Genes are evidence of face shape
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Dutch researchers say they've found genes that might hold clues to what shape a face may have, providing a useful DNA tool for forensics.
Researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, in a study of almost 10,000 individuals, have discovered five genes responsible for facial shape in humans, the BBC reported Thursday.
They used magnetic resonance imaging of people's heads to map facial configurations then conducted a genetic study to search for small genetic variations found in people with particular facial shape types.
"These are exciting first results that mark the beginning of the genetic understanding of human facial morphology," Erasmus lead researcher Manfred Kayser said.
"Perhaps some time it will be possible to draw a phantom portrait of a person solely from his or her DNA left behind, which provides interesting applications such as in forensics."
The research follows other recent studies, one suggesting DNA can also predict hair and eye color and a second that said age could be inferred from blood samples.
Mars rover finds strange spheres on ground
PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- NASA says researchers are struggling to identify and understand an image its long-lived rover Opportunity has returned of small spheres on the martian surface.
Spherical objects photographed at an outcrop Opportunity reached last week differ in several ways from iron-rich spherules -- nicknamed "blueberries" -- the rover found at its landing site in early 2004 and at many other locations since, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Friday.
Preliminary analysis suggests the spheres, as big as 1/8 inch in diameter, do not appear to have the high iron content of martian blueberries, researchers said.
"This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission," Opportunity's principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University, said. "Of course, we immediately thought of the blueberries, but this is something different. We never have seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars.
"They seem to be crunchy on the outside, and softer in the middle," he said. "They are different in concentration. They are different in structure. They are different in composition. They are different in distribution.
"So, we have a wonderful geological puzzle in front of us."
France to close its oldest nuclear reactor
PARIS, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- French President Francois Hollande has promised to close the nation's oldest nuclear reactor in 2016, a year earlier than previously announced.
"The Fessenheim plant, which is the oldest in our country, will be closed at the end of 2016 in conditions that will guarantee the supply needs of the region ... and safeguard all jobs," Hollande said at an energy conference in Paris.
Hollande, leader of the world's most nuclear-dependent country with 58 reactors, had previously pledged to close the reactor by 2017, Radio France Internationale reported Friday.
France has long been a leading international proponent of nuclear power but Holland, in a deal with the Greens before this year's parliamentary and presidential elections, pledged to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear energy from more than 75 percent of energy needs to 50 percent by 2025.
The Fessenheim plant, situated on the banks of the Rhine River, is considered vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding.
Evidence of Roman bridge found in Italy
TRIESTE, Italy, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Archaeologists in northern Italy say they've uncovered the remnants of a Roman bridge that crossed the Isonzo River that could have been as wide as 650 feet.
When summer heat dried up the river, a specialized architectural team was able to conduct excavation on one bank, discovering the rectangular bases of large pillars that would have supported the bridge, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Their large size, 30 feet by 15 feet, is evidence of a bridge with considerable width, researchers said.
Previous archaeological work in the area from 1963 to 2003 also suggested the bridge was probably about 650 feet wide and was supported by 11 pillars.
Additional work will be carried out under the scientific supervision of the Italian Culture Ministry to discover if the Roman bridge was based on natural foundations or man-made ones, researchers said.
The Isonzo River flows through both Italy and Slovenia where it is known as the Soca River.
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