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3-D map of 1.2 million galaxies sheds light on dark energy
24 July 2016 - Hundreds of scientists have collaborated in an ambitious project to chart the accelerating expansion of the universe. Astronomers have created the largest-ever three-dimensional map of distant galaxies in the hope of making more precise measurements of the dark energy driving the accelerated expansion of the universe. The map allows astronomers to measure the expansion rate of the universe along with the amount of dark matter and dark energy there. (more)

New brain map unearths 97 new areas
24 July 2016 - Powerful software helps scientists pick out specific grey matter regions -- and all without opening your skull. A new map of the brain based on scans of 420 people has defined 97 new functional parts of the cortex -- the wrinkled grey outer shell -- more than doubling previous tallies. The atlas and software, produced by researchers in the US and the Netherlands, combines different imaging and measurement techniques to assign each cortex area a 'fingerprint' based on architecture, cell type, and function. (more)

Brain map sheds light on how we process language
24 July 2016 - Everyone's brains appear to fire up in similar regions when grappling with the meaning of words. New research mapping the brain's 'semantic system' -- regions that work together to derive meaning from words we hear every day -- shows that language is processed across the entire brain, rather than just in the left hemisphere, as previously thought. 'The resulting maps show that semantic information is represented in rich patterns that are distributed across several broad regions of cortex,' say the researchers. (more)

Why jetlag is worse flying east
24 July 2016 - Mathematical modelling of circadian cells suggests travellers' instincts might be right. Frequent travellers often insist that flying east causes worse jetlag than flying west. And, despite those who may dismiss the notion, a new study suggests that they are right. Jetlag is believed to be caused by the disruption of our body clocks -- the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm itself is regulated by a clump of brain cells known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, controlled by exposure to light. (more)

AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws
23 July 2016 - Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013. Americans find common ground on other issues. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they support requiring background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through other private sales. (more)

Did Rembrandt trace his self-portraits?
23 July 2016 - The 17th-century artist and other Old Masters could have exploited mirrors and lenses to achieve their detailed, life-like paintings. A pair of independent researchers in the UK set up mirrors and lenses which allow a painter to project their image on a canvas. They published their work in the Journal of Optics. Previous hypotheses on this are hotly debated. Now Francis O'Neill and Sofia Palazzo Corner's study details why the use of technology in producing portraits is entirely possible -- and in the case of Rembrandt, perhaps even probable. (more)

New Zealand leader visits Fiji for first time in a decade
23 July 2016 - A New Zealand leader has visited Fiji for the first time since a military coup there a decade ago, although it's clear that political tensions remain. Prime Minister John Key's two-day visit, which ended Friday, 10 June, was an attempt to improve relations after Fiji held democratic elections in 2014. Since then, New Zealand has lifted economic sanctions directed against the South Pacific nation. (more)

Wild birds lead people to honey if they make the right sound
23 July 2016 - In Mozambique's woodlands, the sound of sweet evolution is at work.Over the centuries humans and a wild bird species have learned to work together with a simple sound: 'Brrr-hm.' When human honey-hunters make that call, the bird called the honeyguide does its namesake job with incredible accuracy, leading people to hidden bees' nests. Scientists put this ancient practice to the test and it passed with high flying colors. (more)

China installed 20 GW of solar power in first-half; triple from a year ago
22 July 2016 - China installed 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday citing the country's largest solar industry lobby. China surpassed Germany as the largest solar power generator worldwide last year, with installed PV capacity totaling 43 GW as of the end of 2015. (more)

US: Route 66 becoming green with charging stations, solar panels
22 July 2016 - Route 66, the historic U.S. highway made famous for attracting gas-guzzling Chevrolet Bel Airs and 1957 Cadillacs traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, is turning green. The Mother Road has seen in recent months a growing number of electric car charging stations along the 2,500-mile path, and some states even are pushing for solar panels and electric buses. (more)

African honeyguide birds aid hunters in rare, sweet partnership
22 July 2016 - A small African bird that guides people to bees' nests hoping to share honey and wax responds to hunters' special calls in a rare example of a partnership between wild animals and humans, scientists said on Thursday, 21 July. Cooperation between the greater honeyguide bird and hunters was first written about by a Portuguese missionary in 1588, but was widely dismissed as pure hearsay. In recent years, however, researchers have found ever more evidence of the bond. (more)

US: Obama administration offers EV charging loan guarantees
22 July 2016 - The White House on Thursday (21 July) said it was expanding a federal loan guarantee program to include companies building electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, part of a broader effort to boost electric vehicle sales. The Obama administration also unveiled a partnership with nearly 50 automakers, utilities, states, and electric vehicle charging companies to get more EVs and charging stations. (more)

