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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 19:19:01 -0500

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Jupiter's Great Red Spot: Mysterious 200-year-old Storm May Be About to End

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 05:52:27 -0500

(image) A ferocious storm has battered Jupiter for at least 188 years. “In truth, the GRS [Great Red Spot] has been shrinking for a long time,” lead Juno mission team member and planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Glenn Orton told Business Insider in an email. Jupiter's Great Red Spot, simulated using data collected during NASA's Juno mission.

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Indonesia's Sinabung volcano unleashes towering ash column

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 03:25:24 -0500

(image) JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Rumbling Mount Sinabung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra shot billowing columns of ash more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) into the atmosphere and hot clouds down its slopes on Monday.

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France to let wolf packs grow despite angry farmers

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 11:59:15 -0500

(image) The French government announced Monday it will allow the wolf population to grow 40 percent despite pressure from farmers in mountain regions who are worried about their sheep flocks. A new strategy unveiled by the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron will enable the number of wolves to increase from an estimated 360 now to 500 by 2023. Hunting wiped out the grey wolf in France during the 1930s and they only returned in 1992 via Italy -- currently home to around 2,000 wolves -- before spreading into Switzerland and Germany.

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SpaceX delays the launch of its first broadband satellites to February 21

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:14:18 -0500

(image) Elon Musk has long outlined plans to launch low-orbiting satellites to beam high-speed internet to folks around the world as part of a program called "Starlink." The first two satellites are slated to launch on February 21.

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Yellowstone Supervolcano Earthquake Swarm Hits 200 Shakes in Less Than Two Weeks

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:28:51 -0500

(image) Yellowstone National Park saw more than 200 measurable tremors in the week and a half between February 8 and February 18, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Since USGS commented about the new swarm on February 18, activity has died down a little. "It's slowly petering out, although these things wax and wane, so it's a bit difficult to say that it's ending," Michael Poland, the scientist in charge of the USGS's Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, told Newsweek.

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Turmoil shakes up agency in charge of vast US lands

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 12:38:45 -0500

(image) BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.

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France to grow wolf packs despite farmers' anger

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:39:26 -0500

(image) The French government announced Monday that it will allow the wolf population to grow 40 percent over the next five years, resisting pressure from farmers concerned about their flocks. A new strategy unveiled by the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron will enable the number of wolves to grow to 500 by 2023 compared with an estimated 360 now. Hunting wiped out the grey wolf in France during the 1930s and they only returned in 1992 via Italy -- currently home to around 2,000 wolves -- before spreading into Switzerland and Germany.

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Uber is temporarily pulling out of Morocco

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 04:25:33 -0500

(image) Morocco has become the latest country where Uber’s plans for world domination has been halted by local regulation. In a statement, the ride-hailing giant has announced that it will temporarily shutter operations in Casablanca this week given the lack of “clarity about integrating applications like Uber into the existing transport model.” Uber launched in Casablanca,…

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Singapore to impose carbon tax from 2019

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 04:56:33 -0500

(image) Singapore said Monday it would impose a carbon tax from next year to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and make companies more competitive as global agreements on climate change take effect. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the tax would be levied on all facilities producing 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions a year. The tax, to be applied to all sectors, will be Sg$5.0 ($3.8) per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions from 2019 to 2023, after which the levy will be reviewed and possibly raised to between Sg$10 and Sg$15 per tonne by 2030.

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Physicists create a new type of light, and it’s heavier than before

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:37:59 -0500

(image) Physicists at MIT and Harvard University may have just invented a whole new type of light by forcing groups of photons to bound together to form a completely new kind of photonic matter.

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Autism blood discovery promises earlier tests and treatment

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 20:05:00 -0500

(image) Scientists have discovered evidence of autism in the blood of affected children in a breakthrough that promises earlier testing and treatment for the condition. A team at Warwick University found that those suffering from the developmental disorder were more likely to have damaged blood proteins. Affecting around one in every 100 people in the UK, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages of development, because the symptoms vary widely depending on the patient. The researchers recruited 38 children who were diagnosed with ASD along with a control group of 31 other children between the ages of five and 12. Blood and urine samples were taken from the children for analysis, with chemical differences observed between the two groups. The next research steps will be to repeat the study with further groups of children to confirm the good diagnostic performance and to assess if the test can identify ASD at very early stages. Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and interventionDr Naila Rabbani, University of Warwick = ASDs mainly affect a person's social interaction and communication, with symptoms that can include speech disturbances, repetitive and compulsive behaviour, hyperactivity, anxiety, and difficulty adapting to new environments. Genetic causes are thought to be responsible for around a third of cases of ASD, while the rest are believed to be caused by a combination of environmental factors, mutations, and rare genetic variants. Dr Naila Rabbani, who led the research, said: “Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention. "With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles or fingerprints of compounds with damaging modifications. "This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD." Other scientists have cautioned that because the average age of the children in the study was seven, the test may not work on much younger children as they may not share the same metabolic patern. The research has been published in the journal Molecular Autism.

