Science Tuesday: A Ninja Shark, 3-D Printers, and an Atom in Two Places at Once.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I promised yesterday that Science Tuesday would be back, and so it is! And since Science doesn’t take holidays, there’s a lot to read. Enjoy 🙂

Metal-starved star with orbiting rocky planet discovered: A star with extremely low levels of heavy elements has been discovered with a rocky Neptune-sized planet orbiting it, according to findings set to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. HD175607, spied by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, is a yellowish dwarf located around 147 light-years from Earth, and scientists say it has the least metal of any star of its kind yet found with an orbiting planet. The discovery could mean that there are more Earth-like planets out there, since stars with lower concentrations of metals tend to have rocky, Neptune-sized or smaller planets surrounding them, astronomers say.

Sense of smell linked to TBI, brain diseases: Testing one’s sense of smell may one day be a way of detecting myriad problems in the brain, from traumatic brain injury to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Several studies are underway that link problems with a person’s sense of smell with various conditions and may lead to scratch-and-sniff-type tests that could diagnose problems early.

Global researchers work to create bomb-detecting sensors: Researchers around the world are working to develop sensors that can suss out chemicals used in making bombs, like those used in the recent Paris attacks. The scientists are focusing on triacetone triperoxide, an explosive easily made with chemicals found in hardware stores and pharmacies. Researchers say sensors could one day be more reliable at detecting explosives than bomb-sniffing dogs.

Puff adders can hide their scent from threats: Puff adders can hide their scent from threats, making them virtually invisible, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Scientists used specially trained dogs and meerkats to sniff out puff adders’ scent from a selection of odors presented to them, and while they had no trouble finding other snake-scented cloths, they could not discern those scented with puff adder. How the puff adder can camouflage its scent isn’t yet known, though researchers speculate it has something to do with the snake being an ambush hunter.

Whole-DNA study traces origins of the Irish: Ancient people from the Middle East and what’s now Eastern Europe are the early ancestors of the Irish, according to a whole-genome analysis. Scientists used DNA from a 5,000-year-old woman found near Belfast and a trio of men between 3,000 and 4,000 years old buried on an offshore Irish island. “It is clear that this project has demonstrated what a powerful tool ancient DNA analysis can provide in answering questions which have long perplexed academics regarding the origins of the Irish,” said Eileen Murphy, co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New species of lantern shark has ninja-like qualities: A new species of lanternshark, dubbed the ninja lanternshark, has been discovered in the deep ocean waters off Central America. The bioluminescent creature glows due to photophores, but it has fewer of them than other lanternsharks do and uses them as camouflage. The Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation published the findings.

2,000-year-old Florida cypress may live on through cloning: Preservationists hope to give new life to an ancient Florida cypress by cloning it. Climbers will ascend the 2,000-year-old Lady Liberty cypress in Seminole County’s Big Tree Park to gather new growth to use as fodder for cloning. The nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, which aims to preserve forests with clones of the oldest and largest trees, is behind the project.

Lasers, satellite data show drought’s effect on Calif. trees: Laser-imaging technology combined with satellite data has shown new detail of years of drought on nearly 900 million trees in California. “We’ve never before had this kind of in-depth individual tree-level analysis done in California,” said Ashley Conrad-Saydah of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency. The information could help analyze which areas are most susceptible to wildfires or storm damage.

New video shows Pluto in a rainbow of colors: A NASA video shows Pluto in a rainbow of colors and has helped scientists learn more about the dwarf planet. The video was shot by the New Horizons space probe’s infrared imaging spectrometer, then translated by NASA scientists into the colors. “The discovery of water ice on Pluto was made using the data in this movie,” noted NASA’s Alex Parker.

Syrian architectural prize destroyed by ISIS to rise again thanks to 3D tech: Syria’s 2,000-year-old Arch of the Temple of Bel, recently almost destroyed by ISIS, will get a second life thanks to a giant 3D printer. The 48-foot-by-23-foot reproduction to be displayed next year in London and New York is made possible by 3D camera documentation of at-risk sites in the Middle East carried out by the Institute for Digital Archaeology.

