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Submission + - Want to fight climate change? Stop cows from burping->

sciencehabit writes: A simple supplement to a cow’s feed could substantially decrease a major source of methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas, a new study suggests. Each year worldwide, the methane produced by cud-chewing livestock warms Earth’s climate by the same amount as 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a little more than 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity. That makes cows tempting targets for methane reduction efforts. In a new study, researchers added the chemical 3-nitrooxypropanol, also known as 3NOP, to the corn-and-alfalfa-based feed of 84 milk-producing Holsteins and monitored their methane production for 12 weeks—the largest and longest such trial of its type in lactating cows, the scientists say. For cows whose feed included 3NOP, methane emissions dropped, on average, by 30%.
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Submission + - Ebola vaccine works, offering 100% protection in African trial->

sciencehabit writes: A highly unusual clinical trial in Guinea has shown for the first time that an Ebola vaccine protects people from the deadly virus. The study, published online today by The Lancet, shows that the injection offered contacts of Ebola cases 100% protection starting 10 days after they received a single shot of the vaccine, which is produced by Merck. Scientists say the vaccine could help to finally bring an end to the epidemic in West Africa, now more than 18 months old.

"This will go down in history as one of those hallmark public health efforts," says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Twin Cities, Minnesota, who wasn't involved in the study. "We will teach about this in public health schools."

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Submission + - How Hurricane Katrina Turned Pets into People->

sciencehabit writes: Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, killing more than 1800 people. But it was also a huge tragedy for pets. More than 150,000 cats and dogs perished in the storm and its aftermath, largely because rescuers refused to take them. Many people died too for their pets--nearly half of those who stayed behind stayed because of their animals. In the aftermath of the storm, a deeply divided Congress--responding to these tragedies--passed nearly unanimously the PETS Act, which impels rescue agencies to save pets as well as people in natural disasters. For the first time in U.S. history, pets would now be treated like people.
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Submission + - Judge rules research chimps are not 'legal persons'->

sciencehabit writes: A state judge in New York has dealt the latest blow to an animal rights group’s attempt to have chimpanzees declared “legal persons.” In a decision handed down this morning, New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled that two research chimps at Stony Brook University are not covered by a writ of habeas corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which brought the lawsuit in an attempt to free the primates, has vowed to appeal.
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Submission + - Oldest rock crystals point to ancient magnetic shield for Earth->

sciencehabit writes: Faint remnants of ancient Earth’s magnetic field have been found imprinted on the oldest rock crystals in the world—evidence that the magnetic dynamo in our planet’s core was alive and kicking more than 4 billion years ago, more than half a billion years earlier than scientists had thought. An early dynamo would have helped life gain a fingerhold: Earth’s magnetic field shields it from the solar wind, a stream of energetic particles from the sun that could strip the planet’s atmosphere of water vapor and other gases necessary for life. “If we know when the magnetic field starts, we have a good sense of how long the Earth has been habitable,” says Rory Cottrell, a paleomagnetist at the University of Rochester (U of R) in New York.
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Submission + - Researchers identify four skeletons from Jamestown->

sciencehabit writes: Two years after archaeologists unearthed the 400-year-old skeletal remains of four leaders of America’s first colony, Jamestown, Virginia, they have figured out their names. Using the specific time frame in which the church existed, the team searched through historical records from the Virginia Company (sponsor of the Jamestown adventure) and colonists’ recorded accounts to compile a list of possible identities for the deceased leaders. Then they made the final identifications by investigating a handful of rare and extremely delicate artifacts found with the bones. Two of the men, Captain Gabriel Archer and Reverend Robert Hunt, sailed over as part of the original venture to Jamestown. Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Captain William West, the other men identified, arrived 3 years later. Using CT scans, scientists were able to reveal holy relics that pointed to Archer’s potentially secret Catholic faith, hinting at a possible religious power struggle during this time.
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Submission + - Could some vaccines make diseases more deadly?->

