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NASA puts out call for satellite communication services ? on Mars
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - In what may be the ultimate in long-distance telephone service, NASA on Wednesday put out a call for a commercially owned and operated satellite network on Mars. The robotic probes, however, are useless if they cannot relay their results, and the two communication satellites currently in orbit are getting old. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter followed in 2005. The aging of NASA?s Mars communications system comes as the United States, Europe, Russia and India mount a fresh wave of science campaigns, including two atmospheric probes slated to arrive at Mars in September and two life-hunting rovers due to launch in 2018 and 2020.
Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth
For the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I haven?t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months,? Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. ?We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation,? the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday.
Keryx drug improves phosphorus, iron in kidney patients: trial
(Reuters) - A pivotal trial of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc's experimental drug Zerenex showed that it improved levels of serum phosphorus and iron in patients on kidney dialysis, according to results published on Thursday. The trial involved 441 patients, according to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which published the results. Over the four-week efficacy assessment period, mean serum phosphorus for Zerenex patients dropped by 2.2 milligrams per deciliter compared with placebo patients, the trial showed. Most patients with kidney disease that requires dialysis need chronic treatment with phosphate-binding agents to lower and maintain serum phosphorus at acceptable levels.
U.S. scientists to map interior of Mount St. Helens volcano
By Victoria Cavaliere SEATTLE (Reuters) - A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists were expected to rattle Washington state's Mount St. Helens on Wednesday as researchers map the interior of the volcano, whose 1980 eruption was the deadliest in U.S. history. Mount St. Helens, about 95 miles (150 km) south of Seattle and 50 miles (80 km) north of Portland, erupted in an explosion of hot ash in May 1980, spewing debris over a wide area, killing 57 people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage. Scientists from across the United States are trying to get a better handle on the magma stores and internal workings of the 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) volcano to improve warning systems prior to eruption. "Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland," lead scientist Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston said in a statement.
Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Paracetamol, a painkiller universally recommended to treat people with acute low back pain, does not speed recovery or reduce pain from the condition, according to the results of a large trial published on Thursday. A study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the popular pain medicine was no better than placebo, or dummy, pills for hastening recovery from acute bouts of low back pain or easing pain levels, function, sleep or quality of life. Researchers said the findings challenge the universal endorsement of paracetamol as the first choice painkiller for lower back pain. "We need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment," said Christopher Williams, who led the study at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Egyptian Carving Defaced by King Tut's Possible Father Discovered
A newly discovered Egyptian carving, which dates back more than 3,300 years, bears the scars of a religious revolution that upended the ancient civilization. The panel, carved in Nubian Sandstone, was found recently in a tomb at the site of Sedeinga, in modern-day Sudan. Originally, it adorned the walls of a temple at Sedeinga that was dedicated to Queen Tiye (also spelled Tiyi), who died around 1340 B.C. Several centuries after Tiye's death ? and after her temple had fallen into ruin ? this panel was reused in a tomb as a bench that held a coffin above the floor. Archaeologists found that the god depicted in the carving, Amun, had his face and hieroglyphs hacked out from the panel.
Americans' Favorite Adult Beverage Is ?
Beer! More Americans say they prefer a pint over a glass of vino or a cocktail, according to a new Gallup poll. This year, 41 percent of U.S. drinking adults said they typically choose beer; This is the strongest showing for beer in the United States since the drink's popularity tumbled in 2005, though it still has a long way to go to climb back up to its heyday in the '90s when almost half of Americans said they preferred it, Gallup noted.
Colorado River Groundwater Disappearing at 'Shocking' Rate
As the Southwest's drought has worsened in the last decade, making surface water scarce, millions of people are drawing more heavily on underground water supplies. Between December 2004 and November 2013, more than 75 percent of the water lost in the Colorado River Basin was from groundwater, according to the study. The results show that groundwater is already being used to fill the gap between the demands of the region's millions of residents and farmers, and the available surface water supply, the researchers said. "We found a surprisingly high and long-term reliance on groundwater," study co-author Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
See the Moon, Mercury and Venus Before Sunrise Friday
Mercury and Venus will star in an early morning meet-up with the moon Friday (July 24). Both planets can be seen low in the east-northeast roughly 45 minutes before sunrise. Mercury appears only about one twelfth as bright as Venus, and yet shining at magnitude -1 it ranks second only to Sirius in terms of brightness. To enhance your chances of seeing Mercury, the moon and Venus, try scanning the east-northeast horizon with binoculars.
Astronauts Simulate Deep-Space Mission in Underwater Lab
Plenty of astronauts practice spacewalks in the water, but a crew currently living in an underwater lab plans to introduce a surprising twist to its aquatic excursions: They will create a 10-minute communications delay with Mission Control, simulating what speaking with people on Earth could be like in deep space. The four astronauts participating in the nine-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 18 mission will perform underwater "spacewalks" in which they pretend to be on an asteroid far from Earth, where radio communications between the two locales would take minutes, not seconds, as communication from the International Space Station does. By then, Mission Control can give astronauts instructions on which spots to sample, crew members said during a news conference Wednesday (July 23). "We'll be testing out those tools if we did go to an asteroid," said Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut who is part of the NEEMO 18 crew.
Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils
Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday. The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s.
People Use Just 8.2% of Their DNA, Study Finds
More than a decade has passed since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the international collaboration to map all of the "letters" in our DNA. The huge effort led to revolutionary genomic discoveries, but more than 10 years later, it's still unclear what percentage of the human genome is actually doing something important. The results are higher than previous estimates of 3 to 5 percent, and significantly lower than the 80 percent reported in 2012 by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project (ENCODE), a public research project led by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute to study the role of the 3 billion total letters in human DNA. The differences may stem from the nuanced definition of "functional DNA," said the study's co-lead researcher Chris Ponting, a professor of genomics at the University of Oxford in England.
Happy Birthday, Landsat: Space Science Project Turns 42
The Landsat 1 satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, flew into orbit on July 23, 1972, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The camera was designed to be the primary observation instrument, according to NASA, but scientists soon discovered that the scanner was sending back far better data. In 1976, scientists combing through Landsat images found a tiny scrap of land never seen before. To verify the island's existence, Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrologist Frank Hall took a helicopter to the island.
String Theory: The Physics of Master Guitar Playing
How do great guitarists bend a string like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix? "Very good guitarists will manipulate the strings to make the instrument sing," David Robert Grimes, a physicist at Oxford University, in England, who plays guitar and was a member of a band in Dublin, Ireland, said in a statement. The physics of string instruments is fairly well understood, but "I wanted to understand what it was about these guitar techniques that allows you to manipulate pitch," Grimes said. Grimes, who normally works on mathematical models of oxygen distribution in radiation therapy for cancer, spent his spare time crafting equations for various guitar techniques, including bending (pushing the strings up or down), tapping (hitting the strings), vibrato (moving the wrist back and forth to change a string's tension) and whammy bar action (a mechanical form of vibrato).
U.S. scientists urge 'national vision' to curb coastal risks in report
(Reuters) - A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday. Urging a "national vision" toward addressing coastal risks, the report comes on the heels of a Reuters analysis published earlier this month showing that coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years, with steep financial consequences. The great majority of money - most of it federal dollars -spent on coastal risks goes toward recovery after a disaster rather than on planning for and mitigating against storms, climate change and sea-level rise, the report said. Instead, the federal government should push for a national coastal risk assessment to identify best practices and uniform measures of progress, and move away from the current decentralized approach to coastal management, the report said.
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