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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, 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.

This week's featured story comes from The White House, CNN, and Reuters.

President Obama unveils a bold new research initiative designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain, and discusses the importance of investing in American innovation to create jobs and strengthen our economy. April 2, 2013.

Obama wants $100M for brain research.

Supporters say the president's plan will create jobs and help scientists better understand how the brain works.

Obama launches research initiative to study human brain.

Called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the program will be funded with an initial $100 million from the president's fiscal 2014 budget, which the White House is slated to release next week.
...
The main thrust of the BRAIN Initiative "is to be able to study the brain at a large scale to see how lots of neurons work together to produce high-level functions like learning, memory and creativity," said neuroscientist John Donoghue of Brown University. Today's brain imaging, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, "can't see the activity of individual neurons," he said: "it's like reading the newspaper at two arms' length."

But by monitoring activity in individual neurons, researchers hope to see, for instance, "how the brain produces language, including how the visual cortex interacts with speech and language areas so you can read a word, speak it and understand it. It's a big network of neurons all communicating with each other," Donoghue said.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

The Bible is not a scientific treatise on biology...
by Rachel191

Green Diary Rescue: James Hansen switches to activism, dilbut trashes Easter for town of Mayflower
by Meteor Blades

The Daily Bucket - Saturday morning fill in
by bwren

This week in science: V-rooom!
by DarkSyde

Slideshows/Videos

CNN: Bringing Babylon back from the dead
By Arwa Damon, CNN
updated 10:59 PM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013

Babylon was one of the glories of the ancient world, its walls and mythic hanging gardens listed among the Seven Wonders.

Founded about 4,000 years ago, the ancient city was the capital of 10 dynasties in Mesopotamia, considered one of the earliest cradles of civilization and the birthplace of writing and literature.

But following years of plunder, neglect and conflict, the Babylon of today scarcely conjures that illustrious history.

BBC: Egypt uncovers tunnels used to steal treasures
27 March 2013 Last updated at 20:09 ET Help   

Since the revolution in Egypt, large holes have been appearing in the ground close to places of archaeological significance, such as the Great Pyramids at Giza.

As the BBC's Aleem Maqbool discovered, it seems that people have been digging underground tunnels in order to find archaeological treasures.

BBC: Herculaneum: Archaeologists find diet of poor was rich
1 April 2013 Last updated at 15:23 ET Help

Sometimes called The Other Pompeii, Herculaneum is a vast site nestled in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in Italy.

It too was destroyed by the volcano in the year 79 AD, and later excavated and it has now thrown up a treasure trove of secrets.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

OurAmazingPlanet: In Images: How North America Grew as a Continent

The landmass called North America is actually pretty young, becoming something close to its current incarnation less than 200 million years ago. Before then, the continent was called Laurentia on its journey back and forth across the equator, as it joined and was separated from supercontinents. Over billions of years, whether Laurentia or North America, the continent took its form through many spectacular collisions and massive rifts. Here's a walk through the geologic history of North America.

Tech Feed: April Fools - Tech Prank Round-Up!

Having trouble keeping up with all the April Fools' Day pranks on the Internet? Scott rounds them all up for you. From Google's seven different April Fools' gags to Toshiba's fake game console to ThinkGeek's multiple (awesome) fake products, we have you covered.

CNN: Sea lion dances to 'Boogie Wonderland'.

A sea lion grooves to Earth, Wind and Fire, and bops to Backstreet Boys. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on the musical mammal.

Discovery News on YouTube: Can We Build A Real Jurassic Park?

It's the question on all our minds: WHEN IS JURASSIC PARK HAPPENING?! With all this talk of cloning extinct species and the upcoming twentieth anniversary of Jurassic Park the movie, Anthony takes a look at one man's plan to actually build a real life Jurassic Park... sort of.

CNN: Real dinosaurs scarier than ones in Jurassic Park

CNN's Jake Tapper finds out how much we've learned about dinosaurs since the release of "Jurassic Park" in 1993.

HollyScoop: Tom Cruise To Pay $200,000 To Fly Into Space

Tom Cruise, the Scientologist, believes there is life on other planets and he wants to check it out for himself. The 50 year-old star is interested in Virgin Galactic's planned commercial space missions.
For more details, read Does Tom Cruise Want to be 'Top Gun' in Space? (Video) at Space.com.

