‘Dragon Silk’ Armor Could Protect US Troops

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‘Dragon Silk’ Armor Could Protect US Troops

Genetically modified silkworms that spin special fibers, known as “Dragon Silk,” could soon be used to protect soldiers in the U.S. Army, its manufacturer, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, announced this week.

The U.S. Army recently awarded the Michigan-based company a contract to test its silk products, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced on Tuesday (July 12). Researchers at the lab will collect the modified silk and give it to another company. That company will weave it into fabric and then give it to the U.S. Army for testing, the company said.

“Dragon Silk scores very highly in tensile strength and elasticity,” which makes is one of the toughest fibers known to man, Jon Rice, the chief operations officer at Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, said in a statement. [7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]

Despite its mythical name, Dragon Silk is actually the work of genetic engineers. It’s widely known, at least in the materials industry, that spider silk has exceptional strength, resilience and flexibility, Rice told Live Science.

A typical silk cocoon (left) next to a genetically altered one (right), under ultraviolet light.

Credit: Copyright Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

“Spider silk is five to 10 times stronger than conventional silkworm silk,” Rice said. “It’s also, in some cases, as much as twice as elastic. It’s even tougher than Kevlar.”

However, it isn’t possible to set up a one-stop shop for spider silk. Spiders aren’t amenable to producing silk in concentrated colonies, largely because many are cannibalistic, he said. So, engineers found DNA within several spiders that is responsible for making silk-related proteins, and inserted it into silkworms.

In 2011, a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described the technique, explaining how the researchers removed the silkworms’ silk-making proteins and replaced them with the spiders’ proteins to create super silkworms — that is, silkworms that can spin composite spider silk.

A silkworm has a lifecycle that’s similar to any caterpillar’s that turns into a moth. Silkworms spin cocoons when they’re about 30 to 35 days old, just when they’re ready to metamorphose into moths, Rice said. Most of these cocoons are collected by Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, and the company then makes them into silk. But some silkworms are able to reproduce and pass down their newly acquired silky trait to their offspring, Rice said.

Genetically altered silkworm moths standing on top of cocoons.

Genetically altered silkworm moths standing on top of cocoons.

Credit: Copyright Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

The modified silk is about 1,000 times more cost effective than its competitors, Rice added. Modified silk made from complex fermentation processes costs about $30,000 to $40,000 a kilogram (2.2 lbs.), while the lab’s silk costs less than $300 for the same amount, Rice said.

If Dragon Silk performs well in the U.S. Army tests, which include ballistic-impact trials, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories could receive a nearly $1 million contract with the military to produce more of the fabric, the company said in the statement.

Still, Rice doesn’t want to limit Dragon Silk to military uses. He plans to expand the company’s products into the realm of other protective clothing, as well as athletic wear, he said.

Original article on Live Science.


The Psychology of ‘Pokémon Go’: What’s Fueling the Obsession?

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The Psychology of ‘Pokémon Go’: What’s Fueling the Obsession?

Pokemon Go’s Squirtle shows up on the streets of New York City.

Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Lewin

Perhaps you’ve seen them: roving bands of (mostly) young people, gathering together with smartphones aloft, talking about something called Rattata or Squirtle.

If not, you’ve probably at least seen the headlines about these folks — players of the massively popular new game “Pokémon Go.” The game, which uses geolocation to place virtual Pokémon characters in the real world, has breathed sudden new life into the 20-year-old Pokémon franchise, with some estimates suggesting that the game has been downloaded more than 7 million times in the U.S. since its release on July 6.

Part of its success owes to its deft mixing of the real world and the virtual world. “Pokémon Go” blends a game experience with real physical activity and real, in-person socialization, said Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Newport Beach, California. [Check out this Pokémon Go Guide from our sister site Tom’s Guide.]

Ultimately, the features that come together in Pokémon Go appeal to real human desires, such as a need for social connection. “It’s really ticking the boxes of the major drivers of human behavior,” Rutledge said.

Krabby pops up in Manhattan.

Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Lewin

Though virtual reality has been getting a lot of buzz lately as companies like Facebook try to get into the gaming market, augmented reality (including “Pokémon Go”), which brings virtual enhancements to your own environment, has some major advantages over gaming from inside a headset, Rutledge told Live Science.

“With virtual reality, the tech hasn’t been developed enough so that people can uniformly use it and not feel motion sickness,” she said.

That problem doesn’t exist with “Pokémon Go,” which doesn’t aim for hyper-realistic panoramic views as virtual reality experiences do. Instead, the game is played on tiny smartphone and tablet screens. The screens have to be portable, because the game requires players to be at certain spots to “catch” Pokémon and to battle them against one another. The algorithms are sophisticated enough to put Pokémon in areas suited to the real-world environment — water-dwelling characters near the beach, for example, and nocturnal characters for players out at dusk.

Other games have tried to capitalize on augmented reality. One is Ingress, a game with a complicated backstory that requires players to physically go to geolocated “portals” in order to win them from the opposing team. But no game has made the splash that “Pokémon Go” has.

The pre-existing social awareness of Pokémon has probably helped the game’s rapid adoption, Rutledge said. Even people who don’t play the game have heard of or seen the cartoonish creatures that players try to capture.

The game itself scratches some basic psychological itches, Rutledge said: the need to socialize with other people; the desire to go out and act on the world in a measurable way; and the need for competence and mastery, which is met by the game’s goal to “catch ’em all!”

There are dangers to moving around the real world with one’s nose stuck in a phone, but the game does urge players to pay attention to their surroundings, Rutledge noted. In many ways, the game could be psychologically beneficial, she said. Players are up and moving around, and “zillions” of studies have found a mood-boosting effect of physical activity, she said. Social ties are important for mental health, too, and some research suggests that even shallow conversation with strangersboosts well-being.

“One of the features of this game is allowing you to actually challenge one of the major complaints about gaming”: that it’s sedentary and isolating, Rutledge said.

Augmented reality, including “Pokémon Go,” she said, “allows you to bring fantasy into your own life but within your own control.”

Original article on Live Science.

First Ever? Discovery of Philistine Cemetery Draws Criticism

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First Ever? Discovery of Philistine Cemetery Draws Criticism

First Ever? Discovery of Philistine Cemetery Draws Criticism

One of the skeletons found in the possible Philistine cemetery in Ashkelon, Israel, had a juglet stuck to its skull.

Credit: Copyright Tsafrir Abayov/Leon Levy Expedition

A 3,000-year-old graveyard with the bones of about 200 individuals discovered in Ashkelon, Israel, is being hailed as the first (and only) Philistine cemetery ever found.

If valid, the finding would reveal more about a mysterious people known as the Philistines. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Philistines came from the Aegean Sea region, along with other groups of people, during the 12th century B.C, at a time when cities and civilizations in Greece and the Middle East were collapsing.


According to the Hebrew Bible the Philistines fought a series of battles against the Israelis. The conflict between the Philistine giant Goliath andIsrael’s King David (who was armed only with a slingshot) is the most famous encounter. Little is known about the burial practices of this culture, archaeologists said.

However, experts not affiliated with the excavations are not yet convinced of the claim, saying that the identity of the people buried at the Ashkelon cemetery is not clear-cut and the finding itself has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Further muddying the waters, other burials found in known Philistine cities, though never confirmed, also have dibs on the title of “first-discovered Philistine cemetery.” [See Photos of the Possible Philistine Cemetery and Artifacts]

Archaeologists are waiting to see what the scientific publication of the Ashkelon cemetery will show. “Though the Ashkelon Philistine cemetery received much media attention, the full professional archaeological picture still awaits further clarification,” said Shlomo Bunimovitz, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Here, a skull found in a 3,000-year-old cemetery in Ashkelon, Israel, that may be the first Philistine cemetery known.

