Happy Wednesday, Aledan Merfolk! Yesterday was busy busy, so this week’s science news post is a day late, but as you can tell from the title of the post, it’s well worth the wait 😉 Let’s get right to it, because I know you’re curious…
Moon may hold evidence of how life started on Earth, study suggests: Evidence of how life began on Earth may be hidden on the moon, encased in what was once lava, according to scientists at Imperial College London. They suggest that organic compounds on asteroids or comets may have hit early Earth as well as the moon, which was covered in lava more than 3 billion years ago, and became preserved there. “Evidence of prebiotic evolution on asteroids and comets or the emergence of life on Earth and Mars could all be preserved. It is an ironic possibility that one of the best places to look for records of early life is our dry and lifeless moon,” said Mark Sephton, an author of the study published in Astrobiology.
Study: Gravitational waves could make entry into a black hole a bumpy ride: Gravitational waves could create turbulence for things approaching a black hole, according to a study that will be published in Physical Review Letters. If a black hole spins fast enough, it could create turbulence by emitting long-duration bursts of gravitational waves, scientists mathematically calculated.
INTERSTELLAR did it right! (I loved that movie, btw)
Two Eagles balloon lands near Baja after record-breaking flight: A pair of balloonists have successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean, landing Saturday just off the coast of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. The helium-filled Two Eagles balloon lifted off Jan. 25 from Saga, Japan, carrying pilots Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, N.M., and Leonid Tiukhtyae of Moscow, 6,646 miles, or 10,696 kilometers. The journey unofficially broke records for distance and duration, 160 hours and 37 minutes. The records are pending review by international regulating organization Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
Researchers create transistor with silicene: A modest transistor made with silicene, an atom-thin sheet of silicon, has the semiconductor industry buzzing. Silicene didn’t exist seven years ago, but researchers, encouraged by the development of graphene, or carbon the thickness of a single atom, have been working on silicene, which could be revolutionary in achieving miniaturization. “Nobody could have expected that in such a short time, something that didn’t exist could make a transistor,” said Guy Le Lay, one of the first researchers to create silicene in a lab, but who was not involved in the creation of the transistor.
Pair of bronze statues may have been sculpted by Michelangelo: Two bronze sculptures depicting nude men riding panthers may be the last surviving bronzes by Michelangelo, according to researchers. The figures are 3.3 feet, or 1 meter, tall, and were in obscurity for over a century before researchers linked them to Michelangelo, though that link is yet to be confirmed. The sculptures are on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge until August, and final conclusions about them will be disclosed in July.
These are way cool looking. Two naked dudes riding panthers? MEOW!
Birds share the burden of leadership when flying in a “V,” study finds: Birds take turns leading the flock as they travel in a “V” formation, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists from Austria, the U.K. and Germany studied the flight of the northern bald ibis, noting that each bird took a turn at the energy-depleting lead spot, allowing other birds to use the extra lift provided by the leader.
Hubble could keep working through 2020: The already long-lived Hubble Space Telescope may last though 2020 or longer, according to scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute. “We’re conducting what we’re calling the ‘2020 vision’ for Hubble, and that is to make sure that the observatory is ready to run for at least five or six years to get at least a year of overlap with James Webb, if not more,” said the institute’s Kenneth Sembach at the American Astronomical Society meeting. The plan is for Hubble to overlap with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to launch in 2018, and possibly give scientists two perspectives on a target.
Ancient text found to be “Gospel of the Lots of Mary”: An ancient text written in Coptic is “The Gospel of the Lots of Mary,” according to scientist who deciphered the 1,500-year-old tome. It isn’t a gospel in the traditional sense, but contains 37 vaguely written oracles and was likely intended to be used for divination, said Princeton professor Anne Marie Luijendijk, who deciphered the writings.
Study: Gold may have formed during Earth’s early days with help of microbes: Microbes may have played a key role in the formation of gold in the early days of Earth, before oxygen became prevalent, according to research. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Christoph Heinrich suggests that volcanic rain first dissolved the gold, which was then washed into river basins where mats of microbes precipitated it out into what is now the Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa. “We don’t know if the gold precipitated out during life or after they died, but basic chemistry tells us that organic life reduces gold chemically from the ionic to the elemental form,” he said.
