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Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 04:20

Frustrated by the lack of quality lightsabers in toy shops, Makoto Tsai did what any self-respecting hardcore Star Wars fan would do -- he studied engineering at college and then spent years perfecting a replica. As fans gather globally on May 4th for what has become the unofficial Star Wars Day -- this year mourning the death of towering Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew -- many will be clutching one of Tsai's lightsabers, made in his workshop near Taipei. Local and ethnic Chinese fans are offered a half price discount, providing that they pass a written test "to prove they have enough passion for Star Wars".

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SpaceX admits its spacecraft blew up in secretive accident – but does not say why

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 04:16

SpaceX has confirmed that one of its rocket blew up in a secretive, mysterious accident – but not what happened.The company and its primary customer, Nasa, have spent the two weeks since a spectacular explosion of its new crew capsule saying very little about what happened.Nasa expects to rely on the spacecraft to transport astronauts into space in the future, and its success is vital to the space programme. But it has revealed very little about what exactly went wrong.Now Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability for SpaceX, admitted that there had been an "anomaly". But the company continued to be secretive about the details of the problem.The April 20 accident occurred on a landing zone at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as SpaceX was conducting a test of emergency thrusters designed to propel the capsule, dubbed Crew Dragon, to safety from atop the rocket in the event of a launch failure.An attempt to test-fire the eight SuperDraco engines triggered the accident, demolishing the entire vehicle on a test stand, Koenigsmann told reporters at NASA's Kennedy Space Center."Just prior, before we wanted to fire the SuperDraco, there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed," Koenigsmann said on Thursday. "There were no injuries. SpaceX had taken all safety measures prior to this test, as we always do."The news conference was called ahead of Friday's scheduled launch of an unmanned resupply mission to the international space station using a cargo-only capsule built by SpaceX, the private rocket venture of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.When pressed, Koenigsmann declined to characterise the nature of the accident, including whether an explosion or fire was involved. NASA has likewise demurred when asked to describe the mishap.A leaked video of the accident, which was acknowledged as authentic by a NASA contractor in an internal memo obtained by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, showed the astronaut capsule blasting into smithereens. A pall of smoke was also widely observed rising over the launch pad from a distance at the time of the ill-fated test.The Crew Dragon had been scheduled to carry U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station in a test mission in July, although the recent accident, as well as some other hitches in the vehicle's design, are likely to push that schedule to later in the year or into 2020."It's certainly not great news for the schedule overall, but I hope we can recover," Koenigsmann said.The destroyed vehicle was one of six such capsules built or in late production by SpaceX, and the first flown into space. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched it without crew to the space station in March for a six-day visit before returning to Earth, splashing down safely in the Atlantic for retrieval."We have no reason to believe there is an issue with the SuperDracos themselves," Koenigsmann said, adding that the engines have been tested nearly 600 times in the past.NASA has been awarded $6.8 billion to SpaceX and rival Boeing Co to develop separate capsule systems to fly astronauts to space, but both companies have faced technical challenges and delays.Additional reporting by Reuters

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Pharma Stock Roundup: MRK, LLY, PFE Report Q1 Earnings, SNY, ABBV Drugs Get EU Nod

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 04:10

Merck (MRK), Pfizer (PFE), Lilly (LLY) announce Q1 results. European Commission grants approval to AbbVie's (ABBV) Skyrizi and Sanofi's (SNY) Zynquista.

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Strong cyclone lashes east India, impacts Asian subcontinent

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 03:52

NEW DELHI (AP) — Cyclone Fani tore through India's eastern coast on Friday as a grade 5 storm, lashing beaches with rain and wind gusting up to 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and affecting weather as far away as Mount Everest.

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EU’s Antitrust Probes of Big Tech Aren’t Over, Vestager Says

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 03:19

A European Union antitrust crackdown on big technology firms is “definitely not done yet,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Bloomberg TV, citing probes into Inc. and Google. “We have a probe into the Amazon use of data because they both host a lot of businesses but they also compete against those businesses themselves.

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Robots Edge Closer to Unloading Trucks in Amazon-Era Milestone

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 03:00

Siemens AG and Honeywell International Inc. have built machines that pull packages from the back of a tractor-trailer and place them on conveyor belts, whizzing the parcels off for sorting. “The biggest challenge in our world is: Every single package is different in size, shape, weight, color, material,” said Ted Dengel, managing director of operations technology at FedEx’s ground-delivery unit. Automated unloaders took years to develop and still haven’t been perfected, reflecting the difficulty of working with an array of packages that are stacked differently from truck to truck.

