Saturday, 15 December 2018

Sun-skimming probe starts calling home

Sun-skimming probe starts calling home

Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data. Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star. The bright dot is actually Mercury. The black dots are repeats of the little world that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.

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Friday, 14 December 2018

Chinese robots are on a mission to beat NASA to the far side of the moon

Chinese robots are on a mission to beat NASA to the far side of the moon

NASA’s new initiative to go back to the moon at the behest of President Donald Trump is an intriguing notion, but for now, we’re still relegated to studying and exploring the lunar surface with the help of robots. But it’s not NASA’s robots we ought to be paying attention to—there aren’t any. Instead, China currently has the leg-up in lunar exploration, and it’s poised to make a splash with its Chang’e 4 spacecraft, launched last Saturday.

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FBI plans 'Rapid DNA' network for quick database checks on arrestees

FBI plans 'Rapid DNA' network for quick database checks on arrestees

Though DNA has revolutionized modern crime fighting, the clues it may hold aren't revealed quickly. Samples of saliva, or skin, or semen are sent to a crime lab by car (or mail), and then chemists get to work. Detectives are accustomed to waiting days or weeks, or more, for the results. Some labs are so backed up, they only take the most serious crimes. Some samples never get tested.

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Virgin Galactic flies its first astronauts to the edge of space, one step closer to space tourism

Virgin Galactic flies its first astronauts to the edge of space, one step closer to space tourism

The two pilots on board Virgin Galactic's spacecraft Unity became the company's first astronauts. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was on hand to watch the historic moment. Virgin Galactic said the test flight reached an altitude of 51.4 miles, or nearly 83 kilometers. The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. Test pilots in 2004 were awarded a commercial astronaut badge by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying a previous, experimental iteration of Virgin Galactic's spacecraft design.

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The key to cracking long-dead languages?

The key to cracking long-dead languages?

Tablets from some of the world’s oldest civilisations hold rich details about life thousands of years ago, but few people today can read them. New technology is helping to unlock them.

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J&J shares sink 9% after Reuters report on asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder

J&J shares sink 9% after Reuters report on asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder

Reuters says a review of documents and testimony showed that Johnson & Johnson executives, mine managers, doctors and lawyers were aware the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

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Genetic study of people with acne raises prospect of new treatment

Genetic study of people with acne raises prospect of new treatment

The world’s first genetic study of people with acne has raised the prospect of new treatments for those with severe cases of the skin condition. The study of almost 27,000 people, including 5,602 with severe acne, identified genetic differences that were more common in people with the skin condition. Scientists found that many of the genetic variants influenced the formation of hair follicles, which was previously an unknown risk factor for the condition. The researchers think that differences in the shape of hair follicles may make some people’s skin more prone to harbour bacteria, creating the conditions for acne.

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How imagination can help people overcome fear and anxiety

How imagination can help people overcome fear and anxiety

Almost everyone has something they fear – maybe it’s spiders, enclosed spaces, or heights. When we encounter these “threats,” our hearts might begin to race, or our hands may become sweaty. This is called a threat fear response, and it exists to help us avoid potential pain. Most of us only feel scared when a threat is present. But when the threat fear response happens even when a threat isn’t present, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, or anxiety.

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$125 million gift from Microsoft co-founder launches new institute to probe immune system

$125 million gift from Microsoft co-founder launches new institute to probe immune system

Immunology is the latest field that will benefit from a hefty sum donated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The newly launched Allen Institute for Immunology, planned before the philanthropist died in October from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, will attempt to better define what’s normal for the immune system and why it falters in cancer and autoimmune diseases.

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Research identifies new therapeutic target for cancer treatment and tissue regeneration

Research identifies new therapeutic target for cancer treatment and tissue regeneration

Research led by the University of Plymouth and Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden has identified a new therapeutic target for cancer treatment and tissue regeneration - a protein called Prominin-1. Dr Bing Hu from Plymouth's Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed) together with Dr Denis Corbeil from the Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden and a multinational team has shown how Prominin-1 (also known as CD133) plays a significant role in ensuring stem cells respond to extracellular signals.

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Why the Pentagon Is Suddenly Declassifying Lots of Info About What's in Orbit

Why the Pentagon Is Suddenly Declassifying Lots of Info About What's in Orbit

There’s a push underway to release of more data about things the Pentagon is tracking in orbit. It’s a sign of things to come as Uncle Sam tries to make being a space more friendly place for business.

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Preparing for discovery with NASA's Parker Solar Probe

Preparing for discovery with NASA's Parker Solar Probe

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission's scientists. It's a moment many in the field have been anticipating for years, thinking about what they'll do with such never-before-seen data, which has the potential to shed new light on the physics of our star, the Sun.

