Will's Feed
Dec 13, 2014

U.S. defense secretary nominee undergoes back surgery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary, has undergone a long-planned surgical procedure on his back ahead of his confirmation process in the Senate, the White House said on Friday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement that the procedure was successful but did not give details about the operation.

Dec 11, 2014

Feathered friends: researchers unveil bird ‘family tree’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists have unveiled the most comprehensive bird ‘family tree’ ever devised, using genetic data from 48 species to trace how modern bird lineages arose and flourished after the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs.

The work by researchers from 20 countries helps clarify the evolutionary relationships of modern bird groups and reveals the genetic underpinning of traits such as singing, toothlessness, colorful feathers and color vision.

Dec 10, 2014

Meek Montana plant-eater foreshadowed huge horned dinosaurs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It was a dinosaur about the length of a crow and the weight of a bunny. But this modest plant-eater that lived about 108 million years ago in southern Montana foreshadowed the monstrous horned dinosaurs that trod North America millions of years later.

Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of the fossil of the oldest known horned dinosaur species from North America, a creature called Aquilops americanus that was a close cousin to similar dinosaurs from Asia.

Dec 10, 2014

Trash talk: 269,000 tons of plastic litter choke world’s oceans

WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) – There are plastic shopping
bags, bottles, toys, action figures, bottle caps, pacifiers,
tooth brushes, boots, buckets, deodorant roller balls, umbrella
handles, fishing gear, toilet seats and so much more. Plastic
pollution is pervasive in Earth’s oceans.

Researchers unveiled on Wednesday what they called the most
scientifically rigorous estimate to date of the amount of
plastic litter in the oceans – about 269,000 tons – based on
data from 24 ship expeditions around the globe over six years.

Dec 4, 2014

Shocking news: Electric eels exert remote control over prey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Electric eels, those perilous predators of South America, can unleash a potent electrical jolt to wallop their hapless prey. But this zap is not used merely to stun other fish.

A new study shows that the eels use it to exert a form of remote control over their victims, causing fish that may be hiding to twitch, thus exposing their location, or inducing involuntary muscle contraction to incapacitate their prey.

Dec 3, 2014

Zigzag design on shell called landmark feat for early humans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It’s a simple zigzag design scratched onto the surface of a freshwater mussel shell on the Indonesian island of Java about half a million years ago.

But scientists are calling it a milestone achievement for early humans and an indication that the species Homo erectus, which preceded our own species Homo sapiens, possessed more advanced cognitive abilities than previously thought.

Nov 26, 2014

Gut check: how vultures dine on rotting flesh, and like it

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – They snack on danger and dine on death, merrily munching on rotting flesh that would certainly sicken or kill any person and most other animals. But how do vultures do it?

These feathery scavengers have one of the toughest guts on the planet, that is how. Scientists said on Tuesday that their analysis of two species of North American vultures showed that the birds possess a ferociously acidic digestive system and intestines loaded with two fiendish kinds of bacteria.

Nov 24, 2014

Cold hard facts: Underwater robot measures Antarctic sea ice

WASHINGTON, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Measuring the thickness of
Antarctic sea ice, an important gauge of environmental
conditions in this remote polar region in a time of global
climate change, has proven to be a tricky task. But an
underwater robot is providing a nice solution.

Satellite measurements can be skewed by surface snow, and
some ice floes are simply too difficult to reach by ship, even
icebreakers, to make direct measurements by drilling into them.

Nov 20, 2014

Want to live on the ‘roof of the world’? Grow barley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Tibetan Plateau, the harsh Asian domain known as the ‘roof of the world,’ would not seem an ideal place for people to call home thanks to its extreme altitude, frigid temperatures, relentless winds and low-oxygen conditions.

When people did succeed in colonizing this remote land, it was only after they discovered how to feed themselves year-round with cold-hardy crops like barley brought to the region from far away, scientists said on Thursday.

Nov 20, 2014

HIV drugs show promise in treating common eye disease

WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – A class of drugs used for
three decades by people infected with the virus that causes AIDS
may be effective in treating a leading cause of blindness among
the elderly.

HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
(NRTIs), including AZT and three others, blocked age-related
macular degeneration in mice and worked well in experiments
involving human retinal cells in the laboratory, researchers
said on Thursday.