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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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, health, energy, and the environment.

Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, and Washington.

This week's featured story comes from Vox with videos from Discovery News and CNN.

The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history
by Susannah Locke
August 2, 2014

The deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history is happening right now. The outbreak is unprecedented both in infection numbers and in geographic scope. And so far, it's been a long battle that doesn't appear to be slowing down.

The Ebola virus has now hit four countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria.

The virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging — has infected about 1,300 people and killed more than 700 since this winter, according to estimates on July 31 from the World Health Organization.

The University of Kansas is advertising a Researcher available to discuss Ebola outbreak in Africa.
The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has killed hundreds this year, including an American man working in Liberia who died earlier this month after a flight to Nigeria. Two other Americans working in Liberia, including a doctor, are also infected, according to published reports.

A University of Kansas expert who has studied health emergencies in Africa is available to discuss the current outbreak.

Not to be outdone, the University of Michigan is offering Deadly Ebola: U-M experts available to discuss to journalists.
The University of Michigan has a number of experts in disease transmission, quarantine and response to infectious disease threats who can be consulted about the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Can You Recover From Ebola?

Western Africa is experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak that humanity has ever experienced! Can you recover from this virus, and should we be trying to create a vaccine? Dr. Carin Bondar joins DNews to tell you everything you need to know about Ebola.

First American Ebola Patient Comes Home

A U.S. doctor infected with Ebola was able to visit with his family at an Atlanta hospital after being flown from Africa.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

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by Laurence Lewis

Women in Science: Ynes Mexia 1870-1938
by Desert Scientist

Spotlight on green news & views: Fracking scam, 100% renewable energy for CA, poultry inspections
by Meteor Blades

Lose Weight While You Sleep, Get Fit In Just 5 Minutes a Day, Don't Worry About Fat In Your Diet
by xaxnar

This week in science: Think of the children!
by DarkSyde


CrashCourse on YouTube: Disease! Crash Course World History 203

In which John Green teaches you about disease, and the effects that disease has had in human history. Disease has been with man since the beginning, and it has shaped the way humans operate in a lot of ways. John will teach you about the Black Death, the Great Dying, and the modern medical revolution that has changed the world.

NASA: Preparing for Orion Recovery Test on This Week @NASA

NASA and the U.S. Navy were busy recently – preparing for tests scheduled off the coast of San Diego, California. Crews will run through the procedures to recover NASA's Orion spacecraft from the ocean, following its water landing from deep space missions. Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations are all involved in the recovery effort. Also, Mars 2020 rover and beyond, Opportunity: 25 miles and counting, Updated K-Rex rover, Automated Transfer Vehicle launch and NASA Technology Days!

Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: Perseid Meteors vs the Supermoon

Which is brighter--a flurry of Perseid fireballs or a supermoon? Sky watchers will find out this August when the biggest and brightest full Moon of 2014 arrives just in time for the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

JPL/NASA: What's Up for August 2014

Go outside to see Venus and Jupiter at dawn, Saturn and Mars at dusk. No telescope required! Plus the annual Perseid meteor shower is in full swing now through the 17th. The shower peaks the night of August 12-13, but the bright moon that night will likely interfere with viewing some of the fainter meteors. The Perseid shower occurs each year when Earth travels through a trail of dusty particles left behind by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: August 2014

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." In August, planets drift together into a stately dance.

Hubble Space Telescope: The X Factor: Behind the Webb

The James Webb Space Telescope is being tested at a number of facilities, including some operated by NASA. One of these locations is in Huntsville, Alabama, at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Engineers are repurposing a test chamber originally built to test another one of NASA's Great Observatories, the Chandra X-ray Observatory. 15 years ago, Chandra was launched into space and continues to be a vital contributor to our understanding of the universe. "Behind the Webb" host Mary Estacion takes us to Marshall to check out how Webb and Chandra share a common bond.

Discovery News: What Is Space Exploration Doing For You?

People ask all the time whether the money we put into space exploration actually helps us here on Earth. Is it worth the money we’re spending? Trace takes a look at a few recent projects that are helping people here on Earth as we speak!

Discovery News: Why Are Animals Having Sex In Space?

Last week, the Russian space agency Roscosmos lost contact with a satellite that contained geckos having sex! Why are we sending animals to space to mate? Dr. Carin Bondar joins Trace to discuss scientists’ reasons.


University of Michigan: The source of the sky's X-ray glow
July 27, 2014

ANN ARBOR—In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

The source of this "diffuse X-ray background" has been debated for the past 50 years. Does it originate from the solar wind colliding with interplanetary gases within our solar system? Or is it born further away, in the "local hot bubble" of gas that a supernova is believed to have left in our galactic neighborhood about 10 million years ago?

