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Image: Flickr / UNMEER (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Vaccine deployed in new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

An Ebola virus outbreak in Congo has claimed dozens of victims and spread to the river port city of Mbandaka in the vast nation's northeast, sparking fears of further spread. Now, an experimental vaccine is being deployed there in hopes of stopping the outbreak before it spreads further. Some 8,000 doses of the vaccine will be given to those who have had contact with any victims, including health workers. The vaccine proved effective during a previous outbreak in 2015 in Guinea, essentially halting further infections and seeming to provide protection up to two years after injection.

TED Talk: The troubling reason vaccines are made too late
aplysia californica

Image: Flickr / Jerry Kirkhart (CC BY 2.0)

Scientists inject "memories" from one sea snail into another

Injecting RNA from sea snails that had been delivered a shock in their past induced "memories" of such shocks in sea snails that had never been shocked. Or at least got them to retract for longer their siphons -- a soft tube they use to sense the surrounding environment. The work was inspired by the fact that the researchers couldn't get the sea snails to forget shocks even when they extracted the synapses -- or connections -- between neurons, leading to the hypothesis that perhaps the RNA of the neurons themselves played a role in maintaining these memories. By injecting said RNA, these scientists seem to have transferred a memory, though other neuroscientists remain skeptical

TED Talk: Feats of memory anyone can do

Image: Flickr / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (CC BY 2.0)

How much does life on Earth weigh?

The true answer is: No one knows, but some scientists have given it their best guess by pulling estimates from across the scientific literature. The weight of life on Earth is roughly 550 gigatons; that's 550 quadrillion grams of carbon. Most of that is plants, and most of the rest is bacteria, with all 7 billion+ humans weighing in at 0.06 gigatons of carbon. But if you count humanity's impact, our weight goes up; domesticated livestock like cattle and chickens weigh 20 times more than all wild animals and birds. In fact, the total weight of life on earth seems to have fallen by half in the last 10,000 years. That said, these numbers are just a best guess -- and likely to be way off for the smaller life among us like bacteria and viruses.

Playlist: Earth, appreciated

Recently discovered

Scientists to grow "mini-brains" using Neanderthal DNA
A team of scientists led by Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany are preparing to create "miniature brains" that have been genetically engineered to contain Neanderthal DNA, in an unprecedented attempt to understand how humans differ from our closest relatives. The small blobs of tissue, known as brain organoids, will be grown from human stem cells that have been edited to contain "Neanderthalised" versions of several genes. They could demonstrate for the first time if there were meaningful differences between human and Neanderthal brain biology. (The Guardian)

As CO2 increases, rice loses B vitamins and other nutrients
Carbon dioxide helps plants grow. But a new study shows that rice grown in higher levels of carbon dioxide has lower amounts of several important nutrients. A new study published this week in Science Advances found that rice exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide contains lower amounts of several important nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9. The potential health consequences are large, given that there are already billions of people around the world who don’t get enough protein, vitamins or other nutrients in their daily diet. (New York Times)

Behold, the first image from NASA's exoplanet-surveying satellite
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) recently embarked on a two-year survey of our solar neighborhood, in which it will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Last week, it sent back its first image!

Legend of Loch Ness monster will be tested with DNA samples
Next month, a New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to Loch Ness, the legendary Scottish lake said to be the home of a monster nicknamed Nessie, where they will take samples of the murky waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there. University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he's no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way. Besides, he says, his kids think it's one of the coolest things he's ever done. (Associated Press)

On this day in science

On this day, May 25 ... Chinese astronomers make the first recorded sighting of the "broom star" we now know as Halley’s Comet back in 240 BC. And in 1961, US President John F. Kennedy tells Congress that the US would put a human on the moon by the end of the decade, the much-cited "moon shot" that became the Apollo program.
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