[Photo of agate scrapper by the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History]
Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I’ve been enjoying Dogfish Head Brewery’s Ancient Ales lately, but I don’t think I’d try a 170-year old beer that smelled like goat. Would you? Read below to find out more about that beer, as well as all the other fun science news from the past week!
Bird thought to be extinct found in Myanmar: The Jerdon’s babbler, a bird in Myanmar thought to have been extinct for decades, has turned up in a grassland area of the country near the site of a now-abandoned agricultural research facility. Wildlife Conservation Society researchers were investigating the area when they heard and recorded a distinctive bird call. When they played it back, one of the birds came in response, and over the next few days, more of the birds were discovered in the area.
Artificial spider silk created with genetically altered E. Coli: Scientists have fashioned a material similar to spider silk by splicing spider genes into E. coli. The modified bacteria produce artificial silk that is more elastic than the real thing, but isn’t as strong. The process was described in Advanced Materials.
Multiple views of a supernova seen by astronomers: Astronomers have been able to witness the same supernova multiple times because of light rays from a unique galaxy cluster that allowed the Hubble Space Telescope to see multiple images of the star explosion, according to a description of the event published in Science. The four cosmic images of the supernova are arranged in a pattern known as an Einstein cross, allowing astronomers to see, for the first time, the same event at slightly different moments more than once.
Snowflakes aren’t symmetrical, according to cutting-edge camera: Snowflakes are even more complex than previously thought, according to high-speed 3D images taken by a new camera developed to help improve weather-related travel warnings. Images show that not only are snowflakes different from each other, individual snowflakes aren’t symmetrical, as previously thought. The images will help meteorologists get more precise information about precipitation to make better predictions about road conditions, researchers say.
Researchers use muons to locate melted nuclear fuel at Fukushima plant: A team of scientists, including researchers from Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, conducted an experiment last month at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The team used a method that employed particles called muons to search for nuclear fuel that melted inside the plant’s three reactors during the nuclear accident in 2011. “If we can learn at least whether nuclear fuel remains in the reactor’s inner pressure vessel, that will be an important discovery,” said Fumihiko Takasaki, a professor at the research organization.
Ancient tool found at Ore. dig site raises questions: A tiny stone tool found in the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in Oregon may help determine that the ancient site is the oldest area of human occupation in the American Northwest. The tool, a scraper created from orange agate, dates back about 15,800 years. The tool was found under a layer of volcanic ash, causing some to think it may have come from a higher site, so more study is needed.
Iron Age Celtic prince found buried with chariot in France: An elaborate Iron Age tomb found in northwestern France belongs to a Celtic prince, who was buried with his chariot and other unique artifacts, officials with the National Archaeological Research Institute say. “This exceptional tomb contains unique funerary artifacts, which are fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age,” the institute said in a release. Excavation, which began in October, is schedule to wrap up this month.
Paralyzed stroke patients use robotic gloves to regain hand movement: Scientists at Britain’s University of Hertfordshire have developed robotic gloves fitted with leaf springs and sensors to help paralyzed stroke patients regain hand and arm function. Users play games with the gloves as part of their therapy regimen, and health care providers can monitor their progress remotely. The prototype gloves have been tested on patients and are ready for commercial production, according to the inventors.
Mars Opportunity examines strange rocks as it nears marathon milestone: Some strange rocks have been found by Mars rover Opportunity as it nears Marathon Valley. The rover will examine the rocks more closely before moving on and after NASA scientists have confirmed that a software upgrade is performing as they expect. When Opportunity reaches the valley, it will have traveled the distance equivalent to a marathon in its 11-year journey, giving the valley its name.
Astronomers find new star clusters at edge of Milky Way: New star clusters are taking shape on the edge of the Milky Way, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The find has puzzled scientists because stars usually form near the center of the galaxy, not in its outer edges. Astronomers in Brazil, who made the discovery, speculate that either supernovas hurled dust and gas to the outer edges of the Milky Way, or the material came from outside.
Plane begins global journey on solar power alone: Solar Impulse 2, a plane that flies on solar power alone, took off from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday on what may be a historic journey around the world. The plane plans to stop in Oman, India, Myanmar, China and multiple sites in the U.S., then on to Europe or North Africa before it makes it back to Abu Dhabi sometime in July or August, according to Solar Impulse officials. The global journey is meant to showcase green technology, officials said.
Scientists confirm: 170-year-old beer smells really bad: Scientists in Finland ran several tests on beer discovered in an 1840s shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Among their discoveries? The 170-year-old beer smells “of autolyzed yeast, dimethyl sulfide, Bakelite, burnt rubber, over-ripe cheese, and goat, with phenolic and sulfury notes.”
Spelunkers find Alexander-era coins, jewelry in Israeli cave: Spelunkers exploring a cave in northern Israel found a cache of ancient coins and jewelry dating back to Alexander the Great and leading archaeologists to find further artifacts hidden there. “The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. After the initial discovery, archaeologists found pottery and other items dating back between 3,000 and 6,000 years.
