Elephants Rarely Get Cancer, Now We Know Why

By Janine Anderson | October 8, 2015 10:04 am

(Credit: mariait/Shutterstock)

Could a cure for cancer be hiding in the elephant’s genetic code?

The massive mammals have a much lower incidence of cancer than one would expect, given their size and long life span. It’s a phenomenon popularized by Oxford University epidemiologist Richard Peto, called Peto’s paradox, that larger animals have lower incidences of cancer, despite having exponentially more cells with the potential to mutate. Now, researchers believe they know why, and it could reap dividends for humans. Read More

Building the Microbial Hitchhikers Guide to the Solar System

By Shannon Stirone | October 7, 2015 9:45 am

A view of the stratosphere aboard a 2014 E-MIST mission that tested the functionality of their experiment container. (Credit: NASA)

There are no free rides into space, and NASA is taking every precaution to keep it that way.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility will soon launch a massive weather balloon carrying hardy bacteria into the stratosphere to study microbial freeloaders that might attempt to hitch a ride into space. While the launch has been delayed over the last two weeks due to unfavorable weather, the team anticipates a successful launch next week out of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. If it turns out terrestrial microorganisms can survive in the stratosphere’s extreme conditions, there’s a chance they could spoil the party if we ever discover life on another planet.  Read More

Newly Discovered Hog-Nosed Rat is an Indonesian Oddity

By Carl Engelking | October 6, 2015 3:05 pm
hog-nosed rat

Mett the hog-nosed rat. (Credit: Kevin C. Rowe, Senior Curator of Mammals, Museum Victoria)

A recently discovered rat has a face only a mother could love.

An international team of researchers studying animals in the isolated, mountainous island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, trapped a shrewlike critter with a distinctive pink snout on Mount Dako in 2013. As it turns out, the critter was previously unknown to science, and the team finally introduced the rest of the world to the newly discovered hog-nosed rat, Hyorhinomys stuempkei. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Newborns’ Gut Microbes Signal Asthma Risk Later in Life

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | September 30, 2015 2:31 pm


In the last 30 years, the number of people with asthma has risen sharply in Western countries like the U.S. and Canada. Today, it’s the most common pediatric disease in the developed world, affecting over 300 million people worldwide – and now researchers say it may be influenced by four bacteria that live in our intestines.

Asthma is an immune-mediated illness, which means that it happens because something is wrong with the body’s normal immune response, but doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes it. Like other immune-mediated illnesses, asthma is partly genetic, but environmental factors also play a big role in whether someone develops the disease. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

The World’s First 1,000-mph Car Has Been Unveiled

By Carl Engelking | September 24, 2015 3:17 pm
(Credit: Stefan Majoram/The Bloodhound Project)

(Credit: Stefan Majoram/The Bloodhound Project)

The world land speed record is in serious jeopardy.

That’s because the Bloodhound SSC was unveiled to the world in its final form Thursday in London, and this supersonic chariot won’t just break the land speed record, it’s expected to obliterate it. The Bloodhound represents the collaborative efforts of more than 200 global companies as well as eight years of designing and manufacturing. The team’s efforts have yielded a rocket on wheels that could reach a speed of 1,000 miles per hour — shattering the current world record of 763 mph. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: physics, transportation

How to See This Weekend’s ‘Super Blood Moon’

By Martin Ratcliffe and Richard Talcott | September 24, 2015 12:14 pm
Earth's shadow will cover the Moon in shades of orange and red the evening of September 27, just as it did during this August 1989 eclipse. Credit: Bill and Sally Fletcher

Earth’s shadow will cover the Moon in shades of orange and red the evening of September 27, just as it did during this August 1989 eclipse. Credit: Bill and Sally Fletcher

Every object in the solar system casts a shadow. Large objects, like Earth, create big shadows that can engulf entire worlds, even if those worlds loom bigger than normal.

On the night of September 27/28, the Full Moon plunges through Earth’s shadow for the second time this year, and this time, it’s the biggest Full Moon of 2015. The resulting total lunar eclipse lasts more than an hour and occurs during the evening across the Americas.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Water Snake In Missouri Gives ‘Virgin Birth,’ Again

By Carl Engelking | September 22, 2015 3:22 pm

(Credit: Candice Davis, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation)

It’s been nearly a decade since this female yellow-bellied water snake came in contact with a male snake, but it hasn’t stopped her from starting a family.

For the second time in as many summers, this snake at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center in Missouri managed to give birth sans a male counterpart. These so-called “virgin births” aren’t what you’d call miracles, but they are certainly quite rare to see in snakes.  Read More

Can You Safely Land the Falcon 9 Rocket? Probably Not

By Carl Engelking | September 18, 2015 1:47 pm


If you used the word “failure” to describe SpaceX’s unsuccessful attempts to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating drone ship, you should probably play this web game.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lander is a simple — in concept only — game that challenges you to guide a virtual Falcon 9 rocket onto a landing pad. It sounds easy, but it is maddeningly difficult. True, you aren’t guiding a $60 million hunk of rocketry like the folks at SpaceX, but the game serves as a vivid illustration of the monumental challenge the company has taken on. Read More

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

Featured Creature: Worms That Stab Their Own Heads to Reproduce

By Carl Engelking | September 18, 2015 9:04 am

(Credit: Steve Ramm’s research group at Bielefeld University in Germany)

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, unless, of course, you’re a hermaphroditic worm.

The free-living flatworm Macrostomum hystrix prefers to mate with others of its species; but if placed in isolation, the independent worm will do the nasty on its own for the sake of reproduction. Unfortunately, there’s still a price to pay for being a loner: In order to self-inseminate, worms have to inject sperm into their own heads. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Lost GoPro Captures Amazing View of the Grand Canyon

By Carl Engelking | September 17, 2015 2:28 pm
(Screengrab from Bryan Chan/YouTube)

(Screengrab from Bryan Chan/YouTube)

This is a science story with a happy ending, but oh boy was the intermission long.

In June 2013 a group of Stanford students attached two cameras and a cell phone to a weather balloon and sent it into the stratosphere. The team was shooting high-altitude video and measuring atmospheric conditions as part of a dissertation project. The launch itself was successful, but something went awry in the final stages, and the balloon’s payload was assumed to be forever lost somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Two years later, their lost experiment was discovered, and the footage is amazing. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: earth science


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