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Stephen Hawking to deliver BBC Reith lecture on black holes

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 21:14

Radio 4 announces new autumn lineup as Glenda Jackson returns for drama series and Miles Jupp takes over as presenter of News Quiz

Professor Stephen Hawking is to discuss the nature of black holes, and former MP Glenda Jackson is to return to acting in a Radio 4 autumn schedule announced on Tuesday.

Hawking will deliver the prestigious Reith lecture later this year to “describe the remarkable properties of black holes” and will answer a selection of questions submitted by listeners. The lecture coincides with the BBC plans for a series of events to mark 100 years of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

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Hairy monster: ancient 'super-armoured' worm discovered in China

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 20:00

Collinsium ciliosum, or the Hairy Collins’ Monster, lived around 500 million years ago and is thought to be one of the first animals to develop body armour

An ancient marine worm discovered in China has been identified as the earliest known animal to have used body armour to defend itself against predators.

The creature is known as the Hairy Collins’ Monster or Collinsium ciliosum, after paleontololgist Desmond Collins, who first discovered a similar fossil in the 1980s. The Chinese specimen lived around 500 million years ago and developed “super-armour” - an array of 72 spikes along its back and sides - to protect itself from other life forms that existed at the time.

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Single cells made to levitate, just like frogs and mice

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 20:00
A technique previously used to levitate animals and fruit has been scaled down to work on cells, and could help diagnose cancer or test new drugs

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Babblers speak to the origin of language

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 19:00

Australian babblers are capable of phoneme structuring, the first time this has been demonstrated in any non-human animal

“Holy shit, man!”

Andy Russell had entered the lecture hall late and stood at the back, listening to the close of a talk by Marta Manser, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Zurich who works on animal communication.

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Could an inflamed brain be a hidden cause of depression?

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 19:00
The body's immune system is designed to make us hide away when we get sick. But modern life could be sending this recovery response off track (full text available to subscribers)

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Slo-mo reveals how enigmatic sprites explode in the atmosphere

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 18:18
What causes mysterious "fireworks" in the sky spotted from planes? Video and computer modelling are yielding insights

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Misbehaving pulsar's sudden slow-down may teach us how they tick

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 18:00
A bright young pulsar that seemed to be stable has slammed on its brakes. Understanding this shift in behaviour could help astronomers calibrate cosmic clocks

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Russian cosmonaut beats record for career time spent in space

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 17:40

Gennady Padalka moves past old record of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes, and aims to return to try for 1,000 days

A Russian cosmonaut on board the International Space Station has broken the record for total time in space by spending more than two years in orbit during his career.

At 1.42am Moscow time on Monday, Gennady Padalka, the commander of the current space station mission, broke his countryman Sergei Krikalev’s record of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes.

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Computer comedian suggests pics to make your online chat funnier

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 16:46
Software that makes you seem funnier by suggesting amusing images to use during online chat could pave the way to more human-like AI

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A spoonful of sugar helps the environmental message go down

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 14:32
Gastronomic artists at New York's IDEAS CITY festival have been whipping up interest in the air we breathe

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How same-sex marriage could ruin civilisation | Dean Burnett

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 12:47

In the wake of the US supreme court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage throughout America, many commenters and objectors have claimed it will have disastrous consequences. But rather than just dismissing them as irrational bitterness, it’s important to consider the genuine scientific basis for such claims

Same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the USA. This is a good thing, it’s always nice when people get equal treatment under the law. Sadly, not everyone agrees. Such is the speed of modern news and communication that announcement of the Supreme Court decision was essentially immediately followed by furious objections and doom-laden predictions of the collapse of society for various reasons.

It’s easy to dismiss these objections as angry incoherent bitterness from people who can’t or won’t accept that the rest of the human race doesn’t have to conform to their antiquated views, and many people do just that. But what if they’re not? What if there are genuine scientific reasons to fear same-sex marriage? After all, we in the UK know that same-sex marriage caused extreme flooding when it was legalised here, and now that it’s permitted in a country with the size and influence of the USA the consequences could be even more catastrophic. Here are just some possibilities we should brace ourselves for.

