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Mammals' Big Brains Began With a Sniff

While dinosaurs ruled the world some 200 million years ago, a group of nocturnal, shrewlike proto-mammals unwittingly sniffed out a strategy for survival that eventually led to the evolution of larger brains. Fossil skulls of two ancient, mammal-like reptiles suggest that natural selection for a keener sense of smell was the initial spur behind bigger brains in early mammals, according to a report online today [May 19] in Science.

from ScienceNOW Daily News

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Alternative Medicine: Think Yourself Better

On May 29th Edzard Ernst, the world's first professor of complementary medicine, will step down after 18 years in his post at the Peninsula Medical School, in south-west England. Despite his job title (and the initial hopes of some purveyors of non-mainstream treatments), Dr. Ernst is no breathless promoter of snake oil. Instead, he and his research group have pioneered the rigorous study of everything from acupuncture and crystal healing to Reiki channelling and herbal remedies.

from the Economist

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Did Llama Dung Spur the Rise of Andean Civilization?

In 1610, a Jesuit priest journeyed through the high valleys of the central Andes, keenly observing the lives of the inhabitants. Father Bernabé Cobo was struck by the cold bleakness of the region and by the singular importance of llamas to its people. The indigenous inhabitants ate llama meat, bred them to carry goods, and used their wool and skin for clothing and shoes. These animals, Cobo later wrote, comprised "all the wealth of the mountain Indians."

from ScienceNOW Daily News

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Change the World, and Win Fabulous Prizes

The Internet is revitalizing an old stalwart in the innovation game: the prize as incentive.

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

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Rogue Waves Captured

Freak waves that swallow ships whole have been re-created in a tank of water. Though these tiny terrors are only centimeters high, a devilishly difficult mathematical equation describing their shape may help to explain the origins of massive rogue waves at sea.

from Science News

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Cast Adrift in the Milky Way, Billions of Planets, All Alone

Is the galaxy full of orphans? Astronomers said Wednesday that space was littered with hundreds of billions of planets that had been ejected from the planetary systems that gave them birth and either were going their own lonely ways or were only distantly bound to stars at least 10 times as far away as the Sun is from the Earth...

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

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'Grape' Is Key to Fossil Puzzle

A single-celled ball about the size of a grape may provide an explanation for one of the mysteries of fossil history. Writing in Current Biology, researchers say the creature leaves tracks on the seabed which mirror fossilised tracks left up to 1.8 billion years ago. Many palaeontologists believe only multi-celled organisms could have made these tracks...

from BBC News Online

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Energy: America's Top Climate Cop

Mary Nichols can take some pride in the view as she travels out of Los Angeles. The San Gabriel Mountains rise up to the north, framed by blue sky with just a touch of midday haze. The clear vista comes in large part because of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the agency that Nichols leads, which has spent decades cleaning up the city's air. Now she and her team are setting their sights even higher--with an ambitious plan to cut California's greenhouse-gas emissions...

from Nature News

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