Astronomers Spot a Supernova in the Making

By Sarah Scoles | February 9, 2015 2:14 pm
Artist’s impression of two white dwarf stars destined to merge and create a Type Ia supernova. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Artist’s impression of two white dwarf stars destined to merge and create a Type Ia supernova. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Astronomers can see into the future of the two superdense stars racing around the center of planetary nebula Henize 2-428. And it doesn’t look good.

Their racetrack is slowly (but steadily) shrinking. And in 700 million years, they will crash into each other, igniting a Type Ia supernova. In over a century of astronomers studying supernovae, this is the first time they’ve seen this type of supernova in the making.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

A View of Earth From the Far Side of the Moon (Video)

By Carl Engelking | February 9, 2015 12:21 pm

We’re all familiar with the “man in the moon,” but that friendly face has a flip side we rarely see.

Thanks to nearly five years of mapping data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we can take a peak at the hidden side of our closest satellite. NASA recently released a detailed computer simulation of what the view would look like from the moon’s hidden side. And to be honest, the view from Earth is better.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

US Navy Unveils a Firefighting, Humanoid Robot

By Carl Engelking | February 5, 2015 1:53 pm
The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) undergoes testing aboard the Naval Research Laboratory's ex-USS Shadwell in Mobile, Ala. SAFFiR is a bipedal humanoid robot being developed to assist Sailors with damage control and inspection operations aboard naval vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

SAFFiR undergoes testing aboard the decommissioned USS Shadwell in Mobile, Ala. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Someday, when a fire breaks out aboard a U.S. Naval ship, sailors may bypass the red fire extinguishers and instead call upon the services of a 5-foot, 10-inch, 143-pound firefighting robot.

Scientists unveiled the two-legged humanoid robot Wednesday at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology Expo, and we challenge you to find a cooler way to put out a fire. Although the robot has only demonstrated its abilities in a controlled environment, scientists envision a future where human-robot hybrid teams work together as first responders when flames rise at sea. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

UK Becomes First Country to Approve ‘Three-Parent Babies’

By Carl Engelking | February 3, 2015 1:58 pm


The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to legalize three-person in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a method of conception that combines genes from three parents.

On Tuesday, the UK’s House of Commons voted 382 to 128 in favor of the controversial technique, called mitochondrial donation, and the first “three-person baby” could be conceived later this year. Doctors say mitochondrial donation will prevent mothers from transferring incurable genetic diseases to their children. Opponents have raised ethical concerns, saying it sets humanity on the slippery slope toward “designer babies.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Scientists Have Mapped All of Ötzi the Iceman’s 61 Tattoos

By Carl Engelking | January 30, 2015 2:09 pm

Researchers have identified all 61 tattoos on Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered in a glacier in 1991. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Proving that tattoos can age well, all 61 tattoos on the mummified Ötzi the Iceman have been mapped — and they still look pretty darn good, all things considered.

Anthropologists mapped the ink on the 5,300-year-remains using a new imaging technique, revealing previously-unknown tattoos. With this new census in hand, researchers hope to finally answer the question of what the tattoos mean. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Skull Discovery Tells a Human-Neanderthal Love Story

By Carl Engelking | January 29, 2015 1:58 pm

The excavation site at Manot Cave in western Galilee. (Credit: Israel Hershkovitz, Ofer Marder & Omry Barzilai)

A 55,000-year-old human skull found within a cave in Israel could be evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals were close to each other. Very close.

Scientists believe anatomical features of the partial skull, found in Manot Cave in western Galilee, indicate modern humans and Neanderthals may have interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago in the Middle East. Scientists believe this skull could be one of the missing links between African modern humans and European hominids. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

VIDEO: Like Humans, Chicks Count From Left to Right

By Ben Thomas | January 29, 2015 1:00 pm

Credit: Rosa Rugani, University of Padova

When you think of the numbers one and ten, which of them feels like it’s on the left, and which is on the right? If you’re like most people, you think of the number one as being on the left. This so-called mental number line is a trait you share not only with most of your fellow English speakers, but also with the majority of people on earth.

And now, for the first time, a team of researchers has found direct evidence of a mental number line in a non-human species: chickens.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts

This Exoplanet’s Ring System Puts Saturn to Shame

By Carl Engelking | January 27, 2015 12:59 pm
An artist's rendering of J1407b passing in front of its parent star. (Credit: Ron Miller)

An artist’s rendering of J1407b passing in front of its parent star. (Credit: Ron Miller)

A newly discovered planet makes Saturn’s famed ring collection look downright tiny by comparison.

Astronomers from the Leiden Observatory in Netherlands and Rochester University in the United States discovered a planet encircled by a ring system more than 200 times the diameter of Saturn’s. With more than 30 rings, it’s the first system of its kind to be discovered outside our solar system, and it may be churning out more moons and protoplanets. Read More

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

In the Brain, Silent Reading Is the Same As Talking to Yourself

By Carl Engelking | January 26, 2015 2:46 pm


It’s a well-known fact that kids learn to read by speaking words aloud, and only later are they able to channel that brain activity into a silent internal monologue. But in terms of what goes on in our brains when we read silently, not much has been known.

Now a group of Italian researchers have discovered that our brain carries over the same tactics from reading aloud to read silently. As you read this article, your brain is behaving as if you’re speaking the words aloud to yourself — a discovery that highlights the important role sound plays in language. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Scientists Use Diaper Polymers to Swell Microscope Specimens

By Ben Thomas | January 23, 2015 10:20 am

baby diaper

Sci-fi movies have shown us what it might be like to shrink down to the size of an ant, or to blow a grasshopper up to the size of a skyscraper. And while a shrink ray may never be a scientific reality, a team led by MIT’s Edward Boyden has actually found a way to expand biological tissue to several times its original size  giving researchers a more detailed look than ever at microscopic structures within the body.

And as silly as it sounds, the substance they’ve used for this upsizing is the same polymer that makes baby diapers swell up when they get wet.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology

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