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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: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 14:07:43 -0700

Copyright: ©2018 Los Angeles Times

How to make a robot that will build your Ikea furniture

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 10:05:00 PDT

Here’s one way to tackle the dreaded task of assembling your Ikea furniture: Get a robot to do it for you.

With some off-the-shelf robotics hardware and a substantial amount of programming, researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore built a machine capable of assembling the Swedish...


A search for some of Earth’s most extreme creatures in the West Coast's deepest underwater canyon

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 06:00:00 PDT

Geobiologist Victoria Orphan stands at the stern of the research vessel Western Flyer, watching her colleagues put the last touches on an unusual spread. Among the offerings: a large turkey leg, an alligator head and bowls of gelatinous agar that resemble consomme.

This meal isn’t for the ship’s...


The more humans spread, the smaller other mammals get. Elephants, rhinos and hippos had better watch out

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 03:30:00 PDT

Thirteen thousand years ago Southern California was crawling with enormous mammals — all of which are extinct today.

There were massive mammoths three times bigger than modern-day elephants, giant ground sloths up to 20 feet in length, and strange, armadillo-like beasts known as glyptodons that...


Fruit flies help explain why a male orgasm matters

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:25:00 PDT

Yes, dear reader, fruit flies ejaculate.

And new research brings us this further news flash: They like it. It’s what they like best about mating. So, that’s the part of the whole courtship process that keeps them coming back for more. And more (ensuring the circle of life and all...).

And that’s...


The food that goes bad in your fridge amounts to trillions of gallons of wasted water

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:00:00 PDT

You walk into the grocery store with the best intentions, filing your cart with kale, broccolini, tofu and Greek yogurt.

Then you get home, feel pressed for time and order a pizza.

Before you know it, the perishables are going bad at the back of the fridge. They’ll wind up in the trash, like so...


Liver transplants are better all around when you hold the ice

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 04:30:00 PDT

To preserve more livers for transplant patients who desperately need them, surgeons should take newly harvested organs out of their ice baths and immerse them instead in a warm, nutrient-rich soup, new research suggests.

In a head-to-head comparison of the two methods, preserving donor livers in...


Corals on Great Barrier Reef will never be the same after back-to-back heat waves, scientists say

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 20:20:00 PDT

The Great Barrier Reef suffered a catastrophic die-off after two back-to-back marine heat waves in 2016 and 2017, a new study finds – and many of its reef communities have been fundamentally changed.

The grim discovery, described in the journal Nature, reveals just how vulnerable many coral species...


Liftoff! TESS, NASA's new planet-hunting space telescope, is now in space

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 16:35:00 PDT

Move over, Kepler. NASA’s TESS spacecraft launched Wednesday at 3:51 p.m. Pacific time on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In a matter of minutes, the rocket went supersonic, shed its first stage, which returned to a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, and...


Attention women: Your choice of blood pressure medicine may affect your risk of pancreatic cancer

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 05:10:00 PDT

In findings with potentially broad implications for the public’s health, new research has found that some women who treat their high blood pressure with a class of drugs that relaxes the blood vessels were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who use other hypertension medications.


One of the solar system’s early planets didn’t survive, but its diamonds are now on Earth

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 00:10:00 PDT

Scientists have found the first hard evidence of a large and ancient protoplanet embedded in extraterrestrial diamonds that fell to Earth about 10 years ago.

To be clear, the diamonds did not fall to Earth on their own. Instead, they were discovered inside a small asteroid that slammed into the...


Organs from drug overdose victims could save the lives of patients on transplant waiting list

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:00:00 PDT

The widening tragedy that is the U.S. drug-overdose epidemic could have an improbable silver lining: for the 120,000 desperate Americans on the waiting list for a donated organ, the line could get a little shorter.

In 2000, only 149 organs from donors who suffered a fatal drug overdose were transplanted...


NASA's new spacecraft will remain on the launchpad until Wednesday as SpaceX conducts rocket tests

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 14:30:00 PDT

The launch of NASA’s TESS spacecraft, planned for launch Monday afternoon, has been delayed until Wednesday, SpaceX and NASA officials said.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was set to take off at 3:32 p.m. Pacific time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon...


