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New Earth-like planet found orbiting nearby star

A new planet has been discovered that may be Earth-like, and it's really, really close. If we're ever going to look for life outside our solar system, this is probably where we'll start. Here's what scientists say about it.

>> Watch the video from Newsy

The planet might have liquid water, which is crucial to life as we know it. It's in the habitable zone, that sweet spot where it's neither too hot nor too cold to have water on its surface.

The planet orbits the closest-known star to ours, Proxima Centauri, which is about 4.25 light years away. It's in the southern sky, but it's too dim to see with the naked eye.

Four light years is nothing in space terms, but it's still too far to travel to any time soon. Our most pie-in-the-sky technology would still take decades to carry a probe there.

If we do ever travel there, it should feel somewhat familiar. The planet is about the same size as Earth, meaning gravity would be close to what we're used to. But its days and nights would be strange. It circles its sun every 11 days.

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It's tempting to get excited about an Earth-like planet that couldn't be any closer, but there are some big unknowns. It's not clear yet whether the planet has an atmosphere or a magnetic field. Without those, the odds of finding life are pretty much zero.

Luckily, we don't have to wait too long to learn more. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch in 2018, and it will be able to look for an atmosphere. And Stephen Hawking is supporting a plan to send a probe to nearby Alpha Centauri.

Extremely rare 2,500-pound T. rex skull arrives at Seattle museum

An extremely rare 2,500-pound Tyrannosaurus rex skull discovered by Seattle paleontologists arrived at the Burke Museum Thursday.

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Burke paleontologists found the fossil remains of the 66.3-million-year-old dinosaur -- including the 4-foot-long, 2,500-pound skull, as well as lower jaw bones, vertebrae, ribs and teeth -- in the Hell Creek Formation in northern Montana.

The area is world-famous for its fossil dinosaur sites.

A team of more than 45 people helped excavate the T. rex over a month this summer. They first found large fossilized vertebrae that indicated that they belonged to a carnivorous dinosaur.

Before they could excavate the fossils, the team first needed to remove about 20 tons of rock from the hillside, so they could create a ledge at the level of the fossils. The difficult task took a team of eight to 10 people nearly two weeks of continuous digging with jackhammers, axes and shovels.

Once the ledge was in place, they switched to smaller hand tools and uncovered more bones. The skull was found several feet away.

"The combination of the skull features, the size of the bones, and the honeycomb-like appearance of the bones tell us this is a T. rex," said Burke Museum Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and University of Washington associate biology professor Dr. Greg Wilson.  "This was a very exciting moment for us."

So far, about 20 percent of a full skeleton has been excavated and scientists say there's likely more to discover.

The T. rex is the first major specimen in Washington.

The skull is one of only 15 reasonably complete T. rex skulls ever discovered.

The massive skull, which is encased in plaster for protection, was moved with a forklift from a flatbed truck to the Burke Museum loading dock.

The public can see the plaster-covered T. rex skull, along with other T. rex fossils and paleontology field tools, in a lobby display at the Burke Museum -- the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture -- beginning Saturday, August 20, through Sunday, October 2, 2016. 

Self-driving Uber cars to debut in Pittsburgh

A handful of self-driving Uber cars will ferry passengers around Pittsburgh starting this month. 

The semi-autonomous cars will pick up customers and -- since the technology is still in testing -- those who try it will get the ride for free. 

The fleet consists of a modified version of a Volvo XC90. A driver will be in the front seat with their hands on the wheel so they can take over if anything goes wrong, and an engineer will be in the passenger seat to take notes on the drive. 

Testing the technology with real customers is a big step toward Uber's aim of a completely driverless service. 

CEO Travis Kalanick said cutting the driver out of the equation could potentially make the service much cheaper for riders -- possibly even cheaper than a private car. 

Right now, however, self-driving cars are still under intense scrutiny. As of yet, there aren't any fully autonomous vehicles on the road. 

Tesla has started to roll out limited autopilot features, but a deadly crash involving its autopilot mode has regulators investigating its safety

Google's autonomous car has also had a few accidents, but none of them were serious -- likely because the car is capped at 25 miles per hour. 

Uber and Volvo just announced a partnership to develop a completely autonomous car by 2021, but it's not clear when they plan to roll out a driverless ride-hailing service.

What will the iPhone 7 have? Here are a few rumors

With the upcoming release of Apple’s next version of the iPhone in September, rumors are swirling about what the newest device will feature.

