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+ - Cosmic rays could reveal secrets of lightning on Earth->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: Despite Benjamin Franklin's best efforts with a kite and a key, the phenomenon of lightning remains a scientific enigma. Now, researchers have developed a new tool that could help them solve some of lightning’s mysteries. By using cosmic rays, space-traveling particles that constantly rain down on our atmosphere, scientists report they can peek inside thunderstorms and measure their electric fields, helping them pinpoint the conditions that cause storms' electrical outbursts. The advance could help researchers predict more precisely when and where lightning is most likely to strike and get people out of harm's way in time.
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+ - Two huge magma chambers spied beneath Yellowstone National Park->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: Underneath the bubbling geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming sits a volcanic hot spot that has driven some of the largest eruptions on Earth. Geoscientists have now completely imaged the subterranean plumbing system and have found not just one, but two magma chambers underneath the giant volcano.
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+ - Oil and gas operations could trigger large earthquakes->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has taken its first stab at quantifying the hazard from earthquakes associated with oil and gas development. The assessment, released in a preliminary report today, identifies 17 areas in eight states with elevated seismic hazard. And geologists now say that such induced earthquakes could potentially be large, up to magnitude 7, which is big enough to cause buildings to collapse and widespread damage.
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+ - Dino 'sexing' study slammed by critics->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: A British graduate student says he’s found a way to tell the difference between male and female stegosaurs, and perhaps dinosaurs in general. But critics are already attacking the study’s methodology and ethics. “I would have rejected this paper on a number of grounds,” says Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
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+ - Astronomers detect starlight reflected off an extrasolar planet->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: For the first time, astronomers have detected visible starlight reflecting off a planet orbiting a distant star. The telescope used in the discovery was too small to tell scientists much new about the previously discovered planet. But astronomers say the new technique used promises to reveal much more when combined with better spectrographs and bigger telescopes now in the works. “The ultimate goal is to characterize a planet like Earth,” says team leader Jorge Martins of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Porto, Portugal.
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+ - Physicists detect radio waves from a single electron->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: Physicists have long known that charged particles like electrons will spiral in a magnetic field and give off radiation. But nobody had ever detected the radio waves emanating from a single whirling electron—until now. The striking new technique researchers used to do it might someday help particle physicists answer a question that has vexed them for decades: How much does a ghostly particle called the neutrino weigh?
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+ - Vultures surf on heat from power plants->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: If you see vultures circling overhead, it doesn’t mean you’re about to die—in fact, you could just be near a power plant. The large, bald-headed birds float on rising currents of warm air known as thermals, which they use to soar high into the sky without beating their wings, thereby saving energy. Now, scientists have shown that vultures also use air currents from power plants to get a lift. Thermal power plants, which produce power through steam, generate stronger and hotter thermals than those that occur naturally, making for an extra speedy vulture elevator. The authors suggest that new thermal power plants should be built more than 20 kilometers from airports, and air traffic controllers should alter flight paths to avoid existing ones.
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+ - Breaking: Judge backtracks on "legal personhood" for chimps->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: Science has just learned that a New York court has backtracked on a judicial order that received worldwide attention today. The order--a writ of habeas corpus for two research chimps--would have recognized the animals as legal persons for the first time in U.S. history. Late this afternoon, however, the court released an amended order with the words "habeas corpus" struck out. It looks like chimp personhood is off the table for now.
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+ - Judge recognizes research chimps as "legal persons"->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: In a decision that effectively recognizes chimpanzees as legal persons for the first time, a New York judge today granted a pair of Stony Brook University lab animals the right to have their day in court. The ruling marks the first time in U.S. history that an animal has been covered by a writ of habeus corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The judicial action could force the university, which is believed to be holding the chimps, to release the primates, and could sway additional judges to do the same with other research animals.
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+ - 3.46-billion-year-old 'fossils' were not created by life forms->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: What are the oldest fossils on Earth? For a long time, a 3.46-billion-year-old rock from Western Australia seemed to hold the record. A 1993 Science paper suggested that the Apex chert contained tiny, wormy structures that could have been fossilized cell walls of some of the world’s first cyanobacteria. But now there is more evidence that these structures have nothing to do with life. The elongated filaments were instead created by minerals forming in hydrothermal systems, researchers report. After the minerals were formed, carbon glommed on to the edges, leaving behind an organic signature that looked suspiciously like cell walls.
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+ - Interstellar-like blight could ravage Earth's wheat->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: In the 2014 sci-fi movie Interstellar (pictured above), a cataclysmic blight has wiped out the world’s wheat, forcing astronauts to hunt for another habitable planet. A new study on barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV), a wheat and cereal crop disease, shows that this fictional dystopia carries more than a few grains of truth. In lab tests, higher carbon dioxide boosted the reproduction of BYDV in wheat crops by 37%—the first time the gas has been shown to spur a plant virus. Heftier viral infections mean a wider range of spread, the team reports, suggesting a future where wheat faces more severe attacks from BYDV.
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+ - Scientists uncork 170-year-old campaign found in shipwreck->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: In 2010, divers recovered a trove of untouched 170-year-old champagne in a Baltic Sea shipwreck. Now, scientists have studied the sparkling wine's chemical composition and performed aroma and taste analyses to reveal details about the champagne-making process in times past. Tasters described the aroma of the champagne—likely the oldest ever imbibed—as spicy, smoky, and leathery. At 9% alcohol by volume, it was significantly less alcoholic than the modern version, which contains about 12% alcohol, likely due to a less efficient fermentation process. The researchers also found traces of chemicals from wood, suggesting that the champagne was fermented in barrels. Nuclear magnetic resonance measurements indicated that the bubbly, which was more sugary than the modern version, had likely been sweetened with grape syrup. The champagne had low levels of acetic acid, a marker of spoiled wine, indicating that it was well preserved. But the aged drink had lost much of its fizz, containing much less carbon dioxide than modern champagne, likely because it had diffused out through the cork during its centuries under the sea.
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+ - If Earth never had life, continents would be smaller-> 1

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth’s mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth.
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+ - Resistance to antibiotics found in isolated Amazonian tribe->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: When scientists first made contact with an isolated village of Yanomami hunter-gatherers in the remote mountains of the Amazon jungle of Venezuela in 2009, they marveled at the chance to study the health of people who had never been exposed to Western medicine or diets. But much to their surprise, these Yanomami’s gut bacteria have already evolved a diverse array of antibiotic-resistance genes, according to a new study, even though these mountain people had never ingested antibiotics or animals raised with drugs. The find suggests that microbes have long evolved the capability to fight toxins, including antibiotics, and that preventing drug resistance may be harder than scientists thought.
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+ - Colors help set body's internal clock->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: The beautiful color of a sunset might be more than just a pretty picture. It could be a signal to our bodies that it’s time to reset our internal clock, the biological ticktock that governs everything from sleep patterns to digestion. That’s the implication of a new study in mice that shows these small rodents use light’s changing color to set their own clocks, a finding that researchers expect will hold for humans, too.
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