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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

There is an opening for another editor.  Please read the Tip Jar for details.

This week's featured stories come from Discovery News and LiveScience.

Best Dads in the Animal Kingdom

In honor of Father's Day, Trace taking some time to salute the greatest dads in the animal kingdom.
6 Ways Dads Win at Parenting
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 01:45 PM ET
From paper towel commercials to PTA meetings, let's face it: Moms are assumed to be the default parents.

But that is an increasingly outdated notion that doesn't reflect reality. Fathers are becoming more and more engaged with their children's lives; American dads today spend nearly 7.5 hours a week with their children, triple the 2.5 hours a week they spent with their offspring in 1965, according to a 2011 Pew Research Report. And nearly half of those dads wish they could spend even more time with the kids.

That may be a particularly good thing. Fathers tend to differ from mothers in their parenting styles, and though it's not a competition, there are several things that dads do better. From roughhousing to side-by-side activities, here are six arenas in which dads excel.

LiveScience has more in The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads Matter, Dad Deserves More Credit ... Good and Bad (Op-Ed) and The Science of Dad: Engaged Fathers Help Kids Flourish.

More stories after the jump.


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

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The Weather Channel: Science Behind Urban Heat

Meteorologist Mike Bettes take a look at urban heat, specifically how highly populated areas can be hotter than less populated areas.

NOAA Visualizations: June 13, 2013 Storms on the East Coast

For the past week, forecast models showed unstable conditions that could lead to significant severe weather events. NOAA put the GOES-14 satellite in Super Rapid Scan Operations mode on June 12 and 13. The satellite took images every minute in a truncated scan area, resulting in very detailed imagery of the storms developing out of the upper Midwestern U.S. This movie shows all of the available visible images from 0920Z on June 13 through 0129Z on June 14.

CNN: See remains of 3 triceratops found in Wyoming

A fossil hunter makes an extraordinary discovery on a Wyoming ranch. CNN's Kyung Lah reports.

Discovery News: Why We're So Creeped Out By Staring

Few things are as creepy as turning around to find someone staring at you. As Trace tells us: that creepy feeling is actually hardwired into our brains!

Fora TV: Your Brain on Alfred Hitchcock

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson explains what goes on in your brain and body while watching a Hitchcock film and how the director used this to manipulate his audience.

Fora TV: Freckles: Evolutionary Advantage or 'Cancer Factories'?

Dr. Nina Jablonski, Professor of Anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University, discusses the biology of red-haired, freckled complexions. Jablonski explains how the unique form of melanin in freckles may have an advantage among areas of low average ultraviolet radiation like Ireland or Scotland, but can cause problems at lower latitudes.

National Geographic: In Her Words: Sylvia Earle on Women in Science

On June 13, aquanaut, oceanographer and marine biologist Sylvia Earle received the Hubbard Medal, the National Geographic Society's highest honor, for distinction in exploration, discovery and research. In light of recent public discussions about women in the sciences, National Geographic asked Sylvia to discuss her experiences as a woman in a field previously considered a man's world.

NASA Television: Science Day on The Hill on This Week @NASA

The NASA Science Day on Capitol Hill provided an opportunity to showcase, for members of Congress and the public, the work and accomplishments of the agency's Science programs. Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld was among NASA officials at the event, which included exhibits and presentations about the agency's work with asteroids and other Near Earth Objects, space observatories like the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, and planetary missions, space weather and a host of other Science programs conducted by NASA for the benefit of all humankind. Also, Technology Day, Dry Ice Movement on Mars, Sample Return Robot Challenge, Engineering Leaders Graduate, I'm an Engineer!, Summer Interns Arrive, and the 30th Anniversary of Sally Ride's First Spaceflight.

JPL News: Curiosity Rover Report (June 13, 2013): Curiosity's Cameras

Curiosity is at Point Lake on Mars and will snap pictures to send home. Find out more about the rover's 17 cameras, including why some shoot in color and others others take black-and-white images.

JPL News: Dry Ice Moves on Mars

Is frozen carbon dioxide a key to features in some Martian gullies? To find out, scientists grabbed a bag of dry ice and took a road trip.

Discovery News: Our Favorite Chris Hadfield Moments

Chris Hadfield, the man who sang to us and broke down what life is like from space, is retiring! In honor of him, Laci recounts some of her favorite moments from the beloved ISS commander, space-musician, and teacher.

Space.com: First Woman In Space Honored By Flying Female Astronaut | Video

Current ISS crewmember Karen LuJean Nyberg recorded a special message to commemorate the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova's June 13th 1963 space flight.

