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04/26/2017
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New Mysteries Revealed at Teotihuacan

Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

For decades, the hunt for a royal tomb at the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacn has gripped archaeologists trying to unravel the secrets of the kingdom’s extraordinary political power.It is a mystery investigators thought they were on the verge of solving in 2015, when large quantities of liquid mercury were found amid a treasure trove of precious artefacts in a secret tunnel.

America’s Eight Weirdest Food Recalls

Megan Thielking, Stat

Some people are getting a breakfast that’s not par for the course: golf balls in their breakfast scrambles. Manufacturer McCain Foods USA has recalled bags of frozen hash browns that might be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials. The hash browns were sold under the Roundy’s and Harris Teeter brands.

How Cells’ Trash Collectors Control Genes

Esther Landhuis, Quanta Magazine

At a conference in Maine during the summer of 2008, the biochemist David Sabatini stood before an audience of his peers, prepared to dazzle them with a preview of unpublished results emerging from his lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The presentation did not go over well.

Is the Tasmanian Tiger Really Extinct?

James MacDonald, JSTOR Daily

In the generally accepted story, the last thylacine, a marsupial carnivore from Australia, died in captivity in 1930’s. The species was officially declared extinct in the 1980’s.Not everyone, however, is convinced. Unconfirmed sightings and rumors have persisted for decades.

How Statistics Should Shape the Courtroom

Daniel J. Denis, The Conversation

The probabilistic revolution first kicked off in the 1600s, when gamblers realized that estimating the likelihood of an event could give them an edge in games of chance.Today, statistics has become the dominant way to communicate scientific findings. But courts can be hesitant to incorporate statistical evidence into decisions. Indeed, they have historically been antagonistic toward probabilities and are loath to be swindled by slippery statistics.

Better Nuclear Power Through Ping Pong

Dan Dubno, Popular Mechanics

The lab is deep-space quiet. A long, narrow hallway hung with fluorescent lights extends to my left. Four or five doors interrupt the flow of drywall. A few of those doors are open, the occupants of the rooms within now out in the hall and staring, ears plugged in anticipation.

The Loophole in the Hedonic Treadmill

Jeanette Bicknell, Nautilus

When Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, in The House of the Dead, that Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, he was talking about the cruelties and deprivations of life in Siberian prison camp. But the human tendency to adapt or get accustomed to situations is more profound than even Dostoyevsky may have realized.Imagine a person who, after years of drinking bland, watery beer from a mass-market brewery, finally tastes a really good craft beer. At first she notices the intensity of the flavor. A few more sips and she comes to appreciate the beer’s complexity and the…

Common Drugs May Take Edge Off Dementia

Beth Mole, Ars Tech

Tried, true, and FDA-approved drugs for cancer and depressionalready in medicine cabinetsmay also be long-sought treatments for devastating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other forms of dementia, according to a new study in Brain, a Journal of Neurology.The research is still in early stages; it only involved mouse and cell experiments, which are frequently not predictive of how things will go in humans. Nevertheless, the preliminary findings are strong, and scientists are optimistic that the drugs could one day help patients with progressive brain disease….

How Did Complex Life Reach the Galapagos Islands?

Ethan Siegel, SWaB!

One glance at the Galapagos Islands, and you’re sure to have your breath taken away. Giant tortoises, flightless birds, marine iguanas, and dandelions the size of trees are among the many incredible living beings you’ll find, unique to this string of islands. The fact that seeds were blown here by the wind, that eggs and creatures either flew, swam, or drifted here, and that ocean life followed the currents to the waters of the Galapagos is the easy part to envision. What’s difficult is to picture how these volcanic islands came to be hospitable to such a diversity of creatures. Thanks to…

Getting a Leg up on the New Canine Family Tree

Erin Ross, Nature News

A new family tree of dogs containing more than 160 breeds reveals the hidden history of man’s best friend, and even shows how studying canine genomes might help with research into human disease.In a study published on 25 April in Cell Reports, scientists examined the genomes of 1,346 dogs to create one of the most diverse maps produced so far tracing the relationship between breeds1. The map shows the types of dog that people crossed to create modern breeds and reveals that canines bred to perform similar functions, such as working and herding dogs, don’t necessarily share the same origins….

Old Stars Learn New Tricks

Alan Duffy, Cosmos Magazine

When textbooks are proven wrong, we scientists can’t help but celebrate. So let’s raise a glass to the white dwarf!We have always dismissed these aged fellows as defunct relics of a sun-sized star. Now one has surprised us. Instead of going off gently into that good night, it is zapping the universe with a spinning beam of radiation. For astrophysicists like me, this is like hearing a retired centenarian has entered the world heavyweight boxing championships and is punching with the best of them.This unexpected behavior was reported in a January issue of Nature Astronomy by David Buckley at…

Mosquito Wingbeats May Aid Fight Against Malaria

Daniel Gross, Mosaic

It’s a warm summer afternoon in the Tanzanian village of Lupiro, and Mikkel Brydegaard is crouching in a brick hut, trying to fix a broken laser. Next to him, on a tall tripod, three telescopes point through a window at a tree in the distance. A laptop rests on an upturned box, waiting to receive a signal.With a working laser, this system is known as lidar like radar, Brydegaard tells me, but using a laser instead of radio waves. The setup is supposed to gather precise data about the movement of malaria mosquitoes. But as the sun starts to set outside, Brydegaard is getting nervous. He…

‘Noisy’ Light Tracks Objects in Fog

Michael Allen, Physics World

A simple, optical technique for tracking obscured or hidden objects has been developed by physicists in the US. The method uses randomized light signals to detect moving objects obscured by fog, cloud or other scattering media. The researchers say the technique could not only be useful for military and civilian surveillance, overcoming the limitations of radar and lidar, but also have biomedical applications.

