Study Finds Humans Are Worse Than Radiation For Chernobyl Animals 52

derekmead writes: A study published today in Current Biology shows that wildlife in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is actually more abundant than it was before the disaster. According to the authors, led by Portsmouth University professor of environmental science Jim Smith, the recovery is due to the removal of the single biggest pressure on wildlife—humans. "The wildlife at Chernobyl is very likely better than it was before the accident, not because radiation is good for animals, but because human occupation is much worse,” Portsmouth University professor of environmental science Jim Smith says. “We were trying to emphasize that this study is a remarkable illustration of an obvious, but important message,” he said. “It is ordinary human habitation and use (farming, forestry, hunting) of land which does most ecological damage.”

DNA Vaccine Sterilizes Mice, Could Lead To One-Shot Birth Control For Cats, Dogs 68

sciencehabit writes: Animal birth control could soon be just a shot away. A new injection makes male and female mice infertile by tricking their muscles into producing hormone-blocking antibodies. If the approach works in dogs and cats, researchers say, it could be used to neuter and spay pets and to control reproduction in feral animal populations. A similar approach could one day spur the development of long-term birth control options for humans.

Review: The Martian Screenshot-sm 195

I was both pleased and disappointed, as always, when I heard that a book I enjoyed was being made into a movie. Andy Weir's The Martian was the best new book I'd read in years. It was written for nerds, by a nerd — by somebody with an obvious love for NASA, science, and spaceflight. How could it possibly be condensed into the format of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard figured out how. The Martian is an excellent film, well worth watching. Read on for my review (very minor spoilers only), and feel free to share your own in the comments.

B612 Foundation Loses Partnership With NASA; Asteroids Not a Significant Risk 153

StartsWithABang writes: Yes, asteroids might be humanity's undoing in the worst-case scenario. It's how the dinosaurs went down, and it could happen to us, too. The B612 foundation has been working to protect us by mapping and then learning to deflect potential threats to our planet, but their proposed mission needed $450 million, a goal they've fallen well short of. As a result, NASA has severed their partnership, which is a good thing for humanity: the risk assessment figures show that worrying about killer asteroids is largely a waste.

Majority of EU Nations Seek Opt-Out From Growing GM Crops 240

schwit1 writes: Nineteen EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop, which is authorized to be grown in the European Union, the European Commission said on Sunday. Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified cultivation across the 28-nation EU. The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe. The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of Monsanto's GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially cultivated in the European Union, or for pending applications, of which there are eight so far, the Commission said.

3 Scientists Share Nobel For Parastic Disease Breakthroughs 33

The Australian reports that a trio of scientists (hailing from from Japan, China, and Ireland) has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work in treating parasitic diseases. Irish scientist William Campbell (currently research fellow emeritus at New Jersey's Drew University), and Japanese biochemist Satoshi Omura, were awarded half of the monetary award for their work in defeating roundworm infections; the drug they developed as a result, Avermectin, has helped drastically lower two devastating diseases -- river blindness and lymphatic filariasis -- and has shown promise in treating other ailments as well. The other half of the prize has been awarded to Chinese researcher Youyou Tu, who discovered a novel antimalarial drug based on her research into traditional herbal medicines. (Also at The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and elsewhere. The awards were live-blogged by The Guardian.)

An Ice House Design Concept For Mars Bets Long On Liquid Water 60

The Times of India reports that NASA has awarded a $25,000 first prize to Space Exploration Architecture for their design, called "Mars Ice House," of a habitat suitable for Mars. The concept relies on the (predicted) availability of Martian water, as well as on 3-D printing; according to the text accompanying the design. The 5-cm thick shell of ice which would serve as both skin and support structure for the shelter "protects against radiation without compromising life above ground." Two other teams (Gamma and LavaHive) were awarded second and third-place prizes, respectively.

Vostochny Launch Building Built To the Wrong Size 96

schwit1 writes: The Russians have just discovered that their Soyuz 2 rocket does not fit in the building just finished at their new spaceport at Vostochny: "The cutting-edge facility was meant be ready for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets in December, but an unidentified space agency told the TASS news agency late Thursday that the rocket would not fit inside the assembly building where its parts are stacked and tested before launch. The building 'has been designed for a different modification of the Soyuz rocket,' the source said, according to news website Medusa, which picked up the story from TASS." The rocket had just been delivered to Vostochny for assembly, so this report, though unconfirmed at this time, fits well with current events.

