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+ - To foster complex societies, tell people a god is watching->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "People are nicer to each other when they think someone is watching, many psychology studies have shown—especially if they believe that someone has the power to punish them for transgressions even after they’re dead. That’s why some scientists think that belief in the high gods of moralizing religions, such as Islam and Christianity, helped people cooperate with each other and encouraged societies to grow. An innovative study of 96 societies in the Pacific now suggests that a culture might not need to believe in omniscient, moral gods in order to reap the benefits of religion in the form of political complexity. All they need is the threat of supernatural punishment, even if the deities in question don’t care about morality and act on personal whims, the new work concludes."
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+ - White House issues veto threat as House prepares to vote on EPA 'secret science'->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisors today announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form."
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+ - Physicists gear up to catch a gravitational wave-> 1

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A patch of woodland just north of Livingston, Louisiana, population 1893, isn’t the first place you’d go looking for a breakthrough in physics. Yet it is here that physicists may fulfill perhaps the most spectacular prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, or general relativity. Structures here house the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), an ultrasensitive instrument that may soon detect ripples in space and time set off when neutron stars or black holes merge. Einstein himself predicted the existence of such gravitational waves nearly a century ago. But only now is the quest to detect them coming to a culmination. Physicists are finishing a $205 million rebuild of the detectors, known as Advanced LIGO, which should make them 10 times more sensitive and, they say, virtually ensure a detection."
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+ - How mosquitoes walk on water->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "To better understand how tarsi--the long, thin section of a mosquito's leg that skims the water’s surface--support mosquitoes’ weight, researchers plucked the leg fragments from mosquitoes and measured the force they exerted when pressed against water. The secret of the tarsus is its flexibility, they found—stiff tarsi exert less force before breaking through the water's surface. A flexible tarsus, in contrast, can support up to 20 times the weight of a mosquito by conforming to the water's surface. Understanding the science of mosquito legs could be useful for the development of miniature water-striding robots, researchers say."
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+ - Physicists x-ray virus with a giant laser->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Physicists have gotten really good at taking pictures of tiny things, but they've stumbled when it has come to viruses. Because they had no idea how its particles were oriented in space, they had no way of stitching multiple 2D images together to create a 3D picture. Now, researchers have figured out how to overcome that problem. By tinkering with an algorithm devised in 2009, they figured out how to extract information about a particle’s orientation from just a messy 2D diffraction pattern. Then they used that information to assemble hundreds of such patterns into a coherent 3D image that reveals both the external shape and internal structure of the particle. They say the technique should be able to handle much smaller and more dangerous viruses, including influenza, herpes, and HIV."
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+ - Study promises to be the final word on penis size->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Men, worried you're too small? A new promises the most accurate penis-size measurements to date. Many earlier studies relied on self-reporting, which--no surprise-- doesn’t always yield reliable results. So the researchers compiled data from clinicians who followed a standardized measuring procedure. The upshot: the average flaccid, pendulous penis is 9.16 cm (3.61 inches) in length; the average erect penis is 13.12 cm (5.16 inches) long. The corresponding girth measurements are 9.31 cm (3.66 inches) for a flaccid penis and 11.66 cm (4.59 inches) for an erect one. The researchers also found no correlation between penis size and foot size, hand size, or ethnicity."
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+ - A step closer to explaining high-temperature superconductivity?->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "For years some physicists have been hoping to crack the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity—the ability of some complex materials to carry electricity without resistance at temperatures high above absolute zero—by simulating crystals with patterns of laser light and individual atoms. Now, a team has taken—almost—the next-to-last step in such "optical lattice" simulation by reproducing the pattern of magnetism seen in high-temperature superconductors from which the resistance-free flow of electricity emerges."
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+ - Banned weight-loss drug could combat liver disease, diabetes->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A drug the U.S. government once branded “extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption” deserves a second chance, a study of rats suggests. Researchers report that a slow-release version of the compound reverses diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an untreatable condition that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer."
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+ - Xeroxed gene may have paved the way for large human brain->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. “This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness,” says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work."
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+ - DNA recovered from underwater British site may rewrite history of farming->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Hunter-gatherers may have brought agricultural products to the British Isles by trading wheat and other grains with early farmers from the European mainland. That’s the intriguing conclusion of a new study of ancient DNA from a now submerged hunter-gatherer camp off the British coast. If true, the find suggests that wheat made its way to the far edge of Western Europe 2000 years before farming was thought to have taken hold in Britain. The work confronts archaeologists “with the challenge of fitting this into our worldview,” says Dorian Fuller, an archaeobotanist at University College London who was not involved in the work."
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+ - New instrument peers even deeper than Hubble->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Over 10 days in December 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope took 342 images of the same tiny patch of sky in the constellation Ursa Major. The resulting data set, the Hubble Deep Field, revolutionized the study of the early universe by revealing the profusion of galaxies in that faint and distant era when the first galaxies were forming. Now, in a demonstration of how astronomy has moved on in the past 20 years, a team of European astronomers has produced a similar deep field observation in just 27 hours and already revealed more than Hubble was able to do. The new technology may lead to insights into galaxy evolution."
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+ - Monster black hole born shortly after big bang->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A team of astronomers has discovered what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang. It's roughly 3000 times the size of our Milky Way’s central black hole. To have grown to such a size in so short a time, it must have been munching matter at close to the maximum physically possible rate for most of its existence. Its large size and rate of consumption also makes it the brightest object in that distant era, and astronomers can use its bright light to study the composition of the early universe: how much of the original hydrogen and helium from the big bang had been forged into heavier elements in the furnaces of stars."
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+ - Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The dream of an artificially intelligent computer that can study a problem and gain expertise all on its own is now reality. A system debuted today by a team of Google researchers is not clever enough to perform surgery or drive a car safely, but it did master several dozen classic arcade games, including Space Invaders and Breakout. In many cases, it surpassed the best human players without ever observing how they play."
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+ - The physics of sheep flocks->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "To study how sheep move in unison, researchers videotaped flocks of sheep entering a barn door to be fed. Predictably, the animals all scrambled to get in simultaneously, causing a farmyard traffic jam that slowed their progress through the door. As one might expect, when researchers widened the door, the congestion diminished. But a less obvious strategy had the same effect, the researchers explain in a paper published in the current issue of Physical Review E. Namely, they placed a wide post in front of the door that forced the sheep to go around either side. Scientists previously discovered this method of preventing blockages in flows of granular materials like sand, which exhibit some of the same dynamics as the motion of crowds: Pack too many sand grains into one space and they freeze up like a solid, instead of flowing smoothly like a liquid. By studying flows in systems like sand and sheep, scientists hope to find strategies for designing buildings to prevent dangerous human crowd situations, like stampedes."
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+ - Eating peanuts prevents allergy->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It may sound radical, but it works: Eating peanuts slashes the chance of a peanut allergy, at least in children at high risk of developing one, a much-anticipated study finds. The results are likely to catapult a long-standing theory—that ingesting potential food allergens is a way to prevent allergies—into mainstream medicine. “This is the study,” says Rebecca Gruchalla, a specialist in allergy immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who wasn’t involved in it. The data, she says, are “just mind-blowing.”"
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