One rumor which has been hanging around since the first of the year is that the new smartphone – iPhone 7, probably – will have wireless earbuds, thanks to a Bluetooth radio chip.

Forbes reported that the Bluetooth chip, said to have a long battery life, is based on technology developed by Passif Semiconductor,  a startup company that Apple recently purchased.

Another possible feature of the iPhone 7 could be a larger battery than the iPhone 6s has.

Other possible features include a dual-camera on the “Plus” version, in addition to an improved camera on the smaller version; a Force Touch Home button; and 32/128/256GB storage tiers, according to

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7 things to know now: Olympics begin; father charged in twins deaths; Facebook vs. clickbait

Medley Story ID: 3425925


1. Not ransom: In a press conference Thursday, President Barack Obama strongly denied that a $400 million cash payment made to Iran in January was ransom in exchange for the release of four Americans detained in that country. "This wasn't some nefarious deal," Obama said during a press conference at the Pentagon.  The payment was a part of restitution the U.S. is making in a 40-year dispute over a military equipment deal that took place before the Islamic revolution in 1979, the president said.

2. Olympics are here: Get ready for some serious sports action as the 2016 Summer Olympic Games get under way from Rio de Janeiro. The opening ceremonies are set for 8 p.m. ET (with a preview beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET). Swimmer Michael Phelps will be carrying the flag for the United States in the Parade of Nations.

3. MH370 pilot: Officials in Malaysia have, for the first time, acknowledged that a pilot on Malaysia Airlines Flight  370 used a flight simulator kept in his home to plot a course that took a plane to the southern Indian Ocean – the place authorities believe the flight disappeared. Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah used a flight simulator to plot the course, officials say, but they also noted that there were thousands of courses plotted on the simulator and that they have no evidence that proves Zaharie deliberately flew the plane into the Indian Ocean. The flight  was on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared with 239  people on board.

4. Father arrested: A Georgia father was arrested Thursday after his twin 15-month-old daughters died after being left in a hot car. Asa North was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless conduct after the children were pronounced dead at a Carrollton, Ga., hospital. Police say that when they arrived, North had the girls in the pool of the apartment complex where  they lived, trying to cool them off.

5. Young whites aren’t Hillary fans: In a new poll, young, white Americans say they believe that Hillary Clinton lied about her email account and intentionally broke the law when she set up a private email server in her New York home. In a new GenFoward poll of Americans 18-30, found that both Clinton and Donald Trump have high negative numbers with young people. In the survey, people of color were more likely to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt in the email scandal.

And one more

Facebook says it intends to reduce the  number of “clickbait” headlines you will see in the site’s news feed. The headlines  leave out important information in order to get the reader to “click” onto the story to find out what it is about. This change comes a little more than an month after Facebook announced it would prioritize posts from friends and family over those from publishers or companies. 

In case you missed it

First solar-powered plane makes it around the world with no fuel

Video includes clips from Solar Impulse. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

A solar plane attempting to fly around the world just completed a successful mission.

"If this works, of course, everybody can do it on the ground to make a cleaner world," one of the pilots said in a Solar Impulse video.

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Solar Impulse's voyage started in March 2015, and a little more than a year later, the plane landed back where it first took off in Abu Dhabi. 

The record-setting flight is an important development in the exploration of solar energy, but there have been some challenges along the way. The trip was stalled in Hawaii last summer after the plane's batteries overheated.

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In the last leg of the trip, there were concerns about how extreme heat in the Middle East could affect the plane.

Before the landing, Solar Impulse's final pilot said in a statement: "I'm excited to come so close to the goal, but unfortunately, there are still so many people we have to motivate before having a world running on the same clean technologies."

'Welcome to Jupiter': NASA's Juno orbiting 'king of planets' after 5-year journey

Most people looking up at the sky Monday night were enjoying fireworks, but NASA scientists were hoping for an entirely different display for the Fourth of July.

>> Watch the video from Newsy

About 11:53 p.m. ET, NASA’s Juno probe entered Jupiter's orbit after a five-year journey.

"Juno, welcome to Jupiter," said mission control commentator Jennifer Delavan of Lockheed Martin, which built Juno.

It took more than 2 billion miles of flying, but Juno is expected to send back the best photos of Jupiter we've ever seen.

It's not just a sightseeing mission for Juno. It's aiming to get details about Jupiter's composition, which should help scientists figure out how it was formed. That is, if the spacecraft survives.

