More science beyond this page
June 26th, 2013
04:33 PM ET

More science beyond this page


Dear Light Years followers,

This blog burst onto the scene when the last NASA shuttle launched in July 2011. There were only three people involved in CNN Light Years at that time – myself, former CNNer Sophia Dengo and former CNN.com U.S. editor Audrey Irvine.

The shuttle program was ending, but a new era for science and space coverage on CNN.com had dawned. We quickly figured out what you, our audience, would want to read: The latest discoveries, the coolest research, weird animals, random geekiness. We gave it to you in an accurate and easy-to-understand format. And we'll keep doing that – just not on this blog.

Today we are closing CNN Light Years as a blog, but we will have the same high-caliber science reporting elsewhere on CNN.com. In our U.S., World, Health and Technology sections, we will continue to lead - as we've done in the past - with stories about new planets, climate change, prehistoric marvels and more.

We hope that you will visit CNN.com to learn something new every day, and keep participating in the conversations that we have around this marvelous universe in which we live.

With fondness,
Elizabeth Landau
Writer/Producer, CNN Light Years

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Filed under: In Space • News • On Earth
Ancient primate could be a missing link
June 5th, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Ancient primate could be a missing link

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Achilles' heel was his weak spot in the Greek myth, but the heel of a newly discovered primate provides a strong connection between humans and their possible ancestors.

Scientists have discovered the oldest primate skeleton to date, from a creature that resembles humans' evolutionary line - the anthropoids - and a different primate lineage called the tarsiers. They have named this specimen Archicebus achilles, making reference to its heel bone, which resembles those of modern monkeys.

Anthropoids include humans, apes and monkeys. Tarsiers are nocturnal primates that live only in Southeast Asia today. The study is published in the journal Nature.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Human ancestors • On Earth
Sex is doctor's life's work
June 3rd, 2013
06:35 AM ET

Sex is doctor's life's work

Dr. Irwin Goldstein isn't squeamish about describing operations on private parts. He remembers, for instance, that he performed his first penile implant on a patient in 1976. "I just did one yesterday," he added.

Goldstein, 63, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine and director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital, has had a long career providing medical help to those with sexual problems. He has worked on understanding the physiology of the male erection, and has played key roles in the development of drugs for both male and female sexual dysfunction.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: News • On Earth • Science Seat
Astronauts would face high radiation on Mars trip
May 30th, 2013
11:46 PM ET

Astronauts would face high radiation on Mars trip

For those of you dreaming of visiting Mars, readings taken during the Curiosity rover's voyage to the Red Planet offer a new measurement to ponder as you weigh the risks.

Mars-bound pioneers will be exposed to radiation levels that could effectively retire astronauts under NASA's current standards, scientists reported Thursday. The radiation astronauts would face on a round trip would be comparable to getting an abdominal CT scan "about once every five days," said Cary Zeitlin, principal scientist for the NASA-led Martian Radiation Environment Experiment.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
New dinosaur is a primitive bird
May 30th, 2013
04:29 AM ET

New dinosaur is a primitive bird

A dinosaur from the Middle-Late Jurassic period, found in China, gives scientists new understandings of how birds evolved, according to a Wednesday report from the journal Nature.

The newly discovered species is called Aurornis xui. "Aurora" is Latin for "daybreak" or "dawn." Ornis is Greek for "bird." The last part of the name, xui, honors paleontologist Xu Xing.

The dinosaur lived about 150 million years ago, said Pascal Godefroit, lead author and researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Dinosaurs • Discoveries • News • On Earth
This dinosaur ate like a falcon, study says
An allosaurus dinosaur skeleton is displayed at Sotheby's auction house in Paris in 2010.
May 23rd, 2013
05:30 PM ET

This dinosaur ate like a falcon, study says

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

A dinosaur species called allosaurus had neck muscles that allowed it to whip its head back and forth while attacking prey, a new study in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica suggests.

Researchers led by Ohio University paleontologist Eric Snively created a three-dimensional model of the dinosaur bones based on CT scans, and figured out what the muscles must have been like. They examined a specimen called Big Al, about 150 million years old.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Dinosaurs • On Earth
No evidence global warming spawned twister
CNN iReporter Brenton Leete took this photo of the tornado on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday.
May 22nd, 2013
05:44 PM ET

No evidence global warming spawned twister

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Yes, climate change is happening. But it's hard to say that the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma - or any given tornado, for that matter - was influenced by climate change.

Scientific research has not made a clear connection between tornadoes and climate change, said J. Marshall Shepherd, climate change expert and professor at the University of Georgia.

There is currently a much better understanding of how climate change increases the risks of droughts, heat waves and precipitation, he said. There are also indications that changing patterns may influence the intensity of hurricanes. But as far as tornadoes: There's just not a lot of information.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
Climate change will mean more heat deaths
May 21st, 2013
03:01 PM ET

Climate change will mean more heat deaths

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

As greenhouse gases cause average temperatures to climb worldwide, human health will suffer, scientists say.

study in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that heat deaths in Manhattan will increase over the rest of this century in connection with higher temperatures associated with global warming. In the 2020s, heat-related deaths could rise about 20% compared with the 1980s, according to the research.

"This paper helps to remind people that climate change is real, that it’s happening and we need to prepare and make ourselves as resilient as we can to climate change," said Patrick Kinney, the study's senior author and director of the Columbia Climate and Health Program at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "It’s a real problem that we face. It’s not insurmountable."

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
Art comes from science
May 17th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

When art comes from science

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Sometimes technical science experiments lead to amazingly beautiful imagery. Princeton University's annual Art of Science competition collects some tantalizing examples of the intersection between science and art.

Click through the gallery to see some of the contenders.

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Filed under: Science Seat
Ancient water found in Canadian mine
Gas bubbles out of the floor of a deep mine in Canada, containing ingredients that could sustain life.
May 15th, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Ancient water found in Canadian mine

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

You wouldn't want to shower in it, but researchers have discovered pockets of water in a deep reservoir in Canada that may be up to 2.64 billion years old.

Researchers extracted the fluid from ancient rocks in a mine 1.5 miles underground in the area of Timmins, Ontario. In other mines, water has been found to support life, but scientists are still working to determine if there is life in this particular location. They say this is the oldest water found in such an environment.

We spoke with Chris Ballentine, professor of geochemistry at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and senior author on this study, which published in the journal Nature. Here is an edited version of our email Q&A:

FULL POST

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Filed under: On Earth
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Contributors

  • Elizabeth LandauElizabeth Landau
    Writer/Producer
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    Senior Designer