Allotropy: Why Winter Spells Trouble for the Tin Man
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Tin is a commonplace metal that’s used industrially in a thousand different ways. From the solder that holds your computer’s motherboard together to the PVC plumbing under your sink, tin compounds are everywhere. This phenomenon, known as “tin pest”, is certainly not due a biological organism, but is widely mistaken for an oxidation reaction. Instead, tin pest happens thanks to something called allotropy—the metal’s atomic lattice can take on multiple different shapes, depending on the temperature it’s kept at. At room temperature, tin exists in its “beta” form.

Biden Names Top Geneticist Eric Lander as Science Adviser
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US president-elect Joe Biden has chosen decorated geneticist Eric Lander as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Many scientists have long called for the OSTP director to be raised to a cabinet-level position. When Biden named Lander to his team on 15 January, he also announced a number of other respected scientists to key positions in his administration. One major question is what parts of science policy Lander and his office will be responsible for. The outgoing OSTP director, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, wasn’t appointed by President Donald Trump until more than a year and a half into his administration.

Dire Wolves Were Not Really Wolves, New Genetic Clues Reveal
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It had long been assumed that dire wolves made themselves at home in North America before gray wolves followed them across the Bering Land Bridge from Eurasia. For decades, paleontologists have remarked on how similar the bones of dire wolves and gray wolves are. Dire wolves, it now appeared, had evolved in the Americas and had no close kinship with the gray wolves from Eurasia; the last time gray wolves and dire wolves shared a common ancestor was about 5.7 million years ago. Perri, Mitchell and their colleagues found no DNA evidence of interbreeding between dire wolves and gray wolves or coyotes. Dire wolves were genetically isolated from other canids, Mitchell notes, so “hybridization couldn’t provide a way out” because dire wolves were probably unable to produce viable offspring with the recently arrived wolves from Eurasia.

Humans May Have Befriended Wolves with Meat
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How did dogs become humans’ best friend? Well, one idea is that docile wolves flocked to waste dumps near human camps. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, she and her colleagues present a different hypothesis: that humans purposely shared their leftovers with wolves instead. And they found there likely would have been more than enough meat to go around. That’s because humans can’t survive on protein alone—but wolves can for months.

How the Suburbs Could Help Save Biodiversity
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This past summer saw at least tens of thousands of migrating birds drop dead from the sky over the Southwest. Too many of the exotic plants sold in nurseries are essentially inedible to most native animals. Yes, you’re saving water over planting thirsty ornamentals or a lawn, but drought-tolerant exotic plants can become invasive disasters when they escape our yards. Even in drier areas, like the American West, the selection of attractive native plants to choose from is vast. For those disenchanted with dry landscaping, using underappreciated and lush water-loving native plants to make your garden a real-life oasis could lifesaving to wildlife.

A Half Century Later, the Journey of Apollo 8 Still Inspires
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Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted in December 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 8’s historic mission. On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on one of the greatest journeys in the history of human exploration. Not only was the clock ticking, but also the CIA had informed the agency that it believed the Soviet Union was on the verge of launching cosmonauts on a moon mission. In August 1968 NASA's Apollo Spacecraft Program Office manager, George Low, proposed making Apollo 8 a mission to circumnavigate the moon some 234,000 miles away. Apollo 8 astronauts (left to right): Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr. and William A. Anders arrive on the carrier U.S.S.

'One Small Step' Act Encourages Protection of Human Heritage in Space
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On Dec. 31, the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act became law. However, it is also the first law enacted by any nation that recognizes the existence of human heritage in outer space. I believe that the One Small Step Act, enacted in a divisive political environment, demonstrates that space and preservation truly are nonpartisan, even unifying principles. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ASUAdvertisementAdvertisementThe One Small Step ActThe One Small Step Act is true to its name. It's a small step.

Cheap Magnets Could Keep Sharks Out of Fishing Nets
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Countless sharks, sea turtles, seals, dolphins, rays and fish of all descriptions needlessly die before they can be thrown back overboard. Philippe Colombi/Getty ImagesWe kill 100 million sharks every year. We found that traps with magnets had roughly 30 percent less likelihood of catching sharks and rays compared to traps without. Win-wins are great, but we've got a long way to go before we make a dent in that 100 million sharks per year. The magnets seem to work well for traps, but magnets don't work on longlines — the lines are fitted with metal hooks, so the magnets tangle the gear.

Why Generation Z Is So Stressed Out
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The report showed that 27 percent of Gen Z members reported that their mental health was poor, compared with 15 percent of Millennials (Generation Y), 13 percent of Gen Xers and 7 percent of Baby Boomers. AdvertisementAdvertisementThe Biggest Issues for Gen ZSo what most stresses out Gen Z? In fact, 75 percent of Gen Z respondents said that mass shootings are a significant source of stress, compared with 62 percent of adults overall. For instance, among Gen Z social media is noted as a source of support, yet 45 percent say it makes them feel judged. Now That's Important The report took note of the special stresses some Gen Z members of color face.

People With Asthma, Hay Fever May Have Higher Risk of Psychiatric Disorders
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\" \" A new study found a link between asthma and hay fever and an increase in psychiatric illness. All told, they examined data for 139,941 people without any history of allergic diseases, as well as 46,647 people with problems like hay fever or asthma. AdvertisementAdvertisementDespite the increased risk, it's obvious that hay fever and asthma don't doom a person to a psychiatric illness diagnosis. \"Therefore, I wanted to clarify whether these allergic diseases are associated with psychiatric disorders.\" Additionally, it's possible that the physical symptoms of hay fever and asthma could be made worse by the stress of psychiatric disorders.