NASA Television on YouTube: First Light for AMS on This Week @ NASA...

Researchers have published the first findings of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a particle physics detector on the International Space Station that searches for various types of unusual cosmic matter. Scientists hope that by measuring cosmic rays, AMS will provide new data about the formation of the Universe, antimatter, and evidence of the mysterious dark matter believed to make up most of the Universe. Also, MATERIALS IN SPACE, OBSERVING EARTH, FARTHEST SUPERNOVA YET, BLOWING IN THE WIND, EARTH MONTH 2013 and more!

Space.com on YouTube: Saturn's Rings And Pan-STARRS Visible To Stargazers This April | Video

Saturn's tilt will make this April one of the best for stargazers to view the planet's magnificent rings since 2006. Star clusters, the comet Pan-STARRS , and Jupiter will also be visible in the nights sky.

Space.com on YouTube: 40th Anniversary Of Pioneer 11 Launch To Outer Solar System | Video

On April 5th, 1973 the Pioneer 11 spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral on what was originally a back up mission for the Pioneer 10. Eventually NASA made an ambitious mid-mission change to Pioneer 11's trajectory, sending it to Saturn & beyond.
For more details, read 40 Years Later, NASA's Pioneer 11 Probe's Solar System Legacy Lives On at Space.com.

Astronomy/Space

Space.com: Ingredient for Life Common on Jupiter's Icy Moon Europa
by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 04:48 PM ET

A potential energy source for life appears to be common on Jupiter's icy moon Europa, a new study suggests.

An analysis of infrared observations of Europa revealed that hydrogen peroxide is abundant on the ice-covered Jovian moon. If the hydrogen peroxide finds a way beneath Europa's surface and mixes with the moon's liquid water ocean, it could be a vital energy source for any life that might exist there, scientists said.

"Life as we know it needs liquid water, elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, and it needs some form of chemical or light energy to get the business of life done," study leader Kevin Hand, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement. The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life."

Space.com via LiveScience: Volcanoes on Jupiter's Moon Io Are All Wrong, NASA Says
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 12:28 PM ET

The hundreds of volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io aren't where they're supposed to be, scientists say.

Io's major volcanic activity is concentrated 30 to 60 degrees farther east than models of its internal heat profile predict, a recent study reports, suggesting that the exotic, volcanic Jupiter moon Io is even more mysterious than researchers had previously thought.

"The unexpected eastward offset of the volcano locations is a clue that something is missing in our understanding of Io," study lead author Christopher Hamilton, of the University of Maryland, said in a statement. "In a way, that's our most important result. Our understanding of tidal heat production and its relationship to surface volcanism is incomplete."

Space.com: Curiosity Rover Goes Solo on Mars for 1st Time Today
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 04 April 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will be on its own for the first time over the next four weeks, thanks to an unfavorable alignment of the Red Planet, Earth and the sun.

Curiosity's handlers don't plan to send any commands to the car-size robot from today (April 4) through May 1. The sun comes between Earth and the Red Planet during this time, in a formation known as a Mars solar conjunction.

"The [communications] moratorium is a precaution against possible interference by the sun corrupting a command sent to the rover," NASA officials wrote last week in a Curiosity rover mission update.

Space.com via LiveScience: Sun's Magnetic 'Heartbeat' Revealed
by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 04 April 2013 Time: 05:29 PM ET

A magnetic "solar heartbeat" beats deep in the sun's interior, generating energy that leads to solar flares and sunspots, according to new research.

A new supercomputer simulation, described in the April 4 edition of the journal Science, probes the sun's periodic magnetic field reversals. Every 40 years, according to the model, the sun's zonal magnetic field bands switch their orientation, or polarity.

That cycle is about four times longer than the 11-year sunspot cycle that governs the level of solar activity. Being able to model such a regular, long-term process is remarkable, the scientists said.

Space.com: Virgin Galactic's Private SpaceShipTwo Soars in Test Flight
by Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 11:57 AM ET

A private spaceship soared through the California sky on Wednesday (April 3) in a flight test meant to pave the way for future passenger trips to space.

