News

Drones for disaster relief

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Texas researchers demonstrate unmanned aerial vehicles capable of providing wireless communications to storm-ravaged areas
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132161&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Local 3-D printing hubs bring manufacturing back to US

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

NSF-supported start-up demonstrates method for finding, printing parts locally
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132160&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

In pursuit of beetle biomimicry, NSF-funded engineers develop new, textured materials to trap and channel small amounts of liquid
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132107&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Tele-robotics puts robot power at your fingertips

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

University of Washington research enables robot-assisted surgery and underwater spill prevention
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132091&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Transforming waste in order to transform people's lives

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Essentium Materials converts coconut husk fibers into materials for cars and homes
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132101&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Dispatches from a connected future

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Researchers from academia, government and industry team up to create networked solutions to society's problems
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132090&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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New answer to MRSA, other 'superbug' infections: clay minerals?

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Researchers discover natural clay deposits with antibacterial properties
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132052&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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New tool, savings for manufacturing hard materials

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Laser device could have major impact for manufacturing electronics, computer chips, lenses, windows and mirrors
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132064&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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(Really) learning physics

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Sustained investment in 'peer instruction' leads to wide-scale use of innovative teaching practice in undergraduate physics education and a Minerva Prize for NSF-funded physicist Eric Mazur
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132055&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Atmospheric scientists take to the skies to study Colorado Front Range ozone pollution

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Results are applicable to metropolitan areas across the country, around the world
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131977&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Exploring dramatic changes in galaxies

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Scientist hopes to uncover physical process behind the changes, including cosmic webs and supermassive black holes
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132002&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Bees from the inside out

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Researchers work to save bees by studying the diversity of microbes that live in their guts and the impacts on these microbes of exposure to antibiotics
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131953&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Everything is better in 3-D

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Supercomputer-powered supernova simulations shed light on distant explosions
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131865&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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"Bottom-up" proteomics

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

NSF-funded supercomputer helps researchers interpret genomes
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131857&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Strawberries with a thirst

NSF Discoveries - 3 min 27 sec ago

Mathematicians help California drought-weary berry growers address water issues
More at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131827&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1


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Take good care of bats!

Ernst Mayr Library Facebook - 7 hours 33 min ago
Take good care of bats!


Timeline Photos
Talk about fast food! Discover what else is on a bat’s daily diet: http://dfnd.us/ULDv3N
Categories: News

Space sex gecko experiment is safe – for now

Nature Newsblog - 8 hours 8 min ago

Posted on behalf of Katia Moskvitch.

Phew. Five experimental geckos that were feared lost in space have phoned home, restoring hopes that research into their zero-gravity sex lives can go on.

Probing the sex lives of others, in space

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/CC BY-SA 3.0

The four females and one male are onboard a satellite as part of an experiment to investigate sexual activity and reproduction in microgravity carried out by Russia’s space agency. Roscosmos launched the lizards using a six-tonne Foton-M4 rocket on 19 July. But the fate of the tiny cosmonauts became uncertain when their satellite briefly lost contact with ground control on Thursday 24 July. 

Luckily, technicians managed to restore control on Saturday, and Roscosmos announced on its website that since then it has communicated with the satellite 17 times.”Contact is established, the prescribed commands have been conducted according to plan,” said Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko.

Keeping the geckos company are Drosophila fruit flies, as well as mushrooms, plant seeds and various microorganisms that are also being studied. There is also a special vacuum furnace on board, which is being used to analyse the melting and solidification of metal alloys in microgravity.

Foton-M4 is set to carry out experiments over two months, and involves a “study of the effect of microgravity on sexual behaviour, the body of adult animals and embryonic development”, according to the website of the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has developed the project along with Roscosmos.

Specific aims of the Gecko-F4 mission include:

  • Create the conditions for sexual activity, copulation and reproduction of geckos in orbit
  • Film the geckos’ sex acts and potential egg-laying and maximise the likelihood that any eggs survive
  • Detect possible structural and metabolic changes in the animals, as well as any eggs and foetuses

Scientists plan to perform additional experiments when Foton-M4 returns to Earth after its two-month mission. That is, assuming contact isn’t lost again. If contact with ground control was lost altogether, the satellite would stay in its 357-mile orbit for about four months, and then re-enter the atmosphere in an uncontrolled way and burn up.

Roscosmos engineers are now trying to figure out what led to the loss of control, with the main theory being that it may have been hit by space debris. The geckos’ craft is located in low Earth orbit, which stretches from about 160 kilometres above the planet’s surface out to some 2,000km. As a result, the intrepid lizards share the orbit with almost 20,000 objects, including more than 500 active satellites and the International Space Station, which circles the Earth at about 400 km above the surface.

It is not the first time Roscosmos has studied sex in zero gravity. In 2007, it sent a crew of geckos, newts, snails, Mongolian gerbils and cockroaches to space – and brought them back to Earth 12 days later. The cockroaches conceived while in space, and one, named Nadezhda, which means “hope” in Russian, became the first animal to give birth in space. Russian researcher Dmitry Atyakshin commented at the time that the roaches “run faster than ordinary cockroaches, and are much more energetic and resilient”.

Brace yourselves for super-geckos in September, when the current mission is due back on Earth.

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