Space.com: Students Test Flame In Space | Video

Fire behaves very differently in space. How different fuels achieve combustion in the microgravity of orbit is under study at the University of California's San Diego School of Engineering.

The Weather Channel: The Space Race Continues.

China's space program is on track to compete with U.S. private companies with Tuesday's launch.


Space.com: Obese Black-Hole Galaxies Could Reveal Quasar Secrets
by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 05:04 PM ET

Gluttonous black holes in the center of some galaxies could be precursors to the brightest objects in the known universe.

A recently proposed type of galaxy with an overwhelmingly large black hole in its center could give astronomers a better understanding of the formation of quasars — bright objects in galaxies with supermassive black holes. The centers of these obese black-hole galaxies (OBGs) could harbor black holes so massive that radiation from where the black hole accretes would overwhelm that of the stars within its galaxy.

New research indicates that some of the most luminous quasars seen from Earth were likely OBGs first before something "lit up" the black hole and had it pump out energy visible from Earth.

Space.com: Ailing NASA Telescope Spots 503 New Alien Planet Candidates
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 03:32 PM ET

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has spotted 503 new potential alien worlds, some of which may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

"Some of these new planet candidates are small and some reside in the habitable zone of their stars, but much work remains to be done to verify these results," Kepler mission manager Roger Hunter, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., wrote in an update last Friday (June 7).

The latest haul brings Kepler's tally of exoplanet candidates to 3,216. Just 132 of them have been confirmed by follow-up observations to date, but mission scientists expect at least 90 percent will end up being the real deal.

Space.com: Distantly Orbiting Alien World May Challenge Planet-Formation Theories
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 03:05 PM ET

Astronomers have found evidence of an alien planet forming surprisingly far from its host star, a discovery that could challenge the prevailing wisdom about how planets take shape.

Researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a large gap in the planet-forming debris disk surrounding the red dwarf star TW Hydrae, which lies about 176 light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra (The Sea Serpent).

This gap, which was likely carved out by an unseen newborn exoplanet six to 28 times as massive as Earth, sits 7.5 billion miles (12 billion kilometers) from TW Hydrae — about twice the distance from our own sun to Pluto.

Space.com: Ancient Mars Had Component Key to Life, Meteorite Reveals
by Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 11 June 2013 Time: 04:54 PM ET

At a time when life as we know it was just getting its start on Earth, Martian clay may have harbored a key component for one of life's molecular building blocks, researchers say.

Boron found in a Martian meteorite suggests the Red Planet may once have had the right chemistry to give rise to RNA, according to a new study.

"In early life RNA is thought to have been the informational precursor to DNA," study researcher James Stephenson, an evolutionary biologist, said in a statement.

Space.com: Huge Earth-Passing Asteroid an 'Entirely New Beast'
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 15 June 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET

A big asteroid that flew past Earth last month belongs to a new category of space rock, scientists say.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 and its moon sailed within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers) of Earth on May 31, making their closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries. New radar images captured by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico are revealing just how unique this binary asteroid is, researchers say.

“Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive — that is, it hasn’t been heated or melted as much as other asteroids," Arecibo's Ellen Howell said in a statement. "QE2 is nothing like any asteroid we've visited with a spacecraft, or plan to, or that we have meteorites from. It's an entirely new beast in the menagerie of asteroids near Earth."

Space.com: Plastic Could Protect Astronauts from Deep-Space Radiation
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 06:32 AM ET

Plastic shielding could help protect astronauts from harmful radiation on long journeys through deep space, new observations from a NASA moon probe suggest.

An instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found that plastic reduces the radiation dose from fast-moving charged particles called galactic cosmic rays. Scientists have long suspected that this is the case, but the new results provide a vital confirmation in deep space, researchers said.

"This is the first study using observations from space to confirm what has been thought for some time —that plastics and other lightweight materials are pound-for-pound more effective for shielding against cosmic radiation than aluminum," lead author Cary Zeitlin, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in a statement.

Space.com: China's Space Docking Is Step Toward Ambitious Future in Space
by Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 12:17 PM ET

Three Chinese astronauts are currently visiting China's Tiangong 1 space lab in orbit on the country's fifth manned mission to space. The flight, which has been going smoothly so far, officials say, is a step toward the country's long-term plan to build and operate a larger space station in the future.

The three-astronaut team of the Shenzhou 10 mission — Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping — closely monitored their spacecraft's automatic docking process with Tiangong 1 on Thursday (June 13), reporting back to ground control the status of the auto-navigation control mode link-up.

