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"Long before it's in the papers"
September 29, 2014



Smarter mice with a “humanized” gene?
In­tro­duc­ing a “hu­man­ized” ver­sion of a lan­guage-linked gene in­to mice ac­cel­er­ates their learn­ing, ac­cord­ing to a stu­dy.

At least one in 25 death-sentenced people are innocent, study claims
In new work, re­search­ers argue that the false-con­vic­tion rate is not every­where as un­know­able as is some­times said.

Scientists take step toward usable fusion energy
Sci­en­tists are clos­er than ever to us­ing the pro­cess that pow­ers the Sun to pro­duce en­er­gy, says a re­port to ap­pear in the re­search jour­nal Na­ture.

An evolutionary role for “Jackass”-like stunts?
Risk-prone people are per­ceived as larg­er and strong­er, new re­search finds.


DNA “markings” may transmit learned experiences
So-called epige­net­ic changes have gar­nered in­creas­ing at­tent­ion as a route by which na­ture trans­mits traits across gen­er­a­tions.

Love your enemy? Hormone spray may help with that, too
Inhaling the hor­mone oxy­to­cin may make peo­ple em­pa­thize more with out­siders, a stu­dy sug­gests.


Scientists probe how Inca kids were drugged for sacrifice
Chil­dren of the an­cient In­ca Em­pire may have con­sumed in­ten­si­fying doses of al­co­hol and co­ca leaf for as long as a year be­fore a ri­tual slaugh­ter.

A reputation sealed? Finding suggests T. rex hunted for real
A toothy dis­cov­ery sug­gests the icon­ic di­no­saur Ty­ran­no­saur­us rex was a real hunt­er af­ter all—not a mere scav­en­ger.


Study explores how power gets to the brain
Pow­er may or may not cor­rupt, but it does change you. New re­search ex­plores what hap­pens in the brain as that takes place.

Studies may have overestimated our generosity
Scientists recre­ated a game of­ten used to as­sess peo­ple’s al­tru­ism—but this time there was a twist, and a darker re­sult.


Already-approved drug tied to longer, healthy lives in mice
The first drug to suc­cess­fully ex­tend the life­span of nor­mal lab mice al­so does so in a way that pro­longs their healthy ex­ist­ence, a stu­dy sug­gests.

Men want status from romantic relationships, research finds
A set of surveys suggests men and women get self-es­teem from rela­t­ion­ships in dif­fer­ent ways.


Killed twice in 1600s, hoax “dragon” slain again—in creationism dispute
Scient­ists say they’ve proven what some suspected three centuries ago: the swamp dra­gon from Rome was a hoax. And maybe now it mat­ters more.

Yes, gentlemen, size matters—but something else matters more, study finds
Scientists as­sessed how pe­nis size, body height and body shape inter­act to in­flu­ence fe­male rank­ings of male al­lure.


Babies may be drawn to those who mistreat the “different”
Re­searchers report new evi­dence that hard-to-eradi­cate bia­ses based on race, sex and other diff­er­ences take root early in life.

Your brain cells may be capable of outliving you—by a lot
New findings make scient­ists hope­ful that if hu­man life­span is increased, brain cells will coop­erate by liv­ing long­er accord­ing­ly.


Chimps found to play fairness game like people
In some im­por­tant ways, chimps may have more hu­man-like con­cepts of fair­ness than pre­vi­ously rec­og­nized, bi­ol­o­gists say.

For signs of life, some strange planetary systems may be most promising
Atmos­pheric chem­icals be­tray­ing the pre­sence of alien life might be de­tect­able around white dwarf stars, a study says.

Did some Neanderthals learn advanced skills from “moderns”?
Sur­pris­ing­ly, some Ne­an­der­thal peo­ple seem to have made body or­na­ments and soph­is­t­icated tools, a study re­ports.

Theory that cooking gave us big brains gains support
New research backs up a the­o­ry that the ad­vent of cook­ing al­most two mill­ion years ago en­abled hu­mans to get smart­er.

Friendliness to minorities may often be a performance—a fragile one
Many whites be­have ex­tra nicely to mi­nor­i­ties, but it’s often an act that ar­ises from a sense of obli­ga­t­ion, new re­search sug­gests.


Gospel of Matthew linked to trail of bizarre self-mutilations
A particu­lar set of verses from a book in the Bi­ble has crea­ted con­stern­ation among some med­i­cal pro­fes­sionals.

“Racial purity” DNA testing slammed as perversion, but halting practice might not be easy
A pol­i­ti­cian has sparked out­rage af­ter re­port­ed­ly tak­ing a DNA test for a shock­ing pur­pose. But just where the red line lies is not wide­ly agreed up­on.

Moral “taint” still seeps along familial lines
We are still blamed to some de­gree for the mis­deeds of our rel­a­tives, ac­cord­ing to a set of newly re­ported sur­veys.

American heads have been changing shape, but why?
White people’s heads in the Unit­ed States have got­ten taller and nar­row­er since the days the steam­ship was king, re­search indi­cates.

