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Published: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 05:37:40 -0500

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Correction: Science Says-Meteor story

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:50:43 -0500

(image) Correction: Science Says-Meteor story

China spots four oil slicks from sunken tanker

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 04:28:01 -0500

(image) The spill from a sunken Iranian tanker off China's east coast has spawned four oil slicks as authorities prepared to send robots to the wreckage to assess the environmental damage. The Sanchi, which was carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, sank in a ball of flames in the East China Sea on Sunday, a week after colliding with Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter the CF Crystal. The State Oceanic Administration of China said late Wednesday that it was monitoring four slicks with a total area of almost 101 square kilometres (39 square miles), roughly the same size as Paris.

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National Park Service advisory board members resign in protest

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:50:49 -0500

(image) Nearly all the members of the U.S. National Park Service advisory board announced their sudden resignations on Monday night, in protest of what they say has been a lack of engagement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during the past year. In a resignation letter, the members said Zinke refused to meet with the panel, which is legally required to provide input to the department regarding how to take care of America's most treasured landscapes. SEE ALSO: The National Park Service removed climate change plans from website, but it may be for a good reason Former Alaska Gov. and advisory board member Tony Knowles turned in the letter of resignation for himself and eight others, citing "a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside." The other eight members of the board that joined Knowles include: Gretchen Long, Paul Bardacke, Carolyn Finney, Judy Burke, Stephen Pitti, Milton Chen, Belinda Faustinos, Margaret Wheatley. Just three members remain a part of the board. You can read Knowles complete letter below (via The Washington Post). In an interview with Alaska Public Radio, Knowles went a bit more in-depth about what drove the board's frustrations with the current administration.  NPR notes that the nine members who stepped down were all Obama-era appointees and were scheduled to end their terms in May, anyway. But their public resignation sends a clear message of frustration with the way the Trump administration has bungled its way through managing not just the National Park Service but several other Interior Department organizations.  For example, the administration still hasn't nominated anyone for Park Service director, and has proposed steep fee hikes for Americans to access many of the most popular parks in the system, including Yosemite National Park in California.  And the Interior Department faced backlash last year for omitting "climate change" from its strategic plan because, presumably, we have a president that still doesn't believe it's a problem (though the recent disappearance of climate change plans from national parks website was for a different, far better reason.)  As Interior Secretary, Zinke has pursued a pro-growth agenda, removing restrictions on drilling for oil, gas, and coal on public lands, and shrinking national monuments set aside by former president president Obama. Zinke is under investigation by his department for his use of private and departmental assets for travel.  WATCH: 2017 is about to be one of the hottest years of all time

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Mantis Shrimp Can Punch Each Other to Death But Prefer to Resolve Conflicts Peacefully

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 07:44:33 -0500

(image) When an argument comes to blows, it’s especially devastating for a mantis shrimp. Scientists at Duke University decided to create some conflict between mantis shrimp in order to see if and when they would resort to drastic violence to solve it. They took pairs of mantis shrimp of a certain species, Neogonodactylus bredini, and gave one of each pair a burrow. Mantis shrimp have a punch strong enough to break glass, boil water and kill each other.

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China, Europe jointly test technology for storm satellite

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:02:21 -0500

(image) China and Europe are jointly testing new technology that could help satellites peer through clouds and analyze storms

Europe's space agency braces for Brexit fallout

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:50:48 -0500

(image) The European Space Agency (ESA) is drawing up contingency plans for projects, commercial deals, and staffing that may be adversely affected by Brexit, senior officials said Wednesday. Programmes throw in flux by Britain's pending departure from the European Union (EU) include the Copernicus satellite constellation to monitor environmental damage, and the Galileo satellite navigation system. Britain's EU-linked participation in both programmes will come to an end after Brexit, unless it negotiates a specific deal, the ESA has said.

