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It's a Doozy! Water did indeed flow on Mars at one point in its history - and we're not talking trickles

NASA scientists working with Curiosity have announced that water did indeed flow on Mars at one point in its history - and we're not talking trickles. A newly discovered ancient streambed indicates that the water ran fast and deep, possibly as much as hip deep. The discovery marks a precedent setting achievement for the lander, one that will add serious credibility to the suggestion that Mars was once capable of harboring life. Satellite-based images had suggested that rivers once flowed on Mars, but this discovery offers near-definitive proof that water was once a major geological fixture of the Red Planet.


Police state security cameras can now identify people by the way they walk

© Flickr/Sklathill
Big Brother is sending a message to Anonymous.
That Guy Fawkes mask won't be the great identity equalizer much longer.

The U.K.'s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a recognition system that can identify people by the way they walk, Phys.Org reports.

The technology can be used to track individuals through areas monitored by CCTV (i.e. security) cameras by analyzing their "gait signature," or specific way of walking.

The system combines computer models of the area with CCTV feeds to record a person's gait signature at certain points, check where else that person has been in the area and display the results on a central computer.

As of now it cannot pick someone out of a crowd with 100 percent certainty.


Isaac Newton: Scientist or sorcerer?

© Corbis
If he hadn't believed in spirits and 'active principles', Newton might not have conceived gravity in the mathematical form we still use today.
Isaac Newton's belief in spirits and alchemy may have been essential to achieving his towering scientific achievement: gravity. A new science and arts festival begins this weekend to explore this complex man

Hot on the heels of Isaac Newton's apple appearing at the Paralympics comes a new celebration of his life and achievements. The Gravity Fields Festival begins on Friday in Grantham, Lincolnshire. For eight days, Newton's life and times will be commemorated by more than 100 events around the town, during what could become a biennial event.

Grantham lies close to Newton's birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, and contains the King's School, which the young Isaac attended. On Saturday at 3pm a blue plaque in his honour will be unveiled by the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees.

Often wrongly portrayed as a cold rationalist, Isaac Newton is one of history's most compelling figures. It is true that he was capable of the most precise and logical thought it is possible for a human to achieve: his three years of obsessive work that gave birth to the Principia, containing his theory of gravity, stand as the greatest achievement in science.

Just as certainly, though, he was also consumed with what we would now view as completely unscientific pursuits: alchemy and biblical prophesy.


Cause of brilliant supernova discovered

© Zolt Levay
SN 1006 supernova remnant.
Between April 30 and May 1 of the year 1006, the brightest stellar event ever recorded in history occurred: a supernova, or stellar explosion, that was widely observed by various civilizations from different places on Earth. More than a thousand years later a team led by researchers from the University of Barcelona, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the CSIC has found that the supernova of 1006 (SN 1006) probably occurred as a result of the merger of two white dwarfs.

The finding has been published in the journal Nature.

Different communities of astronomers all over the world observed the supernova of the year 1006. Some of them, including Chinese astronomers, highlighted the fact that the astronomical event was visible for three years. The most explicit record, made by the Egyptian doctor and astronomer Ali ibn Ridwan (988-1061), notes that the phenomenon was about three times brighter than Venus, and that it emitted light of a quantity equivalent to almost a quarter of the Moon's brightness.

As co-director of the work, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, a researcher at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences (ICCUB) and the Instituto of Fundamental Physics(IFF-CSIC), explains, "In this work the existing stars in the area have been studied, regarding distance and possible contamination by elements of the supernova, and the results show that there is no star that could be considered the progenitor of this explosion."


Son's DNA Shows Up in Mom's Brain

© Marina Dyakonova | Dreamstime.com
Research showing for the first time that fetal DNA can migrate into the brain of its mother suggest mama will always have a bit of her baby on her mind.

A mother may always have her children on her mind, literally. New findings reveal that cells from fetuses can migrate into the brains of their mothers, researchers say.

It remains uncertain whether these cells might be helpful or harmful to mothers, or possibly both, scientists added.

Recent findings showed that during pregnancy, mothers and fetuses often exchange cells that can apparently survive in bodies for years, a phenomenon known as microchimerism. Scientists had found that in mice, fetal cells could even migrate into the brains of mothers. Now researchers have the first evidence fetal cells do so in humans as well.

The investigators analyzed the brains of 59 women who had died between the ages of 32 and 101. They looked for signs of male DNA ―which, they reasoned, would have come from the cells of sons. (They searched for male DNA because female DNA would have been harder to distinguish from a mother's genes.)

Nearly two-thirds of the women - 37 of the 59 - were found to have traces of the male Y chromosome in multiple regions of their brains. This effect was apparently long-lasting: The oldest female in whom male fetal DNA was detected was 94.

The defense system known as the blood-brain barrier keeps many drugs and germs in the bloodstream from entering the brain. However, doctors have found this barrier becomes more permeable during pregnancy, which could explain how these fetal cells migrated into the brains of their mothers.


New Comet Discovery May Be Brightest Visitor In Past Hundred Years

© Photos.com
Hale-Bopp, Haley's, McNaught. These are just a few of the more well-known modern comets that have blazed across the night sky in our lifetime. Another comet that has been recently discovered could be added to that list next year when it makes a pass by the Sun in late 2013.

The comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON), is due to come within 1.1 million miles of the Sun on, or around, November 29, 2013. Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok from Russia, made the discovery using the International Scientific Optical Network's (ISON) telescope, capturing the images of the comet on 21 September with CCD imagery equipment.

