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U.S. proposes effort to analyze DNA from 1 million people

A DNA double helix in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute to ReutersBy Toni Clarke and Sharon Begley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers as part of a new initiative to understand human disease and develop medicines targeted to an individual's genetic make-up. At the heart of the "precision medicine" initiative, announced on Friday by President Barack Obama, is the creation of a pool of people - healthy and ill, men and women, old and young - who would be studied to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. "Precision medicine gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs we've ever seen," Obama said, promising that it would "lay a foundation for a new era of life-saving discoveries." The near-term goal is to create more and better treatments for cancer, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:09:56 -0500
NASA satellite to map soil moisture poised for launch

An unmanned Delta 2 rocket is being prepared for launch on Saturday to put a NASA satellite into orbit that is expected to improve drought monitoring and flooding forecasts. The 127-foot-tall (39-metre) rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 6:20 a.m. PST (1420 GMT). Launch originally was planned for Thursday but was delayed 24 hours due to high winds, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said. United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, postponed the flight for one more day so that technicians could repair insulation on the rocket that had become detached during Thursdays launch attempt.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:58:33 -0500
Poll finds gaping chasm in views between U.S. public, scientists

File photo of an employee stocking produce near a sign supporting a ballot initiative that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified crops at the Central Co-op in SeattleBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American scientists and the general public hold vastly different views on key scientific issues including the role of people in causing climate change, the safety of genetically modified food, and evolution, a poll released on Thursday showed. Eighty-seven percent of scientists questioned by the Pew Research Center said human activity was the main cause of global climate change, compared with 50 percent of the public. The issue has become increasing divisive, with some leading conservatives expressing doubt that human activity like the burning of fossils fuels that release greenhouse gases is driving a global warming trend. There was an even bigger chasm over genetically modified foods, with 88 percent of the scientists saying they were safe to eat, compared with 37 percent of the public.

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:50:35 -0500
Laser's co-inventor, Nobel laureate Charles Townes, dead at 99

Charles Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964, speaks at a forum in DohaCharles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser, a feat that revolutionized science, medicine, telecommunications and entertainment, has died at age 99, the University of California at Berkeley reported. A professor emeritus at Berkeley, he was a member of the university's physics department and Space Sciences Laboratory for nearly five decades.

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 21:57:15 -0500
Prehistoric skull a key 'piece of the puzzle' in story of humanity

Researchers work inside Manot Cave in Israel's Western GalileeBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A partial skull retrieved from a cave in northern Israel is shedding light on a pivotal juncture in early human history when our species was trekking out of Africa to populate other parts of the world and encountered our close cousins the Neanderthals. The researchers said characteristics of the skull, dating from a time period when members of our species were thought to have been marching out of Africa, suggest the individual was closely related to the first Homo sapiens populations that later colonized Europe. They also said the skull provides the first evidence that Homo sapiens inhabited that region at the same time as Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relative. Tel Aviv University anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who led the study published in the journal Nature, called the skull "an important piece of the puzzle of the big story of human evolution." Previous genetic evidence suggests our species and Neanderthals interbred during roughly the time period represented by the skull, with all people of Eurasian ancestry still retaining a small amount of Neanderthal DNA as a result.

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:51:12 -0500
Americans Will Vote for Climate-Loving Politicians, New Poll Suggests

Most Americans support government action to combat the effects of global warming and will likely vote for candidates who put forth a promising stance on environmental issues, a new poll has found. The telephone poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future surveyed 1,006 adults across the nation from Jan. 7 to 22. Participants were asked questions such as whether they think climate change is human-caused, if global warming is perceived as a serious threat and if they have strong opinions on the matter. Respondents were also probed about government-related issues, including whether they think the government should limit greenhouse gases and how a candidates opinion on climate change affects their vote.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:01:35 -0500
Birdbrains? Hardly: Baby Chicks Know How to Count

Birdbrains? Hardly: Baby Chicks Know How to CountScientists found that chicks seem to count upwards moving from left to right they put smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right, the same mental representation of the number line that humans use. "Our results suggest a rethinking of the relationship between numerical abilities and verbal language, providing further evidence that language and culture are not necessary for the development of a mathematical cognition," said study lead author Rosa Rugani, a psychologist at the University of Padova in Italy.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:13:18 -0500
What Makes Bill Gates Feel Stupid

What Makes Bill Gates Feel StupidBill Gates built the world's largest software company, and with his billions, he's also become one of the world's most prolific philanthropists. Studies have shown that learning a new language isgood for the brain, and some evidence even suggests it might helpstave off Alzheimer's disease.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:11:51 -0500
Evidence for Cosmic Inflation Theory Bites the (Space) Dust

Evidence for Cosmic Inflation Theory Bites the (Space) DustTwo groups of scientists announced today (Jan. 30) that a tantalizing signal which some scientists claimed was "smoking gun" evidence of dramatic cosmic expansion just after the birth of the universe was actually caused by something much more mundane: interstellar dust. In the cosmic inflation announcement, which was unveiled in March 2014, scientists with the BICEP2 experiment, claimed to have found patterns in light left over from the Big Bang that indicated that space had rapidly inflated at the beginning of the universe, about 13.8 billion years ago. But in a statement today, scientists with the European Space Agency said that data from the agency's Planck space observatory has revealed that interstellar dust caused more than half of the signal detected by the Antarctica-based BICEP2 experiment. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to confirm that the signal is an imprint of cosmic inflation," Jean-Loup Puget, principal investigator of the HFI instrument on Planck at the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, said in the statement.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:21:53 -0500
Europe's 1st Zero-Gravity 3D Printer Headed for Space

Europe's 1st Zero-Gravity 3D Printer Headed for SpaceEurope is set to send its first 3D printer into the final frontier this year to experiment with zero-gravity manufacturing on long space voyages. The European Space Agency plans to deliver its new Portable On-Board 3D Printer (POP3D for short) to the International Space Station by the end of June, making it the second 3D printer in space. "The POP3D Portable On-Board Printer is a small 3D printer that requires very limited power and crew involvement to operate," said Luca Enrietti of Altran, prime contractor for the compact printer, in an ESA statement. The printer will be tested by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA as part of her Futura mission on the International Space Station.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:36:52 -0500
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