Credit: Copyright Tsafrir Abayov/Leon Levy Expedition

The excavators acknowledge that other burials identified as Philistine have been found before, but say that their finds will show that most of the past discoveries were incorrectly identified as “Philistine.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the chapters and articles written about Philistine burial customs should be revised or ignored now that we have the first and only Philistine cemetery, found just outside the city walls of Tel Ashkelon, one of the five primary cities of the Philistines,” expedition co-director Lawrence Stager, a professor at Harvard University in Massachusetts, said in the press release announcing the find.

Radiocarbon dating and analysis of the cemetery’s pots indicate that the cemetery was in use between the late 11th century B.C. and the early eighth century B.C., said Daniel Master, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and a co-director of the excavations at Ashkelon.

During this time period, Ashkelon was a Philistine city, as were Ashdod, Ekron, Gath and Gaza, according to ancient texts, Master said. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

“We have a high degree of confidence that Ashkelon was a major Philistine city in this period because of a convergence of earlier and later texts from Egypt, the Hebrew Bible, Assyria and Babylon,” Master said. He also noted that the burial styles seen at the cemetery appear different than those of other groups who lived in the region, such as the Canaanites.

Amihai Mazar, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said he believes the answer is more complicated. Previous archaeological studies indicate that the Philistines arrived in Israel fromthe Aegean Sea region during the 12th century B.C., he told Live Science in an interview.

By the 10th century B.C., the Philistines were intermixing with the local Canaanite population and adopting local traditions as well as Canaanite artifacts and practices, Mazar said.

He said that while you “can call [the cemetery] Philistine,” there may be differences between how people were buried in this 3,000-year-old cemetery and how they would have been buried 3,200 years ago, when the Philistines were newcomers to the region.

Images of the cemetery published in media outlets show numerous Phoenician pots and a structure with Phoenician architectural elements, Mazar said, adding that these features suggest that some of the people buried in the cemetery could be Phoenician merchants rather than Philistines.

Master agreed that not all the people buried in the cemetery were Philistine. “No one can be sure of the affiliation of every person in any ancient cemetery,” he said.

Additionally, the people buried in the cemetery may not have thought of themselves as being Philistine and may have identified themselves more on the city they lived in or on their religious practices, said Raz Kletter, a professor of theology at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Kletter doesn’t dispute that the people buried at Ashkelon used a series of artifacts that modern-day archaeologists identify as belonging to the Philistines. However, that doesn’t mean the people buried there thought of themselves as Philistine, he said.

“We do not know how they [the Philistines] viewed themselves, having few written sources that are mostly from outside Philistia,” Kletter said. “People living in Iron Age Philistia could identify themselves by city or religion, and not necessarily by an ethnic group.”

Neither Mazar nor Kletter agree with the assertion that the cemetery found at Ashkelon is the only known Philistine cemetery.

Kletter has been excavating an ancient city in Israel called Yavneh, which he says also contains artifacts that can be identified as “Philistine.” Additionally, he and his colleagues found a cemetery there, which they described in the journal Atiqot in 2015. That cemetery also dates to a time when ancient texts say that Yavneh was a Philistine city. “I believe the people buried there [in Yavneh’s cemetery] were Philistines,” Kletter said.

Other sites with burials that could be considered “Philistine” have also been previously discovered both Kletter and Mazar said.

For instance, a Philistine cemetery at Azor, a site located near modern-day Tel Aviv, was excavated in the 1950s by the late archaeologist Moshe Dothan said Mazar. Additionally, some archaeologists consider burials dug up in southern Israel by British archaaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie a century ago to be Philistine, Mazar added.

“Ashkelon is not a ‘first,’ but it is certainly an important find,” Kletter said.

Identifying a burial as that of a Philistine is difficult because archaeologists have to use ancient records of the areas that the Philistines ruled and try to confirm, using the artifacts they find, that the people in a cemetery are Philistine and not from other groups. These findings are published in scientific journals and can be the subject of debates that can go on for many years.

Original article on Live Science.

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover 10 incredible photos and the stories behind them.

Gravity in the clouds:

A new satellite image shows complicated cloud patterns off the coast of Angola and Namibia.