Mystery of disappearing electrons may be solved: A band of invisible meteor dust drifting to Earth may be behind the disappearance of electrons in the high atmosphere that’s had scientists baffled since the 1960s, according to findings presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Electrons are produced high above Earth when the sun’s ultraviolet rays interact with atmospheric nitric oxide, but a big drop has been noted in the amount of electrons about 53 miles, or about 85 kilometers, above the Earth at night. Researchers call this the “D-region ledge” and suggest it’s created when meteor dust absorbs electrons because the sun’s ultraviolet rays aren’t as strong at night.

Jellyfish Nebula and strange pulsar may have come from same supernova: The Jellyfish Nebula and a mysterious pulsar that appears to reside within it may have formed at the same time during an ancient supernova, according to observations made at the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The pulsar, called CXOU J061705.3+222127, appears to exist within the southern region of the nebula, and NASA researchers say the X-ray radiation surrounding it is further indication that it is a pulsar.

Researchers map out western US areas with most plague risk: Small outbreaks of the plague that have been occurring in the western US tend to happen in rainy areas at elevations less than 1.2 miles, or 1.93 kilometers, with a significant deer mice population and boasting a large number of buildings and roads, say researchers mapping the outbreaks. Scientists say two regions appear to have the most outbreaks. One runs from southern Colorado to northern New Mexico and Arizona; the other includes areas of California, western Nevada and southern Oregon. About seven cases of plague occur each year, according to findings published online in PeerJ.

Mathematical probability can determine direction of animals’ stripes: Mathematical probability can define the directionality of an animal’s stripes, according to a new study published in Cell Systems. Researchers built a model that suggests pattern orientation is determined in the womb, depending on how much of one substance or another is produced. “We can describe what happens in stripe formation using this simple mathematical equation, but I don’t think we know the nitty-gritty details of exactly what molecules or cells are mapping the formation of stripes,” said Tom Hiscock, lead study author.

Mirroring pupil size may raise trust level, study suggests: Humans can match their pupil size with others, and that synchronization can influence social decisions, a new study in Psychological Science suggests. Researchers who tracked pupil size in volunteers during an investment game found that participants tended to share their money with partners who mirrored their pupil size.

Blood thinners safe to take before major cancer operation: Researchers followed about 2,000 patients who took blood thinners before major cancer surgery and almost 5,000 patients who did not, and found that a dose of the drug resulted in a decreased risk of blood clots. There was no increase in the risk of major bleeding or blood transfusion, according to the study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Atom ball in 2 places at once to break quantum record: A ball of atoms has set a new quantum record for being in two places at the same time, researchers at Stanford University say. Scientists used lasers to shoot a cloud of rubidium atoms in the same quantum state up a chamber 10 meters, or 32.8 feet, high to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. The atom ball existed in two separate states about 54 centimeters, or about 21 inches, apart for about a second, breaking the old record of about 1 centimeter, or about 0.4 inches, for a quarter of a second.

O.O What?

Bones found in China suggest new species of human lived 10,500 years ago: Bones found in China suggest that humans lived alongside a newly discovered species of archaic human as recently as 10,500 years ago, interbreeding and, possibly, cannibalizing them, researchers say. The femur bone of a hominin found in a cave shows signs of butchering and burning in a fire used to cook meat. DNA testing is necessary to substantiate the claims, but the burning of the bones and the climate have made that difficult for now.

Geographer proposes ancient volcanic landscape helped boost human intelligence: Geographer Michael Medler of Western Washington University recently proposed a theory that ancient humans’ use of heat and fire to cook their food expanded human intelligence, and that volcanic and thermal factors in their environment aided them. For his study, Medler mapped ancient lava flow sites in the African Rift Valley and compared them with the places where ancient hominin fossils have been found in the region. Many were at the edges of the lava flow sites, he noted.

Intelligence, mortality linked in series of studies: A person’s level of intelligence may be related to how long that person will live, say researchers analyzing decades of data. Just why this link exists is unclear, but one study suggested that a person with an average IQ of 100 was less likely to be alive at 76 than someone with an IQ of 115.

