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+ - When attacked, some scorpions discard their stinger—and their anus->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Any kid knows that if you grab a lizard by its tail, it can snap off the tip and run away. Now it turns out some scorpions can pull the same stunt, sacrificing not only their stingers but also their ability to poop. Researchers have discovered 14 species of Ananteris scorpions in the northern jungles of South America that break off their tails to avoid capture. The discarded stingers writhe and wriggle on the ground, possibly to distract predators as the owner makes its escape. Surviving scorpions’ stumps healed within days, researchers found, but their tails, which contain the anus and part of the digestive system, did not grow back. Tailless scorpions survived up to 8 months in the lab, but their abdomens swelled with trapped excrement within weeks. Without their stingers, males could still hunt small prey and mate successfully, the researchers found, suggesting that 8 more months of life could be worth the world’s worst case of constipation."
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+ - Whales amplify sound with their skull bones->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The loud, moaning calls of large, baleen whales—such as fin, right, gray, and blue whales—can travel hundreds of kilometers through the sea as the cetaceans reach out to contact others of their kind. Yet scientists have not fully understood how sounds reach the baleen whales’ ear bones. Now, researchers report today in PLOS ONE that they’ve solved the mystery by means of a 3D computer model of a fin whale’s skull. By simulating sound waves traveling through the computerized skull, the scientists discovered that the whales use an unusual mechanism for hearing: bone conduction. The fin whale’s skull bones (and likely those of other baleen whales) vibrate and amplify the low-frequency sounds, directing them to the ear bones. The discovery may help lawmakers set limits on the amount of noise humans can make in the deep sea."
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+ - Spider spins electrically charged silk->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In their quest to make ultrastrong yet ultrasmall fibers, the polymer industry may soon take a lesson from Uloborus spiders. Uloborids are cribellate spiders, meaning that instead of spinning wet, sticky webs to catch their prey, they produce a fluffy, charged, wool-like silk. A paper published online today in Biology Letters details the process for the first time. It all starts with the silk-producing cribellar gland. In contrast with other spiders, whose silk comes out of the gland intact, scientists were surprised to discover that uloborids’ silk is in a liquid state when it surfaces. As the spider yanks the silk from the duct, it solidifies into nanoscale filaments. This “violent hackling” has the effect of stretching and freezing the fibers into shape. It may even be responsible for increasing their strength, because filaments on the nanoscale become stronger as they are stretched. In order to endow the fibers with an electrostatic charge, the spider pulls them over a comblike plate located on its hind legs. The technique is not unlike the so-called hackling of flax stems over a metal brush in order to soften and prepare them for thread-spinning, but in the spider’s case it also gives them a charge. The electrostatic fibers are thought to attract prey to the web in the same way a towel pulled from the dryer is able to attract stray socks."
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+ - Ancient human jawbone surfaces off coast of Taiwan->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A fisherman who pulled in his nets 25 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan got a surprising catch: the lower jawbone of an ancient human. The bone is robust and sports unusually large molars and premolars, suggesting that it once belonged to an archaic member of our genus Homo. The Penghu jaw and teeth most closely resemble a partial skull of H. erectus from Longtan Cave in Hexian on the mainland of China, as well as earlier H. erectus fossils. Although it wasn’t possible to date the jawbone directly, it was found with an extinct species of hyena that suggests this archaic human was alive in the past 400,000 years and, most likely, in the past 200,000 years. If so, the find suggests that H. erectus persisted late in Asia, or that there were several other types of humans still alive at the time in this region. It might even be a member of the mysterious Denisovan people, a close relative of Neandertals known only from a finger bone and two teeth from Denisova Cave in Russia and its ancient DNA."
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+ - Telescope detects galaxy's oldest known solar system->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Astronomers have spotted the oldest known set of planets in the Milky Way, a quintet of hot and presumably rocky worlds that is more than twice as old as our solar system. The parent star of the planetary system is Kepler-444, a sunlike star about 117 light-years from Earth. All the planets lie within 12 million kilometers of their star and circle it in 10 days or less.Further study of the ancient system may shed light on the early days of planetary formation in the galaxy."
