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L.A. Times - Science

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

Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2017 10:56:56 -0800

Copyright: ©2017 Los Angeles Times

Government severely misjudged strength of Oroville emergency spillway, sparking a crisis

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:00:00 PST

Bill Croyle stood in front of an aerial photo of Lake Oroville and swept his hand across the top of the emergency spillway that was helping drain water out of the brimming reservoir.

“Solid rock. All this is rock,” Croyle, acting director of the Department of Water Resources, said with an air of...


NASA's Juno spacecraft to remain in extra-long orbit for the rest of its time at Jupiter

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:30:00 PST

The team behind NASA’s Juno spacecraft has made a key change to its operating plan. For the remainder of its primary planned mission, the satellite will continue to circle Jupiter in its long 53-day orbits instead of transitioning to shorter 14-day cycles.

The decision, made in response to some...


NASA's Dawn mission finds life's building blocks on dwarf planet Ceres

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:00:00 PST

It sure doesn’t pay to underestimate Ceres: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has spotted signs of organic molecules on the frigid dwarf planet.

The findings, published this week in the journal Science, may shed light on the prevalence of pre-life chemistry in the solar system while marking Ceres as one of...


UC Berkeley suffers big loss in CRISPR patent fight: What's next for the powerful gene-editing technology?

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:00:00 PST

The scientists who first harnessed the powerful gene-editing technology known as CRISPR suffered a major defeat Wednesday in their long-running quest to control the rights to their invention.

UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her European collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, have racked...


'Extraordinary levels' of pollution have contaminated even the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 04:00:00 PST

Industrial pollution has reached even the most remote corners of Earth: the deepest part of the sea.

Scientists have discovered “extraordinary levels” of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, two of the deepest ocean chasms on the planet.

“Trenches have been...


To prevent serious medical conditions, scientists should be able to edit people's DNA, panel says

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 19:00:00 PST

Scientists should be allowed to alter a person’s DNA in ways that will be passed on to future generations, but only to prevent serious and strongly heritable diseases, according to a new report from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

However, tinkering with these...


El Niño triggered unprecedented erosion across California's coast

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:35:00 PST

El Niño may not have brought much rain to Southern California, but it did take its toll on the Golden State’s beaches.

A new study of the waves, water levels and coastal changes at 29 beaches across California, Oregon and Washington has found that the 2015-16 El Niño triggered unprecedented erosion...


Here’s what the president of MIT thinks of the Trump administration’s early moves

Sat, 11 Feb 2017 03:00:00 PST

The student’s email arrived early on Jan. 28.

It was addressed to Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The undergraduate didn’t want to bother him, she wrote, but she was stuck overseas and unable to return to campus because of the White House’s newly imposed travel...


African penguins are being ‘trapped’ by climate change

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 18:25:00 PST

Climate change and overfishing off Africa’s southern tip have set a “trap” for endangered African penguins leaving their nests.

The young penguins swim thousands of miles from where they hatched, following biological signposts advertising a buffet of anchovies and sardines. What they don’t realize...


As bee populations dwindle, robot bees may pick up some of their pollination slack

Thu, 9 Feb 2017 11:00:00 PST

One day, gardeners might not just hear the buzz of bees among their flowers, but the whirr of robots, too. Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.

The system,...


Concerned about Trump, scientists are leaning into politics

Thu, 9 Feb 2017 03:00:00 PST

Like many scientists, Aaron Parsons doesn’t have a history of political engagement.

Instead of focusing on earthly concerns, the UC Berkeley radio astronomer spent most of his time scanning the outer reaches of the cosmos, searching for the earliest stars in the universe.

“We’re looking for when...


How scientists plan to reduce the temperature in Los Angeles by 3 degrees

Thu, 9 Feb 2017 00:05:00 PST

Soak up these rainy days, Southern California. They are not going to last forever. 

Summer will be here before you know it, and if recent trends continue, it will probably be a hot one.

Globally, 2016 was the warmest year on record. Here in Los Angeles, temperature records were shattered last summer...


Fish-scale gecko in Madagascar evades predators by getting naked

Wed, 8 Feb 2017 20:35:00 PST

Talk about escaping by the skin of your teeth! Scientists have discovered a new type of gecko — an evasive little lizard who can escape predators’ grip not just by dropping its tail, but by shedding the scales on its skin.

