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June 05, 2014

Star-within-a-star Thorne-Żytkow object discovered

There's nothing like a NEW KIND OF STAR to really spark my sense of wonder. Astronomers Discover A Weird "Stellar Hybrid" — A Star Within A Star
An exotic type of 'hybrid' star has been discovered nearly 40 years since it was first theorized, but until now has been curiously difficult to find. In 1975, renowned astrophysicists Kip Thorne, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., and Anna Żytkow, of the University of Cambridge, UK, assembled a theory on how a large dying star could swallow its neutron star binary partner, thus becoming a very rare type of stellar hybrid, nicknamed a Thorne-Żytkow object (or TŻO). The neutron star — a dense husk of degenerate matter that was once a massive star long since gone supernova — would spiral into the red supergiant's core, interrupting normal fusion processes. According to the Thorne-Żytkow theory, after the two objects have merged, an excess of the elements rubidium, lithium and molybdenum will be generated by the hybrid. So astronomers have been on the lookout for stars in our galaxy, which is thought to contain only a few dozen of these objects at any one time, with this specific chemical signature in their atmospheres.

June 04, 2014

42% of Americans say they believe the world was created whole 10,000 years ago

And 73% of Americans either don't believe in evolution or have no idea what it is. 42% Of Americans Believe God Created Humans 10,000 Years Ago
A new Gallup poll shows that 73% of Americans subscribe to creationism in one form or another, including 42% who take a literal interpretation of Genesis. This is a result that's changed very little over the past three decades. The poll, conducted between May 8 to 11, asked respondents to identify which of the following three statements came closest to their own views on the origin and development of human beings: Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so The results: 42% said God created humans in their present form, 31% said humans evolved with God guiding, and a paltry 19% said God had no part in the process. That means 73% of Americans don't understand Darwinian natural selection — a stand-alone process that does not require supernatural intervention. By contrast, 22% of people in Canada and the UK believe in literal creationism. By contrast, in Norway, only 8% still believe in creationism. The number of Americans who believe God had no part in the process has doubled since 1999.

May 27, 2014

Scientists think common pesticide is responsible for massive bee deaths

Neonicatinoids are probably what's killing all the bees. Did Scientists Just Solve the Bee Collapse Mystery? | Mother Jones
The hardest-to-avoid menace of all might be the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, widely used not only on big Midwestern crops like corn and soybeans but also on cotton, sorghum, sugar beets, apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. They're even common in yard and landscaping products. I've written before about the growing weight of science linking these lucrative pesticides, marketed by European agrichemical giants Bayer and Syngenta, to declining bee health, including the annual die-offs known as colony collapse disorder, which began in the winter of 2005-06. Advertise on MotherJones.com And now, a new Harvard study fingers neonics as the key driver of colony collapse disorder. The experiment couldn't have been simpler. Working with nearby beekeepers, Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 colonies with tiny levels of neonics and kept six control hives free of the popular chemicals. All 18 hives made it through summer without any apparent trouble. Come winter, though, the bees in six of the treated hives vanished, leaving behind empty colonies—the classic behavior of colony collapse disorder. None of the six control hives experienced a CCD-style disappearing act, although one did succumb to a common-to-bees gut pathogen called nosema.

May 15, 2014

High school girl develops instant HIV test

An instant HIV test could go a long way to eradicating the disease. Joe. My. God.: CANADA: High School Girl Develops HIV Test That Delivers Instant Result
Nicole Ticea is a Grade 10 student at the private girl's York House School, Vancouver. As part of a collaboration program with Simon Fraser University she developed a test using Isothermic Nucleic Acid Amplification. This allows users to place a drop of blood on a chip to receive a near instantaneous response to find out if they are infected, a process only slightly more difficult than a pregnancy test. The test is still a long way from widespread use, with its reliability needing to pass far more stringent review, before commercial partners can even be considered. Multiple HIV testing mechanisms exist, but none are considered perfect, leading to the widespread combination of two testing mechanisms to minimize the danger of false results. In this context, Ticea's work could easily find a niche.