Virgin Galactic's suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo was released at high altitude from its mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo, and glided to the ground in what's called a drop test.

The suborbital SpaceShipTwo touched down at the Mojave Air and Space Port, following a milestone that moves the craft closer to its first hot-engine flight using its hybrid rocket motor.

Space.com: NASA to Launch Planet-Hunting Probe, Neutron Star Experiment in 2017
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 06:31 PM ET

NASA has picked two new low-cost missions for launch in 2017: a planet-hunting satellite and an International Space Station experiment designed to probe the nature of exotic, super-dense neutron stars.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) are the latest missions chosen under NASA's Astrophysics Explorer Program, which caps costs at $200 million for satellites and $55 million for space station experiments, officials announced Friday (April 5).

The TESS spacecraft will use an array of wide-field cameras to scan nearby stars for exoplanets, with a focus on Earth-size worlds in their stars' habitable zones — that just-right range of distances where liquid water could exist.

Climate/Environment

Accuweather via LiveScience: Anniversary of Niagara Falls Running Dry
Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather.com
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 05:25 PM ET

March 29 marks the anniversary of when a massive ice jam reduced the mighty Niagara Falls to a trickle in 1848, a rare phenomena that lasted for nearly 40 hours.

The ice jam developed as strong winds blew chunks of ice from Lake Erie into the Niagara River's entrance near Buffalo, blocking the flow of water to Niagara Falls.

Residents first noticed the eerie silence of barely any water rushing over Niagara Falls during the evening of March 29th.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

OurAmazingPlanet: Tropical Ice Reveals Rare Climate Record
by Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 04, 2013 03:31 PM ET

A new and rare ice core record of tropical temperatures highlights changes in the enfants terribles of world climate, the El Niño/La Niña–Southern Oscillation.

The climate record comes from Peru's stunning Cordillera Oriental mountain range, home to Quelccaya, the world's largest tropical ice cap. Researchers trekked to an altitude of more than 18,000 feet (5,600 meters) to probe the ice.

The two ice cores (or cylinders of ice) drilled from the Quelccaya hold 1,800 years of climate history, according to a study published today (April 4) in the journal Science Express. Alternating light and dark layers record the wet and dry seasons at the top of the world — light from snow and dark from dust during the dry season.

OurAmazingPlanet: Clouds Contributed to Record Greenland Ice Melt
by Charles Q. Choi, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor
Apr 03, 2013 02:51 PM ET

The culprit behind the record-shattering level of ice melting in Greenland in 2012 may have been low, thin clouds, new research suggests.

These novel findings, detailed in the April 4 issue of the journal Nature, may help answer climate mysteries elsewhere in the Arctic, the researchers said.

If the sheet of ice covering Greenland were to completely melt, such destruction of 720,000 cubic miles (3 million cubic kilometers) of ice would raise global sea levels by 24 feet (7.3 meters). In summer 2012, Greenland saw an extraordinarily large amount of melting across nearly its entire ice sheet. In fact, it was the largest ice melt seen in Greenland since scientists began tracking melt rates there in 1979. Ice-core records suggest melting events so extreme have only happened once every 150 years or so over the past 4,000 years.

OurAmazing Planet: Why Has It Been So Cold This Spring?
by Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 02, 2013 05:09 PM ET

Although spring has arrived, it may not feel that way for many in the United States and Canada who have had to put up with unusually cold temperatures.

Last month was a chilly one, ranking as the second-coldest March in the continental United States since 2000, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The average temperature across the United States this March was also 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius) lower than in March 2012, and a late-winter blizzard broke snowfall records in many areas.

So, why has it been so cold?


Biodiversity

OurAmazingPlanet: Isolated Coral Reefs Can Heal Themselves
by Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 04, 2013 04:52 PM ET

Coral reefs may be more independent and resilient than previously thought.

New research shows that an isolated reef off the northwest coast of Australia that was severely damaged by a period of warming in 1998 has regenerated in a very short time to become nearly as healthy as it was before. What surprises scientists, though, is that the reef regenerated by itself, found a study published today (April 4) in the journal Science.

