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Obama's BRAIN initiative awards $46 million in grants
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wearable brain scanners and lasers that can turn hundreds of cells on and off were among 58 projects awarded $46 million in federal grants as part of President Obama's $100 million initiative to unlock the secrets of the human brain. Launched in 2013, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is designed to give scientists greater insight into how the healthy brain works and a better understanding of what systems go awry in diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to schizophrenia. ...
China launches media campaign to back genetically modified crops
By Dominique Patton BEIJING (Reuters) - China's government has kicked off a media campaign in support of genetically modified crops, as it battles a wave of negative publicity over a technology it hopes will play a major role in boosting its food security. The agriculture ministry earlier this week announced it would try to educate the public on GMO via TV, newspapers and the Internet. It hopes to stifle anti-GMO sentiment that has gathered momentum in the wake of incidents such as reports that genetically-modified rice had been illegally sold at a supermarket in the center of the country. ...
Protest over contract award to delay work on NASA space taxi
By Irene Klotz TORONTO (Reuters) - Work on a pair of U.S. commercial spaceships to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station will be delayed after a losing contender protested the NASA awards, agency Administrator Charles Bolden said on Monday. The U.S. space agency awarded contracts worth up to $6.8 billion to Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to finish designs, build, test and ultimately fly crews to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that orbits about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth. The awards, announced on Sept. ...
Global wildlife populations down by half since 1970: WWF
By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday. The conservation group's Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind's demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover. ...
Sierra Nevada challenges NASA 'space taxi' contracts to Boeing, SpaceX
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) said it had filed a legal challenge to NASA's award of contracts totaling $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to build commercially owned and operated "space taxis" to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA had considered a bid by privately owned Sierra Nevada, but U.S. officials said on Tuesday the U.S. space agency had opted to award long-time aerospace contractor Boeing and SpaceX with contracts to develop, certify and fly their seven-person capsules. ...
Ebola Update: 1st Case Diagnosed in the US
A patient in Texas is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient had previously traveled to West Africa, a region that is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. The man flew out of Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in the United States on Sept. 20. He did not have symptoms during his flight or when he landed, but began showing symptoms around Sept. 24, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said at a news conference today.
Ape See, Ape Do: Chimps Learn Skills from Each Other
Scientists may have recorded chimpanzees learning skills from each other in the wild for the first time, according to a new study. For decades, scientists have known that chimpanzee troops are often distinct from one another in the wild, possessing collections of behaviors that seem to form unique cultures. "Researchers have been fascinated for decades by the differences in behavior between chimpanzee communities — some use tools, some don't, some use different tools for the same job," lead study author Catherine Hobaiter, a primatologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said in a statement. The new findings "finally bring the last piece of the puzzle by showing that this is also happening in the wild," said study co-author Thibaud Gruber, a primatologist at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
Brain Tech Projects Get $46 Million in Funding
Developing wearable brain scanners and devising tools to watch a brain's signaling chemicals in real time are among the 58 research projects that now have funding, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today (Sept. 30). These and other projects received the first wave of funding in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the U.S. The NIH awarded $46 million in grants to these projects, which will focus on developing "transformative technologies" that can help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the brain, NIH Director Francis Collins told reporters today. "There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible," Collins said. [5 Crazy Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]
Neil Armstrong Biopics Take Small Steps Toward TV and Big Screen
The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has taken not one, but two small steps towards landing on both the big and small screens. A newly-acclaimed director and a television network have each reportedly turned their attention to Neil Armstrong, the late Apollo 11 moonwalker, as the inspiration for a feature-length film and TV miniseries, respectively. Damien Chazelle, who directed the upcoming jazz drama "Whiplash," is in talks to direct "First Man," a biopic about Armstrong for Universal Studios. Meanwhile, the TV network TNT has dusted off its plans for "One Giant Leap," an almost 10-year-old project to adapt Armstrong's life as a four-hour miniseries.
Weird 'Island' on Saturn Moon Titan Puzzles Scientists (Video, Photos)
Saturn's huge moon Titan just got a little more mysterious. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted an odd islandlike feature in Ligeia Mare, one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas. "Science loves a mystery, and with this enigmatic feature, we have a thrilling example of ongoing change on Titan," Cassini radar team deputy leader Stephen Wall, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. Cassini team members are confident it's real rather than an artifact or data flaw, NASA officials said.
Higgs Boson to the World Wide Web: 7 Big Discoveries Made at CERN
The world's biggest atom smasher, where monumental discoveries such as the detection of the once-elusive Higgs boson particle and the creation of antimatter have occurred, is celebrating its 60th anniversary today (Sept. 29). The physics world erupted in excitement in July 2012, when scientists using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN announced they had detected a particle that looked to be the so-called Higgs boson. In the 1960s, British physicist Peter Higgs hypothesized the existence of a field through which all particles would be dragged — like marbles moving through molasses — giving the particles mass. This particle became known as the Higgs boson.
