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Rosetta probe studies released, revealing fullest picture of comet yet

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 19:00

From the “frozen primordial soup” of organics on the comet to new pictures, the discoveries made during the Philae lander’s first days have been published

The Philae lander may have spoken its final words, but with the data beamed back to its mothership, Rosetta, scientists have painted the fullest picture yet of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Born from the detritus of the primordial solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago, the icy comet has a fluffy coating over a hard-grained surface pocked with gas-spewing sinkholes. Yet it is more nothing than something: its interior is at least 75% empty space.

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Categories: Science news

#RosettaWatch: Philae lander reveals comet 67P’s fluffy surface

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-30 19:00
Comet 67P has previously unseen organic molecules and fluffy surface grains – just a few of the discoveries in the first set of papers from the Philae team









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Ancient crystals show Earth’s magnetic field switched on early

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-30 19:00
Earth needed its magnetic field to protect the nascent atmosphere – but when did the field turn on? Magnetic rocks show it was earlier than we thought









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Mike Lesser obituary

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 18:09

On 16 February 1963, my friend Mike Lesser, who has died aged 71, was one of the “Spies for Peace” who broke into the then secret regional seat of government (RSG-6) near Reading in Berkshire. The result, that Easter, was the publication of the pamphlet “Danger! Official Secret! RSG-6”, which revealed – with phone numbers and names – the administrative network of underground bunkers prepared for a nuclear strike. RSG-6 was besieged by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Aldermaston marchers, Vanessa Redgrave declaimed from the pamphlet, and the activists were officially denounced as traitors.

Mike, scientist and anarcho-communist, was then the youngest member of the Committee of 100 – non-violent campaigners against nuclear weapons – and had already served a jail term in Wormwood Scrubs prison following a Whitehall protest. After the RSG-6 break-in he spent six months hiding out on the German North Sea coast. None of the Spies for Peace was ever charged, but it would be 2010 before Mike spoke of his role.

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In So Many Words: minute world with big stories to tell

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-30 17:49
In so many words is where we retell our stories on space and physics using only the 1000 commonest words in English









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NASA plans smart air traffic control for drones

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-30 17:12
If every home has a drone, then every home will serve as an airport – and that will need a new kind of air traffic control









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Golden jackal: A new wolf species hiding in plain view | @GrrlScientist

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 17:02

A new species of wolf has been discovered in Africa after exhaustive DNA and morphological analyses revealed it is evolutionarily distinct from the Eurasian golden jackal, which it strongly resembles

The Canid family -- wolves, coyotes, jackals, foxes, domestic dogs and others -- are so familiar to us, and have been so intensively studied for so long that you might think that we know almost everything there is to know about them. But a paper published today in Current Biology belies that assumption. This paper describes the meticulous research conducted by an international team of experts who report a surprising discovery: a new species of wolf.

According to the authors, two golden jackal populations -- one in Eurasia and the other in Africa -- split more than one million years ago, which is sufficient to formally recognise each as separate species. Further, after exhaustive DNA analyses, the authors were surprised to learn that African golden jackals are more closely related to grey wolves, even though there are no grey wolves in Africa and even though grey wolves and African golden jackals look dramatically different. Adding to the confusion, African golden jackals are strikingly similar in appearance to their more distant relative, the Eurasian golden jackal. This strong physical similarity has long been the source of confusion over these animals’ taxonomy and evolutionary relationships.

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3D brain map reveals connections between cells in nano-scale

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 17:00

Researchers hope uprecedented images will allow study of abnormal connections in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and depression

Scientists have created an unprecedented high-resolution map of the brain that reveals structures as small as those found in individual nerve cells.

They produced the 3D map from a compilation of images taken with nanoscale resolution, making it possible to pick out features measured in millionths of a millimetre.

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Mealworm dumplings and virtual reality: the best date ever?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 14:05

The Shuffle festival in east London runs until this Saturday, and its science programming is genuinely exciting. And that’s before we get to eating worms ...

It was about the time that the starter arrived that I began to fear for my four-month-old marriage.

Let’s be clear: I hadn’t exactly lied to my husband. I had told him that I was taking him out to lunch and then to see a short film.