Until now, scientists have thought that damaged reefs depend on new recruits from nearby reefs to quickly heal themselves, said study author James Gilmour, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. But this study found that may not always be the case -- at least with reefs like this one, which has good water quality and isn't heavily impacted by humans, Gilmour told OurAmazingPlanet in an email.

OurAmazingPlanet: How Climate Change May Help Penguin Colony
by Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 05, 2013 12:45 PM ET

Antarctic warming has been a boon for one large colony of Adélie penguins, a finding that's surprising scientists.

A recent study found that over the last 60 years, a colony of the birds on Beaufort Island in the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand, increased by 84 percent, from 35,000 breeding pairs to 64,000 breeding pairs. This increase has come as glaciers have retreated from the island, leaving more bare, snow-free ground, where the penguins make their nests, according to the study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

LiveScience: Hunger May Be Driving Spike in Sea Lion Strandings
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 04 April 2013 Time: 04:19 PM ET

Nearly 1,100 sickly sea lion pups that should still be with their mothers have stranded in southern California since the beginning of this year, officials say.

Biologists still don't know exactly what's causing the unusually high number of young animals to wash ashore, but there is one symptom that most of the pups share: They're starving.

"You can see bones through their skin," said Sarah Wilkin, California's marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Biotechnology/Health

MyHealthNewsDaily via LiveScience: Will the CDC's Bird Flu Vaccine Work if the Virus Mutates?
Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 05:10 PM ET

The move by U.S. health officials to start makinga vaccine against the new strain of bird flu is a good idea, regardless of whether the virus ultimately changes, as flu viruses often do, experts say.

On Thursday (April 4), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had begun work on a vaccine against H7N9, a new bird-flu virus causing illness in China. So far, health officials have reported that 16 people have become sick with the virus, six of whom died. Currently, the virus does not appear to spread between people.

The CDC plans to "build" the virus to use it in its vaccine, rather than wait for a sample to ship from China, the New York Times reported. Using the H7N9 genetic sequence as a blueprint, CDC researchers will synthesize genes for part of the virus and attach them to the "backbone" of another virus known to grow well in labs, the Times said. Making the vaccine is just a precaution — health officials aren't sure yet if they'll need to use it.

Psychology/Behavior

MyHealthNewsDaily via LiveScience: Wedded Bliss Ruins Waistlines
Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Senior Writer
Date: 04 April 2013 Time: 02:13 PM ET

Wedded bliss comes with a downside — a bigger waistline. A new study of 169 newlywed couples in their 20s finds that those who were very satisfied with their marriage gained more weight over a four-year period compared with couples who were less satisfied.

The reason? Having already achieved the coveted goal of attracting a desirable mate, content married couples are less motivated to maintain a healthy weight, said the researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

One might wonder if this is a smaller problem than it used to be, given that fewer couples get married these days.

BusinessNewsDaily via LiveScience: When the Going Gets Tough, Americans Go Shopping
Ned Smith, BusinessNewsDaily Senior Writer
Date: 03 April 2013 Time: 09:43 AM ET

"Have a bad day," may be the unspoken mantra of online retailers. More than half of Americans (51.8 percent) shop and spend money to improve their mood, and more than half of them admit they prefer to get their "retail therapy" fix online, according to a new survey.

What triggers people to get this retail-therapy fix? You can blame the usual suspects — having a tough day at the office, receiving bad news or getting into an argument.

Nearly one-fifth (18.9 percent) of Americans engage in retail therapy to improve their mood after a tough day at work, followed by 14.6 percent who shop after receiving bad news and 12.2 percent who bought something after having a fight with a significant other, found a national survey sponsored by Ebates.com, on online shopping website.

Archeology/Anthropology

N.Y. Times: Ancient Kingdoms in Land of War
Excavation work in Sedeinga, where 35 small pyramids have been found in the past few years.
By ISMA’IL KUSHKUSH

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Every winter they come and go, like birds migrating south. Most of them nest in downtown Khartoum’s old Acropole Hotel, but they’re not here to rest. They’re here to work in Sudan’s blistering deserts, and the past few years have yielded outstanding results.

