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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

This week's featured story comes from the Washington Post with video from Discovery News on YouTube.

Whiz Kid Inventors Invade The White House

Trace joins President Obama in Washington DC for the 3rd Annual White House Science Fair. Watch as young inventors show off everything from portable windmills to underwater robots!

Robots, biofuel, whiz kids at the White House Science Fair
By Lyndsey Layton
Published: April 22

In his dark blue business suit, President Obama climbed onto a bicycle anchored to the ground outside the White House. He pedaled in his polished dress shoes, generating electricity to run a water sanitation system built by a group of Florida teenagers.

He peered into a flask of green liquid containing a new breed of algae that was created by a 17-year-old Colorado girl who wants to solve the country’s energy problems.

And he shook hands with three small boys from Georgia who dreamed up a system to automatically cool down and hydrate sweating athletes.

“Keep in mind, they’re in third, fourth grade, and they’ve already got this idea,” Obama said. “If you’re inventing stuff in the third grade, what are you going to do by the time you get to college?”

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Saturday Night Theologian
by Tod OL Mundo

I include all science diaries, even the bad ones.

I saw the story on the Science Quiz
by Old Gray Dog

The Daily Bucket - Oak Titmouse fledges
by enhydra lutris

Green diary rescue: Keystone XL public comments exceed one million goal
by Meteor Blades


Tech Feed on YouTube: Who Hacked the AP Twitter Account?

This morning a tweet was sent from the official Associated Press account that read, "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured." Although the tweet was bogus (the account had been hacked), it had a very noticeable effect on the stock market, as Annie explains. She also takes a look at the Syrian Electronic Army, who have taken credit for the hack.

Science Magazine on YouTube: Nearly Buried, Mussels Get a Helping Hand

Freshwater mussels are surprisingly diverse in North America, but they are also the most endangered group of animals in the United States. Dams, pollution, and invasive species have already driven dozens of kinds to extinction. These threats are exacerbated by the highly evolved reproductive biology of mussels. In this video, news reporter Erik Stokstad explains their surprising and sophisticated strategies, including a deceptive mimicry that attracts unsuspecting fishes. He also describes a trip to a hotspot of mussel diversity to see biologists working to help prevent further extinctions.

NASA Television on YouTube: Earth Day 2013 on This Week @ NASA

During an Earth Day visit to Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver toured the Landsat Data Continuity Mission control room and was briefed on Goddard Earth science programs. NASA also celebrated Earth Day with a range of activities for travelers and visitors at DC's Union Station -- to help them better understand the agency's mission to sustain the planet's systems and climate. Also, Educate to Innovate, Asteroid Sensor Passes Key Test, International Space Apps Challenge, Cargo Ship Delivers To ISS, Three More To Hall, Wildfire Imaging Sensor and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: Antares and The Future on This Week @ NASA

Now that the Antares rocket and its simulated Cygnus spacecraft have successfully test-launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Flight Facility, program managers at NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation are looking ahead to the cargo delivery system's next milestone. This Antares test flight, dubbed the A-ONE mission, is the first of two for Orbital scheduled in 2013 under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program. In addition, the company is also scheduled to launch the first of eight operational cargo resupply missions to the ISS in 2013 under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Also, Orion's Progress , Gathering for Impact!, Three More Planets for Kepler , Station Spacewalk, Moonbuggy Preps, Hubble's Infrared Horsehead and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Saturn Close Up

Saturn and Earth are lining up for a beautiful view of the ringed planet. Saturn will be at its best and brightest on April 28th. on YouTube: Three Years On The Sun - Time-Lapse Video

The first images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory were beamed back to Earth in the spring of 2010. Three years of observations are compiled, yielding valuable pattern information for understanding our local star. Surprising Lunar Eclipse Wows Skywatchers (Photos)
by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 25 April 2013 Time: 06:24 PM ET

The moon toe-dipped through the Earth's shadow in a partial lunar eclipse Thursday (April 25), but stargazers around the world still captured surprisingly spectacular views of what they expected to be a minor celestial event.

Partial lunar eclipses like Thursday's event occasionally receive a bad rap because they aren't nearly as dramatic as the red glow of the moon during a total lunar eclipse, and some times they aren't even noticeable. That, however, wasn't the case today.

A live webcast from a telescope in Dubai and hosted by the online Slooh Space Camera streamed amazing views of the lunar eclipse at its peak around 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT). The lunar eclipse's entirety was primarily visible from Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Western Europe, so stargazers in other parts of the world had to rely on webcasts like those provided by Slooh and the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy to catch the event.

