Hedgehog Bacteria, a New Solar Sail and More

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Friday in science, clues to owls' backwardness, fresh dangers to the seas and the launch of a giant kite. Check out these and other headlines from around the Web.

Hedgehog Bacteria: Sonic the Hedgehog may have a dark side. The Associated Press reports that in the last year, 20 people in the United States were infected, and 1 person died, from "a rare but dangerous" type of salmonella bacteria. All the cases, health officials said, were linked to hedgehogs that were kept as pets.

More Bad News for the Seas: National Geographic reports that buried beneath the waves are rich deposits of "gold, copper, zinc, and other valuable minerals," and that is attracting the attention of the humans on the land above. Mining the minerals is not easy, but one company has already obtained an extraction contract for the waters off Papua, New Guinea, the magazine says.

Less Money for Science: Lean days are ahead for recipients of federal government contracts, and that knowledge is having an impact on physics research. Scientific American reports that a federal advisory panel has recommended closing a particle collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y.

Spinning Heads: Owls are able to do something that parents only dream about: swivel their heads completely around to see what is going on behind them. An illustrator and a physician at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered that they can do so without severing their arteries or preventing blood from reaching their brains because of holes in their neck bones, which may hold air sacks that cushion the movement of the head, and because the vertebral artery is able to expand and hold reservoirs of blood for the brain, a LiveScience video explains.

Setting Sail in Space: A new solar sail, the largest yet, will be launched by NASA in 2014. Looking very much like a gigantic kite, it will eventually reach 2 million miles from Earth (that's a lot of string!), Popular Science reports. And besides blazing the way for further research of this type, the mission has another purpose: "Sunjammer will be carrying the cremated remains of various individuals, including the creator of Star Trek,Gene Roddenberry, and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry. It is not exactly the Enterprise, but Sunjammer will be boldly going where no solar sailing spacecraft has gone before," Popular Science says.

Solar Sail Readies for Early Warning Mission

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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