The scientists found evidence that both mechanisms contribute, but the bulk of the X-rays come from the bubble. The solar wind, a stream of charged particles continuously emitted by the sun, appears to be responsible for at most 40 percent of the radiation, according to new findings published in the journal Nature.

University of Washington: Companion planets can increase old worlds’ chance at life
July 31, 2014

Having a companion in old age is good for people — and, it turns out, might extend the chance for life on certain Earth-sized planets in the cosmos as well.

Planets cool as they age. Over time their molten cores solidify and inner heat-generating activity dwindles, becoming less able to keep the world habitable by regulating carbon dioxide to prevent runaway heating or cooling.

But astronomers at the University of Washington and the University of Arizona have found that for certain planets about the size of our own, the gravitational pull of an outer companion planet could generate enough heat — through a process called tidal heating — to effectively prevent that internal cooling, and extend the inner world’s chance at hosting life.

Georgia Tech: More Room for Space in Georgia
July 30, 2014

Aerospace leaders from across the state gathered at the Georgia Tech Research Institute on July 29 to develop a plan to help expand the space industry within Georgia. The Georgia Space Leadership Summit included representatives from academia, industry, the state government and the investor community.

The aerospace industry presently generates $51 billion per year in economic impact for the state. Professor Robert Braun is director of the Georgia Tech Center for Space Technology and Research (C-STAR). He says, because things have drastically changed on the federal level, the time is right for Georgia to increase its contribution to the nation's space economy.

When I look at what’s going on in space, it’s a pivotal time for our nation. Big changes are taking place in the space sector, which is shifting more to a commercial market. Private companies are already transporting cargo to and from space. Someday soon, they will take people into orbit.


Ecological Society of America via Science Daily: Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures
July 26, 2014

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Kansas State University: Study finds benefits to burning Flint Hills prairie in fall and winter
July 31, 2014

MANHATTAN — Kansas State University researchers have completed a 20-year study that looks at the consequences of burning Flint Hills prairie at different times of the year. It finds that burning outside of the current late spring time frame has no measurable negative consequences for the prairie and, in fact, may have multiple benefits.

The study was conducted by Gene Towne, research associate and the Konza Prairie Biological Station fire chief, and Joseph Craine, research assistant professor, both in the Division of Biology. They recently published the study, "Ecological consequences of shifting the timing of burning tallgrass prairie," in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE. The study is the most comprehensive on seasonal burning ever conducted.

The Flint Hills are 82,000 square miles of unplowed tallgrass prairie that stretch from eastern Kansas to north-central Oklahoma. The region is an important area for grazing cattle. In a typical year, ranchers annually burn thousands of acres of grassland to reduce the abundance of undesirable trees and shrubs while promoting nutritionally rich grass for that summer's grazing.

Currently, burning of Flint Hills prairie is typically concentrated in late April. The time frame stems from research conducted more than 40 years ago.

University of Georgia: UGA Skidaway Institute researchers complete ‘26 Hours on the Marsh’
July 30, 2014

Skidaway Island, Ga. - Pitching a tent in the woods and fighting off mosquitos may not sound like logistics of a typical oceanography experiment, but that is how researchers at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography completed an intensive, round-the-clock sampling regimen this month. The project, dubbed "26 Hours on the Marsh" was designed to investigate how salt marshes function and interact with their surrounding environment-specifically how bacteria consume and process carbon in the marsh.

The team set up a sampling station and an outdoor laboratory on a bluff overlooking the Groves Creek salt marsh on the UGA Skidaway Institute campus. The scientists collected and processed water samples from the salt marsh every two hours, beginning at 11 a.m. on July 16 and running through 1 p.m. July 17. By conducting the tests for a continuous 26 hours, the team can compare the samples collected during the day with those collected at night, as well as through two full tidal cycles.

"We wanted to be able to compare not only what is happening to the carbon throughout the tidal cycle, but also what the microbes are doing at high and low tides and also during the day and night," said Zachary Tait, a UGA Skidaway Institute research technician. "So we had to have two high tides and two low tides and a day and night for each. That works out to about 26 hours."