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The world's longest underwater cave has been found in Mexico

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 07:45:02 -0500

The search for the world's most extreme measurements - biggest, highest, tallest - tends to focus above ground, gazing at towering mountains and epic canyons. But the latest global peak statistic has come from under the soil, in the subterranean depths of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. There, in the famously porous terrain above which the Mayan civilisation once thrived, is what is now considered to be the planet's longest underwater cave system. A diver exploring Sistema Sac Actun Credit: HANDOUT This is not, technically, an uncovering of a new wonder - more a joining of dots. In recent days, divers have confirmed what had been suspected for a while - that the Sistema Sac Actun (a submerged labyrinth which stretches out for 164 miles) and the Dos Ojos system (shorter, but still impressive at 52 miles in length) are one and the same thing, connected by a previously unsurveyed channel. Sistema Sac Actun Together, this pair of vast limestone wormholes add up to 216 miles of below-the-surface space - a number which makes their combined size greater than that of the Sistema Ox Bel Ha (also in eastern Mexico; 168 miles), which was previously thought to be the yardstick for underwater networks. The cave stretches for a staggering 216 miles Credit: HANDOUT The discovery is the result of years of hard work by Gran Acuifero Maya, a project which focuses on the study and preservation of the subterranean waters of the Yucatan. The finding has been hailed as "amazing" Credit: HANDOUT The finding has been described as "amazing" by Guillermo de Anda, who is both the director of Gran Acuifero Maya and an underwater archaeologist.   It is the result of years of hard work Credit: HANDOUT He says that expanded knowledge of the cave system will allow for a greater understanding of the Maya people, who thrived in the region before prior to the Spanish conquest of Central and South America in the 16th century. "It allows us to appreciate much more clearly how the rituals, the pilgrimage sites and ultimately the great pre-Hispanic settlements that we know emerged," he told Reuters. The Maya considered cenotes to be holy sites Credit: GETTY The Maya held the "cenotes" - giant sinkholes - of their region in high esteem, regarding them as holy sites and portals to communication with the gods. Religious objects and human skeletons have been found at the bottom of some of these sinkholes, including the Sacred Cenote at the historic city of Chichen Itza - leading to the theory that they were used by the Maya for human sacrifice. Tulum caves locator map One of the Yucatan Peninsula's biggest sinkholes is the Gran Cenote - which sits three miles west of the popular tourist town, Tulum. This is also part of the Sistema Sac Actun, and has been used as a gateway for divers charting its many twists and turns. The beach at Tulum Credit: Monica and Michael Sweet/M Swiet Productions This is not the first time this watery maze - whose name translates from Spanish and Yucatec Maya as "White Cave System" - has been found to have hidden contours. In 2007, it was revealed that the Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich, previously thought to be separate, was also linked to the Sistema Sac Actun. It is not, however, the longest cave system in the world. Going underground | The world's 10 longest caves While its size makes Sistema Sac Actun the longest underwater cave network, the longest on the planet is the Mammoth Cave complex - which is riddled into the hillsides of southern Kentucky, and is thought to extend for 405 miles.[...]

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Hawaii’s False Alarm Exposes U.S. Civil Defense Gaps

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 06:13:03 -0500

(image) Hawaii's false missile alarm brought home the perilous state of affairs between the U.S., its allies and North Korea amid rising tensions.

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Great Pyramid Void May Contain Mysterious Throne Carved From Meteorite Described in Ancient Texts

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:20:02 -0500

(image) Ever since archaeologists revealed in November 2017 that one of the Great Pyramids of Giza contained a void potentially more than 100 feet long, the question of what exactly lies inside it has tantalized scientists and the public alike. Now, one expert has put forth a hypothesis addressing the mystery: The void could contain a great iron throne referenced in the Pyramid Texts, the oldest known religious texts in the world. Cheops' Pyramid, sometimes called the Pyramid of Khufu or simply the Great Pyramid, is the largest of the three Giza Pyramids.

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Thames paddle-boarders try to turn the tide on plastic

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:06:09 -0500

(image) Floating on the murky waters of the River Thames in London, activist paddle-boarders are trying to rid the waterway of a plague of plastic waste and draw attention to the problem. As the sun rises on the Thames behind historic Kew Bridge in the west of the British capital, quacking ducks and gliding swans conjured a serene landscape. It is this kind of regularly sullied scene that inspired several members of paddle-board association Active360 to launch cleaning sessions of the river and canals that run through London.

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High-tech winter sports gear

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:14:32 -0500

(image) Take your winter sports game to the next level with this high-tech gear including folding skis, rubberized ski boots and winter wear to keep you and your smartphone from the deep freeze.

