Here is a quick roundup of 10 cool science news stories that broke during the past couple of days …
Structural Basis for Biosynthesis of Mysterious 21st Amino Acid
Researchers at the RIKEN Systems and Structural Biology Center and the University of Tokyo have clarified the structural basis for the biosynthesis of selenocysteine (Sec), an amino acid whose encoding mechanism offers clues about the origins of the genetic alphabet. The findings deepen our understanding of protein synthesis and lay the groundwork for advances in protein design
Scientists Identify DNA That May Contribute to Each Person’s Uniqueness
Building on a tool that they developed in yeast four years ago, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine scanned the human genome and discovered what they believe is the reason people have such a variety of physical traits and disease risks.
Home computer finds rare pulsar
A rare isolated pulsar with a very low magnetic field has been discovered by a volunteer-computing initiative, researchers report today in the journal Science
Friday the 13th Superstitions Rooted in Bible and More
They date back to at least ancient Roman times, but Friday the 13th superstitions won’t be getting much of a workout this year. Luckily for triskaidekaphobia sufferers, today is 2010’s only Friday the 13th.
That must come as a relief, after 2009’s nine Friday the 13ths—the maximum possible in a year, at least as long as we continue to mark time with the Gregorian calendar, which Pope Gregory XIII ordered the Catholic Church to adopt in 1582.
“You can’t have any [years] with none, and you can’t have any with four, because of our funny calendar,” said Underwood Dudley, a professor emeritus of mathematics at DePauw University in Indiana, and author of Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought.
Jupiter swallowed a super-Earth
JUPITER might have secured its position as the solar system’s mightiest planet by killing an up-and-coming rival, new simulations suggest. The work could explain why the planet has a relatively small heart, and paints a grisly picture of the early solar system, where massive, rocky “super-Earths” were snuffed out before they could grow into gas giants.
Read More Here
Dinosaur man: playing creationists at their own game
Palaeontologist Phil Senter has a persuasive strategy for convincing doubters that all life on Earth has a common origin
The next best thing to oil
A renewable carbon economy? Surely that’s a pipe dream? Perhaps not, now that solar power facilities are cropping up in deserts across California, Spain and North Africa. The idea is to use the sun to power chemical plants able to split carbon dioxide. Combine the resulting carbon monoxide with hydrogen and you have the beginnings of a solar fuel that could one day replace oil.
Hidden rocks from infant Earth hint at planet’s origin
A reservoir of rock that remained intact for nearly the entire history of Earth could tell us about how our planet was built. Its chemistry hints that Earth’s building blocks may have had a rough time of it, losing their skins before they could unite.
The rocks were thrown up by volcanoes in the Arctic wastes of Baffin Island and Greenland only 62 million years ago, but it seems they came from a store of rock in the mantle that formed 4.5 billion years ago – just after Earth formed.
Report charts new course for US astronomy
In a report that marries cosmic curiosity with down-to-Earth pragmatism, an expert committee has delivered its game plan for the future of US astronomy.
The much-anticipated ‘decadal survey’, kept tightly under wraps until its release today, recommends which astronomy and astrophysics projects NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) should fund over the next ten years (see ‘Programmes recommended by the survey’). It also reflects how the landscape of astronomy has changed in the past decade, by placing heavy emphasis on dark energy, a mysterious phenomenon responsible for accelerating the expansion of the Universe, and extrasolar planets — two fields that barely existed at the time of the previous survey, in 2001.
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Pushing the Limits of 3D TV Technology
Some of the thrills of 3D cinema have reached the living room of the average family this year, but the result is still far from perfect. That could change thanks to a technology developed by a German-Swiss partnership.