University of Missouri: Watershed Revival
What will it take to staunch the flow of runoff in the Mississippi River Basin?
Summer 2014

Back in 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency developed an action plan aimed at dramatically improving the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Among the plan’s most prominent objectives was reducing the amount of agricultural nutrients — chiefly phosphorous- and nitrogen-rich fertilizers — flowing into the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Marine scientists and others have long argued that fertilizer runoff was contributing to a vast hypoxic area in the gulf, a “dead zone” where oxygen levels fall too low to support most marine life. Taking steps to limit this runoff, the EPA argued, would likely not kill the dead zone. But it would almost certainly reduce its size. Their action plan set an ambitious decade-and-a-half long goal: to shrink the dead zone from its then average of 4,200 square miles to around 1,900 square miles by 2015.

It’s now 2014. Last summer, researchers estimated that the dead zone encompassed 5,840 square miles — more than three times next year’s target.

What went wrong?

University of Washington: Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean
July 29, 2014

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water that is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell – huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region.

A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“As the Arctic is melting, it’s a pretty simple prediction that the additional open water should make waves,” said lead author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.


National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis: Saving Seeds the Right Way Can Save the World's Plants
July 30, 2014

KNOXVILLE—Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world's most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species' pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

NPR: Where The Birds Are Is Not Where You'd Think
Robert Krulwich
July 28, 2014

This is a trick question. Where would you expect to find the greatest variety of birds?

Downtown, in a city?

Or far, far from downtown — in the fields, forests, mountains, where people are scarce?

Or in the suburbs? In backyards, lawns, parking lots and playing fields?Not the city, right?

"Everything I have learned as a conservation biologist tells me cities are bad for biodiversity," writes John Marzluff, of the University of Washington.

University of Georgia: SREL, DOE bring wood stork back from brink of extinction
August 1, 2014

Aiken, S.C. - Thanks to the hard work of conservationists across the United States, the once imperiled American wood stork has been down-listed from endangered to threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the many organizations responsible for bringing the large wading bird back from the brink of extinction are the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

SREL's efforts began in 1983 with an extensive study of the wood stork's biology on the Savannah River Site and their nesting colony in Jenkins County, Georgia. The studies documenting their nocturnal feeding patterns, genetics, uptake of mercury and regional movements were the first of their kind in the bird's northern range.

Access to the stork's nourishing wetlands was reduced in 1985 when the Savannah River Site resumed operation of L-reactor, one of its nuclear reactors. Use of the reactor ended in 1988. SREL and DOE expanded efforts to protect the stork's habitat through collaboration with the National Audubon Society.


University of Georgia: Experts available to comment on flesh-eating bacteria
July 31, 2014

Athens, Ga. - Warnings have been issued for beach-goers surrounding a flesh-eating bacteria thriving in the warm ocean waters. Vibrio vulnificus grows in warm water and if swallowed can cause stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If it enters an open wound, "skin breakdown and ulceration" can also occur, the CDC said. University of Georgia experts are available to offer commentary on flesh-eating bacteria.

"People worry about getting eaten by a shark, but the risk from a Vibrio infection may actually be greater, especially during the summer," said James Hollibaugh, Distinguished Research Professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia. "What's different is that you can't see the bacteria. But they are there."

Vibrio grow best when water temperatures are 20 to 30 degrees Celsius, or 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the CDC, 75 percent of infections occur between May and October. Contact with the bacteria can occur through open wounds or when eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

University of Kansas: Center produces videos on preserving native health traditions
July 28, 2014

LAWRENCE — When older generations pass on, they often take with them knowledge that hasn’t been documented anywhere else. A recent University of Kansas graduate and research assistant is completing a video project in which elders of her native Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska share unique perspectives on healing, medicine, rituals, history and health traditions. She’ll share the videos with tribal members and anyone interested in learning more about native health, culture and history.

Rebekka Schlichting, a recent graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, was a research assistant at the school’s Center for Excellence in Health Communication to Underserved Populations. The idea for the video series was born out of conversations with the center’s director and staff, who work to improve health communication and information for populations who have traditionally been underserved.

“I thought, ‘You could preserve this valuable knowledge in a way that is very accessible and share it with future generations,’” Schlichting said. “Native kids’ number one priority is not always learning their cultural heritage, but I have a strong passion for it and wanted to be able to share my culture.”

Kansas State University: Researcher using next-generation sequencing, other new methods to rapidly identify pathogens
July 28, 2014

MANHATTAN — He calls himself the bug hunter, but the target of his work consists of viruses that can only be found and identified with special methods and instruments. Benjamin Hause, an assistant research professor at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University, recently published an article about one of his discoveries, porcine enterovirus G, which is an important find in the United States.

"We had isolated a virus in cells, but didn't know what it was," Hause said. "We used next-generation sequencing to identify it, and it turned out to be porcine enterovirus G, which had been described before but had never previously been found in North America."

