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R & D

Uranus rings

Uranus, the seventh planet of our solar system, might be a more chaotic place than we thought it was. Newly-refined pictures of its two moons, Cupid and Mab, reveal two previously undetected faint outer dust rings around the planet. The findings have brought the number of Uranian moons to 27 and that of the rings to 12.

Dance for mates

Dance has long been recognised as a signal of courtship in many animal species, including humans. Now, a study by scientists at the State University of New Jersey links dancing ability to established measures of mating quality in humans. They write in Nature that better dancers attract more mates, or more desirable mates.

Life in space

The evidence that some of the basic organic building blocks of life can exist in an earth-like orbit around a sun-like star has been provided by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They are gaseous molecules of acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, which, when combined with water, can form several amino acids, ingredients of DNA. Spitzer detected them in a ring of dust and gas circling a star called IRS 46, 375 light-years away in the constellation, Ophiuchus.

Gene clue

US experts have identified the genetic factor leading to malformation of the forehead and frontal part of the skull. A gene called transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) plays a vital role in human and animal development. Mice born from the treated (TGF-beta-less) embryos carried severe craniofacial defects.

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