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House of Representatives backs climate change deal to force US to stay in Paris agreement

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 02:25

The House of Representatives has passed a bill designed to force the US to stay in the Paris climate deal, in a rebuke to Donald Trump who has promised to withdraw from the landmark agreement. But the Democratic bill, which passed 231-190 in a vote largely along party lines, stands little chance of approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.House Democrats seized on the measure to portray Republicans as obstacles to progress on climate change – and make a case ahead of the 2020 election that Trump is undermining the nation's commitment to rein in heat-trapping pollution.Democrats also hope to signal to other countries party to the Paris agreement signed in 2015 that, if the next president is a Democrat, he or she is likely to keep the US in the climate agreement.“Passing this bill is an important signal to our allies, and my expectation is that when we act we'll see increased ambition from them too,” congresswoman Kathy Castor, lead sponsor of the legislation, told reporters a day before the vote.Although Mr Trump announced his intent to pull out of the Paris accord after only a few months in office, the earliest he could actually go forward with the withdrawal is November 2020.“That's an interesting date, isn't it?” Ms Castor said.The approval of the Climate Action Now Act also constitutes the first time in nearly a decade a major piece of legislation focused on addressing climate change has passed the lower chamber.It comes after repeated warnings from climate scientists about the perils of inaction when it comes to reducing climate-warming emissions.Just three Republicans – Vern Buchanan of Florida, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Elise Stefanik of New York – crossed over to vote with Democrats to pass the bill. The bill would remove funding for any effort by the federal government to withdraw from the agreement, and would compel Mr Trump to come up with a plan for meeting the United States' Paris targets.Under the Paris accord, more than 190 nations voluntarily vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of keeping the globe under 2C warming over pre-industrial levels.But each nation sets its own emissions-reduction targets under the agreement. Developing countries such as China gave themselves non-binding goals that still allowed them to increase greenhouse-gas emissions for years to come, as the poor in those nations rise out of poverty and increase their energy use.The differing standards for the United States and its chief economic rival became a bone of contention for Republicans, who raised this issue again ahead of the passage of the bill.“Climate change is real,” congressman Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor ahead of the vote.“But addressing climate change should not involve binding ourselves to international agreements that put United States workers and jobs at a disadvantage to our main competitors around the world.”Since losing the House in November, Mr Walden and other Republicans have instead emphasised investment in new technologies, like advanced nuclear reactors, over regulation and international agreements to reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases.“We really don't need a Paris climate agreement” to reduce emissions, congressman John Shimkus, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on climate change and the environment, said during the floor debate.Ms Castor, an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, introduced the measure as part of a Democratic effort to reset the climate debate in Congress after the defeat in the Senate of the Green New Deal.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced a vote on the Green New Deal in March in an effort to divide Democrats on the bill that would rapidly reduce carbon emissions over the next decade, all while improving access to jobs and health care.The Climate Action Now Act is much narrower in its ambitions, but with more than 200 co-sponsors, it affords Democrats an opportunity to show a unified front on the issue of climate change.And unlike progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, Ms Pelosi and other House leaders backed it.“This clearly is one of the most, if not the most, important issue confronting our global community,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday.But Republicans have shown little sign of letting up on their focus of the Green New Deal specifically, with congressman Jody Hice filing a discharge petition on Wednesday that would force a vote on the resolution.Although the Green New Deal resolution itself is short on details about how exactly to reduce emissions from the power, agricultural and transportation sectors, Republicans across the Capitol decided to fill in the gaps themselves and suggested it would result in bans on hamburgers and air travel.The Washington Post

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SpaceX Launches Human Tissue Into Microgravity

