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Swedish region powered by organic waste

Kristianstad, Sweden -- Powered by food waste, manure and cooking oil, a Swedish city has drastically cut its fossil fuel consumption.

Kristianstad and its surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, burn practically zero oil, natural gas or coal for heating, The New York Times reports. Twenty years ago, all its heat was derived from fossil fuels.

The agricultural region generates energy from ingredients such as potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines. A plant outside Kristianstad uses a biological process to convert the refuse into biogas, a form of methane, which is then burned to produce heat and electricity, or is refined as a fuel for cars.

Wifi transmissions raise concerns

Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Netherlands -- A biologist in the Netherlands said recent experiment that tested the health of trees related to WiFi transmission exposure was not definitive.

"We have to be very careful what kind of conclusion can be drawn. (In fact), we cannot draw conclusions," said Dr. Andre van Lammeren, an associate professor of plant biology at Wageningen University, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Lammeren placed 25 small trees in two separate cabinets, exposing one group to WiFi transmissions. Three months later, the exposed treeshad higher incidents of leaf damage.

Wild seeds seen as world crop 'insurance'

London -- British scientists say they plan to collect wild plant relatives of essential food crops including wheat, rice and potatoes to preserve their genetic traits.

The project, coordinated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, aims to safeguard valuable genetic traits in wild plants that could be bred into crops to make them more hardy and versatile, the BBC reported Friday.

The plant material collected will be stored in seed banks in the long term, but will also be used in "pre-breeding trials" to find out if the wild varieties could be used to combat diseases already threatening food production.

"There is a real sense of urgency about this," said Paul Smith, head of the Millennium Seed Bank at London's Kew Gardens.

Study: Face recognition comes slowly

Cambridge -- Although our brains reach full maturity in our early 20s, face recognition doesn't fully reach its peak until age 30 to 34, U.S. researchers say.

Most researchers think word skills, memory and other mental functions crest in the early 20s, but in a surprising study, scientists found face learning -- the ability to remember new, unfamiliar faces -- takes about a decade longer to fully develop, ScienceNews.org reported Friday.

"Specialized face-processing in the brain may require an extended period of visual tuning during early adulthood to help individuals learn and recognize lots of different faces," psychology graduate student Laura Germine of Harvard University says.

Fueling error blamed in loss of satellites

Moscow -- Russia's loss of three satellites during launch this week was caused by an off-course booster rocket that had been given too much fuel, officials said.

The estimated 1-1/2 to 2 tons of excessive fuel caused the rocket to deviate from its course and the satellites crashed into the Pacific Ocean, RIA Novosti reported Friday.

"According to preliminary information, the problem was not with the fuel service unit at the launching site, but with one of the sensors showing the fuel level," Gennady Raikunov, head of the investigation commission, said.

"We do not rule out the factor of human error," he said.

Raikunov said the Russian space rocket corporation Energia may be linked to the incident.

Thinking about eating could help dieting

Pittsburgh -- Thinking in great detail about eating the foods that make you fat could make you want them less, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh asked volunteers to spend a minute and a half imagining methodically chewing and swallowing 30 M&M candies, one after another.

When then presented with a bowl of M&Ms, those volunteers ate about half as many candies as volunteers who imagined eating only three M&Ms, or none at all, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Just thinking about a food can help sate hunger through a process called habituation, the researchers said.

Record set for crossing Antarctica

London -- A United Kingdom expedition to the Antarctic has claimed the record for the fastest land crossing of the ice-covered continent, officials said.

The 10-member team of the Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition completed the crossing in less than 13 days, smashing previous records, the BBC reported Thursday.

The team set off from the Union Glacier airstrip Nov. 25 and arrived Thursday on the Ross Ice Shelf, 1,209 miles away.

The team, composed of explorers, mechanics and scientists, traveled in convoy led by a propeller-driven scout vehicle. Two large trucks followed, carrying most of the crew and equipment.

The expedition used ice-penetrating radar to avoid crevasses.

Study: Earth's precious metals from space

Boulder, Colo. -- Gigantic collisions 4.5 billion years ago injected precious elements such as gold and platinum into on Earth, the moon and Mars, a study suggests.

In the final period of planet formation, a body possibly as big as Pluto probably collided with the Earth after the planet had been hit by an even large object, scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said.

Mars and the moon absorbed smaller but still devastating blows, they said.

NASA flying observatory in first mission

Ithaca, N.Y. -- NASA says its new airborne astronomical observatory has flown its first complete science mission following five months of test flights.

A 17-ton telescope mounted in the fuselage of a modified 747 jumbo jet, the SOFIA observatory, for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, will embark on a 20-year investigation of the infrared spectrum of the universe, an area not yet explored by satellite- or ground-based observatories.

An Ithaca College associate professor of physics on board for last week's science mission says he looks forward to the cosmic insights SOFIA will provide, a university release said.

Pacific whales shows evidence of pollution

Lubbock, Texas -- U.S. researchers say they've found evidence of exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides in Pacific Ocean-dwelling sperm whales.

Researchers from Texas Tech University tested tissues from whales from all five Pacific regions for DDT, the fungicide hexachlorobenzene, and 30 types of polychlorinated biphenyls, known to cause endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity, a university release said Wednesday.

"Our findings provide a unique baseline for global assessment of pollution exposures and sensitivity in the sperm whale, a globally distributed and threatened species," Celine Godard-Codding, an assistant professor at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, said.