NASA is about to step up its planet-hunting game with the launch of TESS

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:00:00 PDT

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will scan the neighboring sky, searching for dips in the brightness of stars that signal the presence of a planet. A few worlds TESS finds may be small, rocky bodies like Earth. And a few of those might be habitable places for life as we know it.(image)

Too much sitting may thin the part of your brain that's important for memory, study suggests

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 06:00:00 PDT

If you want to take a good stroll down memory lane, new research suggests you’d better get out of that chair more often.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have found that in people middle-aged and older, a brain structure that is key to learning and memory is plumpest in those who spend...


Singing tail feathers and a high speed dive help this hummingbird find a mate

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 09:00:00 PDT

You already know that hummingbirds are amazing animals — they can hover in place for minutes at a time, fly backwards at will, and flap their buzzing wings up to 70 times per second.

But how much do you know about their bizarre courtship rituals?

The details vary among species, but the principles...


A personalized vaccine helps patients fight back against ovarian cancer

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 04:00:00 PDT

In early research that extends the possibilities of immunotherapy to a killer feared by women, a personalized vaccine helped patients with ovarian cancer mount a stronger defense against their tumors and substantially improved their survival rate.

The vaccine was tested in a preliminary clinical...


What role should the L.A. River play in a future Los Angeles?

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 03:00:00 PDT

A thriving river, teeming with wildlife.

A future in which the city meets its own water needs without importing extra from elsewhere.

Can Los Angeles have both?

That’s the challenge facing a city that aspires to live within its environmental means.

If local agencies follow through on their most...


Bad news for night owls. Their risk of early death is 10% higher than for early risers, study finds

Wed, 11 Apr 2018 22:00:00 PDT

Night owls beware: A new study of mortality rates of nearly half a million people finds that individuals who strongly preferred to stay up late were more likely to be dead at the end of a six-and-a-half-year period.

The findings, described in the journal Chronobiology International, offer the first...


What ails America? The answer varies from state to state

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 15:15:00 PDT

The state of the union’s health is improving. But it is doing so very unequally, and recent signs of progress are in danger of being reversed by diseases of excess and despair, including obesity, depression, suicide and substance abuse.

Those are the broad conclusions of a new roundup of Americans’...


Vote on Southern California's investment in delta tunnel project could be a nail-biter

Mon, 9 Apr 2018 18:25:00 PDT

With the city of Los Angeles and Orange County on opposite sides, Southern California's role in financing a massive water delivery project is likely to hinge on a few smaller agencies.

In what will be a crucial decision, the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected...


A finger bone from an unexpected place and time upends the story of human migration out of Africa

Mon, 9 Apr 2018 14:55:00 PDT

It’s only 3 centimeters long and less than 1 centimeter wide, but it has the potential to rewrite the history of our ancestors’ migration out of Africa.

The object in question is a fossilized piece of a bone, probably the middle portion of a middle finger. Based on its shape, scientists believe...


California zigzags on ambitious water-delivery project, puts two-tunnel concept back on the table

Sat, 7 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT

Four days after Southern California’s biggest water agency dropped a plan to pay for most of a major water delivery project, the funding proposal is back on the table.

In agenda materials posted Friday afternoon, the staff of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California presented two...


Could this drug help the brain recover after a stroke?

Fri, 6 Apr 2018 04:00:00 PDT

Despite years of effort, researchers have so far failed to find a pill you could take or a food you could eat to harden your brain against the injury that could be caused by a stroke.

But new research offers the prospect of limiting a stroke’s long-term damage in a different way: with a drug that...


Surprise! Scientists find signs of new brain cells in adults as old as 79

Thu, 5 Apr 2018 09:05:00 PDT

Do we continue to add new neurons to our brain circuitry throughout our lives? Or does our neuron count remain fixed once we reach adulthood?

The scientific debate rages on.

In a report published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell, scientists from Columbia University present new evidence that our brains...


This retinal implant may one day cure blindness caused by macular degeneration

Wed, 4 Apr 2018 18:30:00 PDT

For many of the 10 million Americans who are losing their vision to a thievish eye condition with no treatment, help may be on its way.

In a very early clinical trial, researchers have implanted a stem cell “patch” to repair failing retinal cells in four patients with a condition called “dry” macular...