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D-brief

Researchers Have Finally Found Human Skeletal Stem Cells

By Lacy Schley | September 21, 2018 5:56 pm

If only we could regrow our broken bones like Harry Potter, Skele-gro style. Or, at the very least, heal up like a limb-regenerating newt. Alas, we humans possess no such abilities. Though our bodies can mend broken bones, the older we get, the shoddier that patch job gets. As for cartilage — the crucial cushioning that keeps our bones from rubbing together — once that’s gone, it’s gone for good.

But a new discovery by researchers could change that outlook. A team from Stanford Un …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

The Crux

Neanderthal Brains: Bigger, Not Necessarily Better

By Bridget Alex | September 21, 2018 5:30 pm

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today.

In any textbook on human evolution, you’ll find that fact, often accompanied by measurements of endocranial volume, the space inside a skull. On average, this value is about 1410 cm3 (~6 cups) for Neanderthals and 1350 cm3 (5.7 cups) for recent humans.

So does that quarter-cup of brain matter, matter? Were Neanderthals smarter than our kind?

While brain size is important, cognitive abilities are influenced by numerous factors inclu …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: paleontology

The Crux

Patience, Peace, and Persian Leopards

By Erica Gies | September 21, 2018 5:26 pm

Hana Raza has never seen a Persian leopard. But thanks to her, we know the big cats still roam the Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan. After four decades of war in Iraq, the species was thought to have followed the Asiatic lion and cheetah into local extinction. But Raza says she never lost hope. “It’s a very adaptive creature,” she says. “And I just thought, it’s too strong. It can survive the wars.” With a freshly minted bachelor’s degree in biology, she joined local nonprofit Nat …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: animals, conservation

The Crux

What is Dark Matter? Even the Best Theories Are Crumbling

By Korey Haynes | September 21, 2018 5:00 pm

Dark matter research is unsettling. Scientists were unnerved when they first noticed that galaxies don’t rotate by the same physics as a spinning plate. The stars at a galaxy’s edge rotate faster than expected. And their motion can only be explained by a lot of invisible matter that we can’t see.

That was exciting more than unsettling when the field was new and ideas were plentiful and had yet to be proven wrong. Researchers consolidated the possibilities into two main camps, complete wit …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: cosmology

D-brief

TESS, NASA’s Next-Gen Planet Hunter, is Already Delivering

By Alison Klesman | September 21, 2018 2:00 pm

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched April 18, headed for an orbit that takes it out to about the distance of the Moon at its apogee. Just a few weeks later, it began science operations and a list of 50 exoplanet candidates rolled in, with researchers now expecting at least six of those first candidates to be eventually confirmed as bona-fide planets.

The above image represents TESS’ “first light” science image, starting in the first of 26 sectors it will u …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: exoplanets

D-brief

What's Going on Around This Strange Neutron Star?

By Alison Klesman | September 20, 2018 5:00 pm

Neutron stars, the end-stage remnants of massive stars, are high-energy objects. They’re usually studied in X-rays, some of the most energetic light in the universe. Neutron stars also give off radio emissions, most famously as pulsars. But now, infrared emission around a neutron star detected with the Hubble Space Telescope has sparked curiosity, indicating that astronomers may want to add infrared light to their neutron star-studying toolkit.

Heat Sensor

Infrared detectors are the …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: stars

D-brief

Opioid Epidemic Part Of Decades-Long Rise in Drug Overdoses

By Roni Dengler | September 20, 2018 3:00 pm

Drug overdoses kill close to 200 people everyday in the United States. And while opioids are a major contributor to those deaths today, a new analysis of nearly 600,000 accidental drug overdose deaths between 1979 and 2016 reveals the current crisis is part of a much larger trend.

“We think of [the current epidemic] starting in the ’90s, but that was gas on the flame,” said Robert Pack, a public health expert at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, who was not involved in  …

MORE ABOUT: drugs & addiction

D-brief

What's the Maximum Gravity We Could Survive?

By Michael Allen | September 20, 2018 2:13 pm

If we wish to colonize another world, finding a planet with a gravitational field that humans can survive and thrive under will be crucial. If its gravity is too strong our blood will be pulled down into our legs, our bones might break, and we could even be pinned helplessly to the ground.

Finding the gravitational limit of the human body is something that’s better done before we land on a massive new planet. Now, in a paper published on the pre-print server arXiv, three physicists, cla …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: exoplanets

D-brief

For the First Time, A Praying Mantis Has Been Caught Fishing

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 20, 2018 1:49 pm

There’s nowhere you can hide from the praying mantis. The ferocious insects are known to feast on a veritable buffet of living creatures, including everything from butterflies and newts to snakes, mice and hummingbirds. And now, just when you thought it was safe to live in the water, we can add fish to the mantid menu.

Three researchers report the first-ever observation of a fishing mantis, spotted in a small artificial pond in India. Over the course of five days, the giant Asian manti …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: animals
An African Hadza woman with close-cropped hair and wearing colorful fabrics and beads sits in the front passenger seat of a car. She is holding two honey sticks.

D-brief

Sharing is Caring? Actually, it's Just Contagious

By Anna Groves | September 20, 2018 10:00 am

Once upon a time (er, yesterday), we might have thought a character trait like generosity was something deeply ingrained by life experiences or even decided by a person’s genes.

But research today in Current Biology suggests that a person’s propensity to share is highly dependent on one thing: how much the people around them – currently – are sharing.

A person’s generosity as recent as last year has no correlation to their generosity now.

Scientists learned this while stu …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology
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