Science Tuesday: Game Theory, Ancient Queens, and the “lonely little cattle rustler” Dinosaur.

Happy Last Day of April, Aledans! This horrible, crappy month is nearly over and it’s almost time to celebrate Trina’s Day! Before we do that, let’s get our weekly fix of science news.

 

Redwood Trees, by Two+two=4 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Redwood Trees, by Two+two=4 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cloning Takes California’s Ancient Redwood Trees Abroad: Archangel has an inventory of several thousand clones in various stages of growth that were taken from more than 70 redwoods and giant sequoias. NASA engineer Steve Craft, who helped arrange for David Milarch to address an agency gathering, said research shows that those species hold much more carbon than other varieties.

The challenge is to find places to put the trees, people to nurture them and money to continue the project, Jared Milarch said. The group is funded through donations and doesn’t charge for its clones.

Could – and Should – Astronauts Have Babies on Mars? Today (April 22), the nonprofit Mars One organization announced its plan to begin selecting astronauts for one-way missions to Mars. These spacefarers would establish the first Martian colony, with subsequent crews arriving every two years. Eventually, those Mars settlers may want to have families — but can they? Doctors say they don’t know whether humans would be able to become pregnant and give birth in the lesser gravity on Mars (it’s got 38 percent of the gravity on Earth), not to mention how babies would fare under the excess radiation outside of Earth’s protective atmosphere.

Forest Conservation Could Reduce Malaria Transmission: No malaria cases have been reported on the mountain range in the past 30 years, but the primary malaria mosquito in the Atlantic Forest, Anopheles cruzii, lives nearby and could introduce the Plasmodium vivax parasite — associated with an estimated 80–300 million cases of malaria worldwide.

Tumors Fall to Radioactive Bacteria: The notion of using bacteria to attack tumors—often by helping to elicit an anti-cancer immune response or delivering a chemotherapeutic agent to cancer cells—is not new, noted Robert Hoffman, a cancer biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the current study. Hoffman’s own research on engineered Salmonella has shown that the bacteria can kill mouse cancer cells, including metastases of pancreatic cancer. And a Listeria strain called CRS-207 that expresses a tumor-associated protein has demonstrated safety and the ability to stimulate an immune response in Phase 1 and 2 trials of cancer patients. But in the new study, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have paired this technique with a radioactive isotope to selectively kill tumor cells, focusing on the metastatic cells that so often elude current treatment regimens.

Oldest Temple in Mexican Valley Hints at Possible Human Sacrifice: The evidence of such sacrifice is far from conclusive, but researchers did uncover a human tooth and part of what may be a human limb bone from a temple room scattered with animal sacrifice remains and obsidian blades. The temple dates back to 300 B.C. or so, when it was in use by the Zapotec civilization of what is now Oaxaca.

66 Ancient Skeletons Found in Indonesian Cave: The cave is known as Harimaru or Tiger Cave, and also contains chicken, dog and pig remains. Thousands of years ago, the Tiger Cave and other limestone caverns nearby were occupied by Indonesia’s first farmers. They used the caves to bury their dead, explaining the 3,000-year-old cemetery unearthed by Simanjuntak’s team. The ancient farmers also manufactured tools in the caves.

Early Flying Dinosaur Included Fish in its Menu of Prey: “We were very fortunate that this Microraptor was found in volcanic ash and its stomach content of fish was easily identified,” paleontology graduate student Scott Persons said.

This isn’t very surprising, but yay for proof.

Gold-Bedecked Skeleton May Have Been Ancient Queen: The excavation team believes she belonged to the Beaker people, a widespread Neolithic culture that gets its name from the shape of the ceramic pots they left behind. Beaker remains have been found across Europe, but few in Britain have been found with gold ornaments and most contain male skeletons, excavators say.

Australia Wasn’t Found By Accident: The results raise new questions, Williams said, including what prompted the gradual increase in population about 11,000 years ago. Given that the founding population would have numbered in the thousands, the results also require a look at what might have motivated an organized exploration and colonization effort 50,000 years ago.

“Was it climatic? Was it cognitive?” Williams said. “It looks less like an accidental discovery.”

Ancient Europeans Mysteriously Vanished 4,500 Years Ago: “What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don’t know why,” said study co-author Alan Cooper, of the University of Adelaide Australian Center for Ancient DNA, in a statement. “Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was.”

Robot Discovers Burial Chambers in Ancient Temple: In 2011, archaeologists using radar technology discovered a long tunnel marked with mysterious symbols deep beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. The tunnel was largely sealed off about 1,800 years ago.

It was expected that the tunnel would end in a burial chamber — but the Tlaloc II robot instead found three chambers. Archaeologists expect that future explorations, by robots or humans, will reveal the burial chambers of some of Teotihuacan’s leaders.

 

Canadian Lynx, by Art G. [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Lynx, by Art G. [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Exotic Cat Prowled English Countryside a Century Ago: A popular theory suggested wild cats appeared in the British countryside after the establishment of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, which forbade the ownership of potentially dangerous wild animals as pets. But the museum specimen lived well before then, records show. It was shot in the Devon countryside in the early 1900s after it killed two dogs. Its remains were donated to the Bristol Museum, which mislabeled the animal in 1903 as a Eurasian lynx, a close relative of the Canadian lynx.

Jupiter Got a Soaking from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9: I remember when the comet hit – amazing that it spread so much water into the atmosphere.

Rare Meteorite Grains May be from Supernova That Sparked Solar System: Two surprising grains of sand in a pair of meteorites that landed on Earth suggest they were formed in a single supernova that occurred billions of years ago, new research suggests. These grains may even come from the same star explosion that sparked the formation of the solar system, scientists say.

Professor Encourages His Students to Cheat in Order to Teach Them Game Theory: In the end, the students learned what social insects like ants and termites have known for hundreds of millions of years. To win at some games, cooperation is better than competition. Unity that arises through a diversity of opinion is stronger than any solitary competitor.

Earth’s Core 1,000 Degrees Hotter Than Expected: A team of scientists has measured the melting point of iron at high precision in a laboratory, and then drew from that result to calculate the temperature at the boundary of Earth’s inner and outer core — now estimated at  6,000 C (about 10,800 F). That’s as hot as the surface of the sun.

Monkeys Conform to Popular Diet: A study of wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) in South Africa provides proof that primates other than humans adopt and conform to cultural behaviors. Given a choice between two foods, infant monkeys ate only the foods that their mothers ate. And young males that ventured to other groups soon switched to the local diet, researchers report online today (April 25) in the journal Science.

Oldest Maya Sun Observatory Hints at Origin of Civilization: A construction date of 1000 B.C. makes the Ceibal structures about 200 years older than those at La Venta, meaning the Olmec’s construction practices couldn’t have inspired the Mayans, the researchers report Thursday (April 25) in the journal Science. Instead, it appears that the entire region underwent a shift around this time, with groups adopting each other’s architecture and rituals, modifying them and inventing new additions.

New Meat-Eating Dinosaur Found: The reptile’s unusual name — which roughly translates to “lonely little cattle rustler” — is derived from the Malagasy language, “rather than the ‘traditional’ (and Eurocentric) Greek or Latin,” paleontologist and project leader Andrew Farke wrote on a PLOS blog.

Best dinosaur name ever? I think so.

~~~~~

That’s it for this week, Aledans. Stop by again next week for your weekly science fix!

If you want to receive the same daily science emails I do, you can sign up for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief here.

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Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

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