Atlantic, Pacific fish may mix as Arctic waters warm up, study says: Fish and other sea creatures may move into new territory as temperatures rise in the Arctic Ocean, according to research published in Nature Climate Change. There is no physical barrier between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but the temperature of the Arctic has kept creatures in their own space, but researchers say that barrier may be lifted by the end of the century, allowing dozens of fish species to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and vice versa. Researchers at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland studied 515 fish species to see how they would respond to changes in climate.
Ancient bull-sized rodent had huge tusklike teeth, study finds: A bull-sized ancient rodent, the largest ever discovered, had large, tusklike incisors that it used for more than just eating, according to a study published in the Journal of Anatomy. “We concluded that Josephoartigasia must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators,” said anatomist Philip Cox, first author of the study. Researchers created a computer model using a CT scan of the rodent’s skull to get a better idea of how its jaws worked.
Humans can detect magnetism with light, flexible sensor, researchers say: An extremely light and flexible sensor that allows humans to detect magnetic fields has been developed by scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research, the Chemnitz University of Technology, the University of Tokyo and Osaka University. “[The sensors] are … imperceptible magneto-sensitive skin that enables proximity detection, navigation and touchless control,” according to the report published in Nature. “These ultra-thin magnetic field sensors readily conform to ubiquitous objects including human skin and offer a new sense for soft robotics, safety and healthcare monitoring, consumer electronics and electronic skin devices.”
NASA displays photos of Pluto taken by New Horizons probe: NASA has released photos of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, taken by its New Horizons spacecraft, the first taken as the probe approaches the dwarf planet. NASA released the photos Wednesday to celebrate the birthday of Clyde Tombaugh, the late American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930. New Horizons will fly by Pluto in mid-July, giving astronomers the closest view ever of the dwarf planet.
Dynamite blast reveals channel of molten rock beneath Earth’s surface: A channel of molten rock has been found deep beneath the Earth’s surface by scientists using sound waves from dynamite explosions deep underground. The finding may help scientists learn more about the mechanics of plate tectonics, said geologist Tim Stern, co-author of the study published in Nature. “We think it’s a sort of lubricant that allows plate tectonics to work,” he said.
Fossilized teeth put monkeys in South America 36 million years ago: Fossilized teeth have helped scientists determine that monkeys lived in South America as far back as 36 million years ago, but how the monkeys got from Africa to South America remains a mystery. Researchers say the four molars found in eastern Peru belonged to Perupithecus ucayaliensis, which greatly resembled fossils of the ancient monkeys of Africa. “The primary hypothesis is that they floated on a raft of vegetation, but that is still a big question,” said Ken Campbell of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which led the study that was published in Nature.
Cockroaches have individual personalities, study suggests: Individual cockroaches have personalities, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “Shy individuals are those that spend more time sheltered and explore less the arena or the surroundings. Instead, bold individuals are those that spend most part of the time exploring the surroundings and spend less time sheltered,” said researcher Isaac Planas Sitja. Scientists believe the personalities help the cockroaches improve their chances for survival in the face of disaster.
So basically you’re only killing the bold cockroaches when you squish them. The shy ones are still hiding and breeding.
Coral reefs thriving near Cuba: Coral reefs near Cuba are flourishing as other reefs around the world struggle to survive, and scientists say it’s because of the country’s environmental laws and the benefits of organic farming. “After the Soviets pulled out [in 1991], Cuba couldn’t afford fertilizers and pesticides, so they were essentially forced into organic farming — and that’s had a beneficial effect on corals,” said marine scientist David Guggenheim.
I can’t wait to visit Cuba. Good food AND good snorkeling? Sign me up.
Chimps adopt new calls when moved to new groups, study finds: Chimps who move into a new group change their calls to match those of their new friends, as humans do to match local terminology after a move, according to a study published in Current Biology. University of Zurich researchers studied a group of seven chimps moved from a safari park in the Netherlands to live with six chimps in Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo and found that over three years, the Dutch chimps started using the Scottish chimps’ calls for the word “apple.” “We showed that, through social learning, the chimps could change their vocalizations,” said Simon Townsend, the study’s co-author.
