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Preview: L.A. Times - Science

L.A. Times - Science

In-depth science news coverage of space exploration, medical science, climate change, technological breakthroughs and more.

Last Build Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2016 15:48:22 -0800

Copyright: ©2016 Los Angeles Times

E-cigarettes are a 'major public health concern,' especially for young people, surgeon general says

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 13:35:00 PST

Electronic cigarettes have all the addictive potential of traditional tobacco products, and health officials should do all they can to keep them out of the hands of teens and young adults, according to the federal government’s first comprehensive review of e-cigarettes.

The report released Thursday...


Feathered baby dinosaur tail found trapped in amber

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 10:00:00 PST

While browsing amber markets in Myanmar, scientists discovered the feathers and partial tail of a tiny baby dinosaur that lived some 99 million years ago.

The find, described in the journal Current Biology, offers a rare window onto the structure and organization of dinosaur feathers — one that...


On average, people born in the U.S. in 2015 will live 36.5 days fewer than those born in 2014

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 00:05:00 PST

The final numbers for 2015 are in and it’s now official: Life expectancy for Americans was shorter last year than it was the year before.

A person born in the U.S. in 2015 could expect to live 78.8 years, on average. That’s 0.1 years — or 36.5 days — fewer than in 2014.

The main reason for this...


Cassini sends back intriguing pictures of Saturn from new ring-grazing orbit

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 13:50:00 PST

Talk about a glamour shot! NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has completed the first of its ring-grazing orbits and snapped stunning images of the strange hexagon-shaped jet stream at Saturn’s northern pole.

With less than a year left to go in its mission, Cassini’s new orbits mark the start of special...


Scientists find antibody that hinders the spread of certain cancer cells

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 13:00:00 PST

Researchers in Spain have taken a key step in unraveling one of nature’s most malignant mysteries: How do cancerous tumor cells that establish a beachhead in one organ strike out in search of new territory to colonize?

And more important, how might they be stopped?

Some answers to those questions...


Flickering lights may illuminate a path to Alzheimer's treatment

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 10:05:00 PST

New research demonstrates that, in mice whose brains are under attack by Alzheimer’s dementia, exposure to lights that flicker at a precise frequency can right the brain’s faulty signaling and energize its immune cells to fight off the disease.

Light therapy for Alzheimer’s is miles from being...


Ancient eclipse records show that days on Earth are getting just a little longer

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 03:00:00 PST

The latest findings in Earth science are brought to you by ancient astronomers who observed the heavens as much as 2,700 years ago.

Thanks to hundreds of records of lunar and solar eclipses carved in clay tablets and written into dynastic histories, modern scientists have determined that the amount...


States with background checks for those who buy guns and bullets also have fewer school shootings

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 16:45:00 PST

An analysis of recent school shootings suggests a way to make them less likely: Mandatory background checks.

States that required background checks for gun buyers were about half as likely to experience a school shooting compared with states with no such requirement, a new study reports. In addition,...


Here's something Americans disagree about that has nothing to do with partisan politics: food

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 03:00:00 PST

A new report paints a picture of two Americas divided over something that’s a critical part of their daily life — food.

On one side are those who care deeply about the food they eat and how it is produced. These Americans embrace organic foods, are suspicious of genetically modified crops and are...


Explosives detector works 16 times better when it can 'sniff' like a dog

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 18:00:00 PST

Dogs know how to follow their noses — and scientists are now taking the hint, too. Researchers who 3-D printed a model of a dog’s snout have found that high-speed sniffing seriously upgrades the ability of detectors to pick up explosive chemicals like TNT.

The discovery, described in the journal...


Our ancient relative Lucy spent more time in trees than previously thought

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 17:00:00 PST

Lucy climbed trees, walked with a wobbly gait and had stronger muscles than humans, according to a new analysis of our ancient ancestor’s fossilized remains.

The work, published Wednesday in PLOS One, is the first to mine the internal bone structure of the world’s most famous Australopithecus afarensis for...


There's something in magic mushrooms that's shown to ease anxiety and depression in cancer patients in one dose

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:00:00 PST

In findings that could pry open a door closed for nearly half a century, researchers have found that psilocybin — a hallucinogen long used in traditional healing rituals — eases the depression and soothes the anxiety of patients contending with serious illness and the prospect of imminent death.