Stanford scientists say greenhouse gases worsen California drought
By Joaquin Palomino SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California’s catastrophic drought has most likely been made worse by man-made climate change, according to a report released Monday by Stanford University, but scientists are still hesitant to fully blame the lack of rain on climate change. The research, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society as part of a collection of reports on extreme weather events in 2013, is one of the most comprehensive studies linking climate change and California's ongoing drought, which has caused billions of dollars in economic damage. ...
NASA Exoplanet Mission to Hunt Down Earth-sized Worlds
Set to launch in 2017, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will monitor more than half a million stars over its two-year mission, with a focus on the smallest, brightest stellar objects. "Bright host stars are the best ones for follow-up studies of their exoplanets to pin down planet masses, and to characterize planet atmospheres," said TESS principal investigator George Ricker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics, in an email. "TESS should be able to find over 200 Earths and super-Earths — defined as being twice the size of Earth," said Peter Sullivan, a physics doctoral student at MIT. Sullivan, who works with Ricker on TESS, led an analysis of the number of planets TESS would likely find based on the number and types of planets found by NASA's Kepler mission.
Blind Cavefish Froze Its Internal Clock to Save Energy
The blind Mexican tetra or cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) saves energy by forgoing circadian rhythms, according to researchers at Lund University in Sweden. Sometimes referred to as an internal clock, circadian rhythms help many organisms — including animals, plants, fungi and even certain bacteria — coordinate their behavior and physiology with the day-night cycle, according to study researcher Damian Moran, a postdoctoral student in the Lund University department of biology. Circadian rhythm helps ensure these reactions occur in advance of when an organism will most need energy, Moran told Live Science. But unlike most organisms, blind Mexican cavefish don't control their metabolism with a circadian clock, the researchers found.
USC memory scientist Richard Thompson dies at 84
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard F. Thompson, the University of Southern California neuroscientist whose experiments with rabbits led to breakthrough discoveries on how memories are physically stored in the brain, has died. He was 84.
'Space Bubbles' May Have Doomed Key Afghan War Mission
A Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. Michael Kelly, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, started to put the pieces together after reading a journalist's account of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Since the plasma in this part of the atmosphere is less dense, it rises and burrows into the denser plasma above. This causes giant bubbles of charged particles to form, similar to the way air bubbles rise from a submerged diver.
Scientists grapple with ethics in rush to release Ebola vaccines
LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Normally it takes years to prove a new vaccine is both safe and effective before it can be used in the field. But with hundreds of people dying a day in the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, there is no time to wait. In an effort to save lives, health authorities are determined to roll out potential vaccines within months, dispensing with some of the usual testing, and raising unprecedented ethical and practical questions. "Nobody knows yet how we will do it. ...
New York scientists unveil 'invisibility cloak' to rival Harry Potter's
By Caurie Putnam ROCHESTER N.Y. (Reuters) - Watch out Harry Potter, you are not the only wizard with an invisibility cloak. Scientists at the University of Rochester have discovered a way to hide large objects from sight using inexpensive and readily available lenses, a technology that seems to have sprung from the pages of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series. Cloaking is the process by which an object becomes hidden from view, while everything else around the cloaked object appears undisturbed. ...
Science fiction author Bradbury's estate auction nets nearly $500,000
By Eric M. Johnson REUTERS - A portion of late science fiction author Ray Bradbury's estate, including George Bernard Shaw's garden spade and artworks both comedic and surreal, sold for $493,408 in California, the auctioneer said. Bradbury, who died in 2012, was perhaps best known for his dystopian classic, "Fahrenheit 451.," the auctioneer said. In a career spanning more than 70 years, the Waukegan, Illinois, native also wrote "Dandelion Wine," "I Sing the Body Electric" and "From the Dust Returned" as hundreds of short stories, poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays and screenplays. ...
Artificial Atoms Talk ... and Scientists Listen
For the first time, physicists have figured out how to communicate with an artificial atom using sound instead of light. The photons belong to the wacky world of quantum mechanics where they behave as both particles and waves, and scientists have been studying their bizarre behavior for decades. To create the stream of sound particles, the researchers used a superconducting circuit, which represented an "artificial atom." Artificial atoms can be charged up across multiple energy levels just like a real atom, and scientists can study the quantum behavior of the particles they emit. For the experiment, the researchers cooled the artificial atom to near absolute zero so that heat would not disturb the delicate quantum system.