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Science in the News Weekly


On Mars, Ice and Salt

An electrical short in the Phoenix Lander's mechanical arm delayed its exploration of the Martian north pole last week, but new photos on Saturday revealed that the spacecraft's thrusters had uncovered a large patch of ice, which is exactly what scientists hope to sample and analyze.

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A Step Toward Thought-Controlled Machines

In last week's issue of Nature, researchers reported a dramatic advance in brain-machine interface. Two monkeys with tiny sensors implanted in their brains were able to control a mechanical arm with their thoughts. It suggests that brain-controlled prosthetics, if not yet practical, are at least technically feasible.

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Ancient Past: A New Meaning for Stonehenge?

British archaeologists said last week that Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone monument, appears to have served as a cemetery for as long as 500 years and may have been a burial site for a single important family, perhaps a royal dynasty.

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Biomedicine: A Senator's Illness in America, Hybrid Embryos in Britain

The announcement last week that U.S. senator Edward Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor (a glioma) prompted many media outlets to report on the treatment options and prognosis for this medical condition. ...

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A Hidden Risk of Biofuel Crops

Such non-food crops as reeds and wild grasses may seem an attractive alternative to corn for making biofuel, but scientists warned last week that many of the crops being discussed qualify as invasive species. As such, they could spread to adjacent farms and other land, doing economic and ecological harm in the process. ...

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Hybrid Auto Sales? 'I'm Selling Every One I Can Get My Hands On'

With the price of gasoline nearing $4 a gallon, many American motorists are deciding that hybrid cars represent a technology whose time has come. Dealers are selling them as fast as they are delivered. But it takes a lot of driving to offset the sticker price. ...

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New Fossil Finds in Texas, Denmark, Yemen

A fossil rediscovered in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., could provide new insights into the origins of modern amphibians. Experts say the 290-million-year-old fossil, found in Texas in the 1990s, suggests the creature had features of both frogs and salamanders. ...

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After 422 Million Miles, Phoenix Touches Down

Mars was a big news-maker last week, with the successful landing on Sunday of the Phoenix Mars Lander. The probe performed perfectly, which was a relief in the wake of the 1999 disappearance of the Mars Polar Lander. ...

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PODCAST & VIDEO: Engineering Around Extreme Events

Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.

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