Experiments with embryos suggest ways to make 3-parent IVF safer for babies

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 15:15:00 PST

Nearly 800 children are born in the U.S. each year with genetic diseases caused by mutations in a type of DNA inherited directly from their mothers. Scientists are working to prevent these diseases by helping couples have babies with DNA from three parents instead of the usual two.

A new study...


Scientists design living organisms that make chemical bonds not found in nature

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 15:10:00 PST

Move over, chemists. Thanks to proteins from Icelandic bacteria, scientists at Caltech have managed to coax microbes into making silicon-carbon bonds, a feat that until now has been achieved only by humans in the lab.

The findings, published last week in the journal Science, could open the door...


Pluto's heavy 'heart' may have led to depression. Seriously

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 10:10:00 PST

Ever since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first high-resolution images of Pluto’s great white heart, scientists have been puzzling over its origin.

Some have suggested that the planet rolled over to ensure this particular feature wound up in this particular spot; others say its location...


For a long life, consider picking up a tennis racket

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:10:00 PST

You probably know that exercise is good for you, but do you know whether you’re better off riding a bike or swimming laps in the pool?  

Actually, if you want to get the biggest bang for your exercise buck, you should pick up a racket, new research reveals.

An analysis of more than 80,000 adults...


NASA's Cassini spacecraft is about to get a taste of Saturn's rings

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:00:00 PST

It’s the beginning of the end. On Nov. 30, NASA’s Cassini mission will begin the ring-grazing final chapter of its career at Saturn, one that will end with the spacecraft’s terminal plunge into the gas giant’s unforgiving atmosphere.

The second half of this chapter, in which the spacecraft will...


For high school football players, just a season of play brings brain changes

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:45:00 PST

Without sustaining a single concussion, a North Carolina high school football team showed worrisome brain changes after a single season of play, a new study has shown.

A detailed effort to capture the on-field experiences of 24 high school football players showed that, at the end of a single season...


Why yo-yo dieters often can't keep the weight off

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 10:00:00 PST

For those who have lost the same 10, 20 or 50 pounds not once but many times over, new research may help explain why yo-yo dieters so often fail to maintain their hard-won weight loss. 

The community of microorganisms that inhabit the gut are a key culprit, experiments in mice suggest. After being...


What scientists learned about whale sharks from the DNA they left behind in seawater

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 20:35:00 PST

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to study. Scientists hoping to learn about them must spy on them from the air, tag them with devices so they can be tracked via satellite or sneak up on them to collect tissue samples for DNA analysis.

But there...


Move over, elephants. Dogs have remarkable memories, researchers say

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 17:30:00 PST

Your dog remembers more than you might think. A new study that tested the memory of man’s best friend found that dogs exhibit something akin to episodic memory — a process that’s been well documented in humans, but difficult to prove in other animals.

In experiments, the dogs were able to recall...


Don't mess with the coconut crab, one of the strongest pinchers on land

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 15:50:00 PST

Coconut crabs might be the heavyweight champions of all crustaceans.

The largest land-dwelling crab on Earth, Birgus latro can lift about 66 pounds with its pincers and can pinch with about 750 pounds of force. That makes the coconut crab among the strongest terrestrial animals — only alligators...


Gravity signals may provide a little extra warning before an earthquake strikes

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 11:55:00 PST

Earthquake early warning systems may be due for a gravity boost. Scientists studying Japan’s 2011 Tohoku earthquake say they’ve found a signal faster than seismic waves to tell when a temblor is on its way.

The method, described this week in the journal Nature Communications, involves tracking...


A switch to daylight saving time could be lifesaving for koalas, researchers say

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:25:00 PST

The population of wild koalas in the southeast portion of Australia’s Queensland state has plunged by 80% in less than two decades, but researchers are offering a simple plan to save them. They can sum it up in three words: daylight saving time.

Changing the clocks would help stem the koalapocalypse...


Ants have been farming plants for millions of years, long before people did

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 14:20:00 PST

Could ants get any cooler?

These amazing insects have been known to create rafts and bridges with their bodies and tend to vast fungus gardens. Now, a new study suggests they have also been farming plants for millions of years.

High in the trees of the island nation of Fiji, evolutionary biologist...