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+ - Childhood neglect erodes the brain->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In perhaps the most famous study of childhood neglect, researchers have closely tracked the progress, or lack of it, in children who lived as infants in Romania’s bleak orphanages and are now teenagers. A new analysis now shows that these children, who display a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems, have less white matter in their brains than do a group of comparable children in local families. The affected brain regions include nerve bundles that support attention, general cognition, and emotion processing. The work suggests that sensory deprivation early in life can have dramatic anatomical impacts on the brain and may help explain the previously documented long-term negative affects on behavior. But there’s some potential good news: A small group of children who were taken out of orphanages and moved into foster homes at age 2 appeared to bounce back, at least in brain structure."
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+ - Why sodium + water = classic classroom explosion->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Explosions are fun—ask any budding chemistry student. That’s why dropping a chunk of pure sodium into water is a classic classroom demonstration. The resulting violent reaction can produce impressive flames and a loud bang. Although the basic chemistry of the popular experiment has long been understood, the details were not. Now, scientists have captured the action using high-speed video cameras and discovered an unexpected trigger. Less than a millisecond after sodium and water meet, the sodium contorts into a sea urchin–like shape, growing spikes that shoot out into the water and initiate a runaway reaction."
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+ - 10 new Rosetta images reveal comet 67P in all its glory->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The first scientific results from Rosetta at comet 67P have been published, and they detail a surprising diversity of features on the 4-kilometer-long duck-shaped comet. The discoveries include images from Rosetta’s main science camera, OSIRIS, which reveal 67P to be a far more diverse place than anyone expected."
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+ - New nanoparticle drug stops cancer's spread in mice->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A new nanotech therapy may help us fight cancer. When a person dies from cancer, the culprit isn't usually the original tumor — it's metastasis, the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Now, researchers have managed to package a drug in nanoparticles so that it can target these cancer cells without, crucially, interfering with normal cells — and report that they've prevented cancer cells from metastasizing in mice."
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+ - 'Genetic firewall' holds engineered microbes captive->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Human-engineered microbes can cause big problems if they become contaminated by other microbes or viruses or escape into the environment. Now, a new type of microbe that can survive only on artificial nutrients promises better security against such mishaps. The new strategy might ultimately be used to control genetically engineered plants or other organisms released into the wild to create products or clean up pollution."
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+ - U.S. Senate set to vote on whether climate change is a hoax->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The U.S. Senate’s simmering debate over climate science has come to a full boil today, as lawmakers prepare to vote on measures offered by Democrats that affirm that climate change is real—with one also noting that global warming is not “a hoax.” In an effort to highlight their differences with some Republicans on climate policy, several Democrats have filed largely symbolic amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. They are designed to put senators on the record on whether climate change is real and human-caused."
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+ - Scientists pinpoint 8 genes that determine brain size->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When it comes to brains, bigger is definitely better. Now, scientists have pinpointed 8 genes that help determine the size of key brain regions that influence everything from memory to motor control. These variants may represent “the genetic essence of humanity,” says Stephan Sanders, a geneticist and pediatrician at the University of California, San Francisco."
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+ - Physicists figure out how to read scrolls scorched by Mount Vesuvius eruption->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In 79 C.E., Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the city of Pompeii — and a nearby library filled with scrolls. We've been trying to unroll these scorched scrolls since the 1750's, but the risk of damage was just too high. Now, physicists have figured out how to read the scrolls using high-powered x-rays. By placing a rolled up scroll in the path of a beam of powerful x-rays produced by a particle accelerator, researchers can measure a key difference between the burned papyrus and the ink on its surface: how fast the x-rays move through each substance."
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+ - Are earthquakes also earth burps?->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "An “excuse me” might be nice. Researchers have found that Earth belches a potent greenhouse gas known as tetrafluoromethane (CF4) during earthquakes and other tectonic events. The emissions likely aren’t making a significant contribution to global warming, but the findings could change the way scientists model future climate scenarios. They also complicate the use of CF4 as a way to measure how the continents and climate have changed over millennia."
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+ - Sewage sludge could contain millions of dollars worth of gold->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If the holy grail of medieval alchemists was turning lead into gold, how much more magical would it be to draw gold from, well, poop? It turns out that a ton of sludge, the goo left behind when treating sewage, could contain several hundred dollars’ worth of metals—potentially enough to generate millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, and other minerals each year for a city of a million people."
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