SciNews Aug 3, 2015

White lasers, Pee-proofs paint, Gender disagreements, and a nearby Earth “cousin”.  This eclectic collection of “guaranteed to wow” science news stories is brought to you by STAOBlog.

SciNews is published every Monday. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s  from 123rfBiology

Gender: When the body and brain disagree. Science News for Students

n November 2014, Zoë MacGregor celebrated her 13th birthday. Like any teen might, she invited a friend to her house for a sleepover. They ordered pizza, had brownies and ice cream for dessert, then watched a movie.

The Seattle-native’s journey to becoming a teen had been very different from that of many of her friends, however. Until she was 9, the girl had lived as Ian — a boy.

But by spring 2011, Zoë recalls, “I was starting to feel more and more like I was not quite boy, but sort of both.” Eventually it hit Zoë that she was neither a boy nor a hybrid of two genders. “No,” she realized, “I’m a girl.”  Read more…

Ebola vaccine efficacy trial suggest vaccine provides high protection against disease. Science Daily

Tests of the experimental Ebola vaccine VSV-ZEBOV in over 7500 participants in Guinea suggest that the vaccine provides high protection against the disease as early as ten days after vaccination, in adults who have potentially been exposed to the virus by coming in close contact with a recently infected person. Read more…

Paralyzed men move legs with new non-invasive spinal cord stimulation. Science Daily

Five men with complete motor paralysis were able to voluntarily generate step-like movements thanks to a new strategy that non-invasively delivers electrical stimulation to their spinal cords. The strategy, called transcutaneous stimulation, delivers electrical current to the spinal cord by way of electrodes strategically placed on the skin of the lower back. This expands to nine the number of completely paralyzed individuals who have achieved voluntary movement while receiving spinal stimulation. Read more…



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How trans fats oozed into our diet and out again. Science News

n June 16 the Food and Drug Administration made the final call: Trans fats are no longer “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. That means that food manufacturers have three years to ooze these cheap and useful fats out of their processed foods.

In fact, most of them already have. Trans fat —a big source of which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oils — has been the food villain of choice since 2006, when the FDA required companies to include trans fat content on food labels. Since then, the oily fats that used to lurk in everything from crackers to frosting have largely vanished — with a few exceptions, such as ice cream sprinkles and some doughnuts. Read more…


Pee-Proof Walls Thwart Public Urinators in San Francisco. Discover

Instant karma awaits those who choose to empty their bladders on the streets of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Public Works Department (SFPW) is coating select city walls with water-repelling paint that makes urine splash back onto the source of the illegal fount. It’s a technique borrowed from a city in Germany, where the specialized paint has caused enough messes that fewer people are choosing to conduct their personal business in public. Read more…


Bacteria become source of ‘greener’ blue jeans.  Science News for Students

They come bleached and boot cut, stonewashed and straight-leg. But what most jeans aren’t is green. And we’re not talking about their hue here.

Blue jeans get their signature color from indigo, a dye. Producing that indigo releases chemicals that can pollute water and harm fish. That’s prompted scientists to seek cleaner — as in “greener” — methods. One new approach turns bacteria into micro-factories for the chemical dye. These microbes are “taught” to produce indigo using a chemical process found in living plants. Read more…



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Microwaves Could Power Tomorrow’s Space Shuttles.  Discover

The same electromagnetic radiation used to heat up a Hot Pocket could propel a shuttle into space.

A Colorado-based technology company, Escape Dynamics, says initial testing indicates it’s possible to launch single-stage shuttles into orbit using microwaves beamed from the ground. If researchers can make the concept work, it could drastically reduce costs and make it safer to send satellites and humans into space. Read more…


World’s first white lasers demonstrated. Science Daily

More luminous, energy efficient than LEDs, white lasers look to be the future in lighting and Li-Fi, or light-based wireless communication. Semiconductor lasers are capable of emitting over the full visible color spectrum, which is necessary to produce a white laser, researchers have demonstrated. The technological advance puts lasers one step closer to being a mainstream light source and potential replacement or alternative to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Lasers are brighter, more energy efficient, and can potentially provide more accurate and vivid colors for displays like computer screens and televisions. Read more…


Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

New results from Philae lander offer first close-up of a comet. Science News

During its brief time awake on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Philae lander documented a diverse world. New analyses of lander data reveal the comet as uniform on the inside, but full of variety on the outside. Pebbles, boulders, cliffs and pits blanket the forbidding landscape. Complex organic molecules float above a surface that is as soft as sand in some places and as hard as rock in others. Read more…

Kepler telescope identifies new ‘habitable zone’ planet. Science News

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a “cousin” of Earth 1,400 light-years away.

The exoplanet Kepler 452b orbits a sunlike star at about the same distance as Earth orbits the sun, scientists reported at a news conference July 23. The discovery is the first confirmed planet among 500 candidates newly identified by the Kepler mission.

But even though the new planet bears many similarities to Earth, experts say much about it remains a mystery. Read more…



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