Venus Is At Its Best Right Now – Here’s How to See It

By Karri Ferron | June 11, 2015 9:33 am
Credit: Roen Kelly/ Astronomy

Credit: Roen Kelly/ Astronomy

Look to the western sky less than an hour after sunset, and you won’t be able to miss a brilliant point of light more than a fourth of the way above the horizon.

That stunning jewel is Venus, and it’s currently having its best showing for northern observers of 2015 as it shines brightest and appears highest in the evening sky.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Even Small Football Impacts Can Ring the Brain Like a Bell

By Andy Berger | June 9, 2015 6:04 pm

little league football

When it comes to head impacts, it’s not just the hard-hitting blows that you should worry about. A new study finds that even small hits can cause the brain to vibrate dramatically inside the skull.

Head injuries in sports have come into the spotlight in recent years. Brain trauma has been implicated in the suicides and domestic violence cases of several NFL players, and even the deaths of several high school athletes. As a result, parents and fans are becoming increasingly sensitive to issues of safety.

Now, by developing a simple model of the brain and skull, researchers have shown that even mild impacts should not be taken lightly. These smaller hits can cause quite a bit of motion of the brain relative to the skull, through a phenomenon known as resonance. Much like when a tuning fork is struck and begins ringing with a specific tone, a small impact to the head can cause the brain to jostle a lot.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Wild Chimps Observed Drinking Alcoholic “Palm Wine”

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | June 9, 2015 6:00 pm
A chimp drinks fermented palm sap from a leaf in Guinea. Credit: G. Ohashi

A chimp drinks fermented palm sap from a leaf in Guinea. Credit: G. Ohashi

Alcohol consumption by humans exists in almost every known society, but until now, it’s never been conclusively documented among other primates.

But it turns out that chimps have a taste for alcohol too: Wild chimpanzees in Guinea have been observed drinking fermented tree sap on multiple occasions.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Your Birth Month Influences Your Risk for Diseases

By Carl Engelking | June 9, 2015 4:33 pm

shutterstock_181223432Your Zodiac symbol and birthstone aren’t the only things decided by your birth date: The day you entered this world may also predict your chances of developing ailments like asthma or heart disease.

That’s the conclusion from data scientists who mined a trove of electronic heath data to determine whether a person’s lifetime risk for disease is linked to their birth month. By the looks of their findings, fall babies tend to develop more diseases than babies born any other time of the year.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

The Most Epic Robot Fails of the DARPA Robotics Challenge

By Carl Engelking | June 9, 2015 1:14 pm

The world’s most advanced anthropomorphic robots showcased some serious skills at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals over the weekend. But at times, the competition looked more like a sloppy scene outside the pub at closing time.

The DRC Finals challenged teams to design and build bots that could complete a difficult course loaded with obstacles relevant to working in a disaster zone, such as walking through rubble, climbing stairs, turning valves and even driving a vehicle. Humans take skills like walking and opening doors for granted, but these robots proved that even the simplest tasks could be embarrassingly difficult when you’re made of metal.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: robots

75 Million-Year-Old Blood Cells Discovered in Dinosaur Bones

By Jon Tennant | June 9, 2015 10:00 am
Theropod dinosaur claw

Theropod claw in which the blood cells were found. Credit: Laurent Mekul

It might sound like something out of Jurassic World but it’s true: Inside fossilized dinosaur bones, researchers have discovered 75-million-year-old red blood cells and proteins.

This discovery indicates that blood and other cells might be preserved much longer in fossils than previously believed. And studying these cells in the future could give us brand-new insights into how dinosaurs looked and behaved.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs

Solar Sailing Spacecraft Unfurls Its Sails, Finally

By Carl Engelking | June 8, 2015 3:39 pm
Lightsail in space, released 9 June 2015. Courtesy Planetary Society

Lightsail in space, released 9 June 2015. Courtesy Planetary Society

It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for LightSail, but on Sunday its tribulations came to a happy conclusion.

Since its launch on May 20, technical glitches prevented the LightSail satellite from accomplishing its one and only task: unfurling four massive Mylar sails that, theoretically, could harness energy from the sun to propel the spacecraft through space. The satellite is a prototype, meant to serve as a proof of concept for this design of spacecraft.

And finally, at 3:47 p.m. EDT Sunday, LightSail sprung to life and all 344 square feet of its sail opened up to the vast expanse of space. Read More

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

Parasitic Mites Mimic Honeybees’ Scent to Evade Detection

By Carl Engelking | June 5, 2015 1:46 pm
The  Varroa destructor mite on a bee nymph. Credit: Gilles San Martin via Flickr

The Varroa destructor mite on a bee nymph. Credit: Gilles San Martin via Flickr

Bad news for honeybees: Their biggest enemies are also masters of disguise.

An abundance of factors are contributing to the rapid decline of honeybee populations, but a tiny mite with a name suitable for a super villain, Varroa destructor, may be terrorizing the bees the most. And recently scientists discovered that these mites have a super power: They can customize their chemical scents to match different species of bees in order to remain undetected within the colony.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: agriculture, animals

Scientists Regrow an Entire Rat Limb in the Lab

By Carl Engelking | June 4, 2015 1:24 pm
Scientists' regrown rat limb. (Credit: Bernhard Jank, M.D., Ott Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine)

Scientists’ regrown rat limb. (Credit: Bernhard Jank, M.D., Ott Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine)

Prosthetic limb technology has certainly advanced over the years, but replacing lost limbs with fleshy, biologically functional limbs remains the ultimate prize.

And scientists just got a step closer to that goal.

A team of regenerative scientists and surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital successfully grew a semi-functional rat forelimb in the lab, employing a technique previously used to build bio-artificial organs. If someday perfected, the experimental approach could be used to create human limbs suitable for transplantation. Read More

Blood Test Can Detect Every Virus You’ve Ever Had

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | June 4, 2015 12:59 pm

finger prick

Viral infections come and go countless times over our lives. Some, like mononucleosis, might knock you flat for weeks, while others never produce any symptoms at all. And some may impact your immune system in subtle ways for years after the infection.

Soon, it could be possible to get a full history of every viral infection you’ve ever had, using just a drop of blood. Researchers have developed a blood test that detects the remnants of more than 1,000 strains of 206 virus species. The test could someday help doctors diagnose current ailments and reveal more about how viruses impact our long-term health.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
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