Remains of water-filled asteroid found around white dwarf | Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter dies | When it comes to choices, elephants make their point, study suggests
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October 11, 2013
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Astronomers locate free-floating planet
A free-floating object, six times the size of Jupiter, has been determined to be a sunless planet, 80 light-years from Earth, astronomers say. "It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone," said Michael Liu, who led the study at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The heat signature of the planet, known as PSO J318.5-22, was noted by the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala on Maui. NBC News (10/9)
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Science in the News
Remains of water-filled asteroid found around white dwarf
A white dwarf about 170 light-years from Earth holds evidence of a water-bearing asteroid that could explain how the Earth got its oceans, according to research published in the journal Science. "We've got the same kind of object which probably delivered Earth's oceans, and we found this around another star," said Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge in England, who led the research team. Scientists used the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope to study the dwindling star, finding several heavy elements that don't usually exist on a white dwarf, as well as an excess of oxygen, theorizing that the remnants of a water-filled asteroid landed there. (10/10)
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Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter dies
Scott Carpenter, the fourth American in space and the second to orbit Earth, died in Colorado on Thursday due to complications from a stroke. The 88-year-old former astronaut was one of seven pilots chosen for NASA's Mercury program in 1959 and orbited the Earth on May 24, 1962, in the Aurora 7 spacecraft. Carpenter had served as a backup for the first American to orbit Earth, John Glenn, who, at 92, is the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 team. Reuters (10/10)
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When it comes to choices, elephants make their point, study suggests
Elephants seem to understand the concept of pointing, according to a study by University of St. Andrews biologists. During testing over two months, 11 elephants were given a choice of two buckets, with one of the buckets being pointed at. The elephants chose the right bucket 67.5% of the time, almost as well as human babies, according to the results, published Thursday in Current Biology. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (10/10)
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Images catch molecules moving in glass
The movement of molecules in the world's thinnest glass has been captured in images and may help researchers better understand how the substance bends and breaks. "The opening and closing of ring structures and the subsequent rearrangements can be directly observed. The results open new ground for modeling the atomic structure and dynamics in glass," said materials scientist Markus Heyde of the Franz Haber Institute at the Max Planck Society in Germany, in a report accompanying the images in the journal Science. (10/10)
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Lava, not trolls, formed strange rock pillars in Iceland
Local legend attributes the weird pillars of rock in Iceland's Skaelinger Valley to a troll war, but a new study says the rocky structures were more likely formed by creeping lava flow mixed with water. Usually when lava mixes with water on land, the result is either explosive steam or pillow-shaped lava rocks, so the pillar-shaped rocks were a surprise. "These had never been observed or described before as features seen on land. They've been described at mid-ocean ridges 2 miles under water," said University at Buffalo geologist Tracy Gregg, the study's co-author. (10/10)
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Human foregut stem cells show potential in improving transplant therapies
Scientists from the University of Cambridge have created human foregut stem cells by manipulating signal pathways in that area of the gastrointestinal tract. By controlling the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells in the human foregut and inducing them in the endoderm, scientists produced purer foregut stem cells that can be used in organ repair or transplantation, and in treating conditions such as type 1 diabetes or liver disease. (10/10)
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Funding Watch
$1.7M grant given for study of Pacific walrus
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have received a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the Pacific walrus. Scientists with backgrounds in ecology, genetics, archaeology and chemistry will take part in the study of ongoing and long-term population trends of the walrus. Fort Mill Times (S.C.)/The Associated Press (10/10)
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