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Thu, 25 May 2017
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Telescope

Astronauts complete tricky Hubble surgery

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© NASA
Astronaut Michael Good saluted his crewmates on Friday during the second spacewalk of Atlantis' mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. On Saturday, astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel emerged to tackle one of the most challenging tasks of the mission, the repair of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys
In an orbital first, astronauts opened up and installed new electronics on one of the Hubble Space Telescope's most important instruments on Saturday. But NASA must now wait for the results of a battery of tests to see if the ambitious repair job was a success.

The space shuttle Atlantis is currently orbiting Earth on an 11-day mission to refurbish Hubble and extend its life until at least 2014. This is the fifth and last mission to service the telescope, which NASA hopes will leave Hubble with its best vision yet.

After two days of spacewalks that ran over-schedule, astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel made short work of the repair of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), expected to be one of the most challenging tasks of the mission.

Bizarro Earth

How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans

A fossil discovery bears marks of butchering similar to those made when cutting up a deer

One of science's most puzzling mysteries - the disappearance of the Neanderthals - may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.

The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. "Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them," Rozzi said.

Magnify

Unearthing the Mayan Creation Myth

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© R.D. Hansen/Fares Foundation/Idaho State University
Researchers find that the tale of the "Hero Twins" goes back more than 2,000 years.

Archaeologists who have uncovered two massive carved stucco panels in the Mirador Basin of Gua­temala's northern rain forest say they are the earliest known representation of the Mayan creation myth, predating other such artifacts by a millennium. According to the researchers, the panels - 26 feet long and 20 feet high, with images of monsters, gods, and swimming heroes - date to 300 B.C. They formed the sides of a channel that carried rainwater into a complex system of stepped pools, where it was stored for drinking and agriculture.

Sherlock

Primate Fossil Could Be Key Link in Evolution Young Female Had Thumbs, Fingernails, May Have Walked

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© (James Cotier/Stone/Getty Images)
Scientists say a 47-million-year-old fossil found in Germany may be a key link to explain the evolution of modern human beings.
Scientists say a 47-million-year-old fossil found in Germany may be a key link to explain the evolution of modern human beings.

The fossil, of a young female that probably resembled a modern-day lemur, is described as "the most complete primate fossil ever found." It is small -- with a body about the size of a raccoon -- but it has characteristics that suggest a relationship both to primates and humans.

It has, among other things, opposable thumbs, similar to humans' and unlike those found on other modern mammals. It has fingernails instead of claws. And scientists say they believe there is evidence it was able to walk on its hind legs.

Robot

Lost robot crosses city by asking directions

Robots are getting better at finding their way around unknown areas, and making their own maps as they explore. But robots lost in urban areas don't need to rely on their own faculties to get from place to place, German roboticists have shown.


Telescope

Telescopes poised to spot air-breathing aliens

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© G. Bacon STSCI / ESA / NASA
The next generation of space telescopes will be capable of detecting "biosignatures" in the light from planets orbiting other stars
Signs of life on planets beyond our own solar system may soon be in our sights. Experiments and calculations presented at an astrobiology meeting last week reveal how the coming generation of space telescopes will for the first time be capable of detecting "biosignatures" in the light from planets orbiting other stars.

Any clues about life on these exoplanets will have to come from the tiny fraction of the parent star's light that interacts with the planet on its journey towards Earth. The Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have both detected gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapour in the atmospheres of a handful of gas-giant exoplanets as they pass in front of their parent stars. The gas molecules absorb light at characteristic wavelengths, and this shows up as dark lines in the spectrum of the starlight which has been filtered through the planet's atmosphere. But seeing evidence of life - so-called biosignatures - in the spectrum of worlds small enough to be rocky like Earth is beyond the sensitivity of these instruments.

Attention

Scientists Developing Memory-Erasing Drug

Scientists have renewed the controversy over the bounds to which psychiatric drugs should be allowed to go, with research into a drug designed to erase unpleasant memories.

"Removing bad memories is not like removing a wart or a mole," said medical ethics lecturer Daniel Sokol of St. George's, University of London. "It will change our personal identity, since who we are is linked to our memories. It may perhaps be beneficial in some cases, but before eradicating memories, we must reflect on the knock-on effects that this will have on individuals, society and our sense of humanity."

Researchers have said that the new drug could help in the treatment of phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder or other memory-related psychological distress.

Arrow Down

Craigslist dropping 'erotic services' ads

Craigslist is dropping its "erotic services" ads and creating a new "adult" category that will be reviewed by employees of the online classified service, the Illinois attorney general's office said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was informed of Craigslist's decision to stop running "erotic services" ads in a telephone call with representatives of the San Francisco-based company, her office said in a statement.

Madigan's office said Craigslist had stopped accepting "erotic services" ads from late Tuesday and that all ads posted on the site would expire within seven days.

Binoculars

Facebook moves to quash 'phishing' scam

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© Unknown
Facebook says they are already blocking links to "phishing" sites set up by hackers.
Facebook is blocking links to bogus websites set up to look like the home page of the popular social network in a "phishing" attack by hackers.

"We're aware of the attack and are already blocking links to these new phishing sites from being shared on Facebook," the Palo Alto, California, company said on Friday.

"We're also cleaning up phony messages and wall posts and resetting the passwords of affected users," it said.

Facebook did not say how many of the 200 million users of the social network had been affected in the latest hacker attack.

Control Panel

Google glitch disrupts search and email

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© Unknown
The Google glitch that prevented some people from using the search engine and email has been fixed.
Google says it has fixed the technical problems that have prevented an unknown number of people from using its internet search engine, email and other services.

Google hasn't provided specifics on what went wrong.

In a Thursday post on its website, the Mountain View-based company reported that a "small subset of users" weren't able to get into their email accounts and that those troubles might have affected other services as well.

Multiple messages posted on Twitter, a popular information-sharing forum, have indicated that people all over the world have had trouble with the Google search engine and email. But other Twitter users say their Google services have been running smoothly.