sciencehabit writes: Vaccines save millions of lives every year by teaching our immune systems how to combat certain viruses or bacteria. But a new study suggests that, paradoxically, they could sometimes teach pathogens to become more dangerous as well. The study is controversial. It was done in chickens, and some scientists say it has little relevance for human vaccination; they worry it will reinforce doubts about the merits or safety of vaccines. It shouldn't, says lead author Andrew Read, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park: The study provides no support whatsoever for the antivaccine movement. But it does suggest that some vaccines may have to be monitored more closely, he argues, or supported with extra measures to prevent unintended consequences.
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Submission + - Cool new material could make fuel cells cheaper->

sciencehabit writes: It’s not enough for a new alternative energy technology to work. It also has to be cheap enough to compete with traditional fossil fuels. That’s been a high hurdle for devices called solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) that convert fuels—such as methane and hydrogen—directly to electricity without burning them. But now researchers report that they’ve come up with a new recipe for making key components in one type of SOFC more cheaply, which could sharply lower its overall cost.
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Submission + - 'Molecular microscrope' finds hidden AIDS virus in the body->

sciencehabit writes: Researchers have developed a sophisticated new probe that detects HIV’s hiding places inside and outside of cells. “It’s a fantastic new technique that’s going to allow us to visualize the virus in tissues like we’ve never been able to before,” says immunologist Richard Koup, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the research. Insights from this high-powered molecular microscope, revealed at an international AIDS conference last week, may clarify critical questions about HIV persistence and, ultimately, about how to rid the body of the virus.
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Submission + - 'Single-molecule Tetris' allows scientists to observe DNA at the nanoscale->

sciencehabit writes: Physicists are using a technique reminiscent of a classic video game to observe DNA on the nanoscale. They call it “single-molecule Tetris.” The approach consists of a device filled with tiny channels and cavities that DNA molecules can move in and out of, resulting in some of the familiar Tetris shapes, like the “L,” the square, and the zigzag. As the chainlike molecules bend or jump into different shapes, researchers use that information to measure two very specific characteristics of DNA molecules—the width and the confined free energy, or entropy of the molecule. The results that could help biologists improve genome sequencing and tease out valuable genetic information from these tiny, confined bits of DNA.
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Submission + - Four-legged snake fossil stuns scientists—and ignites controversy->

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional. Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature’s overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren’t so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.
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Submission + - Researchers find ordinary microbes in an extraordinary place->

sciencehabit writes: If you want to find some weird, undiscovered organisms, the sediments more than 2 kilometers below the ocean floor should be a good place to look. The heat and pressure are intense, and food is in short supply. But researchers have now obtained the first samples of microorganisms from these depths, and they turn out to be surprisingly ordinary. The cells are similar to microbes that live in a less demanding habitat on land: the soils in forests. “It’s like going to Pluto and seeing McDonald’s,” one expert says.
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Submission + - Someone's been cooking meth at National Institute of Standards and Technology->

sciencehabit writes: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) appears to have been the unwitting victim of a real-life Walter White, the meth-cooking chemistry teacher in the hit television show Breaking Bad. A weekend explosion at the federal laboratory’s Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus was linked yesterday to the production of methamphetamine, an illegal stimulant often “cooked” in home laboratories. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are now investigating how the explosion happened and whether a NIST security guard injured in the blast might have been involved.
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Submission + - How Pluto's most spectacular image was made—and nearly lost->

sciencehabit writes: Science Magazine has a nice behind-the-scenes account of all of the computer work that went into last week's spectacular Pluto image. Among the revelations: scientists could not email data files (they had to use thumb drives because of a fear of a leak), several researchers pulled an all-nighter just to get the image ready for the public, and the image file itself was nearly lost.
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Submission + - New rice variety could feed the planet without warming it->

sciencehabit writes: A new type of genetically modified (GM) rice might significantly lessen the impact of agriculture on the climate. The plant, equipped with DNA from barley, emits as little as 1% of the methane—a powerful greenhouse gas—of a conventional variety, while also producing more rice. Experts say the approach has great potential for boosting food sustainability, but requires more research to check whether the new rice performs well in paddies and fields.
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After an instrument has been assembled, extra components will be found on the bench.