Sea Plankton Found Living on Outside of Space Station, Russians Say

By Carl Engelking | August 21, 2014 1:36 pm

Credit: NASA

The human crew aboard the International Space Station may not be the only group of living creatures hurtling through space: microscopic sea plankton could also be hitching a ride.

Vladimir Solovyev, the official overseeing Russia’s ISS segment, reported on Tuesday that traces of terrestrial sea plankton were on the spacecraft’s exterior, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency.

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” Solovyev told ITAR-TASS.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

How Lizards Regrow Their Tails

By Carl Engelking | August 20, 2014 4:04 pm

anole lizard

The green anole lizard is master of a well-known trick: it can disconnect its tail in a jam and grow a new one. It’s not only impressive, but enviable: regrowing broken or missing body parts has long been the dream of regenerative medicine. Now scientists have unlocked the secret to the lizard’s regenerative abilities, and it lies, in large part, within genes that humans share with the reptiles.

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This Is What Lives Under Antarctic Ice

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 20, 2014 1:24 pm
Christner_IMG_3832-NSF

Colonies of bacteria cultured from samples of the water column from subglacial Lake Whillans. Credit: Brent Christner

Today scientists formalized the news we broke from the field early last year — microbial life has been found 2,600 feet below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in Lake Whillans. A paper published in Nature today reports that nearly 4,000 species of microbes inhabit the lake, the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake.

The microbes are chemoautotrophs, meaning they get their energy not from sunlight nor from consuming other organisms but from minerals dissolved in the water. This possibility was first flagged up by the high concentrations of dissolved minerals in the lake, far higher than in the surrounding ice. “The fact that we see high concentrations is suggestive that there’s some interesting water-rock-microbe interaction that’s going on,” Andrew Mitchell, a microbial geochemist from Aberystwyth University in the UK, said at the time.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: arctic & antarctic

Pygmies’ Small Stature Evolved Multiple Times

By Carl Engelking | August 19, 2014 3:23 pm
batwa

Batwa rainforest hunter-gatherer in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda.  Image courtesy of George Perry

There are roughly half a million known pygmy people living in various tribes around the world, clustered mainly near the tropics in African and Southeast Asia. Anthropologists have long attributed the small body sizes of pygmy peoples to nutritional deficits resulting from harsh living conditions of the rainforest. But in a new study, researchers report that the human pygmy trait has a genetic basis, and has in fact evolved several times in different populations.

“We have found the strongest evidence yet that the pygmy phenotype is controlled by genetics,” Luis Barreiro, the study’s author, told National Geographic.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Your Brain Sucks at Video Games

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 19, 2014 12:32 pm

gameover

While it might be easier to blame a glitchy controller or a slow internet connection, the real culprit behind your lost lives may actually be your quirky brain.

From slow reaction times, to misdirected attention — to your hardwired tendency to avoid blame — your brain is behind some of your worse video game fails, as Anthony Carboni explains. So take solace. You don’t have to take blame — blame your brain.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: virtual reality

World’s Fastest Camera Shoots 4.4 Trillion Images Per Second

By Carl Engelking | August 18, 2014 12:43 pm
high-speed camera

The STAMP camera. Credit: University of Tokyo

Researchers in Japan have built a camera capable of recording 4.4 trillion frames per second, making it possible to visualize heat conduction and chemical reactions — things in nature once thought impossible to photograph.

The team of 12 researchers from the University of Tokyo and Keio University call their technique Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography (STAMP). Researchers say their new camera is now the fastest in the world, and could be used in both medical and manufacturing industries.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: gadgets

Sharks Are Chomping Underwater Fiber-Optic Cables

By Carl Engelking | August 15, 2014 1:01 pm

sharks

Sharks have an undeserved reputation for being bloodthirsty killers that routinely make snacks out of tourists. Although the risk of getting eaten by a shark is extremely small, the same cannot be said for underwater fiber-optic cables that carry data around the world.

It seems sharks have a mighty hankering for these vital intercontinental communication links – a penchant which has set Google on a mission to reinforce its trans-Pacific cables by wrapping them in a Kevlar-like material. Google product manager Dan Belcher revealed their shark-proofing efforts at a marketing meeting last week in Boston, Network World reports.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Electric Motorcycles Go Mainstream With Harley’s Livewire

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 15, 2014 11:57 am

livewire

It may not have that same attention-grabbing roar, but Harley’s latest motorcycle has lots of other things going for it: for starters, a non-existent appetite for gasoline. It’s being called Project LiveWire – the first Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle, which was announced publicly in June.

The bike, which is battery-powered with an electric motor, isn’t the first entrant into the market of electric motorcycles. Manufacturers Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors have been producing electric motorcycles for a while, Businessweek points out. But Harley’s entrance promises a wider spread of the technology, which has been slower to catch on than in cars.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Technology
MORE ABOUT: transportation

Toxic Bacteria Devours Tumors With Precision

By Carl Engelking | August 13, 2014 1:26 pm
Hematoxylin and eosin stain of a C.novyi-NT treated dog tumor. Lighter pink areas areas denote tumor necrosis next to areas with viable tumor cells. Black patches are calcified areas of tissue. (Credit: David L. Huso and Baktiar Karim of the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology.)

A stained dog tumor treated with the bacterium. Lighter pink areas areas denote tumor death. Credit: David L. Huso and Baktiar Karim of the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology

A bacterium found in soil that can cause flesh-ravaging infections in its natural state has been converted — with a few genetic tweaks — into a precise tumor assassin.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center excised the toxin-producing gene from the bacterium Clostridium novyi, which, in its natural form, can be fatal when introduced to the bloodstream. They injected spores of the modified bacteria directly into tumors of mice, dogs and ultimately a human patient. In all three cases the spores germinated and released enzymes that ate the tumor from the inside out, resulting in either a significant reduction in tumor size, or complete eradication, without damaging healthy tissues.

Scientists say that with this proof of concept the prospects for bacterial injection therapy, as a treatment in combination with anti-cancer drugs, has vastly improved.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: cancer

Facial Symmetry is Attractive, But Not Because It Indicates Health

By Brenda Poppy | August 12, 2014 6:00 pm

shutterstock_71601274

Symmetry is a beautiful thing — especially when it comes to potential partners. Studies have shown that people prefer symmetrical facial features in the opposite sex, which many scientists think evolved to help people choose the healthiest mate.

Yet a new large-scale study throws that into doubt, indicating that health during childhood has no impact on later facial symmetry.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
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