The virus is thought to be benign and is not known to cause disease, but it had only been reported before in Europe and Asia.

University of Michigan: U-M researchers find protein that fuels repair of treatment-resistant cancer cells
July 31, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Imagine you're fighting for your life but no matter how hard you hit, your opponent won't go down.

The same can be said of highly treatment-resistant cancers, such as head and neck cancer, where during radiation and chemotherapy some cancer cells repair themselves, survive and thrive. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, but the late detection and treatment resistance result in a high mortality rate.

Now, University of Michigan researchers have found that a particular protein—TRIP13—encourages those cancer cells to repair themselves. And they have identified an existing chemical that blocks this mechanism for cell repair.

Wayne State University: Wayne State professor part of team that sequenced genome of African rice to aid in “Green Revolution”
July 28, 2014

DETROIT – With the world population projected to increase from 7.1 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, there is a need for a second “green revolution” that will create crops with two to three times the current yield with reduced water, fertilizers and pesticides grown on marginal soils. Rice will play a key role in solving this increased need.

A team of researchers from over 10 institutions including Wayne State University and the University of Arizona published a paper, “The genome sequence of African rice (Oryza glaberrima or O. glaberrima) and evidence for independent domestication,” July 27 in Nature Genetics. The paper explores the future need of developing types of rice that combine higher yields that tolerate environmental stresses.

University of Washington: Dissolvable fabric loaded with medicine might offer faster protection against HIV
Michelle Ma
July 30, 2014

Soon, protection from HIV infection could be as simple as inserting a medicated, disappearing fabric minutes before having sex.

University of Washington bioengineers have discovered a potentially faster way to deliver a topical drug that protects women from contracting HIV. Their method spins the drug into silk-like fibers that quickly dissolve when in contact with moisture, releasing higher doses of the drug than possible with other topical materials such as gels or creams.

“This could offer women a potentially more effective, discreet way to protect themselves from HIV infection by inserting the drug-loaded materials into the vagina before sex,” said Cameron Ball, a UW doctoral student in bioengineering and lead author on a paper in the August issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

University of Washington: New protein structure could help treat Alzheimer’s, related diseases
Michelle Ma
July 28, 2014

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but the research community is one step closer to finding treatment.

University of Washington bioengineers have designed a peptide structure that can stop the harmful changes of the body’s normal proteins into a state that’s linked to widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease. The synthetic molecule blocks these proteins as they shift from their normal state into an abnormally folded form by targeting a toxic intermediate phase.

The discovery of a protein blocker could lead to ways to diagnose and even treat a large swath of diseases that are hard to pin down and rarely have a cure.


Georgia Tech: Brainwaves can predict audience reaction for television programming
July 29, 2014

Atlanta, GA.--Media and marketing experts have long sought a reliable method of forecasting responses from the general population to future products and messages. According to a study conducted at the City College of New York (CCNY) in partnership with Georgia Tech, it appears that the brain responses of just a few individuals are a remarkably strong predictor.

By analyzing the brainwaves of 16 individuals as they watched mainstream television content, researchers were able to accurately predict the preferences of large TV audiences, up to 90 percent in the case of Super Bowl commercials. The findings appear in a paper entitled “Audience Preferences Are Predicted by Temporal Reliability of Neural Processing,” which was just published in the latest edition of Nature Communications.

“Alternative methods such as self-reports are fraught with problems as people conform their responses to their own values and expectations,” said Jacek Dmochowski, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at CCNY at the time the study was being conducted. However, brain signals measured using electroencephalography (EEG) can, in principle, alleviate this shortcoming by providing immediate physiological responses immune to such self-biasing. “Our findings show that these immediate responses are in fact closely tied to the subsequent behavior of the general population,” he added.

Kansas State University: Psychology research about vision and pigeons may improve driver safety, earns honors
July 30, 2014

MANHATTAN — Close your eyes and open them. How long does it take you to recognize the location? Now turn your head to the right. Which do you notice first: the center of the scene or the periphery?

According to new research from Kansas State University, it takes a person one-tenth of a second to identify a scene. The person processes first the central portion then rapidly expands into the visual periphery.

The research — which may improve driver safety — was the focus of two Journal of Experimental Psychology articles co-authored by Kansas State University psychology researchers Lester Loshcky, Kim Kirkpatrick and others. The American Psychological Association has cited the articles as "Particularly Exciting Experiments in Psychology."

