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Nihilist types, and even prevailing theoretical models, attempting to explain the formation of the solar system have assumed it to be average in every way but a new study by Northwestern University astronomers that used recent data from the 300 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars turns that view on its head.

Our solar system is pretty special and if early conditions had been just slightly different planets could have been thrown into the sun or jettisoned into deep space.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that as the temperature of a pure substance moves toward absolute zero (the mathematically lowest temperature possible) its entropy, or the disorderly behavior of its molecules, also approaches zero. The molecules should line up in an orderly fashion.

Ice seems to be the exception to that rule. While the oxygen atoms in ice freeze into an ordered crystalline structure, its hydrogen atoms do not.

Researchers at the University of Maryland are using meta-materials, which mimic the behavior of ice but are created out of completely different substances, to try and figure out why water ice doesn't completely conform to the Third Law of Thermodynamics.

Some climate models have predicted that global warming will increase the intensity of extreme precipitation events but a new study conducted at the University of Miami and the University of Reading (U.K.) says their observational evidence confirms the link between a warmer climate and more powerful rainstorms.

It's no more scientifically accurate to imply this year's floods were caused by or made worse by global warming than it was for Al Gore to imply global warming caused Hurricane Katrina but there is no question more intense rain events increase the risk of flooding and can have substantial societal and economic impacts.

A beam will finally be circulated. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will now be ready to go in September, according to CERN's latest estimate.

The LHC is the world's most powerful particle accelerator, producing beams seven times more energetic than any previous machine, and around 30 times more intense when it reaches design performance, probably by 2010. Housed in a 27-kilometer tunnel, it relies on technologies that would not have been possible 30 years ago. The LHC is, according to the press from CERN, its own prototype.

There have been numerous delays but most in the physics community had regarded previous estimates with caution anyway.(1) Starting up such a machine is not as simple as flipping a switch and commissioning is a long process that starts with the cooling down of each of the machine's eight sectors, a process which had already been delayed.

Researchers have long sought a factor that can trigger the brain's ability to learn – and perhaps recapture the "sponge-like" quality of childhood. In the August 8 issue of the journal Cell, neuroscientists at Children's Hospital Boston report that they've identified such a factor, a protein called Otx 2.

Otx2 helps a key type of cell in the cortex to mature, initiating a critical period -- a window of heightened brain plasticity, when the brain can readily make new connections.

Scientists at Tufts University's School of Engineering have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to design an edible optical sensor that can be placed in produce bags to detect harmful levels of bacteria and consumed right along with the veggies. This same technology could mean an implantable device that would monitor glucose in your blood for a year, then dissolve.

Such "living" optical elements that could enable an entirely new class of sensors. These sensors would combine sophisticated nanoscale optics with biological readout functions, be biocompatible and biodegradable, and be manufactured and stored at room temperatures without use of toxic chemicals. The Tufts team used fibers from silkworms to develop the platform devices.