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Aug 14, 2014

Experimental chikungunya vaccine shows promise in human trial

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) – An experimental vaccine being
developed by U.S. government scientists to prevent the painful
mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya has shown promise in
its first human trials but remains years away from approval for
widespread use.

In a study published on Thursday in the Lancet medical
journal, National Institutes of Health scientists said the
vaccine elicited an impressive immune response in all 25 adult
volunteers who took part and caused no worrisome side effects.

Aug 14, 2014

Rise of the machines? Tiny robot horde swarms to form shapes

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) – They look vaguely like
miniature hockey pucks skittering along on three pin-like metal
legs, but a swarm of small robots called Kilobots at a
laboratory at Harvard University is making a little bit of
history for automatons everywhere.

Researchers who created a battalion of 1,024 of these robots
said on Thursday the mini-machines are able to communicate with
one another and organize themselves into two-dimensional shapes
like letters of the alphabet.

Aug 13, 2014

Ancient flying reptile’s head crest looked like a yacht’s sail

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A flying reptile whose head was topped with a big bony crest shaped like the sail of a yacht swooped through the skies over Brazil roughly 90 million years ago.

Scientists announced on Wednesday the remarkable discovery of about 50 fossilized skeletons of a creature called Caiuajara dobruskii, a type of flying reptile known as a pterosaur that lived alongside the dinosaurs, at a site in southern Brazil.

Aug 13, 2014

Who’s your mummy? Egyptian mummification older than was thought

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It has long been known that the practice of mummification of the dead in ancient Egypt – fundamental to that civilization’s belief in eternal life – was old, but only now are researchers unwrapping the mystery of just how long ago it began.

Researchers on Wednesday said a form of mummification was being carried out there more than six thousand years ago, much earlier than previously thought. They said embalming substances contained in funerary textiles from the oldest-known Egyptian cemeteries showed mummy-making from as early as about 4300 BC.

Aug 10, 2014

Returning U.S. missionaries to be quarantined because of Ebola

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Health officials in North Carolina said on Sunday they will require missionaries and others coming home after working with people infected with Ebola in Africa to be placed in quarantine as a precaution against the spread of the deadly viral disease.

The quarantine is set to last for three weeks from the last exposure to someone infected in the West African Ebola outbreak, which is centered in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the officials said.

Aug 10, 2014

U.S. presses Iraq strikes, Republicans criticize ‘ineffective’ Obama

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States conducted a new round of air strikes on Sunday against Islamic State militants in Iraq while congressional Republicans slammed President Barack Obama’s intervention as ineffective and called for more aggressive military steps.

Republican Representative Peter King of New York criticized Obama for insisting he will not send U.S. ground troops to combat Islamic State forces in Iraq, adding that the United States has been too timid in the crisis so far.

Jul 31, 2014

How do you make a bird? Shrink a dinosaur for 50 million years

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Large flesh-eating dinosaurs evolved into small flying birds, but it did not happen overnight.

An international team of scientists on Thursday described an extraordinary evolutionary process that unfolded over a period of 50 million years in which a lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs shrank steadily and acquired numerous traits that led to the first appearance of birds.

Jul 30, 2014

Octopus mom protects her eggs for an astonishing 4-1/2 years

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – If someone were to create an award for “mother of the year” in the animal kingdom, a remarkably dedicated eight-limbed mom from the dark and frigid depths of the Pacific Ocean might be a strong contender.

Scientists on Wednesday described how the female of an octopus species that dwells almost a mile below the sea surface spends about 4-1/2 years brooding her eggs, protecting them vigilantly until they hatch while forgoing any food for herself.

Jul 17, 2014

Genetic blueprint unveiled for vital food crop wheat

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) – As far as agricultural
genome research goes, this may be the best thing since sliced
bread – wheat bread, that is.

An international team of scientists on Thursday unveiled a
genetic blueprint of wheat in an accomplishment that may help
guide the breeding of varieties of the vitally important food
crop that are more productive and more hardy.

Jul 16, 2014

Fossils show strange sea creature’s half-billion-year-old brain

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Researchers on Wednesday described fossilized remains unearthed in China showing in fine detail the brain structures of a bizarre group of sea creatures that were the top predators more than half a billion years ago.

The fossils show an animal called Lyrarapax unguispinus that lived during the Cambrian Period, a pivotal juncture in the history of life on Earth when many major animal groups first appeared. It was a member of a group known as anomalocaridids – primitive relatives of arthropods, which include crustaceans, insects and spiders – that hunted prey with a pair of claw-like grasping appendages in front of the eyes.