University of Memphis: Grant to Psychology Professor Aims to Reduce Marijuana Use Among College Students
July 25, 2014

Dr. James Murphy, associate professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, has received a $400,000 grant for a study aimed at reducing marijuana use among college students. The award is from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

College students who regularly use marijuana put themselves at risk for cognitive and academic problems, addiction and risky behaviors such as driving while impaired. While there are effective interventions to reduce drinking among college students, few have been tested for marijuana, despite problems associated with excessive use.


Heritage Daily: How the lion got his head back

Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have discovered an ancient fragment of ivory, which belonged to a 40,000-year-old animal figurine. Both pieces were discovered in the Vogelherd cave located in the south west of Germany, which has produced a large number of astonishing works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was unveiled during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head. The sculpture may be viewed at the Tübingen University Museum from 30th July.
For more and better images, read The Daily Mail's Archaeologists reunite Ice Age lion figurine with its head: Missing fragment joined with model 40,000 years after it was first carved.

LiveScience via Discovery News: Warriors' Bones Reveal Bizarre Iron Age Rituals
by  Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience
Jul 31, 2014 04:15 PM ET

The bones of dozens of Iron Age warriors found in Denmark were collected and ritually mutilated after spending months on the battlefield, archaeologists say.

At least six months after the soldiers died, their bones were collected, scraped of remaining flesh, sorted and dumped in a lake. Some were handled in a truly bizarre manner; for instance, four pelvises were found strung on a stick.

Tengrinews (Kazakhstan): Elite Turkic warrior burial discovered in Kazakhstan

An archeological expedition in Zhaksy District of Akmola Oblast has discovered a burial of a warrior of the Turkic period belonging to 6-7 centuries AD.

The international expedition worked on the site on the territory of Zaporizhzhya rural district, near the village of Novochudnoye from 7 to 20 July, Tengrinews reports citing Akmola Media Ortalygy.

IrishCentral: Viking warriors and treasures are buried beneath Dublin
IrishCentral Staff Writers
July 27, 2014

A massive research project, 15 years in the making, has revealed that beneath Dublin’s modern streets lies a trove of buried Viking warriors and artifacts.

Archaeologists say the number of Viking warrior burials in Dublin is astounding. A project cataloguing these burials was began in 1999. Now nearing its conclusion, the project will result in the publication of an 800-page tome titled ‘Viking Graves and Grave Goods in Ireland.’

“As a result of our new research, Kilmainham-Islandbridge is now demonstrably the largest burial complex of its type in western Europe, Scandinavia excluded,” says Stephen Harrison, who co-wrote the catalogue with Raghnall Ó Floinn, the director of the National Museum of Ireland. The museum houses a Viking exhibition, which includes a ninth century Viking skeleton with sword and spearhead, found in the War Memorial Park, Islandbridge in 1934.

Sofia Globe (Bulgaria): Archaeology: Bulgaria’s ‘Vampire of Vratsa’

The summer archaeological season in Bulgaria customarily abounds with a wealth of discoveries – and the new trend, seen for the third year in 2014, of headlines being made by the finding of a “vampire”.

This year, it is the town of Vratsa in north-western Bulgaria that is getting into the act, after the excitement of claims around a so-called vampire in June 2012 in the seaside resort of Sozopol, followed by one in Veliko Turnovo, and with Perperikon – already famous for a trove of legitimate discoveries – not being outdone by finding a “twin” of the vampire in September 2013.

PRNewswire via The Wall Street Journal: Seafarer Obtains 3 Year Permit To Third Shipwreck Site Near Cape Canaveral, Florida

TAMPA, Fla., July 29, 2014 PRNewswire -- Seafarer Exploration Corporation (OTCQB: SFRX), a company focused on archeologically sensitive exploration, research and recovery of historic shipwrecks is pleased to announce that Seafarer's Quest, LLC has successfully been granted a three year research permit for the shipwreck site south of Cape Canaveral from the Florida Bureau of Archaeology Research.

"We are so excited about this site!" exclaimed Kyle Kennedy, CEO of Seafarer.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


University of Cincinnati via ScienceDaily: Mammoth and mastodon behavior was less roam, more stay at home
July 21, 2014

Their scruffy beards weren't ironic, but there are reasons mammoths and mastodons could have been the hipsters of the Ice Age.

According to research from the University of Cincinnati, the famously fuzzy relatives of elephants liked living in Greater Cincinnati long before it was trendy -- at the end of the last ice age. A study led by Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology, shows the ancient proboscideans enjoyed the area so much they likely were year-round residents and not nomadic migrants as previously thought.

National Post (Canada): Fossils in them there hills: Yukon gold miners uncover bounty in ancient animal remains each year
Tristin Hopper

If this year’s Yukon gold-mining season goes as planned, the territory’s hundred or so gold-mining operations will sift an estimated 50,000 ounces of nuggets and gold dust out of the Klondike ground.

