Top Stories

Black or White, how IS that smoke generated?

The Vatican has released the pyrotechnical formula for the "mystery" recipe used to produce the holy puffs used to signify that a new Pope has been elected, or not elected. "It's no secret," Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference today. The process involves the use of two stoves. One, first employed in 1939 to elect Pope Pius XII, is used to burn the ballots. Another, more modern stove was introduced in 2005 to augment smoke and send a clear signal out to St. Peter’s square. Copper stovepipes protruding from the top of each stove are joined into a single pipe which runs up out of the window to the chimney. >> Read the Full Article

Neanderthal Man Senses

The Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of the genus Homo which is closely related to modern humans. They are known from fossils, dating from the Pleistocene period, which have been found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Still what and who were they? How ere the same end how were they different? Neanderthal brains were adapted to allow them to see better and maintain larger bodies, according to new research by the University of Oxford and the Natural History Museum, London. >> Read the Full Article

Every time the Dpp gene rings, a fruit fly gets its wings

It has been said that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. But what about a fruit fly? Ever wonder how this species gets its wings? According to new research, scientists have revealed that genetic activity has led to the development of the fruit fly's wings. Researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed a cluster of cells present in the fruit fly's first day of larval life to connect a gene known to be active in the embryo with the gene that triggers the growth of wings. >> Read the Full Article

Nearby Stars and Planets

The stars are so very far away. But they seem to be creeping closer all the time with the advent of new discoveries and studies. For example. a pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The stars are so very far away. But they seem to be creeping closer all the time with the advent of new discoveries and studies. For example. a pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916 and is about 6.5 light years distant. The closest still remain the trio of stars known as Alpha Centauri at a little over 4 light years away. Even more amazing is that researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars. Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system's four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth. It makes one wonder what astronomers on other worlds are seeing on Earth itself. >> Read the Full Article

Recent Supreme Court Decision May Affect Environmental Standing

A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has raised questions about the scope of plaintiffs' standing to bring suit in federal court, a critical issue for environmental litigants. Federal courts have long recognized that certain types of environmental harms can form the basis of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution, which requires plaintiffs to establish an "actual or imminent" injury that is "fairly traceable" to the challenged conduct and "likely to be redressed" by a favorable decision. >> Read the Full Article

Quinoa Farming in Bolivia has significant impacts

Bolivian scientists have warned that growing international demand for quinoa is endangering local farming practices and the environment, as well as denying access to local consumers. Their caution follows the UN's kick off last month (20 February) of a year-long series of cultural, artistic and academic activities — along with scientific research — to celebrate 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain-like crop cultivated in the Andes for 7,000 years, has remarkable nutritional value and adapts well to a variety of growing environments. >> Read the Full Article

Phantom Rain Clouds

Climate models are far from perfect. But then again the prediction of weather is a far from perfect science. It seems counterintuitive that clouds over the Southern Ocean, which circles Antarctica, would cause rain in Zambia or the tropical island of Java. But new research finds that one of the most persistent biases in global climate models – a phantom band of rainfall just south of the equator that does not occur in reality – is caused by poor simulation of the cloud cover thousands of miles farther to the south. >> Read the Full Article

Photographers Threatening the Already-Maligned Slender Loris

Caught in a beam of torchlight, the eyes of the slender loris reflect back a striking glow. In an effort to better understand these shy, nocturnal primates, a team of researchers set out to the Western Ghats of India. The resulting paper: Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in Southern India was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in January of 2013. Forest walks and interviews with the Kani people, who live in close proximity to the lorises, supported evidence of a surprising new threat to the lorises: photographers. >> Read the Full Article

Origins of Life

The origin of life is a scientific problem which is not yet solved. There are plenty of ideas, but few established facts. It is generally agreed that all life today evolved by common descent from a single primitive life form. We do not know how this early form came about, but scientists think it was a natural process which took place perhaps 3.9 billion years ago. Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life. Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about the evolutionary drivers for this folding. >> Read the Full Article

Sleeping Less May Lead to Weight Gain

Health professionals have always emphasized the importance of sleep, but why? Research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, but the reasons why have remained somewhat unclear. However, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder, staying awake longer requires more energy and therefore more food intake during the next day which can lead to weight gain. >> Read the Full Article