Science | Published | LinksFever
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After nearly seven years of varying concepts, redesigns, and delays, SpaceX is poised to launch the Falcon Heavy rocket next week on its maiden flight. Last week, SpaceX performed a hold-down firing of the massive rocket’s 27 engines, creating a towering exhaust plume and jolting the space coast with over 5 million pounds of thrust. It was the most powerful engine test ever conducted at Kennedy Space Center—and with a successful liftoff, the Falcon Heavy would be the most powerful launch vehicle in the world.
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On a ho-hum day some 12,800 years ago, the Earth had emerged from another ice age. Things were warming up, and the glaciers had retreated.

Out of nowhere, the sky was lit with fireballs. This was followed by shock waves.

Fires rushed across the landscape, and dust clogged the sky, cutting off the sunlight. As the climate rapidly cooled, plants died, food sources were snuffed out, and the glaciers advanced again. Ocean currents shifted, setting the climate into a colder, almost "ice age" state that lasted an additional thousand years.
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A University of Oklahoma astrophysics team has discovered for the first time a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Using microlensing—an astronomical phenomenon and the only known method capable of discovering planets at truly great distances from the Earth among other detection techniques—OU researchers were able to detect objects in extragalactic galaxies that range from the mass of the Moon to the mass of Jupiter.
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Earth's magnetic poles, whatever they're doing, are not going to spark chaos and kill us all — a scenario making the rounds online right now.

According to the Australian news site news.com.au, a magnetic flip would not only cause massive blackouts, "even flushing the toilet could become impossible."

As reported by Undark, Daniel Baker, the director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is suggesting a reversal would render parts of the planet uninhabitable (though Baker is not directly quoted saying this).
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Scientists who identified specific brain cells in mice that control anxiety say the discovery could provide insights that might eventually help people with panic disorder and social phobia.

The finding, reported Wednesday in the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to better treatments for anxiety disorders, which affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.

"The therapies we have now have significant drawbacks," says Mazen Kheirbek, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and an author of the study. "This is another target that we can try to move the field forw
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ard for finding new therapies."

But the research is at an early stage and lab findings in animals don't always pan out in humans.

The discovery of anxiety cells is just the latest example of the "tremendous progress" scientists have made toward understanding how anxiety works in the brain, says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.
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A team of researchers with affiliations to institutions in the U.S., France, Cameroon and Gabon has found evidence that suggests that orange dwarf crocodiles living in caves in Gabon might be evolving into a new species. In their paper published in the African Journal of Ecology, the group describes their study of the unique crocodiles and their attempts to compare them with similar crocodiles living just outside the cave, and what they found by doing so.

The orange dwarf crocodiles living in Abanda caves in Gabon were first discovered back in 2008 and confirmed in 2010. Soon thereafter, it
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was discovered that older specimens had an orange hue due to the acidity of the bat guano in the water in which they lived. But what intrigued the members of this team was the crocs' differences from their relatives still living just outside the caves.
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The supermoon lunar eclipse on Jan. 31 is shaping up to be a spectacular spectacle as well as a boon for moon researchers, according to NASA moon scientist Noah Petro.

Space.com caught up with Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, about his advice for viewing the moon and to learn more about what he hopes to learn from the moon's journey into Earth's shadow, which happens to occur Jan. 31 at the same time as a supermoon and a Blue Moon.
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Naked mole rats may look like wrinkly skin sacks, but they have some pretty bizarre superpowers, including a total immunity to cancer.
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Earlier this month, the New Zealand-based private spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully delivered its first orbital payload.