Judicious Crop Selection Can Reduce Bird Strikes

Teresa Carey, Inside Sci

The first documented collision between a bird and an airplane was reported by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s. Now, about three dozen bird strikes happen each day in the United States, with 5 to 7 percent damaging the plane, according to Michael Begier, the Department of Agriculture’s National Coordinator for the Airport Wildlife Hazards Program.Scientists, government planners and airports are working together to try to bring the number down.

Extinct Carnivore Named for Egyptian God Anubis

Knvul Sheikh, Live Sci

Scientists have identified a new species of small, toothy mammal that once ruled the food chain in Africa almost 40 million years ago.Researchers named the new species Masrasector nananubis, after the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, who had the head of a jackal and was associated with mummification and the underworld. Like its namesake, M. nananubis had a long and narrow skull and lots of large teeth, the researchers wrote in a new study.

‘Dragonfly’ Drone Proposed to Explore Titan’s Surface

Nola Redd, Space.com

A relocatable lander could explore the hazy skies of Saturn’s intriguing moon Titan, according a new mission proposal. As the eight-bladed whirlybird travels across the moon, it could investigate some of the most promising potentially habitable sites on the Saturn satellite, where methane and ethane fall from the sky and flow as rivers and lakes.The lander-size instrument, known as Dragonfly, would take advantage of Titan’s low gravity and thick atmosphere to visit multiple sites over several years, moving from one promising site to the next and recharging between the brief flights.

Famous ‘Ancestor’ Removed From Human Family Tree

Ann Gibbons, SM

A remarkably complete skeleton introduced in 2010 as the best candidate for the immediate ancestor of our genus Homo may just be a pretender. Instead of belonging to the human lineage, the new species of Australopithecus sediba is more closely related to other hominins from South Africa that are on a side branch of the human family tree, according to a new analysis of the fossil presented here last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. When fossils from several individuals’ skeletons were found in a collapsed cave in Malapa, South Africa, in…

Climate Change Influenced by Solar Flux

Daily Galaxy

The solar flux is considered the fundamental energy source of earth’s climate system on long time scales. In recent decades, some studies have noted that the tiny variations in solar activity could be amplified by the nonlinear process in climate system. But the astronomy factors, such as solar activity, presented intriguing and cutting-edge questions to better understand climate change.In 2012, China’s National Basic Research Program examined the impacts of astronomy and earth motion factors on climate change. Led by Prof. Ziniu XIAO (Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of…

Distant Icy World Casts Doubt on ‘Planet Nine’

Michele Bannister, Space.com

Ever since enthusiasm started growing over the possibility that there could be a ninth major planet orbiting the sun beyond Neptune, astronomers have been busy hunting it. One group is investigating four new moving objects found by members of the public to see if they are potential new solar system discoveries. As exciting as this is, researchers are also making discoveries that question the entire prospect of a ninth planet.One such finding is our discovery of a minor planet in the outer solar system: 2013 SY99. This small, icy world has an orbit so distant that it takes 20,000 years for one…

Cooling Climate Linked to Rapid Body-Size Increase

Shalini Saxena, AT

While natural selection is a big part of evolution, the theory now embraces much more than that. One of the big concepts that explains a lot of the pattern of evolution throughout history is called “adaptive radiation.” Adaptive radiation is a process in which environmental changes create new resources, challenges, and environmental niches, enabling rapid diversification of organisms from a single ancestral species.Adaptive radiation provides a sound explanation that captures the effects of the interactions among organisms on species diversification. However, non-biological effectsthe…

Ripple Effect of New Zealand Earthquake Continues

Alexandra Witze, NN

The consequences of a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck New Zealand on 14 November 2016 are still rippling through the country. The quake, which killed two people and caused billions of dollars of damage, ruptured a complex set of geological faults near the surface. It also triggered slow-motion movement as deep as 40 kilometres in Earth’s crust, some of which continues to this day, scientists report. That deep slow slip’ is worrying, because it adds to the risk of another big quake.

Introducing New Pseudo-Aurora Named ‘Steve’

Stephen Skolnick, PC

A group of “Aurora Chasers” in Canada appear to have stumbled on an extraordinary new astrophysical phenomenon, andin typical internet fashionendowed it with an amusingly ordinary name. Don’t let the unassuming moniker fool you, though: Steve is a mind-bogglingly powerful event, albeit one that is apparently more common than scientists expected.While the phenomenon has been repeatedly spotted during aurora events, suggesting it’s related to solar wind activity, the term “aurora” refers specifically to light generated by the interaction of solar wind particles with the atmosphere.

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