During their 15-day space trek — which is set to become the longest duration mission to date in China's human spaceflight program — the trio of "taikonauts" will change and repair some of the equipment and facilities within the live-in space module, as well as carry out a manual docking with Tiangong 1 prior to the crew's return to Earth.

Space.com: World's Largest Solar Sail to Launch in November 2014
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:46 PM ET

A huge solar sail designed to demonstrate the viability and value of propellant­­­-free propulsion is slated to blast into space in November 2014, mission officials say.

NASA's Sunjammer spacecraft — whose 13,000-square-foot (1,208 square meters) sail will allow it to cruise through the heavens like a boat through the ocean — is scheduled to lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral late next year.

Sunjammer will be a secondary payload on the Falcon 9, whose main task is launching the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) toward a gravitationally stable location called the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1, which lies about 900,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet.

Space.com: NASA Goes 'Green': Next Spacecraft to Be Reusable
Jillian Scharr, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET

Since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian rockets to launch its astronauts to space. But the United States plans to have its own homemade spacecraft again soon. Called the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, the new vehicle will be able to carry astronauts to Earth orbit, to the moon, asteroids, and eventually to Mars.

Though it looks similar to the gumdrop shape of the Apollo moon-bound capsules, the Orion spacecraft is a whole new machine. Unlike the old capsules, Orion — set to make its first test flight in 2014 — can be reused.


LiveScience: World Population May Reach 11 Billion By 2100
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 10:38 AM ET

The world's population could reach 11 billion by the year 2100, according to a new statistical analysis.

That represents 800 million more people than was forecast in 2011. Most of that increase comes because birth rates in Africa haven't dropped as fast as projected.

"The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up," said study co-author Adrian Raftery, a statistician at the University of Washington, in a statement.
"These new findings show that we need to renew policies, such as increasing access to family planning and expanding education for girls, to address rapid population growth in Africa," Raftery said in a statement.

LiveScience: 2012 Second Costliest Year for Natural Disasters
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 02:54 PM ET

Hurricane Sandy and an extensive drought made 2012 the United States' second costliest year for natural disasters since 1980, federal officials said today (June 13).

Weather and climate disasters racked up $110 billion in damages across the country last year, according to a report released today by the National Climate Data Center (NCDC).

There were 11 events in 2012 that each incurred at least $1 billion in damages, including spring tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and Texas, a derecho that plowed from the Plains to the Northeast, and the yearlong drought and its associated heatwaves and wildfires that burned more than 9.2 million acres, mostly in the West.

LiveScience: This Was the Coldest Spring Since 1996
Becky Oskin, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 02:36 PM ET

This year's spring seemed more like a never-ending winter for much of the country, and it wasn't just in their imaginations. The chilly weather was the coldest spring since 1996, the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) said today (June 13).

Fourteen states east of the Rockies had spring temperatures that ranked among their 10 lowest since record-keeping started more than 100 years ago. In Alaska, residents of Galena were evacuated in May after lower-than-normal spring temperatures slowed the annual melting of Yukon River ice, causing an ice jam that flooded the town.

The low temperatures also meant fewer tornadoes than average struck in May. However, two devastating EF-5 tornadoes plowed through towns in Oklahoma. The powerful twisters, one of which was the widest ever recorded, killed more than 20 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. "We saw some very high impact tornado situations, but it's been a very slow spring compared to the last decade," said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at the NCDC.
Even though this spring was significantly colder than previous years, overall, the year-to-date average national temperature of 43.6 degrees Fahrenheit (6.4 degrees Celsius) was 0.2 F (0.3 C) above the 20th-century average, the NCDC report said.


LiveScience: Thriving Microbe Community Lives Beneath Seafloor
Douglas Main, Staff Writer
Date: 12 June 2013 Time: 01:00 PM ET

Beneath the seafloor lives a vast and diverse array of microbes, chomping on carbon that constantly rains down from above and is continually buried by a never-ending downpour of debris — some whale dung here, some dead plankton there. For the first time, a study has shown that these microbes are actively multiplying and likely even moving around in the compressed, oxygen-devoid darkness beneath the abyss.

The finding, detailed in the June 12 issue of the journal Nature, is important because the sediments below the seafloor harbor most of the Earth's organic carbon, as well a majority of its microorganisms, according to various scientific estimates. These microbes also play a vital but little-understood role in the cycle of carbon between the ocean and the seafloor, which impacts the entire Earth's climate.

The study is the first to directly show these microbes are alive and kicking, said study team member William Orsi, currently a researcher at the Horn Point Lab at the University of Maryland. Previously, it had "been debated in the community whether they are in a dormant state or whether they're alive and active," Orsi told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. Clearly, the latter is the case, he said.