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket released, along with three commercial satellites, an art installation-as-satellite called the Humanity Star.
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In short, gravity is a fundamental interaction between objects with mass. Yes, any two objects that have mass will have a gravitational force pulling them together. The magnitude of this gravitational force depends on the distance between the objects. The further apart the objects get, the weaker the gravitational force. The magnitude of this force also depends on the masses of the two objects. Greater mass means a greater force
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Thanks to advancements in DNA and RNA sequencing, biologists are incredibly good at knowing how much of a gene's code is at any moment being copied into RNA messages, the first step in making protein. But they're not so good at figuring out how quickly those RNA messages are actually read from end to end at cellular factories called ribosomes, where proteins are synthesized.

Now, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Stony Brook University (SBU) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has released software that can help biologists more accurately dete
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rmine this. They used single-celled yeast and the common microbe E. coli to demonstrate their new program, called Scikit-Ribo.
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There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to controlling mosquitoes.

Despite what you may have heard, the food you eat won't affect your chances of being bitten, and neither will buying a bunch of citronella candles.
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Here's how to share the rare Super Blue Blood Moon eclipse of Jan. 31 with your kids and teach them about the moon's phases.
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A team of researchers with the University of Athens and a Swedish archaeologist has reconstructed the face of a teenage girl from the Mesolithic period whose remains were found in a Greek cave. They have publicized their efforts by showcasing their work at the Acropolis Museum.
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A satellite meant to host NASA’s new mission to better understand space weather may have been lost, according to SpaceFlightNow. Though the European Ariane 5 rocket lifted off on time, none of the customers with satellites on the rocket have contact with their satellites.

There was an “anomaly” on the launch, said Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel, according to SpaceFlightNow. Everything was normal until a few seconds after the ignition of the second stage. At that point, no one was in contact with the rocket. Whatever occurred seems to have transpired then, and no one yet knows i
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f the satellites were deployed. Arianespace needs more time to determine what happened.
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NASA has been subjecting its Orion space capsule to a battery of tests designed to tell whether the spacecraft is ready to ferry humans into orbit and beyond. So far, the capsule seems to be on track—in a series of maneuvers this week, a joint team of NASA and U.S. Navy specialists successfully recovered the spaceship from the sea off the coast of San Diego, simulating what would happen when a deep-space mission splashed back to Earth.

If all goes to plan, Orion will become NASA’s flagship technology for launching astronauts to orbit and even to deep space, including to the lunar surface an
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d maybe Mars. Here’s what’s at stake with Orion, and what still needs to be done before it can blast off.
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People tend to think of memories as deeply personal, ephemeral possessions — snippets of emotions, words, colors and smells stitched into our unique neural tapestries as life goes on. But a strange series of experiments conducted decades ago offered a different, more tangible perspective. The mind-bending results have gained unexpected support from recent studies.

New technology and new ideas spur the hunt for the physical basis of memory.
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Biologists have served up the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe, and everything.

That answer, as you may know, is 42. And the question, in this case, is "how many million protein molecules are there in a single cell?"
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The animal kingdom is a dangerous place, but it’s not always the obvious predators you should watch out for - sometimes you have to look over your shoulder at your own species.

It’s a dog-eat-dog out there, but for some animals this is more than just a metaphor. Animal cannibalism is rife in nature, with few species spared from a ghastly end, but some of the reasons why animals eat their own species are even more frightful than the act itself.
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An asteroid larger than any skyscraper yet built is hurtling toward Earth, the Daily Mail informs. If it hits on February 4, the paper continues, scientists predict a decade of cold and darkness, skies choked with soot, and misery across the planet

Between these paragraphs, the Mail inserts occasional reminders that asteroid 2002 AJ129 will not hit Earth, according to NASA.

In fact it is predicted to get no closer than 2.6 million miles (4.2 million km) from Earth, despite NASA's scary-sounding classification of the rock as "potentially hazardous" - a term which the Mail has paired with
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horrific illustrations of an asteroid careening straight into the planet.
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In order to sap nutrients and water from other plants, dodder silences defensive genes in its hosts.

This cross-species gene regulation, which includes genes that contribute to the host plant’s defense against parasites, has never before been seen from a parasitic plant.

