25 July 2014

Russian Officials Unable to Contact Animal-Carrying Spaceship

Russian Officials Unable to Contact Animal-Carrying SpaceshipA Russian space capsule carrying a package of biological and materials research specimens, including geckos and plant seeds, has stopped responding to commands from Earth, the Russian space agency announced Thursday (July 24). The Foton M4 spacecraft launched July 18 on a two-month mission with 22 Russian and German experiments to study how animals, plants, microbes and next-generation manufacturing materials react to spaceflight. The spacecraft stopped responding to commands from mission control after a few orbits, according to a joint statement released Thursday by the Russian Federal Space Agency and TsSKB Progress, manufacturer of the Foton capsule. The capsule's systems are all operating normally, and the design of the Foton M4 spacecraft allows for long-term autonomous operations without input from ground controllers, according to the joint statement.


25 July 2014

Astronaut's View on Israel-Gaza Conflict: No Borders Visible from Space

Astronaut's View on Israel-Gaza Conflict: No Borders Visible from SpaceEarlier this week, German astronaut Alexander Gerst posted photos of Israel and the Gaza Strip from space. "Some things that on Earth we see in the news every day and thus almost tend to accept as a 'given,' appear very different from our perspective," Gerst wrote in a blog post on the European Space Agency's website. "We do not see any borders from space," Gerst said. Gerst explained that he noticed unusual streaks of light and "orange fireballs" on the planet after he floated into the space station's cupola — a dome with seven large windows that look down at Earth.


25 July 2014

Evidence suggests babies in womb start learning earlier than thought: study

"It really pushed the envelope" in terms of how early babies begin to learn, lead researcher Charlene Krueger, associate professor at the University of Florida's College of Nursing, said on Thursday. Krueger had the women repeat three times out loud a set 15-second nursery rhyme, and do it twice a day for six weeks. The fetuses’ heart rates were monitored at 32, 33 and 34 weeks as they listened to a recording of a female stranger recite the rhyme. By the 34th week, Krueger said, the heart rates of the tested fetuses showed an overall slight decline while listening to the recording, compared with a control group of fetuses whose heart rates slightly accelerated while listening to a recording of a new nursery rhyme.

25 July 2014

Tonga May Have Been a Vast Seafaring Empire

Tonga May Have Been a Vast Seafaring EmpireThe seafaring empire of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean once spanned more than a thousand miles, serving as the hub through which distant settlements exchanged artifacts and ideas, researchers say. Beginning about 800 years ago, a powerful chiefdom arose in Tonga, unique in Oceania — that is, the islands of the South Pacific — in how it successfully united an entire archipelago of islands. "How much voyaging and interaction occurred in the prehistoric Pacific has been debated for centuries," said lead study author Geoffrey Clark, an archaeologist at the Australian National University in Canberra. To learn more about the extent of Tonga's empire, scientists chemically analyzed nearly 200 stone tools excavated from the centers of its leaders, especially artifacts from the royal tombs on Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga.


25 July 2014

Washington State's Sprawling Wildfire Captured By Drone Cam

Washington State's Sprawling Wildfire Captured By Drone CamThe sky is thick with smoke in central Washington, as the state's largest wildfire in recorded history leaves a charred trail of burned homes and blackened trees. The Carlton Complex Fire began as four separate fires that were triggered by lightning on July 14. As of today (July 24), the fire is spread over 390 square miles (1,010 square kilometers), or about one-third the size of Rhode Island, said Paul Gibbs, a spokesman for the fire crews battling the wildfire. Video production company Chelan HD sent out a drone to record aerial footage of the burned landscape.


25 July 2014

DIY Vaginal Ultrasounds Could Reduce Trips to the Doctor

DIY Vaginal Ultrasounds Could Reduce Trips to the DoctorThe technology allows these women to perform vaginal ultrasounds at home, while their doctor views the results from afar. They are given a vaginal ultrasound (in which an ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina) to view the ovaries, so the doctor can see whether the eggs are maturing. In the study, 123 women in Belgium who were undergoing IVF were randomly assigned to either home monitoring, or the regular trips to the doctor's office. They were shown how to use the probe to take video recordings of their ovaries, and how to upload and send the videos to their doctor.


25 July 2014

Bayer says Nexavar fails in breast cancer study

The logo of Germany's largest drugmaker Bayer is pictured in LeverkusenFRANKFURT (Reuters) - German drugmaker Bayer said a Phase III trial of cancer drug Nexavar in patients with advanced breast cancer did not meet its primary endpoint of delaying the progression of the disease. The study, called Resilience, evaluated Nexavar in combination with chemotherapeutic agent capecitabine, in women with HER2-negative breast cancer. Oral drug Nexavar, which Bayer is developing jointly with Amgen, is approved for use against certain types of liver, kidney and thyroid cancer. Study details are expected to be presented at an upcoming scientific conference. ...


24 July 2014

Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday.    The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s.

24 July 2014

Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday.    The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s.

24 July 2014

Keryx drug improves phosphorus, iron in kidney patients: trial

(Reuters) - A pivotal trial of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc's experimental drug Zerenex showed that it improved levels of serum phosphorus and iron in patients on kidney dialysis, according to results published on Thursday. The trial involved 441 patients, according to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which published the results. Over the four-week efficacy assessment period, mean serum phosphorus for Zerenex patients dropped by 2.2 milligrams per deciliter compared with placebo patients, the trial showed. Most patients with kidney disease that requires dialysis need chronic treatment with phosphate-binding agents to lower and maintain serum phosphorus at acceptable levels.

