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Among the many apartment buildings in the London borough of Hackney, the nine-story structure on the corner of Provost Street and Murray Grove stands out, its exterior a mix of white and gray tiles rather than the usual brick. But it's what's underneath the tiles that makes the 29-unit building truly different. From the second floor up, it is constructed entirely of wood, making it one of the tallest wooden residential buildings in the world.
In other technology news, this is the era of Big Data, in which more and more information about our lives--where we shop and what we buy, indeed where we are right now--is stored on computers. Big Data probably knows more about us than we ourselves do, but is there stuff that Big Data itself doesn't know it knows? Big Data is watching us, but who or what is watching Big Data?
A solar-powered plane landed in Morocco last week after flying from Spain, completing the second leg of its pioneering journey. Solar Impulse landed in Rabat--19 hours after taking off from Madrid. The plane is the size of a jumbo jet and is powered by 12,000 solar cells turning four electrical motors. Made of carbon fiber, the plane is the size of an Airbus A340 but only weighs as much as an average family car.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a telescope at the South Pole that detects the subatomic particles known as neutrinos, has measured the highest-energy neutrino oscillations yet. IceCube was designed primarily to study neutrinos streaming from astrophysical objects such as supernovae and x-ray bursts. But the detection of neutrino oscillations--the transformation of one type of neutrino into another--represents new scientific territory for the experiment.
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Scientists are drawing a tree of life that includes every known species. A tree with about two million branches. "I think it is an amazing step forward for our community if it can be pulled off," said Robert P. Guralnick, an expert on evolutionary trees at the University of Colorado, who is not part of the project.
In other environmental news, the ship formerly known as the Exxon Valdez is floating off India in a kind of high-seas limbo as a court decides whether the vessel that dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's unspoiled Prince William Sound in 1989 can be hacked apart in this graveyard for once-mighty ships. Local environmentalists have petitioned the High Court in the western state of Gujarat to block its entry pending an onboard inspection for toxic chemicals, including mercury, arsenic and asbestos.
Researchers say hundreds of crown-of-thorns starfish found on a beach in southern Japan in January stranded themselves because they were starving. More than 800 were discovered on a 300m stretch of sand on Ishigaki Island. The starfish population "boom" was first identified in 2009, when masses of juveniles were seen feeding on the island's outer coral reef. The coral-eating starfish then took three years to move onto the beach where they perished.
Little is known about the condition of the many tropical glaciers that descend off the three peaks of mounts Baker, Speke and Africa's third highest peak, Mount Stanley. But last month, an expedition led by a London-based Danish photographer returned from Uganda with the best evidence yet that the 43 glaciers are still mostly there, but are in dire condition and can be expected to disappear in a decade or two.
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Working with a small band of astronomers for the past couple of months, NASA has come up with a plan to re-purpose an ex-spy telescope that had been declared surplus by another U.S. agency.
In other space news, Pluto and its newest moons may tell us a lot about how other worlds orbit distant stars. A new computer simulation not only zeroes in on the masses of two of the moons but predicts that planets orbiting double stars are more widely spaced from one another than are the worlds of single stars such as the sun.
When the Kepler spacecraft finds a giant planet closely orbiting a star, a new study found that there's a one in three chance that it's not really a planet at all. Study results suggest that 35 percent of candidate giants orbiting close to bright stars are impostors, known in the planet-hunting business as false-positives.
Venus put on a show for skywatchers last week, moving across the face of the Sun as viewed from Earth. The transit is a rare astronomical event that will not be seen again for another 105 years. Observers in North and Central America, and the northern-most parts of South America saw the transit begin just before local sunset. The far northwest of America, the Arctic, the western Pacific and east Asia witnessed the entire passage.
It looks as though the Milky Way will collide with its closest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, in 4 billion years. Andromeda is our closest fellow spiral galaxy. Spiral galaxies have flat, rotating, disc-shaped bodies with spiral arms anchored by a supermassive black hole at the center.
