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    Jolt of caffeine for bees

    And they don’t need to stand in line for a triple soy latte. A new study shows that the naturally caffeine-laced nectar of some plants enhances the learning process for bees, so that they are more likely to return to those flowers.

    “The plant is using this as a drug to change a pollinator’s behavior for its own benefit,” said Geraldine Wright, a honeybee brain specialist at Newcastle University in England, who, with her colleagues, reported those findings in Science on Thursday.

    Several varieties of coffee and citrus plants have toxic concentrations of caffeine in leaves and other tissues, but low concentrations, similar to that in weak coffee, in the nectar itself. The toxic concentrations help plants to fend off predators.

    Gravity-Mapping Satellite: Anything with mass has a gravity field that attracts objects toward it. The strength of this gravity field depends on the mass of the body.

    Aerial surveys primarily aimed at getting a better picture of the minerals that underlie the region got a look at the crater structure using instruments that detect the variations in gravity of different types of rock, as well as their ability to conduct electricity. The keys to the imaging were the distinctive electric conductivity and gravity signals of the shale layer.

    By lowering the gravity-mapping satellite's orbit from 158 miles (255 kilometers) high to 146 miles (235 km) — which is about 310 miles (500 km) lower than most Earth observation satellites — the satellite is likely to produce an even more accurate map, the ESA says.  

    The satellite is descending by about 980 feet (300 meters) a day and is slated to reach its new orbit in February.

    Iowa Meteorite Crater


    In a National Institutes of Health study, the authors hypothesize that if biological complexity increased exponentially during evolution, life in the universe may have begun "10 billion years ago" - more than 5 billion years before the Earth existed.

    On August 29, 2012, and in a world first, astronomers at Copenhagen University reported the detection of a specific sugar molecule, glycolaldehyde, in a distant star system. The molecule was found around the protostellar binary IRAS 16293-2422, which is located 400 light years from Earth. Glycolaldehyde is needed to form ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is similar in function to DNA. This finding suggests that complex organic molecules may form in stellar systems prior to the formation of planets, eventually arriving on young planets early in their formation.

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

    After launching in 1997, Cassini passed by Venus twice, then Earth in 1999 and finally Jupiter at the end of 2000. On 30 June 2004, the spacecraft finally arrived at Saturn, having clocked up a speed of over 80,000km/h (approximately 50,000mph). But to get into orbit around the planet, Cassini-Huygens had to pass between Saturn's F and G rings.

    Mission planners had plotted a course through what appeared to be a gap, but if Cassini was hit by even a tiny particle the size of a grain of rice, the probe could be destroyed.

    At 19:36 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), scientists waited anxiously at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, as the manoeuvre (called Saturn Orbit Insertion) began, and Cassini fired its main engine to get into orbit. All eyes followed the signal given out by Cassini's low-gain antenna.

    "At 21:12 PDT, the signal flattened out, indicating that Cassini-Huygens had successfully got into orbit around Saturn"

    The mission will last for at least four years, with the possibility of going on for longer. Cassini will use its wealth of instruments to study the whole Saturnian system. It's already providing intriguing information. One of the instruments onboard Cassini, the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS), will help scientists answer the question of how old the rings are.

    By looking at the reflected light in ultra-violet wavelengths, this instrument can tell what parts are icy and what parts have been contaminated. By measuring this over time, UVIS will be able to use the pollution like a clock.

    When the Cassini probe arrived at Saturn, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, was invited to talk about it on NBC’s Today Show. After Tyson made a few brief remarks, Matt Lauer challenged him, “This is a $3.3 billion mission. Given all the problems we have in the world today, how can they justify that expenditure?”

    Tyson pointed out that it was a multi-year mission, so the cost was less than $300 million a year, and added, “Americans spend more than that per year on lip balm.” Lauer had no rebuttal, and quickly said, “Over to you, Katie.” When Tyson left the building, a group of bystanders who had been watching the show cheered him loudly and waved their Chapsticks in the air.

    Tholin - Titian (Saturn Moon)

    Tholins have also been detected in the stellar system of an eight-million-year-old star known as HR 4796A using the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) aboard the Hubble Space Telescope. HR 4796A is 220 light years from Earth.

    "Triton tholin" and "Titan tholin" are nitrogen-rich organic substances produced by the irradiation of gaseous mixtures of nitrogen and methane such as that found in those moons' atmospheres; Triton's atmosphere is 99.9% nitrogen and 0.1% methane and Titan's atmosphere is 98.4% nitrogen and the remaining 1.6% composed of methane and trace amounts of other gases.

    These atmospherically derived substances are distinct from "ice tholin", which is formed by irradiation of clathrates of water and organic compounds such as methane or ethane. The plutino Ixion is also high in this compound.
    Astrobiologists are interested in Titan because the nitrogen/methane atmosphere is similar to that of Earth before life arose, and also because the complex organic chemistry on Titan might give us clues as to how prebiotic chemistry developed here, and how it led to the origins of life. To find out more about this, however, one would need further probes to visit Titan's surface, of which Cassini's lander, Huygens, only delivered the briefest glimpse.

    'A complete chemical analysis of the surface material, including isotopes, should be a key focus of any future missions to Titan,' says Sushil Atreya, director of the Planetary Science Laboratory, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. 'Who knows, we may yet find those elusive prebiotic molecules.'

    Conservatives with actual power view their motives as all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, about giving more to those who already have a lot. ~ Paul Krugman

    by anyname on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 09:11:33 PM PST

    •  fascinating (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mary Mike

      especially the life and evolution thing. So life didn't just accidentally happen because the universe was preparing for it all along.

      American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

      by glitterscale on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 12:14:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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