Supersonic missile downed Malaysia Airlines plane, photos suggest

New photographic evidence of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 suggests that a Soviet-era supersonic missile most likely took down the Boeing 777 jetliner over Ukraine last week. Photos published by the New York Times yesterday (July 21) offer a close-up view of debris from the plane crash, with pieces of the commercial jet riddled with small holes that experts say were likely caused by high-velocity shrapnel from an SA-11 missile. After analyzing the photo evidence from the crash, Reed Foster, an analyst with defense consultancy firm IHS Jane, told the Washington Post that the holes in the surface of the aircraft are fairly uniform in size, indicating that a fragmentation warhead likely caused them. This feature allows the missile to determine the appropriate distance from its target at which to detonate, said Ian Williams, Director of Advocacy for the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance in Alexandria, Virginia.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 7:55 pm

Newfound Alien Planet Has Longest Year Known for Transiting World

Newfound Alien Planet Has Longest Year Known for Transiting WorldA newfound alien planet is one for the record books. The alien planet Kepler-421b — which crosses the face of, or transits, its host star from Earth's perspective — takes 704 Earth days to complete one orbit, and thus has the longest year known for any transiting alien world, researchers said. "Finding Kepler-421b was a stroke of luck," study lead author David Kipping, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement. To be clear, Kepler-421b does not have the longest year of any known alien planet.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 7:35 pm

Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and Dogs

Elephants Can Outsniff Rats and DogsElephants are known for their impressively long trunks, but perhaps less well known is the large number of genes that code for their sense smell. "Rats had the record for the largest number of [these] genes," said the study's lead researcher Yoshiihito Niimura, a researcher of molecular evolution at The University of Tokyo in Japan. The findings support other research on the pachyderm's superior sense of smell. African elephants can smell the difference between two tribes living in Kenya: the Maasai, whose young men prove their virility by spearing elephants, and the Kamba, farmers who usually leave elephants alone, reported a 2007 study published in the journal Current Biology.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 7:19 pm

Amazing SpaceX Reusable Rocket Test Caught on Video

Amazing SpaceX Reusable Rocket Test Caught on VideoA stunning new video shows the first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket making a soft ocean splashdown as planned after its launch earlier this month. Even though the booster didn't survive the landing entirely intact, SpaceX considers the reusability test a big success. "This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity," SpaceX representatives wrote in an update today about the video, which was recorded by the stage's onboard camera. Developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets is a key priority for California-based SpaceX and Elon Musk, the company's billionaire founder and CEO.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 6:23 pm

Hacking experts build device to protect cars from cyber attacks

By Jim Finkle BOSTON (Reuters) - Two security experts who a year ago exposed methods for hacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape say they have developed technology that would keep automobiles safe from cyber attacks. At last summer's Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the two researchers, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, described ways to launch dangerous attacks, including manipulating the brakes of the moving Prius and the Ford Escape. Valasek told Reuters on Tuesday that he and Miller will show off a prototype vehicle "intrusion prevention device" at next month's Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 6:18 pm

Schizophrenia has many genetic links, study says

By Andrew M. Seaman NEW YORK - More than 100 locations on the human genome may play a role in a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study. While the results do not have an immediate effect on those living with the psychiatric disorder, one of the study’s authors said they open areas of research that had not seen advances in recent years. "The exciting thing about having little openings is it gives you a place to dig and make big openings,” said Steve McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. McCarroll is part of the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which published the study in the journal Nature.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 6:12 pm

First Litter of Wild Wolf Pups Born in Mexico

First Litter of Wild Wolf Pups Born in MexicoFor the first time in more than 30 years, a litter of wolf pups was born in the wild in Mexico, wildlife authorities announced last week. The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), also known as the lobo, went extinct in the wild about three decades ago. Mexican authorities have been closely watching one wolf couple released in December 2013 in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, and they suspected the female might be pregnant. The signal from her satellite collar was lost for a few days this spring, suggesting she might be inside a burrow or den having pups, officials with Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) said.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 5:11 pm

Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)

Only Zoo Keepers Get to Feed the Penguins (Op-Ed)Nora Beirne, a senior keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.  When I went to The College of New Jersey, I was an English major, but I took several pre-med classes. Then, in my senior year, Pat Thomas — associate director of the Bronx Zoo and vice president and general curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society — gave a talk to the biology department. In six years as a zoo keeper, I've trained red pandas for injections, fed black bears jelly off a spoon and held a komodo dragon.  

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 2:38 pm

Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)

Homer Hickam: The Science Behind 'Crater Trueblood' (Op-Ed)Homer Hickam is The New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of "Rocket Boys" — also known as "October Sky" (Dell Publishing, 2000) following the book's adaptation to film — and the "Helium-3" novels "Crater" (Thomas Nelson, 2012), "Crescent" (Thomas Nelson, 2013) "Crater Trueblood and The Lunar Rescue Company" (Thomas Nelson, 2014), as well as a retired NASA engineer. There, a ghost town awaits, the previous residents scared off by weird emanations of LTP.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 2:29 pm

Taller, Fatter, Older: How Humans Have Changed in 100 Years

middel aged fat manHumans are getting taller; Most of the transformations that occur within such a short time period "are simply the developmental responses of organisms to changed conditions," such as differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices, said Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. But the origin of these changes may be much deeper and more complex than that, said Stearns, pointing to a study finding that British soldiers have shot up in height in the past century. "Evolution has shaped the developmental program that can respond flexibly to changes in the environment," Stearns said.

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 10:20 am