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Rockets on track with supplies for the space station

23 February, by Guardian Staff[ —]

Astronauts look forward to the arrival of cargo missions carrying fresh produce to liven up their diets as well as experiments and other supplies

Two supply vessels blasted off within days of each other this week – both heading for the International Space Station (ISS).

On 19 February at 14:39 GMT, Space X, a private company, launched a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39a at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch pad is historic because it was built for the Apollo moon landing programme of the 60s and 70s. It was then used for space shuttle launches. Since April 2014, the launch pad has been used by Space X, which signed a 20-year lease with NASA.

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PPE: the Oxford degree with a lot to answer for | Letters

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23 February, by Letters[ —]

I began studying economics at night school in Leeds in the 1950s and continued, at various institutions, as an external student of London University. Our courses were broadly, but not uncritically, Keynesian. We abjured fancy equations and sprinkled our essays with phrases like “a tendency to” and “pressure towards” this or that as a consequence of some other event. As a teacher I have tried to keep reasonably up to date, and learned in the early 70s, for example, to regard most monetarist nonsense as the fantasies of “Friedmaniacs”.

With this background, and aware of the influence on our leaders of Oxford’s PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) course, I have often wondered what on earth they taught them. Andy Beckett’s article (The degree that runs Britain, 23 February) gives the answer. PPE graduates are “intellectually flexible”. Or, to put it another way, they sway with the wind. And the winds of monetarism and arrogant attempts to make human behaviours as subject to mathematical predictions as the laws of physics, have captured economics academia for the past 40 years. Conservative, Labour and, to our eternal shame, Liberal Democrats have been equally culpable, as the damage done to the bottom 20% in this country, and to 80% of the population of Greece, so clearly demonstrates.

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Study reveals bot-on-bot editing wars raging on Wikipedia's pages

23 February, by Ian Sample Science editor[ —]

Over time, the encyclopedia’s software robots can become locked in combat, undoing each other’s edits and changing links, say researchers

For many it is no more than the first port of call when a niggling question raises its head. Found on its pages are answers to mysteries from the fate of male anglerfish, the joys of dorodango, and the improbable death of Aeschylus.

But beneath the surface of Wikipedia lies a murky world of enduring conflict. A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years.

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Goal! Bees can learn ball skills from watching each other, study finds

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23 February, by Nicola Davis[ —]

Bees are better at problem solving than previously thought, and can learn tasks totally unlike their natural behaviour, say researchers

Bumblebees can learn how to manoeuvre a ball just by watching others carry out the task, researchers have discovered in the latest study to shed light on the insects’ surprising talents.

While bees have already been shown to be able to learn how to pull on strings, push caps and even rotate a lever to access food, researchers say the new study shows that bees are better at problem solving than we thought.

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What is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle?

23 February, by Alok Jha[ —]
How the sun shines and why the vacuum of space is not actually empty

The uncertainty principle is one of the most famous (and probably misunderstood) ideas in physics. It tells us that there is a fuzziness in nature, a fundamental limit to what we can know about the behaviour of quantum particles and, therefore, the smallest scales of nature. Of these scales, the most we can hope for is to calculate probabilities for where things are and how they will behave. Unlike Isaac Newton's clockwork universe, where everything follows clear-cut laws on how to move and prediction is easy if you know the starting conditions, the uncertainty principle enshrines a level of fuzziness into quantum theory.

Werner Heisenberg's simple idea tells us why atoms don't implode, how the sun manages to shine and, strangely, that the vacuum of space is not actually empty.

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Autism diagnosis by brain scan? It’s time for a reality check

23 February, by Jon Brock[ —]

Recent reports that it might be possible to use MRI to identify at-risk children are exciting, but we are still a long way from autism diagnosis by brain scan

What if I told you that we can now identify babies who are going to develop autism based on a simple brain scan? This, in essence, is the seductive pitch for a study published last week in the journal Nature, and making headlines around the world.

Early identification and diagnosis is one of the major goals of autism research. By definition, people with autism have difficulties with social interaction and communication. But these skills take many years to develop, even in typically developing (i.e., non-autistic) children. Potential early signs of autism are extremely difficult to pick out amidst the natural variation in behaviour and temperament that exists between all babies.

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'Golden trio' of moves boosts chances of female orgasm, say researchers

23 February, by Nicola Davis and Mona Chalabi[ —]

Study sheds light on approaches, revealing ‘orgasm gaps’ both between the sexes and those with different sexual orientations

The female orgasm has often been described as elusive, but researchers say they might have discovered how to boost the chances of eliciting the yes, yes, yes.

A study from a team of US researchers suggests that a combination of genital stimulation, deep kissing and oral sex is the “golden trio” for women when it comes to increasing their likelihood of reaching orgasm with a sexual partner.

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New smoke alarm sound tested for children’s response – video

23 February, by Guardian Staff[ —]

Research by Dundee University and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue found that over 80% of the children tested did not respond to the sound of an industry-standard smoke detector operating. More than 500 volunteer families are being sought across the UK to join a study testing new fire alarm sounds which have a lower pitch and a woman’s voice

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Deep sea life faces dark future due to warming and food shortage

23 February, by Nicola Davis[ —]

New study reveals negative impact of climate change, human activity, acidification and deoxygenation on ocean and its creatures

The deep ocean and the creatures that live there are facing a desperate future due to food shortages and changing temperatures, according to research exploring the impact of climate change and human activity on the world’s seas.

The deep ocean plays a critical role in sustaining our fishing and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as being home to a huge array of creatures. But the new study reveals that food supplies at the seafloor in the deepest regions of the ocean could fall by up to 55% by 2100, starving the animals and microbes that exist there, while changes in temperature, pH and oxygen levels are also predicted to take their toll on fragile ecosystems.

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Forget five a day, eat 10 portions of fruit and veg to cut risk of early death

23 February, by Sarah Boseley Health editor[ —]

Scientists say even just 2.5 portions daily can lower chance of heart disease, stroke, cancer and premature death

Five portions of fruit and veg a day is good for you, but 10 is much better and could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year, say scientists.

The findings of the study led by Imperial College London may dismay the two in three adults who struggle to manage three or four portions – perhaps some tomatoes in a sandwich at lunchtime, an apple and a few spoonfuls of peas at dinner.

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