Near-100% probability of large quake in L.A. within 3 years, study finds | Evidence of plague found in Bronze Age skeletons | Distant dwarf planet slowly being torn apart by the star it orbits
 
October 23, 2015
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Near-100% probability of large quake in L.A. within 3 years, study finds
An earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater has nearly a 100% probability of occurring in the Los Angeles area by April 1, 2018, according to a new NASA-led study. Researchers used GPS and in-air radar measurements to examine the Earth's crust within a 62-mile radius of La Habra, Calif., where a magnitude-5.1 temblor struck last March, and calculated the strain on deep, locked faults that remain there. The scientists say the probability of a quake with a magnitude of 6 or larger is much less, about 35%, and note that their calculations are not predictions but statistical probability. Yahoo/The Associated Press (10/21)
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Making science stick
Hands-on learning in the science classroom sets objects and concepts within a real-world context. Students connect theory to experience and learning sticks. Get more insights on effective science instruction from the Smithsonian's Carol O'Donnell in this SmartFocus on Hands-on Science.
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Science in the News
Evidence of plague found in Bronze Age skeletons
DNA testing of Bronze Age skeletons has found evidence of a plague outbreak that occurred thousands of years before the Black Death that devastated Europe in the 1300s. Researchers found enough Yersinia pestis DNA in skeletons that tested positive for the bacteria to produce complete genome sequences, according to a study published in Cell. The scientists found, however, that the disease did not spread as readily as the later outbreak, likely because it lacked a gene that makes it easier for fleas to transmit it. Nature (free content) (10/22)
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Distant dwarf planet slowly being torn apart by the star it orbits
Scientists are watching a dwarf planet about the size of Ceres slowly being destroyed by its star, saying the planetary body will be demolished within a million years. "What we're seeing are fragments of a disintegrating planet that is being vaporized by [the white dwarf's] starlight and is losing mass. The vapor is getting lost into orbit, and that condenses into dust, which then blocks the starlight," said lead study author Andrew Vanderburg. Space.com (10/21)
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Fungus plays key role in health of bee larvae, study suggests
Bees are providing additional food for their larvae by farming fungus, a new study published in Current Biology has found. Researchers who tried to raise bees on pollen alone discovered that the survival rate of bee larvae dropped significantly when the fungus wasn't present. The exact role the fungus plays has yet to be determined, but the finding could have implications for agricultural use of fungicides. New Scientist (10/22)
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Exosomes worsen sand-fly-delivered parasite infection, study suggests
Sand flies deposit more than Leishmania parasites when they bite mammals, including humans. They also deliver exosomes, which exacerbate the inflammatory response and increase the number of parasites within the host, according to a study published in Cell Reports. Researchers injected mice with Leishmania parasites, some with the exosomes and some without, and discovered that the mice infected with the exosomes had larger lesions and more parasites in their bodies. The Scientist online (10/22)
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Study links activity of navigational brain cells with Alzheimer's
How a person navigates a virtual maze could indicate if they will develop Alzheimer's disease, according to research published in Science. The activity level of a network of navigational brain cells, called grid cells, is lower in those with a higher risk of Alzheimer's, the study suggests. ScienceMag.org (10/22)
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Study uncovers molecular roots of leukemia
Using next-generation exomic sequencing, scientists identified 44 gene mutations and 11 genes with an abnormal number of copies that might play a role in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Two of the genes with CLL-linked mutations, RPS15 and IKZF3, have not been linked with human cancer in other studies. The results are reported in the journal Nature. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (10/15)
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Funding Watch
Wellcome Trust announces increased science funding
Biomedicine supporter Wellcome Trust has announced plans to spend about $7.7 billion in the next five years, though the charity did not give details about research priorities. Nature (free content) (10/21)
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Foundation awards $10M for trial of stem cell therapy for heart attack
The University of Washington's Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine has received a $10 million grant from the Washington Research Foundation to support an early-stage trial of its stem cell therapy for heart attack patients. The institute is seeking to complete the Phase I trial within five years. American City Business Journals/Seattle (10/21)
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