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Thursday, December 11, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

Water vapor on Rosetta's target comet significantly different from that found on Earth

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:47 PM PST

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapor from its target comet to be significantly different to that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet's oceans. One of the leading hypotheses on Earth's formation is that it was so hot when it formed 4.6 billion years ago that any original water content should have boiled off. But, today, two thirds of the surface is covered in water, so where did it come from? In this scenario, it should have been delivered after our planet had cooled down, most likely from collisions with comets and asteroids.

New 'high-entropy' alloy is as light as aluminum, as strong as titanium alloys

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Researchers have developed a new 'high-entropy' metal alloy that has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any other existing metal material.

New way to turn genes on discovered

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Using a gene-editing system originally developed to delete specific genes, researchers have now shown that they can reliably turn on any gene of their choosing in living cells. The findings are expected to help researchers refine and further engineer the tool to accelerate genomic research and bring the technology closer to use in the treatment of human genetic disease.

Scientists estimate total weight of plastic floating in world's oceans: Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution floating in the ocean

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world's oceans, according to a new study. Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Oldest horned dinosaur species in North America found in Montana: Hooked beak, sharply pointed cheeks distinguishes neoceratopsian species

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Scientists have named the first definite horned dinosaur species from the Early Cretaceous in North America. The limited fossil record for neoceratopsian--or horned dinosaurs--from the Early Cretaceous in North America restricts scientists' ability to reconstruct the early evolution of this group.

Prenatal exposure to common household chemicals linked with substantial drop in child IQ

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Children exposed during pregnancy to elevated levels of two common chemicals found in the home -- di-n-butyl phthalate and di-isobutyl phthalate -- had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at lower levels, according to researchers. The study is the first to report a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and IQ in school-age children. While avoiding all phthalates in the United States is for now impossible, the researchers recommend that pregnant women take steps to limit exposure by not microwaving food in plastics, avoiding scented products as much as possible, including air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7.

Organic electronics could lead to cheap, wearable medical sensors

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

A pulse oximeter, commonly used to measure heart rate and blood oxygen levels, has been created using all organic materials instead of silicon. The advance could lead to cheap, flexible sensors that could be used like a Band-Aid.

New form of ice could help explore exciting avenues for energy production and storage

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

The discovery of a new form of ice could lead to an improved understanding of our planet's geology, potentially helping to unlock new solutions in the production, transportation and storage of energy. Ice XVI, the least dense of all known forms of ice, has a highly symmetric cage-like structure that can trap gaseous molecules to form compounds known as clathrates or gas hydrates.

Fungus-growing ants selectively cultivate their crops

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

Ever since agriculture evolved ca 10,000 years ago, plants have been artificially selected to become the fast growing and highly productive varieties we know today. However, humans were not the first to see merit in cultivating their own food, as ants have been doing this for 50 million years.

Dragonflies on the hunt display complex choreography

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:10 AM PST

The dragonfly is a swift and efficient hunter. Once it spots its prey, it takes about half a second to swoop beneath an unsuspecting insect and snatch it from the air. Researchers have used motion-capture technology to reveal new insight into the sophisticated information processing and acrobatic skills of dragonflies on the hunt.

Phenomenal fossil and detailed analysis reveal details about enigmatic fossil mammals

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 08:43 AM PST

Mammals that lived during the time of the dinosaurs are often portrayed as innocuous, small-bodied creatures, scurrying under the feet of the huge reptiles. In reality, this wasn't the case, and a new fossil from Madagascar further underscores this point, revealing fascinating perspectives on the growing diversity of Mesozoic mammals.

Abandoned wells can be 'super-emitters' of greenhouse gas

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 09:04 AM PST

Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown, and possibly substantial, source of the greenhouse gas methane to Earth's atmosphere. After testing a sample of abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers found that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. Because there are many abandoned wells nationwide, the researchers believe the overall contribution of leaking wells could be significant.

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