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Three dozen alien civilizations may be advanced enough to communicate with us

Three dozen alien civilizations may be advanced enough to communicate with us

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may have declared that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42, but a team of astronomers has now revised that figure down to 36. More precisely, they say that among the several hundred billion stars in the Milky Way, there reside, roughly, , the team reports today in The Astrophysical Journal. The scientists arrived at this number using the assumption that there is , and that another with a similar chemical makeup would also evolve advanced life in a similar span of time, The Guardian reports. The downside is that our nearest neighbor is...

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Jun 15
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New forms of ‘red devil’ cancer drug could spare hearts

New forms of ‘red devil’ cancer drug could spare hearts

Can the red devil be defanged? Doxorubicin, an old chemotherapy drug that carries this unusual moniker because of its distinctive hue and fearsome toxicity, remains a key treatment for many cancer patients. But a new study reports the drug can be tweaked to reduce its most punishing side effect, cardiac damage, without blunting its ability to curb tumors.The work, from an academic team in the Netherlands, upends conventional thinking about doxorubicin and related drugs, suggesting they do not need to directly damage DNA to kill cancer cells. “This idea was floating around in the literature...

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4d ago
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‘Ghost fleas’ bring toxic mercury up from the depths of prairie lakes

‘Ghost fleas’ bring toxic mercury up from the depths of prairie lakes

How toxic mercury moves through the environment—and accumulates in the fish that people eat—has been known for decades. Now, scientists have discovered an unexpected way that the neurotoxin circulates in lakes, hitching a late-night ride inside small predatory crustaceans dubbed “ghost fleas.” The finding helps explain why some lake fish contain surprising amounts of mercury. It also suggests researchers who sample lakes only during the day might be missing important clues to how those ecosystems work.“It’s a cool food web story,” says Celia Chen, an aquatic ecologist at Dartmouth College...

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4d ago
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First asteroid found within Venus’s orbit could be a clue to missing ‘mantle’ asteroids

First asteroid found within Venus’s orbit could be a clue to missing ‘mantle’ asteroids

Earlier this year, astronomers discovered an oddball asteroid inside the orbit of Venus—the first member of a predicted flock near the Sun. No bigger than a small mountain, the asteroid has now gained another distinction: It appears to be rich in the mineral olivine, which makes up much of Earth’s deep rock. Some astronomers think that is a clue to a larger set of asteroids, never properly accounted for, that was forged early in the formation of the Solar System.“It’s improbable that we look at this new population and an olivine-dominated object is the first type we see,” says Francesca...

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4d ago
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Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in pigs in China

Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in pigs in China

What the world doesn’t need now is a pandemic on top of a pandemic. So a new finding that pigs in China are more and more frequently becoming infected with a strain of influenza that has the potential to jump to humans has infectious disease researchers worldwide taking serious notice. Robert Webster, an influenza investigator who recently retired from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says it’s a “guessing game” as to whether this strain will mutate to readily transmit between humans, which it has not done yet. “We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the damn thing...

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6d ago
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Dolphins learn unusual hunting behavior from their friends

Dolphins learn unusual hunting behavior from their friends

In the crystal clear waters of Shark Bay in Western Australia, scientists have noticed bottlenose dolphins engaging in an unusual behavior: They guide fish into the empty shells of giant snails, bring the shells to the surface, and then shake them vigorously to dislodge the prey into their open mouths—like a person polishing off a bag of popcorn. That extra effort, known as “shelling,” gets them a guaranteed meal.Because the dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) use the shells as a trap, this is the second known case of these marine mammals using tools. (The first was reported in 1997 when...

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Jun 25
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Mars mission would put China among space leaders

Mars mission would put China among space leaders

NASA’s Perseverance rover may have company on the Red Planet. China aims to leap to the front ranks in planetary exploration with an ambitious Mars mission, its first independent bid to reach the planet. Tianwen-1—“quest for heavenly truth”—consists of not only an orbiter, but also a lander and a rover, a trifecta no other nation has accomplished on its first Mars bid. “A successful landing would put China among elite company,” says Mason Peck, an aerospace engineer at Cornell University.Due to launch in July, the mission, if successful, would mark dramatic progress for China’s space...

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Jun 25
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A controversial Russian theory claims forests don’t just make rain—they make wind

A controversial Russian theory claims forests don’t just make rain—they make wind

Every summer, as the days get long, Anastassia Makarieva leaves her lab in St. Petersburg for a vacation in the vast forests of northern Russia. The nuclear physicist camps on the shores of the White Sea, amid spruce and pine, and kayaks along the region’s wide rivers, taking notes on nature and the weather. “The forests are a big part of my inner life,” she says. In the 25 years she has made her annual pilgrimage north, they have become a big part of her professional life, too.For more than a decade, Makarieva has championed a theory, developed with Victor Gorshkov, her mentor and...

