By Ludwig Burger MUENSTER Germany (Reuters) - Dutch biologist Ingrid van der Meer often meets with disbelief when she talks about her work on dandelions and how it could secure the future of road transport. The reaction is understandable, given most people regard the yellow flowers as pesky intruders in their gardens rather than a promising source of rubber for tires. Her research team is competing with others across the world to breed a type of dandelion native to Kazakhstan whose taproot yields a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. Global tire makers such as industry leader Bridgestone Corp and No.4 player Continental AG believe they are in for rich pickings and are backing such research to the tune of millions of dollars.
By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Far from wiping out Neanderthals overnight, modern humans rubbed along with their shorter and stockier cousins for thousands of years, giving plenty of time for the two groups to share ideas - and have sex. The most accurate timeline yet for the demise of our closest relatives, published on Wednesday, shows Neanderthals overlapped with present-day humans in Europe for between 2,600 and 5,400 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago. Pinpointing how and when the Neanderthals became extinct has been tough because the mainstay process of radiocarbon dating is unreliable for samples that are more than 30,000 years old, due to contamination. The data showed that Neanderthals vanished from Europe between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago - but rather than being replaced rapidly by modern humans, their disappearance occurred at different times across sites from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. - A pair of Russian cosmonauts began their work week on Monday floating outside the International Space Station to toss out a small satellite for a university in Peru, install science experiments and tackle some housekeeping chores. First out of the hatch was cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, who stood on a ladder outside the station's Pirs airlock to release a 2.2-pound (1-kg), 4-inch (10-cm) cube-shaped satellite built by students at the National University of Engineering in Lima, Peru. Video broadcast on NASA Television showed the satellite, called Chasqui-1, tumbling away from the back of the station as it sailed about 260 miles (418 km) above the southern Pacific Ocean. Artemyev was then joined by spacewalker Alexander Skvortsov to install a European package of experiments to the outside of the Russian Zvezda module.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - A NASA spacecraft dispatched 15 years ago to collect samples from a comet also snared what scientists suspect are the first dust specks from interstellar space. The Stardust robotic spacecraft was launched in 1999 to fly by a comet and collect samples from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2") and parachute them back to Earth in 2006. Before reaching the comet, the spacecraft also twice opened a collection tray to fish for particles that may have come into the solar system from interstellar space. ...
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the Galapagos Islands to Australia's Coral Sea and a marine park off the coast of Mexico, the documentary "Mission Blue" navigates the journey of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe to save the planet's threatened seas. With stunning underwater footage, the film that airs on Friday on the online streaming service Netflix and in selected U.S. theaters, shows the devastating impact of pollution, overfishing and climate change on the oceans through the eyes of the renowned scientist, explorer and author who has been charting it for decades. "I really wanted to make people aware of this woman and her life because she is such an incredible person and has dedicated so much of her life toward the ocean," Fisher Stevens, 50, who co-directed the film with Robert Nixon, said in an interview. Stevens, an actor and producer of the 2010 Oscar-winning dolphin-hunting documentary "The Cove," met Earle, 78, while filming her trip to the Galapagos Islands with scientists, explorers and policy makers more than four years ago.