[Full Story: Gorgeous Gravity Waves Intersect Near Africa (Photo)]

Blooming demons:

A new demonic flower species looks like the devil and has clawed petals.

[Full Story: ‘Demon Orchid’ Has a ‘Devil Head’ and Claw-Like Petals]

Lunar photobomb:

A satellite captured the moon crossing the face of Earth from a million miles away.

[Full Story: Moon Photobombs Earth in New NASA Video]

Tiny-armed dino:

Tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t the only meat-eating menace with teeny-tiny arms. Like its distant relative, T. rex, a newly identified dinosaur, named Gualicho shinyae, sported small arms and hands with two clawed fingers.

[Full Story: New Dinosaur Had the T. Rex Look: Tiny Arms]

Seeing green:

NASA satellites have captured a stunning image of a massive algal bloom that has overtaken Lake Okeechobee in Florida for more than two months.

[Full Story: Massive Florida Algae Bloom Can Be Seen from Space ]

Ghostly fish:

A member of an elusive family of fish is seen alive around the Mariana Trench, Earth’s deepest spot.

[Full Story: ‘Ghost Fish’ Seen Live for First Time]

Throwing rocks:

A group of wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil have used stones as tools to prepare their favorite meal of cashew nuts for more than 700 years, according to a new study.

[Full Story: Simian Stone Age: Monkeys Used Rocks as Tools for Hundreds of Years]

Kissing corals:

Scientists are glimpsing how microscopic marine creatures move through their underwater environment and interact with each other in the ocean.

[Full Story: Corals ‘Kiss’ and Wage War, New Underwater Microscope Reveals]

The sun’s nervous face:

The sun has been making some anxious faces lately — but you’d be worried, too, if a huge hole had just opened up on your head.

[Full Story: Sun Makes Nervous Face with Hole in Its Head (Video)]


Juno captured the photo — which shows Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot and the three big Jovian moons Europa, Ganymede and Io — with its visible-light JunoCam instrument on Sunday (July 10), less than a week after arriving at the giant planet.

[Full Story: Juno Spacecraft Captures 1st Photo from Jupiter Orbit]

This Massive Shipwreck Graveyard Is Way Bigger Than Scientists Thought

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This Massive Shipwreck Graveyard Is Way Bigger Than Scientists Thought

Thursday 11:50am


An underwater survey off the coast of Greece has uncovered a massive cache of wrecked ships, sunk over a span of more than 2,000 years. And researchers just keep finding more and more to add to that tally.

In the nine months they’ve been swimming around Greece’s Fourni archipelago, the research team from The Fourni Underwater Survey has already found 45 individual shipwrecks in the 17-mile stretch. A whopping 23 of those shipwrecks were detailed in a new announcement from the teamissued today. Strangest of all, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the age of the shipwrecks. The oldest dates back to around 500 BC, while the youngest is from around 1800.

To put the scale of the find in perspective, Peter Campbell of the University of Southampton and lead archaeologist on the project, points out that similar coastlines in the area only have a couple shipwrecks—and other similarly-sized finds have been spread across areas about 20 times as big.

“For comparison, many larger islands around the Mediterranean have only three or four known shipwrecks. The United States recently created a national marine sanctuary in Lake Michigan to protect 39 known shipwrecks located in 875 square miles,” Campbell noted in a statement. “Fourni has 45 known shipwrecks around its 17 square mile territory.”

And the team isn’t done adding to the total yet. There are two more years left in the investigation—and still several areas that divers haven’t even begun to explore. So researchers expect to find even more shipwrecks, from across different eras, as they investigate through 2018.

The message is clear: Stay away from the Fourni islands, sailor. Here be monsters.

All images by Vasilis Mentogianis / Fourni Underwater Survey

Turkey quashes coup; Erdogan vows ‘heavy price’ for plotters

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SUZAN FRASER and DOMINIQUE SOGUEL,Associated Press 1 hour 30 minutes ago

In this image taken from video provided by Anadolu Agency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  newsinfo.inquirer.net