By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If someone were to create an award for "mother of the year" in the animal kingdom, a remarkably dedicated eight-limbed mom from the dark and frigid depths of the Pacific Ocean might be a strong contender. Scientists on Wednesday described how the female of an octopus species that dwells almost a mile below the sea surface spends about 4-1/2 years brooding her eggs, protecting them vigilantly until they hatch while forgoing any food for herself. It is the longest known egg-brooding period for any animal, they wrote in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. ...
An international team of scientists on Thursday described an extraordinary evolutionary process that unfolded over a period of 50 million years in which a lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs shrank steadily and acquired numerous traits that led to the first appearance of birds. The researchers, using techniques developed by molecular biologists to reconstruct virus evolution, examined 1,500 anatomical traits in 120 different dinosaurs from the theropod group. "Our study measured the rate of evolution of different groups of theropod dinosaurs," said lead researcher Michael Lee, a paleontologist at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum.
By Amanda Orr HOUSTON (Reuters) - A Texas company is offering a unique send off for beloved pets by placing a portion of their cremated remains in a capsule and blasting them off into space. Celestis Inc, which has provided memorial space flights for human remains since 1997, will launch its first commercial pet memorial spaceflight in October 2014 with the remains of a blue merle Australian shepherd, named Apollo, the company said. The space send-off options go up to $12,500, which allows the pet’s remains to be launched into deep space or to visit the moon. "Our pet service flights are an idea that’s been a long time coming," Celestis Chief Executive Charles Chafer said.
Airbus Group and Safran on Wednesday named Alain Charmeau as the head of a new venture designed to reorganize Europe's space launch activities. The two companies said in June they had agreed to create a 50-50 joint venture in space launchers, combining Airbus's launch systems with Safran's propulsion systems. The venture is expected eventually to incorporate the marketing teams for Europe's Ariane space rocket, currently in the European consortium Arianespace, and some design teams from French and German space agencies. It is the first concrete step toward consolidation after Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders called for a shake-up to preserve Europe's commercial access to space in the face of new competition.
Be born in Boston and move to New York City. Using a database of more than 2,000 years of notable names, stretching back to King David of Israel and Judah in 1069 B.C., researchers tracked the rise and fall of cultural centers in Europe and North America over hundreds of years. They found that Paris was a magnet for talent, drawing 70 percent of France's notables over the centuries, and that Germany has long consisted of multiple, smaller, cultural centers competing for brains and creativity. "This paper is the first step," study researcher Maximilian Schich, an art historian at the University of Texas at Dallas, told Live Science.
It's really starting to look as if an "impossible" space propulsion technology actually works. Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston have found that a microwave thruster system that requires no propellant does indeed generate a small amount of thrust, Wired UK reported Thursday (July 31). "Test results indicate that the RF [radio frequency] resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and, therefore, is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma," the NASA team wrote in their study, which they presented Wednesday (July 30) at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland. The roots of the propulsion system tested by the NASA team trace back to a British researcher named Roger Shawyer, who claims that his "EmDrive" generates thrust by rocketing microwaves around in a chamber.
"Although the idea of tissue clearing has been around for a century, to our knowledge, this is the first study to perform whole-body clearing, as opposed to first extracting and then clearing organs outside the adult body," study researcher Viviana Gradinaru, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, said in a statement. Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+.
A private team is priming a 36-year-old NASA spacecraft to perform new science as it travels through interplanetary space after attempts to move the probe into a position closer to Earth failed. "We're disappointed we couldn't put it in the L-1 orbit, but we had a lot of scientists saying we're more interested in interplanetary space," Keith Cowing, co-leader of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, told Space.com.
By Krisztina Than BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian scientists are aiming for the first prototype of a new device in two years that will help surgeons distinguish between healthy tissue and tumours in a split-second as they operate and remove cancerous tissue precisely. Hungarian chemist Zoltan Takats started to work on the technology in 2002 in the United States and from 2004 onwards at the Budapest Semmelweis Medical University in cooperation with the Imperial College London, where he works now. Last week, U.S.-based Waters Corporation acquired the technology - called Rapid Evaporative Ionization Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) - from Hungarian start-up firm MediMass Ltd. Waters said in a July 22 statement on its website that the technology could be used to create the "Intelligent Knife" or "iKnife," a device "in the conceptual stages of development that could potentially be used for real-time diagnostics in surgery".
The Cheshire Cat of the classic children's book "Alice in Wonderland" had a smile that could disconnect from its body. For instance, a particle can apparently exist in two or more places at once or spin two opposite directions at the same time, a property known as superposition. Theoretical physicists last year predicted that the peculiar nature of quantum physics might allow the properties of particles to exist in two or more places simultaneously. This mimics the story of the Cheshire Cat, in which Alice notes, "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin … but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"
The Landsat 1 satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, flew into orbit on July 23, 1972, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The camera was designed to be the primary observation instrument, according to NASA, but scientists soon discovered that the scanner was sending back far better data. In 1976, scientists combing through Landsat images found a tiny scrap of land never seen before. To verify the island's existence, Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrologist Frank Hall took a helicopter to the island.
