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Tire makers race to turn dandelions into rubber
By Ludwig Burger MUENSTER Germany (Reuters) - Dutch biologist Ingrid van der Meer often meets with disbelief when she talks about her work on dandelions and how it could secure the future of road transport. The reaction is understandable, given most people regard the yellow flowers as pesky intruders in their gardens rather than a promising source of rubber for tires. Her research team is competing with others across the world to breed a type of dandelion native to Kazakhstan whose taproot yields a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. Global tire makers such as industry leader Bridgestone Corp and No.4 player Continental AG believe they are in for rich pickings and are backing such research to the tune of millions of dollars.
Our life with the Neanderthals was no brief affair
By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Far from wiping out Neanderthals overnight, modern humans rubbed along with their shorter and stockier cousins for thousands of years, giving plenty of time for the two groups to share ideas - and have sex. The most accurate timeline yet for the demise of our closest relatives, published on Wednesday, shows Neanderthals overlapped with present-day humans in Europe for between 2,600 and 5,400 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago. Pinpointing how and when the Neanderthals became extinct has been tough because the mainstay process of radiocarbon dating is unreliable for samples that are more than 30,000 years old, due to contamination. The data showed that Neanderthals vanished from Europe between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago - but rather than being replaced rapidly by modern humans, their disappearance occurred at different times across sites from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.
Spacewalking cosmonauts launch satellite, set up studies
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. - A pair of Russian cosmonauts began their work week on Monday floating outside the International Space Station to toss out a small satellite for a university in Peru, install science experiments and tackle some housekeeping chores. First out of the hatch was cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, who stood on a ladder outside the station's Pirs airlock to release a 2.2-pound (1-kg), 4-inch (10-cm) cube-shaped satellite built by students at the National University of Engineering in Lima, Peru. Video broadcast on NASA Television showed the satellite, called Chasqui-1, tumbling away from the back of the station as it sailed about 260 miles (418 km) above the southern Pacific Ocean. Artemyev was then joined by spacewalker Alexander Skvortsov to install a European package of experiments to the outside of the Russian Zvezda module.
Specks of star dust likely first from beyond solar system
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - A NASA spacecraft dispatched 15 years ago to collect samples from a comet also snared what scientists suspect are the first dust specks from interstellar space. The Stardust robotic spacecraft was launched in 1999 to fly by a comet and collect samples from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2") and parachute them back to Earth in 2006. Before reaching the comet, the spacecraft also twice opened a collection tray to fish for particles that may have come into the solar system from interstellar space. ...
'Mission Blue' film charts scientist's quest to save oceans
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the Galapagos Islands to Australia's Coral Sea and a marine park off the coast of Mexico, the documentary "Mission Blue" navigates the journey of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe to save the planet's threatened seas. With stunning underwater footage, the film that airs on Friday on the online streaming service Netflix and in selected U.S. theaters, shows the devastating impact of pollution, overfishing and climate change on the oceans through the eyes of the renowned scientist, explorer and author who has been charting it for decades. "I really wanted to make people aware of this woman and her life because she is such an incredible person and has dedicated so much of her life toward the ocean," Fisher Stevens, 50, who co-directed the film with Robert Nixon, said in an interview. Stevens, an actor and producer of the 2010 Oscar-winning dolphin-hunting documentary "The Cove," met Earle, 78, while filming her trip to the Galapagos Islands with scientists, explorers and policy makers more than four years ago.
Has Earth's Missing Heat Been Found?
In 1999, the feverish rise in Earth's surface temperatures suddenly slowed, even as greenhouse gas emissions escalated. This unexpected slowdown has been called a global warming hiatus or global warming pause. Most climate scientists don't think this hiatus means global warming went kaput, but the reason (or reasons) for the slowdown has scientists flummoxed. Now, a study published today (Aug. 21) in the journal Science suggests a natural climate cycle in the North Atlantic Ocean gobbled Earth's extra heat.
High 'n' Dry: GPS Offers New Way to Measure Drought
The western United States has suffered a crippling drought for the past three years, but researchers now have a fuller picture of the extent of damage, thanks to a new way to measure how much water has been lost.
New Wrinkle for Botox: Drug May Treat Stomach Cancers
Botox is best known for its cosmetic applications, but it may be useful in treating stomach cancers, new research in mice suggests. Researchers found that Botox injections could block certain nerve signals to the stomach, reducing the risk of developing tumors and suppressing tumor growth in mice that already had cancer. The drug in Botox is a toxin that paralyzes the muscles by affecting the nervous system. In the study, the drug was injected into the stomach wall of the mice to silence the endings of the vagus nerve, the main nerve that connects the stomach to the brain.
