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Thursday, Jul 24th

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Researchers turn adult cells back into stem cells

adult cells to stem cellsIn a step that has implications for stem cell research, human biology and the treatment of disease, researchers in Japan and at Harvard University have managed to turn adult cells back into flexible stem cells without changing their DNA.

The researchers discovered that they could put cells in various challenging circumstances – including in acidic solutions and under physical pressure – and turn mature blood cells into cells that were capable of turning into virtually any cell in the body.

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Fla. space center home to secret spacecraft

KENNEDY SPACE cENTERThe Kennedy Space Center is going to be the testing site for a top-secret Air Force space plane. Boeing - the contractor working on the spacecraft - announced Friday that it will be converting a former space shuttle building for the X-37B orbital test vehicle program.

An undisclosed number of workers will recover, refurbish and relaunch the 29-foot-long unmanned spacecraft.

The Air Force launched the most recent flight of the unmanned spacecraft from Florida's Space Coast more than a year ago.

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Scientists find records of rare "earthquake lights"

earthquake lightsThey've been mistaken for UFOs or dismissed as hallucinations. Now geologists have collected a near-definitive list of a rare but fascinating phenomenon — earthquake lights.

Certain types of earthquakes in certain areas can set off blazes of light seconds — sometimes days — ahead of the actual quake. These can manifest themselves as floating balls of light, bluish columns shooting up out of the earth and even reverse lightning, reaching up into the sky from the ground.

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Life may have originated miles underground

Life may have started undergroundNew studies suggest the beginnings of life on this planet could have occurred deep underground, the Independent reports.

Researchers have found microbes up to 3.1 miles below the Earth's surface — tiny organisms that are almost exactly the same on opposite sides of the planet. That points to a possible common ancestor about 3.5 billion years ago, which is when earthly life began, the paper explains.

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Astronomers find strange planet orbiting where there shouldn't be one

new planet foundA team of astronomers led by a U.S. graduate student has discovered a planet that shouldn't be where it is, raising questions about how planetary systems form.

The giant planet orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-sun distance if the most distantly orbiting planet found to date around a single, sun-like star, a University of Arizona release said Thursday.

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400,000-year-old leg bone gives up oldest human DNA

oldest dna sampleThe discovery of DNA in a 400,000-year-old human thigh bone will open up a new frontier in the study of our ancestors.

That's the verdict cast by human evolution experts on an analysis in Nature journal of the oldest human genetic material ever sequenced.

The femur comes from the famed "Pit of Bones" site in Spain, which gave up the remains of at least 28 ancient people. But the results are perplexing, raising more questions than answers about our increasingly complex family tree.

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Researchers Discover the Hot New Technology: Throwing Javelins

species that taught us to use toolsiPhones, staplers, aluminum foil. Humans are surrounded and defined by their technologies. We might even say: Technology makes us human.

But that’s not quite true, because we know that other animals employ and deploy tools, too. Primates use twiggy Roto-Rooters to search for bugs. All sorts of creatures make homes for themselves; bowerbirds sculpt fantastical ones.

And now we know it’s not quite true either, historically. New archeological evidence indicates that our ancestors used a certain kind of tool—a “complex tool,” in the parlance of anthropologists—when they were still our ancestors.

That is: They threw spear-tipped javelins, to catch and kill animals.

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