In the process, the ancient soil is also expected to turn up more than 2,000 pieces of ice age moose, bison, beavers, mammoth and camels. Some of them so well-preserved in the frozen ground, in fact, that there is still rotting flesh attached.

University of Basel (Switzerland) via PhysOrg: DNA find reveals new insights into the history of cattle in Europe
Jul 29, 2014

A research team from the University of Basel made a surprising find in a Neolithic settlement at the boarders of Lake Biel in Switzerland: The DNA of a cattle bone shows genetic traces of the European aurochs and thus adds a further facet to the history of cattle domestication. The journal Scientific Reports has published the results.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan State University: Evolutionary compromises drive diversity
July 28, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. – To paraphrase the Rolling Stones: We can’t always get everything we want in life, but we get what we need. Michigan State University researchers believe this is a powerful principle in evolution as well. Trade-offs, which are evolutionary compromises, drive the diversity of life, said Chris Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

“Biologists have long known that when species compete for limited resources such as food, they are pressured to diversify,” he said. “But what we found through computer simulation is that trade-offs are the main driver of diversification when resources are scarce. The stronger the trade-offs, the more diversification will occur.”

However, there is price to pay when diversifying.

“Trade-offs in biology can take many forms, but in general, they imply that organisms cannot optimize all traits at the same time,” said Bjorn Ostman, post-doctoral research associate in the Adami lab.


Civil and Structural Engineer: Researchers study ‘smart’ rocks use for detecting bridge damage

Rolla, Mo. — It’s hard to gauge how structurally sound a bridge is when its foundation is buried in a riverbed deep below the water’s surface. New “smart” rocks that are being developed by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology will give engineers an accurate, easy and cost-effective tool to monitor a bridge’s foundation, in real time.

The leading cause of bridge collapse in the U.S. is scour, an erosion process where water flow carries away river bed deposits and creates scour holes around the bridge pier or abutment. Floods intensify these scour effects and can quickly make the bridge unstable. Smart rocks placed at the base of bridge foundations are designed to roll to the deepest point of a scour hole and act as field agents to relay scour depths.

“It’s a simple, but very useful, concept,” says Dr. Genda Chen, principle investigator and professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering and the Robert W. Abbett Distinguished Chair in Civil Engineering at Missouri S&T. “The rock follows the trail of the scour hole’s progression – as it goes deeper and deeper, the rock will also sink deeper and deeper. One reason we call it ‘smart’ is because the rock can represent the maximum depth of the hole.”


University of Michigan: Michigan Solar Car Team defends national title in hard-fought win
July 28, 2014

ANN ARBOR—After a series of setbacks including a motor problem that sidelined their vehicle in the first 10 minutes of an eight-day race, the University of Michigan's national champion Solar Car Team has won the American Solar Challenge, according to this afternoon's unofficial results.

The team crossed the finish line in Minneapolis at 1:50 p.m. ET today, earning its fifth consecutive first place in the 1,700-mile contest. The race, which happens every other year on a different course, began in Austin, Texas, on July 20. Michigan raced against 22 other teams of college students that had built their own solar-powered electric vehicles.

Michigan State University: Helping switchgrass survive winter will boost its biofuel potential
July 30, 2014

Michigan State University has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture program to develop hardier switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.

If switchgrass could better endure northern United States’ winters, the plant could be an even better source for clean energy. To that end, Robin Buell, MSU plant biologist, will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass.

“This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates,” said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “It’s part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock.”


Michigan Tech: A Little Light Magic
By Marcia Goodrich
July 29, 2014

One of the mysteries of particle physics is supersymmetry, a brain-cramping theory that assumes every particle in the universe has a corresponding superpartner.

No one really knows if supersymmetry is real or not, yet the concept is so elegant that many eminent scientists believe it must be true and use it to solve complicated problems in quantum physics. Now a team of researchers, including a physicist at Michigan Technological University, has successfully applied supersymmetry concepts in the more down-to-earth field of optics. Their discovery could lead to solutions in applications as varied as lasers and high-speed data transmission.

“The equations for quantum mechanics are similar to those in optics, so we asked ourselves, ‘Can we take supersymmetry to an optical system?’ The answer is yes,” said Ramy El-Ganainy.


University of Tennessee: Filling Up Could Cost Less Thanks to UT-ORNL Breakthrough
July 31, 2014

Sticker shock at the gas pump could soon be a thing of the past thanks to research being conducted by UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Among the key components in processing fuels, particularly bio-friendly ones, are the membranes that aid in the process of separating unwanted substances such as water from the fuel.