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Thursday, 13 December 2018

Why the chicken is a symbol of our times

Why the chicken is a symbol of our times

With around 23 billion chickens on the planet at any one time, the bird is a symbol of our times, say scientists.

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Eric Schmidt: 'Were The Killer Robots To Start, We Would Find A Way To Stop Them'

Eric Schmidt: 'Were The Killer Robots To Start, We Would Find A Way To Stop Them'

Tech billionaire Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, is optimistic that humans will be able to shut down dangerous machines should they start to appear. Speaking last week on an artificial intelligence podcast hosted by MIT research scientist Lex Fridman, Schmidt said that he didn't share the same concerns as people like Elon Musk, MIT professor Max Tegmark, or Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher at Oxford University. "We would unplug Terminator if it showed up," he said. "Were the killer robots to start, we would find a way to stop them."

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East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

Nasa detects ice retreat probably linked to ocean changes in region once thought stable

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 Block 5 set for first expendable launch with USAF satellite

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Block 5 set for first expendable launch with USAF satellite

SpaceX’s most significant US Air Force launch contract yet is set to kick off with a (NET) December 18 launch of the first of 10 next-gen GPS satellites, known as GPS III Space Vehicle 1 (SV01). Thus far, SpaceX has won all five competitive GPS III launch contracts offered thus far by the USAF and – depending on Falcon 9’s performance this launch – could win several more. Aside from contract victories, SpaceX’s first GPS III launch will be marked by yet another first for the company’s May 2018-debuted Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket.

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A ‘Self-Aware’ Fish Raises Doubts About a Cognitive Test

A ‘Self-Aware’ Fish Raises Doubts About a Cognitive Test

A report that a fish can pass the “mirror test” for self-awareness reignites debates about how to define and measure that elusive quality.

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Branson's Virgin reaches edge of space

Branson's Virgin reaches edge of space

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic makes it to the edge of space and back.

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Schmitt with Flag and Earth Above

Schmitt with Flag and Earth Above

Geologist-Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot, is photographed next to the American Flag during extravehicular activity (EVA) of NASA's final lunar landing mission in the Apollo series. The photo was taken at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The highest part of the flag appears to point toward our planet earth in the distant background.

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A newly discovered, naturally low-caffeine tea plant

A newly discovered, naturally low-caffeine tea plant

Tea drinkers who seek the popular beverage’s soothing flavor without its explosive caffeine jolt could soon have a new, naturally low-caffeine option. In a study appearing in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that a recently discovered wild tea plant in China contains little or no caffeine and, unlike many industrially decaffeinated products, could potentially provide many of the health benefits of regular brewed teas.

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The Tardis in 'Doctor Who' Can Be Explained as a Bubble of Space-Time

The Tardis in 'Doctor Who' Can Be Explained as a Bubble of Space-Time

But actually making one would require an extra-dimensional building material.

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Biologists are one step closer to creating snake venom in the lab

Biologists are one step closer to creating snake venom in the lab

Labs growing replicas of snakes’ venom glands may one day replace snake farms. Researchers in the Netherlands have succeeded in growing mimics of venom-producing glands from multiple species of snakes. Stem cell biologist Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands, reported the creation of these organoids on December 10 at a joint meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology and the European Molecular Biology Organization.

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Crosswords and puzzles don't prevent mental decline, study says

Crosswords and puzzles don't prevent mental decline, study says

Tackling a tricky crossword or a challenging Sudoku puzzle will not fend off age-related mental decline, new research has shown. Scientists have, in recent years, argued that brain-training exercises, such as completing puzzles or learning another language, can reduce the risk of developing dementia. But that may not be the case after all, according to a team of Scottish researchers whose research was published in the BMJ.

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Emojis can make online messages easier to understand and more believable, study finds

Emojis can make online messages easier to understand and more believable, study finds

The use of emojis can impact the effectiveness of online messages, according to research published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture. “The idea for the study came out of a brainstorming session with my co-author Alecka. She is interested in psychology and social media, and I am interested in basic cognition, so studying how we view emojis felt like a perfect mix of our backgrounds if you think about the hypothetical Venn-Diagram,” said T. Alex Daniel of Westfield State University, the corresponding author of the study.

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Space station astronauts on a spacewalk to investigate mystery hole

Space station astronauts on a spacewalk to investigate mystery hole

Spacewalking astronauts sliced through thick insulation on a capsule docked to the International space station on Tuesday, trying to find clues to a mysterious drilled hole that leaked precious cabin air four months ago. The space station’s crew patched the small hole in the Soyuz capsule last August, mistreatment epoxy and gauze. Russian space officials wanted the site surveyed from the outside, before the capsule’s return to Earth next week with Russian Sergei Prokopyev and 2 others.

