27 March 2015

Star Power: Spring's Night Sky Dazzles with Constellations Aplenty

Star Power: Spring's Night Sky Dazzles with Constellations AplentyPart of the reason these constellations will be disappearing can be traced to the Earth's rotation. Contrary to popular belief, our planet does not turn on its axis once in 24 hours.


27 March 2015

One-Year Crew Begins Epic Trip on International Space Station

One-Year Crew Begins Epic Trip on International Space StationThree new crewmembers just arrived at the International Space Station, and two of them won't be leaving for about one year. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are expected to spend about 342 days living and working on the International Space Station — marking the orbiting outpost's first yearlong space mission. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka also joined Kornienko and Kelly on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the space station at 8:33 p.m. EDT (0033 GMT). Padalka will stay on the space station for about six months, the usual amount of time people live on the space laboratory.


27 March 2015

Environmental group seeks greater protection for USDA scientists

An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals. The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world's best selling weed killer, is "probably carcinogenic to humans." Roundup is made by Monsanto Co. The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent "political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct." According to the petition, some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests.

27 March 2015

U.S.-Russian crew reaches space station for year-long stay

ISS crew of Kelly of the U.S. and Kornienko and Padalka of Russia walk after donning space suits at the Baikonur cosmodromeBy Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, sending a U.S.-Russia crew to the International Space Station for a year-long flight, a NASA Television broadcast showed. Four Soviet-era cosmonauts lived on the now-defunct Mir space station for a year or longer, but the missions, which concluded in 1999, did not have the sophisticated medical equipment that will be used during International Space Station investigations, NASA said.


27 March 2015

Primordial sea creature with spiky claws unearthed in Canada

A freshly excavated fossil specimen of Yawunik kootenayi is seen in this undated handout pictureBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fossil site in the Canadian Rockies that provides a wondrous peek into life on Earth more than half a billion years ago has offered up the remains of an intriguing sea creature, a four-eyed arthropod predator that wielded a pair of spiky claws. Scientists said on Friday they unearthed nicely preserved fossils in British Columbia of the 508 million-year-old animal, named Yawunik kootenayi, that looked like a big shrimp with a bad attitude and was one of the largest predators of its time. The fossil beds in Kootenay National Park where it was found were in a previously unexplored area of the Burgess Shale rock formation that for more than a century has yielded exceptional remains from the Cambrian Period, when many of the major animal groups first appeared. Yawunik, whose name honors a mythical sea monster in the native Ktunaxa people's creation story, was a primitive arthropod, the highly successful group that includes shrimps, lobsters, crabs, insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes.


27 March 2015

Ancient 4-Eyed Predator Wielded Wicked Toothy Claws

Ancient 4-Eyed Predator Wielded Wicked Toothy ClawsIt is the first new species reported from a stunning fossil find in Marble Canyon in British Columbia's Kootenay National Park. The Marble Canyon fossil beds, located in 2012, rival the iconic Burgess Shale for their diversity of soft-bodied fossils and exquisite preservation, scientists said. Yawunik is one of the most abundant species at the Marble Canyon site, and so, as a predator, likely held a key position in the food chain, said lead study author Cédric Aria, a graduate student in paleontology at the University of Toronto in Canada. The animal was named Yawunik kootenayi after the Ktunaxa people who have long inhabited the Kootenay area where the Marble Canyon locality was found.


27 March 2015

Grants help level the playing field for young moms in science

By Randi Belisomo (Reuters Health) - Thanks to a generous benefactor, young mothers doing laboratory research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston can receive major grants to keep them from falling behind while they raise their children. Since 1993, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards at MGH have helped junior female faculty with young children keep pace with their male peers, who don’t face the same challenges to research productivity that women do during their child-rearing years. Every year, five women are awarded $100,000 Claflin grants - named for benefactor Jane D. Claflin - to fund a research assistant for two years.