By Victoria Cavaliere SEATTLE (Reuters) - A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists were expected to rattle Washington state's Mount St. Helens on Wednesday as researchers map the interior of the volcano, whose 1980 eruption was the deadliest in U.S. history. Mount St. Helens, about 95 miles (150 km) south of Seattle and 50 miles (80 km) north of Portland, erupted in an explosion of hot ash in May 1980, spewing debris over a wide area, killing 57 people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage. Scientists from across the United States are trying to get a better handle on the magma stores and internal workings of the 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) volcano to improve warning systems prior to eruption. "Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland," lead scientist Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston said in a statement.
How do great guitarists bend a string like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix? "Very good guitarists will manipulate the strings to make the instrument sing," David Robert Grimes, a physicist at Oxford University, in England, who plays guitar and was a member of a band in Dublin, Ireland, said in a statement. The physics of string instruments is fairly well understood, but "I wanted to understand what it was about these guitar techniques that allows you to manipulate pitch," Grimes said. Grimes, who normally works on mathematical models of oxygen distribution in radiation therapy for cancer, spent his spare time crafting equations for various guitar techniques, including bending (pushing the strings up or down), tapping (hitting the strings), vibrato (moving the wrist back and forth to change a string's tension) and whammy bar action (a mechanical form of vibrato).
Elephants are known for their impressively long trunks, but perhaps less well known is the large number of genes that code for their sense smell. "Rats had the record for the largest number of [these] genes," said the study's lead researcher Yoshiihito Niimura, a researcher of molecular evolution at The University of Tokyo in Japan. The findings support other research on the pachyderm's superior sense of smell. African elephants can smell the difference between two tribes living in Kenya: the Maasai, whose young men prove their virility by spearing elephants, and the Kamba, farmers who usually leave elephants alone, reported a 2007 study published in the journal Current Biology.
Nora Beirne, a senior keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. When I went to The College of New Jersey, I was an English major, but I took several pre-med classes. Then, in my senior year, Pat Thomas — associate director of the Bronx Zoo and vice president and general curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society — gave a talk to the biology department. In six years as a zoo keeper, I've trained red pandas for injections, fed black bears jelly off a spoon and held a komodo dragon.
Homer Hickam is The New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of "Rocket Boys" — also known as "October Sky" (Dell Publishing, 2000) following the book's adaptation to film — and the "Helium-3" novels "Crater" (Thomas Nelson, 2012), "Crescent" (Thomas Nelson, 2013) "Crater Trueblood and The Lunar Rescue Company" (Thomas Nelson, 2014), as well as a retired NASA engineer. There, a ghost town awaits, the previous residents scared off by weird emanations of LTP.
Humans are getting taller; Most of the transformations that occur within such a short time period "are simply the developmental responses of organisms to changed conditions," such as differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices, said Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. But the origin of these changes may be much deeper and more complex than that, said Stearns, pointing to a study finding that British soldiers have shot up in height in the past century. "Evolution has shaped the developmental program that can respond flexibly to changes in the environment," Stearns said.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As far as agricultural genome research goes, this may be the best thing since sliced bread - wheat bread, that is. An international team of scientists on Thursday unveiled a genetic blueprint of wheat in an accomplishment that may help guide the breeding of varieties of the vitally important food crop that are more productive and more hardy. Researchers who are part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, formed in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists and breeders, unveiled what they called a chromosome-based draft genome sequence of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. The work makes it easier to identify genes controlling agriculturally important traits like yield, disease and pest resistance and drought tolerance, according to Frédéric Choulet, a plant genomicist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), one of the lead researchers.
Earth's nearest star has bad weather, too. The mechanisms driving coronal rain are similar to the way rain forms on Earth, according to a statement released by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in the United Kingdom. Scientists found that clouds of plasma in the corona cool, condense and fall back to the sun's surface in a waterfall-like arch if solar conditions are just right. "Showers of 'rain' and waterfalls on the sun are quite something, though I wouldn't recommend taking a stroll there anytime soon," Eamon Scullion of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, who led the solar physics research, said in a statement.
Chimpanzees don't just get their smarts by aping others — chimps, like humans, inherit a significant amount of their intelligence from their parents, new research reveals. Researchers measured how well 99 captive chimpanzees performed on a series of cognitive tests, finding that genes determined as much as 50 percent of the animals' performance. "Genes matter," said William Hopkins, a neuroscientist at Georgia State University in Atlanta and co-author of the study published today (July 10) in the journal Current Biology. "We have what we would call a smart chimp, and chimps we'd call not so smart," Hopkins told Live Science, and "we were able to explain a lot of that variability by who was related to each other."