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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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Submission + - Autism rates are up, but is the disease really on the rise?->

sciencehabit writes: The number of U.S. school children placed in special education programs due to autism more than tripled from 2000 to 2010, to nearly 420,000. But a new study argues much of that increase likely came as educators swapped one diagnosis for another. The overall percentage of kids diagnosed with a collection of brain development problems that includes autism remained unchanged, suggesting that children who used to be labeled with conditions such as “intellectual disability” were in fact autistic.
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Submission + - Telescope spots galaxy refueling in the early universe->

sciencehabit writes: Astronomers using a powerful radio telescope in Chile have observed cold molecular gas falling in toward the center of a galaxy—and so fueling star formation—back at a time when the universe was just a few hundred million years old. The find—made by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA)—could help astronomers understand how early galaxies grew into the ones we observe today.
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Submission + - Scientists arm cells with tiny lasers->

sciencehabit writes: In a feat of miniaturization that makes your Apple Watch look lame, scientists have implanted tiny lasers within living cells. A team of physicists and biologists have coaxed a cell to envelop a tiny plastic sphere that acts like a resonant cavity—thus placing a whole laser within a cell. The spheres are seasoned with a fluorescent dye, so that a zap with one color of light makes them radiate at another color. The light then resonates in the sphere, triggering laser action and amplifying itself. So although demonstrated only in cultured cells, the technique might someday be used to track the movement of individual cells, say, within cancerous tumors.
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Submission + - Mysterious link emerges between Native Americans and people half a globe away->

sciencehabit writes: Researchers still argue about how and when the first Americans settled in North and South America, and particularly about whether they came in one or multiple waves. Two new papers, one in Science and the other in Nature, attempt to shed light on this question, but they come to different conclusions: The Science team finds one wave, and the Nature team finds two. The two research groups do agree on one thing, however--some of today's Native Americans have the genes of ancient people from Australia and Melanesia in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Knowing whether that mysterious genetic contribution came early, as the Nature team thinks, or much later, as the Science team concludes, may hold the key to remaining riddles about the peopling of the Americas.
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Submission + - How a young child fought off the AIDS virus->

sciencehabit writes: In 1996, a baby infected with HIV at birth was started on anti-AIDS drugs. But at age 6, against the advice of doctors, her family stopped treatment. Twelve years later, the young French woman is still healthy, with no detectable virus in her blood. Her unusual case, reported today at an international AIDS conference in Vancouver, Canada, may hold clues that might help other HIV-infected people control their infections without antiretroviral drugs and offer insights to AIDS vaccine developers.
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