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D-brief

Epigenetics Helps Explain Early Humans' Appearances

By Gemma Tarlach | April 17, 2014 1:18 pm

Scientists have increasingly realized that DNA is only part of what makes us us — perhaps equally important is how our genes’ activity is modified by a process called epigenetics. Recently this cutting-edge field has turned its attention to some very old DNA: Researchers today announced they have reconstructed methylation maps for our extinct relatives. The findings might explain certain differences in appearances between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and us, as well as the prevalence of disea …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

D-brief

Possibly Habitable Earth-Sized Planet Discovered

By Bill Andrews | April 17, 2014 1:00 pm

Exoplanets are fun and all, but those hot Jupiters and super Neptunes and such are kind of beside the point. Everyone knows the real search is for a planet like ours: rocky, smallish, and capable of hosting liquid water. And now scientists have found one, named Kepler-186f — an Earth-sized planet in its star’s habitable zone, the area where conditions aren’t too hot or too cold, but just right, for liquid water to be possible.

Planet Profile
The planet orbits a star about 500 ligh …

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

D-brief

In Brazilian Cave Insects, Females Have the Penis

By Carl Engelking | April 17, 2014 11:59 am

In the dark caves of Brazil, certain insects take sexual role-play to a whole new level. Female insects of the newly discovered genus Neotrogla have highly elaborate, spiky penises, which they insert into males’ vagina-like organ to reproduce.

Reversed sex roles have been identified in several other species, including male seahorses that undergo pregnancy. However, after studying the mating habits of Neotrogla, which represents four distinct species, researchers have determined that thi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

ImaGeo

California Drought, Midwest Chill Tied to Climate Change?

By Tom Yulsman | April 17, 2014 11:08 am

Here we are in mid-April and the Midwest is experiencing yet another unusual wintry blast. No wonder there’s still quite a lot of ice in the Great Lakes, as you can see in the remarkable image above, captured under a full moon at night by the Suomi NPP satellite.

Click on it to enlarge it. The ice is particularly evident in Lake Superior at upper left.

Meanwhile, warm and dry conditions continue in California.

New NASA-funded research led by Simon Wang at Utah State University, sugg …

Seriously, Science?

Are you too optimistic? Science can fix that.

By Seriously Science | April 17, 2014 6:00 am

Like most people, you probably suffer from “unrealistic optimism”: a tendency of healthy individuals to underestimate their likelihood of future misfortune, such as illness. Fortunately, scientists have not only figured out which part of the brain is responsible for this behavior, but they have also figured out how to stop it. Apparently, stimulating the right inferior frontal gyrus — a region of the brain near your temple — by flushing the left (but not right) ear with cold water made sub …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Neuroskeptic

How To Fool A Plagiarism Detector

By Neuroskeptic | April 17, 2014 4:25 am

Should you trust plagiarism detection software?

In my view, no – we should never treat an automated plagiarism report as definitive evidence, whether positive (as proof of plagiarism) or negative (as proof of innocence.) These tools are useful for rapidly screening texts to raise red flags, but once a suspicion is raised, only old-fashioned manual checking can determine originality or otherwise.

In this post I’ll explain why – but first, a little backstory.

Five months ago, I argued tha …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, funny, PIE, select, Top Posts, Uncategorized

D-brief

How Do Sperm Recognize Eggs? Mechanism Finally Found

By Breanna Draxler | April 16, 2014 12:01 pm

It’s the stuff of 3rd-grade sex ed: sperm meets egg to make baby. But, surprisingly, scientists have actually been in the dark about one crucial step: how the two sex cells recognize each other amidst the fluid frenzy in the Fallopian tubes. Now researchers have announced that they’ve found the missing piece of this fertilization puzzle, and that the discovery could lead to individualized fertility treatments and hormone-free birth control.

Back in 2005, researchers found the first half of  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: sex & reproduction

D-brief

A Beard Is Only as Sexy as It Is Rare

By Carl Engelking | April 16, 2014 8:44 am

It’s not just Williamsburg anymore — young people across the U.S. revere the beard. The facial hair craze is so popular that some men are paying as much as $7,000 for a beard transplant. However, if the trend continues, new research indicates why it will eventually reverse course: We find beards attractive only when they’re rare.

Testing the Beard’s Bravado
To test the sexual power of the beard, 36 men’s faces were captured in a series of photographs that followed them through vari …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Seriously, Science?

What is the average survival rate of pop stars?

By Seriously Science | April 16, 2014 6:00 am

It’s not surprising that pop and rock stars have higher mortality rates than your average Joe. But how much higher is it, and does it ever decrease again (say, if they make it through the early days of fame unscathed)? According to this study, which determined the relative mortality rates of North American and European musicians (rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronica and new age), music stars experience about 1.7 times higher mortality rates than people in the general population. Interesting …

Citizen Science Salon

Hunting for a meteorite? Quick, grab your phone!

By Angus Chen | April 15, 2014 7:17 pm

The June edition of Discover Magazine refers to the NASA Meteor Counter app, though this has been updated to the newer AMS Meteors App. Check it out to collect awesome data on meteors, fireballs, and meteorites.
A fireball exploded over a parking lot shortly after daybreak in April of 2012, showering the area near Sutter’s Mill, the original site of the California Gold Rush, with new treasure. Meteorite hunters and scientists rushed to discover the first stones from the meteor, known as t …

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