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Deep-sea microbes called missing link for complex cellular life
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and Norway, scientists have found microorganisms they call a missing link connecting the simple cells that first populated Earth to the complex cellular life that emerged roughly 2 billion years ago. The researchers said on Wednesday a group of microorganisms called Lokiarchaeota, or Loki for short, were retrieved from the inhospitable, frigid seabed about 1.5 miles (2.35 km) under the ocean surface not too far from a hydrothermal vent system called Loki's Castle, named after a Norse mythological figure. The discovery provides insight into how the larger, complex cell types that are the building blocks for fungi, plants and animals including people, a group called eukaryotes, evolved from small, simple microbes, they said. These genes would have provided Lokiarchaeota "with a 'starter-kit' to support the development of cellular complexity," said evolutionary microbiologist Lionel Guy of Sweden's Uppsala University.
SpaceX puts Dragon passenger spaceship through test run
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A Space Exploration Technologies' passenger spaceship made a quick debut test flight on Wednesday, shooting itself off a Florida launch pad to demonstrate a key emergency escape system. The 20 foot- (6 meter) tall Dragon capsule, a modified version of the spacecraft that flies cargo to the International Space Station, fired up its eight, side-mounted thruster engines at 9 a.m. EDT to catapult nearly one mile (1.6 km) up and over the Atlantic Ocean. The flight ended less than two minutes later with the capsule's parachute splash-down about 1.4 miles (2.6 km) east of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site. “I think this bodes quite well for the future of the program,” SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told reporters on a conference call after the flight.
Brain technology patents soar as companies get inside people's heads
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - From ways to eavesdrop on brains and learn what advertisements excite consumers, to devices that alleviate depression, the number of U.S. patents awarded for "neurotechnology" has soared since 2010, according to an analysis released on Wednesday. Most surprising, concluded market-research firm SharpBrains, is that patents have been awarded to inventors well beyond those at medical companies. The leader in neurotechnology patents, according to the report, is consumer-research behemoth Nielsen. Patents for neurotechnology bumped along at 300 to 400 a year in the 2000s, then soared to 800 in 2010 and 1,600 last year, SharpBrains reported.
Failed Russian spacecraft expected to burn up Friday
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - An unmanned Russian spacecraft on a failed resupply run to the International Space Station is heading back toward Earth faster than original predictions, with a fiery demise in the atmosphere expected early on Friday, U.S. Air Force tracking data shows. The Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks satellites and junk orbiting Earth, found 44 pieces of debris near the Progress and its discarded upper-stage booster, a possible indication that an explosion or other problem occurred just before or during spacecraft separation. Unable to raise its altitude, the Progress capsule is being pulled back toward Earth.
Open wide and say 'ah': secret of gaping whale mouths revealed
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When the fin whale gets ready to eat, Earth's second-largest animal opens its mouth so wide that it can gulp an amount of water larger than the volume of its own body as it filters out meals of tiny fish and shrimp-like krill. The force of water rushing into the mouth during "lunge feeding" turns the tongue upside down and expands the bottom of the oral cavity into a huge pouch between the body wall and the overlying skin and blubber.
Oregon's Mysterious 'Disappearing Lake' Explained
During the rainy fall and winter, most Oregonians probably don't give much thought to Lost Lake, a shallow lake surrounded by pine trees that sits near a highway. "The lakebed begins to fill in the late fall, when the amount of rain coming in starts exceeding the ability of the lava tubes to drain off the water," said Jude McHugh, a spokeswoman for the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. As the rainy season peters out, the 9-foot-deep (2.7 meters) lake loses its water source, and water disappears down the lava tubes until it's gone, McHugh said.
Toxic Gut Bacteria: New Treatment Could Prevent Repeat Infections
In people who become infected with the difficult-to-treat gut bacteria called C. diff, the infection often comes back after treatment.
Why Fructose-Laden Drinks May Leave You Wanting More
The type of sugar in your drink may affect how much food you want to eat, according to a new study. Researchers found that people wanted to eat more high-calorie foods when they had a drink containing fructose, compared with when their drink contained glucose. In the study, 24 people were given drinks sweetened with 75 grams of fructose on one day, and the same amount of glucose in a drink on another day. After consuming fructose, the participants reported feeling hungrier and expressed a greater desire to eat the foods pictured than when they consumed glucose.
Doomed Russian Spacecraft Is Falling From Space, But Where Will It Fall?
On April 28, Russia's uncrewed Progress 59 supply ship streaked into orbit atop a Soyuz launcher, intended to dock with the International Space Station. Subsequently, a Russian mission control team could not command the cargo vessel packed with nearly 3 tons of supplies. Current forecasts predict that the Progress should fall to Earth in an uncontrolled, destructive nose-dive on Thursday (May 8) between 3:11 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. EDT (0711-0826 GMT). Some media reports from Russia are citing a Friday re-entry target.
Opportunity Rover Sees Rock Spire in Mars Crater (Photo)
A new photo captured by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows a rocky spire in a shallow crater on the Red Planet. The mosaic, which combines images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera on March 29 and March 30, depicts a shallow Mars crater called Spirit of St. Louis. The crater is "about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain," NASA officials wrote April 30 in a description of the image. Spirit of St. Louis lies along the western rim of a much larger crater called Endeavour, which Opportunity has been exploring since August 2011.
