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New Tool for Biomedical Research Was Invented in Ancient Egypt

New Tool for Biomedical Research Was Invented in Ancient Egypt

Thousands of years ago, a bright blue pigment the walls of tombs, ceramic figurines, and the crown of the Bust of Nefertiti. This colorful chemical, calcium copper silicate, was invented in ancient Egypt and still fascinates researchers today.A new study published last month in details how nanoscale sheets of the pigment, also called Egyptian blue, can be used in biology research. Through a series of steps, powdered Egyptian blue pigment can be flaked apart into mineral sheets 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, according to a . Then, when inserted into biological samples, it can...

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Theresa Machemer
April 1, 2020
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10 Popular Scientific Discoveries from 2019

10 Popular Scientific Discoveries from 2019

This year was full of exciting research and discoveries at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. From tripling the number of known electric eels to uncovering how humans changed nature across millennia, our researchers addressed fundamental questions, sparked curiosity and showed the beauty and wonder of our planet with their research. Here are some of our most popular discoveries from 2019.1. Humans first caused environmental change earlier than we thoughtWe transform our environment by building roads, airports and cities. This isn’t new. But, according to a new study...

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NMNH
December 31, 2019
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In Groundbreaking Find, Three Kinds of Early Humans Unearthed Living Together in South Africa

In Groundbreaking Find, Three Kinds of Early Humans Unearthed Living Together in South Africa

Scientists studying the roots of humanity’s family tree have found several branches entangled in and around a South African cave.Two million years ago, three different early humans—Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and the earliest-known Homo erectus—appear to have lived at the same time in the same place, near the Drimolen Paleocave System. How much these different species interacted remains unknown. But their contemporaneous existence suggests our ancient relations were quite diverse during a key transitional period of African prehistory that saw the last days of Australopithecus and the...

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Brian Handwerk
April 12, 2020
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Great Depression Had Little Effect on Death Rates

Great Depression Had Little Effect on Death Rates

There's this somewhat that economic downturns are . You might expect the privation and malnutrition inherent in such times would take a toll. But during the Great Depression, mortality rates fell. And since that time, the idea that recessions are a net-positive for health has only grown.But a new study in the questions that idea. The researchers examined mortality rates from 114 U.S. cities in 36 states between 1929 and 1937 along with data on bank suspensions, which were used as an indicator of the impact of the financial crisis in the individual states.They found declines in deaths due to...

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Sarah Zielinski
March 28, 2011
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Astronomers Spy Brightest Supernova Ever Seen

Astronomers Spy Brightest Supernova Ever Seen

The “star stuff” that astronomer Carl Sagan we are all made of was forged in the exploding of dying stars.The phrase isn’t just a pithy remark for a bumper sticker, it’s backed up by science. "All the silver, nickel, and copper in the Earth and even in our bodies came from the explosive death throes of stars," said NASA scientist Steve Howell in a . "Life exists because of supernovae."Now, researchers have announced the discovery of SN2016aps — the brightest, most energetic and probably the most massive supernova ever observed, reports Ryan Mandelbaum for .Supernovae are huge explosions...

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Alex Fox
April 15, 2020
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At a Kentucky Farm, Champion Thoroughbreds Live Out Their Retirements

At a Kentucky Farm, Champion Thoroughbreds Live Out Their Retirements

Soi Phet, a 12-year-old gelding, arrived last year at Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky, after earning $1 million on the racetrack.Silver Charm, a 1,200-pound Thoroughbred with a white coat peppered by tiny flecks of gray, leaned over the top railing of the pasture fence and nibbled at the lips of the man with the cap turned backwards. Michael Blowen, his eyes closed, accepted the proffered kiss, then turned to a visitor standing nearby.“He requires your adoration,” Blowen said, as the big horse sniffed his ear. “If you want him to come over, you’ve got to shout, ‘Silver Charm, you’re the...

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Annie Marie Musselman
April 17, 2020
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This NASA Website Shows What the Hubble Telescope Saw on Your Birthday

This NASA Website Shows What the Hubble Telescope Saw on Your Birthday

A few weeks ago, NASA the debut of a new feature on its website that would share with viewers a breathtaking image taken by the telescope on their birthdays. Because Hubble has only been in commission for three decades, the date won’t necessarily match a person’s birth year, but the site will still spit out a stunning snapshot from the right month and date, reported earlier this month.Because Hubble has been in continuous operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since 1990, each date is inevitably linked to some extraordinary snippet of the cosmos. And NASA personnel have clearly...

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Katherine J. Wu
April 23, 2020
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After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction

After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction

The interstellar object (alternatively a comet or an asteroid) that killed the dinosaurs when it slammed into Earth didn't work alone. Researchers have shown that its after-effects, such as tidal waves and earthquakes, played an important role in the mass extinctions of three-fourths of plant and animal life. Now, new research suggests that one of the most important factors was the soot-rich smoke from fires sparked by the collision.Clay Tabor, a geoscientist at the University of Connecticut, and his colleagues studied soot, sulfates and dust to see how each type of particle may have...

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Nola Taylor Redd
April 27, 2020
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Astronomers Discover the Closest Known Black Hole

Astronomers Discover the Closest Known Black Hole

The pair of stars in a system called HR 6819 is so close to us that on a clear night in the Southern Hemisphere, a person might be able to spot them without a telescope. What that stargazer wouldn’t see, though, is the black hole hiding right there in the constellation Telescopium. At just 1,000 light-years away, it is the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered, and it could help scientists find the rest of the Milky Way's missing black holes.Dietrich Baade, an emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Germany and co-author of the study in Astronomy &...

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Megan Gannon
May 6, 2020
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How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler

How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler

How to cover the rise of a political leader who’s left a paper trail of anti-constitutionalism, racism and the encouragement of violence? Does the press take the position that its subject acts outside the norms of society? Or does it take the position that someone who wins a fair election is by definition “normal,” because his leadership reflects the will of the people?These are the questions that confronted the U.S. press after the ascendance of fascist leaders in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.Benito Mussolini secured Italy’s premiership by  with 30,000 blackshirts in 1922. By...

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John Broich
August 20, 2019
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