Science Tuesday: Badass Snails, A Wormhole in the Milkyway, and Un-cooking an Egg.

Happy Wednesday, Aledan Merfolk! I was so busy working on my new FE short story yesterday that I kept forgetting about Science Tuesday, but there were so many cool science things that happened I couldn’t let it wait until next week. Let’s get to the sciencey goodness!

Oldest gospel ever found may have been hidden within papyrus mummy mask: Papyrus used to make a mummy mask may contain the oldest copy of a gospel ever found, dating back to the first century before the year 90, researchers say. Mummy masks, created for ordinary people, were often made from linen or papyrus that had previously been written on, so researchers used a technique to unglue the masks to reveal the writings. “We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” said Craig Evans, a member of the research team.

Astronomers see live burst of cosmic radio waves for first time: A giant burst of cosmic radio waves has been seen live for the first time by astronomers using the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, giving scientists new clues about what might cause the brief but spectacular events. Data from the Parkes Telescope sighting suggest that the waves are circularly polarized, meaning they vibrate in two planes, a finding that scientists say they are having trouble interpreting. Astronomers want to catch sight of more bursts in the hope of linking them to something specific, like a galaxy or a region of intergalactic space.

Snail stuns fish with toxic spray of insulin before eating them: The geographic cone snail sprays its prey with a toxic cloud that contains insulin, causing the fish’s blood sugar levels to drop and putting them into a stupor, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Once its prey is in a sugar coma, the snail releases a sort of net that drags the fish into its mouth, where it releases another set of toxins to ensure the fish is completely paralyzed. The process helps the slow-moving snail capture its much swifter prey.

Fruit, trees are chimps’ favorite topic of conversation, study suggests: Wild chimpanzees use sophisticated vocalizations to communicate about their favorite fruits and the trees that bear them, according to a study published in Animal Behavior. “Chimpanzees definitely have a very complex communication system that includes a variety of vocalizations, but also facial expressions and gestures,” said Ammie Kalan, leader of the project that listened in on the chimps. Researchers have spent more than 750 hours observing the chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast’s Tai Forest to analyze their food calls.

Scientists get glimpse inside ancient burned scroll with 3D X-ray technique: Researchers have used a 3D X-ray technique sometimes used in breast scans to see the ink left within a fragile, rolled-up scroll burned in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The scroll is part of a classical library in Herculaneum, which was buried in the ancient volcanic blast, and previous efforts to unroll the scrolls and read their contents were abandoned because the unwinding process damaged or destroyed them. To view the raised ink, researchers used X-ray phase-contrast tomography, which shows the letters in relief, a study published in Nature Communications says.

Meteorites may have brought nitrogen to newborn Earth: Just after Earth was formed, meteorites may have brought it nitrogen, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. The isotopic composition of the nitrogen of two meteorites was similar to the gas found in Earth’s atmosphere, researchers found. “This mineral shows us that there was another type of nitrogen in the early solar system billions of years ago, and this molecule was probably responsible for making the building blocks of life and bringing the nitrogen of our atmosphere to Earth,” said Dennis Harries, lead author of the study.

Galactic dust found in ocean sediment offers clues about supernovae: Buried within sediment deep in the ocean are bits of debris from supernovae that have fallen to Earth, giving researchers a glimpse into the galactic explosions with some unexpected results. “We’ve analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected,” said Australian National University’s Anton Wallner, who led the research published in Nature Communications.

Archaeologists surprised to find remains of 15th-century settlement near castle: Researchers excavating the grounds of an Irish castle, hoping to uncover remnants of a lost 17th century town, stumbled upon the remains of an earlier settlement dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. “Up to now, we knew there was a substantial 17th century settlement in the fields around Dunluce. What we are now beginning to uncover are traces of earlier and extensive late medieval settlement activity, which are equally as important as the remains of the 17th century Dunluce Town,” said Northern Ireland’s environment minister, Mark Durkan.

Bones of 5 individuals found in Alexander-era tomb in Greece: The skeletal remains of at least five individuals have been found in a massive tomb in Greece that dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. The tomb has yielded many amazing finds, including a facade with two marble sphinxes, another chamber featuring two large statues of young women and a mosaic of Persephone’s abduction by Hades. According to Greek officials, the bones belong to an older woman, two men, another adult and a newborn child of undetermined gender.

