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Submission + - New therapy may stop rare disorder where muscle turns into bone->

sciencehabit writes: Researchers may have found a cure for an unusual bone condition called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). The few thousand or so people with FOP worldwide live with grueling uncertainty: Some of their muscles or other soft tissues periodically, and abruptly, transform into new bone that permanently immobilizes parts of their bodies. Joints such as elbows or ankles may become frozen in place; jaw motion can be impeded and the rib cage fixed, making eating or even breathing difficult. Now, researchers report that the gene mutation shared by 97% of people with the disease can trigger its symptoms in a manner different than had been assumed—through a single molecule not previously eyed as a suspect. And by sheer chance, the pharmaceutical company Regeneron has a treatment for this particular target in its freezers. The company tested that potential therapy, a type of protein known as a monoclonal antibody, on mice with their own form of FOP and lo and behold, they stopped growing unwelcome new bone.
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Submission + - Experts condemn China's training of monkeys to destroy bird nests->

sciencehabit writes: Tomorrow, China’s government will mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender at the end of World War II by rolling tanks through Tiananmen Square and staging an airshow with jet fighters. To safeguard China’s rarely seen military aircraft—the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 fighter jets—from the risk of damage by accidental bird strikes, or birds sucked up into high-performance jet engines, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has trained a squadron of male rhesus macaques to search and destroy nests near an unnamed airfield, or airfields, in northern China.

Ornithologists say the operation is misguided, at best. “Many hungry and exhausted birds stop off in Beijing on their way south for the winter. If these birds are continually disturbed, it will cause extra stress and almost certainly higher mortality,” says Terry Townsend, founder of the birdwatchers group Birding Beijing.

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Submission + - Earth home to 3 trillion trees, half as many as when human civilization arose->

sciencehabit writes: It’s a good news, bad news report. Earth today supports more than 3 trillion trees—eight times as many as we thought a decade ago. But that number is rapidly shrinking, according to a global tree survey released today. We are losing 15 billion trees a year to toilet paper, timber, farmland expansion, and other human needs. So even though the total count is large, the decline is “a cause for concern,” says Tom Spies, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, Oregon, who was not involved with the work.
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Submission + - Lack of sleep puts you at higher risk for colds, first experimental study finds->

sciencehabit writes: Moms and sleep researchers alike have stressed the importance of solid shuteye for years, especially when it comes to fighting off the common cold. Their stance is a sensible one—skimping on sleep weakens the body’s natural defense system, leaving it more vulnerable to viruses. But the connection relied largely on self-reported, subjective surveys—until now. For the first time, a team of scientists reports that they have locked down the link experimentally, showing that sleep-deprived individuals are more than four times more likely to catch a cold than those who are well-rested.
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Submission + - Nearly every seabird may be eating plastic by 2050->

sciencehabit writes: There’s so much plastic floating in some parts of the ocean, especially in five large swirls known as “garbage patches,” that each square kilometer of surface water there holds almost 600,000 pieces of debris. The often bite-sized trash can harm birds and other marine life—even those that don’t go anywhere near today’s “garbage patches,” according to a new study. Indeed, because of the proliferation of floating trash by 2050, birds of almost every ocean-foraging species may be eating plastic.
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Submission + - Half who stayed during Katrina stayed b/c of pets->

sciencehabit writes: Nearly half of the people who stayed behind during Hurricane Katrina stayed because of their pets. Rescuers largely refused to take cats and dogs, and many refused to abandon an animal they considered a member of the family. And many of these people died. In the aftermath of the storm, the federal government passed a law that requires emergency responders to rescue pets as well as people. Since Katrina this law has been implemented in everything from wildfires two tornadoes. Socially and politically, Katrina forever changed our relationship with dogs and cats.
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Submission + - More evidence to support quantum theory's 'spooky action at a distance'->

sciencehabit writes: It’s one of the strangest concepts in the already strange field of quantum physics: Measuring the condition or state of a quantum particle like an electron can instantly change the state of another electron—even if it’s light-years away. That idea irked the likes of Albert Einstein, as it suggests that something can travel faster than light and that reality is somehow determined by the measurements we make. But now, a team of experimenters says it has clinched the case for this concept, sealing up loopholes in previous demonstrations. The work could even lead to the design of unhackable computers.
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Submission + - Death of beloved polar bear, Knut, solved->