For many people around the world, Sudan conjures images of war, instability, drought and poverty. All of those things exist here, often in tragic abundance. But lost in the narrative are the stories of the ancient kingdoms of Kush and Nubia that once rivaled Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Lost to many, that is, but not to the archaeologists who have been coming here for years, sometimes decades, to help unearth that history.

National Oceanography Centre (UK): Bronze warship ram reveals secrets
April 04, 2013

Analysis of a bronze battering ram from a 2,000 year-old warship sheds light on how such an object would have been made in ancient times.

Known as the Belgammel Ram, the 20kg artefact was discovered by a group of British divers off the coast of Libya near Tobruk in 1964. The ram is from a small Greek or Roman warship – a “tesseraria”. These ships were equipped with massive bronze rams on the bow at the waterline and were used for ramming the side timbers of enemy ships. At 65cm long, the Belgammel Ram is smaller in size and would have been sited on the upper level on the bow. This second ram is known as a proembolion, which strengthened the bow and also served to break the oars of an enemy ship.

The Independent (UK): Never mind the hunt for Richard III, what about Boudicca?
The search is on for warrior queen’s bones, once thought to lie beneath a McDonald’s
Liam O'Brien  

First there was Richard III. Then, in the early hours of Monday morning, with the exhumation of bones from an unmarked grave at St Bartholemew’s Church in Winchester, archaeologists came closer to unravelling one of the great mysteries of British history – the burial place of King Alfred the Great.

These are exciting times in the field of historical bone-hunting, and senior archaeologists believe we could be in for a flood of new discoveries in the next few years as technology improves and the number of amateur enthusiasts continues to grow.

The Durango Herald: Construction crew finds human bones at Ignacio school
Remains believed to be 50 to 75 years old
By Shane Benjamin Herald staff writer
Article Last Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013

The remains of five human bodies were unearthed last week at Ignacio Intermediate School, where a construction crew was laying a sewer line, said La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith.

The bones are believed to be 50 to 75 years old, possibly from a family burial plot, she said.

No foul play is suspected.

The remains were found Thursday in a ballfield at the school, west of downtown Ignacio. They are expected to remain in the ground for a couple of weeks or longer until archaeologists can excavate them and move them to a new burial site, Smith said.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Evolution/Paleontology

LiveScience: Trove of Neanderthal Bones Found in Greek Cave
Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 01 April 2013 Time: 08:19 AM ET

A trove of Neanderthal fossils including bones of children and adults, discovered in a cave in Greece hints the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans, researchers say.

The timing of the fossils suggests Neanderthals and humans may have at least had the opportunity to interact, or cross paths, there, the researchers added.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, apparently even occasionally interbreeding with our ancestors. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans did, and may have lasted there until about 35,000 years ago, although recent findings have called this date into question.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Geology

OurAmazingPlanet: Sahara Went from Green to Desert in a Flash
by Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 05, 2013 02:31 PM ET

From lakes and grasslands with hippos and giraffes to a vast desert, North Africa's sudden geographical transformation 5,000 years ago was one of the planet's most dramatic climate shifts.

The transformation took place nearly simultaneously across the continent's northern half, a new study finds. The results will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

OurAmazingPlanet: Geologic History of North America Gets Overturned
by Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 03, 2013 03:03 PM ET

It's time to redraw the map of the world during the reign of the dinosaurs, two scientists say.

Picture the U.S. West Coast as a tortured tectonic boundary, similar to Australia and Southeast Asia today. Erase the giant subduction zone researchers have long nestled against western North America. Drop a vast archipelago into the ancient Panthalassa Ocean, usually drawn as an empty void, the kind on which medieval mapmakers would have depicted fantastical beasts.

"Now it fits together," said Karin Sigloch, a seismologist at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, and lead study author. "We've come up with a pretty different solution that I think will hold up.

"

Energy

The University of Michigan: fuel economy of new vehicles [is] at all-time high.

Fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States is at its highest level ever, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in March was 24.6 mpg, up 0.2 mpg from the revised figures for both January and February—the previous highs. Last month's mark is 4.5 mpg higher than in October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

Physics

Space.com via LiveScience: Dark Matter Possibly Found by $2 Billion Space Station Experiment
Tia Ghose, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 03 April 2013 Time: 11:12 AM ET

A massive particle detector mounted on the International Space Station may have detected elusive dark matter at last, scientists announced today (April 3).

The detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), measures cosmic-ray particles in space. After detecting billions of these particles over a year and a half, the experiment recorded a signal that may be the result of dark matter, the hidden substance that makes up more than 80 percent of all matter in the universe.

AMS found about 400,000 positrons, the antimatter partner particles of electrons. The energies of these positrons suggest they might have been created when particles of dark matter collided and destroyed each other.

LiveScience: Physicists Nudge Electrons, Move Toward Crazy-Fast Computers
Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 03 April 2013 Time: 01:00 PM ET

Physicists have nudged electrons to change their spin in just quadrillionths of a second, the fastest ever achieved and a basic-science feat that could lead to faster computer processing and storage.

Electrons have three basic properties: mass, electric charge and spin. The spin is a form of angular momentum, which relates to how an electron moves around the nucleus of an atom. An electron's spin comes in two flavors: up and down.

Manipulating electrons is important for computing since most data storage these days is magnetic and relies on aligning the spin of electrons in a material. In recent years, a new technology known as spintronics has emerged that aims to control both the spin and the electric charge of electrons to improve how information is stored. The technology relies on the rapid switching of magnetic fields, which can now be done within quadrillionths of a second, a new study shows.

Chemistry

Smithsonian Magazine: What Makes Rain Smell So Good?
Joseph Stromberg
April 2, 2013

Step outside after the first storm after a dry spell and it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain.

If you've ever noticed this mysterious scent and wondered what's responsible for it, you're not alone.

TechNewsDaily: 3-D Printed Material Mimics Biological Tissue
Rachel Kaufman, TechNewsDaily Contributor
April 04 2013 02:08 PM ET

For the first time, scientists have printed structures that mimic the texture, consistency and certain properties of biological tissue.

The manmade "tissues" are nothing more than water droplets encased in oil, stacked atop one another, but the scientists were able to construct stable structures that held their form for weeks, structures that conducted electricity and even structures that folded similarly to how muscle cells do.

"These structures --you can see them as basic tissues," said Alex Graham, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and one of the authors of the new paper describing the materials. "It's such a simple structure...but you can foresee in the future you could start to functionalize it in a way that could be useful."

Science Crime Scenes

LiveScience: Curse of King Tut's Tomb Turns 90
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 12:25 PM ET

Happy birthday, curse of Tutankhamun. The rumor that some mysterious force set out to kill the team who opened the tomb of the boy pharaoh turns 90 today (April 5).

On April 5, 1923, Egyptologist Lord Carnarvon, the 57-year-old financial backer of the Tutankhamun search who opened the tomb along with Egyptologist Howard Carter, died of an infected mosquito bite he'd slashed open while shaving. Carnarvon's failing health spurred a media frenzy that gave birth to the myth of the "Mummy's curse."

N.Y. Times: Hopis Try to Stop Paris Sale of Artifacts
By TOM MASHBERG

In a rare case of a cultural heritage claim arising from the sale of American artifacts abroad, the Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop a high-price auction of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week.

The tribe is receiving advice from the State and Interior Departments, but each agency says its ability to intervene is limited.

Salt Lake Tribune: West Valley City couple indicted for smuggling Peruvian artifacts
Crime » Parcel seized at the couple’s home contained 8 artifacts.
By Brooke Adams | The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Apr 03 2013 06:31 pm • Last Updated Apr 04 2013 08:08 pm

A federal grand jury indicted two West Valley City residents Wednesday on allegations they helped smuggled Peruvian artifacts, including pre-Columbian vessels, to the United States.

Cesar Guarderas, 70, and his wife, Rosa Isabel Guarderas, 45, were arrested March 25 following an investigation that began in October. They will make their first court appearance Friday.

Two other men also are named in the indictment: Javier Abanto-Sarmiento, 39, and Alfredo Abanto-Sarmiento, 36, of Trujillo, Peru. Javier Abanto-Sarmiento and Rosa Isabel Guarderas are siblings.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

Western Morning News via This is Cornwall (UK): Ancient monument 'damaged by cattle'
By Andy Greenwood

One of the Westcountry's most famous archaeological landmarks is being threatened by grazing cattle permitted by the Government's environment watchdog, campaigners have warned.

