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Submission Proof that neutrinos change identity bags physics Nobel->

sciencehabit writes: A weird identity shifting among ghostly particles called neutrinos has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for the leaders of massive underground experiments in Japan and Canada. Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo led researchers working with the Super-Kamiokande detector in a zinc mine 250 kilometers northwest of Japan's capital that made its key discovery in 1998. Arthur McDonald of Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, led the team working with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in a mine in Canada that confirmed and expanded on the Super-Kamiokande result in 2001.The results kicked off the study of such "neutrino oscillations" which is now one of the major thrusts of particle physics, involving huge experiments in which neutrinos are fired hundreds of kilometers through Earth to distant detectors. The study of such oscillations could eventually shed light matters as fundamental as how the universe generated so much more matter than antimatter.
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Submission Climate scientist wants to use anti-mafia law to prosecute climate deniers->

sciencehabit writes: A climate scientist who wants the feds to investigate firms financing climate denial has been threatened with investigation himself by House Republicans. He had called for White House to use the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—originally developed to combat organized crime and corrupt unions—to investigate industry-funded groups that have challenged climate science. But conservative lawmakers are saying he may have misused federal research grants.
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Submission DNA vaccine sterilizes mice, could lead to one-shot birth control for cats, dogs->

sciencehabit writes: Animal birth control could soon be just a shot away: A new injection makes male and female mice infertile by tricking their muscles into producing hormone-blocking antibodies. If the approach works in dogs and cats, researchers say, it could be used to neuter and spay pets and to control reproduction in feral animal populations. A similar approach could one day spur the development of long-term birth control options for humans.
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Submission Humans are worse than radiation for Chernobyl animals->

sciencehabit writes: Elk, roe deer, wild boars, and other wildlife are thriving in a radiation-contaminated preserve largely off limits to people near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, researchers have found. In a study published today, scientists report “no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance” in the Chernobyl exclusion zone straddling the Belarus-Ukraine border. Much of the 4200-square-kilometer zone was evacuated after the nuclear plant’s unit 4 reactor exploded in 1986, sending a radioactive plume over Europe.

“When humans are removed, nature flourishes, even in the aftermath of the world's worst nuclear accident,” says co-author Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at the University of Portsmouthin the United Kingdom. But some scientists argue that the study glosses over findings showing that the radioactive contamination has damaged individual animals.

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Submission Ancient volcanic collapse likely triggered 800-foot-high tsunami->

sciencehabit writes: An ancient landslide on an island volcano is providing a worrisome lesson about tsunamis, thanks to some geologic sleuthing. According to a new study in the Cape Verde archipelago, a landslide triggered a tsunami more than 800 feet high--powerful enough to push massive boulders on a neighboring island onto a high plateau. The scientists warn that although such events are extremely rare, they could also be devastating if they hit a populated coastal area.
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Submission This machine produces the largest humanmade waves in the world->

sciencehabit writes: Dutch scientists are making waves—big ones. A new experimental facility at Deltares, a research institute here, has begun producing the largest humanmade waves in the world. Like kids building sandcastles below the tideline on the beach, scientists will let the walls of water crash on dikes of different designs and other structures—sometimes until they're destroyed.
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Submission Were there mummies in Bronze Age Britain?->

sciencehabit writes: Tightly wrapped mummies conjure up images of ancient Egypt, but very few people would think of ancient England. Now, scientists have presented evidence that the practice of preserving bodies might have been widespread in the Bronze Age Britain, from 2500 B.C.E. to 800 B.C.E. “The idea that British and potentially European Bronze Age communities invested resources in mummifying and curating a proportion of their dead fundamentally alters our perceptions of funerary ritual and belief in this period,” the researchers say in a statement.
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Submission Volcanoes and asteroid strike may have done in the dinosaurs->