Cold case solved? Study probes riddle of sinking beer bubbles
Bub­bles in dark beer are seen to slide down­ward, iron­ic­ally, be­cause they’re trying to head up­ward, a study re­ports.

Move elephants into Australia, scientist proposes
Does the Land Down Under need an in­fu­sion of large mam­mals to solve its ec­o­log­i­cal and wild­fire prob­lems?

Was blackmail essential for marriage to evolve?
A study takes a cold new look at a cus­tom as ancient and firmly estab­lished as it is sa­cred to mil­lions.

A human bias against creativity is hindering science, research claims
Most of us love crea­ti­vi­ty—until it ac­tually comes knock­ing, some psy­cho­lo­gists say.

Pluto has even colder “twin” of similar size, studies find
A “d­warf plan­et” or­bit­ing our sun three times fur­ther away than Plu­to is about the size of that better-known, frig­id world, as­tro­no­mers say.


Could simple anger have taught people to cooperate?
A new study chal­lenges one of the lead­ing the­o­ries as a sol­u­tion for an evo­lu­tion­ary puz­zle.


* * * LATEST * * *

Out in space, the most complex organic molecule yet
The find­ing sug­gests an eas­ier path to the form­ation of life on ma­ny planets, the re­search­ers ar­gue.


Mystery fossils seem to represent tiny balls of cells
No one knows quite where they sit on the evo­lu­tion­ary tree of life.

An image, or its inter­pre­ta­tion? New­found brain cells show sur­pris­ing role
Scientists combined im­ages of celeb­rities to make view­ers’ brains do a little extra work. Aris­totle would have ap­pre­ciated the results, they say.

Earth’s water is older than the Sun, scientists claim
The find­ings may indi­cate that wa­ter is com­mon in plane­tary sys­tems.


Anomaly in spacecraft flybys puzzles scientists
The laws of gra­vity don’t seem to be work­ing ex­actly as they should around Earth.

Study: population won’t stabilize this century
New pro­ject­ions con­tra­dict past pre­dic­tions of a peak near 2050.


Scientists report first “semiaquatic” dino
A huge di­no­saur dis­cov­ered over a cen­tu­ry ago turns out to have been adapted for liv­ing and hunt­ing in a wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment, sci­en­tists say.

Not our fault chimps kill each other, study concludes
Chimps’ evo­lu­tion­ary close­ness to hu­mans has fueled interest in why these apes be­come viol­ent, and what that might say about us.

Study suggests delaying aging may be easier than thought
Research on people and fruit flies has re­newed att­en­tion on a pro­cess of cell­ular “garb­age dis­posal.”


Parrot found to “teach” tool use to others
Goffin’s cock­a­toos can not only make and use tools but al­so teach oth­ers to do it, a study con­cludes.

Deadly sophistication seen in trout-eel hunting partnership
The coral trout’s col­la­bo­ra­tive skills ri­val those of the much bigger-brained chimp, sci­ent­ists say.


New dino described as largest weighable specimen ever
Sci­en­tists say they have dis­cov­ered a fos­sil of the larg­est land an­i­mal whose weight can be ac­cu­rately cal­cu­lat­ed.

Cutting carbs may beat cutting fat
A study sug­gests peo­ple could re­duce their weight and heart dis­ease risk with­out a low-fat diet.


How the brain chooses between truth and lies
Most of us want to be hon­est, but at some point, we’ll lie if the ben­e­fit is great enough.

Training might teach the brain to prefer healthy food
It may be pos­si­ble to train the brain to pre­fer healthy low-calorie foods over un­healthy higher-calorie foods, re­search sug­gests.

Movie recreates in detail past visit to far-off moon
Sci­en­tists work­ing with NASA re­stored 1989 foot­age from the Voy­ager 2 space­craft to make a map and film of Nep­tune's moon Tri­ton.

Tiny “cannon” shoots single light particles
The in­ven­tion is part of an at­tempt to de­vel­op su­per-fast com­put­ers us­ing pho­tons.

Sheepdogs found to use simple rules to herd sheep
Sci­en­tists used GPS tech­nol­o­gy to un­der­stand how sheep­dogs do their jobs so well.

Past global warmings were good times for sea crocs
Past spells of nat­u­rally caused warm­ing were gold­en op­por­tun­i­ties for sea croc­o­diles to spread, ac­cord­ing to a stu­dy.

Parasitic ant may have evolved from its own host, at home
If con­firmed, the bi­zarre phe­nom­e­non would chal­lenge tra­di­tion­al ver­sions of ev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry.

Kids with autism found to have extra connections in brain
Researchers ex­am­ined brains of young peo­ple with au­tism who had died from oth­er causes.

Turtles found to communicate, care for young
Gi­ant South Amer­i­can riv­er tur­tles use va­rious calls to co­or­di­nate their activ­ities, a study re­ports.

