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Thursday, Dec 18th

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Statewide quake in California may be possible after all

San Andreas faultFor decades, scientists have assumed the central portion of California's San Andreas fault acts as a barrier that prevents a big quake in the southern part of the state from spreading to the north, and vice versa. As a result, a mega-quake that could be felt from San Diego to San Francisco was widely considered impossible.

But that key fault segment might not serve as a barrier in all cases, researchers wrote Wednesday in the online edition of the journal Nature.

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Study contends Grand Canyon as old as dinosaur era

Grand CanyonThe awe-inspiring Grand Canyon was probably carved about 70 million years ago, much earlier than thought, a provocative new study suggests - so early that dinosaurs might have roamed near this natural wonder.

Using a new dating tool, a team of scientists came up with a different age for the gorge's western section, challenging conventional wisdom that much of the canyon was scoured by the mighty Colorado River in the last 5 million to 6 million years.

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Antarctic microbes thrive without sunlight

Antarctic microbesIn a world without sunlight, microbes still seem to thrive in an Antarctic lake iced over for at least 2,800 years, biologists report.

Lake Vida, a chilly brine pool covered by more than 50 feet of ice, resides in East Antarctica. Biologists led by Alison Murray of the Desert Research Institute in Reno report that 2005 and 2010 core samples reveal aquatic microbes thrive in its yellowish waters, in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Astronomers spy a planet untethered to any star; there may be many more

Planet with no sunThere’s an orphan planet roaming our galactic neighborhood.

It’s a globe of gas about the size of Jupiter, astronomers say. And it’s out there by its lonesome, untethered to any star, drifting about 100 light-years from Earth. (In astronomical terms, that’s close.)

Astronomers have spied lonely planets before. But this newest object, seen near the southern constellation Dorado, is the closest to Earth yet found.

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Brazil plans to clone endangered species

Endangered speciesBrazil says it will try cloning eight animal species that are under pressure, keeping them in captivity as a reserve in case wild populations collapse.

Brazil's agricultural research agency, Embrapa, working with the Brasilia Zoological Garden, has collected around 420 tissue samples, mostly from carcasses, to prepare for a cloning program, NewScientist.com reported.

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Stone-age humans began using lethal technology 71,000 years ago employing spears and arrows to triumph over Neanderthals

Early manThe date when stone-age humans first invented the lethal technology of spears and arrows has been set back many thousands of years with the discovery of small stone blades dating to 71,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe the “bladelets” were used as the sharp tips for arrows or spears and were made by a relatively sophisticated technique involving the heat treatment of stone before shaping the final cutting edges.

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Oregon scientists make embryos with 2 women, 1 man

EmbryoScientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases.

The researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University said they are not using the embryos to produce children, and it is not clear when or even if this technique will be put to use. But it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.

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