LiveScience: Endangered California Frogs Let Loose in WildMegan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 11:11 AM ET

In a boost to California's endangered amphibians, researchers released about 100 mountain yellow-legged froglets into the wild this week.

The diminutive frogs were bred and raised in captivity for a year before they were released on Wednesday (June 12) into a creek at the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve. This is the first time frogs of this species have been reintroduced into the wild, said researcher Frank Santana, of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

LiveScience: Darwin's Frogs Are in Steep Decline
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:40 PM ET

Some of nature's most fascinating fathers may be at risk of extinction.

Male Darwin's frogs swallow their offspring in the tadpole stage, incubate their young in their vocal sacs, and eventually spit out fully developed froglets. Along with seahorses, the frogs are thought to be the only known living vertebrates in which dads take on baby-carrying duties with special sacs that make them look pregnant.

But new research shows that these unique creatures may be vanishing as their habitats in Chile's temperate forests are destroyed.


LiveScience: Giving Birth at Home Looks Safe, Study Finds
Bahar Gholipour, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 06:30 PM ET

Among women with low-risk pregnancies, those who plan to give birth at home may face less of a risk from dangerous complications than women who plan a hospital birth, a new Dutch study suggests.

For women in the study who had a low risk of complications and had given birth at least once previously, 1 in 1,000 home births resulted in severe problems, such as admission to an intensive care unit or requiring heavy blood transfusion. The rate of such complications for planned hospital births was 2.3 in 1,000 births.

Home births also had a lower risk of certain less severe complications, such as bleeding after birth, and the need to remove the placenta manually. The rate of bleeding, or postpartum hemorrhage, was 19.6 in 1,000 for a planned home birth, compared with 37.6 in 1,000 for a planned hospital birth.

LiveScience: Baldness Drug Curbs Men's Interest in Alcohol, Study Suggests
Cari Nierenberg, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:00 PM ET

Some men who take the drug finasteride (Propecia) to slow a receding hair line may also find it reduces their interest in drinking alcohol, new research reveals.

Almost two-thirds of the men in the study noticed they were drinking less alcohol than before taking Propecia, said study researcher Dr. Michael Irwig, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine.

But the decrease in drinking seen in the study may not be found in all men who use the popular hair-loss treatment. (A higher dose of finasteride is also prescribed to men for an enlarged prostate, and is sold as Proscar.)

LiveScience: Leprosy Remarkably Unchanged from Medieval Times
Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 02:00 PM ET

Leprosy is much less common today than it was during the Middle Ages, but the bacterium that causes this debilitating disease has hardly changed since then, a new study finds.

Reserachers sequenced the surprisingly well-preserved genome of the leprosy bacterium in skeletons exhumed from medieval graves in Europe. It's the first time an ancient genome has been sequenced "from scratch" (without a reference genome), and reveals that medieval leprosy strains were nearly identical to modern leprosy strains.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is due to a chronic infection of the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. The disease causes skin lesions that can permanently damage the skin, nerves, eyes and limbs. While it doesn't cause body parts to fall off, those infected with leprosy can become deformed as a result of secondary infections. The disease often strikes during the peak reproductive years, but it develops very slowly, and can take 25 to 30 years for symptoms to appear.

LiveScience: Flu Season Was Particularly Deadly This Year
Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 12:00 PM ET

This year's flu season was more severe than other recent seasons, with a higher percentage of deaths, hospitalizations and doctors' visits for flu, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between September 2012 and May 2013, the proportion of deaths in the United States attributed topneumonia or influenza peaked at 9.9 percent. That's higher than the peak percentage of deaths during flu season in the last five years (which ranged from 7.9 to 9.1 percent). The 2003 to 2004 season did have a higher proportion of flu-related deaths than this season, at 10 percent. (The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia or influenza is based on death certificate reports in 122 cities across the country.)

The 2012 to 2013 flu season was particularly severe for the elderly. The rate of hospitalization for flu-related illness among those 65 and older was 191 per 100,000 people. That's the highest rate of hospitalizations for this age group since the CDC began keeping track in 2005.


LiveScience: Why People Attempt Suicide
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 05:04 PM ET

People attempt suicide because they cannot bear their psychological pain and doubt it will ever get better, new research suggests.

Though that might sound intuitive, the new findings, published this month in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, contradict other hypotheses that suicide attempts are impulsive or a "cry for help."

"Our findings really converged on two motivations that applied to everyone who was in our study: unbearable psychological pain and hopelessness that things would ever get better," said study co-author E. David Klonsky, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

LiveScience: Why Extroverts Like Parties and Introverts Avoid Crowds
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:00 PM ET

Extroverts and introverts differ strongly in how their brains process rewarding experiences, new research suggests.