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Why Did Two-Thirds of These Weird Antelope Suddenly Drop Dead?

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 14:00:00 -0500

(image) It took just three weeks for two-thirds of all the world’s saiga to die. It took much longer to work out why. The saiga is an endearing antelope, whose bulbous nose gives it the comedic air of a Dr. Seuss character. It typically wanders over large tracts of Central Asian grassland, but every spring, tens of thousands of them gather in the same place to give birth. These calving aggregations should be joyous events, but the gathering in May 2015 became something far more sinister when 200,000 saiga just dropped dead. They did so without warning, over a matter of days, in gathering sites spread across 65,000 square miles—an area the size of Florida. Whatever killed them was thorough and merciless: Across a vast area, every last saiga perished.

Scientists may finally know what caused the mysterious epidemic that killed millions of Aztecs

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 15:01:07 -0500

In the 16th century, an epidemic wiped out approximately 80% of the Aztec population in when Central and South America. The horrific epidemic known as "cocoliztli" was responsible for killing millions of people in Mexico, Guatemala, and even as far as Peru. Those infected would experience severe vomiting and even bleeding, and the death rate was believed to be among the highest in history. Despite the massive scale of this demographic catastrophe, the cause of the epidemic has remained a mystery for all these years. Now, nearly 500 years later, scientists may have made a breakthrough discovery that finally reveals the pathogen responsible for the devastating epidemic. A team of scientists believe they have solved the cocoliztli mystery that has puzzled mankind for centuries. The team analyzed skeletal remains in a mass grave filled with victims of the cocoliztli epidemic, and their findings have apparently confirmed what some experts have suspected for years: The cocoliztli epidemic that killed millions of Aztecs was seemingly caused by Salmonella. The team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Harvard University, and the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History say they found traces of Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C in ancient DNA extracted from the mass grave. Remains of the Salmonella strain were said to be present in a number of skeletons from the site, samples of which were recovered during a dig and returned to labs for analysis. The researchers' paper was published this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. "Indigenous populations of the Americas experienced high mortality rates during the early contact period as a result of infectious diseases, many of which were introduced by Europeans," the researchers wrote. "Most of the pathogenic agents that caused these outbreaks remain unknown. Through the introduction of a new metagenomic analysis tool called MALT, applied here to search for traces of ancient pathogen DNA, we were able to identify Salmonella enterica in individuals buried in an early contact era epidemic cemetery at Teposcolula-Yucundaa, Oaxaca in southern Mexico." They continued, "This cemetery is linked, based on historical and archaeological evidence, to the 1545–1550 CE epidemic that affected large parts of Mexico. Locally, this epidemic was known as ‘cocoliztli’, the pathogenic cause of which has been debated for more than a century. Here, we present genome-wide data from ten individuals for Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Paratyphi C, a bacterial cause of enteric fever. We propose that S. Paratyphi C be considered a strong candidate for the epidemic population decline during the 1545 cocoliztli outbreak at Teposcolula-Yucundaa." According to the scientists, this is the first direct evidence of a potential cause of the epidemic.[...]

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China says air quality 'improved' in 2017

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 08:42:34 -0500

(image) China's air quality improved across the country in 2017, the environmental protection ministry said Thursday, after the problem was so dire in previous years that some periods were dubbed an "airpocalypse". The average level of PM2.5 particles -- which penetrate deep into the lungs -- in 338 cities stood at 43 micrograms per cubic metre last year, falling 6.5 percent year-on-year, according to a ministry statement. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum average exposure of 25 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24-hour period.

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Researchers recreate 200-year-old man’s genome using only DNA from his living relatives

