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Spaceport delays prompt some impatience in New Mexico

By Joseph Kolb ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) – Delays in the launch of the first space flights by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic from a base in New Mexico have drawn criticism from a county commissioner in the south of the state. The inaugural flight had been expected to take place this year, carrying Branson from Spaceport America’s 12,000-foot (3.6 km) runway in Sierra County to suborbital space about 65 miles (100 km) above Earth. …

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Source: Spaceport delays prompt some impatience in New Mexico

Ancient Sloths: 5-Ton Creatures Grew Monstrously Fast

An ancient sloth weighing some 5 tons and sporting claws that extended a foot (0.3 meters) is helping to reveal how the slow, furry creatures ballooned in size long ago at a startlingly fast rate, a new study finds. The new study found that some sloth lineages grew more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) every million years — one of the fastest body growth rates known in the evolution of mammals. The rapid growth rate indicates that several factors in prehistoric times, such as environmental conditions or competition with other animals, may have favored large sloths, the researchers said in a statement.

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Source: Ancient Sloths: 5-Ton Creatures Grew Monstrously Fast

Should You Trust Health Apps on Your Phone?

Personal health is becoming increasingly mobile, and there are now thousands of apps aiming to address everything from lifestyle issues to chronic diseases. Medical devices are generally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and although the FDA reviews some apps, experts say the agency’s power and efforts aren’t nearly enough to cover the 97,000 and counting health apps out there that are transforming consumer health. “The FDA is woefully understaffed and under-resourced to oversee these things, particularly given the number of the thousands of apps that are [most likely] under FDA’s jurisdiction,” said health law expert Nathan Cortez, an associate professor of law at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas. In an editorial published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday (July 24), Cortez and his colleagues argued that health and medical apps hold the promise of improving health, reducing medical errors, avoiding costly interventions, and broadening access to care. …read more

Source: Should You Trust Health Apps on Your Phone?

DIY Vaginal Ultrasounds Could Reduce Trips to the Doctor

The technology allows these women to perform vaginal ultrasounds at home, while their doctor views the results from afar. They are given a vaginal ultrasound (in which an ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina) to view the ovaries, so the doctor can see whether the eggs are maturing. In the study, 123 women in Belgium who were undergoing IVF were randomly assigned to either home monitoring, or the regular trips to the doctor’s office. They were shown how to use the probe to take video recordings of their ovaries, and how to upload and send the videos to their doctor.

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Source: DIY Vaginal Ultrasounds Could Reduce Trips to the Doctor

Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday. The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s. …read more

Source: Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Chasing Alligators, Dodging Parrots: A Zookeeper’s Life (Op-Ed)

Christopher Scoufaras is a zookeeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s Queens Zoo. Growing up, I regularly visited the WCS’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium and knew from a young age that I was interested in working with animals. I studied animal biotechnology and conservation at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, but I was on track to being a zookeeper even before that — as a student at John Bowne High School in Queens.

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Source: Chasing Alligators, Dodging Parrots: A Zookeeper’s Life (Op-Ed)

Fukushima Monkeys’ Blood Shows Signs of Radiation Exposure

Wild monkeys living in forests of Fukushima — the Japanese city that was the site of a nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011 — have lower blood cell counts than monkeys from northern Japan, and carry detectable levels of cesium in their bodies, researchers have found. The researchers studied blood changes and signs of radiation exposure in 61 monkeys living 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, about one year after an earthquake and tsunami struck the region in 2011, causing a meltdown of three of the plant’s reactors, which released a large amount of radioactive material into the environment. The results showed Fukushima monkeys had lower counts of red and white blood cells, and other blood parts compared with 31 monkeys from Shimokita Penisula in northern Japan. The researchers also found radioactive cesium in the muscles of Fukushima monkeys, ranging from 78 to 1778 becquerels (units of radioactivity representing decay per second) per kilogram, but they didn’t find any in Shimokita monkeys.

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Source: Fukushima Monkeys’ Blood Shows Signs of Radiation Exposure

Hacking experts build device to protect cars from cyber attacks

By Jim Finkle (This July 22 story is refiled to include omitted title for Chris Valasek, paragraph 3) BOSTON (Reuters) – Two security experts who a year ago exposed methods for hacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape say they have developed technology that would keep automobiles safe from cyber attacks. At last summer’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the two researchers, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, described ways to launch dangerous attacks, including manipulating the brakes of the moving Prius and the Ford Escape. …read more

Source: Hacking experts build device to protect cars from cyber attacks

Drugmakers to share neglected compounds with British academia

A group of seven leading drugmakers has agreed to share an array of neglected experimental medicines with British academic researchers in the latest example of the deepening ties between industry and external scientists. British business minister Vince Cable announced the new partnership on Tuesday between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the companies, under which the researchers will gain access to “deprioritized” pharmaceutical compounds. AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Takeda and UCB have all signed up to the scheme, which builds on the success of an earlier two-way program between AstraZeneca and the MRC. …read more

Source: Drugmakers to share neglected compounds with British academia

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