Artists’s impression of one of more than 50 new exoplanets found by HARPS: the rocky super-Earth HD 85512 b (Image: ESO//M. Kornmesser)

Artists’s impression of one of more than 50 new exoplanets found by HARPS: the rocky super-Earth HD 85512 b (Image: ESO//M. Kornmesser)

Astronomers in Chile have discovered more than 50 new planets outside the Solar System, including some with potential Earth-like qualities.

The astronomers say the discovery is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time. They presented their findings at the Extreme Solar Systems II conference this week in Wyoming.

The new planets were located using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory‘s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The exoplanets (planets found outside of our Solar System)  include 16 super Earths – planets with a mass between one and 10 times that of Earth. While there aren’t any super Earths in our Solar System, scientists say they appear to be quite common around other stars.

One of the newly discovered planets, a super Earth called HD-85512-b, is located at the edge of the habitable zone – a narrow area around a star where water might be present in liquid form if conditions are right – of its solar system. Discoveries of planets like HD-85512-b can prove exciting because they could potentially support life.

Scientists put the current count of these exoplanets at close to 600. More than 1,200 exoplanet candidates have also been discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission.

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3D Without the Geeky Glasses

Teenager wears 3D Glasses (Photo: Evan/

 (Photo: Evan/

3D movies and television are all the rage now, but most 3D systems require the viewer to wear special eye glasses to get the full effect. The glasses can be cumbersome and tiring for the viewer to wear.

Those glasses could become of thing of the past if  research scientists at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications have their way.

They’re working to make 3D possible without such visual aids and hope to develop a new four-camera system which would be able to handle live transmissions.

The researchers use special autostereoscopic displays to produce 3D without special glasses.  But, since we don’t sit absolutely still when watching the screen, the displays use between five and 10 different images to account for any head movement.

To film or televise programming using this system, multiple cameras must be used, but that can be an extremely intricate and time consuming process.

So, to reduce the time needed to make these special productions, researchers are working on a four-camera assistance system which will reduce the amount of time needed for calibration from days to minutes.

The research scientists presented the first prototype of this new system at the IBC trade show in Amsterdam.

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Good News/Potentially Bad News For Oil Spill Clean-up Workers

A shrimp boat motors through a ribbon of oil during cleanup operations from Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill,  May 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A shrimp boat motors through a ribbon of oil during clean-up operations from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill, May 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

New studies of air and water near the Deepwater Horizon oil spill show that clean-up workers might have escaped harm from one of the most potentially toxic groups of substances found in the oil.

However, according to an article in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical and Engineering News magazine, a separate group of possibly harmful chemicals did escape from the water and could create a health hazard for those who assisted in the cleanup.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico released about 4.9 million barrels of crude oil in the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

According to the article, the research shows the chemicals benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, known collectively as BTEX, remain dissolved in the Gulf of Mexico, and did not vaporize into the air where they could be inhaled by clean-up workers.

But, in a case of good news/bad news regarding the health of the workers, the study did express concern that other substances, which don’t dissolve as well in water, may have been released by the crude oil.

If these chemicals did become airborne during the disaster, researchers say that this could pose a possible health threat to those involved in the cleanup.

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Also today, after a lengthy investigation, a U.S. government report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill puts ultimate responsibility for the oil spill on BP.

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Genetic Link to Optimism and Self-Esteem Found

(Photo by  Alex Bartok, Germany)

(Photo by Alex Bartok, Germany)

Genetics might play a role in how optimistic you are or how much self-esteem you have.

Life scientists at UCLA say that, for the first time, they’ve identified a particular gene’s link to three critical psychological resources for coping well with stress and depression.

The gene is called the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR).  Oxytocin is a hormone that increases in response to stress and is associated with good social skills, such as empathy and enjoying the company of others.

Previous research revealed that an increase in oxytocin tends to lead to more social behavior, especially under stress and especially in females.

The researchers says that the study – published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – implies that people would benefit if they could train themselves to be more optimistic, have higher self-esteem and a higher sense of mastery to improve their ability to cope with stressful events.

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