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All of Juno's sensitive scientific equipment is encased in a 400-pound titanium vault to defend against Jupiter’s magnetic field, but little bits of rock or dust could still do a lot of damage to a craft traveling 130,000 mph. 

If the mission goes smoothly, Juno will give researchers the first close look at what's going on beneath Jupiter's clouds. Scientists are hopeful it will shed light on how other planets developed.

Since Jupiter is made of gas, Juno can't land, so the orbiter will have to take its measurements from a distance. It will continue orbiting the gas giant until it's scheduled to run into Jupiter's clouds and be incinerated in 2018.

This video includes clips from NASA. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

>> Click here or scroll down to see what NASA was saying on social media

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "'Welcome to Jupiter': NASA's Juno orbiting 'king of planets' after 5-year journey" on Storify]

Turns out robots aren't that great at waiting tables

Video includes a clip from Al Jazeera and images from Getty Images.

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Robots can be programmed to do just about any job these days, from barista to surgeon to hotel concierge.

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But it turns out our electronic friends might not make the best waiters.

According to a report from Chinese newspaper Workers' Daily, three restaurants in the city of Guangzhou were forced to fire their robot wait staff for "incompetence."

CBS quotes one human employee as telling the paper, "The robots weren't able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down."

Restaurant patrons also complained the robots weren't so great at pouring water and couldn't take orders from customers, which are both pretty essential skills for a waiter.

The robots' service was so bad, in fact, two of the Guangzhou restaurants using them actually had to shut down. 

But that didn't stop yet another Chinese eatery -- the Taste and Aroma restaurant in Guiyang -- from rolling out its new robotic staff earlier this week. It's not yet clear how the restaurant is faring with its new mechanical employees.

Paralyzed man regains control of hand after chip implanted in brain

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Thanks to an experimental treatment that included implanting a chip in his brain, Ian Burkhart was able to regain control of his hand.

Burkhart broke his neck five years ago when he hit the ocean floor while diving off of the coast in North Carolina. The accident left him paralyzed from the chest down with limited movement in his arms and hands, but no feeling in them. On Wednesday, doctors announced Burkhart is able to control his hand using a computer that reads his thoughts and transmits the instructions to the nerves in his hand, bypassing the neck injury.

In 2014, doctors implanted a chip the size of an eraser head in Burkhart’s brain, after he told them he was willing to participate. Burkhart’s father was somewhat hesitant to see his son undergo open brain surgery unnecessarily, but eventually came around to the idea.

>> Click here to watch a report from Nature Video

“There’s the recovery time, the putting the chip in, taking it out — and in the long run it doesn’t benefit Ian one iota,” Doug Burkhart explained to New York Times. “He was doing it for the general good, to move the science along.”

Doctors opened up the part of the brain associated with hand control but needed to do further testing to figure out just where to put the chip, designed to read individual neurons firing.

“We spent an hour and half working to find the exact location,” the surgeon and director of Ohio State’s Center for Neuromodulation, Dr. Ali Rezai, explained.

Once the chip was implanted, the computer needed to learn to translate Burkhart’s thoughts. For several months, Brukhart watched an avatar hand make movements and tried to think of doing it himself. A computer program monitored his thoughts, matching up specific brain signal patterns with movements shown by the avatar hand. While the computer was translating Burkhart’s thoughts, he was working to remember motion commands that went unused for several years.

>> Read more trending stories

“I had to really, really concentrate, just to do these things I did without thinking before,” the 24-year-old said. “But it was like a sport; you work and work and it gradually gets easier.”

Finally, Burkhart’s thoughts were translated into commands directly to his hands.

“Watching him close his hand for the first time — I mean, it was a surreal moment,” Dr. Rezai said. “We all just looked at each other and thought, ‘O.K., the work is just starting.’”

Burkhart can now pick up a bottle and pour the contents into a jar, pick up a straw, stir and even play a guitar video game. While the doctors are thrilled by this development, they recognize the need for further developments. The system only works when Burkhart is in the lab with a big computer plugged into his head.

“If I could take the thing home, it would give me so much more independence. Now, I’ve got to rely on someone else for so many things, like getting dressed, brushing my teeth — all that. I just want other people to hear about this and know that there’s hope. Something will come around that makes living with this injury better.”

iPhone hack: FBI says it only works for 5C; is your iPhone at risk?

