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Friday, December 19, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

A clear, molecular view of how human color vision evolved

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 06:01 PM PST

Many genetic mutations in visual pigments, spread over millions of years, were required for humans to evolve from a primitive mammal with a dim, shadowy view of the world into a greater ape able to see all the colors in a rainbow. Now, after more than two decades of painstaking research, scientists have finished a detailed and complete picture of the evolution of human color vision.

Doctor who survived Ebola received experimental drug treatment

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 05:58 PM PST

On 28 September, 2014, the 38-year old doctor, who was in charge of an Ebola virus treatment unit in Lakka, Sierra Leone, developed a fever and diarrhea. He tested positive for the virus on the same day. The doctor was airlifted to Frankfurt University Hospital on the 5th day of his illness and admitted to a specialized isolation unit. Within 72 hours of admission he developed signs of vascular leakage and severe multi-organ failure, including the lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. He was placed on a ventilator and on kidney dialysis, and was given antibiotics together with a 3-day course of an experimental drug called FX06—a fibrin-derived peptide that has been shown to reduce vascular leakage and its complications in mice with Dengue hemorrhagic shock.

Signs of Europa plumes remain elusive in search of Cassini data

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 04:47 PM PST

A fresh look at data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa's tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby. The new research provides a snapshot of Europa's state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.

NASA's Kepler reborn, makes first exoplanet find of new mission

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 04:44 PM PST

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission -- K2. The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

'Tipping points' for sea level rise related flooding determined

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 12:45 PM PST

By 2050, a majority of US coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year due to dramatically accelerating impacts from sea level rise, according to a new study.

New, tighter timeline confirms ancient volcanism aligned with dinosaurs' extinction

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 12:45 PM PST

A definitive geological timeline shows that a series of massive volcanic explosions 66 million years ago played a role in the extinction event that claimed Earth's non-avian dinosaurs, and challenges the dominant theory that a meteorite impact was the sole cause of the extinction.

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 12:45 PM PST

If data could be encoded without current, it would require much less energy and make things like low-power, instant-on computing a ubiquitous reality. Scientists have made a breakthrough in that direction with a room-temperature magnetoelectric memory device. Equivalent to one computer bit, it exhibits the holy grail of next-generation nonvolatile memory: magnetic switchability, in two steps, with nothing but an electric field.

In one aspect of vision, computers catch up to primate brain

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 11:10 AM PST

For decades, neuroscientists have been trying to design computer networks that can mimic visual skills such as recognizing objects, which the human brain does very accurately and quickly. Until now, no computer model has been able to match the primate brain at visual object recognition during a brief glance. Now neuroscientists have found that one of the latest generation of 'deep neural networks' matches the primate brain.

Ibuprofen use leads to extended lifespan in several species, study shows

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 11:10 AM PST

A common over-the-counter drug that tackles pain and fever may also hold keys to a longer, healthier life, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist. Regular doses of ibuprofen extended the lifespan of multiple species.

Origin of long-standing space mystery revealed: Origin of the 'theta aurora'

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 11:09 AM PST

Scientists have solved a long-standing space mystery - the origin of the 'theta aurora'. Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the Sun's effect on Earth. They are seen as colorful displays in the night sky, known as the Northern or Southern Lights. They are caused by the solar wind, a stream of plasma - electrically charged atomic particles - carrying its own magnetic field, interacting with the earth's magnetic field. Normally, the main region for this impressive display is the 'auroral oval', which lies at around 65-70 degrees north or south of the equator, encircling the polar caps. However, auroras can occur at even higher latitudes. One type is known as a 'theta aurora' because seen from above it looks like the Greek letter theta - an oval with a line crossing through the center.

Crows are smarter than you think: Crows join humans, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced rational thinking

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

Crows have the brain power to solve higher-order, relational-matching tasks, and they can do so spontaneously, according to new research. That means crows join humans, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced relational thinking, according to the research.

Birds sensed severe storms and fled before tornado outbreak

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

Golden-winged warblers apparently knew in advance that a storm that would spawn 84 confirmed tornadoes and kill at least 35 people last spring was coming, according to a new report. The birds left the scene well before devastating supercell storms blew in.

Genetic ancestry of different ethnic groups varies across the United States

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

The United States is a melting pot of different racial and ethnic groups, but it has not been clear how the genetic ancestry of these populations varies across different geographic regions. In a landmark study, researchers analyzed the genomes of more than 160,000 African-Americans, Latinos, and European-Americans, providing novel insights into the subtle differences in genetic ancestry across the United States.

Choreography of an electron pair

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 07:32 AM PST

The motion of the two electrons in the helium atom can be imaged and controlled with attosecond-timed laser flashes.

Expectant fathers experience prenatal hormone changes

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 06:09 AM PST

Impending fatherhood can lower two hormones -- testosterone and estradiol -- for men, even before their babies are born, a new study found. This is the first study to show that the decline may begin even before the child's birth, during the transition to fatherhood.

Fine particulate air pollution linked with increased autism risk

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 05:13 AM PST

Women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter specifically during pregnancy -- particularly during the third trimester -- may face up to twice the risk of having a child with autism than mothers living in areas with low particulate matter, according to a study. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk, researchers found. It was the first US-wide study exploring the link between airborne particulate matter and autism.

Early caregiving experiences have long-term effects on social relationships, achievement

Posted: 18 Dec 2014 05:13 AM PST

A new study has found that sensitive caregiving in the first three years of life predicts an individual's social competence and academic achievement, not only during childhood and adolescence, but into adulthood. The study used information from 243 individuals who were born into poverty, came from a range of racial/ethnic backgrounds, and had been followed from birth to age 32.

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