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Graduation season is well underway, with kindergartners, high schoolers, college seniors and graduate students alike donning caps and gowns to celebrate their achievement. With their diplomas, graduates also get words of wisdom from a commencement speakers and a good excuse to celebrate. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)
US Naval Academy graduates throw their hats at the conclusion of their commencement and commission ceremony, attended by President Barack Obama at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on May 24 in Annapolis, Md. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)     

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The Second Copernican Revolution: Our Changing View of Our Place in the Universe

Abstract: Five hundred years ago, Copernicus advanced the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Solar System. That theory revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. It was initially met with great opposition because of what it meant about our own significance. Today there is a second Copernican revolution underway that will once again alter our significance. Advances in technologies and techniques are enabling the detection, observation and study of Earth-like planets around other stars. And several deep-space missions are currently exploring potentially-habitable worlds within our Solar System as possible abodes for life beyond the Earth. As one such mission, the two intrepid robotic explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been exploring the surface of Mars for evidence of past habitable environments that could have supported life. The rovers have traversed great plains, climbed mountains, descended into deep craters and survived rover-killing dust storms and frigid winters. Both rovers have found clues that Mars was once Earth-like with a potential for life. Soon they will be joined by another larger, more capable rover on the surface. Within the next few years, we may be poised to answering that central question, "Are we alone in the Universe?" Speaker Info: John L. Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been project manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project since March 2006. Previously, as science manager and then <b>...</b>
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Zothecula writes "While it's generally accepted that memories are stored somewhere, somehow in our brains, the exact process has never been entirely understood. Strengthened synaptic connections between neurons definitely have something to do with it, although the synaptic membranes involved are constantly degrading and being replaced – this seems to be somewhat at odds with the fact that some memories can last for a person's lifetime. Now, a team of scientists believe that they may have figured out what's going on. Their findings could have huge implications for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's."


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On Monday, I told you about The Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., where top neuroscientists are speaking about the mind, the brain, and what it means to be human.

Now, I have some good news for those of you who couldn't play hooky this week, couldn't get tickets to the free event, and/or don't actually live anywhere near St. Peter, Minn. You can watch The Nobel Conference online.

Today's lectures will be broadcast on a live feed. You can also submit questions through the site and participate in the Q&A after each lecture. The first speaker is John Donoghue, director of the Institute for Brain Science at Brown University. Starting at 10:00 am, Central, he'll be talking about a topic near and dear to every Happy Mutant's heart: "Merging Mind to Machines: Brain Computer Interfaces to Restore Lost Motor Function."

If, for some reason, you can't start your morning off with healthy dose of cyborgs, all the lectures from Tuesday and today will eventually be archived as online videos. Right now, there's only one lecture available this way—yesterday's morning session on new therapies for autism. I've embedded that video above. But check the Conference's site for other lectures, coming soon!

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Thanks to Lisa Dubbels for pointing this out!

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[Video Link] I'm a huge fan of Tonoharu, Lars Martinson's graphic novel series about an American English teacher who lives in rural Japan (See my reviews: Book 1, Book 2). Here's a funny video he made about it.

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Last week, after a decade of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, President Obama announced a plan to begin withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops from the country this year. The war has been expensive -- a Brown University research project released Wednesday estimates the total cost of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at nearly $4 trillion (a figure that includes the ongoing cost of veterans' care). The human cost is more difficult to quantify, as more than 2,500 coalition troops (1,644 of them American) have now been killed, and civilian casualties are estimated at well over 100,000. Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan will end in July, as troops withdraw from the southern region and hand control over to U.S. forces. Just yesterday, a group of nine Taliban suicide attackers stormed a major hotel in Kabul that was popular with foreigners, killing 21 and raising fears of what may come as foreign troops depart the country. Gathered here are images from the ongoing conflict over the past month, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

Foreign soldiers leave the Intercontinental Hotel at the end of a military operation against Taliban militants who had stormed the hotel in Kabul, on June 29, 2011. Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul sparking a five-hour battle with Afghan commandos backed by a NATO helicopter gunship in an assault that left at least 10 people dead. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)

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