Interstellar gas “bones” may help map structure of Milky Way: Slender tendrils of interstellar gas hundreds of light-years long found along the Milky Way’s spiral arms may be “bones” that could help map the structure of the galaxy, according to research published in the Astrophysical Journal. While the bones alone may not be useful, “they provide a way to pin down the locations of spiral arms,” said Catherine Zucker, study co-author. Researchers say their study is a proof of concept and plan to look more closely at the structures.

Endangered white rhino species may be saved by stem cell research: Scientists are hoping to save severely endangered northern white rhinoceroses by creating fertilized rhino embryos using stem cells. There are only three northern white rhinos left in the world, and all have reproductive issues, so researchers hope to collect sperm and egg cells from them and combine them with induced pluripotent stem cells to make fertilized embryos that can be carried by southern white rhinos as surrogates. Researchers face a daunting challenge because no in vitro fertilization of any kind of rhino has ever been successfully completed.

3.2 billion-year-old microbes found in South African tidal sediments: Microbes from 3.2 billion years ago have been found in South African tidal sediments, suggesting that life existed close to the surface then, even though the surface was scorching hot thanks to ultraviolet radiation and no ozone layer. Earth was then much like Mars is now, so researchers say this could mean life could have existed even on the Red Planet’s harsh surface.

Ants’ roles within colony can be changed chemically, study suggests: Researchers changed the caste roles of Florida carpenter ants by giving them chemical compounds to affect their epigenetic makeup, the process that determines which genes are turned off and on, according to findings published in Science. “These are long-term, permanent changes that occur when we inject the brain with these chemicals,” said epigeneticist Shelley Berger, an author of the study. The size difference between the larger guard ants and the smaller foragers wasn’t affected.

New image highlights crack-filled crater near Mars’ north pole: A crater near Mars’ north pole is filled with frosty cracks, which can be seen in a new image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The cracks have been caused by cycles of freezes and thaws occurring over thousands of years.

New technique produces hardy ceramics from 3D printer: Ceramics with complex shapes can be quickly created in 3D printers, thanks to a new method developed by HRL Laboratories researchers. The scientists use a special resin with carbon, oxygen and silicon, and they say the new technique could result in multiple applications, from large jet engine components to small microsensors. “We are at the discovery phase. It will take at least five years for an application to be commercialized,” said Tobias Schaedler, co-author of the study published in Science.

Video shows neurons working in worm’s brain: Neurons in a worm’s brain can be seen lighting up as it moves in a video released by researchers. The neurons can be seen firing in real time as the worm goes about its activities. “By studying how the brain works in a simple animal like the worm … we hope to gain insights into how collections of neurons work that are universal for all brains, even humans,” said Andrew Leifer, author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neurons tied to inability to feel pleasure detected in rats: Researchers have located neurons in a rat’s brain linked to its ability to feel pleasure, according to a study published in Science. When scientists stimulated the medial prefrontal cortex with light, the rats showed signs of anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure linked to depression and schizophrenia. “Experimental elevations in excitability of parts of the prefrontal cortex, as can occur in depression and schizophrenia, control the extent to which major basic rewards and drives are compelling in behavior,” said neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, a study author.

Cancer cells can’t simultaneously invade, multiply: Cancer cells can’t invade other cells and multiply at the same time, a finding that could change how cancer is treated, according to a study published in Developmental Cell. Researchers studying the inner workings of the transparent worm Caenorhabditis elegans found that in order for a cancer to invade cells, those cells have to stop dividing, but the cancer has to stop growing in order to spread to other cells. “Our study suggests that we need to figure out how to target these nondividing cells, too, as these are the ones that are invasive,” said study author David Matus.

Breast cancer drug has potential against other cancers: The oral breast-cancer drug palbociclib, which inhibits the division of tumor cells, may have broader application against other types of cancers when used with other anti-cancer therapies, according to research and a literature review in JAMA Oncology.


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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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