Legionnaires' Bacteria Reemerges In Previously Disinfected Cooling Towers 109

schwit1 writes with the New York Times' unsettling report that 15 water-cooling towers in the Bronx that this week tested positive for Legionnaires' disease had been disinfected less than two months ago. From the NYT: After an outbreak of the disease killed 12 people in July and August in the South Bronx, the city required every building with cooling towers, a common source of the Legionella bacteria that cause the disease, to be cleaned within two weeks. ... [The] city found this week that bacteria had regrown in at least 15 towers that had been cleaned recently in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. The testing occurred after a fresh outbreak in that area that has killed one person and sickened at least 12, and spurred an order from health officials for the towers to be disinfected again.

Michigan Mammoth May Have Been Butchered By Humans 39

Forbes reports that a mammoth recently unearthed in rural Michigan includes evidence that the animal was butchered for food: From the article: A small stone that could potentially be a cutting tool was also found with the mammoth bones. To confirm that this animal was butchered by humans, researchers will examine the bones for cut marks that would indicate people were processing it for meat. A third piece of evidence is the organized way the neck vertebrae of the mammoth were found. "An animal doesn't just come apart naturally leaving a sequence of tightly articulated vertebrae like that," Fisher said, indicating that the animal would have had to have been moved by humans for paleontologists to find the bones laid out in such a fashion.

Apollo-Era Photos Now Up at NASA's Flickr Account, In High-Res 91

Boing Boing reports that NASA has uploaded to its Flickr account 8400 photographs from the agency's Apollo days -- "just about every image captured by Apollo astronauts on lunar missions." The astronauts were shooting with some very nice cameras, and the results are worth seeing at 1800dpi.

Inside the Spaceflight of 'The Martian' 107

benonemusic writes: Science writer Michael Greshko partnered with a team of scientists and engineers to explore the spacecraft and mission plans in The Martian (novel and movie), down to the rescue plan itself. Incorporating the help of Andy Weir, the novel's author, he comes up with a calendar of events for The Martian, explores the hazards of going back to save Mark Watney, and explains how a real world interplanetary spacecraft would pull off a rescue maneuver.

The Decline of 'Big Soda': Is Drinking Soda the New Smoking? 559 writes: Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the NYT that soda consumption is experiencing a serious and sustained decline as sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture but bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years. The changing patterns of soda drinking appear to come thanks, in part, to a loud campaign to eradicate sodas. School cafeterias and vending machines no longer contain regular sodas. Many workplaces and government offices have similarly prohibited their sale.

For many public health advocates, soda has become the new tobacco — a toxic product to be banned, taxed and stigmatized. "There will always be soda, but I think the era of it being acceptable for kids to drink soda all day long is passing, slowly," says Marion Nestle. "In some socioeconomic groups, it's over." Soda represents nearly 25% of the U.S. beverage market and its massive scale have guaranteed profit margins for decades. Historically, beverage preferences are set in adolescence, the first time that most people begin choosing and buying a favorite brand. But the declines in soda drinking appear to be sharpest among young Americans. "Kids these days are growing up with all of these other options, and there are some parents who say, 'I really want my kids to drink juice or a bottled water,' " says Gary A. Hemphill. "If kids grow up without carbonated soft drinks, the likelihood that they are going to grow up and, when they are 35, start drinking is very low."

Cape Verde Boulders Indicate Massive Tsunami 73,000 Years Ago 54

TaleSlinger writes: Researchers from University of Bristol, UK found that boulders strewn 200m above sea level on Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, were ripped from cliffs below and washed up there by a tsunami between 170m and 270m (550-850ft). Researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory dated the tsunami at 73,000 years ago. It's interesting that this is about the same time as the Mt. Toba Eruption and about the same time humans nearly became extinct.

