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Ancient cosmos, ancient England, prosthetic touch, Kepler returns, calm & autism

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Comfy cosmos (NPR)

The cosmic background radiation (CMB to its friends) is the leftover echo of the Big Bang. Its temperature is 2.7 Kelvin. That's very cold—exactly as cold as intergalactic space, in fact. But the Big Bang itself was just about transcendentally hot. So astronomer Avi Loeb considered that there must have been a time between the hot and the cold when the universal temperature was just right. When was that time? 15 million years from the Beginning. Loeb points out that, if there were any rocky planets, they would be at a habitable temperature no matter where they were.

Ancient star (Science Daily)

Speaking of the ancient cosmos, astronomers have found traces of a star older than any yet found. It's only 6,000 light-years away, too. They reckon its age by the amount of heavy elements it contains. The older the stars, the less they have of any elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Irritatingly, they don't quote an actual age for the thing.

Welcome back, Kepler (io9)

The Kepler orbital telescope went out of commission (after a glorious career) when two of its four steering motors konked out. Now it's back and spotting stars, with the ground crew getting clever with the two remaining motors and pressure from the sunlight, letting the telescope keep a given bearing for 75 days at a time.

The oldest Englishman (Discover)

Paleontologists have found the oldest human footprints outside Africa, in Britain of all places. They are 800,000 to a million years old. You can't determine which human species they belong to, but from the age, the guess is that they were made by Homo antecessor, a Neanderthal-like species, only more primitive.

The thing is, these primitives were living in Britain in an ice age. Did they have fire? Clothes? Warm beer?

Sensitive prosthetic (Discover)

European researchers have developed a prosthetic arm, Lifehand 2, that lets the amputee feel through it. It entails electronic implants in the nerves of the stump.

Calming autism (Science Magazine)

Researchers have found a blood pressure medicine that relieves autism (or its analog) in rats if given prenatally, in the mother's drinking water. The catch is that rats don't really get autism, and you can't diagnose it before birth. (These rats are bred for their autism-like condition.) But the real value of this discovery is the light it throws on the relation between autism and prenatal development.


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