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Earth Hour 2018: Landmarks around the world go dark for climate change awareness

From the Sydney Opera House to Paris' Eiffel Tower, landmarks around the world went dark Saturday night for Earth Hour.

>> Read more trending news 

The "symbolic lights-out event," which began in Sydney in 2007, is designed to raise awareness about climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund

>> Click here or scroll down to see photos from the event

Texas space lover says NASA photographed 'alien skeleton' on Mars

A space enthusiast from Texas believes photographs taken by a NASA rover reveal an “alien skeleton” on Mars, KTRK reported.

>> Read more trending news

A person from Waxahachie said a group of what looks like rocks is actually the skull and spine of a possible Martian. 

The person filed a report with the Mutual UFO Network, which investigates UFO sightings in the United States and beyond, KTRK reported.

According to the report, the alleged skeleton was photographed by the Opportunity rover on Feb. 1 in Perseverance Valley on the west rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater.

The person who submitted the report to the UFO Network said a 3-D image revealed the bone detail of a spine, KTRK reported.

Male birth control pill? New drug appears to block sperm production

A safe and effective birth control pill for men is one step closer to becoming a reality.

>> Read more trending news

That’s according to new research presented this week at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society's 100th annual meeting in Chicago, which found that the new pill, called dimethandrolone undecanoate (or DMAU), successfully reduced testosterone and other hormone levels responsible for sperm production without causing major side effects.

"People have been working on male hormonal contraception for 40 to 50 years," Dr. Stephanie Page, an endocrinologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and lead author of the study, told CNN. "There are ways of delivering male contraceptives with long-acting implants and injections, but men are interested in having an oral pill available, and the work we presented here is a step forward."

>> Related: Male birth control shot effective, study finds, but researchers worry about side effects 

For the study, researchers carried out a trial with 83 men, aged 18 to 50. Each man was randomly assigned to either one of three treatment groups, or a control group. The treatment groups received varying doses (100, 200 and 400 milligrams) of the drug, and the control group took a placebo.

After 28 days, the men taking the drug saw a significant reduction in testosterone. In fact, their testosterone levels dropped to "castrate levels" with all three doses. The group receiving 400 mg, the highest dose of the drug, also saw a significant reduction in LH and FSH, hormones that work to regulate sperm and testosterone production by the testes.

"Normal testosterone in a man is anywhere from 350 to 1,100 nanograms per deciliter," Dr. Seth Cohen, an assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Health, who was not involved in the study, told CNN. "And they got these guys down to 13 nanograms per deciliter."

>> Related: Women who use IUDs may have reduced risk of cervical cancer, study says

But the study did have its limitations. Considering the relatively small sample size, more trials need to be undertaken to fully understand the effects of the drug. Nine of the participants in the study experienced a major decrease in libido, or sex drive, as well.

"When you put that on a large, multimillion-person basis, you have a huge portion of men running around with very low libido," Cohen said.

Nonetheless, Page remains confident that the drug appears safe for men, allowing them to maintain all important male characteristics.

"The brain, which is important in sex drive, maintain muscle, all of those important male characteristics are maintained by the hormone that we're giving the men," she told CBS News. "The very important point here is that despite having those low levels of testosterone, the steroid that is given in this prototyped male pill provides the androgen activity in the man in all the other parts of their body."

>> Related: Hospital blames contraceptive app for accidental pregnancies 

Page also stressed that there needs to be more birth control options available to men.

"The important next step is to show that this does, in fact, suppress the production of sperm, and that requires at least a three-month study, which we're going to be undertaking starting next month," Page said. "After that, we'll need longer-term studies to look in detail about fine-tuning any potential side effects and ultimately doing a study in couples that actually demonstrates that it works in a real-world use."

This isn't the first time that researchers have attempted to develop an effective male birth control method. A study published in 2016 revealed that men can take hormone injections to prevent pregnancy in their partners with nearly the same success rate that women have with the pill. However, the shot caused a variety of negative side-effects – including depression, acne and lowered sex drive.

Read the full ENDO study at abstractonline.com

Startup offering to preserve brain with '100 percent fatal' procedure for $10,000

Need a way to hold on to your memories forever? One startup is offering a special, but fatal, procedure to help you keep your brain active.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers at Nectome, a medical company founded by MIT graduates, have discovered a way to maintain brain functionality after death with high-tech embalming, a process used to prevent a body from decay. 

“Our mission is to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact: from that great chapter of your favorite book to the feeling of cold winter air, baking an apple pie, or having dinner with your friends and family,” co-founders Robert McIntyre and Michael McCanna wrote on the business’ website.

 >> On AJC.com: If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain could start eating itself

They will target patients suffering from terminal illnesses. The individuals will be sedated, connected to heart and lung machines, and injected with the embalming chemicals while they are alive. 

The procedure is “100 percent fatal,” the founders warned, but the solution “can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass.”

The analysts believe their investigations will help future scientists “recreate consciousness” and retrieve information from the brain’s molecular details. 

>> Related: A few glasses of wine a day can keep your brain ‘clean,’ study says

“You can think of what we do as a fancy form of embalming that preserves not just the outer details but the inner details,” McIntyre told MIT Technology Review.

“If the brain is dead, it’s like your computer is off, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t there,” added Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist and president of the Brain Preservation Foundation -- the organization that awarded McIntyre for his recent work on preserving the pig brain.

>> Related: Scientists worry brain-wasting 'zombie deer' disease could spread to humans

The surgery is not yet available to the public as they are still unsure if the memories will be found in the dead tissues. However, they are inviting prospective customers to join a wait list for a $10,000 deposit, which is fully refundable. So far, 25 people have signed up. 

