World’s Largest Airplane Readies For Flight

The world's largest airplane is taking to the runway. The massive Stratolaunch aircraft developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen conducted a taxi test over the weekend in Mojave, California where the aircraft reached a speed of 46 miles per hour. With a wingspan of 385 feet, and powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, the ungainly craft is meant to give rockets a ride to the stratosphere, where they will launch into orbit. Gearing Up For Flight The test follows earlier

Barbra Streisand Loved Her Dog So Much… She Cloned It

It’s rough when a pet passes away. For those that can't bear to be apart, they can clone their beloved animal. That’s what Barbra Streisand did — not once, but twice. She recently revealed to Variety that two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs are cloned.  “They have different personalities,” Streisand told Variety. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.” Cells were taken from the mouth and stomach of her favorite dog, Samantha,

Fever of the Rat

Back in the 1980s, S.O.S. calls after midnight were common in the field of infectious disease. And as soon as my pager started to trill, I turned on my bedside lamp and dialed—often within thirty seconds. One night, I connected to an intern I’ll call Paddy. The background din quickly spelled “E.R.” “Sorry to disturb you, Dr. P, but a woman woke with a rat on her face. Then the rat bit her lip.” First, I expelled a disgusted “yecchh,” then I asked a question. “Was she drunk and passed o

Computers Learn to Imagine the Future

In many ways, the human brain is still the best computer around. For one, it’s highly efficient. Our largest supercomputers require millions of watts, enough to power a small town, but the human brain uses approximately the same energy as a 20-watt bulb. While teenagers may seem to take forever to learn what their parents regard as basic life skills, humans and other animals are also capable of learning very quickly. Most of all, the brain is truly great at sorting through torrents of data t

Male brown widow spiders prefer older ladies (who are more likely to eat them).

We've featured a number of articles about the sexual proclivities of spiders: from oral sex to genital mutilation, arachnids have a wide-ranging sex life. Here's another example -- female brown widow spiders often eat their male partners after mating. That's pretty wild, and it gets even more intense: these scientists found that male spiders prefer to mate with older females, even though these females are less fertile and more likely to eat the men after the deed is done. The authors are una

Why Did Magic Mushrooms Evolve ‘Magic’?

By now, it's pretty clear that psilocybin, the active compound in "magic mushrooms" has a potent effect on human beings. But psychedelic visions obviously weren't the evolutionary force that caused some fungi to make the compound — it's an unforeseen side effect. With a new genetic analysis, researchers think they've identified why magic mushrooms started producing "magic" in the first place. The culprit, they say, is insects. Psychedelic Genetics By sequencing the genomes of three sepa

Urine Could Help Determine How Old You <i>Really</i> Are

For doctors, looking at a person’s birth date doesn’t tell them much. Sure, a person might be 75 on paper, but genes, lifestyle and environment all play into health. So it's important to get a good understanding of our how old our bodies really are — a biological age rather than chronological age. A new study, published Monday in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, found that a simple urine test could deliver valuable information about our biological age. Age is Just a Number In the study,

Freakishly warm air has again surged over the North Pole, and sea ice is breaking up north of Greenland — in winter

Meanwhile, frigid polar air has spilled south into Eurasia and western North America. Is there a connection to human-caused warming? It's happening again: In the dead of winter, warm air from the south is surging across the Arctic toward the North Pole. Today, weather models suggest that temperatures there have indeed soared to above freezing. Meanwhile, cold polar air has spilled south into Eurasia and western North America. It's almost as if someone left the Arctic's refrigerator do

What Can Stop a Speeding Bullet? A Whipple Shield, Of Course

What happens when you're hit by something going 15,000 miles per hour? Total obliteration, more or less. That's a very real scenario that spacecraft engineers must keep in mind every time they put something in space. Collisions with objects in orbit are rare, but they do happen. In the past, paint chips have left craters in the space shuttle and a French satellite was disabled in 1996 after its gravity-gradient boom was severed by a chunk from an exploded rocket. Shields Up! To protect

If Bacteria Can Survive the Atacama, Maybe They Can Survive Mars

Life finds a way, even in the most inhospitable conditions. In extreme environments such as that present in the hyper-arid center of the Atacama Desert, there are still signs of life. In the most Mars-like location on Earth, a microbial community survives, showing episodic biological activity in the near absence of any moisture. In dry areas at of the desert's core, where everything is bombarded by intense ultraviolet radiation, Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues detected microbes

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