Modern sponges may be descended from tiny, 600M-year-old fossil: A tiny fossil dating back 600 million years may be the ancestor to today’s sponges, according to findings reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eocyathispongia qiania, about the size of the head of a pin, has cells that resemble those of modern sponges, researchers say.
Short-circuit stalls NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity: NASA’s Curiosity rover may have experienced a short circuit in its rock-boring drill arm, causing it to freeze up Feb. 27 after putting some powder it had drilled into its body. “The most likely cause is an intermittent short in the percussion mechanism of the drill. After further analysis to confirm that diagnosis, we will be analyzing how to adjust for that in future drilling,” said Jim Erickson, project manager. Now that NASA scientists think they’ve discovered the problem, they say the Mars rover may have use of its arm again sometime this week.
Heart-on-a-chip helps scientists test cardiac drugs: Bioengineers at the University of California at Berkeley think they are on track to eliminating the need to test new heart medicines on animals, thanks to a new technique that combines human cells with computer chips. The so-called “organ-on-a-chip” could not only speed the time to release of life-saving drugs, but also significantly cut the cost of development, scientists say.
Study indicates ancient historian may be right about establishment of Armenia: The claim of a fifth-century historian — who said he studied ancient Babylonian records to determine that the date of Armenia’s establishment was 2492 B.C. — might be credible thanks to a new study of Armenian genomes. Researchers with the Sanger Institute in the U.K. looked at the genomes of 173 native Armenians and those from Lebanon and found a mixture of populations that came to be between 3000 and 2000 B.C., around the time Movses Khorenatsi said Armenia was established. The findings were posted on bioRxiv last month ahead of a journal publication.
Thousands of 16th-, 17th-century skeletons found at London railroad site: Possibly as many as 3,000 skeletons may be recovered from what was once Bedlam cemetery dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the site of what will soon be London’s Crossrail project. Many of the remains are of people thought to have died during the bubonic plague outbreak that hit London in 1665 as well as from other causes. A team of archaeologists is working to remove remains and artifacts from the site before Crossrail construction can resume.
Dental DNA helps find origins of slaves buried on Caribbean island: A DNA analysis of ancient teeth belonging to a trio of slaves buried on the Caribbean island of St. Martin between 1660 and 1680 have placed the slaves’ origins to specific areas of Africa, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two of the slaves were traced back to what is now Nigeria and Ghana, while the third most likely came from Cameroon, the scientists said. The DNA gave researchers information not available through records.
Cellular crystals help chameleons change colors: Chameleons rapidly switch around crystals within special skin cells to change their colors, according to a study published in Nature Communications. The study looked at panther chameleons and found the crystals inside cells known as iridophores. “They split the iridophores into two layers, one that is specialized for color change … and one to reduce the amount of energy absorbed by the animal,” said Michel Milinkovitch, the study’s senior author.
Scientists target neurons to hack the memories of mice: Researchers at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution in Paris, France, have succeeded in altering the short-term memory of mice by using electrodes to disrupt neurons associated with place recall. In experiments, the researchers were able to artificially induce place memory by stimulating reward centers of the brain in mice as their neurons were responding to real memories of an experimental arena.
Study: Narcissism in children due to excessive parental praise: Narcissism in children may be the result of parents offering a child too much praise, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam followed 565 children ages 7 to 12 for 18 months and found a small link between growing narcissistic behavior and the amount of praise a parent bestowed, suggesting that older theories about negative parenting causing the behavior may be incorrect.
Evidence of hydrothermal activity found on Enceladus: Scientists have found the first evidence of hydrothermal activity outside of earth on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s icy moons, raising the chance for alien life to be found, according to a study published in Nature. Using data collected over the past 10 years by the Cassini space probe, scientists believe the plumes of dust released by the vapor spewing from Enceladus is silica, which could only have formed under specific circumstances, indicated the presence of hydrothermal activity. “Unless there is something really bizarre happening, we think our interpretation is solid,” said Sean Hsu, an author of the study.
Report raises risk of massive Calif. quake in the next 30 years to 7%: The chance of a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher striking California within the next 30 years has increased to 7%, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the report’s lead author Ned Field.
Study suggests 1610 is the best start date of the Anthropocene epoch: A push to set the date for the beginning of the new geologic epoch, named for mankind’s influence on Earth, is gaining steam. A group of researchers suggests the Anthropocene epoch began in 1610, when Europeans arrived in the Americas, according to a study published in Nature. “We look for these golden spikes — a real point in time when you can show in a record when the whole Earth has changed,” said study co-author Mark Maslin.
Eagle talons were used as adornments by Neanderthals, study suggests: Neanderthals used eagle talons as jewelry, a study published in PLOS ONE suggests. Talons dating back 130,000 years were found in Croatia more than 100 years ago, and an analysis has found marks on them that indicate they were used as ornamentation.
