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Science and Technology

Personality Can be Predicted via Facebook "Likes"

Your digital footprint says a lot more about you than you think.

According to a recent study by researchers at Cambridge University, easily accessible online digital records can be distilled to predict some personality traits or behavior we might prefer be kept private. Among those traits and behaviors, according to the study, are “sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age and gender.”

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Bug protects itself by turning its environment to gold

Mythical King Midas was ultimately doomed because everything he touched turned to gold. Now, the reverse has been found in bacteria that owe their survival to a natural Midas touch.

Delftia acidovorans lives in sticky biofilms that form on top of gold deposits, but exposure to dissolved gold ions can kill it. That's because although metallic gold is unreactive, the ions are toxic.

To protect itself, the bacterium has evolved a chemical that detoxifies gold ions by turning them into harmless gold nanoparticles. These accumulate safely outside the bacterial cells.

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WHO Urges Reduced Salt Intake

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines urging adults to consume less salt and include a minimum amount of potassium in their diets.

In a statement released Thursday, the WHO says adults should consume less than two grams of sodium or fewer than five grams of salt each day. It also recommends a minimum of 3.5 grams of potassium as part of a daily diet.

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Dying young: Americans less likely to make it to 50

Dying young: Americans less likely to make it to 50   
A 10-person panel examined potential health disadvantages among younger Americans.   
A report released today by the National Academies paints a dire picture of American health.

Not only do people in the United States die sooner than people in other high-income countries, but American health is poorer than in peer countries at every stage of life — from birth to childhood to adolescence, in youth and middle age, and for older adults.

“The problem is not limited to people who are poor or uninsured,” said Eileen Crimmins, holder of the AARP Chair in Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and a member of the National Research Council panel that compiled the report. “Even Americans with health insurance, higher incomes, college education and healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, seem to be sicker than their counterparts in other countries.”

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Sea level rise could lead to a cooler, stormier world

A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto-unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the entire planet falls by a few degrees, according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

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Frogs Could Provide Big Leap in Antibiotics

Frogs Could Provide Big Leap in Antibiotics   
Scientists have discovered that different species of frogs produce potent cocktails of antibiotics. (Richard Bartz)   
A bit of old Russian folk wisdom could produce a crop of new antibiotics.

With drug resistant bacteria a growing public health threat worldwide, a type of frog Russians have used to keep milk fresh could provide a fresh source of germ fighters.

Moscow State University chemist Albert Lebedev grew up in a rural part of Russia, where many people kept their own cows. In the days before refrigeration, it was a challenge to keep milk from spoiling.

So people enlisted the help of the local amphibians.

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Higgs Boson Named Top Science Find of 2012

Each year, editors at Science magazine compile a list of the year’s top achievements in science and technology.

For 2012, their top pick was the long-anticipated confirmation of the existence of the so-called "God particle," which is believed to be a building block of the universe.

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Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept, and Corrupt Systems ?

Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in—a government, company, or marriage—even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust? A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo—a process called “system justification.”

System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. "It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be."

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More Drugs Found to Interact Dangerously with Grapefruit

The number of prescription drugs that can have serious adverse side effects when interacting with grapefruit is on the rise, yet many physicians may be unaware of these effects, according to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Between 2008 and 2012, researchers say, new drugs capable of adverse interactions arrived on the market annually, driving the total number of medications now known to have side effects when taken with grapefruit from 17 to 43.

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UN: Permafrost Thaw Could Significantly Warm Planet

Permafrost Thaw Could Significantly Warm Planet   
A scientist standing in front of an ice-rich permafrost exposure on the coast of Herschel Island, Yukon Territory. (Photo: Michael Fritz)   
Thawing permafrost, especially in the northern hemisphere, could send huge amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere by the end of this century, according to a U.N. Environment Program report released today at international climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

The report's authors say air temperatures in the world's arctic and alpine regions are expected to increase at roughly twice the global rate. These regional greenhouse gas emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 percent of total planet-wide emissions, says lead author Kevin Schaefer, from the University of Colorado's Snow and Ice Data Center.

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New Procedure Shows Promise For Severe Asthmatics

A new treatment at the Cleveland Clinic shows promise in helping those with severe asthma. The procedure has been used in clinical trials for several years, and the outcome can be life changing for many patients who have it.

Life with severe asthma is hard. In order to prevent an asthma attack, Karen Ecker needed to live like a shut in.

"I couldn’t go outside without a mask. I was pretty much a hermit in my house," Ecker said.

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Ancient Stone Weapons Found in South Africa

Ancient Stone Weapons Found in South Africa   
These microlith blades show a flat edge with a rounded "cutting" edge. (Simen Oestmo)   
Archaeologists digging at a site on the southern coast of South Africa have found a trove of sophisticated stone tools they believe were made 50,000 years before the technology to create them emerged in Europe and other regions of Africa.