27 March 2015

Valeo's self-driving car systems learn from Safran drones

The new self-driving car unveiled by Valeo and Safran drives during a presentation in front of the Invalides in ParisBy Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) - French auto parts maker Valeo plans to draw on drone software and other military technologies from partner Safran to offer self-driving vehicle platforms to carmakers by the end of the decade. While demonstrating an autonomous car and other prototype systems jointly developed with Safran, the French defense and aerospace group, Valeo said on Friday the first applications may reach carmaker clients within three years. "We realized very quickly that we had much more in common than we'd expected," Valeo innovation chief Guillaume Devauchelle told Reuters. "It turns out that an autonomous vehicle is really a terrestrial drone." Cars that complete whole journeys without human input are still many years away, but creeping automation is well underway, with models already on sale that can pilot themselves through slow traffic and hit the brakes when a pedestrian steps out.


27 March 2015

Deadly Oklahoma Twister Ends Slow Start to Tornado Season

Deadly Oklahoma Twister Ends Slow Start to Tornado SeasonA damaging tornado touched down outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, last night (March 25). A small twister was also reported in Moore, the Oklahoma City suburb that has been repeatedly ravaged by deadly twisters this decade. The two weak tornadoes ended a long dry streak for the 2015 tornado season. For only the second time since the 1950s — when good record keeping began — the first three weeks of March were tornado-free throughout the United States, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.


27 March 2015

Proving Einstein Wrong with 'Spooky' Quantum Experiment

Quantum mechanics is one of the best-tested theories in science, and it's one of the few where physicists get to do experiments proving that Einstein was wrong. That's what a team at Griffith University and the University of Tokyo in Japan did this week, showing that a weird phenomenon — in which the measurement of a particle actually affects its location — is real. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, Albert Einstein said he couldn't support this idea, which he called "spooky action at a distance," in which a particle can be in two places at once and it's not until one measures the state of that particle that it takes a definite position, seemingly with no signal transmitted to it and at a speed faster than light. When the particle takes its definite position, physicists refer to this as its wave function collapsing.

26 March 2015

U.S. Air Force overstepped bounds in SpaceX certification: report

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch pad 40 the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape CanaveralBy Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force overstepped its bounds as it worked to certify privately held SpaceX to launch military satellites, undermining the benefit of working with a commercial provider, an independent review showed on Thursday. The report cited a "stark disconnect" between the Air Force and SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, about the purpose of the certification process and recommended changes. Air Force Secretary Deborah James ordered the review after the service missed a December deadline for certifying SpaceX to compete for some launches now carried out solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. The Pentagon is eager to certify SpaceX as a second launch provider, given mounting concerns in Congress about ULA's use of a Russian-built engine to power its Atlas 5 rocket.


26 March 2015

Scientist defends WHO group report linking herbicide to cancer

File photo of activists protesting against the production of herbicides and GMO food products outside Monsanto headquarters in Creve CoeurA World Health Organization group's controversial finding that the world's most popular herbicide "probably is carcinogenic to humans" was based on a thorough scientific review and is a key marker in ongoing evaluations of the product, the scientist who led the study said Thursday. There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations ... and damaged chromosomes," Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute, said in an interview. Blair chaired the 17-member working group of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which rocked the agricultural industry on March 20 by classifying glyphosate as "probably" cancer-causing. Monsanto Co , which has built a $15 billion company on sales of glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and crops genetically engineered to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup, has demanded a retraction and explanation from WHO.


26 March 2015

EU to resume Galileo satellite launch program

By Francesco Guarascio BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to send two navigation satellites into orbit on Friday aboard a Russian rocket, in its first launch since a botched deployment in August that cost several million euros to fix. The Galileo project to set up an EU alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) is obliged to use the Russian Soyuz system until a development of Arianespace's European Ariane 5 rocket is ready around the end of the year, despite strained relations with Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. An official at the European Commission, which oversees the program, said the EU executive was tendering for insurance cover for future satellites and had set up an insurance scheme for the launches. The two launched in August have since been nudged into viable orbits and are fit for use, a spokesman for the European Space Agency said.

25 March 2015

More Infidelity Uncovered in King Richard III's Family Tree

More Infidelity Uncovered in King Richard III's Family TreeThe remains of Richard III may be locked away in a coffin to be reburied this week, but the 15th-century king's genome is still offering scientists a chance to unravel royal mysteries. "Having worked in the world of genetic genealogy for years, this is not at all surprising to me," said Turi King, a geneticist at the University of Leicester. In the general population, false paternities occur in about 1 percent to 2 percent of births, King said. They found a match between Richard's mitochondrial DNA (which is passed down only through the mother) and the mitochondrial DNA from two living female-line descendants of Richard's sister Anne of York: Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig.


