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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: Sat, 1 Oct 2016 12:09:16 -0700

Copyright: ©2016 Los Angeles Times

It's official: Rosetta's long journey with comet 67P has ended

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 09:30:00 PDT

The Rosetta mission to catch up with a speeding comet, land a space probe on it and follow it as it flies past the sun has officially come to an end.

Early Friday morning, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter committed operational suicide when it deliberately smashed onto the surface of...


Bees buzzing on sugar can experience emotions like happiness and optimism, scientists say

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:35:00 PDT

Everyone knows sugar makes us feel good.

Studies have shown that sweet foods can improve adult humans’ moods and reduce crying and grimacing in babies when they are poked in the foot by researchers. But does it work on insects?

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London wanted to see whether they...


How science would fare under a Clinton or Trump administration

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 07:00:00 PDT

In a presidential election season dominated by talk of birth certificates, tax returns and email servers, science has rarely made headlines. But that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. On the contrary, policy decisions made by the next president will influence the future of the planet and all its inhabitants...


Astronomers spot spiral arms swirling around a young star, offering clues to planet formation

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 18:35:00 PDT

An international team of astronomers has discovered what might be the first evidence of density-driven spiral arms in the gas and dust around a still-forming star.

The findings, described in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, could offer an unprecedented glimpse at a key stage in a young...


The Rosetta orbiter is about to commit suicide, but first, a bit more science

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:00:00 PDT

It was conceived when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. It launched a few weeks after Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm. It spent a full decade looping around the solar system. And when it finally caught up with its target, it deployed the first probe to land on a speeding...


An unusual 'black moon' is coming Friday, but it's not the end of the world

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 02:45:00 PDT

This Friday, something unusual will happen in the sky over Los Angeles. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see it.

Sept. 30 marks the emergence of the “black moon” — when a second new moon rises in one month. Like all new moons, you cannot see it with the naked eye, because the side of the moon...


Eye-tracking technology shows that preschool teachers have implicit bias against black boys

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:55:00 PDT

For African American boys, the presumption of guilt starts before they have entered a kindergarten classroom, new research shows.

In a study presented Wednesday to a meeting of education policy officials, researchers found that pre-K educators who were prompted to expect trouble in a classroom...


For patients who need bone grafts, a 3D-printer could come to the rescue

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:15:00 PDT

Scientists have 3-D-printed splints for babies’ airways, faux brains to study cortical folding — and now they’ve done it with bone. A team of researchers at Northwestern University has created a highly flexible artificial bone that helps speed up recovery and that can be easily manipulated by surgeons...


Teen birth rate in the U.S. hits record low for 7th consecutive year

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 06:30:00 PDT

The birth rate for U.S. teenagers hit an all-time low in 2015, the seventh straight year a new record has been set. 

Overall, there were 22.3 births for every 1,000 young women between 15 and 19, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents...


Baby boy with DNA from 3 people offers hope for moms who would pass on deadly genetic diseases

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:15:00 PDT

A healthy baby boy is the first person to be born with DNA from three people, according to a medical report released Tuesday.

In addition to inheriting nuclear DNA from his mother and father, the infant also has mitochondrial DNA from a second woman who served as an egg donor.

Mitochondrial DNA...


Narcissists may start out popular, but people see through them in the long run

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:35:00 PDT

To build a following, narcissism works. Briefly.

But if, as they say in this electoral season, you’re looking to “grow your base,” exercising emotional intelligence — expressing empathy, checking your emotions in a bid to avoid conflict, and investing in personal relationships — is a strategy that...


Geysers of water vapor shooting from Europa could offer taste of ocean within

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:05:00 PDT

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has found signs of water vapor spewing out of the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The water appears to shoot about 125 miles high and may come from the global ocean thought to lie beneath its frozen shell.

The discovery, set to be published in the Astrophysical...


In addition to fueling aggression, testosterone can also make men more generous, study says

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:50:00 PDT

Testosterone, the big daddy (if you will) of male hormones, has gotten a bit of a bad reputation, what with it being linked to bluster, aggression, violent offending and a whole raft of behaviors at which men do seem to best women consistently.

