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Science + Technology

Six million years ago, giant otters weighing more than 100 pounds lived among birds and water lilies in the wooded wetlands of China's Yunnan province.

That's according to new research from a team of scientists who discovered a well-preserved cranium of the newly-discovered species in an open lignite mine in 2010. They recently published their findings in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET on Jan. 27

There has been a lot of arguing about the size of crowds in the past few days. Estimates for President Trump's inauguration and the Women's March a day later vary widely.

Seventy-five people have been arrested across Europe for allegedly trafficking stolen art and archaeological relics, according to Spanish police who led the investigation.

Interpol and the U.N.'s culture agency, UNESCO, helped in the investigation, as did the European policing agency Europol and the World Customs Organization, according to a statement by UNESCO.

When former Texas Gov. Rick Perry faces the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for his confirmation hearing on Thursday, his first test could be whether he remembers the name of the agency he's been picked to head.

The Obama administration has dropped a controversial proposal that would have required all federally funded scientists to get permission from patients before using their cells, blood, tissue or DNA for research.

The first results from a major project to measure the reliability of cancer research have highlighted a big problem: Labs trying to repeat published experiments often can't.

That's not to say that the original studies are wrong. But the results of a review published Thursday, in the open-access journal eLife, are a sobering reminder that science often fails at one of its most basic requirements — an experiment in one lab ought to be reproducible in another one.

In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant.

As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn't a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.

(*Spoiler alert: This post refers to key elements of the movie.)

"It is not about you," says the Ancient One, marvelously played by Tilda Swinton in the movie Doctor Strange — based on the Marvel comic — released in theaters last Friday.

She is talking to Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is at a crossroads: either return to his previous life as a superstar-conceited neurosurgeon, or use his newly acquired mystic powers to save the world.

Imagine you're passing a fast-food restaurant and you smell hamburger on the grill. You're hungry, so you pull in and eat one ... and the foam box it comes in.

That's apparently what's happening with some oceanic birds. And now scientists think they know why.

The fact that sea animals and birds eat floating plastic has long puzzled biologists. Their best guess was that it looks like food. But the new evidence suggests that for a lot of birds, plastic actually smells like food.

In excavated waste heaps along the western coast of Greenland, researchers have found evidence that ancient Greenlanders, known as the paleo-Inuit or Saqqaq, may have been eating large amounts of bowhead whale. But these 4,000-year-old "dumpsters" are from millennia before humans had specialized technology to hunt down such massive prey.

A few months ago, neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch emerged from a 10-hour surgery that she hadn't done before.

"Most of my patients are humans," says Bloch, who works at the Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland.

This patient was a rhesus macaque.

The monkey's spinal cord had been partially cut. So while his brain was fine and his legs were fine, the two couldn't communicate.

Leaders from 195 countries are meeting in Morocco to discuss how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The United Nations climate change conference began Monday and runs through Nov. 18. It is the first major climate meeting since the Paris climate change agreement was passed at last year's conference.

Erik Vance didn't go to a doctor until he was 18; he grew up in California in a family that practiced Christian Science. "For the first half of my life, I never questioned the power of God to heal me," Vance writes in his new book, Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis, and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain.

So, it's Election Day here in the United States.

Every presidential election seems important, but I am sure that I am not alone in thinking this one is different, maybe more important than most.

So, please, go vote.

When you're done, I give you (once again) Carl Sagan's beautiful "Pale Blue Dot" speech to put it all in perspective.

Of all the things that have come up during this election cycle — from immigration to the size of one candidate's hands — one issue that didn't get much air time was climate change.

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake shook central Oklahoma on Sunday evening, damaging several buildings. Multiple aftershocks also hit the area, the U.S. Geological Survey says.

The quake epicenter was about a mile west of the town of Cushing, the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America and the southern terminus of the Keystone pipeline.

Federal scientists have launched another test in human volunteers of a Zika vaccine. This one uses a more traditional approach than an experiment that started in August.

When electric cars began to take hold in the U.S. market — a small hold — the big concern was range anxiety: the fear that your vehicle doesn't have the fuel to get to your destination.

Whether it's an IUD, a shot, an implant, or a daily pill, birth control is a regular part of many adult women's lives. It has left a lot of women asking: Why not men?

There's a seductive idea, currently being road-tested, for how to stop the world's forests from disappearing. It relies on big food companies.

That's because most forests are being cleared in order to grow crops or graze cattle. And the resulting palm oil, soybeans or beef find their way into foods being sold by a relatively small number of global companies.

So here's the strategy: Get those companies to boycott products from deforested land, and much of the economic incentive to clear more forests will disappear. This should slow down or even stop the loss of forests.

Last month, Australian surfer Jade Fitzpatrick sustained three bite wounds to his thigh from a great white shark as he waited for a wave on his surfboard off the north coast of New South Wales.

As the Guardian newspaper reported, he was helped out of the water by a friend, received medical treatment and planned to surf again in the same waters within 10 days.

Alaska's Bureau of Land Management regularly posts photos and videos of flying squirrels, scampering porcupines, majestic moose or dramatic landscapes.

But the video that went up last week was different. It was ominous. It was mysterious. It was ... the Chena River Ice Monster, as captured by a baffled BLM employee.

The video shows a strange, undulating icy shape appearing to move through the water. The video has a dramatic soundtrack and an overlay of a camcorder, but BLM insisted the footage itself was unedited.

A new study suggests some Los Angeles-area earthquakes in the 1920s and 1930s could have been caused by the oil boom at the time.

The paper, scheduled to be published online Tuesday in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, presents evidence that drilling around Los Angeles between 1915 and 1932 could have been associated with damaging earthquakes in the area, including the magnitude 6.4 Long Beach quake in 1933 that killed 120 people.

A large space rock came fairly close to Earth on Sunday night. Astronomers knew it wasn't going to hit Earth, thanks in part to a new tool NASA is developing for detecting potentially dangerous asteroids.

Three space travelers landed safely back on Earth late Saturday night.

The journey began in the evening, 5:12 p.m., ET to be exact, when the hatch to the International Space Station closed, and Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi climbed into the cramped Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft that would bring them home.

After years of negotiations, nations have reached an agreement to establish the world's largest marine sanctuary in Antarctica's Ross Sea.

Twenty-four countries and the European Union reached the unanimous deal at an international meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in Hobart, Australia on Friday.

If you want to feel virtuous the next time you chug a brewski, consider the Long Root Ale. This new beer, mildly fragrant and with a rye-like spiciness, is the first to use Kernza, a kind of wheat that could make agriculture more sustainable, especially in the face of climate change.

In 1950, less than 50 percent of the world's population lived in cities.

As of 2014, more than half of people on Earth occupied space in urban areas. By 2050, it is expected that the city dwellers will grow to 66 percent.

The tipping point has been crossed. More important, our rapid urbanizing comes at exactly the same moment the planet begins its transition to a new (and unknown) climate state.

When scientists recently announced that they had discovered a new planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centuri, they also released an artist's conception of the planet.

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Neb., leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday.

Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking plants out of service and storing radioactive waste.

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