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Gene therapy helps weak mice grow strong

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  7 hours ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A virus that shuttles a therapeutic gene into cells has strengthened the muscles, improved the motor skills, and lengthened the lifespan of mice afflicted with two neuromuscular diseases. The approach could one day help people with a range of similar disorders, from muscular dystrophy to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS."
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Artificial sweeteners may contribute to diabetes

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  yesterday

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When it comes to the sweet stuff, science often turns sour. Almost every study that has linked sugar to problems such as tooth decay, diabetes, obesity, or even childhood violence has come under heavy fire. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization released draft guidelines earlier this year that halved the recommended maximum sugar intake. Now, new research is suggesting that synthetic sweeteners like saccharin might not be a great alternative. They could have a negative effect on gut microbes and thus lead to a higher risk of diabetes, researchers say."
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Chimpanzees have evolved to kill each other

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  yesterday

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well."
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Ant-sized radio runs on radio waves

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers have created a radio so tiny that almost seven would fit on the face of a penny. The device runs without a battery; instead it uses “power harvesting,” a process by which it recovers and uses energy from the same waves that carry signals to its antenna. Even if the radio chip did need a battery, a single AAA battery has enough power to run it for more than a century, researchers report. Many components of the radio had to be scaled down to fit onto the tiny silicon chip; the antenna, for example, is one-tenth the size of a Wi-Fi antenna—and yet, it runs at a fast speed of 24 billion cycles per second. The tiny radios cost only a few cents to manufacture, the researchers say, and such devices are key to the next wave of wireless devices; eventually they could link together gadgets like smart phones with everyday objects, which will then be able to make decisions with minimal human intervention."
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Smartphone study: religious and nonreligious people are same level of immoral

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Benjamin Franklin tracked his prideful, sloppy, and gluttonous acts in a daily journal, marking each moral failing with a black ink dot. Now, scientists have devised a modern update to Franklin’s little book, using smart phones to track the sins and good deeds of more than 1200 people. The new data—among the first to be gathered on moral behavior outside of the lab—confirm what psychologists have long suspected: Religious and nonreligious people are equally prone to immoral acts."
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Scientists discover the only known swimming dinosaur

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In 97-million-year-old freshwater sediments in eastern Morocco, researchers discovered new fossils of a dinosaur known as Spinosaurus, including parts of the skull, vertebral column, pelvis, and limb bones. The researchers were able to see signs of watery adaptation not seen in other dinosaurs: a small nostril located far back on the head, apparently to limit water intake; relatively long forelimbs; big flat feet suitable for paddling as well as walking on muddy ground; and very dense limb bones, which would have allowed Spinosaurus to submerge itself rather than float at the surface. The adaptations resemble those of early whales and today’s hippopotamus, and make Spinosaurus the only dinosaur known to swim, the researchers say."
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Journal published flawed stem cell papers, despite serious misgivings about work

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "As two discredited, and now retracted, stem cell papers have produced an almost unimaginable fallout—a national hero accused of scientific fraud, the revamping of one of Japan’s major research institutes, and the suicide of a respected cell biologist—researchers have privately and publicly asked how Nature could have published work that, in retrospect, seems so obviously flawed. Another piece of the puzzle has now come to light. The Science news team received a copy of email correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, that indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously. The email, dated 4 April 2013, includes detailed separate criticisms of the two papers and suggestions for new data to support the authors’ claims of a simple and novel way to make stem cells that could form the myriad cell types within a body. The Nature editor rejected the papers, but left open a window, writing, “Should further experimental data allow you to address these criticisms, we would be happy to look at a revised manuscript ” The two papers were published 10 months later."
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Ancient flying reptile was cross between a dragon and a pelican