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Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z

It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Americans’ beliefs are becoming more post-Christian and, concurrently, religious identity is changing. Enter Generation Z: Born between 1999 and 2015, they are the first truly “post-Christian” generation.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

‘Carbon removal is now a thing’: Radical fixes get a boost at climate talks

‘Carbon removal is now a thing’: Radical fixes get a boost at climate talks

Despite technological and cost hurdles, experts say that pulling carbon dioxide from the air is essential.

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An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have

An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have

Why your brain is like an ant colony: they both get wiser and more stable by using collective memory for learning

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Exclusive: Controversial skeleton may be a new species of early human

Exclusive: Controversial skeleton may be a new species of early human

More than twenty years after it was first discovered, an analysis of a remarkable skeleton discovered in South Africa has finally been published – and the specimen suggests we may need to add a new species to the family tree of early human ancestors. The analysis also found evidence that the species was evolving to become better at striding on two legs, helping us to understand when our lineage first became bipedal. The specimen, nicknamed “Little Foot”, is a type of Australopithecus, the group of hominins to which the famous fossil “Lucy” belonged.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Apollo 8 Astronauts Reflect on Historic Moon Voyage 50 Years Later

Apollo 8 Astronauts Reflect on Historic Moon Voyage 50 Years Later

Most years have at least a little something going for them, but 1968 was awful from the start. On just the 23rd day, North Korea seized the U.S.S. Pueblo, killing one sailor and holding the rest prisoner; on the 30th day, the start of the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, the Viet Cong launched a massive military offensive that cost more than 35,000 lives on both sides; on the 95th day, the Rev. Martin Luther King was murdered; on the 157th day, Senator Bobby Kennedy’s murder followed...

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4,000-Year-Old Game Board Carved into the Earth Shows How Nomads Had Fun

4,000-Year-Old Game Board Carved into the Earth Shows How Nomads Had Fun

A pattern of small holes cut into the floor of an ancient rock shelter in Azerbaijan shows that one of the world's most ancient board games was played there by nomadic herders around 4,000 years ago, according to an archaeologist who has investigated the find. Walter Crist, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, visited the rock shelter in a national park in Azerbaijan last year, searching for traces of the ancient game now known as "58 Holes."

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Australia is still listening to Voyager 2 as NASA confirms the probe is now in interstellar space

Australia is still listening to Voyager 2 as NASA confirms the probe is now in interstellar space

NASA has confirmed that Voyager 2 has joined its twin to become only the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space – where the Sun’s flow of material and magnetic field no longer affect its surroundings. The slightly faster Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in August 2012. Voyager 2 is about 18 billion kilometres from Earth and still sending back data that are picked up by radio telescopes in Australia.

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2018 technology predictions that failed

2018 technology predictions that failed

What were they thinking?! These erroneous guesses about tech in 2018 would shatter any crystal ball.

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The Geminid meteor shower peaks December 13/14

The Geminid meteor shower peaks December 13/14

The spectacular Geminid meteor shower peaks the night of December 13/14. Although many people consider it to be a poor cousin to August’s Perseid shower, the Geminids often put on a better show. This year, observers can expect to see up to 120 “shooting stars” per hour — an average of nearly two per minute — under a dark sky.

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Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms

Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms

The Earth is far more alive than previously thought, according to “deep life” studies that reveal a rich ecosystem beneath our feet that is almost twice the size of that found in all the world’s oceans. Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet.

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These monkeys surprised scientists by sharing even more when no one was looking

These monkeys surprised scientists by sharing even more when no one was looking

Marmoset monkeys exist on a branch of the evolutionary tree that is distinct from the one that led to humans. But these fellow primates consistently astonish researchers with social behavior that seems, well, pretty highly evolved. Marmosets engage in rigorously polite patterns of communication and do not talk over or interrupt each other. Though territorial, they are so inquisitive that they will watch videos of marmosets they do not know and learn from them.

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After 41 years, NASA's Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space

After 41 years, NASA's Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space

For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA’s Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

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Monday, 10 December 2018

Canada still isn't using a leading forensic technique to solve crimes — here's why

Canada still isn't using a leading forensic technique to solve crimes — here's why

One of the leading U.S. forensic experts, who served as the primary DNA specialist prosecutor in O.J. Simpson's murder trial, says Canadian agencies are doing victims a disservice by using a potentially misleading DNA technique, instead of a surer method to identify suspects. But it's a method that does come with some privacy risks.

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Global carbon dioxide emissions will hit a record high in 2018

Global carbon dioxide emissions will hit a record high in 2018

Global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to hit a record high in 2018, despite urgent calls from climate scientists and international groups such as the United Nations to cut back. Worldwide, fossil fuel use is projected to pump 2.7 percent more CO2 into the atmosphere in 2018 compared with 2017. Last year, such emissions contributed 9.9 gigatons of carbon. The data are presented in the Global Carbon Budget published online December 5 in Earth System Science Data. 2018 marks the second year in a row that the emissions, which fuel global warming, have risen substantially after a lull from 2014 to 2016.