What's the Difference Between Cake Flour and All-purpose Flour?
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\" \" Cake flour has less protein than all-purpose flour, which means you end up with a lighter and moister end product. Now that the world is on a mission to bake as much in the kitchen as humanly possible, ingredients like all-purpose flour and cake flour are in the spotlight. For the amateur bakers out there who can't discern flour from baking soda or sugar from salt, here's an easy explainer that tells you everything you need to know about the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour. Your typical batch of cake flour contains around 5 to 8 percent of protein, compared to all-purpose flour, which has around 10 to 13 percent. And consider spending a little extra to buy high-quality cake flour, especially for use in simple cake recipes where flavor is critical.

The Second-Generation COVID Vaccines Are Coming
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Now, a year after the pandemic first erupted, three COVID vaccines have been given emergency authorization by either the U.S. or U.K., as well as other countries. But impressive as they are, these vaccines alone will likely not be sufficient to end the pandemic, experts say. Luckily, there are hundreds of other COVID vaccines under development—including many with new mechanisms of action—that could prove to be effective and cheaper and easier to distribute. And mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s—touted by many as the future of vaccinology—have never previously been brought to market. But instead of injecting the entire spike protein, they have homed in on the virus’s “Achilles’ heel”: the receptor binding domain (RBD), the portion of the spike protein that directly fuses with human cells.

Ancient Dogs Had Complex Genetic Histories
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He and his colleagues studied the genomes of 27 ancient dog bones dug up around the world. Bergström: “To a large degree the history of dogs seems to have been shaped by human history, so likely reflecting how when humans moved they would have brought their dogs with them.”Ancient humans clearly found dogs to be very useful. [Anders Bergström et al, Origins and genetic legacy of prehistoric dogs]One odd finding: about 11,000 years ago it looks like dogs spread more widely than humans did. So how could the dog spread so quickly and widely? The number of copies of a starch-digesting gene in both humans and dogs increased in the generations following the invention of agriculture.

Sound the Alarm: Windsor Hum Is Driving Canadians Crazy
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\" \" A view of Detroit (right) and Windsor from Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River. Windsor is the site of the Windsor Hum which people believe is coming from Zug Island, near Detroit. That's sort of like the Windsor Hum. A 2011 study by the University of Windsor found that the sounds originated in the vicinity of Zug Island, Michigan, near Detroit. In 2013, the University of Western Ontario and the Canadian government looked into the matter, and did confirm that the hum seemed to come from Zug Island.

Anomaly Hunting and Boris Johnson's Phone Call
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The latest internet conspiracy theory involves a phone call between President Biden and Boris Johnson’s. The phone cable should be visible in the mirror descending from Boris Johnson’s watch, in this official Downing St picture. When I look at those pictures I absolutely see a phone cord, no problem. I can understand the initial reaction of – hey, where’s the phone cord in the mirror? They are about mystery mongering – look at that anomaly – and then attach a sinister implication to the anomaly.

How have events shaped the Clinton-Trump race?
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This is unfortunate because a weak get out the vote effort is probably worth a couple of points on election day. It is unfortunate because some Trump scandals increase, rather than decrease, his numbers. He could suddenly gain a couple of points if he says or does just the wright/wrong things. Then Wikileaks, weak as it is, or some other issue, will come into play and knock two points off of her numbers. It is unfortunate because the difference between Clinton and Trump is now between about 5 and 7 points, and 2 + 2 + 2 = 6.

Psychedelics as Antidepressants
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Outside of this group however, many people don’t think of these compounds as antidepressants to be distributed by white-coat-wearing psychiatrists. This is a start at improving the public perception of psychedelic use, which can ultimately encourage more to seek psychedelic therapy in psychiatric practice. But prior to this, the National Institutes of Health funded more than 130 studies to explore the benefits of psychedelic therapy. However, using alcohol and using tobacco products are both widely perceived as socially acceptable. Other documented cases include instances of people using psychedelics of questionable purity or in unknown doses, and almost always in conjunction with other drugs.

EPA Races to Draft Interim Vehicle Standards for CO 2
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President Biden's EPA is expected to draft interim auto emissions standards based on an agreement last year between California and five car companies, according to sources following the matter. EPA is poised to unveil the interim standards and notify the auto industry by April 1. \"I'm convinced that they're going to adopt the California standards,\" said Margo Oge, the former head of EPA's transportation office under the Obama and Clinton administrations. That's less stringent than the clean car standards established by former President Obama, which mandated a 5% annual increase. If EPA says the California deal will become national in scope, the agency likely would do so before April 1, sources said.

Scientists Take a Cattle Head Count in India
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Cattle are a common sight in Indian cities. [CLIP: Sound of honking][CLIP: “From blocking traffic to damaging greens in residential colonies, untended cattle have become a nuisance in Delhi.”]And the nuisance extends beyond Delhi. “All these problems are very intense in many Indian cities.”Atanu Pati studies animal behavior at Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University in Raipur in central India. He and his colleagues wanted to find out just how many cows lived on the streets of Raipur. “We used two methods: one is a direct head count.”The other was photographic: they’d take pictures in those same grids over a few days and count the cows they may have missed.

More Women in Government Means Less Corruption
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The answer to these corruption woes may be to encourage more women to run for office at all levels of government — and to vote them into office. More Women, Less Corruption? \"It was purely correlation to say that more women in parliament is associated with less corruption,\" Sarangi says. \"Potentially, more women in positions of political power could contribute to more inclusive policies and political decision-making.\" It's an important notion, considering that in the United States, there are three men in political office for every one woman.

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