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "An ancient flying reptile represents a cross between a dragon and a pelican. The front portion of the creature’s lower jaw had a deep, thin, crescent-shaped keel that may have been covered with keratin, akin to the beaks of modern birds. At the end of that bony keel, researchers noted a peculiar hook-shaped projection—a feature not seen in any other vertebrate, living or extinct—that might have served as an anchor for soft tissue. That distinctive bony projection suggests the creature's most distinct feature may have been a pelicanlike throat pouch that could hold fish gleaned from lakes and rivers. In a nod to flying creatures of our modern age, the new species has been dubbed Ikrandraco avatar—draco is Latin for “dragon,” and Ikran are the flying beasts depicted in the 2009 blockbuster Avatar. It’s difficult to estimate how much I. avatar weighed, the researchers say, but the fossils recovered so far hint that adults may have had a wingspan of about 1.5 meters."
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Researcher loses job at NSF after government questions her role as 1980s activis

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about a week ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her “dishonest conduct” compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr’s fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr’s case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers."
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Reanalysis of clinical trials finds misleading findings

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Clinical trials rarely get a second look—and when they do, their findings are not always what the authors originally reported. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which compared how 37 studies that had been reanalyzed measured up to the original. In 13 cases, the reanalysis came to a different outcome—a finding that suggests many clinical trials may not be accurately reporting the effect of a new drug or intervention."
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Barred from dumps, Yellowstone grizzly bears now dine on dandelions-and dirt

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Barred from the dumps where they once chowed on trash, the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas have substantially cleaned up their diets over the past few decades, a new study shows. Hundreds of field observations of the bears feeding and analyses of grizzly scat reveal that the animals’ garbage consumption peaked in the early 1970s, as the number of visitors to the park increased, but declined to practically zero when trashcans were converted to a bear-proof design and municipal dumps in and around the park were shut down. Today, grasses, ants, and flowering plants such as dandelions dominate the grizzly diet, followed by berries, trout, and mammals such as elk, bison, and gophers. The 266-item list of foods documented in the new study—including moths, algae, and even dirt—illustrates the bear’s ability to adapt to rapid changes in the abundance of their favorite foods, the researchers say."
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Clues to animal extinctions found on the walls of Egyptian tombs

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Six thousand years ago, Egyptian lions hunted wildebeests and zebras in a landscape that resembled the Serengeti more than the Sahara. Since then, the number of large mammal species has decreased from 37 to eight, says quantitative ecologist Justin Yeakel of the Santa Fe Institute. New research using ancient animal depictions tracks the collapse of Egypt’s ecological networks one extinction at a time, offering a glimpse into how climate change and human impacts have altered the structure and stability of ecosystems over millennia."
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Icy Jupiter moon may be actively recycling its surface

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Europa, the intriguing ice-encrusted moon of Jupiter, may be resurfaced through plate tectonics, scientists have discovered. The result would make Europa the only known body in the solar system besides Earth with plate tectonics, a process in which cold giant platters of crustâ"or in this case, iceâ"float around on top of warmer, more viscous layers in the bodyâ(TM)s interior. The discovery also makes the moon more interesting in the search for extraterrestrial life, because the recycling action of plate tectonics would provide an important way to exchange chemicals between the surface and the water ocean that lies beneath the moonâ(TM)s ice cap."
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More than twice as much mercury in environment as thought

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The most comprehensive estimate of mercury released into the environment is putting a new spotlight on the potent neurotoxin. By accounting for mercury in consumer products, such as thermostats, and released by industrial processes, the calculations more than double previous tallies of the amount of mercury that has entered the environment since 1850. The analysis also reveals a previously unknown spike in mercury emissions during the 1970s, caused largely by the use of mercury in latex paint."
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Giant dinosaur unearthed in Argentina

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers working in Argentina have discovered the most complete skeleton of a titanosaur, a group of gigantic plant-eating dinosaurs that dominated the Southern Hemisphere beginning about 90 million years ago. The new dino, named Dreadnoughtus schrani, was 26 meters long and weighed about 59 metric tons—that is, twice as long as Tyrannosaurus rex and as heavy as a herd of elephants. That puts it on a par with other well-known giants such as Argentinosaurus (but it’s four times as large as the perhaps better known Diplodocus). The researchers say that the beast was so big it would have had no fear of predators. And it was about to get bigger: A close examination of the fossils, especially its back and shoulder bones, indicates that the animal was still growing when it died."
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Researchers capture first known photo of bird flying with baby bump