sciencehabit writes: In 2011, the Berlin Zoological Garden suffered a tragic loss when internationally adored polar bear Knut had an unexpected seizure and drowned. An autopsy found that swelling in Knut’s brain, known as encephalitis, caused the seizure. But the exact cause of the swelling has remained mysterious. Today in Scientific Reports, researchers announce the culprit: Knut suffered from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, an autoimmune disease thought to exist only in humans. Scientists hope that because the disease is treatable in humans, they’ll be able to diagnose and treat animals in captivity before it kills them.
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Submission + - Crayfish create a new species of female 'superclones'->

sciencehabit writes: What happened to the slough crayfish is every macho man's nightmare. A genetic glitch allowed one female to begin cloning herself, and because these females are larger and more prolific, they started to take over. A new study argues that these clones constitute a new species—one where every individual is genetically identical.
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Submission + - Scientific papers with shorter titles get more citations->

sciencehabit writes: They say never judge a book by its cover, but a new study suggests that you may be able to predict the popularity of a scientific paper from the length of its title. Brevity, it turns out, appears to earn a paper a little more attention. Articles with shorter titles tend to get cited more often than those with longer headers, concludes a study published today, which examined 140,000 papers published between 2007 and 2013. It appears in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
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Submission + - 'Winged monster' on ancient rock art debunked by scientists->

sciencehabit writes: When archaeological chemist Marvin Rowe recently scrambled up a narrow ledge in southeast Utah’s Black Dragon Canyon, he was determined to put an end—once and for all—to a lingering debate that has pitted rock art researchers and archaeologists against young-Earth creationists for decades. With his x-ray fluorescence gun in hand, he braced himself against the cliff face’s red rock and focused on the source of the conflict: a faded ancient rock painting soaring several yards above the dusty canyon floor. Some claim the image is that of a dragon or pterodactyl, but researchers have long maintained that it’s something far more mundane.
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Submission + - Secretive fusion company makes reactor breakthrough-> 1

sciencehabit writes: In a suburban industrial park south of Los Angeles, researchers have taken a significant step toward mastering nuclear fusion—a process that could provide abundant, cheap, and clean energy. A privately funded company called Tri Alpha Energy has built a machine that forms a ball of superheated gas—at about 10 million C—and holds it steady for 5 milliseconds without decaying away. That may seem a mere blink of an eye, but it is far longer than other efforts with the technique and shows for the first time that it is possible to hold the gas in a steady state—the researchers stopped only when their machine ran out of juice.

“They’ve succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,” says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palp Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company’s scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy.

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Submission + - Is a universal flu vaccine on the horizon?->

sciencehabit writes: Every fall, millions of people roll up their sleeves for a flu vaccine, hoping to give their immune system a leg up on influenza. But the flu virus has thousands of strains that mutate and evolve across seasons, and the vaccine can’t guard against all of them. Now, two groups of researchers have independently created vaccines that lay the groundwork for a long-sought shot that could protect against every type of flu.
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Submission + - Powerful painkillers can now be made by GM yeast—are illegal drugs next?->

sciencehabit writes: Move over, poppies. In one of the most elaborate feats of synthetic biology to date, a research team has engineered yeast with a medley of plant, bacterial, and rodent genes to turn sugar into thebaine, the key opiate precursor to morphine and other powerful painkilling drugs that have been harvested for thousands of years from poppy plants. The team also showed that with further tweaks, the yeast could make hydrocodone, a widely used painkiller that is now made chemically from thebaine.

“This is a major milestone,” says Jens Nielsen, a synthetic biologist at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden. The work, he adds, demonstrates synthetic biology’s increasing sophistication at transferring complex metabolic pathways into microbes.

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Submission + - Spoken language could tap into 'universal code'->

sciencehabit writes: We know a lot about language, but we know very little about how speech developed. Did we start with gesturing and grunts? Beating our chests and pointing? Most linguists agree that some combination of movement and sound probably got us started. But how did we decide which sounds to use for various words? Now, an experimental game has shown that speakers of English might use qualities like the pitch and volume of sounds to describe concepts like size and distance when they invent new words. If true, some of our modern words may have originated from so-called iconic, rather than arbitrary, expression—a finding that would overturn a key theory of language evolution.
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Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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