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Bizarre Camouflage Skills of the Cuttlefish Have Finally Been Explained by Science

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:55:33 -0500

(image) Here a cuttlefish can be seen camouflaging itself against the algae-covered rocks that surround it. “The biggest surprise for us was to see that these skin spikes, called papillae, can hold their shape in the extended position for more than an hour, without neural signals controlling them,” Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido, from the University of Cambridge, an author of the study, said in a statement.

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There’s something wrong with NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 18:21:18 -0500


NASA has had an incredible streak of good luck as of late with spacecraft that have far outlived their expectations. Cassini at Saturn, the Opportunity rover on Mars, and several other pieces of high-tech space hardware have performed for much longer than was initially expected of them. Unfortunately, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was launched in 2005 and has delivered more data on the Red Planet than any other Mars mission, is starting to cause some headaches.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft has been put into "precautionary standby status" after it alerted its handlers of low battery voltage. The craft is equipped with solar panels that power its instruments, but when it swings to the dark side of the planet it relies on rechargeable batteries to keep it up and running. Now, NASA has to figure out exactly what is wrong, and do so from over 30 million miles away.

"We're in the diagnostic stage, to better understand the behavior of the batteries and ways to give ourselves more options for managing them in the future," MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston explains. "We will restore MRO's service as a relay for other missions as soon as we can do so with confidence in spacecraft safety, likely in about one week. After that, we will resume science observations."

NASA is optimistic that they can iron out whatever issues are leading to the spacecraft's battery woes, but it's not exactly shocking that the hardware is having problems when you consider its age. Launching in 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbit was slated to have a two-year mission window which it completed with flying colors. Following that success, NASA has issues extended missions five times, allowing the orbiter to continue gathering and relaying a treasure trove of data about the planet. According to NASA, the MRO has delivered over 317 terabits of data thus far, which is more than all other Mars mission combined.

In just a couple of years, NASA is slated to launch its Mars 2020 mission which will feature the delivery of a new rover to the Red Planet. The rover will be a cutting-edge piece of scientific hardware capable of making advanced observations about the composition of the Martian surface.

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In Kenya, anti-poaching dogs are wildlife's best friends

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 05:45:22 -0500

(image) Five-month-old bloodhound Shakaria gambols through the long savannah grasses of Kenya's Maasai Mara reserve, her playful mood swiftly turning to keen determination as she is ordered to track a human scent. Shakaria is top of her class of five puppies being trained by American experts to join a tracker dog unit, which has become pivotal in the fight against poaching in the Mara Triangle, part of the vast Maasai Mara ecosystem in southern Kenya that merges into Tanzania's Serengeti. It is here that over one million wildebeest, and tens of thousands of other animals cross from Tanzania into Kenya on their annual migration, attracting hordes of tourists, but also poachers seeking an easy target.

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President Trump Tweeted He's Been Tougher on Russia Than Obama. That's Not True

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:22:01 -0500

(image) President Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to argue that he's been tougher on Russia than his predecessor Barack Obama. That's not true.

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Scientists have figured out how to make wood even stronger than steel

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:40:57 -0500

(image) Researchers at the University of Maryland have found a way to make wood more than 10 times stronger than titanium alloys. The results could make it an alternative to steel, but much lighter.

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Taíno: ‘Extinct’ Indigenous Americans Never Actually Disappeared, Ancient Tooth Reveals

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:40:33 -0500

(image) An ancient tooth has proven Taíno indigenous Americans are not extinct, as long believed, but have living descendants in the Caribbean today. Researchers made the discovery when they used the 1,000-year-old tooth to sequence the first complete ancient human genome from the Caribbean. The tooth was found in a cave on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas and belonged to a woman who lived at least 500 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the region.

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Google Retinal Scans Can Predict if You Will Have a Heart Attack

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:21:58 -0500

(image) Scientists working for Google’s parent company Alphabet have used artificial intelligence to determine a person’s risk of having a heart attack from their retinal scan. The method—detailed in a paper published on Monday, February 19, in the Nature journal Biomedical Engineering— involves analyzing blood vessels in an area of the eye called the retinal fundus. The researchers from Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, developed the algorithm in the hope of making accurate assessments of patients’ cardiovascular health more quickly and easily than current methods.