But in humans, new research suggests that’s not the...


Try riding a roller coaster to dislodge those painful kidney stones

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:05:00 PDT

Just ask any one of the 300,000 Americans who, in any given year, develop kidney stones: What if the excruciating pain of passing one of those little devils could be prevented by strapping yourself into a make-believe runaway mine train, throwing your hands in the air and enduring G-forces as high...


How the moon and big tides could be a trigger for big earthquakes

Sat, 24 Sep 2016 13:30:00 PDT

It’s one of the most enduring mysteries in earthquake science: Why do small earthquakes stay small, while others grow into monsters?

A group of researchers offered a partial, but tantalizing answer this month: The moon and big tides.

How does this work?

The scientists zeroed in on times of high...


Does Pluto have a hidden ocean? Its 'heart' holds a clue

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 18:05:00 PDT

Pluto’s “heart” is spilling its secrets. Scientists using data from NASA’s New Horizons mission have found more evidence that there may be an ocean beneath the dwarf planet’s surface.

The findings, published by Geophysical Research Letters, could shed light on the internal mysteries of this frigid,...


Bumblebee skilled at 'buzz pollination' may soon join the endangered species list

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 19:35:00 PDT

A type of bumblebee native to North America may soon be named to the endangered species list. It would be the first bee species to be considered endangered in the United States.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday formally proposed that the Bombus affinis, or rusty patched bumblebee,...


How scientists virtually unwrapped an ancient, burned scroll and read the words inside

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 19:05:00 PDT

Sometimes science seems like science, and sometimes it seems like magic.

This week, computer scientists at the University of Kentucky-Lexington described how they virtually unfurled a charred and crushed biblical scroll dating back nearly 2,000 years.

Thanks to their work, scholars are now able to...


Studies on the perils of polyester underwear and the personality of rocks win Ig Nobel Prizes

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 18:45:00 PDT

Not every scientific study can be about weighty topics, like gravity waves or gene editing. Sometimes you can gain a true scientific insight by discovering that mammals of vastly different sizes require roughly the same amount of time to empty their bladders, or by noticing that people who speak...


Meet the 2016 MacArthur fellows

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:05:00 PDT

The 2016 MacArthur fellows were honored for their work in theater arts, human rights law, bioengineering and other fields. One was cited for finding ways to bring credit to communities with insufficient banking; another invented an origami microscope that costs less than $1 to make. Among the 23...(image)

Bacteria have sculpted the world we live in, and that's why MacArthur winner Dianne Newman studies them

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:05:00 PDT

Newly minted MacArthur fellow Dianne Newman is a huge fan of tiny microbes. 

Sit down with her in her homey office at the Caltech campus in Pasadena, and the 44-year-old microbiologist will dazzle you with amazing tales of these miniature organisms.

She might mention that there are so many microbes...


MacArthur winner Victoria Orphan showed how deep-sea microbes keep greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:05:00 PDT

Victoria Orphan was on a boat off the Southern California coast in 1993 when she asked a graduate student sampling seawater about his research. He stained a sample with fluorescent dye and put it under a microscope. Orphan, then a UC Santa Barbara undergraduate, stared at the dense constellations...


Manu Prakash, newly minted MacArthur 'genius,' builds water computers and origami microscopes

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:05:00 PDT

The solutions to global health problems usually come with a hefty price tag. Manu Prakash is working to change that.

Among his many inventions is the Foldscope, a lightweight microscope made from a single sheet of paper that costs less than $1 to build. He has also created a tiny chip that can...


United Nations takes on antimicrobial resistance

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:55:00 PDT

Meeting under the umbrella of the United Nations General Assembly, international leaders on Wednesday launched new efforts to stem the rising tide of antimicrobial resistance, which has blunted the effectiveness of existing medications in treating infectious diseases.

Heads of state and country...


All over the world, people celebrate holidays by gaining weight

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:05:00 PDT

Halloween is right around the corner, which means Thanksgiving and Christmas will be coming up soon. If you’re already worried about putting on extra pounds over the holidays, a new study has some discouraging news: Your fears are justified.

Americans who participated in the study saw their weight...