Welcome to Science Tuesday, giving you your weekly science news fix since…last month 😉 We have a lot to cover today, so let’s get to it!
Old Faithful’s Underground Cavern Discovered: Tiny tremors extracted from seismic records collected in the 1990s revealed the shape of the cavern and geyser conduit. Popping gas bubbles create the tremors. Not only do the tremors map the shape of underground spaces, they can also track water. For the first time, scientists have a clear view of how Old Faithful works underground.
New Species of Porcupine that Lives in Trees Discovered in Brazil: It was discovered in the Brazilian Atlantic forest, which is a location known for its biodiversity and is considered to be the fourth most important hotspot for species on the entire planet.
Red Wood Ants Sense Earthquakes Before They Strike: During the day, ants busily went about their daily activity, and at night the colony rested inside the mound, mirroring human diurnal patterns, Berberich said at a news conference today. But before an earthquake, the ants were awake throughout the night, outside their mound, vulnerable to predators, the researchers found. Normal ant behavior didn’t resume until a day after the earthquake, Berberich said.
Mysterious Sundial May Be Secret to Viking Navigation: The team found that at noon every day, when the sun is highest in the sky, a dial in the center of the compass would have cast a shadow between two lines on the plate. The ancient seafarers could have measured the length of that noon shadow using scaling lines on the dial, and then determined the latitude.
This goes along with the Sunstone article from the first Science Tuesday.
Paralyzed Monkey Controls Arm Via Brain: Even after a spinal cord injury or stroke, the nervous system wiring above and below the injury can remain intact. With that in mind, researchers created an artificial electrical connection between the injured monkey’s brain and an area below the damaged part of its spinal cord. This allowed the animal to send neural signals to its spinal cord to engage its arm muscles.
Lab-Engineered Kidney Works in Animals: “If this technology can be scaled to human-sized grafts, patients suffering from renal failure who are currently waiting for donor kidneys, or who are not transplant candidates, could theoretically receive new organs derived from their own cells,” said study researcher Dr. Harald Ott, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine. Building kidneys using this technique could the risk that the organ would be rejected, he said.
Laura was on top of this one and posted it as a reply to last week’s science news blog. If you’re on top of the science news that I missed, please leave me a link!
Historic Marine Mammal Protection Act Worked: More than 40 years later, a new report shows that the law has been effective: It not only prevented extinctions that seemed imminent, but also helped some species bounce back in strong numbers, researchers say.
Florida Battles Slimy Invasion by Giant Snails: A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs a year and the creatures are a particular pest in homes because of their fondness for stucco, devoured for the calcium content they need for their shells.
It was noted on Twitter by @MarkHaggan that this snail is particularly tasty itself. So get thee to Florida and start feasting!
Beer’s Taste, Sans Alcoholic Effect, Triggers Dopamine in Brain: The findings, published online Monday in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, “demonstrate for the first time the important role of an alcoholic drink’s flavor, absent alcohol’s pharmacological effects,” the study authors wrote.
This effect persisted even though many of the participants actually said that the Gatorade tasted better than the beer.
Cheers to that!
Egypt Discovers Ancient Port and Writings: Ibrahim said the port was used to transfer copper from Sinai to the Nile valley.
The team working in the Suez archaeological area also discovered hieroglyphic papyri, considered the oldest found in Egypt.
2,000-Year-Old Ritual Bath Found in Jerusalem: “It is interesting to note that the bath conforms to all of the laws of kashrut (the set of Jewish dietary laws), like collecting the water in it naturally without human contact, and ensuring that the water does not seep into the earth, which is why the bath was treated with a special kind of plaster,” the archaeologist added.
The Real ‘Hobbit’ Had Larger Brain Than Thought: Past studies had argued the hobbit could not have evolved from Homo erectus, which typically had a brain about 1,000 cubic centimeters (61 cubic inches) in size, because it would have suggested Homo erectus shrunk an unreasonable degree over time. However, it turned out Javanese specimens of Homo erectus had brains about 860 cubic cm (52 cubic inches) large, and combined with the newfound increased size of the hobbit’s brain, the researchers say it now seems possible that Homo erectus may be the ancestor of Homo floresiensis.
Possible Tomb of Chinese Tyrant Uncovered: Emperor Yang, also known as Yang Guang, is remembered as a fearsome and decadent tyrant. During his rule from 606 until his death at the hands of rebels in 618, he forced millions of laborers to take part in ambitious construction projects, such as building royal palaces, completing of the Grand Canal and reconstructing of the Great Wall. Emperor Yang also launched costly military campaigns, including a failed conquest of Goguryeo, an ancient kingdom of Korea, which eventually led to the collapse of the Sui Dynasty.
Two Strange Moth Species Discovered in Russia: The moths may have gone undiscovered for so long because they are difficult to collect; unlike most moths, they don’t usually fly toward lights, a common method of capturing insects for identification, according to the study, published recently in the journal ZooKeys.