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Jun 18
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Drug recently shown to reduce coronavirus death risk could run out, experts warn

Drug recently shown to reduce coronavirus death risk could run out, experts warn

Science's COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.This week’s report that dexamethasone, a commonly used corticosteroid, reduces death rates of COVID-19 by  one-third was greeted with enthusiasm around the globe. It also raised a question: Will there be enough of the medication? So far, doctors are not reporting problems getting dexamethasone for their patients. And as , dexamethasone is off-patent, cheap, and relatively abundant. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be shortages, says Stephen Schondelmeyer, director of the Pharmaceutical Research in Management and Economics...

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Jun 21
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Drone-delivered soap bubbles could help pollinate flowers

Drone-delivered soap bubbles could help pollinate flowers

As pollinators, bees are hard to beat. Still, that hasn’t prevented researchers from working on a high-tech alternative: drones that blow soap bubbles to transport pollen to a flower.It’s a “really cool” approach, says Henry Williams, a roboticist at the University of Auckland, who was not involved in the work. But some biologists are skeptical that drones will ever be an effective replacement for bees.Several groups have devised devices that mimic pollinating honey bees. In 2017, Eijiro Miyako, a materials chemist at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, adapted a...

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Jun 17
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Researchers around the world prepare to #ShutDownSTEM and ‘Strike For Black Lives’

Researchers around the world prepare to #ShutDownSTEM and ‘Strike For Black Lives’

Thousands of researchers around the world have pledged to pause their work on Wednesday to support the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and efforts against racism in the scientific community and society at large.Responding to calls from an array of organizers operating under banners including the , , and , numerous university laboratories, scientific societies, technical journals, and others have pledged to spend 10 June focused on issues of racial equality and inclusiveness.“In the wake of the most recent murders of Black people in the U.S., it is clear that white and other non-Black...

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Jun 9
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Baby planets are born exceptionally fast, study suggests

Baby planets are born exceptionally fast, study suggests

Planets are forming around young stars far faster than scientists expected, arising in a cosmic eye blink of less than half a million years, according to a new study. That finding could inform models of planet formation and help resolve a problem plaguing astronomers since 2018, when data indicated that planetary nurseries contained to actually create planets.Planets coalesce from massive disks of gas and dust that surround newborn stars. But detecting these embryonic worlds is difficult because both the star and the disk shine far brighter than any tiny planet.To find out how much material...

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Jun 16
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Like humans, these big-brained birds may owe their smarts to long childhoods

Like humans, these big-brained birds may owe their smarts to long childhoods

Human beings typically don’t leave the nest until well into our teenage years—a relatively rare strategy among animals. But corvids—a group of birds that includes jays, ravens, and crows—also spend a lot of time under their parents’ wings. Now, in a parallel to humans, researchers have found that ongoing tutelage by patient parents may explain how corvids have managed to achieve their smarts.Corvids are large, big-brained birds that often live in intimate social groups of related and unrelated individuals. They are known to be intelligent—capable of , , and —and some researchers believe...

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Jun 8
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Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties

Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties

Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. In 93% of those cases, the hidden funding came from a Chinese institution.The come from Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research. Lauer had on the scope of NIH’s investigation, which had targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions. But his presentation today to a senior advisory panel offered by far the most detailed breakout of that has roiled the U.S. biomedical community, and resulted in criminal ,...

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Jun 12
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Computer algorithms find tumors’ molecular weak spots

Computer algorithms find tumors’ molecular weak spots

In 2016, doctors invited Eileen Kapotes to join a clinical trial for a drug that had never been used for her disease. Kapotes, a first grade teacher in her 50s, was fighting an aggressive breast cancer that had spread through her body. She had endured grueling treatments over the previous 4 years, including whole-brain radiation therapy. She had also been taking the breast cancer medication Herceptin, but her tumors were still growing. Now, she had a chance to try something radically different: a drug called ruxolitinib, originally designed to treat cancers affecting the blood and bone...

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Jun 11
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Coronavirus rips through Dutch mink farms, triggering culls to prevent human infections

Coronavirus rips through Dutch mink farms, triggering culls to prevent human infections

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.LELYSTAD, THE NETHERLANDS—In a sad sideshow to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in the Netherlands began to gas tens of thousands of mink on 6 June, most of them pups born only weeks ago. SARS-CoV-2 has attacked farms that raise the animals for fur, and the Dutch government worries infected mink could become a viral reservoir that could cause new outbreaks in humans.The mink outbreaks are “spillover” from the human pandemic—a zoonosis in reverse that has offered scientists in the Netherlands a unique chance to study how the...

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Jun 9
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Galactic flash points to long-sought source for enigmatic radio bursts

Galactic flash points to long-sought source for enigmatic radio bursts

On 28 April, as Earth’s rotation swept a Canadian radio telescope across the sky, it watched for mysterious millisecondslong flashes called fast radio bursts (FRBs). At 7:34 a.m. local time an enormous one appeared, but awkwardly, in the peripheral vision of the scope. “It was way off the edge of the telescope,” says Paul Scholz, an astronomer at the University of Toronto and a member of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). Because of its brightness, the team knew its source was nearby. All other FRBs seen so far have erupted in distant galaxies—too far and too fast...