The study, published today (June 13) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that extroverts are more likely to associate the rush of a feel-good brain chemical with the environment they are in at the time.

The findings could help explain why extroverts seek the high of a wild party, whereas introverts may prefer a quiet cup of tea at home.

LiveScience: Why Humans Are Bad at Multitasking
Denise Chow, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 12:46 PM ET

It may not be uncommon to see someone typing out an email on their phone as they walk down the street, listen to music as they read the newspaper on the subway, or stare at a computer screen with multiple windows and tabs open. But despite constantly juggling different activities, humans are not very good at multitasking, experts say.

Dividing attention across multiple activities is taxing on the brain, and can often come at the expense of real productivity, said Arthur Markman, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

"There's a small number of people who are decent multitaskers — this concept of a 'supertasker' — but at best, it's maybe 10 percent of the population, so chances are, you're not one of them," Markman told LiveScience. "The research out there will tell you that there are a couple of people who are good at it, but it's probably not you."


LiveScience: 'Escape Tunnel' Found at Nazi Death Camp
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 11:42 AM ET

Traces of an escape tunnel have been uncovered at the site of an infamous Nazi death camp in Poland, according to news reports.

Archaeologists say the passageway, found 5 feet (1.5 meters) below the surface, spanned 32 feet (10 m) and reached beyond the barbed-wire border surrounding the extermination camp at Sobibor, The Telegraph reported.

"We were excavating near where the sonderkommando barrack was and we came across two rows of buried barbed wire," Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek was quoted as saying by The Telegraph. "Digging down we found the traces of the tunnel. It was about as wide as a human, and we are 99 percent certain that it was an escape tunnel."

LiveScience: Detecting Social Patterns from Shifting Dialects
Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 04:11 PM ET

Knowing glances may dot a room when listeners hear the line, "You say tomato, I say tomahto," from the popular Gershwin song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Whether you're from Philadelphia or Fresno, Winnetka or Waco, your dialect often identifies you with a particular locale.

Now using a powerful computer program, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania provide insights into a significant change in the dialect of Philadelphians. In a century's time, the sound of Philadelphia has shifted from a somewhat southern accent to a more northern one. And it's not just a few areas of Philadelphia. The entire city shifted. "The reversal indicates major changes in social patterns," says University of Pennsylvania linguist William Labov.

Considered the northernmost of the southern cities, Philadelphia has continued to progress toward a more northern sounding dialect. "All those things that align Philadelphia with the south are disappearing," says Labov. "The South is receding, and language is very sensitive to profound social attitudes." Younger people are less likely to pick up or use southern inflections.

annetteboardman is taking some much-needed time off.


LiveScience: Ancient Kangaroo Teeth Reveal Australia’s Tropical Past
Denise Chow, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 12 June 2013 Time: 05:01 PM ET

The fossilized teeth of ancient marsupials that roamed through northeastern Australia roughly 2.5 million years ago suggest these animals fed on leafy plants in a much more lush and tropical environment than was previously thought, according to a new study.

A chemical analysis of tooth enamel from extinct marsupials in Queensland, the second-largest state in Australia, revealed clues about the diet and habits of these ancient mammals. The findings indicate that this region of Australia, which today is made up mostly of arid grasslands, was once covered in tropical forests, said Shaena Montanari, a comparative biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and lead author of the new study.

"It was probably a wetter and moister environment," Montanari told LiveScience. "Marsupials have been around in Australia for tens of millions of years, but these fossils help us understand how their diets changed with the environments."

LiveScience: Hot Flash! Men May Be Cause of Menopause
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 05:00 PM ET

Ladies, here's one more thing you can blame on men: menopause. At least, that's according to a new theory.

Women go through menopause because men have consistently preferred younger women in recent evolutionary history, according to a study published today (June 13) in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.Thus, menopause is not evolutionarily advantageous and may be the result of a series of random, harmful mutations that accumulated in women but weren't acted on by evolution because the women had already reproduced by the time the mutations affected them.

"Our first assumption is that mating in humans is not random with respect to age, which means men of all ages prefer to mate with younger women," said study co-author Rama Singh, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University in Canada. "If mating is with younger women, any deleterious mutations which affect women's reproduction later in life will accumulate because they are not being acted on by natural selection."


LiveScience: Past Mega-Quakes Left Mark on Canadian Coast
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 02:28 PM ET

Thanks to decades of geologic detective work, scientists know that on Jan. 26, 1700, at 9 p.m., a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Pacific Northwest.