Blue blood pigment helps Antarctic octopus handle wide temperature changes: Antarctic octopi have blue pigments in their blood that helps them deal with freezing water as well as temperature fluctuations caused by climate change, a study published in Frontiers in Zoology reports. “This is the first study providing clear evidence that the octopods’ blue blood pigment, haemocyanin, undergoes functional changes to improve the supply of oxygen to tissue at sub-zero temperatures,” said Michael Oellermann, lead author of the study.
Clones of ancient trees helping to revitalize world’s forests: A program that clones ancient trees is using its saplings to revitalize forests throughout the U.S. and other countries. The nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Michigan uses tissue samples from venerable trees around the world to create trees that are genetically identical to the original. So far, more than 150 species of trees have been preserved by the cloning process, officials say.
Scientists create self-powering data device that gets its energy from birds in flight: Researchers at Northern Arizona University have created a prototype for a device used for collecting data on birds and other flying animals that relies on the animals themselves for power. The bio-logging device, which is mounted on the animal’s back, harnesses energy from the piezoelectric power generated by the animal’s flapping wings. “As long as the animal is in motion, we can generate power from their movement,” said graduate researcher Ryan Shipley.
Star ring at edge of Milky Way may actually be part of galaxy: A ring of stars surrounding the Milky Way may, in reality, be part of it, increasing the galaxy’s size by 50%, according to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal. Researchers examined the edge of the galaxy using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. “It looks to me like maybe these patterns are following the spiral structure of the Milky Way, so they may be related,” said study co-author Heidi Newberg.
NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission heads into space: NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night. Four spacecraft detached from the Atlas rocket and will align themselves in the form of a pyramid to study magnetic explosions caused by high-speed particles from the sun hitting Earth’s magnetic field.
Subsurface ocean on Ganymede detected by Hubble: The Hubble Space Telescope has provided evidence that a subsurface ocean exists on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Scientists used data collected by Hubble about Ganymede’s aurora belts that are controlled by the moon’s magnetic fields to construct computer models that would explain the phenomenon. Only a huge subsurface, salt-water ocean could create that scenario, researchers say.
Researchers hope marine database cuts back on redundant identification of species: Many marine species thought to be new really aren’t, and researchers with the World Register of Marine Species, or WoRMS, are compiling a database to help mitigate the misidentifications. So far, WoRMS has found 190,400 species that have been misidentified as new since 2008.
Ideas about hibernation challenged by warm dormant bats: Two species of bats have been found hibernating in caves considered too warm for the practice, a find that challenges long-held assumptions about hibernation. Not only do the two species of mouse-tailed bats hibernate in the warm climes of Israel’s Great Rift Valley caves, they are doing so with warm body temperatures, researchers say. “These bats exhibited dramatic metabolic depression at warm body temperatures in the hottest caves in the desert,” said Noga Kronfeld-Schor, co-author of a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
Study: Onion extract helps reduce blood glucose levels: Research presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society found that onion bulb extract combined with metformin significantly reduced blood glucose and cholesterol levels. “Onion is cheap and available and has been used as a nutritional supplement. It has the potential for use in treating patients with diabetes,” said lead scientist Anthony Ojieh.
Ring indicates early encounters between Viking, Islamic civilizations: A ring found in the grave of a ninth-century woman at the site of a Viking trading center called Birka in what is now Sweden is evidence of contact between Vikings and an ancient Islamic civilization. The ring was first found in the 1800s and an Arabic inscription reads “for Allah” or “to Allah,” according to research published in Scanning. Researchers studied the ring with a scanning electron microscope and found that what was once thought to be amethyst is actually colored glass, an exotic item when the ring was made.
Receipt demonstrates ancient Egyptians’ heavy tax burden: An ancient receipt written on a piece of pottery is evidence of the heavy taxes levied on Egyptians, and in this case heavy is literal. The receipt calls for a total tax payment of 90 talents, a currency unit at the time, and was paid for in coins, weighing approximately 220 pounds, or about 100 kilograms, according to researchers translating several ancient texts at Montreal’s McGill University Library and Archives. The findings are set to be published in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.
Micronesian coral burial pyramids older than once thought, study suggests: Ancient burial pyramids made of living coral in Micronesia may be older than once believed, according to a study published in Science Advances. “The results of this study lend support to oral histories and other archaeological work on Kosrae suggesting an earlier construction, occupation and use of Leluh,” said coral expert and lead study author Zoe Richards. Uranium-thorium dating suggests that the pyramids might have been built in the 1300s.
Super-thin, flexible material changes colors on demand: University of California at Berkeley engineers have developed an extremely thin and flexible material that can change colors on a whim. “This is the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it,” said research team member Connie Chang-Hasnain. The material is described in a paper published in Optica.
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