The Bronze Age stone monument, known as Men-an-Tol, has stood near Morvah, in West Cornwall, for up to 4,500 years.

It is listed as a scheduled monument with English Heritage describing it as "one of the most famous and mysterious" in Cornwall.

But campaigners fear it is now being damaged by cattle introduced onto the heathland under a Natural England agri-environmental scheme.

Ian McNeil Cooke, of the Save Penwith Moors action group, said: "On one of my recent, regular walks from my studio about half a mile away, I noticed cattle hair on the holed stone with hoof prints in the churned up ground surrounding all three stones.

"It is obvious that the cattle had been using the stones as convenient 'rubbing posts'."

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Space.com: Asteroid-Capture Mission, Senator Says
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 05:16 PM ET

NASA will likely get $100 million next year to jump-start an audacious program to drag an asteroid into orbit around the moon for research and exploration purposes, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says.

The $100 million will probably be part of President Barack Obama's federal budget request for 2014, which is expected to be released next week, Nelson (D-FL) said. The money is intended to get the ball rolling on the asteroid-retrieval project, which also aims to send astronauts out to the captured space rock in 2021.

"This is part of what will be a much broader program," Nelson said Friday (April 5), during a visit to Orlando. "The plan combines the science of mining an asteroid, along with developing ways to deflect one, along with providing a place to develop ways we can go to Mars."

Space.com: North Korea Nuclear Strike on US Unlikely
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 05 April 2013 Time: 06:30 AM ET

There's little reason to believe that North Korea can actually make good on its recent threats to turn major American cities into "seas of fire," experts say.

Angered by United Nations sanctions and joint U.S./South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang has been ramping up its bellicose rhetoric over the past few weeks, threatening to launch nuclear strikes on Washington, D.C. and other parts of the American mainland.

But the available evidence suggests that North Korea's missiles cannot deliver nuclear warheads to such distant targets, analysts say. Further, the regime likely has just a handful of nuclear weapons, which it may not want to put atop missiles of questionable reliability.

Accuweather via OurAmazingPlanet: Post Sandy: The Jersey Shore's Susceptibility to Major Storms
by Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com
Apr 05, 2013 10:38 AM ET

Before Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the Jersey coast on Oct. 29, 2012, few realized the intensity of the storm that headed in their direction.

The National Hurricane Center opted not to issue hurricane warnings north of North Carolina, and instead handed the reins to regional National Weather Service offices.

Local governments warned the public of the approaching threat, and issued evacuation orders to many towns. While some residents agreed to leave, others resisted, believing that people were 'crying wolf' about the storm.

Accuweather via OurAmazingPlanet: Weather Service Broadens Hurricane Warning Definition
by Accuweather.com
Apr 04, 2013 03:09 PM E

The National Weather Service announced today that, starting June 1, the definitions of hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings will be broadened.

The new changes will allow watches and warnings to be issued or remain in effect after a tropical cyclone becomes post-tropical, when such a storm poses a significant threat to life and property.

In addition, the National Hurricane Center will be permitted to issue advisories during the post-tropical stage.

Environmental Defense Fund via LiveScience: Why Businesses Must Think Green
Andrew Hutson, Environmental Defense Fund
Date: 04 April 2013 Time: 04:08 PM ET

Is the business community its own worst enemy? That was my takeaway from a recent post on FastCompany's blog. In it, Joss Tantram makes the provocative argument that trade — "rights of enterprise, private trade and market activity" — is a fundamental human right. But he also notes that that right is increasingly at risk, given the market's failure to address the disruptive effects of climate change and other environmental challenges.

"Trade as we have known it is endangered," Tantram writes. "Clear trends in demographics, urbanization, water quality and availability, climate stability, resource scarcity and ecosystem health represent risks to the continuation of trade as usual." He suggests changes to trade law, policy and regulation that remedy the problem.

I agree with Tantram. Mostly. Trade is the lifeblood of society and the engine that enables people to live better lives. And, yes, systems of commerce are increasingly at risk due to self-inflicted social and environmental wounds. So we do need new public policies to ensure future prosperity.