On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey told a group at Kenyon College in Ohio that the U.S. government had purchased "a tool" from a private party in order to unlock an iPhone used by a man who shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

The announcement came about a week after the agency announced  they had been able to “unlock” the phone without the  help of  its manufacturer, Apple.

>>Have questions about the news? Click here for more Explainers

The FBI and Apple were set to go to court where the Justice Department had hoped a judge would force Apple to show them how to bypass a password security system that would allow them access to information on the phone.

The case was dropped after the FBI announced it had help from a third  party in bypassing the phone security system.

Here’s what we know about the hack, if the government is going to share the info and which phones are vulnerable. 

What happened?

Law enforcement officials recovered an iPhone believed  to have  belonged to Syed Farook, the man who shot and killed 14 co-workers in San Bernardino in December.

FBI officials asked Apple to help them get information from the phone they could to aid in the investigation into the shootings.

Why the FBI initially couldn’t retrieve the information 

The FBI asked for help from Apple to access the information on Farook’s iPhone because a security feature within the phone allows only 10 tries to retrieve a password before the information on the phone is erased. The FBI uses a method called a "brute-force attack," or trying random codes until the right code is entered and a device is “unlocked.” However, the odds are it would have taken more than 10 attempts to hit the correct password on the iPhone.

What they used to get in

No one outside of the FBI and the person who provided the “tool” to get past the password security knows what was used. Whatever it was, allowed unlimited tries to guess the password without the threat of the information on the phone being erased. The FBI also had to deal  with a related Apple security feature that introduces increasing time delays between guesses. Comey has said after the FBI was able to remove the password security features, the agency was able to break into the phone in 26 minutes.

Many in the tech world believe it will only be a matter of time before the hack is revealed.  Apple engineers are said to be working  on a “patch,” or a software upgrade, that will fix the issue that allowed the phone’s security to be circumvented.

Why Apple didn’t help

Apple said this in a statement after the FBI announced it was able to gain access to the phones information:

"From the beginning, we objected to the FBI's demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government's dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion."

What the FBI did and maybe shouldn’t have done

For nearly 20 years, the U.S. government  has recommended  that its intelligence agencies work confidentially with a software manufacturer before revealing a security problem with a product. This measure is generally used so that a company – or the country’s economy – is not damaged. The FBI  seems to have disregarded that recommendation with its announcement.

The Associated press quoted an April 2014 statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that said, "When federal agencies discover a new vulnerability in commercial and open source software — a so-called 'zero day' vulnerability because the developers of the vulnerable software have had zero days to fix it — it is in the national interest to responsibly disclose the vulnerability rather than to hold it for an investigative or intelligence purpose,"

 What the FBI isn’t going to do

The FBI says it is still considering whether to let Apple know what they used to bypass the security systems. "We tell Apple, then they're going to fix it, then we're back where we started from," Comey said. "We may end up there, we just haven't decided yet."

In the meantime, the FBI sent a letter to law enforcement agencies, that, according to Reuters, offers help in hacking devices. 

“As has been our longstanding policy, the FBI will, of course, consider any tool that might be helpful to our partners,” the letter read. “Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help you consistent with our legal and policy constraints. We are in this together.

Is your phone safe?

Comey said the tool the agency purchased worked only on a "narrow slice of phones"  --  specifically the iPhone  5C running the iOS9 operating system. It does not work  on the 5S or the newest Apple models, the director said.

Sources: The Associated Press; Reuters; Fox News; National Public Radio

Ill children can now see the world without leaving St. Jude Hospital

Video includes clips from Expedia.

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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Expedia have teamed up in a seriously cool way to help sick children.

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The "St. Jude Dream Adventures" campaign, the 360-degree virtual experience room at the Memphis, Tennessee, location, lets children too sick to leave the hospital experience what it's like to travel the world.

Here's how it works: An Expedia employee will travel to the child's dream location, which can be anywhere from an underwater tour to watching wild horses in Argentina.

Once there, children will have the experience in real time with the employee, which gives kids the opportunity to ask questions and learn from tour guides.


The project is the brainchild of the 180LA creative agency. While this initial exhibition only featured four children, the agency said it's talking with the hospital about making it a permanent installation.

180LA, St. Jude and Expedia have teamed up before. A few years ago, the trio released an ad where Santa flew coach around the world so he could donate his Expedia+ points to the hospital.

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