James Specker

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Do your genes determine your entire life? | Julian Baggini

Some scientists claim that new discoveries have proved free will is an illusion. Nonsense, says Julian Baggini<p>Whenever you read stories about identical twins separated at birth, they tend to follow the template set by the most remarkable of them all: the “two Jims”. James Springer and James Lewis …

Genetics

Super salamander nearly ate our ancestors

The thing that got us off the hook? A big hot interception 200 million years ago.<p>Say hello to one of the strangest creatures to ever call our planet …

Success for first non-beating heart transplant in Europe

Surgeons say that new technique will allow far more donor hearts to be used and could increase transplantation by up to 25%<p>Surgeons in Cambridge are hailing as a success the first heart transplant operation in Europe to use a non-beating heart.<p>Medical teams at Papworth Hospital spent more than a …

Cambridge

Welcome To The Inflatable Space Age

Up close with Robert Bigelow and his dream of habitable bubbles in space<p>This morning Robert Bigelow—budget hotel billionaire; paranormal investigator; space entrepreneur—unveiled the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which will soon ship to Kennedy Space Center, stowed in a SpaceX rocket. …

Nanobomb Creates Massive Explosion On Tiny Scale

Buckminsterfullerene buckyballs become buckybombs<p>What the world needs most are more things that explode in more ways. A team of researchers from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as well as one with Brazil’s Federal University of São Paulo, sought the answer to a simple …

Los Angeles

Earth's Dashboard Is Flashing Red—Are Enough People Listening?

As scientists and much of the public differ on the causes of climate change, the planet keeps getting warmer … and the effects are adding up.<p>Scientists are having trouble convincing the public that people are changing the climate.<p>A Pew Research Center survey, released last week as part of a broader …

Scientists create lab-grown spinal cords

Photograph: RIKEN CDB<p>276<p>http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/11/26/1417001524832/97ca2784-409e-4ef2-a284-5e7bd4a3cc0f-460x276.jpeg<p>460<p>Photograph: RIKEN …

Extreme shrimp might hold clues to alien life, NASA says

Shrimp crawling around rock chimneys spewing hot water deep in the Caribbean Sea may hold clues to the kinds of life that can thrive in extreme environments on other planets, NASA says.<p>The shrimp are called Rimicaris hybisae (no, we can't pronounce it either). They live in clumps on hydrothermal …

Philae probe reaches comet, makes space history

The European Space Agency's Philae lander has made space history by successfully reaching the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.<p>The landing, which took place at 11:03 a.m. ET, was accompanied by rapturous scenes at the ESA’s control room in Darmstadt, Germany.<p>Philae is the first probe to …

Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling

<b>India's space programme has succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed - by sending an operational mission to Mars.</b><p>The Mangalyaan satellite was confirmed to be in orbit shortly after 0800, Indian time. It is, without doubt, a considerable achievement.<p>This is a mission that has been …

Mars Mission

Scientists Show You How to Make an Invisibility Cloak (Sort Of)

Physicists have figured out the optical parameters for a magic trick they characterize as a kind of "invisibility cloak" — and unlike most magicians, they're only too willing to show you how it's done.<p>Invisibility cloaks have been getting a lot of press over the years. That's not only because Harry …

Water Vapor Seen on Distant World

Search for potentially life-sustaining worlds gets a boost with the ability to probe a common class of planets.<p>Astronomers have found evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-size planet 122 light-years from Earth—the first time water has been identified on a planet that small, …

Can This Mineral Power The Planet?

It may soon be time to say "so long" to silicon solar panels.<p>Solar panels are cheaper than ever before, thanks to government subsidies and a flooded market. But they’re not yet affordable enough to eclipse traditional energy sources. Enter perovskites: crystalline minerals that may emerge as the …

Clean Energy

An Electronic Camouflage Cloak Inspired By Color-Changing Octopus Skin

Eat your heart out, Harry Potter<p>An octopus evading a predator has one of the coolest evolutionary adaptations up its (eight) sleeves; in a matter of milliseconds, its skin can change color and opacity to blend in with the surroundings, rendering the creature nearly invisible.<p>This camouflage trick …

University of Illinois

How to speak the language of thought

We are now beginning to crack the brain’s code, which allows us to answer such bizarre questions as “what is the speed of thought?”<p>When he was asked, as a joke, to explain how the mind works in five words, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker didn't hesitate. "Brain cells fire in patterns", he …