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Freshwater is getting saltier, threatening people and wildlife

Freshwater is getting saltier, threatening people and wildlife

Salts that de-ice roads, parking lots and sidewalks keep people safe in winter. But new research shows they are contributing to a sharp and widely rising problem across the U.S. At least a third of the rivers and streams in the country have gotten saltier in the past 25 years. And by 2100, more than half of them may contain at least 50 percent more salt than they used to. Increasing salinity will not just affect freshwater plants and animals but human lives as well—notably, by affecting drinking water.

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Helium exoplanet inflated like a balloon, research shows

Helium exoplanet inflated like a balloon, research shows

An international team of researchers, including Jessica Spake and Dr David Sing from the University of Exeter, have detected the inert gas escaping from the atmosphere of the exoplanet HAT-P-11b – found 124 light years from Earth and in the Cygnus constellation.

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Voyager 2 probe 'leaves Solar System'

Voyager 2 probe 'leaves Solar System'

Voyager 2, a space probe launched in 1977, becomes only the second human-made object to enter the space between the stars.

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Supertall skyscraper hangs from orbiting asteroid in Clouds Architecture Office concept

Supertall skyscraper hangs from orbiting asteroid in Clouds Architecture Office concept

In a bid to get around terrestrial height restrictions, Clouds Architecture Office has proposed suspending the world's tallest skyscraper from an asteroid, leaving residents to parachute to earth. New York-based Clouds Architecture Office drew up plans for Analemma Tower to "overturn the established skyscraper typology" by building not up from the ground but down from the sky by affixing the foundations to an orbiting asteroid.

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People Are Months Away from Living in 3D Printed Homes

People Are Months Away from Living in 3D Printed Homes

Speed has never been a quality associated with building a home, but that may be changing. Eindhoven University of Technology plans to build five 3D-printed houses in the new residential district of Bosrijk. The endeavor, known as Project Milestone, was initially announced during Dutch Design Week in 2016 as a partnership between the University and Municipality of Eindhoven and is billed as the world’s first commercial housing project using 3D-concrete printing.

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Sunday, 9 December 2018

8 Years After Dragon's 1st Flight, SpaceX More

8 Years After Dragon's 1st Flight, SpaceX More

Today -- Dec. 8, 2018 -- marks a big anniversary in SpaceX history. It's been more than 12 years since SpaceX launched its first rocket, an experimental Falcon 1, from Kwajalein Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to ensure it wouldn't hurt anyone if it blew up. (Spoiler: It blew up). It would be two more years before SpaceX succeeded in getting a rocket into orbit, and two more years after that before SpaceX built a rocket big enough to carry significant commercial payloads.

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Space does not damage a major part of the immune system, study says

Space does not damage a major part of the immune system, study says

Space flight does not have a detrimental effect on a major part of the human immune system, according to new research which may alter how astronauts approach future missions. Scientists tested blood samples taken from 23 crew members who spent six months at the International Space Station (ISS), taken before, during and after their trips. Researchers examining the samples discovered that time in space caused no changes to levels of B-cell immunity - the white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight off infections.

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Largest collision of black holes ever detected by scientists

Largest collision of black holes ever detected by scientists

A team of scientists have detected the gravitational waves that resulted from the largest collision of black holes ever observed and that formed a new black hole about eighty times larger than the sun. This and 3 other black hole fusions were detected by an international team of scientists formed by the Advanced laser interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the U.S. and the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Efe news reported on Tuesday.

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases new Starship photos and "heavy metal" BFR

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases new Starship photos and "heavy metal" BFR

Drawn in by Teslarati photographer Pauline Acalin’s most recent photos of Port of LA Falcon 9 recovery operations SpaceX is in the midst of, CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on December 8th to discuss titanium grid fins and – more importantly – answer a miscellaneous handful of questions about the status of BFR’s development.

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Holding infants – or not – can leave traces on their genes

Holding infants – or not – can leave traces on their genes

The amount of close and comforting contact between infants and their caregivers can affect children at the molecular level, an effect detectable four years later, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

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NASA just heard the first sounds of wind on Mars. You can hear them, too.

NASA just heard the first sounds of wind on Mars. You can hear them, too.

NASA just announced it has heard the first-ever “sounds” of wind on Mars. But if you’re expecting howling, swooshes and crackles, you’re in for a surprise. These are vibrations, captured by NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on the Red Planet just last week. The craft will stay put until November 24, 2020, measuring quakes that happen anywhere on Mars.

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