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 01:11

Jim Watson/AFP/GettySpaceX’s latest mission launched during the wee hours of Friday, when a Falcon 9 rocket blasted into the sky and delivered 5,500 pounds of new supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.Onboard: living tissue being grown on tiny little chips created by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) that could help us understand and treat human diseases in microgravity. Space can do a number to the human body. A lot of that has to do with the fact that humans were never really meant to float weightlessly. Without the support of gravity against the body, bone density and muscle mass drop rapidly. The lack of gravity causes all the fluids in the body to shift around, which can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system, kidney function, and even the shape of the eyes.   These changes occur remarkably fast. And they often rapidly simulate the kinds of diseases and illnesses that afflict people on Earth. The loss of bone density in astronauts, for example, looks a lot like what happens to people on the ground who are grappling with osteoporosis.  “If we’re sending our tissue samples up in space, we can see changes occurring on a really short time scale, that might normally take a really long time here on Earth,” Lucie Low, a scientist with NCATS involved with the experiments, told The Daily Beast. The use of a tissue chip—a clear plastic device, about half the size of a standard smartphone, possessing carefully designed chambers that organize and house living human tissue in three dimensions—offers up a solution to studying diseases and ailments without the need to have to use animal models or human participants.Scientists can simply put a chip under a microscope and see bone density loss or kidney stone formation occur in real time without having to slice open a living organism.The chips traveling to the International Space Station on Friday include tissue models that should simulate some common disease states in humans: lung and bone marrow chips for studying bone marrow activation and immune cell behavior; kidney chips for understanding kidney stone formation and prevention; bone and cartilage chips designed to mimic osteoporosis development; and chips modeling the blood-brain barrier that could potentially reveal new ways of treating many kinds of brain diseases.Even if we don’t learn anything that could lead to a new sort of treatment for a new disease, we’ll at least learn something new about the cellular behaviors behind many kinds of disease states. “They’re very specifically designed to recreate the architecture of the cells in your body on a chip,” Low said. “They’re recreating the structure and function of tissues in your own body.”The lung chip, for example, effectively recreates the mechanical and biochemical movements and functions of a breathing lung, expanding and contracting like our lungs. Space is an issue, though. The ISS is quite compact compared to state-of-the-art labs on Earth. These experiments are therefore designed to be straightforward and run on their own, requiring relatively minimal crew input apart from minor tasks like changing valves, collecting biological media, and freezing tissue at the end of the trial.When the chips are brought back to Earth, scientists on the ground will make microscopic observations and run assays to determine exactly how much microgravity has transformed the tissues in such a short time, and clue scientists in on how some common human diseases could be prevented or halted.  That doesn’t mean the astronauts on the ISS will be any less excited to observe them on their own. “I know [the astronauts] get quite keen to see heart cells beating up and down in microgravity, and things of that nature,” Low said. “Where we can, we’d love to involve crew time and keep them engaged.”Whatever changes we observe could help us understand new ways of treating many different kinds of diseases, revealing new drug pathways or hint at the type of genes that give rise to such ailments. Digesting that information and moving the data through into the clinical research realm will take some time,though.But, as Low put it, science is an iterative process. Every science experiment you do is a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, helping inform other knowledge acquired later.SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, was hoping to land the first stage booster of the Falcon 9 rocket on its Atlantic Ocean drone ship.Read more at The Daily Beast.

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End to the HIV pandemic in sight, say scientists, after study finds treatment stops sexual transmission of virus

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 00:57

People with HIV who are undergoing effective treatment cannot pass on the virus through sex, scientists have said, claiming the end of the pandemic could be in sight.  Researchers tested 1,000 gay male couples - one HIV positive and taking antiretroviral drugs to suppress the virus and the other HIV negative - and found no cases of transmission over eight years. Experts said the results were a "powerful message" that should be shared widely. Dr Michael Brady, medical director at HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was "impossible to overstate the importance of these findings". "The study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners. "This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma." From tragedy to hope | A history of HIV breakthroughs The study, published in The Lancet journal, reported that the couples had sex without condoms around 77,000 times. The researchers said about 472 transmissions of HIV would have been expected without the treatment, but the actual figure stood at zero. The scientists added that ART proved just as effective for gay couples as it had for heterosexual couples. Over the eight years, a total of 15 men were infected with HIV, but DNA testing showed the virus did not come from their main partner. Professor Alison Rodger, from University College London, who co-led the research, said: "Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART (antiretroviral therapy) is zero. "This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face. "Increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this powerful message and ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, adherence support and linkage to care." Eastern Europe has by far the most HIV cases in the region Professor Anna Maria Geretti, from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Infection and Global Health, who led the study's genetic analysis work, said: "We used cutting-edge technology to analyse the genetic strains of the virus in the rare cases where a new HIV infection occurred. "Our work was key because we were able to show that there was no relation between the virus strains of the two people in the couple. In other words, in all cases of new HIV infections, the new virus was so different from that of the HIV-positive partner that it must have come from somebody else."

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Modern breeding reduced horse diversity within centuries: study

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 00:22

The horses that galloped the earth just a thousand years ago probably looked very different from their modern descendants, researchers said Thursday after compiling the most complete genetic history of any non-human species. "The horse has had a profound effect on human history," said Ludovic Orlando, a research director with CNRS and the University of Toulouse, who coordinated the study. "This is the largest register of ancient genomes ever collected for a non-human species," said Orlando.