Behold the Octopus-Inspired Adaptive Camouflage

An electronic camo mimics the natural abilities of cephalopods such as the squid and the octopus.<p><b>A new electronic camouflage</b> inspired by octopus and squid skin can alter its appearance to match its surroundings.<p>Octopuses, squid and cuttlefish are cephalopods—sea creatures that can quickly change …

ScienceCasts: Sizing up an Exoplanet

Why Scientists Want To Throw Lawn Darts At Mars

Experts from NASA say it’s time to stop beating around the bush when it comes to looking for life on Mars—and they’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to do something about it.<p>Mars almost definitely has water below its surface, and it’s possible that it might have life there too -- buried deep in the …

FYI: Can Praying Mantises Eat Hummingbirds?

That's one badass mantis<p>I was recently alerted to a video showing a praying mantis attacking a hummingbird. "Wait," I thought, "mantises can catch hummingbirds?" This seemed unlikely to me, due to the size difference. I searched and found several videos purporting to show a hummingbird "murdered" …

NASA researchers use extreme origami to build space solar panels

Here's the dilemma: rockets have only so much space, yet satellite solar panels are much more useful when they're <i>big</i>. The solution? Make them foldable using the ancient art of Japanese origami. Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have figured out how …

Measles becomes a 'biological weapon' against cancer

A patient with supposedly incurable cancer is now in complete remission thanks to a new experimental treatment she received at the Mayo Clinic: Killing cancer cells with massive doses of the measles virus.<p>The patient suffered from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Last June, doctors at …

APOD: A Sky Portal in New Zealand (2014 Jul 29) Image Credit & Copyright: Petr Horálek http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140729.html Explanation: To some, it may look like a portal into the distant universe. To others, it may appear as the eye of a giant. Given poetic license, both are correct. Pictured above is a standard fisheye view of the sky -- but with an unusual projection. The view is from a perch in New Zealand called Te Mata Peak, a name that translates from the Maori language as "Sleeping Giant". The wondrous panorama shows the band of our Milky Way Galaxy right down the center of the sky, with the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds visible to the right. The red hue is atmospheric airglow that surprised the photographer as it was better captured by the camera than the eye. The above image was taken two weeks ago as the photographer's sister, on the left, and an acquaintance peered into the sky portal. http://www.astronom.cz/horalek/ http://www.facebook.com/imaginer21 Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=140729 #APOD

The truth about smart drugs

Are we asking the right questions about pills designed to boost brainpower? Marek Kohn looks at what they can do for us – and what they can’t.<p>“You know how they say that we can only access 20% of our brain?” says the man who offers stressed-out writer Eddie Morra a fateful pill in the 2011 film …

The Brain

Super-close views of Mercury

The MESSENGER spacecraft is now dropping closer to Mercury, and long anticipated, super-close views of the planet are beginning to come in.<p>The image …

The 'bumblebees can't fly' lie

Billions of insects take to the sky every day, but we've only recently discovered how their flimsy wings support them. Dr Karl lifts the lid on …

You're Not Highly Evolved

Here's where our bodies still mess up<p>As humans, it’s tempting to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of evolutionary progress. But evolution can only work with what’s available, resulting in a body that’s a bundle of compromises.<p>FEET<p>Our ankles and feet started out as flexible tree-climbing tools …

Immune System

'Extreme solar storm' could have pulled the plug on Earth

The date of 23 July 2012 could have been the day the lights went out, along with suddenly not-so-smart phones, computers, satellite transmissions, GPS navigation systems, televisions, radio broadcasts, hospital equipment, electric pumps and water supplies.<p>On that day an "extreme solar storm" did …

"Geckoprinting" Puts Sticky Gecko Feet to Work

Rather than try to copy a gecko's super-sticky feet, scientists put the real thing to work.<p><b>For years engineers have been trying to copy</b> the gravity-defying feet of the gecko, which enable the small lizards to scurry across ceilings and up walls with ease. Tiny toe hairs help to keep a gecko stuck …

Space sex gecko experiment is safe — for now : News blog

<i>Posted on behalf of Katia Moskvitch.</i><p>Phew. Five experimental geckos that were feared to be lost in space have phoned home, restoring hopes that …