Neanderthals Really Were All Fired Up

July 19, 2018

Production of fire was long thought to be a skill exclusive to Homo sapiens, but new research suggests Neanderthals could light it up just as well. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons) Fire at will! Researchers present evidence that Neanderthals were just as capable of producing fire as early Homo sapiens were, sending another long-held notion of our species’ exceptionalism up in smoke. I’m not just fanning the flames here: The question of…

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The heat goes on: NASA pegs last month in a tie for third warmest June in 138 years of modern record keeping

July 19, 2018

Although NOAA’s just-released analysis differs somewhat, both show that June 2018 continued the long-term global warming trend Departures of temperatures during June from the 1951-1980 average. (Source: NASA GISS) Last month tied with June 1998 as the third warmest such month since 1880. Only June 2015 and 2016 were warmer, according to the monthly analysis released this week by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Today, the National Oceanic and…

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Baby Snake Preserved In Amber Is Unprecedented Find

July 18, 2018

Remains of the earliest snake hatchling known to science were preserved in amber for nearly 100 million years. (Credit: Ming Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences) Snakes alive! Preserved in a piece of amber about the size of a small potato, a tiny snake hatchling — less than two inches long — is unprecedented in the fossil record. At nearly 100 million years old, the baby snake’s remains provide researchers with…

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New Origami Robot Gently Catches Deep Sea Creatures

July 18, 2018

Scientists are using a new origami-inspired robotic claw to catch fragile sea creatures without harming them. (Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University) A new origami-inspired robotic claw that looks like a cross between a flower and a crab pincer could help marine biologists capture delicate underwater organisms currently unknown to science. The oceans are the largest and least-explored habitats on Earth, with some estimates suggesting that up to a million…

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New Material Changes Shape, Prompted Just By Light

July 18, 2018

(Credit: SD-Pictures/Pixabay) We’re not always the same person. The jokes you tell at home aren’t necessarily the ones you tell at work, and I don’t know about you, but I certainly talked differently around my grandmother than I did around my friends. Linguistics people call this tendency code-switching. People are complicated, multi-faceted, and some situations bring out certain qualities in us — it makes sense. But we’re not the only…

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The Robots That Teach Each Other

July 18, 2018

(Credit: Bas Nastassia/Shutterstock) Two robots traverse the desert floor. Explosions from a decades-old conflict have left a pockmarked and unstable territory, though many more improvised bombs lie concealed in its vast reaches. Sunlight splays off the beaten edges of Optimus, the smaller robot. Its motors whir as its claw grasps an unusual orb lying by its side. If Optimus were programmed to hope, it would hope the object was just…

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Is Your First Memory Even Real, Bro?

July 18, 2018

(Credit: Senjuti Kundu/Unsplash) Think back to the earliest memory you have. How old were you? Three, maybe 2? Younger? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. Problem is, you’re probably imagining it. Most brain experts agree we’re not really capable of forming full, autobiographical memories until we’re a little more than 3 years old; our brains just aren’t that sophisticated yet. But a new paper published in Psychological Science found…

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Egyptian Tomb Discovery Puts Curses on the Brain Online

July 18, 2018

A 2,000-year-old sealed black coffin was unearthed in Alexandria this month. Plans to exhume and open it has caused chatter online. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities) Alexandria, known for its ancient library and a lighthouse counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, just keeps on giving. The reaction to its latest gift has been bad mummy jokes online. During a construction survey, a sealed sarcophagus was found…

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The Curious Case of Acrylamide: California’s Prop. 65 Explained

July 18, 2018

(Credit: M. Unal Ozmen/Shutterstock) Most of us think of coffee as a morning essential, not a cancer-causing hazard. So the nation got a jolt after a California judge made a final ruling in May that Starbucks and other coffee sellers must inform customers about carcinogenic chemicals in their brews. The ruling stemmed from a court case invoking Proposition 65, a state law that requires warnings if products or places contain…

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