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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Feb. 4, 2013 at 7:18 PM   |   Comments

Skeleton ID'd as Britain's Richard III

LEICESTER, England, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- DNA testing has confirmed a skeleton found beneath a parking lot in Leicester in Britain is that of the 15th century English King Richard III, British researchers say.

"Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard," University of Lester archaeologist Richard Buckley told a news conference, saying the remains had been subjected to "rigorous academic study."

Richard was a royal prince, the brother King Edward IV. Appointed as protector of his nephew Edward V on the king's death in 1483, Richard instead seized power.

Killed in the Battle of Bosworth after only two years on the throne, he was given a rushed burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the center of Leicester, site of the archaeological dig that uncovered the remains.

The church was demolished during the Reformation in the 16th Century and its exact location forgotten, but historians identified the likely area and an archaeology dig was begun on the site in August 2012.

DNA from a modern ancestor of Richard's line was compared to that from the remains and found to match.

There was other evidence as well, researchers said; historians of Richard's time had portrayed him as deformed, and researchers confirmed the skeleton's spine is badly curved, a condition now called scoliosis.

"Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III," Leicester archaeologist Jo Appleby told the BBC.


Asteroid to make close fly-by of Earth

PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A small asteroid approaching Earth will pass by so near it will come closer than the orbits of many weather and communications satellites, NASA says.

Although the near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to Earth Feb. 15, observations obtained of its path show there is no chance it might be on a collision course, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported.

The asteroid's closest approach will put it 17,200 miles above the Earth's surface, closer than some distant geosynchronous satellites but still be well above the vast majority of satellites, including the International Space Station, JPL said.

Astronomers say that based on its brightness the asteroid, only discovered in February 2012, is about 150 feet in diameter.

At the time of its discovery it had just made a fairly distant passage by Earth, at about seven times the distance of the moon, they said.

With an orbital period around the sun of about 368 days, which is very similar to Earth's, 2012 DA14 has made a series of annual close approaches.

The Feb. 15 flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close, JPL said.


Online 'unfriending' has consequences

DENVER, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Unfriending someone on Facebook has repercussions beyond cyberspace, U.S. researchers say, with some people avoiding in real life anyone who unfriended them.

Computer science researchers at the University of Colorado Denver report a study in which 40 percent of participants said they would avoid further personal contact with someone who unfriended them on the social networking site.

"People think social networks are just for fun," study author Christopher Sibona said. "But in fact what you do on those sites can have real world consequences."

Sibona said he studied factors that predicted whether someone would avoid a person who unfriended him or her.

"The number one predictor was whether the person who said the relationship was over talked about it to someone else," Sibona said. "Talking to someone is a public declaration that the friendship is over."

Traditional face-to-face communication is giving way to more remote online interactions with their own rules, language and etiquette, he said.

"The cost of maintaining online relationships is really low, and in the real world, the costs are higher," Sibona said. "In the real world, you have to talk to people, go see them to maintain face-to-face relationships. That's not the case in online relationships."

In the real world when a friendship ends it usually just fades away, he said, while on Facebook it can be abruptly terminated by one party declaring the friendship over.

"Since it's done online there is an air of unreality to it but in fact there are real life consequences," he said. "We are still trying to come to grips as a society on how to handle elements of social media."


Martian rover drills first rock

PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- NASA says its Mars rover Curiosity has used its drill for the first time to hammer briefly into a rock targeted on the floor of its Gale Crater landing site.

"Before and after" images beamed to Earth showed the results as an indentation on the surface of the rock.

The drill instrument is capable of both hammering and rotating drilling action, and if the rock is determined to be a good candidate for the rover's scientific work, a number of test holes will be drilled, NASA said, to create samples for delivery to the rover's onboard laboratories.

They would be analyzed as part of the rover's main mission to determine whether the Gale location has ever been capable of supporting bacterial life in the past.

"The rock is behaving well and it looks pretty soft, so that's encouraging," Curiosity project scientist Prof John Grotzinger told BBC News.

The first drilling is being carried out on a very fine-grained sedimentary rock, NASA said.

"The drilling is going very well so far and we're making great progress with the early steps," Grotzinger said.

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