Finally, two mysterious bright spots in a distant galaxy suggest that astronomers have found the best evidence yet for a supermassive black hole being shoved out of its home. If confirmed, the finding would verify Einstein's theory of general relativity in a region of intense gravity not previously tested. The results would also suggest that some giant black holes roam the universe as invisible free floaters.
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A nearly complete mammoth skeleton has been found buried on an Iowa farm about 60 miles southwest of Des Moines. The bones were largely undisturbed, which has allowed scientists to gather evidence that could help show what the area was like more than 12,000 years ago, when the animal died.
In other news of the ancient past, a warship submerged for two centuries in the Patuxent River about 20 miles from Washington, D.C., could provide new insight into the War of 1812. Archaeologists are preparing to excavate the wreck.
Researchers say the world's oldest fish traps have been found off coast of Sweden. Wooden fish traps said to be some 9,000 years old have been found in the Baltic Sea. Marine archaeologists from Stockholm's Sodertorn University found finger-thick hazel rods grouped on the sea bed.
About 150 million years ago, insects of monstrous size met their doom battling the ancestors of modern birds. The epic struggle ended an era of insect growth spurts that coincided with upticks in the amount of oxygen in the air. Starting with the Cretaceous period, predators kept the sizes of insects down, researchers report online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Well-preserved remains of Shakespeare's original "wooden O" stage, the Curtain theater, where Henry V and Romeo and Juliet were first performed, have been discovered in a yard in east London. The Curtain theater in Shoreditch preceded the Globe on the Thames as Shakespeare's first venue, showcasing several of his most famous plays. But it was dismantled in the 17th century and its precise location lost.
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Men's offices have 10 to 20 percent more bacteria than women's offices, and offices in New York City house more bacteria than those in San Francisco. These are among the findings of a new study that looked at bacteria in more than 90 offices in three cities--San Francisco, New York and Tucson--on chairs, desktops, phones, computer mice and keyboards.
In other biomedical news, a technique for "washing" lungs before they are transplanted could increase the number of organs suitable for donation, according to medical researchers. A trial led by Newcastle University in England is trying to improve the quality of lungs by pumping nutrients and oxygen through them.
An overabundance of connective tissue devastates organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs. A new study suggests that fragments of a promising cancer drug can rein in fibrosis, which is currently untreatable.
Clinical trials for breast cancer drugs are focused on shrinking existing tumors, not preventing cancer spread. According to the National Cancer Institute, this emphasis is stifling the discovery of chemicals that could prevent metastasis--costing money and patient lives.
A federal task force cautioned last week that women who are past menopause and healthy should not take hormone replacement therapy in hopes of warding off dementia, bone fractures or heart disease.
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Zoos are having to make tough choices about which endangered animals to try to save. The reality is that they can't save them all.
In other environmental news, geologist Erik Klemetti says that the crystals in volcanic rocks hold the key to understanding the evolution of magma at volcanoes. Two new studies examine Mount St. Helens and Long Valley using these tools to unlock the unseen history of the volcanoes.
In North Carolina, a state-appointed science panel has reported that a 1-meter rise in sea level along the coast is likely by 2100. The calculation was intended to help the state plan for rising water that could threaten 2,000 square miles. Critics say the report could thwart economic development on just as large a scale.
Across the United States, the coal industry is under siege, threatened by new regulations from Washington, environmentalists fortified by money from Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York City, and natural gas companies intent on capturing much of the nation's energy market. Last year, when the operator of the Big Sandy plant announced that it would be switching from coal to cleaner, cheaper natural gas, local people took it as the worst betrayal imaginable.
Scientists have detected radioactivity in fish that have migrated into California waters from the ocean off Japan, where radiation contaminated the sea after explosions tore through the Fukushima nuclear reactors last year. Radioactive cesium was detected in samples of highly prized Pacific bluefin tuna, but it is well below levels considered unsafe for humans, the scientists say.
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