Blood type could determine potential health risks: Several studies found connections between blood type and health issues. One study revealed that those with type A blood have a 5% higher risk for heart disease than those with blood type O, while those with type B blood had an 11% increased risk and type A/B had 23% increased risk. Another study showed that people with type A/B blood are more likely to have cognitive problems, while those with type A blood have a 20% greater chance of getting stomach cancer and those with type O had a higher risk of developing ulcers.

Robot programmed with worm’s neural sensors moves independently: A robot made of Legos was independently controlled by software inspired by a common worm’s nervous system, which responded to outside stimulus with sensors, researchers said. It’s the first breakthrough for the Open Worm Project, which brings together programmers and scientists in an experiment to emulate a worm’s neural wiring within a virtual environment. “We know we have the correct number of neurons, we have them connected together in roughly the same way that the animal has, and they’re organized in the same way in that there are some neurons that give out information and other neurons that receive information,” said Stephen Larson, the project’s coordinator.

A wormhole in the Milky Way is possible, study suggests: If dark matter is taken into consideration, a wormhole could exist at the center of the Milky Way’s dark matter halo, according to a study published in the Annals of Physics. The research team’s conclusions depend on the Navarro-Frenk-White density profile and the Universal Rotation Curve model, two specific scenarios for the behavior of dark matter. “We’re not claiming that our galaxy is definitely a wormhole, but simply that, according to theoretical models, this hypothesis is a possibility,” said Paolo Salucci, one of the study’s authors.

Fishermen catch a rare frilled shark near Australia: A rare frilled shark has been caught by fishermen in Australia. Frilled sharks are among the oldest sharks in existence and are named for the six pairs of ruffled gill slits that adorn the creature, which looks more like an eel than a shark. The species dates back 80 million years.

Dogs, badgers on early Europeans’ menu more than 3,000 years ago: Early Europeans fed on such creatures as dogs, wild cats, foxes and badgers until about 3,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence found in a cave in Spain that dates back between 3,100 and 7,200 years. “This evidence includes cut marks, bone breakage, signs of culinary processing and human tooth marks,” said Patricia Martin of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution.

New island springs up during volcanic eruption near Tonga: An island has sprung up near Tonga, the result of a volcanic eruption that has been going on for a month in the South Pacific Ocean near the archipelago. “It’s quite an exciting sight, you get to see the birth of an island. Visually it was quite spectacular, but there was no big sound coming with it, no boom. It was a bit eerie,” said Nico Fournier, a New Zealand volcanologist who ventured close to the new island Saturday. He noted that the island will likely disappear after a few months once the volcano stops erupting.

Leaky blood vessels may play role in Alzheimer’s, study suggests: The brain’s protective barrier becomes more prone to leaks as a person ages, starting at the hippocampus, which might promote development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study in the journal Neuron that examined images of the brains of 64 people of different ages. “To prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s, we may need to come up with ways to reseal the blood-brain barrier and prevent the brain from being flooded with toxic chemicals in the blood,” said researcher Dr. Berislav Zlokovic.

Tutankhamun’s burial mask damaged by hasty repair: The golden burial mask of pharaoh Tutankhamun was damaged when the blue and gold braided beard was knocked off then glued back on with epoxy, according to officials with the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the artifact is on display. The mask was damaged sometime last year and workers hastily reattached the beard with an inappropriate adhesive, leaving scratch marks and a visible gap between the face and the beard. “The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material,” said a conservator.

Lasers help reveal information about super-Earth, icy planet cores: Scientists blasted a dense form of silica with lasers to simulate the extreme pressures and temperatures found at the cores of super-Earths and icy giants to find clues about what goes on inside them, according to a study published in Science. The results suggest that super-Earth exoplanets may have molten rock at their cores that generate magnetic fields, while the centers of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus have solid, rocky cores. “By looking at matter at high pressures and temperatures, we provide insight to people trying to understand the structure and evolution of planets,” said physicist Marius Millot, lead author of the study.

Water just bounces off metal surface developed by physicists: U.S. physicists have developed a metal surface that repels water so well, droplets just bounce away, according to findings reported in the Journal of Applied Physics. Scientists etched a series of tightly arranged parallel grooves covered in complex nanostructures into the metal using lasers, giving it its remarkable repellent behavior. “The structures created by our laser on the metals are intrinsically part of the material surface,” said Chunlei Guo, the study’s senior author.