“We can help wallets and help profits at the same time,” said Michael Hu, a joint faculty member of the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and ORNL. “If we can improve that separation process it will mean a reduction in cost to make, a reduction in cost to supply, and a reduction in cost to buy.”

The breakthrough technology being brought to life by the research team combines nanotextured pores with superhydrophobic or superhydrophillic—or, in plain terms, super water-repulsing and water-attracting—substances.

Science Crime Scenes

BBC: Sekhemka statue: Northampton Museum loses Art Council accreditation

Two museums have lost their accreditation status after the controversial sale of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue to a private collector.

Northampton Borough Council sold the Sekhemka limestone statue for nearly £16m at auction to help fund an extension to the town's museum.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

University of Michigan: New bipartisan House bill draws on U-M health research
July 31, 2014

ANN ARBOR—A new bill introduced in Congress with bipartisan support would allow Medicare to test a concept born from University of Michigan research, which could improve the health of patients with chronic illness while reducing what they spend on the medicines and tests they need most.

The bill, introduced last week by U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Earl Blumenauer, grew out of a decade of work by health policy researchers affiliated with the U-M's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. It would allow Medicare Advantage plans to use innovative "value-based" insurance designs that could save both the federal government and patients money.

It's the most recent example of how the products of U-M health research are informing national and state policies and legislation—a key emphasis for the university's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Michigan State University: MSU helps shape USDA greenhouse gas policy
August 1, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report that, for the first time, provides uniform scientific methods for quantifying the changes in greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage from various land management and conservation activities.

“America’s farm, ranch and forest managers are stewards of the land and have long recognized the significance of managing soil health, plant productivity and animal nutrition,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA undersecretary for natural resources and environment. “Conservation practices and other management changes can reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon storage while improving soil health, productivity, and resilience to drought and other extreme weather.”

In partnership with the USDA and the Obama Administration, state and regional GHG offset programs and voluntary GHG markets can help make these practices cheaper to implement and increase the producer’s bottom line, he added.

The report will help the USDA evaluate current and future greenhouse gas conservation programs, as well as develop new tools and update existing ones to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners participate in emerging carbon markets.

Michigan State University: Congressional rift over environmental protection sways public
July 31, 2014

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

The gap between conservatives who oppose environmental protection and liberals who support it has risen drastically in the past 20 years, a trend seen among lawmakers, activists and – as the study indicates – the general public as well, said sociologist Aaron M. McCright.

The findings echo a June 12 Pew Research Center poll showing that, in general, Republicans and Democrats are more divided long ideological lines than at any point in the past two decades.

Michigan State University: MSU professor tapped for USDA board position
July 25, 2014

Douglas Buhler, director of Michigan State University’s AgBioResearch, has been appointed to a national board of directors of the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. The announcement was made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

FFAR will leverage public and private resources to increase scientific and technological research, innovation and partnerships critical to boosting America’s agricultural economy.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be appointed to this inaugural foundation board,” said Buhler, who also serves as the senior associate dean for research at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “As a representative of the pioneer land grant university and the second most-diverse agriculture state in the nation, I look forward to working to advance research in the areas of food and agriculture. These are extremely important as we strive to find solutions to feed an ever-growing global population.”

The foundation, created by the 2014 Farm Bill that was signed at MSU, is an independent nonprofit corporation that will leverage private and public funds to advance agricultural research.

Science Education

University of Michigan: U-M students contributing to Detroit's comeback
July 31, 2014

ANN ARBOR—As Detroit seeks to rebound from bankruptcy and other issues, University of Michigan students are tirelessly using their research skills and enthusiasm to help the city's nonprofit agencies.

These students participate in the Detroit Community Based Research Program, spending 10 weeks with organizations on projects addressing issues such as urban development, environmental justice, food security, community assessment and sustainability.

Their efforts culminate with presentations Aug. 8 at a symposium at the U-M Detroit Center Orchestra Place, 3663 Woodward Ave., Suite 150. The event, which begins at 1 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Michigan Tech: Not Even the Sky's the Limit for Women in Engineering
By Monica Lester
July 29, 2014

Lights floated into the night sky and across vast Lake Superior. Dreams, wishes and aspirations were released and ignited as participants and staff of Women in Engineering sent up lanterns as a symbol of their week at Michigan Technological University this summer. Cody Kangas, director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach, rallied the girls around their dreams, aspirations and potentials as they let their lanterns fly. “It was inspiring,” says Lucinda Hall, a sophomore at Millington High School in Millington, Mich. “[Cody] said, “If the sky is the limit, then why are there footprints on the moon?”

