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Monday, Sep 01st

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Paleontologists discover oldest known pterodactyloid

Oldest pterodactyloid foundBy the end of the Jurassic period, most primitive species of the order Pterosaurs became extinct. But one lineage of the order evolved rather quickly into pterodactyloids, and managed to survive.

These were some of the largest creatures ever to take to the skies, says University of South Florida paleontologist Brian Andres.

A 162.7 million-year-old fossil of the oldest pterodactyloid species unearthed in northwest China sheds light on how such species adapted to their environments.

Chris Sloan, formerly with National Geographic and now president of media company Science Visualization, first spotted the fossil in 2001.

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Scientists discover oldest footprints outside of Africa

oldest human footprintsA new study published in PLOS ONE details the oldest human footprints found outside of Africa.  Found and studied by archaeologists from the British Museum, the footprints are estimated to be anywhere from 780,000 to one million years old.

The footprints were discovered pressed into estuary mudflats along the coast of Happisburgh, England, a small village in low-lying Norfolk county. Happisburgh had previously been identified as one of the earliest sites of human activity outside of Africa, when ancient flint tools were discovered there in 2010.

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Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

big bang theoryWhile scientists believe the universe began with a Big Bang, most Americans put a big question mark on the concept, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.

Yet when it comes to smoking causing cancer or that a genetic code determines who we are, the doubts disappear.

When considering concepts scientists consider truths, Americans have more skepticism than confidence in those that are farther away from our bodies in scope and time: global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and especially the Big Bang from 13.8 billion years ago.

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In a cloning first, scientists create stem cells from adults

cloned stem cellScientists have moved a step closer to the goal of creating stem cells perfectly matched to a patient's DNA in order to treat diseases, they announced on Thursday, creating patient-specific cell lines out of the skin cells of two adult men.

The advance, described online in the journal Cell Stem Cell, is the first time researchers have achieved "therapeutic cloning" of adults. Technically called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, therapeutic cloning means producing embryonic cells genetically identical to a donor, usually for the purpose of using those cells to treat disease.

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This Fish Crawled Out of the Water…and Into Creationists' Nightmares

fish that crawled out of the waterWe all know the Darwin fish, the car-bumper send-up of the Christian "ichthys" symbol, or Jesus fish. Unlike the Christian symbol, the Darwin fish has, you know, legs. Har har.

But the Darwin fish isn't merely a clever joke; in effect, it contains a testable scientific prediction. If evolution is true, and if life on Earth originated in water, then there must have once been fish species possessing primitive limbs, which enabled them to spend some part of their lives on land. And these species, in turn, must be the ancestors of four-limbed, land-living vertebrates like us.

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UK scientists make body parts in lab

body parts made in labIn a north London hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in the laboratory in a bold attempt to make body parts using stem cells.

It is among several labs around the world, including in the U.S., that are working on the futuristic idea of growing custom-made organs in the lab.

While only a handful of patients have received the British lab-made organs so far— including tear ducts, blood vessels and windpipes — researchers hope they will soon be able to transplant more types of body parts into patients, including what would be the world's first nose made partly from stem cells.

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Physicist Who Put Bang in Cosmos Seeking Other Universes

Center for AstrophysicsEntering the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Theoretical Physics by the front door, one passes more than a dozen well-used blackboards, meeting areas and offices before finding Alan Guth’s.

So when Harvard University astrophysicist John M. Kovac in February wanted to secretly meet with Guth, the originator of a key theory explaining the cosmos, he climbed up a stairway of MIT’s Building 6 and slipped through a back door on the third floor. Kovac, 43, then revealed a discovery that has since made Guth a star theoretical physicist.

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