Remains of ancient dog are really those of wolf, researchers find: Remains once believed to belong to one of the oldest dogs, dating back 31,680 years, instead belong to a wolf, calling into question when the domestication of the dog occurred, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. “Previous research has claimed that dogs emerged in the Paleolithic [era] but this claim is based on inaccurate analyses. We reanalyzed some of the fossil canids from the Paleolithic and show that they are, in fact, wolves,” said Abby Grace Drake, the study’s lead author. Drake and her colleagues say dog domestication likely occurred later, during the Neolithic era.
Scientists find a new evolutionary model in bedbugs: Bedbugs may be a good model to study how a species evolves, according to a study in Molecular Ecology. After nearly vanishing in the 1940s due to the use of DDT, the insects have come back strong with a resistance to pesticides, and that resilience has piqued some researchers’ interest. “For something that is so hated by so many people, it might just be a perfect model organism for evolutionary questions,” said study co-author Warren Booth, a University of Tulsa biologist.
Um, yay bedbugs?
Study: Sea slug can use photosynthesis for nutrition by taking gene from algae: The emerald sea slug steals a gene from the algae it eats, allowing it to get nourishment from photosynthesis, according to a study published in the Biological Bulletin. “There is no way on Earth that genes from an alga should work inside an animal cell. And yet here, they do. They allow the animal to rely on sunshine for its nutrition. So if something happens to their food source, they have a way of not starving to death until they find more algae to eat,” said Sidney Pierce, co-author of the study.
3 of Jupiter’s moons seen crossing the planet in Hubble photos: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has caught images of Jupiter as three of its largest moons passed across the planet’s surface. Hubble snapped the shots in quick succession to capture the relatively rare event, which occurs only once or twice a decade. The moons seen in the photos are Europa, Callisto and Io.
Stem cells heal brain damage from radiation in mice, study finds: Transplanting stem cells that can transform into oligodendrocytes appears to repair and replace the ones damaged by radiation therapy, according to a study reported in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Damaged cells that mature into oligodendrocytes, which covers nerve cells, become incapable of transmitting information, leading to some memory and brain problems. Mice injected with new cells in the forebrain exhibited better object recognition while mice injected in the cerebellum showed improved motor control after 10 weeks, compared with untreated rats.
Tides, ice ages may encourage seafloor volcanic eruptions, study finds: The eruptions of volcanoes on mid-ocean ridges are linked to tides and may be also linked to ice ages, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists looked at seismic records of 10 eruptions and found that they occurred every two weeks near neap tide, noting that the amount of seawater above the volcanoes was slight lower, reducing the weight on them and prompted small temblors. Researchers also looked at the cycle of ice ages, which lower the sea levels, tying them to increased eruptions.
Book takes close look at whales, dolphins’ social lives: Whales and dolphins have complex social lives and behaviors, according to the book “The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins.” “There is no way even the most outlandish scenarios can explain this pattern with genetics alone,” authors Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell write.
And now I have a new book for my TBR pile.
Impact of invasive species on Great Lakes assessed: Researchers have assessed the future impact of invasive species on the Great Lakes basin, depending on how stringently measures are undertaken to curb their arrival. Researchers put forth pessimistic, status quo and optimistic scenarios to show the various impacts, including a scenario in which the U.S. and Canada work together to minimize invasive-species risks. “In addition to harmonized regulations on live trade, the two countries must coordinate early detection and rapid response to new threats — before an invasion has progressed beyond control,” said biologist Anthony Ricciardi, who supervised the study published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.
National Weather Service studies murky rain that fell on Wash., Ore., Idaho: The National Weather Service is investigating reports of rain described as milky-colored, dusty or dirty that fell in Washington, Oregon and Idaho on Friday. Among the possibilities being considered are recent volcanic eruptions in Russia and Mexico. Scientists have collected samples of the strange rainfall to confirm what caused the murkiness.
Scientists find anatomical link among psychiatric disorders: A study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia originate from the same regions in the brain. An analysis of 7,381 patients and 8,511 controls who underwent voxel-based morphometry revealed that gray matter loss occurred in the dorsal anterior cingulate and the right and left insula. These structures form a network associated with executive functioning, which is implicated across a range of psychiatric disorders.
Why some corals are more colorful than others: Research at the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton lets coral colours appear in a new light: as sunscreening pigments that help explain how corals adapt to environmental stress. The findings are published in the journal Molecular Ecology.
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