Science Education

LiveScience: "Just a Theory": 7 Misused Science Words
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 01 April 2013 Time: 05:52 PM ET

Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.

Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word "model." But those aren't the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.

"A word like 'theory' is a technical scientific term," said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. "The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education."

Science Writing and Reporting

Irish Times: Crowdsourcing the search for some missing royalty
An archaeological site in Co Meath has been relying on the public for its dig outs, and has created a community-led heritage project in the process
Thu, Apr 4, 2013, 06:00

Last August, archaeologists raised a goblet of mead in celebration when the skeleton of Richard III was unearthed under a carpark in Leicester. Now, an Irish team of archaeologists are hoping to find an ancestor of Richard III – in a patch of waste ground in Trim, Co Meath, just behind the local supermarket.

Beneath this four-acre rectangle of scrubby grass, bordered by a housing estate, lie the foundations of a 13th-century Dominican blackfriary, and a team of have been excavating the site, which contains many skeletons. They hope that one of these may be skeleton of sir Geoffrey de Geneville, a French nobleman who founded the friary.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Science is Cool

The Guardian (UK): The Hobbit ring that may have inspired Tolkien put on show

Lord of the Rings author was researching the story of the curse of a Roman ring for two years before starting Bilbo Baggins tale

In what was once the housekeeper's office of a Tudor mansion in Hampshire, a very odd golden ring glitters on a revolving stand in a tall perspex column. In chapter five of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds a ring in the gloom of Gollum's cave. Not just any ring. "One very beautiful thing, very beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring."

A new exhibition opening today at The Vyne, now owned by the National Trust, raises the intriguing possibility that the Roman ring in the case, and the ring of power in JRR Tolkien's book The Hobbit, and in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, are one and the same.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

CollectSpace.com via OurAmazingPlanet: Earth From Space to Star in 3D Film by Disney, IMAX
by Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com Editor - Apr 02, 2013 11:12 AM ET

IMAX, the large-format film company, has announced it will again launch moviegoers into outer space, this time in a 3D feature to be produced with The Walt Disney Studios.

The still-to-be-titled film will be the eighth time IMAX has pointed its cameras and screens toward space in a movie led by filmmaker Toni Myers. According to the company, the production will use "high-resolution photography and videography to offer breathtaking, illuminating views of our home planet from space" to explore the changes that have occurred on Earth in just the past several decades.

Targeted for a 2015 release and made in cooperation with NASA, the film will focus on humankind's future on – and off – the planet, "increasing our understanding of the solar system," while also virtually traveling light-years to other star systems to ponder the possibilities of Goldilocks, the term planetary scientists give to planets that fall inside a star's habitable zone, like the Earth.

Space.com: Astronaut Catches Alien on Space Station in April Fools' Prank
by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 01 April 2013 Time: 05:27 PM ET

When an alien parked a flying saucer at the International Space Station to say hello, astronaut Chris Hadfield turned to Twitter to report the earthshaking news. And if that sounds too good to be true … that's because it is. Hadfield, it turns out, is a prankster.

Hadfield had a ball with April Fools' Day in space today (April 1), with the UFO stunt just one of his pranks. Earlier, the Canadian astronaut used his Twitter handle @Cmdr_Hadfield to post a photo of himself with space "grenades" he found on the station. It turns out, there were just harmless air sampling devices.

Over the course of seven hours, Hadfield wrote five posts on Twitter slowly revealing his elaborate April Fools' Day joke.

Space.com: Astronaut Celebrates Easter in Space (Easter Eggs, Included)
by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
Date: 31 March 2013 Time: 09:55 AM ET

Children around the world aren't the only ones having an Easter egg hunt today. Astronauts in space will get Easter treats, too.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who commands the International Space Station, made sure that the Easter Bunny would make a special trip to the orbital lab today (March 31) just in time for an Easter celebration in space.

"Good Morning, Earth! A fine Easter Sunday morning to you from the crew of the International Space Station," Hadfield wrote in a post on Twitter, where he is chronicling his mission under the name @Cmdr_Hadfield.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 08:58 PM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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