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Expedition 44 arrives

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 21:30

Three more astronauts have arrived at the International Space Station to begin a five-month mission. Flight TMA-17M took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 21.02 GMT on Wednesday and docked less than six hours later.

This is the 126th flight of the Soyuz launcher since its maiden voyage in 1967. Its crew consists of the Russian Oleg Kononenko, Japan’s Kimiya Yui and the Nasa astronaut Kjell Lindgren.

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Genes influence academic ability across all subjects, latest study shows

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 20:05

Around 60% of differences in GCSE results can be explained by genetic factors, with the same genes responsible for maths, science and the humanities

You may feel you are just not a maths person, or that you have a special gift for languages, but scientists have shown that the genes influencing numerical skills are the same ones that determine abilities in reading, arts and humanities.

The study suggests that if you have an academic Achilles heel, environmental factors such as a teaching are more likely to be to blame.

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A 'close cousin to Earth' found by Nasa's Kepler telescope - video

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 19:50
On Thursday Nasa announced that their powerful Kepler telescope has discovered a planet beyond the solar system that is a close match to Earth. Continue reading...

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Megafauna extinction: DNA evidence pins blame on climate change

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 19:28
Humanity has long been on trial for the demise of mammoths and other large mammals – new forensic evidence reveals the true killer

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Four-legged fossil holds secret of snake’s slithering origins

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 19:00
An ancient animal with a serpent-like body plan and four tiny legs could reveal details about the evolutionary origins of snakes

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Earth-like alien world looms into view through Kepler telescope

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 18:51
The alien planet is a rocky world circling a sun-like star at a distance that should allow it to carry liquid water

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When robots kill

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 18:06

A recent robot-related death in Germany highlights broader dilemmas in the design of safe autonomous systems.

Last month, a robot grabbed a worker at a Volkswagen plant in Germany, crushing and killing him. This tragic though fairly common incident has drawn attention to the growing dangers of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

As computers become smaller, smarter, faster and more interconnected, we will delegate more tasks to them. Generally, this will make our lives easier, because we will spend less time researching information, getting directions, or driving cars. Well-designed programs can often do these sorts of tasks better than we can.

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I don’t predict a riot: jail smoking ban need not spell unrest

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 16:00
Evidence from prisons around the world shows that smoking bans introduced with support for tobacco users do not spark violence, says Deborah Arnott

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ButtonMasher: The gamers who only want to explore virtual worlds

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 14:03
Bigger and more complicated games have spawned a new way of playing – where finding and sharing images is more important than completing a mission

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So many milks: But do their health claims really stack up?

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 13:47
Multiple varieties of milk are now available, including low-fat, organic, A2, UHT and raw. We weigh up their pros and cons

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Everything you need to know about lactose intolerance

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 13:45
Not everyone who consumes milk regularly can digest it, and people who think they are lactose intolerant may not be. New Scientist puts things in perspective

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Do Alzheimer’s sufferers finally have cause for optimism? | Tom Solomon

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 13:03

There’s no treatment that actually tackles the underlying causes of this terrible disease. Solanezumab, a genetically engineered antibody, may be the first

Every week in my neurology clinic at the Walton Neuro-Centre in Liverpool, I see people who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps this is not surprising, given there is a news story about the disease almost daily, an estimated 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, and the government has described it as “one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime”. This is why news of solanezumab, a drug that appears to slow decline in Alzheimer’s patients, has provoked such interest.

Currently, the treatments we can offer patients with Alzheimer’s disease are very limited

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Myth of pristine Amazon rainforest busted as old cities reappear

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 12:46
Amazonian wilderness buzzed with human activity until 500 years ago, when Europeans turned up with weapons and diseases, says radical rethink of rainforest history

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If we discover extraterrestrial life, what happens next?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 11:39

The search for extraterrestrial life is seen as one of pure curiosity. But, as in other areas of science, we should worry about the consequences of success.

Fifty years ago the era of robotic exploration of our solar system was just beginning. In July 1965 the Mariner IV probe sent back data showing that Mars did not have vegetation, much less canals crisscrossing the planet as envisioned by earlier generations of astronomers. The New York Times opined that Mars was “The Dead Planet” with the chances for life of any kind to be “infinitesimal.”

