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Science

Europe moves ahead with Ariel exoplanet mission

The Ariel space telescope, which will study the atmospheres of distant worlds, has the green light to proceed. European Space Agency (Esa) member states formally adopted the project on Thursday, signing off two years of feasibility studies. The near-billion-euro observatory...

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‘Real and imminent’ extinction risk to whales

More than 350 scientists and conservationists from 40 countries have signed a letter calling for global action to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises from extinction. They say more than half of all species are of conservation concern, with two on the “knife-edge” of extinction. Lack of action over polluted and over-exploited seas means that many will be declared extinct within our lifetimes, the letter says. Even large iconic whales are not safe. “Let this be a historic moment when realising that whales are in danger sparks a powerful wave of action from everyone: regulators, scientists, politicians and the public to save our oceans,” said Mark Simmonds. The visiting research fellow at the University of Bristol, UK, and senior marine scientist with Humane Society International, has coordinated the letter, which has been signed by experts across the world. Growing threats “Save the whales” was a familiar green slogan in the 1970s and 1980s, part of a movement that helped bring ..

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How a brilliant biologist was failed by science

Roger Arliner Youngs brilliance made her the first black woman in the US to hold a doctorate in zoology. But her academic promise was failed by a system too rooted in prejudice to accept her as an equal.[contfnewc] [contfnewc] In 1923, when Roger Arliner Young graduated from Howard University with her bachelors degree, she scrawled these words next to her photo: “Not failure, but low aim is a crime.” She would live by that maxim for the next decade, making waves in biology and rising through science and academia at a remarkable speed. Before even earning her masters degree, Young became the first black woman to publish a paper in the prestigious journal Science, resulting in an international reputation for discovering the structure of Paramecium – a species of water-dwelling single-celled organisms. For this research, her mentor and eminent biologist Ernest Everett Just praised her as a “real genius in zoology”. Later, as acting head of Howard Universitys zoology department, Young ..

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Italy’s Saint-Barthélemy valley in Aosta is a paradise for star gazers

It’s something people living in the Saint-Barthélemy valley in Lignan have known for a long time; this rural area of Valle d’Aosta in northern Italy is a paradise for stargazers. And now it has become the first Italian town to be awarded the certification of a Starlight Stellar Park from the Starlight Foundation, part of UNESCO. [contfnewc] [contfnewc] [contfnewc] The Starlight Foundation’s purpose is to protect the night skies and the right to starlight. The award is given to areas with excellent sky quality due to protection and conservation. Sky quality experts judged that the night sky above Saint-Barthélemy offered a spectacular and star-rich vision, even with the naked eye. Giorgia Fasolino lives in Milan but has been visiting since she was a child. “When it is dark we go outside,” she told AP. [contfnewc] “As there are no lights, it’s like being inside the star-filled skies, it’s completely different from any other experience, the only place I have watched stars like here..

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Plastic pollution: Washed clothing’s synthetic mountain of ‘fluff’

When you add it up, the total amount of synthetic microfibres going into the wider environment as we wash our clothes is an astonishing number. US scientists estimate it to be 5.6 million tonnes since we first started wearing those polyester and nylon garments in a big way in the 1950s. Just over half this mass – 2.9 million tonnes – has likely ended up in our rivers and seas. That’s the equivalent of seven billion fleece jackets, the researchers say. But while we fret about water pollution, and rightly so, increasingly this synthetic “fluff” issue is one that affects the land. The University of California, Santa Barbara, team which did the calculations found that emission to the terrestrial environment has now overtaken that to water bodies – some 176,500 tonnes a year versus 167,000 tonnes. The reason? Wastewater treatment works have become very good at catching the fibres lost from washing machines. What’s happening is those captured fibres, along with biosolid sludge, are the..

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Oh, great: NASA says an asteroid is headed our way right before Election Day

Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time. [contfnewc] Amid a pandemic, civil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.[contfnewc] On the day before the presidential vote, no less.[contfnewc] [contfnewc] Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.[contfnewc] [contfnewc] “Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”[contfnewc] [contfnewc] NASA says that, “based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days,” the a..

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Stonehenge SHOCK: Archaeologists reveal huge slabs DID arrive over Salisbury Plain

STONEHENGE bluestone blocks did arrive over land, archaeologists have concluded – debunking a controversial claims the giant slabs were floated on rafts from Wales to the Salisbury Plain. Experts have long been suspected the famous Neolithic monument is constructed of both local stones and some sourced from much further away, in Wales’ Preseli Hills. The debate over which path these rocks took to Stonehenge has long been anchored by a unique block called the Altar Stone, thought collected en-route. [contfnewc] A popular theory had suggested the Altar Stone arrived from the Pembrokeshire coast, with the blocks then sent up the Bristol Channel. [contfnewc] However, a new analysis of the age and mineral composition of both the Altar Stone and its supposed source revealed the two actually do not match. The Altar Stone is instead likely to have arrived from further east — near the modern-day town of Abergavenny — suggesting the bluestones were transported by land. In fact, the stones..

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Shock study finds coronavirus can infect your HEART

CORONAVIRUS can potentially infect your heart, a disturbing new study into the deadly pandemic has revealed. A landmark new study has revealed SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Coronavirus (COVID-19), can infect heart cells in a lab dish. This suggests it may be possible for heart cells in COVID-19 patients to be directly infected by the virus. [contfnewc] The shock discovery was made using heart muscle cells produced by stem cell technology.[contfnewc] Although many COVID-19 patients experience heart problems, the reasons remain unclear. Pre-existing cardiac conditions or inflammation and oxygen deprivation resulting from the infection have all been implicated. But there has until now been only limited evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly infects the individual muscle cells of the heart. Dr Arun Sharma, of the Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and first author of the study, said: “We not only uncovered that these stem cell-derived heart cells are susceptible to infection by..

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Scientist David Wails named as third victim of Reading terror attack

A senior scientist at a global chemicals company has been identified as the third man to be killed in the Reading terrorist attack. David Wails, senior principal scientist at Johnson Matthey, a British FTSE 100 listed company, died in the attack in Forbury Gardens on Saturday. Wails was a graduate of the University of York and former post-doctoral researcher at Queens University Belfast, according to online profiles. Wails was connected to the two other men killed in the attack – US-born Joe Ritchie-Bennett and teacher James Furlong – via Facebook, and it appears they were all together in the park on Saturday. Ritchie-Bennetts father, Robert Ritchie, told reporters his son worked for a law firm in London before taking a job about 10 years ago at a Dutch pharmaceutical firm with British headquarters in Reading, where the stabbing attack took place. Ritchie described his son, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as an “absolutely fabulous guy”. “I absolutely love my son with all of my ..

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