues in pots


What did the humans enjoy drinking - and use to get merry - 9,000 years ago?

That’s the question an ‘alcohol archaeologist’ has been attempting to answer, by tracing back some of the world’s most ancient brews.

By analysing the residues found on fragments of pottery and studying references in texts, he has managed to recreate a number of ancient beers and wines that were all but lost to history.

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January 30 2015

1st Americans Used Spear-Throwers to Hunt Large Animals


Despite a lack of archaeological evidence, the first North Americans have often been depicted hunting with spear-throwers, which are tools that can launch deadly spear points at high speeds. But now, a new analysis of microscopic fractures on Paleo-Indian spear points provides the first empirical evidence that America's first hunters really did use these weapons to tackle mammoths and other big game.

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January 30 2015

Corpse of 200-Year-Old Monk Found in Lotus Position


The amazingly intact remains of a meditating monk have been discovered in the Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia, according to a report in Mongolia’s Morning News.

The mummified body, which was covered in animal skin, has been sitting in the lotus position for about 200 years.

According to the report, no information is so far available as to where the body was found.

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January 30 2015

Ancient Surgery Techniques Tested by Scientists in Siberia


Neurosurgeon Aleksei Krivoshapkin and scientists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science examined the holes in the skulls of ancient human remains discovered in the Altai Mountains, and concluded that brain surgery was performed 2,300 years ago with just one tool. “Honestly, I am amazed. We suspect now that in the time of Hippocrates, Altai people could do a very fine diagnosis and carry out skillful trepanations and fantastic brain surgery,” Krivoshapkin told The Siberian Times.

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January 29 2015

Modern humans and Neanderthals: A Mediterranean romance?


It was sealed off from humanity for 30,000 years before sewer workers accidentally shattered its high, vaulted ceiling and allowed Israeli searchers to rappel into its dark interior.

Seven years after the discovery of Manot Cave in western Galilee, researchers argued in Nature on Wednesday that the 55,000-year-old skull cap may have belonged to a hypothesized group of modern humans who, after venturing out of Africa, associated and interbred with Neanderthals in the Middle East and then moved on to colonize Europe.


Alt: Skull Fossil Offers New Clues on Human Journey From Africa

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January 29 2015

Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism, the First Computer


After 2,000 years under the sea, three flat, misshapen pieces of bronze at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens are all shades of green, from emerald to forest. From a distance, they look like rocks with patches of mold. Get closer, though, and the sight is stunning. Crammed inside, obscured by corrosion, are traces of technology that appear utterly modern: gears with neat triangular teeth (just like the inside of a clock) and a ring divided into degrees (like the protractor you used in school). Nothing else like this has ever been discovered from antiquity. Nothing as sophisticated, or even close, appears again for more than a thousand years.

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January 29 2015

Body motion energy harvester may power medical and consumer wearable devices


A body motion energy harvester, with the flexibility and elasticity to be applied to high-flexion joints and suitable for integration with fabrics, is being developed by researchers at Sogang University in Korea. The design is aimed at providing power for medical and consumer wearable devices.

With growing interest in wearable electronic devices, there is a need to find different power sources, especially to alleviate the need for regular charging or battery changes.

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January 29 2015

Peanut allergy researchers say they may have found key to a cure


Australian researchers have found a possible key to a cure for people with potentially fatal peanut allergies.

A Melbourne-based study has already transformed the lives of many of the children who took part in the clinical trial.

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January 29 2015

Itchy Skin, Diarrhea Evolved to Promote Good Health


From rashes to irritable bowels, people today face certain health challenges because our ancestors evolved the genetic variations associated with these conditions in order to benefit human health, a new study has found.

It's ironic that the genes responsible for certain health problems evolved to help us, but it's a reminder that physical traits are not always all good or bad. There are some cases, as the study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution points out, where the line is not so clear.

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January 29 2015

The 11 fathers of Asia: 800 million modern men are descended from a handful of ancient leaders


More than 800 million men living today are descended from just eleven men, including the ruthless Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, according to new research.

Geneticists have been able to find eleven distinctive sequences in Y-chromosomes - the chunk of DNA that is only carried by men - that are persistent in modern populations in Asia.

By systematically analysing the DNA of more than 5,000 men, they have been able to trace these male lineages to their approximate 'founding fathers'.

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January 29 2015

Psychopathic violent offenders' brains can't understand punishment


Psychopathic violent offenders have abnormalities in the parts of the brain related to learning from punishment, according to an MRI study led by Sheilagh Hodgins and Nigel Blackwood. "One in five violent offenders is a psychopath. They have higher rates of recidivism and don't benefit from rehabilitation programmes. Our research reveals why this is and can hopefully improve childhood interventions to prevent violence and behavioural therapies to reduce recidivism," explained Professor Hodgins of the University of Montreal and Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. "Psychopathic offenders are different from regular criminals in many ways. Regular criminals are hyper-responsive to threat, quick-tempered and aggressive, while psychopaths have a very low response to threats, are cold, and their aggressively is premeditated,".

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