By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "may never know" how a fairly harmless form of bird flu was cross-contaminated with a dangerous bird flu strain before it was sent to a laboratory outside of the CDC, an agency spokesman said on Monday. The CDC disclosed the bird flu incident as part of an internal investigation into the agency's mishandling of live anthrax in June, potentially exposing dozens of its own lab workers to the pathogen. While no humans fell ill as a result of the bird flu breach, CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden has called it “the most distressing" in a series of safety breaches at the agency because of the public risk posed by the virus.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Forty-five years after the first Apollo lunar landing, the United States remains divided about the moon's role in future human space exploration. Ten more U.S. astronauts followed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's July 20, 1969, visit to the moon before the Apollo program was canceled in 1972. Instead, NASA was directed to begin planning for a human expedition to an asteroid. This path, however, is fraught with technological cul-de-sacs that do not directly contribute to radiation protection, landing systems, habitats and other projects needed to build the road to Mars, a National Research Council panel concluded in June.
In a first study of its kind, researchers have linked dredging to increased sickness in nearby coral reefs. Researchers studied the effects of such digging operations on the health of corals around Barrow Island, which is located off the west coast of Australia. "At dredging sites, we found more than twice as much coral disease than at our control sites," study lead author Joe Pollock, a postdoctoral candidate from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said in a statement. About 40 percent of the world's coral reefs are near large urban areas and coastlines undergoing rapid development, highlighting the importance of understanding how sediment and murky water can affect the health of coral reefs.
Apollo 11 was four minutes into its landing sequence when the terse words of its commander, Neil Armstrong, came from the speaker in Mission Control: Buzz Aldrin, sitting next to Armstrong in the descending Lunar Module, stared at the frozen display on the computer, which read "1202." It was an error code, but for what? Controllers in Houston scanned their notes trying to figure out what the heck the problem was.
Actor Morgan Freeman grilled NASA astronauts on the International Space Station about how their work can get humans to Mars someday. "So you guys are out there, floating around, tossing that microphone back and forth there cleverly," Freeman said during a webcast Friday (July 18) featuring the station's Expedition 41 NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson. "Showoff," Freeman retorted as the audience at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California laughed. Swanson thinks that the International Space Station is a good place to practice for an eventual trip to Mars.
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."
For example, one such policy is to convert heavy-duty trucks to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) rather than diesel fuel. Ramón Alvarez and his colleagues at the Environmental Defense Fund, Princeton University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Duke University studied this option and found that it is "not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change," as it would be nearly 300 years after the fuel switch before net climate benefits are achieved. Policies that are effective at reducing emissions generally come in three types: economic signals, performance standards and policies to support innovation. Economic signals are policies that change the price of goods or activities in order to influence the choices made by people and businesses. Economic signals counter a key failure of markets: they do not properly value "externalities" (the positive and negative effects of an activity on society). These effects are not limited to climate change.
"These things were almost certainly still predators of some kind, but the imagined notion that they were swimming around terrorizing anything that looked edible is probably an exaggeration," said Derek Briggs, a paleontologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and co-author of the new study, published today (July 8) in the journal Biology Letters. Pterygotids were a type of eurypterid, an extinct type of sea scorpion related to arachnids. Their closest living relatives are horseshoe crabs or modern sea scorpions, he said. Previously, these spooky sea monsters were thought to be fearsome predators, devouring armored fishes and giant cephalopods (related to modern squids and nautiluses).
By Mitch Phillips RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Penalty shootouts have been used at the World Cup since 1982 but while every one of the 24 to date has routinely been described as "dramatic" there is a deal more science than art when it comes to converting successfully from 12 yards. The first penalty shoot-out to decide a major international match came after the final of the 1976 European championship when the Czechoslovakia beat West Germany 5-3 with the famously dinked final effort by Antonin Panenka. Uli Stielike did miss during their win over France in the first-ever World Cup shootout in the 1982 semi-final but in their three since they have converted every shot and have won four out of four. Brazil's win over Chile last week took their record to 3-1, while Argentina also boast a 3-1 record.
Scientists studying the effects of the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms have found the human brain displays a similar pattern of activity during dreams as it does during a mind-expanding drug trip. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can profoundly alter the way we experience the world, but little is known about what physically happens in the brain. In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, researchers examined the brain effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, using data from brain scans of volunteers who had been injected with the drug. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered," said Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi, who led the study at Germany's Goethe University.
A completely new subatomic particle — one so reclusive and strange that it passes undetected through ordinary matter — could be lurking in the universe. If so, a detector set to turn on later this year could find the first convincing evidence for the particle, called a sterile neutrino. The new experiment, whose 30-ton detector was recently lowered into place at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, will look for traces of this elusive particle transforming into another type of neutrino. Unlike the Higgs boson, the particle thought to explain why other particles have mass and which most physicists predicted should exist for decades, sterile neutrinos would be in the realm of completely unknown physics that only some physicists believe exist, said Bonnie Fleming, the experiment's spokeswoman and a physicist at Yale University.
"The first time somebody mentioned it to me, I thought they were actually joking," said Paul Markowski, a professor of meteorology at Penn State. The basic goal of the proposal, put forth in the International Journal of Modern Physics B by Rongjia Tao, a physicist at Temple University, is to thwart the "violent air mass clashes" that spawn punishing tornadoes. Tao envisions three east-west walls, one at the northern edge of Tornado Alley, maybe in North Dakota, another in the middle, perhaps in Oklahoma, and the last stretching across southern Texas and Louisiana. Tao said he got the idea while working as a professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he studied the differences in tornado risk between nearby Washington and Gallatin counties.