Dust gathered by spacecraft found to come from outside solar system
Grains col­lected by NA­SA’s Star­dust craft could be much like the ma­terial that formed our sun and plan­ets.

“Terminator” fish worries scientists
A fish that’s in­vad­ing the At­lantic hunts more like the re­lent­less ro­bot of mov­ie fame than an or­di­nary pred­a­tor, sci­en­tists say.

3-D study of comets reveals “chemical factory” within
Research iden­ti­fied some chem­i­cals that may have been im­por­tant to the or­i­gin of life.

Office windows may boost health
Of­fice day­light may lead to im­proved sleep and other bene­fits, ac­cord­ing to a study.

Spacecraft reaches comet for first up-close study
A European spacecraft came with­in 100 km (60 miles) on Aug. 6.

Playing up “manly” side may help women enter male-dominated fields
Though it’s not job seek­ers’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure their own fair treat­ment, re­search­ers in a stu­dy hoped to improve real “out­comes.”

Jupiter moon spouts “curtains of fire” in crazed series of eruptions
Io, about the size of our own moon, went nuts dur­ing two weeks last Aug­ust, astro­no­mers say.

Scientists report successfully Implanting brain cells in mice
A finding is said to raise hope for ther­a­pies to re­place cells in pa­tients with dis­eases such as Parkin­son’s.

Giant asteroids battered early Earth, NASA scientists say
New re­search in­di­cates huge im­pacts repeatedly melted, mixed and bur­ied Earth’s sur­face.

Particles can be physically separated from own properties, study suggests
Physicists explore yet an­other strange conse­quence of the laws of quan­tum me­chan­ics.

Shrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birds, scientists say
Mas­sive, meat-eating di­no­saurs evolved in­to ag­ile fly­ing birds by shrink­ing and shrink­ing, a study re­ports.

Four billion-year-old chemistry in cells today?
Some of the chem­i­cal pro­cesses that first gave rise to life may be still at work in liv­ing cells.

Study: fist-bumping more hygienic than shaking hands
Health care pro­vid­ers might want to switch to the “fist-bump” gest­ure, re­search­ers say.

Some women really do prefer mean guys, research suggests
What your guy pals told you may be true, ac­cord­ing to new re­search.

Don’t tell kids how healthy any food is, study suggests
Ac­cord­ing to a new study, when chil­dren hear about the ben­e­fits of healthy food, they’re less likely to eat it.

Study: We could detect aliens by their pollution
Research suggests we could spot the fin­ger­prints of cer­tain com­mon pol­lu­tants.

Mysterious dance of dwarfs may force cosmic rethink
A find­ing that many small ga­lax­ies don’t “swarm” around larg­er ones like bees but rath­er circle them is cre­at­ing a new co­nun­drum.

Fossil suggests flight was common among bird-like dinosaurs
The ani­mal had an extre­mely long, feath­ered tail that bi­ol­o­gists think was cru­cial for safe land­ings.

Newfound gene could play role in aging from birth
A de­vel­op­mental gene called Sp­ns1 was found to af­fect aging in ex­peri­ments with animals. 

Prehistoric “bookkeeping” continued long after invention of writing
Ar­chae­o­lo­gists in Tur­key have found clay to­kens that served as rec­ords of trade un­til the ad­vent of writ­ing, or so it was thought.

Consciousness research not dead, scientists insist
Why does a re­lent­less stream of ex­pe­ri­ences nor­mally fill your mind?

Mysterious bursts of radio waves identified far outside galaxy
The mys­tery is rem­i­nis­cent of that of gamma-ray bursts, which are now thought to come from stars col­laps­ing to form black holes.

Fossils of tiny, unknown hedgehog found
Scient­ists are in­vest­ig­ating a “lost world” in Can­ada.

Astronomers detect most distant Milky Way stars known
They’re being called ghosts of galaxies past.

Specific brain area may aid stock market success
Re­liance on a brain area called the an­te­ri­or in­su­lar cor­tex may have helped players avoid crashes in a stock market game.

Chimp culture reaches new heights with “grass-in-the-ear” trend
Chim­panzees are cop­y­cats and, in the pro­cess, they form new tra­di­tions that are of­ten spe­cif­ic to just one group.

World Science Archive
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This Hub­ble Space Te­le­scope im­age re­leased Dec. 17 shows RS Pup­pis, a type of var­i­a­ble star known as a Ce­phe­id var­i­a­ble. RS Pup­pis varies in bright­ness by al­most five­fold eve­ry 40 days or so. RS Pup­pis is also un­u­su­al in that it's shrouded by thick, dark clouds of dust. This leads to a phe­nom­e­non known as a light echo, in which light re­flect­ing off the clouds takes longer to reach us than light di­rect­ly from the star. The dark back­ground sky in this im­age is pop­u­lated with ga­lax­ies. More infor­m­a­tion on the im­age here. (Cred­it: NA­SA, ESA, & Hub­ble Her­it­age Team (STScI/AURA)-Hub­ble/Europe Col­lab.)

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