Carl Sagan, astronomer and early rock star scientist, asked why the media was so quick to “deduce a lifeless Mars?” The answer, he wrote, was a sense of “relief.” He posited that “finding life beyond Earth – particularly intelligent life … wrenches at our secret hope that Man is the pinnacle of Creation.” The meaning of the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life Sagan concluded is “many things to many men.”

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China spends big on nuclear fusion as French plan falls behind

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-07-23 11:01
It could be 2030 before the reactor being built in France starts making more energy than it uses. Meanwhile, China is investing heavily in its own project

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Scientists: we are 'condemning' forest elephants by ignoring evidence

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 09:11

As the ivory trade threatens to obliterate forest elephants, conservationists and governments fail to recognise them as a distinct species despite rising genetic and physical evidence

How do you tell two species apart? Let’s say you’re investigating a bird with two populations. One lives in the savanna, the other in the forest. The savanna population eats grasshoppers, but the one in the forest eats beetles. The savanna bird is big-bodied with a curvy beak; the forest bird is smaller with a straighter beak. Is this enough to determine you’re dealing with not one, but two species? Probably. But how about you look at the genetics? Lo and behold, the animals’ DNA shows that the birds have been separated by 6 million years – easily making it two species.

Now, let’s say we’re not talking about birds here, but elephants. African elephants. Suddenly, things get messy. Really messy. And political. And heated.

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Soyuz rocket docks at International Space Station for five-month mission – video

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 08:57
The Russian Soyuz rocket TMA-17M, carrying an American Nasa astronaut, Kjell Lindgren, and fellow astronauts Kimiya Yui, of Japan, and the Russian crew commander, Oleg Kononenko, docks and opens hatch at the International Space Station for a five-month mission after launching from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Continue reading...

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Soyuz capsule docks with International Space Station after two-month delay

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 07:36

Craft docks smoothly, bringing Russian, Japanese and American trio to ISS after two-month delay caused by previous botched launch of uncrewed ship

A Soyuz space capsule carrying a Russian, an American and a Japanese docked smoothly on Thursday with the International Space Station.

The capsule connected to the orbiting laboratory about 250 miles (400km) above Earth at 0245 GMT.

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What to do when your ex comes out as gay | Dean Burnett

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 07:10

A recent Observer article looked at what it’s like for children whose parents come out as gay. Having your parents come out is one thing, but what if your ex-partner comes out? What, if anything, is the appropriate response to this?

If you’ve been in a relationship that has ended, you’re almost certain to have an “ex”: someone you were romantically involved with but aren’t any longer. Relationships with an ex-partner are among of the most complicated and delicate it’s possible for your average human to maintain, and there are countless sitcom plots exploring this.

There are good reasons for this. An ex-partner often represents a significant part of someone’s life being intimately linked with numerous experiences and important milestones (interpret that how you will). But they’re also often a source of serious emotional upset and unpleasantness, depending on why they’re an “ex”. Some break ups are amicable, but many aren’t at all. Hence, a lot of people dwell on an ex-partner, a process made considerably easier (and more worrying) with the advent of social media.

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The world’s most charismatic mathematician | Siobhan Roberts

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 06:00

John Horton Conway is a cross between Archimedes, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dalí. For many years, he worried that his obsession with playing silly games was ruining his career – until he realised that it could lead to extraordinary discoveries

On a late September day in 1956, John Horton Conway left home with a trunk on his back. He was a skinny 18-year-old, with long, unkempt hair – a sort of proto-hippie – and although he generally preferred to go barefoot, on this occasion he wore strappy Jesus sandals. He travelled by steam train from Liverpool to Cambridge, where he was to start life as an undergraduate. During the five-hour journey, via Crewe with a connection in Bletchley, something dawned on him: this was a chance to reinvent himself.

In junior school, one of Conway’s teachers had nicknamed him “Mary”. He was a delicate, effeminate creature. Being Mary made his life absolute hell until he moved on to secondary school, at Liverpool’s Holt High School for Boys. Soon after term began, the headmaster called each boy into his office and asked what he planned to do with his life. John said he wanted to read mathematics at Cambridge. Instead of “Mary” he became known as “The Prof”. These nicknames confirmed Conway as a terribly introverted adolescent, painfully aware of his own suffering.

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