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers have snapped a photo of a female Mascarene petrelwith with a bulbous lump on her belly, the first document of any bird flying while obviously bearing an egg,. It’s also the first evidence of the critically endangered bird's return from its “prelaying exodus,” where it builds up fat reserves before incubating. And it adds to scientific knowledge about the petrel’s breeding cycle: It was taken on 22 December, whereas previous observations found that the species—of which an estimated 100 breeding pairs remain—usually lays its eggs in late October and November."
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Cellphone towers could predict flooding

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Because raindrops both scatter and absorb radiation traveling through a storm, several teams have proposed monitoring variations in the strength of signals bounced between cell towers as a way to measure rainfall. Now, a field test shows the technique works in western Africa. Signals were measurably degraded on 95% of the days when more than 5 millimeters of rain fell at a weather station located between the two towers, the researchers report. Also, the amount of signal degradation was highly correlated with rainfall measurements at the weather station, the team notes. These results suggest the monitoring signals throughout a network of cellphone towers could help meteorologists, even those where rain gauges are few and far between, compile regional rainfall maps and provide early warning of flooding."
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How to find your way home from deep space

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If aliens ever abduct you to a galaxy far, far away, this map might help you find your way back home. The map spans more than 1.5 billion light-years, coloring the densest concentrations of observed galaxies red and areas with the fewest galaxies blue. Your home galaxy, the Milky Way, is the blue dot at the center. The red region above the Milky Way includes Virgo, the closest galaxy cluster, about 55 million light-years from Earth. The orange curve illustrates the key finding of the new work: It encircles galaxies that would fall toward one another along the curved white lines if space weren't expanding; the astronomers have named this huge assemblage Laniakea, after Hawaiian words for "spacious heaven." It is 100 quadrillion times as massive as the sun—equivalent to 100,000 Milky Ways—and stretches across more than half a billion light-years of space. Outside Laniakea, other galactic gatherings appear green on the map: the Shapley Concentration at the upper left; the Coma Supercluster at the top; and the Pisces-Perseus Supercluster at the right."
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Long-lost satellite data reveal new insights to climate change

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Once stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA’s first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth’s clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009. After acquiring the film—and then tracking down the proper equipment to read and digitize its 16-shades-of-gray images, which had been taken once every 90 seconds or so—the team set about scanning and then stitching the images together using sophisticated software. So far, more than 250,000 images have been made public, including the first image taken by Nimbus-1 ( on 31 August 1964, of an area near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Besides yielding a wealth of sea ice data, the data recovery project, which will end early next year, could also be used to extend satellite records of deforestation and sea surface temperatures."
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Neandertals may have created cave art too

sciencehabit sciencehabit writes  |  about two weeks ago

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "One of the biggest debates in archaeology is whether Neandertals were capable of the kind of abstract and symbolic expression that prehistoric modern humans demonstrated in abundance—for example, by painting animal images on the walls of caves like Chauvet and Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. Possible evidence for Neandertal art was reported a couple of years ago in the Spanish cave of El Castillo, but researchers are not sure whether Neandertals or modern humans painted a red disk on its wall 41,000 years ago—right around the time that modern humans entered Europe. Now, archaeologists working at Gorham’s Cave, a former Neandertal haunt on the coast of Gibraltar, report that they have found this crosshatched pattern etched into the hard rock floor of the cave. The pattern was deeply incised using some sort of stone tool and was found under archaeological layers dating back at least 39,000 years—but containing stone tools that only Neandertals made. Scientist argue that it is proof positive that Neandertals were just as capable of abstract thought as modern humans."
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