Born from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the earthquake may have cleaved the 620-mile-long (1,000 kilometers) offshore fault from Northern California to Canada. Researchers don't yet know; they must play connect the dots with clues left behind in billowy layers of sand and mud.

A group of Canadian geologists is connecting some of these dots, with the first record of past earthquakes from the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island. The team discovered evidence of 21 temblors in the past 11,000 years, including the 1700 quake and a 1946 shaker centered on the island. The new findings are detailed in the June 12 issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

LiveScience: Side-Impact Tectonics Created Colombia's Strange Geology
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 12 June 2013 Time: 02:31 PM ET

A car crash-like collision between tectonic plates offshore of Colombia helps explain the region's unusual geology, a new study finds.

Colombia sits at the complex junction of three small tectonic plates: the Caribbean plate to the north, the Panama plate to the west and the Nazca plate to the southwest. All of them border the northwestern corner of the giant South America plate.

Both the Caribbean plate and the Nazca plates meet South America as subduction zones, sliding down beneath the continent. But the Panama plate, which carries a big, thick stack of old volcanoes, is hitting Colombia like a side-impact collision, according to a study published in the June 2013 issue of the journal Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

LiveScience: New Subduction Zone Forming Off Spain's Coast
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 12:12 PM ET

A budding subduction zone offshore of Spain heralds the start of a new cycle that will one day pull the Atlantic Ocean seafloor into the bowels of the Earth, a new study suggests.
 But while northern Europe may have a gentle transition, the folded and fractured seafloor offshore of southwestern Spain leads scientists to think Earth's crust is poised on the brink between the two types of plate boundaries.

"We are precisely in the transition between a passive and an active margin. The plate is breaking in two and starting to converge," Duarte told OurAmazingPlanet in an email interview.


LiveScience: Solar Plane Makes Stop in Cincinnati Tonight
Denise Chow, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 01:43 PM ET

A solar-powered airplane that is attempting to fly across the United States without using any fuel is en route from St. Louis to Cincinnati today (June 14).

The plane, called Solar Impulse, took off from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport early this morning, and is expected to land at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport around 9 p.m. EDT tonight, after approximately 16 hours in the air. During today's flight, the aircraft is expected to reach a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), according to company officials.

Originally, Solar Impulse was scheduled to fly directly from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., on this leg of the journey, but bad weather forced flight officials to readjust the route. The plane continues on to the nation's capital on Sunday (June 16).

Space.com: NASA Eyeing Nuclear Fusion Rockets for Future Space Exploration
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 11 June 2013 Time: 12:49 PM ET

Rockets that harness the power of nuclear fusion may provide the next big leap in humanity's quest to explore the final frontier, NASA's science chief says.

Nuclear fusion rockets could slash travel times through deep space dramatically, potentially opening up vast swathes of the solar system to human exploration, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"It's transformative," Grunsfeld said last month after his presentation at Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo, Calif., a two-day celebration of DIY science, technology and engineering. "You could get to Saturn in a couple of months. How fantastic would that be?"


LiveScience: Atomic Clocks to Become Even More Accurate
Katia Moskvitch, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 02:21 PM ET

The ultimate accessory in exact timekeeping — the atomic clock — is set to become even more precise, after ultrashort laser pulses were successfully transmitted across open air to help synchronize the "ticking" of new optical atomic clocks.

Keeping extremely precise time is not just a question of scientific achievement. It is a key to many modern technologies, from Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to mobile phone networks and broadcasters' transmitters. For GPS systems, an error of just one nanosecond, or a billionth of a second, would mean the location is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) off.
Now physicists are developing new optical atomic clocks which could be about 100 times more precise than microwave-based ones. They operate in a similar manner, but use laser light instead of microwaves. Laser light has a much higher frequency and hence gives much better timing resolution and much faster transmission of data.


LiveScience: Atomic Weights Tweaked for 5 Elements
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 03:34 PM ET

Standard atomic weights, those numbers emblazoned under the elements on the periodic table, were once thought of as unchanging constants of nature.

But researchers have tweaked the atomic weights of five elements — magnesium, bromine, germanium, indium and mercury — in a new table published by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Science Crime Scenes

LiveScience: Harry Potter Meets High-Tech in Surveillance Tracking System
Elizabeth Palermo, TechNewsDaily Contributor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 01:08 PM ET

Harry Potter fans, take heed. New surveillance software that can track the whereabouts of over a dozen people at the same time is providing researchers with their own Marauder's Map, allowing them to monitor the comings and goings of subjects in indoor settings nearly as complex as Hogwart's.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have been perfecting their multi-camera tracking system- which they use to monitor nursing home residents- since 2005. The project was originally developed to keep track of elderly residents' health by monitoring their activity levels and behaviors.