The Future Envisioned at Museum of Science Fiction (Op-Ed)
David Brin is an American scientist and award-winning author of science fiction. Brin is also an advisory board member to the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, D.C. Greg Viggiano is the executive director for the museum. The Museum of Science Fiction's first home will be a modular preview museum, which will open in late 2015 in nearby Arlington, Va., and remain in place until the creation of the full-scale museum facility is completed about four years later.
Scientists monitor undersea volcanic eruption off Oregon coast
By Courtney Sherwood PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - An undersea volcano about 300 miles (480 km) off Oregon's coast has been spewing lava for the past seven days, confirming forecasts made last fall and giving researchers unique insight into a hidden ocean hot spot, a scientist said on Friday. Researchers know of two previous eruptions by the volcano, dubbed "Axial Seamount" for its location along the axis of an underwater mountain ridge, Oregon State University geologist Bill Chadwick said on Friday. Last year, researchers connected monitoring gear to an undersea cable that, for the first time, allowed them to gather live data on the volcano, whose peak is about 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) below the ocean surface. "The cable allows us to have more sensors and monitoring instruments than ever before, and it's happening in real time," said Chadwick, who also is affiliated with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Auditors: National Science Foundation suspends UConn grants
The National Science Foundation has frozen more than $2 million in grants to the University of Connecticut after a foundation investigation found two professors used grant money to buy products from their ...
Limiting global warming to 2 degrees "inadequate", scientists say
By Laurie Goering LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Holding global warming to a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise – the cornerstone of an expected new global climate agreement in December – will fail to prevent many of climate change's worst impacts, a group of scientists and other experts warned Friday. With a 2-degree temperature hike, small islands in the Pacific may become uninhabitable, weather-related disasters will become more frequent, workers in many parts of the world will face sweltering conditions and large numbers of people will be displaced, particularly in coastal cities, the experts warned. The 2-degree goal is "inadequate, posing serious threats for fundamental human rights, labour and migration and displacement" the experts said in a series of reports commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 countries chaired by the Philippines. Some group members, particularly Pacific island states, have previously asked for a lower temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
NASA spacecraft makes crashing finale into Mercury
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - - NASA's pioneering Messenger spacecraft ended its four-year study of the planet Mercury on Thursday by crashing into the planet’s surface, scientists said. Flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland earlier estimated that Messenger, traveling at more than 8,700 mph (14,000 kph), would hit the ground near Mercury’s north pole at 3:26 p.m. EDT (1926 GMT). It likely gouged a 52-foot-wide (16 meter) crater into Mercury's 's scarred face During its final weeks in orbit, Messenger relayed more details about the innermost planet of the solar system, which turns out to have patches of ice inside some of its craters, despite its sizzling location more than twice as close to the sun as Earth. "We've been concentrating on getting as much of the data down on the ground,” lead researcher Sean Solomon, with Columbia University in New York, wrote in an email.
Study: Global warming to push 1 in 13 species to extinction
WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming will eventually push 1 out of every 13 species on Earth into extinction, a new study projects.
NASA spacecraft to crash into Mercury
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA's pioneering Messenger spacecraft is expected to end its four-year study of the planet Mercury on Thursday by crashing into the planet’s surface, scientists said. Out of fuel to maneuver, Messenger is being pushed down by the sun’s gravity closer and closer to the surface of Mercury. Flight controllers at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland predict that Messenger, traveling at more than 8,700 mph (14,000 kph) will hit the ground near Mercury’s north pole at 3:26 p.m. EDT/1926 GMT. During its final weeks in orbit, Messenger has been relaying more details about the innermost planet of the solar system, which turns out to have patches of ice inside some of its craters, despite its sizzling location more than twice as close to the sun as Earth.
Scientists find chemical clues on obesity in urine samples
The findings may also help researchers identify people who have a so-called "metabolic signature" for obesity but are not overweight, the scientists said, suggesting ways could be found to prevent them developing obesity and other metabolic diseases. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 13 percent of adults worldwide were obese in 2014. Thanks to technologies that can analyze the metabolic content of a urine sample, scientists can extract lots of information reflecting a person's genetic makeup and lifestyle. For this study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists led by a team at Imperial College London analyzed urine samples from more than 2,000 volunteers in the United States and Britain.
Scientists create 'ghosts' in the lab by tricking the brain
By Matthew Stock Lausanne, SWITZERLAND - Neuroscientists have succeeded in creating 'ghosts' in the laboratory by tricking the brains of test subjects into feeling an unexpected 'presence' in the room. Under normal circumstances the brain is able to form a unified self-perception, but lead researcher Olaf Blanke explained that when this malfunctions the brain creates a second representation of its body. Blanke's team began by analyzing the brains of 12 patients with neurological disorders who have reported having such a secondary representation of their body, in other words a ghost sensation. MRI scans revealed abnormalities with three brain regions involved in self-awareness, movement and the sense of position in space.
Scientists race to beat mosquito resistance in fight against malaria
By Alex Whiting LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mosquitoes are rapidly developing resistance to insecticides used in bednets that millions of people rely on to protect them from malaria, experts say. Scientists are racing to develop new insecticides, warning that tens of thousands of people in Africa could die every year if mosquitoes develop full resistance before replacements are found. The issue will be a concern when the World Health Assembly meets in Geneva next month to look at proposals to eliminate malaria in 35 countries by 2030. An estimated 4.3 million deaths have been prevented since 2000, many of them because of the mass distribution of treated bednets in Africa, according to Roll Back Malaria, a partnership including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and World Bank.