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Bionic ants could be tomorrow's factory workers
By Amy Pollock Robotic ants the size of a human hand that work together could be the future of factory production systems. The developers, German technology firm Festo, say it's not just the unusual anatomy of real-world ants that inspired the bionic version - the collective intelligence of an ant colony was also something they wanted to replicate. Festo says that in the future production systems will be based on intelligent individual components that adjust themselves to different production demands by communicating with each other. Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:23:49 -0400
Primordial sea creature with spiky claws unearthed in Canada
News ImageBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fossil site in the Canadian Rockies that provides a wondrous peek into life on Earth more than half a billion years ago has offered up the remains of an intriguing sea creature, a four-eyed arthropod predator that wielded a pair of spiky claws. Scientists said on Friday they unearthed nicely preserved fossils in British Columbia of the 508 million-year-old animal, named Yawunik kootenayi, that looked like a big shrimp with a bad attitude and was one of the largest predators of its time. The fossil beds in Kootenay National Park where it was found were in a previously unexplored area of the Burgess Shale rock formation that for more than a century has yielded exceptional remains from the Cambrian Period, when many of the major animal groups first appeared. Yawunik, whose name honors a mythical sea monster in the native Ktunaxa people's creation story, was a primitive arthropod, the highly successful group that includes shrimps, lobsters, crabs, insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes.
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:42:29 -0400
Valeo's self-driving car systems learn from Safran drones
News ImageBy Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) - French auto parts maker Valeo plans to draw on drone software and other military technologies from partner Safran to offer self-driving vehicle platforms to carmakers by the end of the decade. While demonstrating an autonomous car and other prototype systems jointly developed with Safran, the French defense and aerospace group, Valeo said on Friday the first applications may reach carmaker clients within three years. "We realized very quickly that we had much more in common than we'd expected," Valeo innovation chief Guillaume Devauchelle told Reuters. "It turns out that an autonomous vehicle is really a terrestrial drone." Cars that complete whole journeys without human input are still many years away, but creeping automation is well underway, with models already on sale that can pilot themselves through slow traffic and hit the brakes when a pedestrian steps out.
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:55:00 -0400
U.S. Air Force overstepped bounds in SpaceX certification: report
News ImageBy Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force overstepped its bounds as it worked to certify privately held SpaceX to launch military satellites, undermining the benefit of working with a commercial provider, an independent review showed on Thursday. The report cited a "stark disconnect" between the Air Force and SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, about the purpose of the certification process and recommended changes. Air Force Secretary Deborah James ordered the review after the service missed a December deadline for certifying SpaceX to compete for some launches now carried out solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. The Pentagon is eager to certify SpaceX as a second launch provider, given mounting concerns in Congress about ULA's use of a Russian-built engine to power its Atlas 5 rocket.
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:02:31 -0400
EU to resume Galileo satellite launch program
By Francesco Guarascio BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to send two navigation satellites into orbit on Friday aboard a Russian rocket, in its first launch since a botched deployment in August that cost several million euros to fix. The Galileo project to set up an EU alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) is obliged to use the Russian Soyuz system until a development of Arianespace's European Ariane 5 rocket is ready around the end of the year, despite strained relations with Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. An official at the European Commission, which oversees the program, said the EU executive was tendering for insurance cover for future satellites and had set up an insurance scheme for the launches. The two launched in August have since been nudged into viable orbits and are fit for use, a spokesman for the European Space Agency said. Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:08:44 -0400
Tampons Can Screen for Leaking Sewage
News ImageOrdinary tampons can detect sewage pollution, a new study shows. "It's cheap, it's easy and it does the detective work," said study co-author David Lerner, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. But study author Dave Chandler, the Sheffield graduate student who came up with the tampon test, needed a cheap way to monitor stream pollution, Lerner said. Chandler realized that tampons could absorb optical brighteners, which are additives in laundry detergent, toothpaste and other cleaners that make colors and whites seem cleaner and brighter.
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 20:17:53 -0400
Pesticides in Fruit Could Damage Sperm
For men who are having fertility problems, eating lots of pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables may be bad news, a new study suggests. Among the men in the study, who were all attending a fertility clinic, those who ate lots of fruits and vegetables known to contain high levels of pesticides had about half as many sperm, and almost a third fewer normal sperm, than men who consumed less of the toxin-laden produce. "These results do not mean you should stop consuming fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Jorge Chavarro, the senior author of the new study and a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University's School of Public Health. Rather, the study suggests that men seeking a healthy sperm count should eat fruit and vegetables that are organically grown, or known to be low in pesticide residues, Chavarro said. Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:20:57 -0400
Egyptians Brewed Beer in Tel Aviv 5,000 Years Ago
News ImageTel Aviv's reputation as a party city for expats might have started 5,000 years ago. During the Bronze Age, Egyptians were making beer in what is today downtown Tel Aviv, new archaeological evidence suggests. When archaeologists were conducting salvage excavations ahead of construction on new office buildings along Hamasger Street, they found 17 ancient pits that were used to store produce, according to an announcement from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). "On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region, we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time," Diego Barkan, an archaeologist who was conducting the excavation on behalf of the IAA, said in the statement.