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Zoologger: The vertebrate that digs the deepest nest

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 12:00
An Australian monitor lizard digs a looping tunnel 3-metres deep to provide its eggs with the most stable environment seen among reptiles

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SpaceX rocket explosion is setback for US crewed space missions

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 11:26
Hopes that privately built rockets can restart crewed space flight from US soil have taken a blow with a Falcon 9 failure within minutes of launch

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Xeno-canto: crowdsourcing the world's birdsongs | @GrrlScientist

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 11:04

Xeno-canto, which hosts the largest collection of bird sound recordings in the world, recently celebrated its tenth anniversary

My favourite source for the birdsong recordings that I embed into my stories is Xeno-canto. This online community, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, hosts a large database filled with hundreds of thousands of crowdsourced bird sound recordings that are freely available to the public as uploads or embeds.

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The dangers of Disney’s film about Charles Darwin | Philip Ball

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 09:00
Faced with a man so misunderstood, a ‘swashbuckling’ biopic about the naturalist could go horribly wrong. Here are a few blunders best avoided

The news that Disney is planning an “adventure film” about Charles Darwin sounds at first blush rather ominous. The idea that Darwin had “a bit of that Indiana Jones-like swashbuckling spirit in him”, as noted in the report on the Hollywood-watching website Deadline, only heightens suspicions that the mild-mannered naturalist will be seen fighting off pirates and wrestling giant iguanas on the Galápagos. But it would be unfair to write off the project – to be directed by Stephen Gaghan, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic – before we know anything more about it. Disney has at least shown itself now capable of producing more than sweet, passive princesses.

Related: Disney incubating new Charles Darwin movie

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Green-fingered teachers: how to grow fruit and vegetables in school

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 07:00

The joys of growing fruit and vegetables in school go beyond filling bellies, there are lots of educational benefits too

There’s nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own crops at school. As the first plums of the season ripen on trees and tiny cabbages appear between leaves, students can feast both their eyes and their bellies, on the fruits of their labour.

But there are also a wide range of educational benefits to going green, from teaching about photosynthesis and the life of a plant to seasonal poetry and creative writing, the topic can be explored in a variety of classes.

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Hope or despair? The highs and lows of saving seabirds

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-06-29 07:00
From saving the migratory paths of endangered knots to establishing new colonies of puffins, two new books show the tough challenges bird conservationists face

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Famous baby giant armadillo found dead

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-06-29 06:28

After two years of recording the surprising relationship between a baby giant armadillo and its mother, scientists have found the juvenile dead in the Brazilian Pantanal.

For almost two years, Alex the giant armadillo has been the most famous of his little-known and cryptic species. Born in June of 2013, photos and videos of Alex appeared across the global media, including the BBC, National Geographic and Mongabay. From Alex and his mother, Isabelle, researchers learned that giant armadillos are far more parental and familial than long believed.

Two weeks ago, researchers found Alex dead.

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Starwatch: The July night sky

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-06-28 21:30

Britain’s night-long summer twilight begins to subside in July so that lucky starwatchers under a dark sky may be able to glimpse the Milky Way as it arches high across the E at our map times from the Scorpius-Sagittarius region in the S towards Cassiopeia and Auriga in the NNE. On the way, it flows through the familiar Summer Triangle formed by Deneb, Altair and (brightest of all) Vega.

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Nasa SpaceX mission to International Space Station ends in explosion

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-06-28 18:55
  • Administrator: ‘We will work with SpaceX to understand what happened’
  • Dragon spacecraft was carrying supplies and station docking adaptor

Nasa and the International Space station suffered a “big loss” on Sunday, when the launch of a SpaceX supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) ended in an explosion that destroyed an unmanned Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket propelling it.

A video posted to Instagram showed the explosion. Reports said pieces of the spacecraft and rocket could be seen falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

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