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Opposition to autonomous warfare swells to 16,000 signatories

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 13:59

Artificial intelligence community comes together in unprecedented numbers to call for a ban on AI-controlled weaponry

An open letter from AI researchers urging a ban on offensive autonomous weapons has now reached 16,000 signatories, after being signed by more than 15,000 people in the three days since it was released.

The letter says “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years” and was initially signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking. It has now been signed by over 2,000 experts, as well as another 14,000 individuals from outside the AI community.

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The great beyond: will the UK science budget be cut by 40%?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 11:22

Any change in a government brings uncertainty. For scientists in Britain, the waiting game ahead of the November spending review is turning into a nail-biter

Back in 2010, UK science dodged a bullet – sort of.

Following a global recession, the scientific community was warned to expect cuts of up to 40% to the core research budget. We rallied, presenting strong arguments for the role of science in fueling the economy. Afterwards, the £4.6b ring-fencing of these funds announced in the subsequent Autumn Spending Review came as a relief.

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Bridges 2015: a meeting of maths and art - in pictures

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 07:04

The Bridges Conference is an annual event that explores the connections between art and mathematics. Here is a selection of the work being exhibited this year, from a Pi pie which vibrates the number pi onto your hand to delicate paper structures demonstrating number sequences. This year’s conference runs until Sunday in Baltimore.

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Newly discovered species of peacock spider is a masked seducer

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-30 07:00
Nicknamed 'blueface', these tiny creatures have just been discovered in bushland in Western Australia









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Prostate cancer twice as likely to kill black men as white men, study finds

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-30 01:01

Researchers say study suggests need to target black men for screening of prostate cancer, which is projected to become the UK’s most common cancer by 2030


Black men in England have twice the lifetime risk of both being diagnosed with – and dying from – prostate cancer compared with white men, according to a study by Public Health England and Prostate Cancer UK.

The research, published in the online journal BMC Medicine on Thursday, also found that Asian men have about half the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with, and dying from, prostate cancer compared with white men in England.

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Memory loss: what makes people forget who they are?

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:08

When amnesia strikes, people can forget everything about their life, including their name. But what causes memory loss? And what happens to people who lose themselves for an hour, a few months – or even for ever?

She was missing but police knew where she was. She could not remember her name, her family or her childhood. She knew that she was dying, but only that. Interpol released a missing persons report: 1.7m, 91kg, brown eyes, chip on front tooth, right-handed, Caucasian, appears to be in her 50s, piercing on each ear, shoe size 39. Languages: English, French.

She called herself “Sam” and spoke to the media this month, explaining that she had been found semi-conscious by police outside a church in Carlsbad, California, five months ago. She had stage three ovarian cancer, she said. A Facebook campaign earned 200,000 shares and ignited worldwide media interest. Then Sam’s scattered recollections started to emerge: “… swimming in a salt water pool in Perth, then icebergs in New South Wales and in Cairns in Queensland and Byron Bay”.

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Astronomers find aurora a million times brighter than the northern lights

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:00

The most powerful aurora ever recorded has been spotted above a failed star 18 light years away, solving a longstanding astronomical mystery

The sky above a failed star in a distant constellation shimmers with a beautiful green and yellow aurora one million times brighter than the northern lights. The spectacular light show is the first confirmed aurora on a body outside the solar system, and the most powerful ever recorded.

Astronomers detected the celestial display when they trained some of the world’s most sensitive telescopes on a brown dwarf that lies 18 light years away in the constellation of Lyra. The aurora’s colourful streaks wave green and yellow when oxygen and sodium are battered by electrons in the brown dwarf’s atmosphere. The brightest light the telescopes picked up was from hydrogen, which glow redder than the eye can see.

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The apps that let you earn money while you holiday

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:00
New gig economy apps that let you take on small tasks while travelling are a clever way of making a bit of extra spending money for your trip









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Bitter foods are healthy: How to cook them like a pro

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:00
Learn how to cook with bitter foods and you can reap their health benefits and enjoy the delicious taste too, says chef and author Jennifer McLagan









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Neptune’s sudden jolt could explain weird ring in Kuiper belt

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:00
A band of strangely tight-knit icy objects in the Kuiper belt has defied explanation. Now a simulation rewinding the solar system to its babyhood has an answer









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Clusters of living worlds would hint life came from outer space

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-29 18:00
Using future telescopes to map exoplanets where life may exist could help test the panspermia theory - that life can cross space and take root on new worlds









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