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Science/Technology

  • Nevada petroglyphs the oldest in North America

    PYRAMID LAKE, Nev. (AP) — Ancient rock etchings along a dried-up lake bed in Nevada have been confirmed to be the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America, dating back at least 10,000 years.

    The petroglyphs found on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada's high desert are similar in design to etchings found at a lake in Oregon that are believed to be at least 7,600 years old. Unlike later drawings that sometimes depict a spear or antelope, the carvings are abstract with tightly clustered geometric designs — some are diamond patterns, others have short parallel lines on top of a longer line.

    Scientists can't tell for sure who carved them, but they were found on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe's reservation land.

    "We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture," said Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City who co-authored a paper on the findings earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

    The petroglyphs could be as much as 14,800 years old, said Larry Benson, a geochemist who used radiocarbon testing to date the etchings and co-wrote the paper.

  • NMSU-led biofuel research gets federal funding

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Research into the potential of algae-based fuel is getting a $5 million boost from the U.S. Department of Energy.

    New Mexico State University recently announced the funding, saying it will go to a research effort aimed at improving fuel that's compatible with existing refineries.

    NMSU is working on the project along with Los Alamos, Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories, Washington State and Michigan State universities and four companies.

    Key goals of the project are to improve the yields and stability of algal biomass and cultivation systems while also improving oil content at harvest.

    NMSU officials say the award follows other federal funding announcements for the university's algal bioenergy team, including money for the algal cultivation test bed at the Fabian Garcia Science Center.

  • Univ. of Pennsylvania's Jumping, Climbing Robot

    University of Pennsylvania engineering professor Daniel Koditschek and fifth-year Ph.D. student Aaron Johnson have developed a robot that can jump over gaps and climb ledges, obstacles that have impeded mobile robots in the past.

  • 3D Printers Give Mummies New Life
  • From Petri Dish to Plate, A $330k Hamburger
  • Curiosity rover celebrates 1 year on Mars

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mount Sharp has beckoned Curiosity since the NASA rover made its grand entrance on Mars exactly a year ago, dangling from nylon cables to a safe landing.

    If microbes ever existed on Mars, the mountain represents the best hope for preserving the chemical ingredients that are fundamental to all living things.

    After a poky but productive start, Curiosity recently pointed its wheels south, rolling toward the base of Mount Sharp in a journey that will last many months. Expect Curiosity to channel its inner tourist as it drives across the rock-strewn landscape, dodging bumps and taking in the scenery.

    "We do a lot of off-roading on a lot of little dirt roads," said mission manager Jennifer Trosper.

    Curiosity will unpack its toolkit once it arrives at its destination to hunt for the organic building blocks of life.

    Scientists have been eager for a peek of Mount Sharp since Curiosity, the size of a small SUV, touched down in an ancient crater near the Martian equator on the night of Aug. 5, 2012.

    The world wondered whether Curiosity would nail its landing, which involved an acrobatic plunge through the thin atmosphere that ended with it being gently lowered to the ground with cables.

  • Cold caps tested to prevent hair loss during chemo

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The first time Miriam Lipton had breast cancer, her thick locks fell out two weeks after starting chemotherapy. The second time breast cancer struck, Lipton gave her scalp a deep chill and kept much of her hair — making her fight for survival seem a bit easier.

    Hair loss is one of chemotherapy's most despised side effects, not because of vanity but because it fuels stigma, revealing to the world an illness that many would rather keep private.

    "I didn't necessarily want to walk around the grocery store answering questions about my cancer," recalled Lipton, 45, of San Francisco. "If you look OK on the outside, it can help you feel, 'OK, this is manageable, I can get through this.'"

    Now U.S. researchers are about to put an experimental hair-preserving treatment to a rigorous test: To see if strapping on a cap so cold it numbs the scalp during chemo, like Lipton did, really works well enough to be used widely in this country, as it is in Europe and Canada.

    Near-freezing temperatures are supposed to reduce blood flow in the scalp, making it harder for cancer-fighting drugs to reach and harm hair follicles. But while several types of cold caps are sold around the world, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved their use in the U.S.

  • 5 new features that could be on your next car

    DETROIT (AP) — Cameras that check around the car for pedestrians. Radar that stops you from drifting out of your lane. An engine able to turn off automatically at traffic lights to conserve fuel.

    Technology that saves lives — and fuel — is getting better and cheaper. That means it's no longer confined to luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo. It's showing up in mainstream vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Ford Fusion.

    "What we see today as slightly elitist technology is changing very, very fast," said Steven Lunn, chief operating officer for TRW Automotive, which supplies electronics and other parts to carmakers.

    TRW says its newest radar is a quarter of the price of the model it sold 10 years ago. Its cameras are smaller and cheaper, too, making it easier to put multiple ones on each car.

    High-tech options can still cost a few thousand dollars more, but those costs will come down as technology improves and automakers add them to more and more vehicles.

    Here are some up-and-coming features that drivers can expect on their next cars:

    — Collision warning with automatic braking:

  • Microsoft to unveil latest Windows adjustments

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft on Wednesday released a preview version of an update to Windows 8, aiming to address some of the gripes people have with the company's flagship operating system.

    At a conference in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that the company pushed hard to get people to adopt a radical new tile-based "Modern" user interface in Windows 8. Microsoft is now back-pedaling, making it easier to reach and use the older "desktop" interface.

    "Let's make it easier to start applications the way we're used to," Ballmer told the audience of software developers. "What we will show you today is a refined blend of our Desktop experience and our Modern experience."

    Microsoft made the preview of Windows 8.1 available for free as a download.

  • Apple revamps look of iPhone, iPad software

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple is throwing out most of the real-world graphical cues from its iPhone and iPad software, like the casino-green "felt" of its Game Center app, in what it calls the biggest update since the iPhone's launch in 2007.

    The new operating system, called iOS 7, strives for a clean, simple, translucent look. Apple is redesigning all its applications and icons to conform to the new look, driven by long-time hardware design head Jony Ive.

    Apple demonstrated the new software at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday. The new design direction was widely expected.

    The software strives for a multi-layered look, with translucent panels. On the main screen, the background image moves with the movement of the phone, creating an illusion of depth.