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NASA tries space kits to engage kids in science and space
By Sarah McBride NEW YORK (Reuters) - Making mini satellite dishes that collect signals or building remote-controlled mini Rovers such as the kind NASA has used on Mars are the types of activities that could interest kids in science, but their complexity can derail all but the most enthusiastic hobbyist. Now, NASA, the U.S. space agency, hopes it has found a workaround through new space kits and a collaboration with a New York-based startup called LittleBits. NASA, through its Aura mission to study the Earth's ozone layer and climate, is working with LittleBits to develop activities around a new $189 space kit, announced on Thursday. Using electronic modules such as motors and dimmers that snap together, the creations will perform functions that normally might require hours of tedious tinkering or piles of electronics components.
Scientists discover new rare genetic brain disorder
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - International teams of researchers using advanced gene sequencing technology have uncovered a single genetic mutation responsible for a rare brain disorder that may have stricken families in Turkey for some 400 years. The discovery of this genetic disorder, reported in two papers in the journal Cell, demonstrates the growing power of new tools to uncover the causes of diseases that previously stumped doctors. Besides bringing relief to affected families, who can now go through prenatal genetic testing in order to have children without the disorder, the discovery helps lend insight into more common neurodegenerative disorders, such as ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the researchers said. The reports come from two independent teams of scientists, one led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the other by Yale University, the University of California, San Diego, and the Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands.Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:36:28 -0400
With genome deciphered, experts aim to swat dreaded tsetse fly
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An international team of scientists has deciphered the genetic code of the tsetse fly, the bloodsucking insect that spreads deadly African sleeping sickness, with the hope that its biological secrets can be exploited to eradicate this malady. The findings announced on Thursday were the culmination of a multimillion dollar, decade-long effort involving more than 140 scientists from 78 research institutions in 18 countries. The fly's bite carries a parasitic microorganism that causes sleeping sickness in people in sub-Saharan Africa and a form of the disease in animals that can devastate livestock herds. Sequencing the tsetse fly's genome exposed the molecular underpinnings of its weird biology: it gives live birth to young rather than laying eggs like other insects;Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:17:50 -0400
Spacewalkers to replace failed computer outside space station
Two U.S. astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Wednesday to replace a failed computer that serves as a backup to critical control systems, including the outpost's solar panel wings. Flight engineers Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson left the station's Quest airlock just after 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) for what was expected to be a 2-1/2-hour spacewalk. They carried with them a spare computer to be installed in the central section of the station's exterior power truss. "It looks like a great day to take a walk in space," Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen radioed to the crew from NASA's Mission Control in Houston.
Drop in population of Gulf of Maine baby lobsters puzzles scientists
The number of baby lobsters in the Gulf of Maine has dropped by half since 2007, a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists as the population of adult lobsters remains near a record high, contributing to robust catches. Scientists note that baby lobsters take eight years to reach harvestable size, meaning the dip could yet be felt by the state's 4,200 lobstermen, who last year hauled in a record catch worth $365 million, representing nearly 70 percent of Maine's total seafood harvest. Despite the record hauls, scientists, including University of Maine researcher Rick Wahle, who founded the baby lobster study in 1989, contend over-fishing is not likely the culprit. The lobster industry, they note, is among the country's most closely regulated.Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:54:15 -0400
Pet Bearded Dragons Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in US
A salmonella outbreak that has so far sickened 132 people in 31 states over the last two years has now been traced to a source pet lizards called bearded dragons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bearded dragons were purchased from multiple stores in different states, the CDC researchers said today (April 24). The CDC is continuing to watch for other cases that may be part of this outbreak. Bearded dragonsare popular pet lizards.
Coral Species May Adapt to Warmer Waters (Video)
Coral reefs tend to be vulnerable to damage from warmer waters, but at least one coral species may be able to adapt to the higher ocean temperatures that may come with climate change. This shows that corals that live in warmer waters do develop a better ability than cooler-water corals to survive rising temperatures a sign that corals can adapt over time to a changing environment, according to the researchers. "We found that [all]these coral colonies can adjust their physiology to become more heat-tolerant," said study author Stephen Palumbi, a professor at Stanford University. "They [corals] do even better after they adjust their physiology if they have the right genes, but even if they don't have the right genes, their physiological adjustment gets them a nice bump in heat tolerance," Palumbi told Live Science.Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:56:30 -0400
Vaccination Has Saved 732,000 Children's Lives Since 1994
More than 732,000 children's lives have been saved in the past 20 years due to routine vaccinations, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers show the national immunization programs have been successful in saving hundreds of thousands of lives, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. The CDC estimated that since the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program was implemented in 1994, vaccination rateshave soared to near or above 90 percent, and routine immunization has prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations, saving nearly $295 billion in direct costs (which include the costs of treating an infection) and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs (which include things like lost productivity due to disability and early death), according to the report. The federally funded VFC program was aimed at providing free vaccinations to children who lack health insurance, and was created in response to a surge of measles cases in the United States during the late 1980s and early 1990s.Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:56:24 -0400
'Losing the Dark': Video Illuminates Threat of Light Pollution
A short video seeks to stem the rising tide of light pollution, which is robbing Earth of its dark night skies. Light pollution doesn't just make it more difficult for professional and backyard astronomers to observe the heavens, according to the 6.5-minute film, which is called "Losing the Dark." The loss of darkness also disrupts wildlife, wastes resources and adversely impacts human health. "Exposure to light at night disrupts the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep cycles," narrator Carolyn Collins Petersen says in the video, which was created by the International Dark Sky Association in collaboration with Loch Ness Productions as a public service announcement. But we are not powerless in the face of ever-encroaching light pollution, the video asserts.
Venus and the Moon Shine Together at Dawn This Week: Where to Look
If your skies are clear before dawn onFriday and Saturday (April 25 and 26),check outtheskylow to the east-southeasthorizonabout60 to 90 minutes beforesunriseforaview of the twobrightestobjectsin the nighttime sky: the moon and thedazzlingplanet Venus. This"dynamic duo" willmakeforan eye-catching arrayin thebrightening dawn twilight.Early Friday morning,you will seea lovely crescent moon, about 17 percent illuminated,situated well above and tothe right of Venus.They will be widely separated (by about 6 to 7 degrees), but their great brightness will still make them quite attractive. Of course,themoonisabout 380 times closer to Earth than Venus, and assuchappears tomoveagainst thebackground starsmuch more quicklythanVenus.Themoon willpassclosest to Venus at 5 p.m.ET tomorrow afternoon at a distance of just over 4 degrees but of courseat thathourit's daytime.[Amazing Night Sky Photos by Stargazers (April 2014)]