24 July 2014

Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth

For the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I haven’t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months,” Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. “We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation,” the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday.

24 July 2014

People Use Just 8.2% of Their DNA, Study Finds

More than a decade has passed since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the international collaboration to map all of the "letters" in our DNA. The huge effort led to revolutionary genomic discoveries, but more than 10 years later, it's still unclear what percentage of the human genome is actually doing something important. The results are higher than previous estimates of 3 to 5 percent, and significantly lower than the 80 percent reported in 2012 by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project (ENCODE), a public research project led by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute to study the role of the 3 billion total letters in human DNA. The differences may stem from the nuanced definition of "functional DNA," said the study's co-lead researcher Chris Ponting, a professor of genomics at the University of Oxford in England.

23 July 2014

Happy Birthday, Landsat: Space Science Project Turns 42

Happy Birthday, Landsat: Space Science Project Turns 42The Landsat 1 satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, flew into orbit on July 23, 1972, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The camera was designed to be the primary observation instrument, according to NASA, but scientists soon discovered that the scanner was sending back far better data. In 1976, scientists combing through Landsat images found a tiny scrap of land never seen before. To verify the island's existence, Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrologist Frank Hall took a helicopter to the island.


23 July 2014

U.S. scientists to map interior of Mount St. Helens volcano

Aerial view of Mt St Helens as it spews steam and ash.By Victoria Cavaliere SEATTLE (Reuters) - A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists were expected to rattle Washington state's Mount St. Helens on Wednesday as researchers map the interior of the volcano, whose 1980 eruption was the deadliest in U.S. history. Mount St. Helens, about 95 miles (150 km) south of Seattle and 50 miles (80 km) north of Portland, erupted in an explosion of hot ash in May 1980, spewing debris over a wide area, killing 57 people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage. Scientists from across the United States are trying to get a better handle on the magma stores and internal workings of the 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) volcano to improve warning systems prior to eruption. "Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland," lead scientist Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston said in a statement.


23 July 2014

String Theory: The Physics of Master Guitar Playing

String Theory: The Physics of Master Guitar PlayingHow do great guitarists bend a string like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix? "Very good guitarists will manipulate the strings to make the instrument sing," David Robert Grimes, a physicist at Oxford University, in England, who plays guitar and was a member of a band in Dublin, Ireland, said in a statement. The physics of string instruments is fairly well understood, but "I wanted to understand what it was about these guitar techniques that allows you to manipulate pitch," Grimes said. Grimes, who normally works on mathematical models of oxygen distribution in radiation therapy for cancer, spent his spare time crafting equations for various guitar techniques, including bending (pushing the strings up or down), tapping (hitting the strings), vibrato (moving the wrist back and forth to change a string's tension) and whammy bar action (a mechanical form of vibrato).


23 July 2014

U.S. scientists urge 'national vision' to curb coastal risks in report

(Reuters) - A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday. Urging a "national vision" toward addressing coastal risks, the report comes on the heels of a Reuters analysis published earlier this month showing that coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years, with steep financial consequences. The great majority of money - most of it federal dollars -spent on coastal risks goes toward recovery after a disaster rather than on planning for and mitigating against storms, climate change and sea-level rise, the report said. Instead, the federal government should push for a national coastal risk assessment to identify best practices and uniform measures of progress, and move away from the current decentralized approach to coastal management, the report said.

22 July 2014

Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and Dogs

Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and DogsElephants are known for their impressively long trunks, but perhaps less well known is the large number of genes that code for their sense smell. "Rats had the record for the largest number of [these] genes," said the study's lead researcher Yoshiihito Niimura, a researcher of molecular evolution at The University of Tokyo in Japan. The findings support other research on the pachyderm's superior sense of smell. African elephants can smell the difference between two tribes living in Kenya: the Maasai, whose young men prove their virility by spearing elephants, and the Kamba, farmers who usually leave elephants alone, reported a 2007 study published in the journal Current Biology.


22 July 2014

Schizophrenia has many genetic links, study says

By Andrew M. Seaman NEW YORK - More than 100 locations on the human genome may play a role in a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study. While the results do not have an immediate effect on those living with the psychiatric disorder, one of the study’s authors said they open areas of research that had not seen advances in recent years. "The exciting thing about having little openings is it gives you a place to dig and make big openings,” said Steve McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. McCarroll is part of the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which published the study in the journal Nature.

22 July 2014

Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)

Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)Nora Beirne, a senior keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.  When I went to The College of New Jersey, I was an English major, but I took several pre-med classes. Then, in my senior year, Pat Thomas — associate director of the Bronx Zoo and vice president and general curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society — gave a talk to the biology department. In six years as a zoo keeper, I've trained red pandas for injections, fed black bears jelly off a spoon and held a komodo dragon.  


22 July 2014

Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)

Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)Homer Hickam is The New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of "Rocket Boys" — also known as "October Sky" (Dell Publishing, 2000) following the book's adaptation to film — and the "Helium-3" novels "Crater" (Thomas Nelson, 2012), "Crescent" (Thomas Nelson, 2013) "Crater Trueblood and The Lunar Rescue Company" (Thomas Nelson, 2014), as well as a retired NASA engineer. There, a ghost town awaits, the previous residents scared off by weird emanations of LTP.