“When a generation of people die, we lose all their collective wisdom. You can transmit knowledge to the next generation, but it’s harder to transmit wisdom, which is learned,” McIntyre said. “That was fine for a while, but we get more powerful every generation. The sheer immense potential of what we can do increases, but the wisdom does not.”

Astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA doesn’t match twin Mark’s after year-long space mission

A trip to space would be a life-changing experience. But scientists didn’t realize how much it changes astronauts when it comes to the building blocks of life.

NASA sent astronaut, and twin, Scott Kelly, to the International Space Station for a one-year mission to study the effects of space on the human body, KTLA reported

>> Read more trending news 

Scott Kelly was in space from March 2015 to March 2016, Newsweek reported.

His identical twin brother Mark kept his feet firmly planted on Earth. 

The two men were identical, down to their cellular level, before the trip, but that can’t be said now. 

Scott now differs from Mark when it comes to their DNA.

Getting into the science specifics. 

Scientists looked at the spaceman’s metabolites, cytokines and proteins before and after his voyage. They said the mission caused Scott’s “space genes” to switch on, and they didn’t turn off after he returned to Earth. The experts believe they were turned on because of the stress of space travel, KTLA reported.

NASA said in the study that Scott’s cells showed changes in the length of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that show biological aging. They were lengthened while he was in space, but they returned to almost normal days after he landed. There was also damage to his DNA that was caused by radiation and the restriction on his calories. His collagen, blood clotting and bone formation also changed and because of zero gravity and fluid shifts.

Kelly’s year-long trip in space was a precursor to planned three-year missions to Mars. Scientists needed to test how space missions that are longer than what is currently done impacts astronauts, KTLA reported.

Click here to read NASA’s study.

Related video:

Stephen Hawking dead at 76: Celebrities, public figures, scientists pay tribute

Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist, professor, author and pop culture icon, died Wednesday at age 76.

>> MORE: Stephen Hawking dead at 76  |  Photos  |  Notable deaths 2018  |  Memorable quotes  |  MORE

Hawking, whose life was chronicled in the 2014 film "The Theory of Everything," had battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – aka ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease – for more than five decades.

Scientists, public figures and celebrities, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and pop singer Katy Perry, flocked to social media to pay tribute to Hawking. Here's what they had to say:

Stephen Hawking quotes: Words of wisdom, humor from the physicist and pop culture icon

World-renowned physicist and pop culture icon Stephen Hawking not only had a brilliant scientific mind but also a way with words. Here are nine memorable quotes from Hawking, who died Wednesday at age 76:

>> MORE: Stephen Hawking dead at 76Photos |  Notable deaths 2018  |  Celebrities react

1. "Life would be tragic if it weren't funny." 

– New York Times interview, 2004

2. "So next time someone complains that you have made a mistake, tell him that may be a good thing. Because without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist." 

– "Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking," 2010

3. "People who boast about their IQ are losers." 

– New York Times interview, 2004

4. "Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking." 

– British Telecom ad, 1993

5. "Women. They are a complete mystery." 

– New Scientist interview, 2012

6. "However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." 

– Hong Kong press conference, 2006

7. "I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road." 

– "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays," 1993

8. "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." 

– "Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking," 2010

>> Read more trending news 

9. "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." 

– "Stephen Hawking's Universe," 1985

Photos: Stephen Hawking through the years

Professor Stephen Hawking died at his home in Cambridge, England, on March 14, 2018. He was 76.

NASA mission unlocks more secrets about Jupiter

Information compiled by the Juno space mission to Jupiter shows that the atmospheric winds of the solar system’s largest planet run deeper than had originally been thought, NASA reported on its website.

>> Read more trending news

Other data released Wednesday revealed that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter’s north and south poles are unique to the solar system. The findings are part of a four-article series that will be published in the March 8 edition of the journal, Nature, NASA said.

“These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter’s curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments. Juno’s unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter.”

Children unable to properly hold pencils because of technology, report says

Does your kid spend a lot of time on smart devices? It could affect their writing early on, according to a new report. 

>> Read more trending news 

Doctors from England recently expressed concerns about children’s ability to properly hold pencils compared to youth from 10 years ago.

“Children coming into school are being given a pencil, but are increasingly not able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills,” Sally Payne, head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, told The Guardian

She said technology may be preventing children from developing the hand muscles they need to control and grip pencils. 

“It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play, such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes,” Payne said. “Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil.”

>> Related: Ohio lawmakers could mandate students learn cursive handwriting again

A 2012 study, which videotaped 120 fourth-graders writing, revealed that four “mature” pencil grasps yielded the best results for legibility and speed: the dynamic tripod, dynamic quadrupod, lateral tripod and lateral quadrupod. Researchers also noted one “immature” grasp pattern and one alternating grasp pattern, which they said both negatively affected legibility and speed. The findings were published in American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

Another small study from 2012 explored the effects the handwriting experience can have on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Researchers observed children, aged 0 months to 4 years old, as they wrote, traced or typed letters and shapes. The individuals were then shown images of the letters and shapes while the scientists captured images of their brain from an MRI scan. The scientists discovered that handwriting was most effective for “recruiting components of the reading systems in the brain.” 

“Handwriting is important for the early recruitment in letter processing of brain regions known to underlie successful reading,” they said.

>> On AJC.com: Making the Grade: National program focuses on handwriting skills

However, British scholars agree with the doctors. They also believe kids aren’t developing these fundamentals early enough. 

“One problem is that handwriting is very individual in how it develops in each child,” Mellissa Prunty, vice chair of the National Handwriting Association, said. “Without research, the risk is that we make too many assumptions about why a child isn’t able to write at the expected age and don’t intervene when there is a technology-related cause.”

While they didn’t specify when they’d continue their investigations, they did note that curricula should incorporate handwriting targets. However, they believe excessive technology use may continue at home. 

Want to learn more about the report? Read it at The Guardian.

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