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 12:36:31 -0500

Hans Jonatan was born in St. Croix more than 200 years ago in 1784. His mother Emilia Regina was a house slave on the island, which means Jonatan was born into slavery.  He would later manage to free himself by escaping to Iceland, where he would marry a local woman and raise a family before dying in 1827 at the age of 43. There are no known photographs of Jonatan, but he gained notoriety when his life story was told in a book called The Man Who Stole Himself. But Jonatan once again finds himself the subject of much conversation this week. Despite having no access to any of the man's remains, researchers were able to recreate his DNA in a scientific breakthrough that could have tremendous implications. There are no known remains of Hans Jonatan, who died nearly 200 years ago. But a team of researchers were able to partially reconstruct Jonatan's genome using nothing but DNA from his descendants. In other words, scientists were able to reproduce a man's DNA without access to a sample, and without ever having observed any of the man's genetic material. A paper published in the journal Nature Genetics explains the researchers' feat. Using fragments of DNA taken from more than 180 of Jonatan's descendants, the scientists were able to recreate Jonatan's own DNA. This is the first time a procedure like this has been successful, and researchers believe it could have far-reaching implications. "A genome is a mosaic of chromosome fragments from ancestors who existed some arbitrary number of generations earlier. Here, we reconstruct the genome of Hans Jonatan (HJ), born in the Caribbean in 1784 to an enslaved African mother and European father," the researchers explained in their abstract. "HJ migrated to Iceland in 1802, married and had two children. We genotyped 182 of his 788 descendants using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chips and whole-genome sequenced (WGS) 20 of them. Using these data, we reconstructed 38% of HJ’s maternal genome and inferred that his mother was from the region spanned by Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon." Now, it's important to note that while the procedure was undoubtedly a breakthrough, we shouldn't expect to see recreations of historical figures' DNA flooding labs around the world anytime soon. The team responsible for partially recreating Jonatan's DNA says that he was the perfect subject of such a procedure because he was the only person of African descent in Iceland at the time. Because of the country's homogeneity, scientists were able to distinguish known symbols of African DNA from Icelandic DNA in his descendants' samples. According to the researchers, no African ancestry apart from Jonatan existed in Iceland until around 1920. This made the task at hand much easier, since Jonatan was the only person in all of Iceland who was not of European descent.[...]

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Baidu's Robin Li is Helping China Win the 21st Century

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:18:05 -0500

(image) China has now set its sights on artificial intelligence, and Baidu founder Robin Li is up the the challenge.

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Lego Relased a Women of NASA Set, Since "Ladies Rock Outer Space"

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:55:03 -0500

(image) Four of the most accomplished women in STEM are about to be celebrated with the highest pop culture accolade in America: a Lego set in their honor. Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison are the four NASA veterans featured in the special "Women of NASA" set, which will hit stores on Nov.

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Chinese space station full of toxic chemicals will crash down to Earth within months

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:28:41 -0500

China's massive Tiangong-1 space station is out of control and it will soon come crashing down to Earth. Astronomers have been monitoring the large satellite ever since late 2016, which is when China's space agency admitted that it had lost radio communication. The station has been tumbling and twirling out of control since then, with a decaying orbit that is slowing making its way closer to Earth. Scientists have said in the past that they expect the space station to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and come crashing down to Earth in either March or April, but they weren't quite sure where the giant satellite might finally touch down. Now, experts believe they may finally know where the Tiangong-1 is headed as it comes tumbling back down to Earth. There is a tremendous amount of "space junk" orbiting Earth. So much so, if fact, that one group of Chinese scientists are considering blasting it to pieces with giant space lasers. These old satellites and other debris often re-enter Earth's atmosphere, but they typically burn up upon re-entry long before they reach the Earth's surface. Unfortunately, this may not be the case with China's Tiangong-1 space station, which was first launched back in 2011. While experts do believe that come of the satellite will burn up following re-entry into our atmosphere, Tiangong-1 is so large that much of it could still be intact when it reaches the Earth's surface. As for where the satellite might finally touch down, experts finally think they have an answer. The European Space Agency (ESA) said in a blog post on its site that the likely point of impact will be somewhere in Europe. "Reentry will take place anywhere between 43ºN and 43ºS (e.g. Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, etc.)," the agency wrote, adding that it will likely re-enter our atmosphere sometime between March 17th and April 21st. This is a problem one main reason. While the ESA notes that no casualties have ever been recorded due to falling space debris, the Tiangong-1 is a unique case. The station contains large amounts of toxic chemicals including  hydrazine, which is a known carcinogen that has been linked to cancer in humans. "Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive reentry," the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) said a recent warning message. "For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapors it may emit." The ESA notes that its re-entry time and location estimations are constantly changing because there are so many variables. The agency intends to provide updates on its website each week.[...]

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