Women in Engineering (WIE) is a scholarship program, part of Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs (SYP). Each year approximately 150 female high school students are selected to explore the possibilities in engineering.

This year, 141 young women attended, traveling from as far away as California, Alaska, Arizona, Texas and Arkansas. Three young women came from Bahrain, a small island country near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. Most came from Michigan, including six from the Detroit area.

Missouri S&T: Reinventing biology lab with $10 and a smartphone
By Andrew Careaga
July 28, 2014

With nothing more than a smartphone and less than $10 of trinkets and hardware supplies, students at Missouri University of Science and Technology can build their own microscopes this fall as part of a biology lab.

This do-it-yourself microscope is part of Missouri S&T’s effort to re-imagine how lab courses can be taught in five science and engineering disciplines on the campus. Organizers of the project hope to use the findings from their experiment to create a how-to manual for other colleges and universities.

The Transforming Instructional Labs project, which is funded through a grant from the University of Missouri System, also involves an evaluation of other universities that are experimenting with their instructional labs.

University of Washington: A unique lab class: UW students explore nation’s largest dam removal
Hannah Hinckley
August 1, 2014

A group of Washington state students spent the spring looking at the effects of the largest dam-removal project in history, now underway on the Olympic Peninsula. They worked alongside University of Washington oceanographers studying what a century’s worth of accumulated mud, stones and debris are doing to the marine environment.

Students spent the spring living at the UW’s Friday Harbor Laboratories for a 10-week research apprenticeship course. It began with lectures that introduced them to ideas of waves and tides and how they affect particle movement. By the end, each student had completed a research project looking at how shorelines and marine habitats are adapting to the dramatic changes.

“The cruise has been the best part – being out in the field and getting data,” said Hannah Besso, a sophomore in environmental science at Western Washington University. She was among four of the nine students who came from another university, since the research apprenticeship credits can be applied at other institutions.

Science Writing and Reporting

University of Kansas: Book examines how African environmental writing shaped global environmentalism
July 30, 2014

LAWRENCE — When legendary South African author Nadine Gordimer died July 13, a significant portion of the news coverage highlighted her criticism of apartheid – a major focus of her Nobel Prize-winning writing.

However, another major theme — environmentalism — is present in Gordimer's novels as well, including "The Conservationist" in 1974 and "Get a Life" in 2005. A University of Kansas expert on 20th century African literature said this theme is inseparable from her focus on political oppression.

"There can be a need to think about the links among injustice, political power, economic processes and environmental degradation,” said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, associate professor of English. "Many African activists and their writing would suggest you can't really separate environmentalism from issues of social justice.”

Caminero-Santangelo focuses on these connections in African literature in his new book, "Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology," which is the first single-authored book on African literature and environmentalism.

Science is Cool

University of Michigan: We Make Health Fest: Encouraging community creation of tools, technologies to promote health
August 1, 2014

ANN ARBOR—His name is Insaman. This virtual superhero's mission is to help diabetic children manage their blood glucose levels.

The masked crusader began as crude drawings on paper. Once a U-M Art & Design student and someone experienced in app-building finishes with him, he'll be the star of a program to help children understand how much insulin they need to balance their blood sugar.

Insaman, short for Insulin Man, is the brainchild of a patient. He is representative of the kind of innovative thinking organizers of an upcoming We Make Health Fest hope will surface from the campus and larger community.

N.Y. Times: Science Fiction Reflects Our Anxieties
J. P. Telotte is a professor of film and media studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of "Science Fiction TV."
Updated July 30, 2014, 12:47 PM

The 1930s saw numerous science fiction films centered around apocalyptic, sometimes climatic, destruction: “La Fin du Monde” (France, 1931) predicted a comet’s collision with the Earth; “Deluge” (United States, 1933) was the story of a giant tsunami resulting in a worldwide flood; “Things to Come” (England, 1936) predicted world war and a civilization-destroying plague; “S.O.S. Tidal Wave” (United States, 1939) showed the destruction of America’s East Coast by massive tidal wave.

All these films were not as much forward-looking predictions of real apocalypse as they were metaphorical responses to the widespread economic and political crises of the day. Floods and plagues became stand-ins for contemporary upheaval, in this case a way to address the anxieties that attended the Great Depression and post-World War I shock.

This is what our genre films tend to do best — not detail the realities of specific problems so that we might avoid them, but rather represent our most pressing cultural anxieties. If a solution is presented by a science fiction film, it is seldom workable, immediately possible, or even logical in real-world application.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 08:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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