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New dinosaurs are being discovered in record numbers, and it’s changing everything we thought we knew

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 10:58:29 -0500

Every kid grows up loving dinosaurs. As we grow older we listen to science teachers explain how dinosaurs lived and died, we watch documentaries about the age when reptiles ruled the land, and by the time we reach adulthood most of us like to think we have a pretty good handle on what things were like millions and millions of years ago. A new study focusing on the frequency of fresh dinosaur discoveries suggests we might have it all wrong, and that our understanding of the hundreds of millions of years that preceded humanity's takeover of the planet could change dramatically over the next decade or two. All we know about the history of the dinosaurs is what we're able to piece together from the remains they left behind. We have bones and tracks and that's about it. Working with that sparse evidence has always been a challenge for paleontologists, but the frequency with which new dinosaurs are being discovered has spiked dramatically in just the past twenty years or so. Those new discoveries are constantly changing what we thought we knew about prehistoric life, and it won't be long before we look back on previous assumptions and find how misguided those guesses were. "It’s a nice little paper that shows that in the last 20 years, the number of dinosaur genera named, as well as the number of specimens of those genera, has increased greatly," Jonathan P. Tennant, co-author of the work, explains. "This has profound impacts on our understanding of dinosaur diversity, especially as these discoveries are unevenly spread over time and space. There are still huge gaps in our knowledge of the fossil record, and areas in space and geological time where the rapid pace of discovery is changing much of what we thought we knew about dinosaurs." You don't have to look far to find examples of how an increase in dinosaur discoveries has shifted our knowledge. A few decades ago, the idea that some land-dwelling dinosaur species were covered in feathers was laughable at best. Crafty hunters like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park are depicted as leathery beasts, but we now know that the creatures were largely covered in plumage. Likewise, the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex was long thought to be the ultimate predator, but more recent discoveries have suggested it may have also been a scavenger, feasting on already-dead carcasses rather than hunting for a fresh feast when it was hungry. There's no telling what discoveries lie under the next rock, but scientists are painting a prehistoric picture faster and with more detail than ever before, and it's quite exciting.[...]

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Donald Trump Jr. Arrives in India to Promote Trump-Branded Luxury Apartments

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 01:35:48 -0500

(image) President Trump's eldest son is also scheduled to share the stage at a New Delhi business summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Plants Appeared on Land 100 Million Years Earlier Than Scientists Thought

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:06:19 -0500

(image) Plants grew on land 100 million years earlier than scientists previously thought, new research suggests, pushing our understanding of life on Earth and even climate change back in time. This colonization had major implications from plant life to the makeup of the Earth's atmosphere itself. “Previous attempts to model these changes in the atmosphere have accepted the plant fossil record at face value,” Jennifer Morris from the University of Bristol, U.K., and co-lead author on the study, explained in a statement.

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The Bachelor Recap: It's Time for Hometown Dates

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 23:33:11 -0500

(image) On hometown dates one father promises that if The Bachelor hurts his daughter, he will find him — "on Google"

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Gold Medal Ice Dancer Tessa Virtue Didn't Always Want Scott Moir as Her Olympic Partner

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:21:48 -0500

(image) Figure skating's gold medal ice dancer Tessa Virtue had her eye on a different partner at a young age: Scott Moir's older brother.

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Bigleow aims to launch its own expandable space station as NASA plans pullback from ISS

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:47:10 -0500

Bigelow Aerospace — which currently has an inflatable capsule attached to the International Space Station (ISS) — announced bold plans to populate low-Earth orbit with inflatable space capsules. The announcement on Tuesday comes soon after the Trump administration proposed a NASA budget that would cease funding the Space Station after the year 2024. The company's CEO, Robert Bigelow — who is convinced aliens have visited Earth — announced the creation of a new company called Bigelow Space Operations, which will sell and manage the company's inflatable capsules.  Last week, NASA announced it will allow private companies to play a leading role in maintaining the massive, aging Space Station after 2024. Bigelow could potentially play a role in the upkeep and management of the station, or provide expandable platforms for a new station.  SEE ALSO: An astronaut and cosmonaut floated into the Space Station's first inflatable habitat today Beyond the current capsule, called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, now loaded with Space Station gear, Bigelow said the company will launch two new capsules into space in 2021. The capsules, called B330, are designed to be self-sustaining, permanent structures that can be "ganged together" to form a larger station complex, Bigelow said in a call with reporters.  And if there's enough demand from various nations or companies to purchase Bigelow's expandable capsules — which are marketed as being lighter, substantially less bulky, and cheaper to launch than traditional metal capsules — Bigelow has even grander plans: A single new space station, with nearly two and a half times the volume of the current ISS, that would be launched on a single rocket and then unfurled in space. Such a product would weigh between 165,000 to 176,000 pounds on launch, Bigelow said. Bigelow's conception of what its B330 capsules will look like.Image: bigelow aerospace For reference, when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts its Dragon cargo spacecraft to the Space Station, its total weight maxes out at 13,228 pounds.  The looming question for Bigelow, however, is not if it can successfully build this inflatable technology. As the BEAM technology on the space station proves, it can. Instead, Bigelow is concerned about whether there will be demand for such low-Earth orbit technology.  Along with the announcement of the 2021 launch, Bigelow said he's now hiring for and funding a multi-million dollar study to determine "what the hell a commercial market really looks like," in the coming years. In Bigelow's view, no one really knows.  "The time is now to quantify in detail the global, national and corporate commercial space market for orbiting stations. This subject has had ambiguity for many years," a Bigelow statement reads. But Bigelow is certain about two existential threats to the future of U.S. commercial space enterprise: China and NASA.  China, he noted, is "systematically" courting the world's nations to join the Chinese space stat[...]

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