Understanding this system could provide researchers with a method to engineer plants to be resistant to the parasite. Dodder causes major damage to crops in the US and worldwide every year.
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On average, the cells in your body are replaced every 7 to 10 years. But those numbers hide a huge variability in lifespan across the different organs of the body. Neutrophil cells (a type of white blood cell) might only last two days, while the cells in the middle of your eye lenses will last your entire life. And it’s even possible that your brain cells might have longer maximum lifespans than you do. In 2013, researchers transplanted neurons from old mice into the brains of longer-lived rats and found that the cells were still healthy after living for two whole mouse lifespans!
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Scientists are hoping to design more powerful thermoelectric devices that will harvest heat—produced as a byproduct of industrial processes and combustion engines—and turn that otherwise wasted heat into electricity. However, the efficiency of thermoelectric devices, or the amount of energy they are able to produce, is currently limited.

Now researchers at MIT have discovered a way to increase that efficiency threefold, using "topological" materials, which have unique electronic properties. While past work has suggested that topological materials may serve as efficient thermoelectric system
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s, there has been little understanding as to how electrons in such topological materials would travel in response to temperature differences in order to produce a thermoelectric effect.
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With the ISS slated for retirement in 2028, NASA is now making bold plans for the next phase of human spaceflight. The plans call for astronauts to return to the moon and then venture deeper into space. As President Trump said in December, these will be the first steps toward “an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”

A new space station is key to NASA’s plans. Unlike the ISS, the proposed Deep Space Gateway (DSG) will orbit the moon rather than Earth. Its crew will live and work a whopping quarter of a million miles from home — a thousand times more distant th
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an the ISS.
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Despite its fearsome, Velociraptor-like skull, a 161-million-year-old dinosaur the size of a duck would have been a shining, shimmering and splendid sight to behold — mostly because it sported gleaming, iridescent feathers that were rainbow-colored, a new study finds.

Iridescent feathers glistened on the dinosaur's head, wings and tail, according to an analysis of the shape and structure of the creature's melanosomes, the parts of cells that contain pigment.

A farmer in northeastern China's Hebei Province discovered the fossil, and the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning in China acquired
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the find in 2014. After discovering its iridescence and noting the unique bony crest on top of the dinosaur's head, researchers gave it a colorful name — Caihong juji — which is Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest."
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A diamond thought to be the fifth largest of gem quality ever found has been discovered in Lesotho, miner Gem Diamonds said Monday, and could be worth as much as $40 million.

The company unearthed the D-colour stone at the Letseng mine in the landlocked southern African country and described the 910-carat find as of "exceptional quality".
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Using actual scientific data along with Hollywood techniques, a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, has produced the best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of the Orion nebula.
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Physicists have created what they say is the first device that's capable of generating particles that behave as if they have negative mass.

The device generates a strange particle that's half-light/half-matter, and as if that isn't cool enough, it could also be the foundation for a new kind of laser that could operate on far less energy than current technologies.
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SpaceX's Dragon capsule has returned from the International Space Station as planned, after spending around a month docked at the orbital facility. This Dragon spacecraft was previously flown on an ISS resupply mission, meaning it’s done the round trip successfully twice in its lifetime now.

Dragon decoupled and departed from the space station around six hours ago, and finished its deorbit burn a few hours later, before deploying its landing parachutes and then splashing down early Saturday morning.
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The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth, and you can see it pass over our viewing area--if you know where and when to look.

When there's a bright pass that's not too early or too late, we like to share it with you, our viewers.

At 6:28 a.m. on Sunday, January 14, 2018 the ISS will fly over our area and be visible as for about threex minutes as it crosses overhead. (A good way to remember to watch the ISS is to set an alarm for yourself, on your phone if you can.)

If skies are clear in your area, look north-northwest at about 6:28 a.m. and look for the ISS to rise over t
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he horizon. It will look like a very bright, steady-moving star, and will travel overhead and move out of sight into the east.