The new species Geckolepis megalepis, described in the journal PeerJ, has...


Using science to see which countries are following through on Paris climate change goals

Mon, 6 Feb 2017 11:20:00 PST

If the United States and its fellow Paris Agreement signatories are to meet global climate targets, they’re going to have to make serious commitments that attack the problem on multiple fronts, including reducing coal use, raising renewable energy, accelerating carbon-capture technologies and electrifying...


What makes a frog’s tongue so sticky? The secret is in the spit

Fri, 3 Feb 2017 03:00:00 PST

Frogs and amphibians can nab a fly with remarkable speed — but the real secret of their bug-catching prowess is in the saliva.

Sticky frog saliva is a non-Newtonian fluid. That means it can behave as both a liquid and a solid.

This unusual combination of tongue and saliva allows a frog to catch insects,...


How to reset your body clock — and get better sleep — with hiking boots and a tent

Thu, 2 Feb 2017 17:40:00 PST

Are you sick of going to bed late and waking up tired? Then grab your hiking boots and a tent. A new study suggests that a couple days of camping in the great outdoors can reset your circadian clock and help you get more sleep.

The circadian clock is an internal clock that tells your body when...


Why conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe false information about threats

Thu, 2 Feb 2017 15:45:00 PST

After an electoral season that blurred the line between fact and fantasy, a team of UCLA researchers is offering new evidence to support a controversial proposition: that when it comes to telling the difference between truth and fiction, not all potential voters see it the same way.

When “alternative...


Dinosaur surprise: Scientists find collagen inside a 195-million-year-old bone

Thu, 2 Feb 2017 13:15:00 PST

Dinosaur paleontology has long been the domain of bones and teeth – but now soft tissues could be changing the game. Scientists say they have discovered collagen preserved in a 195-million-year-old rib from a long-necked Lufengosaurus.

The protein fragments, described in the journal Nature Communications,...


The surprising link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 18:50:00 PST

With environmental regulations expected to come under heavy fire from the Trump administration, new research offers powerful evidence of a link between air pollution and dementia risk.

For older women, breathing air that is heavily polluted by vehicle exhaust and other sources of fine particulates...


Humans, meet the ancient sea creature at the other end of your family tree

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:30:00 PST

A tiny wrinkled sack with a big mouth and no anus may well be the earliest-known of humans’ forebears. Meet Saccorhytus coronarius, a 540-million-year-old critter the size of a grain of sand, whose fossil remains were discovered in China.

Scientists say Saccorhytus is the most primitive of the...


What all those dead trees mean for the Sierra Nevada

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 05:00:00 PST

The ponderosa pine had taken root decades before the Revolutionary War, making a stately stand on this western Sierra Nevada slope for some 300 years, Nate Stephenson figures. 

Then came the beetle blitzkrieg. Now the tree is a dab in the gray and rusty death stain smeared across the mountain range.


Swarm of underwater robots helps scientists study ocean dynamics

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 04:00:00 PST

A swarm of seafaring robots unleashed by researchers at UC San Diego has discovered how plankton might get together to have sex: by harnessing the motion of the ocean.

The robots, described in the journal Nature Communications, shed fresh light on the mysterious behaviors of the tiny but legion...


Al Gore puts the CDC's health and climate conference back on track — minus the CDC

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 11:20:00 PST

An abruptly postponed conference on climate change and its effects on human health is going to take place after all — thanks to Al Gore.

But there’s a caveat: The conference’s original sponsor — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — won’t be involved.

Georges Benjamin, executive director...


Embryos that are human-pig hybrids offer hope for patients who need organ transplants

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 04:55:00 PST

In a bid to make organs for patients in need of transplants, scientists have created embryos that were hybrids of humans and pigs and grown them until they were on the verge of developing the body parts that might one day save lives.

Researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell that they injected...


These colorful new maps reveal the hidden diversity of life in Peru's Andean and Amazonian forests

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 03:00:00 PST

Not all forests are created equal.

The massive green swaths of Peru’s Andean and Amazonian forests host a more diverse array of life than previously thought — much of which has been hidden beyond the visible spectrum of light until now.

Stanford University scientists have created colorful new map...