But Alexander Hauptmann, one of the project's researchers, believes that the system could also be useful for identifying suspected criminals or terrorists, like the perpetrators of April's Boston Marathon bombings.

LiveScience: Is Big Brother Watching? Paranoid Thoughts Common, Study Finds
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 12:25 PM ET

In a week of revelations about secret government surveillance of phones and Internet activity, you might find yourself looking over your shoulder a little bit more often than usual. You're not alone, research suggests.

In fact, paranoid thoughts are relatively common among otherwise healthy people, according to a new study published this month in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"A little bit of paranoia might be quite helpful," said study researcher Paul Bebbington, an emeritus professor of mental health at University College London. When paranoid thoughts take over, it can be a mental disorder. But wariness and mistrust are not unusual, Bebbington said. In fact, they're often protective, preventing people from, for example, blurting out their life's secrets to total strangers.

LiveScience: Forget the NSA: Your Tech Gadgets Are Spying on You
Elizabeth Palermo, TechNewsDaily Contributor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 12:02 PM ET

Recent headlines about PRISM — the U.S. government program that allows security officials to spy on people’s Internet activity — confirm what conspiracy theorists have long been foretelling: Big Brother is watching.

But is the government the only one keeping tabs on what you search for, watch and discuss with friends? The truth is, there are others out there — businesses, advertisers, scammers — hoping to line their pockets by collecting your personal data.

And they have a variety of tools at their disposal to gather the information they need — tools you might even have with you right now. That's right — everything from the smartphone in your pocket to the television in your bedroom can potentially be used to spy on you.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

LiveScience: Gene Patent Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know
Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 05:05 PM ET

The Supreme Court's ruling Thursday (June 13) that genes cannot be patented sets a precedent that products found in nature do not constitute intellectual property. Here are five things to know about the ruling.
The unanimous gene-patent ruling specifically invalidated two patents held by the company Myriad Genetics Inc. on two genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Justice Clarence Thomas said, "We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent-eligible merely because it has been isolated."

The court further ruled that "complementary DNA" (cDNA), or synthetic DNA assembled in a lab from a template that contains only the portions of the gene that encode proteins (the chemicals that carry out genetic instructions), is an act of invention, and therefore patentable.

LiveScience: Supreme Court Ruling Could Drop Price of Breast Cancer Gene Test
Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:13 PM ET

The price of testing for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 could come down in the near future as a result of a Supreme Court ruling on gene patents today (June 13), some experts say.
Currently, women who want genetic testing for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 have to use the Myriad test, which costs more than $3,000 and is not always covered by insurance. But now that Myriad's patents are no longer valid, other companies will be able to develop tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2. The additional competition could bring the price of testing down, experts say.

Space.com: Russia Promises Manned Launches from Its Own Soil in 2018
by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 04:04 PM ET

Russia, one of the world's space powerhouses, has been launching its rockets from Kazakhstan since the early days of its space program, but now plans to shift its launches to Russian soil within five years. But some experts question whether such a pace is realistic.

This spring, President Vladimir Putin pledged $51.8 billion by 2020 to place his country back in the top ranks of world space explorers. The centerpiece of that promise is Vostochny, a cosmodrome, or launch site, under construction in eastern Siberia, near the Chinese border. Within five years, Putin promised that an International Space Station crew would launch from Vostochny.

"Construction work is accelerated here," Putin told the space station's Expedition 35crew in Russian remarks translated on NASA Television April 12. Russia will be launching manned vehicles by 2018, he added. "The next stage, by 2020, we plan to launch extra-heavy vehicles."

Space.com: Canada Seeks to Rove Beyond the Space Station
by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 12 June 2013 Time: 05:14 PM ET

LONGUEUIL, Quebec — With two flicks of the wrist, Simon Rocheleau sent a lunar rover spinning in the dirt.

The Juno rover prototype — operated by a remote control in Rocheleau's hand — was skidding here at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters’ Mars Yard, a backyard playground of dirt and rocks where robots can simulate missions to the Red Planet.

At the Mars Yard, university students regularly take rovers out for a spin to learn how operators perform similar work on Mars — and, perhaps one day, the moon.

Space.com: Time Is Right for Arab Astronomy Renaissance, Scientist Says
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 12 June 2013 Time: 01:01 PM ET

It's time for the Arab Muslim world to reclaim its lost tradition of astronomical learning, one prominent researcher says.