The comet could blaze brightly across the heavens when it does arrive, experts believe. But just how brightly is difficult to determine. And there could be a chance the Sun will jus t boil it away as it passes, just as happened to comet Elenin last year. If it does survive the encounter, experts speculate it could outshine any comet seen in the last hundred years - perhaps even brighter than the full moon. If so, it should be easily visible to the naked eye for about two months, and could even be visible during daylight.

If the predictions hold true, Comet C/2012 S1 will likely be one of the greatest comet encounters in human history, exceedingly outshining the memorable Hale-Bopp of 1997 and Haley's Comet in 1986. It could even be a much bigger spectacle than the long-awaited Comet Pan-STARRS, which will make a pass in March 2013.


Japanese Team Claims Discovery of Elusive Element 113, and May Get to Name It

Decay Chain of Element 113 - Superheavy element 113 decays to the following daughter isotopes: Roentgenium-274; Meitnerium-270; Bohrium-266; Dubnium-262; Lawrencium-258; and Mendelevium-254.
The claim needs to be verified by chemical authorities, but the team says it's the strongest evidence yet for the highly unstable element.

Japanese researchers claim they've seen conclusive evidence of the long-sought element 113, a super-heavy, super-unstable element near the bottom of the periodic table. It's not yet verified by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which regulates the table and the names of the elements - but if the IUPAC grants its blessing, the researchers could be the first team from Asia to name one of nature's fundamental atoms.

Super-heavy elements do not occur in nature and have to be discovered in the lab, using particle accelerators, nuclear reactors, ion separators and other complex equipment. Scientists led by Kosuke Morita at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science have been hunting for 113 for nine years, and have claimed to see it a few times already - but the evidence has never been this clear, the team said today.

In an experiment in August, the team used a customized gas-filled recoil ion separator paired with a semiconductor detector that can pick out atomic reaction products. They created element 113 by speeding zinc ions through a linear accelerator until they reached 10 percent of the speed of light.

The ions then smashed into a piece of bismuth. When the zinc and bismuth atoms fused, they produced an atom with 113 protons. This atom decayed, incredibly rapidly, into a series of daughter products, each an alpha particle (two protons and two neutrons) lighter than the parent atom. The daughter nuclides are the clear offspring of element 113, and only element 113, whose presence can thus be determined.


What Caused Asteroid Oljato's Magnetic Disturbance?

© NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
Hubble Space Telescope observation of an asteroid trailing debris following a suspected collision.
Dr Christopher Russell presented a paper at the European Planetary Science Congress on Tuesday, explaining why one asteroid has lost its magnetic mojo.

Asteroid 2201 Oljato orbits the Sun every 3.2 years, and during its lifetime, NASA's Pioneer Venus Orbiter has observed three passages of the space rock between Venus and the Sun.

Each time the asteroid has been observed, Oljato had a marked increase in the region of unusual magnetic peaks known as Interplanetary Field Enhancements (IFEs).

"This is not typical asteroidal behavior! These magnetic increases are rare, occurring in Venus orbit about 10 times per year," said Russell, who performed the research.

"Pioneer observed that when Oljato was just in front or just behind Venus, the rate of IFEs approximately trebled. And yet, in more recent observations with Venus Express, the occurrence of IFEs is now lower than the average we find outside this region," he added.


Mighty Mouse Holds Secret for Regrowing Skin

© Ashley W. Seifert
The African spiny mouse (Acomys percivali) can regenerate skin when wounded and even regrow ears that had been punctured.
A mouse that escapes predators by shedding patches of its skin may shed light on regeneration and could lead to research that one day helps people heal from wounds and disease, scientists say.

Humans and other mammals are generally very limited when it comes to regeneration, but one mammal, the African spiny mouse, can heal wounds much faster than lab mice can, which drew the attention of Ashley Seifert, a regeneration biologist at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

"Mammals have no problem regenerating blood cells or epidermis, or regrowing hair that is plucked out," Seifert said, "but following injury, like the severing of a finger, mammals generally just seal off the wound site and produce scar tissue.

"Compare that to salamanders, who can regenerate entire pieces of tissue on the sides of their bodies, not to mention arms, legs and their brain," Seifert told LiveScience.

Furthermore, in mammals, "in general, the ability to regenerate also declines with age," Seifert said. "Newborn humans can actually regenerate a very small piece of the fingertip, but this ability is lost during childhood development."

Given the general limits of mammals when it comes to regeneration, Seifert was fascinated by tales of the African spiny mouse. While vigorous movement could peel off up to 60 percent of the skin off the backs of these rodents, they could quickly heal these wounds and regrow spiny hairs that covered the lost skin.

Seifert clarified these rodents do not regrow all their lost skin. "They use contraction to constrict the wound site so they don't actually have to regenerate much tissue at all," he explained. "It is the central portion of this wound, the remaining 5 percent, that they regenerate."


How we know that they know that deadly viruses come from space

© AP
In the early days of space exploration, NASA basically made up procedure on the fly. With little knowledge of the world outside our atmosphere, agency physicians worried what humans might encounter out there. Maybe John Glenn would go Space Blind. Maybe the Apollo 11 crew would track an Andromeda Strain through the Lunar Command Module, unleashing a deadly moon virus on a defenseless earth.

Better safe than sorry, NASA figured. Here's how scientists attempted to protect our planet - and the rest of the solar system - from the threat of extraterrestrial microbes.

The early days of decontamination

First of all, NASA always took planetary protection very seriously. The Office of Planetary Protection (OPR) was formed in 1967, as part of the United Nations Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Bodies. This treaty states that party countries "shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination."


..."such an occasion does not come without risks."

You can say that again!

New Light on the Black Death: The Viral and Cosmic Connection