Bees Age Faster When They Raise Offspring: Researchers have found that nurturing the hive’s progeny accelerates aging in the insects.
Well, that’s the final nail in the kiddie-coffin. I’m never reproducing 😉
Ants Use Math to Find Fastest Route: En route to their roach banquet, the ants did not follow the most direct travel path, the study found. Rather, they followed an angled path, traveling over more of the smoother material in order to reach the food morsels in the shortest amount of time. The findings demonstrate that Fermat’s principle of light travel also applies to living creatures, the researchers conclude.
Fish’s DNA May Explain How Fins Turned Into Feet: Another helpful preadaptation is a snippet of DNA that enhances the activity of the genes that drive the formation of limbs in the embryo. The Amemiya team focused on the enhancer DNA sequence because it occurred in the coelacanth and animals but not in ordinary fish. They then inserted the coelacanth enhancer DNA into mice.
“It lit up right away and made an almost normal limb,” said Neil Shubin, meaning that the coelacanth gene enhancer successfully encouraged the mouse genes to make a limb.
They used fish DNA to make a mouse GROW LIMBS. Science doesn’t really get much cooler than that.
Bacteria on Dog Lover’s Skin Reveal Their Affection: Yay! I’m a cesspool of dog germs!
Babies Have Consciousness: “Our study suggests that babies are much more conscious than we believed before, and they’re probably much more conscious of pain when they experience [it],” Kouider said. Researchers might also be able to detect abnormalities in conscious experience before babies learn to talk, he added, perhaps leading to earlier diagnoses of disorders such as autism.
Solar Cell Could Dramatically Improve Energy Harvest: For every photon (or particle of light) that hits a solar cell, the coating — called pentacene — doubles the number of electrons, and energy, that can be harvested, at least with high-energy blue or green wavelengths of light.
Sustainable Intensification ‘Can Work For African Farmers’: Majele Sibanda cites the water pockets technique known as zai, pioneered by farmers in Burkina Faso, as an example of a traditional practice recognised by modern science. Farmers dig holes — or zais — across the fields during the dry season, and fill them with manure to attract termites. The termites then create an extensive network of underground tunnels beneath the holes and bring up nutrients from the deeper soils.
Rainwater is captured in the zais, and water loss through drainage is limited by the manure. Thus even in drought-prone environments, sufficient water capture to sustain crop yields is ensured.
In the northeast of Burkina Faso, where the zai technique has been practised since the early 1980s, grain yield has increased by 120 per cent, equating to around 80,000 tonnes of extra grain per year.
Two Promising Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years from Earth: Nobody will probably ever know if anything lives on these planets, and the odds are that humans will travel there only in their faster-than-light dreams, but the news has sent astronomers into heavenly raptures. William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center, head of the Kepler project, described one of the new worlds as the best site for Life Out There yet found in Kepler’s four-years-and-counting search for other Earths. He treated his team to pizza and beer on his own dime to celebrate the find (this being the age of sequestration). “It’s a big deal,” he said.
Antarctic Freeze Paved the Way for Baleen Whales: Up until around 34 million years ago, Antarctica was warm and lushly forested. Then, within just 200,000 years, glaciers formed and spread over the entire continent creating a vast frozen wasteland.
Dinos Sat on Nests Like Birds, Shells Reveal: They found that porosity varied across the dino eggshell, suggesting the dinosaur laid its eggs almost vertically in sand or mud, but didn’t bury the eggs completely. The adult would have had direct contact with the upper portions of these partially buried eggs, Varricchio said.
Roman-Era ‘Costmetics’ May Have Treated Eye Chlamydia: For now, this interpretation is just a guess. So far, no one has been able to unearth a cosmetics grinder with testable material still clinging to it. If archaeologists were to find something like that, they might be able to determine what, exactly, Roman-era Britons were grinding up. A discovery like that, or of a newly translated text referring to the objects, could strengthen the trachoma theory.
Russia Launches Animals Into Space on One-Month Journey: One of the NASA experiments focuses on how microgravity and radiation affect sperm motility in mice. If humans are going to visit other planets on long flights, Rayl said, it’s important to understand if people will be able to procreate from sex in space. Some missions could take decades, so space-based reproduction could be a necessity.
Moscow Subway’s Stray Dogs: Each morning, like clockwork, they board the subway, off to begin their daily routine amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
But these aren’t just any daily commuters. These are stray dogs who live in the outskirts of Moscow Russia and commute on the underground trains to and from the city centre in search of food scraps.
Then after a hard day scavenging and begging on the streets, they hop back on the train and return to the suburbs where they spend the night.
Dogs have learned to use the subway!
That was a LOT of science-y goodness for one week! Here’s to hoping science continues to rock it.
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