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have for decades hotly debated what killed the dinosaurs. One long-held hypothesis blames immense and long-lasting volcanic eruptions that drastically altered Earth’s climate. Another more recent hypothesis suggests that the dino die-offs occurred after a massive asteroid hit the planet near the Yucatán Peninsula. Now, research finds that the extraterrestrial impact may have led to increased volcanism in the Indian subcontinent, providing a double whammy that took out Tyrannosaurus rex and his kin.
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Submission New additive makes fuel less explosion-prone->

sciencehabit writes: Gasoline, kerosene, and other transportation fuels are composed of highly flammable hydrocarbons—typically 5 to 14 carbon atoms in length. During an impact, these short hydrocarbons readily form a cloud of tiny fuel droplets that can ignite, producing a fireball. Fuel researchers have long known that much longer hydrocarbon chains can interact with fuel molecules, causing them to form larger droplets during an accident. These larger droplets don’t linger as long in the air, so there is less chance for a catastrophic explosion. But earlier efforts to incorporate these long molecules into fuels brought other problems. Now, Caltech scientists report that by linking together shorter molecules with sticky ends, the resulting “mega-supramolecule” can remain in one long chain. This huge polymer breaks apart under stress, leaving the fuel pump clog-free. It can also use its sticky ends to reassemble and restore its flame-suppressing activity. Most important, the new additives ensure the formation of larger droplets during an impact, warding off violent explosions.
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Submission Physicists observe weird quantum fluctuations of empty space—maybe->

sciencehabit writes: Empty space is anything but, according to quantum mechanics: Instead, it roils with quantum particles flitting in and out of existence. Now, a team of physicists claims it has measured those fluctuations directly, without disturbing or amplifying them. However, others say it's unclear exactly what the new experiment measures—which may be fitting for a phenomenon that originates in quantum mechanics' famous uncertainty principle.

"There are many experiments that have observed indirect effects of vacuum fluctuations," says Diego Dalvit, a theorist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who was not involved in the current work. "If this [new experiment] is correct, it would be the first direct observation of the field [of fluctuations] itself."

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Submission Predatory publishers earned $75 million last year, study finds->

sciencehabit writes: Need to get your research published? Don't want to be hassled by peer review or editorial quality control? You are in luck: There are thousands of scientific journals waiting to publish it right away, for a fee. A new study finds that the fake journal business is booming—and puts some hard numbers on this murky academic underworld. Last year alone, so-called predatory publishers took in about $75 million and published nearly half a million articles, researchers report today online in BMJ Medicine.
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Submission Is an ancient virus responsible for some cases of Lou Gehrig's disease?->

sciencehabit writes: A virus that long ago spliced itself into the human genome may play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the deadly muscle degenerative disease that crippled baseball great Lou Gehrig and ultimately took his life. That’s the controversial conclusion of a new study, which finds elevated levels of human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) in the brains of 11 people who died from the disease.
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Submission Talking science and God with the pope's new chief astronomer->

sciencehabit writes: On 18 September, Pope Francis appointed Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory, which employs a dozen astronomers to study asteroids, meteorites, extrasolar planets, stellar evolution, and cosmology. The observatory is based at the pope's summer residence south of Rome and operates a 1.8-meter telescope in Arizona, where the skies are clearer. Science Magazine chatted with Consolmagno about a variety of topics, including whether God gets in the way of doing good astronomy.
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Submission Scientist says researchers in immigrant-friendly nations can't use his software->

sciencehabit writes: A German scientist is revoking the license to his bioinformatics software for researchers working in eight European countries because those countries allow too many immigrants to cross their borders. From 1 October, scientists in Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark—"the countries that together host most of the non-European immigrants“—won't be allowed to use a program called Treefinder, informatician Gangolf Jobb wrote in a statement he posted on his website.

Treefinder has been used in hundreds of scientific papers to build phylogenetic trees, diagrams showing the most likely evolutionary relationship of various species, from sequence data. Although the change in the license may be a nuisance for some researchers, the program is far from irreplaceable, several scientists tell ScienceInsider. Treefinder had not been updated for several years and it was mostly used by researchers who had grown used to it, they say. Some pointed to a list of possible alternatives online.

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Submission New nanoparticle sunblock is stronger and safer, scientists say->

sciencehabit writes: What’s the best sunscreen? It’s a question that troubles beachgoers, athletes, and scientists alike. Mark Saltzman, who falls into the last category, was so concerned by the time his third child was born that he wanted to engineer a better sunblock. “The initial goal was to make a sunblock that lasted longer,” says Saltzman, a biomedical engineer at Yale University. “But as I read more about sunscreen, I became aware of people’s concerns about safety.” Now, he and his colleagues have unveiled the results of their research: a nanoparticle-based sunblock, which they say is longer lasting and less likely to leak into the body than traditional sunscreen.
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Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe