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07/04/2020   Yahoo! Science

Rocket Lab: Latest mission from New Zealand lost in flightAn Electron rocket launched from New Zealand's North Island fails in flight, destroying its satellites.


07/04/2020   Yahoo! Science

It's Not a Snake, but Beware of Its Venomous BiteIf a worm and a snake had a slimy, scandalous love child, it might look something like a caecilian: a legless creature that's actually neither worm nor snake but a soil-dwelling amphibian found in tropics across the globe.Content to spend most of their time beneath the forest floor, caecilians are elusive and poorly understood. Which is why Carlos Jared, a biologist at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has spent a good part of the last three decades hot on their trail.Bagging a caecilian specimen, he said, often takes hours of laborious digging, carefully executed so a poorly aimed shovel doesn't cleave the creature in two. Once a specimen is spotted, "you have to jump on it," Jared said, and then wrestle the wriggly amphibian -- which, depending on the species, can range in length from a couple inches to 5 feet -- into a sack. Many caecilians have squirmed out of Jared's grasp at the last moment, gleefully greased by a gelatinous goo that oozes out of their skin.But Jared said the animals' fascinating and sometimes baffling biology makes the incessant chasing more than worth it. His team's latest discovery, published Friday in iScience, shows caecilians' mouths might be rimmed by venom-tipped teeth, not unlike those found in some snakes.The discovery would mark the first time venom glands have been found in the mouth of an amphibian -- one whose evolutionary history predates the appearance of snakes by more than 100 million years. That could make little-known caecilians among the oldest venomous biters on Earth.Like most other amphibians, caecilians have long been thought to produce only poisons, which, unlike venoms, aren't actively injected into other creatures. So Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana, a postdoctoral scholar working with Jared, was baffled when he discovered a series of fluid-filled ducts lining the teeth of a ringed caecilian specimen in the lab. "This is a very different thing here," he recalled thinking.After searching the mouths of newly hatched caecilians, Mailho-Fontana determined that the tooth-cradling glands grow out of the same tissue that gives rise to teeth.Dental tissue also happens to be the point of origin for venom glands in snakes, which could help explain the purpose of the newfound ducts, Jared said. Without legs or arms to parry with predators or prey, animals like snakes and caecilians must rely heavily on their heads.Caecilians, like some snakes, are equipped with impressive teeth, and can get pretty "bitey," said Emma Sherratt, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide who wasn't involved in the study.If caecilians also pack a venomous bite, they may have independently stumbled upon a strategy that's worked out well for many snakes. That would be "really interesting and remarkable," said Shab Mohammadi, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who wasn't involved in the study. Perhaps limblessness is an important impetus for the evolution of tooth-borne toxins.But Mohammadi also noted that it's still unclear how noxious the glands' contents are or how toxic they are to the insects and worms that caecilians nosh on. Jared and his team have yet to do an in-depth chemical analysis of the caecilian's glandular goop, although early tests show it's full of a protein that's also present in venoms from insects and snakes. Caecilians' mouths seem to teem with slime at mealtimes, but the secretions have proved to be stubbornly viscous and tough to extract, Mailho-Fontana said.The researchers are also unsure how widespread venom glands are among caecilian species, which currently number more than 200 (with many more likely unknown). If the ducts are found in ancient lineages, it could indicate that caecilians were among the first land-living vertebrates to lace their bites with venom.Jared's team is planning to snag a few more specimens, but even once they manage to get them, it won't be easy.A few years ago, during a visit to a collaborator's lab in London, Marta Maria Antoniazzi, a co-author of the study also of the Butantan Institute, picked up a tiny caecilian that promptly sank its teeth into her hand."It hurt a lot," she said.And the wound took a surprisingly long time to close up. Now, Antoniazzi wonders if she was an unwitting victim of venom."At the time, we couldn't have even imagined," she said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


07/04/2020   Wired Science
As researchers tracked his flight over 27 countries, a cuckoo became a celebrity and raised questions about how climate change could affect his species’ travel.
07/03/2020   Wired Science
When humans see purple, we’re really seeing a blend of red and blue light. Hummingbirds see purple plus ultraviolet—and lots of other nonspectral colors.
07/03/2020   Yahoo! Science

Is the hydrogen tech 'revolution' hope or hype?Can hydrogen - a relatively clean source of fuel - help power the economy of the future?


07/02/2020   Wired Science
Public health messaging and science have to work hard to stay in sync during a crisis. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they haven’t always succeeded.
07/02/2020   Yahoo! Science

Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance launch pushed back againThe launch of Nasa's Mars rover Perseverance is delayed again to 30 July at the earliest.


07/02/2020   Yahoo! Science

Phil Evans: Briton to take top weather satellite agency jobPhil Evans, formerly at the UK Met Office, will be the new director general of Eumetsat.


07/02/2020   Wired Science
It may be the most unpatriotic toxicology study ever, but so be it: Metals give fireworks their color, but some manufacturers are slipping in toxins.
07/01/2020   Yahoo! Science

Professor tackles one more mystery about quantum mechanics and time’s flowThe University of Washington physicist who once ran a crowdfunded experiment on backward causation is now weighing in with a potential solution to one of the longest-running puzzles in quantum mechanics. John Cramer, a UW physics professor emeritus, teamed up with Caltech electrical engineer and physicist Carver Mead to put forward an explanation for how the indefinite one-and-zero, alive-and-dead state of a quantum system gets translated into a definite observation — a phenomenon known as wave function collapse. "Up to now, the mechanism behind wave function collapse has been considered a mystery that is disconnected from established wave mechanics. The result has… Read More


07/01/2020   Yahoo! Science

Copernicus Sentinels: UK industry loses out in European satellite bidsBritish firms fail to win leading roles in the expansion of the Copernicus Earth observation project.


07/01/2020   Wired Science
Developers need to test in hotspots, but those keep changing. And they must avoid ethical problems, like testing in low-income areas but only selling in rich ones.
06/30/2020   Yahoo! Science

NASA funds small-business ideas ranging from AI medicine to plumbing for the moonNASA says it'll fund more than 400 ideas from small businesses, aimed at creating technologies ranging from plumbing fixtures suitable for the moon to AI-based medical assistants that can provide "an extra pair of trained eyes" for crews on Mars. The contracts will provide about $51 million to 312 small businesses in 44 states and Washington, D.C., to support the development of technologies that could come in handy for space exploration or Earth-based applications. “NASA depends on America’s small businesses for innovative technology development that helps us achieve our wide variety of missions,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space… Read More


06/30/2020   Yahoo! Science

Happy Asteroid Day! Why we’re going out to space rocks before they come for usToday's 112th anniversary of a close brush with a cosmic catastrophe serves as a teachable moment about the perils and prospects posed by near-Earth asteroids. Asteroid Day is timed to commemorate a blast from space that occurred over a Siberian forest back on June 30, 1908. The explosion, thought to have been caused by the breakup of an asteroid or comet, wiped out millions of acres of trees — but because the area was so remote, the death toll was minimal. Because of the Tunguska blast and more recent close calls, such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor blast, the threat… Read More


06/30/2020   Yahoo! Science

Mystery over monster star's vanishing actA huge star has disappeared - did it become a black hole?


06/30/2020   Wired Science
Vas Narasimhan talks about drug prices, vaccine development, the rise and fall of hydroxychloroquine, and how Big Pharma might win back the trust of consumers.
06/30/2020   Wired Science
Triso particles are an alien-looking fuel with built-in safety features that will power a new generation of high-temperature reactors.
06/30/2020   Yahoo! Science

Betelgeuse: Nearby 'supernova' star's dimming explainedAstronomers say big cool patches on the Betelgeuse star likely drove its surprise dimming last year.


06/29/2020   Yahoo! Science

With Flights Banned, Son Sails Solo Across Atlantic to Reach Father, 90BUENOS AIRES -- Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo, to ride out the era of lockdowns and social distancing in a scenic place largely spared by the virus. But the idea of spending what he thought could be "the end of the world" away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable.So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March."I didn't want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases," Ballestero said. "I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family."The coronavirus pandemic has upended life in virtually every country, gutting the global economy, exacerbating geopolitical tension and halting most international travel. A particularly painful aspect of this awful era has been the inability of an untold number of people to rush home to help ailing loved ones and attend funerals.Friends tried to dissuade Ballestero from embarking on the perilous journey, and authorities in Portugal warned him he might not be allowed to re-enter if he ran into trouble and had to turn back. But he was resolute."I bought myself a one-way ticket, and there was no going back," he said.His relatives, used to Ballestero's itinerant lifestyle, knew better than to try to talk him out of it."The uncertainty of not knowing where he was for 50-some days was very rough," said his father, Carlos Alberto Ballestero. "But we had no doubt this was going to turn out well."Sailing across the Atlantic in a small boat is challenging in the best of circumstances. The added difficulties of doing it during a pandemic became clear three weeks into the trip.On April 12, authorities in Cape Verde refused to allow him to dock at the island nation to restock his supply of food and fuel, Ballestero said.Hoping he had enough food to carry him through, he turned his boat west. With less fuel than he hoped for, he would be more at the mercy of the winds.He was no stranger to spending long stretches of time at sea, but being alone on the open ocean is daunting to even the most experienced sailor.Days into the journey, he became panicked by the light of a ship that he thought was trailing him and seemed to be approaching closer and closer."I started going as fast as possible," Ballestero said. "I thought, 'If it gets very close, I'll shoot.'"Seafaring is a Ballestero family tradition.From the time he was 3, his father took him aboard the fishing vessels he captained.When he turned 18, he took a job on a fishing boat in southern Argentina. Off the coast of Patagonia, one of the most experienced fishermen aboard gave him a piece of advice that would become a way of life."Go see the world," the fisherman said.And so he did.Ballestero has spent much of his life sailing, with stops in Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Bali, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Alaska and Spain.He has tagged sea turtles and whales for conservation organizations and spent summers working as a skipper aboard boats owned by wealthy Europeans.He bought his sailboat, an Ohlson 29 named the Skua, in 2017, hoping to take it on a loop around the world. It proved up to the task of traversing an ocean on a planet plunged into crisis mode."I wasn't afraid, but I did have a lot of uncertainty," he said. "It was very strange to sail in the middle of a pandemic with humanity teetering around me."Sailing can be a lonely passion, and it was particularly so on this voyage for Ballestero, who each night tuned into the news on a radio for 30 minutes to take stock of how the virus was rippling across the globe."I kept thinking about whether this would be my last trip," he said.The expansiveness of the ocean notwithstanding, Ballestero felt he was in a quarantine of sorts, imprisoned by an unrelenting stream of foreboding thoughts about what the future held."I was locked up in my own freedom," he recalled.On a particularly trying day, he turned to a bottle of whiskey for solace. But drinking only increased his anxiety. With his nerves frayed, Ballestero said he found himself praying and resetting his relationship with God."Faith keeps you standing in these situations," he said. "I learned about myself; this voyage gave me lots of humility."Several weeks into the trip, when his spirits were low, Ballestero said he was buoyed by wildlife sightings that felt like omens.He found solace in a pod of dolphins that swam alongside his boat, on and off, for some 2,000 miles."They would go and come back," he said. "And one day, they seemed to say goodbye."During a day when he had drunk heavily, he spotted a large bird cruising nearby. It turned out to be a skua, the bird his boat is named after."It was as if the bird was telling me not to give up, to keep going," he said.One day, when he tired of canned food, Ballestero got a fishing rod and scanned a school of mahi-mahi. But he had a sudden reluctance to cast out a line."I didn't want to kill one. It felt like killing a person," he said. "I used to be a fisherman, but after that experience it's hard for me to kill now."He went back to eating canned tuna.When he was approaching the Americas, a brutal wave rattled the boat some 150 miles from Vitoria, Brazil, he said. That episode forced him to make an unplanned pit stop in Vitoria, adding about 10 days to a trip he had expected to take 75 days.During that stop, Ballestero learned that his brother had told reporters in Argentina about the voyage, which enthralled people who were bored and cooped up at home. At the urging of friends, he created an Instagram account to document the final leg of the trip.When he made it to his native Mar del Plata, on June 17, he was startled by the hero's welcome he received."Entering my port where my father had his sailboat, where he taught me so many things and where I learned how to sail and where all this originated, gave me the taste of a mission accomplished," he said.A medical professional administered a test for COVID-19 on the dock. Within 72 hours, after the test came back negative, he was allowed to set foot on Argentine soil.While he did not get to celebrate his father's 90th birthday in May, he did make it home in time for Father's Day."What I lived is a dream," Ballestero said. "But I have a strong desire to keep on sailing."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


06/29/2020   Wired Science
Engineers are turning to generative design algorithms to build components for NASA’s next-generation space suit—the first major update in decades.
06/29/2020   Wired Science
A group of scientists argue that the Covid lockdown, what they’re calling the “anthropause,” is an unprecedented opportunity to study how humans affect animal behavior.
06/28/2020   Wired Science
The rectangular peg problem asks a seemingly simple question: Does a closed loop include the corners of every kind of rectangle?
06/27/2020   Yahoo! Science

How one teaspoon of Amazon soil teems with fungal lifeScientists discover hundreds of different fungi in Amazonian soil, thought to play a vital role in nature.


06/27/2020   Wired Science
Critics worry about the risks of overcutting and wood smoke. But supporters say the practice will prevent megafires—which release even more carbon dioxide.
06/27/2020   Wired Science
Researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 hijacks tendrils that grow from infected cells and may ride them to infect others. But existing compounds might slow their roll.
06/27/2020   Yahoo! Science

Washing machines' microplastic filters 'untested'Filters can cut ocean-bound microplastics from washing machines, but more tests are needed, study finds.


06/26/2020   Wired Science
This theoretical engine could drastically reduce the cost of getting to space. Now two companies are trying to make it real.
06/26/2020   Wired Science
We'll need millions of vials to distribute the vaccine. The US government thinks manufacturing methods from the semiconductor industry can help.
06/25/2020   Yahoo! Science

Space Adventures looks for a customer to do a spacewalk after Russia gives its OKBELLEVUE, Wash. — Russian space officials say that they've signed off on a commercial deal with Virginia-based Space Adventures to fly two customers to the International Space Station in 2023 — and that one of those customers would be allowed to do a spacewalk. Space Adventures' co-founder and chairman, Eric Anderson, told GeekWire that the company is now checking to see who's interested. "There is no specific client who's been contracted for this one," said Anderson, who has his office in Bellevue even though Space Adventures is headquartered in Virginia. "We're looking for clients." Space Adventures has talked about selling… Read More


06/25/2020   Yahoo! Science

Black women scientists missing from textbooks, study findsScientists portrayed in biology textbooks are predominantly white men, according to a US study.


06/25/2020   Wired Science
With direct brain stimulation, mice learned to recognize an imaginary scent—and helped researchers understand a key piece of the olfactory puzzle.
06/25/2020   Wired Science
Every summer, an atmospheric event propels desert dust thousands of miles across the Atlantic. This year is particularly bad, and timed terribly with Covid-19.
06/25/2020   Yahoo! Science

Britain's 'blindingly cool' engineering innovationConceptual still-life photographer Ted Humble-Smith celebrates 50 years of world-beating technology.


06/25/2020   Yahoo! Science

Allen Institute will host $40.5M brain research center to map the effects of Alzheimer’s diseaseA $40.5 million collaborative research center headquartered at Seattle's Allen Institute aims to create high-resolution maps of brains ravaged by Alzheimer's disease, to trace new paths to early diagnosis and treatment. The center will draw upon expertise not only at the institute, but also at UW Medicine and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. Funding for the next five years comes from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia affect 5.8 million Americans, and by 2050, that number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million. It's the sixth-leading… Read More


06/24/2020   Wired Science
In just three months, one British research team identified the first life-saving drug of the pandemic (and helped cancel hydroxychloroquine).
06/24/2020   Yahoo! Science

Nasa Mars rover: Key questions about PerseveranceWe answer some common questions about the America's Perseverance rover mission to Mars.


06/24/2020   Yahoo! Science

Relativity makes deals with Vandenberg AFB and Iridium for California launchesRelativity Space, a startup that was born in Seattle but grew up in Los Angeles, says it has signed an agreement to develop launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and a contract with Iridium to launch satellites from those facilities. The flurry of announcements marks a significant expansion for a company that barely existed five years ago but has raised $185 million since then. Relativity is gearing up to build rocket parts using giant 3-D printers in Southern California, testing rocket engines at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and creating a launch complex at Cape Canaveral… Read More


06/24/2020   Wired Science
Today a Senate committee will hear about a bill that would help farmers adopt practices to release less carbon from the soil, reducing planetary warming.
06/23/2020   Wired Science
When permafrost thaws, sea ice disappears, and wildfires rage in the north, the consequences extend to the rest of the world.
06/23/2020   Wired Science
At 37, Brian Wallach was diagnosed with the fatal disease. So he tapped a lifetime of connections to give help and hope to fellow sufferers—while grappling with his own mortality.

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