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Aug. 13, 2012 at 7:37 PM
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Camera can reveal painted-over blood spots

SYDNEY, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Spattered blood intentionally painted over can be detected with a standard digital camera tweaked to record infrared light, Australian researchers say.

The technology could become an important tool for cold-case investigators examining an old crime scene, they said.

Glenn Porter, an expert in forensic photography at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, said he had heard of cases where investigators suspected that a crime had taken place in a since-remodeled house.

With his colleagues, he decided to see if infrared photography might reveal blood hidden under paint, since the longer wavelengths of infrared are better at penetrating layers of paint.

Blood that was completely invisible to a standard digital camera under two coats of paint could be seen in infrared even under six layers, Porter and his colleagues report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

"We hope it gives law enforcement the ability to go on hunches," Porter told ScienceNews.org.

"You can have your suspicions and then get a hit behind the paint," he said. "Then you decide if you want to start scraping paint off or take out a wall."

President congratulates Mars rover team

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama called the Mars Curiosity science team, saying he "could not be more excited about what you've been doing," the White House reported.

The president made the call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Monday morning, the White House said.

"What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit, and your passion and your commitment is making a difference," the president told Charles Elachi, the head of JPL, and the assembled science team listening in on the call.

The JPL science team successfully landed the rover Curiosity on the Martian surface last week and has since been releasing photos taken by the rover of its landing site and surroundings.

"And this is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country," the president said. "They're telling their moms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission -- maybe even the first person to walk on Mars."

The president made the call while aboard Air Force One en route to Nebraska.

He noted Curiosity's mission to determine if conditions are or have ever been amenable to life on the Red Planet.

"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," the president said to laughter from the assembled scientists. "I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting."

Evidence for story of Samson and the lion?

TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Israeli archaeologists say a recently unearthed seal may add substance to the biblical story of Samson and the lion.

A seal measuring about a half-inch in diameter, which depicts a human figure next to a lion, was discovered at the archaeological site of Beth Shemesh, located between the biblical cities of Zorah and Eshtaol where the Bible's book of Judges says Samson was born, flourished and finally buried, researchers at Tel Aviv University reported Monday.

The scene engraved on the seal, its age and the location of the discovery all suggest a probable reference to the story of Samson, the legendary heroic figure whose adventures famously included a victory in hand-to-paw combat with a lion, they said.

While the seal cannot reveal when the stories about Samson were originally written or clarify whether Samson was a historical or legendary figure, the finding does help to "anchor the story in an archaeological setting," researcher Shlomo Bunimovitz said.

"If we are right and what we see on the seal is a representation of a man meeting a lion, it shows that the Samson legend already existed around the area of Beth Shemesh during that time period," he said.

Archaeologists have dated the seal to the 12th century B.C.

The area of Beth Shemesh was a cultural meeting point where Philistines, Canaanites, and Israelites lived in close proximity, maintaining separate identities and cultures, researchers said.

"Samson has a very legendary aura," researcher Zvi Lederman said, characterizing the Samson stories as "border sagas."

Samson, an Israelite, could cross the border and interact with the Philistines, Lederman said, but likely met with danger and various challenges when he did stray out of his home territory

"When you cross the border, you have to fight the enemy and you encounter dangerous animals," he said. "You meet bad things. These are stories of contact and conflict, of a border that is more cultural than political."

Mutations found in Fukushima butterflies

FUKUSHIMA, Japan, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Radioactive materials released into the environment by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have caused mutations in butterflies, a study indicates.

Scientists say they've detected an increase in mutations in leg, antennae and wing shape among butterflies collected following the 2011 Fukushima accident, and that laboratory experiments have confirmed the link with the radioactive release.

Two months after the nuclear power plant accident in March 2011, Japanese researchers collected 144 adult pale grass blue butterflies from 10 locations in Japan, including the Fukushima area.

When the accident occurred, the butterflies would have been overwintering as larvae, the researchers said.

In areas with more radiation in the environment, the butterflies had much smaller wings and irregularly developed eyes, they said, a surprising finding.

"It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation," lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, told the BBC.

"In that sense, our results were unexpected."

Previous studies have identified birds and butterflies are important tools to investigate the long-term impacts of radioactive contaminants in the environment.

"This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima," said University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau, who studies the impacts of radiation on animals and plants but was not involved in the study.

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