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HIV/AIDS Scholars Using Nonhuman Primate (NHP) Models Program (K01 Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NIH Funding Opportunities - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 00:04
Funding Opportunity PAR-19-267 from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Funding Opportunity PurposeThe purpose of this NIH Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01) is to provide salary and research support to investigators who are within ten years of completing their terminal professional degree or residency training. Research and mentorship must be in the field of HIV/AIDS translational studies, using nonhuman primates (NHPs) as pre-clinical models. These awards will provide 3 years of support for intensive research career development under the guidance of an experienced mentorship team, with expertise in both the pre-clinical application of NHP HIV/AIDS models and in translation of the results from such studies to clinical application in humans. The expectation is that through this sustained period of research career development and training, awardees will launch independent research careers and become competitive for new research project grant (e.g., R01) funding. This funding initiative addresses all objectives of the fiscal year (FY) 2019/2020 NIH strategic plan for HIV and HIV-Related Research (, including research directed towards prevention and cure of HIV infection; next-generation therapies; understanding the roles of comorbidities, coinfections and complications; and cross-cutting activities such as research training and building capacity.
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Conference for Early Stage HIV/AIDS Researchers Using Nonhuman Primate Models (R13 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NIH Funding Opportunities - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 00:04
Funding Opportunity PAR-19-268 from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages Research Conference Grant (R13) applications to conduct an annual intensive workshop/conference/meeting that addresses the needs of early stage HIV/AIDS researchers utilizing nonhuman primates (NHPs) as they translate preclinical research from NHPs to human clinical trials. The objectives of the meeting(s) supported by this FOA are to provide these early stage HIV/AIDS researchers with guidance on conducting preclinical research to inform clinical trials on reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection, including vaccine development and testing; developing next-generation HIV therapies, including potential cure therapies; treatment of HIV-associated coinfections, comorbidities and complications; and infection prevention strategies. In addition to guidance on translating results to clinical trials, the conference should target developing skills related to networking, grantsmanship, and goal/milestone-driven projects. Conference topics should also include other considerations such as statistical and host genetics considerations; methods to translate the results of NHP studies to clinical trials in humans; and how to develop new NHP research programs to better reflect clinical observations and findings in human HIV/AIDS patients.
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Climate Change Wreaking Havoc on the World's Hydropower Plants

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 00:00

“The general trend all over the world is areas that are dry become more dry and areas that are wet become more wet,” Rynning-Tonnesen, chief executive officer of the renewable electricity generator Statkraft AS, said in an interview in New York on Thursday. As a result of more extreme weather, Rynning-Tonnesen said, Statkraft has had to more than double its spending in the past decade to reinforce dams and ensure they can withstand conditions like heavy rain.

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What I Wish for Those of Us With Endometriosis

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 23:35

A woman with endometriosis described explains her wishes for treatment while awaiting a cure.

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Treatment prevents sexual HIV transmission among gay men: study

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 23:32

HIV-suppressing medication can make the AIDS virus "untransmittable" even among couples who have sex without using condoms, new research showed Friday. The Europe-wide study monitored nearly 1,000 gay male couples over a period of eight years, where one partner was HIV-positive and receiving antiretroviral (ART) treatment, while the other was HIV negative. Doctors did not find a single case of in-couple HIV transmission within that time, raising hopes that widespread ART programmes could eventually end new infections.

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Rangers find three-eyed snake in Australia's Humpty Doo

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 23:15

A three-eyed snake found slithering down a road in the northern Australian town of Humpty Doo has sparked amusement in a country already accustomed to unusual wildlife. Rangers dubbed the unusual serpent "Monty Python" after finding it on a highway in late March. X-rays showed all three of its eyes were functioning and the extra socket likely developed naturally while the snake was an embryo, the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission said in a Facebook post, noting that such deformities were common among reptiles.

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Sullivan Says "We're Good" to Ripley

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 23:00

Because he can't say goodbye.

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Merkel Weighs Carbon Tax for Germany to Speed Pollution Cuts

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 22:00

Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for putting a price on the emissions from industries such as transport and buildings that are outside the European Union’s carbon trading program. It isn’t a matter of whether, but how Germany will make the move, she indicated in a little-reported April podcast. Businesses and households already pay about 25 billion euros ($28 billion) a year on green-energy subsidies, making Germany’s power bills the highest in the EU after Denmark.

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Monstrous rumors stoke hostility to Pakistan's anti-polio drive

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 21:06

"I will stab anyone who comes to my house with polio drops," Khan growled, refusing to be filmed or photographed as he shopped in a fly-blown bazaar on the outskirts of Peshawar, a city scarred by years on the frontline of Islamist militancy in Pakistan. This dangerous hostility to immunization teams flared last week after religious hardliners in the city spread false rumors, raising a scare on social media that some children were being poisoned and dying from contaminated polio vaccines. Mobs burned a village health center, blocked a highway and pelted cars with stones.

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