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Jun 8
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Insect wings evolved from legs, mayfly genome suggests

Insect wings evolved from legs, mayfly genome suggests

Along rivers and streams around the world, mayflies are a rite of spring. The mosquito-size insects lead double lives, with the young thriving in water and the adults emerging by the millions around June for just a few hours to mate and quickly die. There can be so many that they , make roads slick, and even create a smelly mess.Now, by sequencing the genome of one remarkable mayfly species—whose males have a second set of skyward-pointing eyes—researchers have learned how aquatic young transform into airborne adults. They’ve also discovered new clues about how all insects evolved to fly in...

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Jun 2
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A mysterious company’s coronavirus papers in top medical journals may be unraveling

A mysterious company’s coronavirus papers in top medical journals may be unraveling

Science's COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.On its face, it was a major finding: Antimalarial drugs touted by the White House as possible COVID-19 treatments looked to be not just ineffective, but downright deadly.  used hospital records procured by a little-known data analytics company called Surgisphere to conclude that coronavirus patients taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to show an irregular heart rhythm——and were more likely to die in the hospital.Within days, some large randomized trials of the drugs—the type that might prove or disprove...

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Jun 2
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These bacteria have adapted to life in your nose—and that may be good news

These bacteria have adapted to life in your nose—and that may be good news

Like a sprawling urban city, certain neighborhoods of the human body support different communities of microbes. And many of these are good guys; the microbes in our gut help us digest food, for example, whereas those on our and can guard against invading pathogens. Now, researchers have found beneficial bacteria in our nose as well. This “nasal microbiome” may guard against chronic sinus inflammation or even allergies.The study is “an important gateway” to recognizing bacteria’s protective qualities in a new part of the body, says Maria Marco, a microbiologist at the University of...

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May 27
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Samples from famed 19th century voyage reveal ‘shocking’ effects of ocean acidification

Samples from famed 19th century voyage reveal ‘shocking’ effects of ocean acidification

Not everyone would consider 150-year-old plankton specimens a treasure with “cutting-edge” research potential. But that’s precisely what Lyndsey Fox thought when she discovered a cache of single-celled, shell-building foraminifera deep in storage at London’s Museum of Natural History. Now, the Kingston University micropaleontologist and colleagues have shown that the samples, collected during the pioneering 1872–76 expedition of the HMS Challenger, hold valuable insights about modern-day climate change: Their shells are far thicker than those of today’s foraminifera, which are thinning in...

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Feb 3
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This spider turns its web into a slingshot, flinging itself at prey

This spider turns its web into a slingshot, flinging itself at prey

When we think of how spiders hunt, we usually picture intricate webs that can ensnare passing insects. But the triangle weaver spider (Hyptiotes cavatus)—native to the United States and Canada—does something special: It creates a slingshot with its silk web to catapult itself forward and capture its prey.To watch the spiders at work, scientists recorded them using high-speed videos. They saw that the arachnids stretch and tighten their silk threads, using their body as a bridge between the anchor line and the web (as seen in the photo above) and can hold the web under tension for hours on...

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May 13
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Eye-catching advances in some AI fields are not real

Eye-catching advances in some AI fields are not real

Artificial intelligence (AI) just seems to get smarter and smarter. Each iPhone learns your face, voice, and habits better than the last, and the threats AI poses to privacy and jobs continue to grow. The surge reflects faster chips, more data, and better algorithms. But some of the improvement comes from tweaks rather than —and some of the gains may not exist at all, says Davis Blalock, a computer science graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Blalock and his colleagues compared dozens of approaches to improving neural networks—software architectures that...

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May 27
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Mysterious radio bursts reveal missing matter in cosmos

Mysterious radio bursts reveal missing matter in cosmos

Roughly half of the “normal” matter in the universe—the stuff that makes up stars, planets, and even us—exists as mere wisps of material floating in intergalactic space, according to cosmologists. But astronomers had no good way to confirm that, until now. A new study has used fast radio bursts (FRBs)—powerful millisecondslong pulses of radio waves coming from distant galaxies—to weigh intergalactic matter, and the results match up with predictions.“Using FRBs as a probe has been an exciting prospect for a while,” says astronomer Paul Scholz of the University of Toronto, who was not...

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May 27
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Court rules ‘Dueling Dinos’ belong to landowners, in a win for science

Court rules ‘Dueling Dinos’ belong to landowners, in a win for science

A legal saga that threatened to upend fossil hunting in dinosaur-rich Montana has drawn to a close, and paleontologists are breathing a sigh of relief.The Montana Supreme Court this week  that fossils are not legally the same as minerals such as gold or copper. Therefore, Montana fossils, including a dramatic specimen of two dinosaurs buried together, belong to people who own the land where they are found, rather than to the owners of the minerals underneath that land.The 4-3 decision upholds the way U.S. scientists have long approached questions of fossil ownership. It appears to defuse a...

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May 22
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