Atomic Clock Will Fly to Space Station in 2016
A new atomic clock is due for installation on the International Space Station in 2016, ushering in a new age of physics experiments probing the relationship between space and time. Once there, the space station's robotic arm will install it on a payload platform outside the Columbus Laboratory, one of the station's research modules. Another atomic clock called SHM, or Space H-Maser will also be on the orbiting outpost. Together the two clocks will make up the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES), a device that will be so accurate that it will lose only one second every 300 million years.
Traces of One of Universe's First Stars Detected
An ancient star in the halo surrounding the Milky Way galaxy appears to contain traces of material released by the death of one of the universe's first stars, a new study reports. The chemical signature of the ancient star suggests that it incorporated material blasted into space by a supernova explosion that marked the death of a huge star in the early universe ? one that may have been 200 times more massive than the sun. "The impact of very-massive stars and their explosions on subsequent star formation and galaxy formation should be significant," lead author Wako Aoki, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, told Space.com by email. The first stars in the cosmos, known as Population III stars, formed from the hydrogen and helium that dominated the early universe.
Scientists warn Florida governor of threat from climate change
By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - Five climate scientists warned Florida Governor Rick Scott in a meeting on Tuesday that a steadily rising ocean was a major threat to the state's future, urging it to become a leader in developing solar energy and other clean power sources. The Republican governor, who disputed the human impact on climate change in his 2010 campaign, agreed recently to meet with the scientists after his main Democratic challenger for re-election this year, former Governor Charlie Crist, proclaimed himself a firm believer in global warming. ?I?m inherently an optimist,? said David Hastings, a professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College on Florida's west coast. I?m concerned he might not do anything.? The scientists said they hoped Scott would respond to the Obama administration's proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent in Florida by 2030.
Weirdest Worm Ever? Clawed Creature Finds Its Family Tree
When researchers first discovered the fossil worm Hallucigenia in the 1970s, they were so perplexed they identified its head as its tail and its legs as its spines. The finding is surprising because it rewrites the evolutionary history of spiders, insects and crustaceans, said study researcher Javier Ortega-Hernandez, a paleobiologist at the University of Cambridge. Most genetic studies have found that these arthropods are close relatives of today's velvet worms, Ortega-Hernandez said in a statement. "The peculiar claws of Hallucigenia are a smoking gun that solves a long and heated debate in evolutionary biology," said study researcher Martin Smith, an earth scientist at the University of Cambridge.
In CDC bird flu mix-up, U.S. agency cites sloppy science, failed reporting
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. government scientist working with bird flu rushed through lab procedures in order to get to a staff meeting, setting off what could have been a fatal mishap, health officials said on Friday. They said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab worker, who was not identified, allotted only about half the time necessary to carry out the procedures safely, and as a result samples of mild avian flu were tainted with a highly deadly strain and sent from CDC to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CDC released the report of its investigation of the avian flu incident and said disciplinary action is under consideration. CDC did not report the incident until July.
'Mission Blue' film charts scientist's quest to save oceans
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the Galapagos Islands to Australia's Coral Sea and a marine park off the coast of Mexico, the documentary "Mission Blue" navigates the journey of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe to save the planet's threatened seas. With stunning underwater footage, the film that airs on Friday on the online streaming service Netflix and in selected U.S. theaters, shows the devastating impact of pollution, overfishing and climate change on the oceans through the eyes of the renowned scientist, explorer and author who has been charting it for decades. "I really wanted to make people aware of this woman and her life because she is such an incredible person and has dedicated so much of her life towards the ocean," Fisher Stevens, 50, who co-directed the film with Robert Nixon, said in an interview. Stevens, an actor and producer of the 2010 Oscar-winning dolphin-hunting documentary "The Cove," met Earle, 78, while filming her trip to the Galapagos Islands with scientists, explorers and policy makers more than four years ago.
Lionfish's Terminator-Style Killing Alarms Scientists
Lionfish, an invasive Pacific Ocean species, have been wiping out native fish populations in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean for the past couple of decades. Now, research reveals the "terminator"-style approach to hunting that has likely made them so successful: When other predatory fish quit stalking their prey to look for easier targets, lionfish just keep on killing. "Lionfish seem to be the ultimate invader," study researcher Kurt Ingeman, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, said in a statement. Ingeman, who presented his research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento, California, studied populations of the fairy basslet, a common lionfish prey, at reefs in the Bahamas.
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