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Friday, December 5, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

Finding infant Earths and potential life just got easier

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:31 AM PST

Among the billions and billions of stars in the sky, where should astronomers look for infant Earths where life might develop? New research shows where -- and when -- infant Earths are most likely to be found.

Source of volcanoes may be much closer than thought: Geophysicists challenge traditional theory underlying origin of mid-plate volcanoes

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:31 AM PST

Geophysicists point to a super-hot layer beneath the tectonic plates as the place of origin for volcanoes, as opposed to deep within the Earth's core.

A new look at the finer details of rust show an assumed atomic structure has been wrong all along

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

Scientists have been studying the behavior of iron oxide surfaces. The atomic structure of iron oxide, which had been assumed to be well-established, turned out to be wrong. The behavior of iron oxide is governed by missing iron atoms in the atomic layer directly below the surface. This is a big surprise with potential applications in chemical catalysis, electronics or medicine.

Antarctica: Heat comes from the deep

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

The water temperatures on the West Antarctic shelf are rising. The reason for this is predominantly warm water from greater depths, which as a result of global change now increasingly reaches the shallow shelf. There it has the potential to accelerate the glacier melt from below and trigger the sliding of big glaciers.

Why tool-wielding crows are left- or right-beaked

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

New Caledonian crows show preferences when it comes to holding their tools on the left or the right sides of their beaks, in much the same way that people are left- or right-handed. Now researchers suggest that those bill preferences allow each bird to keep the tip of its tool in view of the eye on the opposite side of its head. Crows aren't so much left- or right-beaked as they are left- or right-eyed.

'Non-echolocating' fruit bats actually do echolocate, with wing clicks

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

In a discovery that overturns conventional wisdom about bats, researchers have found that Old World fruit bats -- long classified as 'non-echolocating' -- actually do use a rudimentary form of echolocation. Perhaps most surprisingly, the clicks they emit to produce the echoes that guide them through the darkness aren't vocalizations at all. They are instead produced by the bats' wings, although scientists don't yet know exactly how the bats do it.

Electric eels deliver taser-like shocks

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:06 AM PST

The electric eel -- the scaleless Amazonian fish that can deliver an electrical jolt strong enough to knock down a full-grown horse -- possesses an electroshock system uncannily similar to a Taser. That is the conclusion of a nine-month study of the way in which the electric eel uses high-voltage electrical discharges to locate and incapacitate its prey.

New revelations on dark matter and relic neutrinos

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 09:13 AM PST

Satellite have been studying relic radiation (the most ancient light in the Universe). This light has been measured precisely across the entire sky for the first time, in both intensity and polarization, thereby producing the oldest image of the Universe. This primordial light lets us "see" some of the most elusive particles in the Universe: dark matter and relic neutrinos. Between 2009 and 2013, the Planck satellite observed relic radiation, sometimes called cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. Today, with a full analysis of the data, the quality of the map is now such that the imprints left by dark matter and relic neutrinos are clearly visible.

Engineer applies robot control theory to improve prosthetic legs

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 08:08 AM PST

New research enables powered prosthetics to dynamically respond to the wearer's environment and help amputees walk. Wearers of the robotic leg could walk on a treadmill almost as fast as an able-bodied person.

Astronomers observe galactic 'blow out'

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 06:11 AM PST

For the first time, an international team of astronomers has revealed the dramatic 'blow out' phase of galactic evolution. The astronomers have discovered dense gas being blasted out of a compact galaxy (called SDSS J0905+57) at speeds of up to two million miles per hour. The gas is being driven to distances of tens of thousands of light years by the intense pressure exerted on it by the radiation of stars that are forming rapidly at the galaxy's center. This is having a major impact on the evolution of the galaxy.

Localized climate change contributed to ancient southwest depopulation

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:43 AM PST

The role of localized climate change in one of the great mysteries of North American archaeology -- the depopulation of southwest Colorado by ancestral Pueblo people in the late 1200s -- has been detailed by researchers. In the process of their study, investigators address one of the mysteries of modern-day climate change: How will humans react?

Uncovering one of humankind’s most ancient lineages

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

Scientists have successfully discovered one of modern humans' ancient lineages through the sequencing of genes of the Southern African Khoisan tribespeople. This is the first time that the history of humankind populations has been analyzed and matched to Earth's climatic conditions over the last 200,000 years.

Pulsars with black holes could hold the 'Holy Grail' of gravity

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

The intermittent light emitted by pulsars, the most precise timekeepers in the universe, allows scientists to verify Einstein's theory of relativity, especially when these objects are paired up with another neutron star or white dwarf that interferes with their gravity. However, this theory could be analysed much more effectively if a pulsar with a black hole were found, except in two particular cases, according to researchers. Pulsars are very dense neutron stars that are the size of a city (their radius approaches ten kilometers), which, like lighthouses for the universe, emit gamma radiation beams or X-rays when they rotate up to hundreds of times per second. These characteristics make them ideal for testing the validity of the theory of general relativity, published by Einstein between 1915 and 1916.

Birds conform to local 'traditions'

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:25 AM PST

Birds learn new foraging techniques by observing others in their social network, 'copycat' behavior that can sustain foraging 'traditions' that last years, according to a study of how innovations spread and persist in wild great tits -- Parus major.

Peptide shows great promise for treating spinal cord injury, rat study shows

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested.

Parasites and the evolution of primate culture

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:39 AM PST

Learning from others and innovation have undoubtedly helped advance civilization. But these behaviors can carry costs as well as benefits. And a new study by an international team of evolutionary biologists sheds light on how one particular cost - increased exposure to parasites - may affect cultural evolution in non-human primates. The results of the study suggest that species with members that learn from others suffer from a wider variety of socially transmitted parasites, while innovative, exploratory species suffer from a wider variety of parasites transmitted through the environment, such as in the soil or water.

Blows to head damage brain's 'garbage truck,' accelerate dementia

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 03:33 PM PST

Traumatic brain injury can disrupt the function of the brain's waste removal system, research confirms. When this occurs, toxic proteins may accumulate in the brain, setting the stage for the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Stem cells from deceased patients recreated to study present-day illnesses

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 06:36 AM PST

Research scientists have developed a novel method to re-create brain and intestinal stem cells from patients who died decades ago, using DNA from stored blood samples to study the potential causes of debilitating illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease.

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