Australopithecus’ hands capable of making tools, study suggests: Tool-making may have begun a half million years earlier than previously thought and may not have been exclusive to the genus Homo, according to research published online by Science. The study suggests that Australopithecus africanus had hand characteristics that would have made making tools possible. Researchers at the University of Kent compared hand bones of several different species spanning many millions of years to reach their findings.

Researchers surprised to find fish living underneath ice in Antarctica: Fish and other aquatic creatures have been found living deep beneath thick Antarctic ice, sealed in a small wedge of seawater far from sunlight, according to researchers who didn’t expect to find anything but microbes. Scientists bore a hole into the Ross Ice Shelf, and sent a specialized robot to investigate the depths. “I’ve worked in this area for my whole career. You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life,” said glacial geologist Ross Powell.

Fecal transplant cures Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis in mice: University of Utah researchers have found that fecal transplants appear to reverse autoimmune diseases of the bowel such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease in mice. The transplant of fecal material in mice via a tube into the stomach restored the balance of intestinal flora and normalized the intestines’ function. The study appeared in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.

Quasar’s dimming may mean black hole stopped consuming matter, astronomers say: Scientists have observed the dimming of a quasar, suggesting something’s happened to change the diet of the supermassive black hole at its core, according to research. Black holes power the extremely bright galaxies surrounding them, so the dimming may indicate the black hole has stopped consuming matter, giving astronomers more clues about the life cycles of the mysterious quasars. “This is like a dimmer switch. The power source just went dim. Because the life cycle of a quasar is one of the big unknowns, catching one as it changes, within a human lifetime, is amazing,” said Stephanie LaMassa, one of the researchers.

Researchers find way to slow speed of light: The speed of light may not be as constant as once thought, according to research at the University of Glasgow. Scientists sent a pair of photons toward a detector, putting one through either a Bessel or Gaussian filter, which changed the photon’s shape into the corresponding beam. While it was expected that both beams would arrive at the detector at the same time, the reshaped beam arrived slightly after the unaltered beam.

Researchers hunt for “Don Quixote” author’s remains in Spanish chapel: A team of archaeologists and anthropologists are combing through graves at a small chapel in Madrid, hoping to find the remains of “Don Quixote” author Miguel de Cervantes. Researchers know that Cervantes was buried at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in 1616, but the exact location of his burial site within the grounds is unknown. Scientists have narrowed down the possibilities to three sites in the chapel’s crypt.

Genghis Khan, others have long genetic legacy, study suggests: Mongol ruler Genghis Khan’s genetic legacy is not the only lineage to stretch so far, according to research. Scientists have identified 10 other men who have lineages that reach into today’s population, including Qing Dynasty ruler Giocangga. “Lots of men have lots of sons, by chance. But what normally doesn’t happen is the sons have a high probability of having lots of sons themselves. You have to have a reinforcing effect,” said geneticist Mark Jobling, a study leader.

Study: Jellyfish sense currents, actively swim against them: Ocean currents can be sensed by jellyfish, which then actively swim against it, according to a study published in Current Biology. Researchers have yet to discover exactly how the jellyfish sense the current changes, but they hope the findings will shed light on how and why jellyfish bloom. “With this knowledge of their behavior we can start to have some predictive capability for bloom dynamics,” said Graeme Hays, the lead researcher.

Stem cells may treat severe burns without the need for skin grafts: Researchers at the University of Miami are conducting a study on the use of stem cells as treatment for severe burns. The research will use mesenchymal stem cells collected from the patient’s bone marrow, which will then be injected underneath a thin coating into the wound to regenerate the outer and inner skin layers. The treatment will be administered every two weeks to second-degree burn victims.

Scientists return solid egg whites to clear, liquid state: Researchers have figured out a way to return hard-boiled egg whites to something akin to their original form, according to a study published in ChemBioChem. Scientists at the University of California at Irvine used a vortex fluid device to disentangle the strands of protein that become the solid egg white when boiled. The researchers say that it’s the separation of the tangled proteins that could have wide-ranging applications in such areas as food processing and cancer research.


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Published by

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. Her debut novel, SPEAK THE OCEAN, comes out with Reuts Pub in Fall 2018!

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