• To Kill or Not to Kill: The Great Specimen Debate

    Indeed, museum collections are fascinating. Many of us probably still gawk at stuffed collections of extant and extinct birds, beetles, vibrantly-colored butterflies, and other animals that fill up glass cases and exhibition halls. Many of these collections were borne out of expeditions to remote parts of the world; treks that involved trapping, killing, preserving and cataloging animals that explorers encountered. Many of these collections have been useful in shaping what we know of the natural world. However, species conservation or scientific advancement was not always the goal of animal-collection. Often, it was done simply to suit the aesthetic whims of society’s elite.

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  • Vitamin C and the war on cancer

    Maybe Linus Pauling was on to something after all. Decades ago the Nobel Prize–winning chemist was relegated to the fringes of medicine after championing the idea that vitamin C could combat a host of illnesses, including cancer. Now, a study published online today in Science reports that vitamin C can kill tumor cells that carry a common cancer-causing mutation and—in mice—can curb the growth of tumors with the mutation.

    If the findings hold up in people, researchers may have found a way to treat a large swath of tumors that has lacked effective drugs. "This [could] be one answer to the question everybody's striving for," says molecular biologist Channing Der of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, one of many researchers trying to target cancers with the mutation. The study is also gratifying for the handful of researchers pursuing vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, as a cancer drug. "I'm encouraged. Maybe people will finally pay attention," says vitamin C researcher Mark Levine of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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  • Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective

    Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released today. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report.

    "For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

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  • 2015 Antarctic Ozone Hole larger and formed later than previous holes

    The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, said scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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  • Black Holes and their flares studied by NASA missions

    The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA's Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

    The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas -- sources of extremely energetic particles -- shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

    "This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare," said Dan Wilkins of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, lead author of a new paper on the results appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe."

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  • Artificial lung to help study air pollution effects

    Air pollution is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and respiratory diseases, responsible for one in eight global deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.

    However, researchers will soon be able to develop new treatments for such diseases with a life-sized, artificial human lung created at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. It is the first diagnostic tool for understanding in real time how tiny particles move and behave in the deepest part of the human lungs, the alveolar tissue. 

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  • Was the Bronze Age plague really spread by flies?

    When the plague swept through Europe in 1665, no one could figure out how the devastating disease spread. But after a tailor in the small village of Eyam in central England died that September, people eventually put two and two together. He had received a parcel of cloth infested with fleas just 4 days before dying of bubonic plague. Within a month, five other villagers had succumbed, and the local vicar convinced the town to voluntarily put itself under quarantine. It eventually became clear that it was fleas, probably on rats, that spread the plague so far and so quickly.

    But now it appears that the plague did not always infect fleas—and the disease may not have always spread so rapidly or been as devastating. A new study of ancient DNA from the teeth of 101 Bronze Age skeletons has found that seven people living 2800 to 5000 years ago in Europe and Asia were infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the plague. 

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  • Newly discovered large asteroid will make flyby on Halloween

    A large near-Earth asteroid named 2015 TB145, discovered on October 10 by the University of HawaiÊ»i’s Pan-STARRS1 Telescope atop Haleakala, Maui, will pass close to Earth on October 31. The asteroid has a diameter of approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet), and will pass within approximately 480,000 km (300,000 miles) of Earth.  There is no possibility of this object impacting Earth.

    The asteroid is already being studied by telescopes across the planet, and soon will be targeted by radar observations that will look for details as small as 2 meters (6.5 feet) on its surface. The radar observations will directly measure its size and shape, and determine whether the object has any satellites.

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  • NASA studies LA earthquake

    A new NASA-led analysis of a moderate magnitude 5.1 earthquake that shook Greater Los Angeles in 2014 finds that the earthquake deformed Earth's crust across a broad region encompassing the northern Los Angeles Basin and northern Orange County. The shallow ground movements observed from this earthquake likely reflect strain accumulated on deeper faults, which remain locked and may be capable of producing future earthquakes.

    A team of NASA and university researchers led by geophysicist Andrea Donnellan of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, used GPS and NASA airborne radar data to measure surface deformation in Earth's crust caused by the March 28, 2014, earthquake, which was centered in La Habra, California. The earthquake was felt widely in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and San Diego counties. While the earthquake was relatively moderate in size, the earthquake's depth (3.6 miles, or 5.85 kilometers) and location within a highly populated region resulted in more than $12 million in damage. Most of the damage occurred within a 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) radius of the epicenter, with a substantial amount of damage south of the main rupture.

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  • Global Ocean found in Saturn's Moon Enceladus

    A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA's Cassini mission. 

    Researchers found the magnitude of the moon's very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present. 

    The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon's south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research is presented in a paper published online this week in the journal Icarus.

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