Building a new generation of observatories would spark interest in fundamental research across the region, which in recent years has taken a much more utilitarian approach to science, said Nidhal Guessoum, a professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

"Astronomy has a natural place high in the landscape of Arab Islamic culture," Guessoum wrote in a commentary published in the June 13 issue of the journal Nature. "It must be brought back."

Science Education

Space.com: 'Space Odyssey' Author Inspires Imagination Research Center
Michael Dhar, Space.com Contributor
Date: 11 June 2013 Time: 04:53 PM ET

The creative mind behind the communications satellite and "2001: A Space Odyssey" — Arthur C. Clarke — has now inspired an academic center dedicated to studying imagination. From sci-fi speculation to neurophysiological analysis, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will create and sponsor multidisciplinary investigations into great leaps of human thought.

The center launched in May at the University of California, San Diego, which will operate the center in conjunction with the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, an organization dedicated to Clarke's legacy.

A series of skyward-looking events kicked off the center's activities last month, culminating in a symposium on long-term space travel called Starship Century. There, sci-fi heavyweights such as Gregory Benford and Neal Stephenson traded ideas about interstellar journeys with scientists Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies and others.

LiveScience: Do Advanced College Degrees Really Pay Off?
David Mielach, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer
Date: 13 June 2013 Time: 06:39 AM ET

For graduates of the class of 2013, the experience of being a college student is now a memory, but the effects of going to college and the loan debt they accrued  will stick with them for much longer.

And new research has found that advanced degrees are also not immune from the challenge of student loans.  

"We saw how much student loan debt was skyrocketing," said Jessica Patel, personal finance analyst and editor at Bankrate.com. "When we looked at the findings, it was a little bit shocking to see some of the jobs you would think would make the most money would not have the best return on investment. Things like doctors and lawyers and they don’t necessarily have the biggest payoffs."

Science Writing and Reporting

Science News: A Tale of Seven Elements
By Eric Scerri
Review by Sid Perkins
Web edition: June 13, 2013

The periodic table, which arranges elements based on chemical behavior and physical properties, is a triumph of science. Yet the first table, developed in the late 1860s, was riddled with gaps created by undiscovered elements.

By the time researchers recognized in 1913 that elements should be arranged by atomic number (the number of protons in their nuclei) rather than by atomic weight, only seven gaps remained in the list of naturally occurring elements. Chapter by chapter and element by element, Scerri, a historian of science, chronicles scientists’ efforts to fill those holes. A bonus chapter covers elements above uranium, created in laboratories.

Science News: Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom
By Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez
Review by Janet Raloff
Web edition: June 13, 2013

“Torture numbers and they will confess to anything,” author Gregg Easterbrook once wrote in a magazine piece on climate change. But his quip could have been the subtitle for this new book on the abuse of numbers in the courts.

Its authors, mother-daughter mathematicians, belong to a research group devoted to improving the use of statistics in criminal trials. Each chapter focuses on cases exemplifying a particular class of statistical error. Poignant tales detail exonerations resulting from faulty math used in the original trials (errors usually corrected only after intervention by statisticians, some of whom stepped in independently).

Science is Cool

Space.com: Science Fiction in Space: 6 New Movies to Watch in 2013
by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 10:43 AM ET

From the terrifying to the heroic, this summer and fall are full of space action on the big screen.

Here are six movies you should be on the lookout for during the hot summer months and brisk autumn ones.

LiveScience: James Cameron Gives Record-Breaking Sub to Science
Douglas Main, Staff Writer
Date: 14 June 2013 Time: 06:06 PM ET

WOODS HOLE, Mass. —When James Cameron was about 12, he saw the Alvin submersible on the cover of National Geographic and was absolutely captivated by the vehicle's ability to transport ordinary humans to the seafloor. Alvin helped inspire Cameron to pursue a life of exploration and, several decades later, to build his own sub — the Deepsea Challenger — and pilot it by himself to the deepest part of the world's oceans.

Cameron visited the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) today (June 14), a bastion of marine science here on Cape Cod that operates Alvin (still kicking nearly 50 years after being built). But it was no ordinary visit — Cameron came to donate the Deepsea Challenger, which will now be housed where Alvin used to reside. "What's surreal about this situation … is that it all comes full circle," Cameron said at a ceremony celebrating his gift of the sub to the institution.

Cameron and a team of collaborators in the United States and Australia designed the submarine over the course of seven years. It has many unique features that set it apart from any submersible in the world, such as its unique lighting systems and compact, powerful batteries, whose innovative design will be used in other crafts to further explore the ocean, said Susan Avery, WHOI's president.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 09:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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