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:13:10 -0400
NASA Astronaut Already Feels at Home in Space as 1-Year Journey Begins
News ImageNASA's Scott Kelly one of two people spending a year on the International Space Station already feels like the orbiting outpost is home. "It's great to be up here," veteran astronaut Kelly said during a live interview from the space station with NASA administrator Charles Bolden today (March 30). NASA officials hope that the research Kornienko and Kelly conduct on the station during their stay could help send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. At the moment, NASA scientists know a lot about what happens to astronauts after six months in weightlessness the usual amount of time a crewmember spends on the station.
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:20:16 -0400
SpaceShipOne 'Lands' on Smithsonian Floor as Museum Renovates Hall
News Image"It's hard to believe it's been here 10 years already," said Valerie Neal, chair of the museum's space history division and curator responsible for SpaceShipOne, in an interview with SpaceShipOne's 'landing' was part of ongoing renovations to the hall, the first major redesign to Milestonessince the museum opened in 1976. Workers carefully placed SpaceShipOne on the floor next to its formerly-suspended companion, Charles Lindbergh'socean-crossing airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, which had been similarly lowered from Milestones' ceiling in January.
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:09:38 -0400
Despite deforestation, the world is getting greener - scientists
News ImageBy Alisa Tang BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's vegetation has expanded, adding nearly 4 billion tonnes of carbon to plants above ground in the decade since 2003, thanks to tree-planting in China, forest regrowth in former Soviet states and more lush savannas due to higher rainfall. It is present in the atmosphere primarily as carbon dioxide (CO2) - the main climate-changing gas - and stored as carbon in trees. Through photosynthesis, trees convert carbon dioxide into the food they need to grow, locking the carbon in their wood. The 4-billion-tonne increase is minuscule compared to the 60 billion tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and cement production over the same period, said Yi Liu, the study's lead author and a scientist at the University of New South Wales.
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:02:14 -0400
Quantum Record! 3,000 Atoms Entangled in Bizarre State
News ImageUsing a single particle of light, scientists have for the first time linked together thousands of atoms in a bizarre state known as quantum entanglement, where the behavior of the atoms would stay connected even if they were at opposite ends of the universe. The behavior of all the known particles can be explained using quantum physics. A key feature of quantum physics is that the world becomes a fuzzy, surreal place at its very smallest levels. One consequence of quantum physics is quantum entanglement, wherein multiple particles can essentially influence each other simultaneously regardless of distance.
Sun, 29 Mar 2015 14:19:19 -0400
Environmental group seeks greater protection for USDA scientists
An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals. The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world's best selling weed killer, is "probably carcinogenic to humans." Roundup is made by Monsanto Co. The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent "political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct." According to the petition, some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests. Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:54:53 -0400
Grants help level the playing field for young moms in science
By Randi Belisomo (Reuters Health) - Thanks to a generous benefactor, young mothers doing laboratory research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston can receive major grants to keep them from falling behind while they raise their children. Since 1993, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards at MGH have helped junior female faculty with young children keep pace with their male peers, who dont face the same challenges to research productivity that women do during their child-rearing years. Every year, five women are awarded $100,000 Claflin grants - named for benefactor Jane D. Claflin - to fund a research assistant for two years. Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:19:37 -0400
Scientist defends WHO group report linking herbicide to cancer
File photo of activists protesting against the production of herbicides and GMO food products outside Monsanto headquarters in Creve CoeurA World Health Organization group's controversial finding that the world's most popular herbicide "probably is carcinogenic to humans" was based on a thorough scientific review and is a key marker in ongoing evaluations of the product, the scientist who led the study said Thursday. There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations ... and damaged chromosomes," Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute, said in an interview. Blair chaired the 17-member working group of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which rocked the agricultural industry on March 20 by classifying glyphosate as "probably" cancer-causing. Monsanto Co , which has built a $15 billion company on sales of glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and crops genetically engineered to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup, has demanded a retraction and explanation from WHO.
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:11:14 -0400
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