The finding, reported in the journal Nature, could mean that the first modern humans evolved where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic.

Small blades, called microliths, were unearthed at Pinnacle Point, about 500 kilometers west of Cape Town, and dated back 71,000 years.

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Astronomers Find "Homeless" Planet Drifting Through Space

Astronomers have discovered a planet drifting through space, not orbiting a star. Such cosmic wanderers are believed to be common in the universe. But the new-found planet's proximity to our solar system - just 100 light years, or 1000 trillion kilometers, away - and the absence of any nearby stars have allowed the international [Canadian and European] team to study the planet's properties in greater detail than ever before.

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Studies Show Maternal Smoking Triggers Asthma in Grandchildren

Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products is bad for your health... and for those around you. Now, there’s new evidence from studies with lab rats that the habit can cause asthma not only in smokers' children, but in their grandchildren, as well.

Researchers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, have found evidence of a generational effect of tobacco- smoking on lung development. The scientists gave a group of pregnant rats injections of nicotine, the amount an average smoker would receive, exposing the animals' unborn pups to the chemical. Nicotine is one of more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke known to adversely affect lung development. As predicted, the injections caused changes in the fetal animals' upper and lower airway development consistent with asthma.

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Longevity Traced to Grandmothers

Longevity Traced to Grandmothers   
Anthropology Professor Kristen Hawkes says humans are distinct among primates when it comes to longevity. Credit: Lee J. Siegel, University of Utah   
In modern society, grandmothers are often called upon to babysit. But a few million years ago, when primate grandmothers first started doing that, they apparently had a major impact on human evolution. Scientists believe it’s a big reason why we live much longer than other primates. It’s called the “grandmother hypothesis.”

University of Utah Anthropology Professor Kristen Hawkes says humans are distinct among primates when it comes to longevity.

“One of the things that’s really different about us humans, compared to our closest living relatives, the other great apes, is that we have these really long lifespans. We reach adulthood later and then we have much longer adult lives. And an especially important thing about that is that women usually live through the childbearing years and are healthy and productive well beyond,” she said.

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Unusual Mars Rock Surprises Rover Scientists

Unusual Mars Rock Surprises Rover Scientists   
This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as "Jake Matijevic." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)   
The Mars rover Curiosity, now 63 days into its two-year exploration of the red planet, has analyzed a football-sized rock that NASA scientists say has some surprisingly Earth-like qualities.

Curiosity's engineers on Earth put the drilling and sampling tools on the rover's robotic arm to full use this week as they assessed the makeup of the pyramid-shaped rock. The sample is named Jake Matijevic, in honor of a senior engineer on the Curiosity team who passed away this summer. Co-investigator Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology says the football-size rock is similar to a kind of igneous, or volcanic rock found on Earth.

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Diet Rich in Tomatoes May Reduce Stroke Risk

A long-term study has found that people who routinely eat a lot of tomatoes are less likely to suffer strokes. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that scientists believe reduces the risk of heart disease.

Researchers followed the dietary habits of more than 1,000 men living near the University of Eastern Finland. The subjects were divided into four groups based on how much lycopene was measured in their blood at the start of the study. After more than a dozen years, there were 25 strokes in a group of 258 men with the lowest levels of lycopene, compared to just 11 strokes in the high-lycopene group of 259 males, a reduction in stroke risk of 55 percent.

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What to do to avoid the flu

Flu shot   
The half-milliliter of prevention contained in a flu shot can be worth a pound of cure. (Photo/Nathan Carter)
No one likes getting shots. But a two-second prick in the arm is the best protection against up to two weeks in bed with a high fever, crippling body aches and other painful symptoms of the seasonal flu.

“The flu shot is very, very safe, and a smart thing to do for somebody who wants to prevent the flu,” said Paula Swinford, director of the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, part of the Division of Student Affairs.

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A Woman’s Drive to be Thin May be in Her Genes

Thin is In   
In western cultures women are constantly reminded by the media that it’s best to be thin. (Photo: Helga Weber via Flickr/Creative Commons)   
While cultural and societal factors have long been thought to influence how women see themselves in the mirror, a new study in Michigan has revealed that genetics may also play a role in making some women more vulnerable to the pressure of being thin.

Many people today, especially women, have taken the modern axiom, “Thin is In“ to heart. So much so that a number of those pushing themselves to lose weight in order to become thin have developed serious problems such as the potentially deadly eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa.

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UN Urges Countries to Plan for Aging Populations

It's a fact of life that older people slow down, so it’s no surprise, for example, that they take longer to cross a street. How should communities accommodate the world’s rapidly aging population? A new United Nations report on aging urges countries to answer that question, because soon every fifth person in the world will be over 60.

Consider Japan, where 30 percent of Japanese are elderly -- the world’s oldest population. By mid-century, according to the U.N. report, 64 countries will reach that mark.

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