Wal-Mart names eight chemicals to be removed from products
21 July 2016 - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday, 20 July, it was pushing suppliers to remove or restrict the use of eight hazardous chemicals from products including household cleaning, personal care, and beauty items. Target Corp also moved last year to remove more than 1,000 chemicals from its household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products, and has been promoting the products that comply. (more)

Iran: UN chief hails Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as 'historic achievement'
21 July 2016 - In a statement on Wednesday, the UN chief congratulated Iran and the participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the first anniversary of the 'historic achievement' and commended progress made so far. On 20 July last year, the Council adopted resolution 2231 (2015), endorsing the JCPOA under which Iran pledged that it would not seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons. (more)

Newly developed wheel converts any bicycle into an electric vehicle
21 July 2016 - Right off the bat, Michael Burtov said he and his team at technology startup GeoOrbital did not re-invent the wheel. But, in a sense, they did. After two years and five prototypes, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup has developed a new type of electric bicycle wheel. (more)

New map lays out brain's cerebral cortex
20 July 2016 - Neuroscientists acting as cartographers of the human mind have devised the most comprehensive map ever made of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions such as abstract thought, language, and memory. Using MRI images from the brains of 210 people, the researchers said on Wednesday they were able to pinpoint 180 distinct areas in the cerebral cortex, the brain's thin, wrinkly outermost layer made of so-called gray matter. (more)

Fish can recognise human faces, study finds
20 July 2016 - Scientists have shown for the first time how a species of tropical fish can distinguish between human faces. The archerfish used in experiments could demonstrate the ability to a high degree of accuracy; despite lacking the crucial neocortex part of the brain which other animals use for sophisticated visual recognition. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford and Australia's University of Queensland. (more)

Santas from all over the world meet in Denmark
20 July 2016 - With just five months until Christmas, Santas from around the world are gathering in Copenhagen for a mid-season break at the annual World Santa Claus Congress. This year 140 Santas from 12 countries gathered in the Danish capital for the three-day event. 'A successful Santa is not just about the costumes and the clothes. You have to have Christmas in your heart. You have to have the love of children and caring and giving in your hear to be a really successful Santa and it's not something you can make up.' said Santa Cherry from Canada. (more)

UK: Annual Royal 'Swan-Upping' takes place on River Thames
18 July 2016 - A census of the British Queen's swans has taken place annually on the River Thames for the last 800 years. On Monday, 18 June, a group of Boats led by the Queen's Swan Marker continued the tradition, known as 'Swan Upping.' It takes them five days to cover the stretch of the Thames between Sunbury near London out to Abingdon near Oxford. Cygnets are individually tagged, as part of conservation efforts to protect the young birds. Those who carry out the tradition hope that it helps conserve the future of the birds and educates younger generations. (more)

US: California breaks solar record, generates enough electricity for 6 million homes
18 July 2016 - The San Francisco Chronicle calculated that California's solar power plants on Tuesday [briefly] generated enough electricity for more than 6 million homes. On July 12, several large solar plants produced a record 8,030 megawatts of electricity, according to the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the organization that runs most of the state's power grid. That is nearly twice the amount of solar energy [California] produced two years ago. (more)

World-class Mexican Museum being built in San Francisco
18 July 2016 - San Francisco is getting another cultural treasure -- a world-class museum to showcase the largest collection of Mexican and Latino art in the nation. The 60,000-square-foot Mexican Museum will be the downtown home of the collection that includes 800 works of Mexican folk art donated by the family of Nelson Rockefeller and pieces by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and painter Miguel Covarrubias. (more)

Iraq's marshes named world heritage site
17 July 2016 - A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein's rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on Sunday, 17 July. Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis. They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa. (more)

US: In Saratoga Springs, reviving the wells that made it famous
17 July 2016 - More than a century after scores of Saratoga Springs' famous mineral wells were capped in an early example of environmental conservation, a few of them could soon be flowing with naturally carbonated water once again. Saratoga Springs has been known for its natural mineral springs since Colonial times, when Mohawk Indians introduced Europeans to the carbonated waters bubbling up from the ground in the Adirondack foothills. (more)

Chinese tourists spend record amounts in Australia
15 July 2016 - Chinese tourists visiting Australia are spending record amounts of money. Shopping in Australia is a favourite past time for many Chinese tourists who seek quality products, with the prevalence of counterfeit goods an ongoing issue back home. According to Tourism Australia, Chinese visitors collectively shelled out a record $8.9 billion over the year to March, up nearly 40 per cent. Visitors from China and Hong Kong have overtaken New Zealand as Australia's biggest market, with nearly 1.4 million visitors over the year to May. (more)

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