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Evidence of fire use by ancestors a million years ago

Wonderwerk caveScientists say they have new evidence that our ancestors were using fire as early as a million years ago. It takes the form of ash and bone fragments recovered from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa.

The team tells the journal PNAS that the sediments suggest frequent, controlled fires were lit on the site. The ability to use fire is regarded as a key step in human development because it gave us access to cooked foods and new technologies.

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Study indicates existence of billions of habitable alien planets in Milky Way

"Our new observations with HARPS mean that about 40 percent of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet," team leader Xavier Bonfils of the Observatoire des Sciences de l'Univers de Grenoble in France said in a statement. "Because red dwarfs are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone."

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Runaway planets ejected from galaxy at insane speeds

Runaway planetscPlanets in tight orbits around stars that get ejected from our galaxy may actually themselves be tossed out of the Milky Way at blisteringly fast speeds of up to 30 million miles per hour, or a fraction of the speed of light, a new study finds.

"These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in the galaxy, aside from photons and particles like cosmic rays," said Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "In terms of large, solid objects, they would be the fastest. It would take them 10 seconds or so to cross the diameter of the Earth."

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Scientists reconstruct ‘elegant’ giant penguin that lived in New Zealand 26 million years ago

Elegant giant penguinIt was a slender bird, with long wings and a spear-like bill to catch swift ocean prey. And scientists say the first glimpse of the extinct giant penguin species was worth the 26 million-year wait.

Experts from New Zealand and the United States reconstructed a fossil skeleton of one of the giant sea birds to reveal a body shape unique from known penguin species with features that have them describing it as one elegant bird.

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Astrophysicists identify new kind of planet GJ1214b, dominated by hot water

Planet GJ1214bAN astronaut attempting to visit recently discovered planet GJ1214b would land in hot water - literally, US scientists say.

Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said they have identified an entirely new kind of planet, dominated not by rock, gas or other common materials, but water.

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Roger Boisjoly, 73, Dies; Warned of Shuttle Danger, Paid a High Price

Roger BoisjolySix months before the space shuttle Challenger exploded over Florida on Jan. 28, 1986, Roger Boisjoly wrote a portentous memo. He warned that if the weather was too cold, seals connecting sections of the shuttle’s huge rocket boosters could fail.

“The result could be a catastrophe of the highest order, loss of human life,” he wrote.

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'Super-Earth' planet spurs hope for billions more

Astronomers have detected a rocky "super-Earth" planet orbiting a nearby star in a region where life could possibly exist, a finding that led one of the team from UC Santa Cruz to predict there must be billions more of them in the Milky Way.

"Detecting this planet so near implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets," said Steven Vogt, a veteran UC Santa Cruz planet hunter who is a member of the discovery team and is now completing a new telescope called the Automated Planet Finder at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton near San Jose.

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