Charles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser, a feat that revolutionized science, medicine, telecommunications and entertainment, has died at age 99, the University of California at Berkeley reported. A professor emeritus at Berkeley, he was a member of the university's physics department and Space Sciences Laboratory for nearly five decades.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A partial skull retrieved from a cave in northern Israel is shedding light on a pivotal juncture in early human history when our species was trekking out of Africa to populate other parts of the world and encountered our close cousins the Neanderthals. The researchers said characteristics of the skull, dating from a time period when members of our species were thought to have been marching out of Africa, suggest the individual was closely related to the first Homo sapiens populations that later colonized Europe. They also said the skull provides the first evidence that Homo sapiens inhabited that region at the same time as Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relative. Tel Aviv University anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who led the study published in the journal Nature, called the skull "an important piece of the puzzle of the big story of human evolution." Previous genetic evidence suggests our species and Neanderthals interbred during roughly the time period represented by the skull, with all people of Eurasian ancestry still retaining a small amount of Neanderthal DNA as a result.
By Nichola Groom Orange County, Ca (Reuters) - Welcome to the utility industry's future - or at least that's what Southern California Edison is hoping. Here in a non-descript, 53,500-square-foot building, the $12 billion utility's research team is testing everything from charging electronic vehicles via cell phone to devices that smooth out the power created by rooftop solar panels. Those are some of the roughly 60 projects in the works at Edison's Advanced Technology division. The engineers from California's largest utility are hatching plans to insure its survival - and maybe even the survival of the nation's other big utilities, which are watching the project closely. The lab was formed by Southern California Edison in 2009 after California passed a landmark law to lower its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels - and source one third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The result has been more electric vehicles here in the Golden State.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Snakes have been slithering on Earth far longer than anyone ever realized. Scientists on Tuesday described the four oldest-known snake fossils, the most ancient of which was a roughly 10-inch-long (25 cm) reptile called Eophis underwoodi unearthed in a quarry near Oxford, England, that lived about 167 million years ago. The remarkable fossils from Britain, Portugal and the United States rewrite the history of snake evolution, pushing back snake origins by tens of millions of years. Until now, the oldest snake fossil dated from about 102 million years ago, said University of Alberta paleontologist Michael Caldwell, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
A messy paradox that has plagued geoscientists who study Earth's core and the magnetic field it produces may now be solved. It was raised in a 2012 paper in which geophysicists in the United Kingdom published a widely accepted supercomputer model that found Earth's iron core was incredibly efficient at conducting heat. In that study, the researchers examined how heat may move through the Earth's core, at the level of atoms and electrons. The implication: Earth's magnetic field shouldn't exist.