This Machine Produces the Largest Humanmade Waves In the World 63

sciencehabit writes: A new experimental facility at Deltares, a research institute in the Netherlands, has begun producing the largest humanmade waves in the world. Like kids building sandcastles below the tideline on the beach, scientists will let the walls of water crash on dikes of different designs and other structures—sometimes until they're destroyed. The Delta Flume, to be inaugurated on 5 October, is a 300-meter-long water-filled trough that is 9.5 meters high and 5 meters wide. At one end sits a gigantic metal plate called a wave board; four pistons move it back and forth to whip up the kind of waves that the sea can unleash.

Moon Express Signs Launch Contract For Possible First Private Lunar Landing 70

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in, Moon Express, one of the leading contestants in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, has made a giant leap toward its goal of being the first private group to land on the moon. The company has signed a contract with Rocket Lab, a new launch company based in New Zealand, for five launches of its upcoming Electron rocket. The first two launches will take place in 2017 and will be attempts to land the MX-1 lander on the lunar surface in time to win the prize by the current deadline by the end of that year.

NASA Targets Venus, Asteroids With Potential Missions 47

coondoggie writes: NASA this week picked five possible contenders for a relatively low-cost robotic mission to space. The five candidates from a batch of 27 –include Venus, near-Earth object and asteroid operations – will ultimately be whittled down to one or two that will cost approximately $500 million, not including launch vehicle or post-launch operations, NASA stated. The DAVINCI probe would "study the chemical composition of Venus' atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. It would answer scientific questions that have been considered high priorities for many years, such as whether there are volcanoes active today on the surface of Venus and how the surface interacts with the atmosphere of the planet." A longer-range spacecraft called Lucy would "perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, objects thought to hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system."

NASA's New Horizons Shows Pluto's Moon Charon Is a Strange, New World 94

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's New Horizons has returned a stunning series of images of Pluto, the dwarf planet that resides on the edge of the solar system, revealing a strange new world of ice mountains and glaciers of frozen nitrogen. NASA also released images of Pluto's largest moon Charon. Scientists expected a plain ball of rock pockmarked with craters, but what they saw was anything but plain and monotonous.

Scientists Discover How To Get Kids To Eat Their Vegetables 256 writes: Roberto Ferdman writes in the Washington Post that researchers at Texas A&M University, looking for patterns in food consumption among elementary school children, found an interesting quirk about when and why kids choose to eat their vegetables. After analyzing plate waste data from nearly 8,500 students, it seems there's at least one variable that tends to affect whether kids eat their broccoli, spinach or green beans more than anything: what else is on the plate. Kids are much more likely to eat their vegetable portion when it's paired with a food that isn't so delicious that it gets all the attention. For example, when chicken nuggets and burgers, the most popular items among schoolchildren, are on the menu, vegetable waste tends to rise significantly. When other less-beloved foods, like deli sliders or baked potatoes, are served, the opposite seems to happen."Our research team looked at whether there is a relationship between consumption of certain entrees and vegetables that would lead to plate waste," says Dr. Oral Capps Jr. "We found that popular entrees such as burgers and chicken nuggets, contributed to greater waste of less popular vegetables."

Traci Man, who has been studying eating habits, self-control and dieting for more than 20 years, believes that food pairings are crucial in getting kids to eat vegetables. "Normally, vegetables will lose the competition that they're in — the competition with all the other delicious food on your plate. Vegetables might not lose that battle for everyone, but they do for most of us. This strategy puts vegetables in a competition they can win, by pitting vegetables against no food at all. To do that, you just eat your vegetable first, before any of the other food is there," says Mann. "We tested it with kids in school cafeterias, where it more than quadrupled the amount of vegetables eaten. It's just about making it a little harder to make the wrong choices, and a little easier to make the right ones."

The Case For Going To Phobos Before Going To Mars 148

MarkWhittington writes: The current NASA thinking concerning the Journey to Mars program envisions a visit to the Martian moon Phobos in the early 2030s before attempting a landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s, as Popular Mechanics noted. The idea of a practice run that takes astronauts almost but not quite to Mars is similar to what the space agency did during the 1960s Apollo program. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 each orbited the moon but did not land on it before the Apollo 11 mission went all the way to the lunar surface, fulfilling President John. F. Kennedy's challenge.