25 March 2015

A Year in Space: The Science Behind the Epic Space Station Voyage

A Year in Space: The Science Behind the Epic Space Station VoyageScience experiments conducted on the International Space Station during the orbiting outpost's first yearlong mission could help open the door to deep space for NASA. Officials hope that  one-year stint on the space station by astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will provide them with valuable health data that may help when the space agency decides to send humans to Mars sometime in the future, a major goal for NASA. Scientists have collected a lot of data about how the human body behaves after six months in orbit on the space station, but what happens to a person after a year in space? When NASA's Kelly and Russia's Kornienko launch to space on March 27 for their yearlong stay in space, researchers will get one of their first chances to answer this question.


24 March 2015

Electric fault delays relaunch of CERN collider after two-year refit

A general view of the LHC experiment is seen during a media visit to CERN in the French village of Saint-Genis-PouillyBy Robert Evans GENEVA (Reuters) - Scientists at Europe's CERN research centre have had to postpone the imminent relaunch of their refitted 'Big Bang' machine, the Large Hadron Collider, because of a short-circuit in the wiring of one of the vital magnets. "Current indications suggest a delay of between a few days and several weeks," a statement from the world's leading particle physics research centre said on Tuesday. Engineers had been expected to start on Wednesday pumping proton beams in opposite directions all the way round the two 27-km (17-mile) underground tubes in the LHC, closed down for the past two years for a refit. The smashing-together of particles inside the LHC is designed to mimic conditions just after the Big Bang at the dawn of the universe.


24 March 2015

Want an affordable earthquake warning system? Use animals, scientists say

By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Wild animals can predict earthquakes several weeks before they strike, and motion-activated cameras that track their movements could be adopted in quake-prone countries as an affordable early warning system, scientists said on Tuesday. Scientists using a series of cameras in an Amazon region of Peru noticed changes in animal behaviour three weeks before a 7.0 magnitude quake hit the area in 2011, according to a study published in the journal Physics and Chemistry of the Earth. Scientists have long believed that animals can predict earthquakes, but have until now relied on anecdotal evidence of changes in animal behaviour, they said. Rachel Grant, lead author of the report and lecturer in Animal and Environmental Biology at Britain's Anglia Ruskin University, said the study was the first to document a fall in animal activity before an earthquake.

23 March 2015

Obama, wowed by young scientists, announces new STEM pledges

President Barack Obama arrives to speak in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 23, 2015 during the 2015 White House Science Fair. The fair celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. This year’s Science Fair has a specific focus on diversity and includes many students. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)WASHINGTON (AP) — The small Lego machine inside the White House whirred, and in a moment it was turning the pages of a story book. One page flipped, then another, ever faster as President Barack Obama marveled at its efficiency.


23 March 2015

Will We Combat Global Warming, Despite Our Nature? (Op-Ed)

In a recent article (Human Nature May Seal the Planet's Warming Fate), I used the allegory of "Who Moved my Cheese?" to suggest that people's innate biases may in fact be an evolutionary adaption, one that thwarts the changes demanded by climate change. This in contrast to simpler life forms such as mice: They have seemingly lower cognitive abilities, yet adapt far easier and more willingly to changes in their habitat.

23 March 2015

Marijuana Science: Why Today's Pot Packs a Bigger Punch

The marijuana that is available today may be much more potent than marijuana cultivated in the past, according to the results of new tests. The psychoactive component in the marijuana plant is the chemical THC, and the new tests showed that today's marijuana may contain 30 percent THC, Andy LaFrate, the author of the new report, said in a statement. By contrast, THC levels in marijuana 30 years ago were lower than 10 percent, said LaFrate, who is the president and research director at Charas Scientific, one of eight labs certified by the state of Colorado to conduct marijuana potency testing. At the same time, the marijuana samples tested had very low levels of a compound called cannabidiol, or CBD, that is touted for its medicinal properties.