For more images, read Lunar Eclipse Photos: Full Moon of April 2013 on on YouTube: Star Trek TNG Bridge Restoration Called For In Kickstarter Campaign | Video

The original Enterprise-D's bridge was blown up in Star Trek: Generations, but in the late 1990's a duplicate was made by Paramount. Its parts was taken off the scrap heap and there is hope to create it into an interactive experience.
Also read the story under "Science is Cool."

Astronomy/Space Space Archaeologists Call for Preserving Off-Earth Artifacts
by Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist
Date: 22 April 2013

When it comes to preserving history, a group of archaeologists and historians are hoping to boldly go where no archaeologist has gone before.

Researchers are increasingly urging humanity to protect off-Earth cultural resources . That may well mean preserving NASA's Apollo landing sites on the moon as national historic landmarks, regarding far-flung spacecraft as mobile artifacts and even working to preserve some pieces of space junk.

"The cultural landscape of space includes both sites and objects on and off Earth," said Beth O'Leary, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces. "It is necessary to evaluate the significance of the latter and treat them as important objects and places worthy of legitimate archaeological inquiry.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story. Hubble Spies Cosmic Halos Around Starburst Galaxies
by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 25 April 2013 Time: 09:01 AM ET

Star formation involves more than meets the eye. Huge "starbursts" that give birth to hundreds of millions of new stars at once within galaxies all over the universe seem to affect their host galaxies in surprising ways, a new study reveals.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope found that the extreme winds created by rapid star formation can be felt up to 650,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy, much farther than previously thought, Hubble mission scientists said in a statement today (April 25). Winds from the starbursts actually form halos that reach about 20 times farther into space than the visible size of the galaxy.

"The extended material around galaxies is hard to study, as it’s so faint," study team member Vivienne Wild of the University of St. Andrews. "But it’s important — these envelopes of cool gas hold vital clues about how galaxies grow, process mass and energy, and finally die. We’re exploring a new frontier in galaxy evolution!" Private Asteroid-Mining Project Launching Tiny Satellites in 2014Private Asteroid-Mining Project Launching Tiny Satellites in 2014
by Mike Wall, Senior Writer
Date: 24 April 2013 Time: 06:54 PM ET

A billionaire-backed asteroid-mining company aims to start putting its big plans into action soon, launching its first hardware into space by this time next year.

Planetary Resources, which counts Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt among its investors, plans to loft a set of tiny "cubesats" to Earth orbit in early 2014, to test out gear for its first line of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.

"Our belief and our philosophy is that the best testbed is space itself," Chris Voorhees, Planetary Resources' vice president of spacecraft development, said Wednesday (April 24) during a Google+ Hangout event.


OurAmazingPlanet: Why Has There Been So Much Snow This Spring?
Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 24, 2013 05:21 PM ET

Spring has gotten off to a colder- and snowier-than-average start in parts of the United States, particularly in the eastern Rockies and Upper Midwest.

Duluth, Minn., for example, has seen 51 inches (130 centimeters) of snow this April. That's not only the most snow the town has seen in any April — breaking the old mark of 31.6 inches (80 cm) — but the most snow the town has received in any month, ever, according to government records. As of Monday (April 22), a total of 995 snowfall records have also been broken so far this month, according to AccuWeather. Over the same time period last year, 195 snowfall records had been broken.

More than 91 percent of the upper Midwest also has snow on the ground as of today (April 24), meteorologist Jason Samenow wrote at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog. "Snow cover in the previous 10 years on this date hasn't even come close to reaching this extent (ranging from 19 percent to much lower)," he wrote.

Accuweather via OurAmazingPlanet: Rough Wildfire Season Ahead for West With Building Drought
Alex Sosnowski,
Apr 23, 2013 10:26 AM ET

While wildfires are inevitable in the West during the summer, this year the season has the potential to be worse than average.

Drought, which began last summer, become significantly worse over many areas of the West this winter. The drought is showing few signs of improvement this spring.

Only portions of Wyoming and Colorado to the central High Plains have had some moisture-rich storms of late.


University of Southampton (UK) via Science Daily: Museum Find Proves Exotic ‘big Cat’ Prowled British Countryside a Century Ago
Apr. 25, 2013

The rediscovery of a mystery animal in a museum's underground storeroom proves that a non-native 'big cat' prowled the British countryside at the turn of the last century.

The animal's skeleton and mounted skin was analysed by a multi-disciplinary team of Durham University scientists and fellow researchers at Bristol, Southampton and Aberystwyth universities and found to be a Canadian lynx -- a carnivorous predator more than twice the size of a domestic cat.

The research, published today in the academic journal Historical Biology, establishes the animal as the earliest example of an "alien big cat" at large in the British countryside.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

OurAmazingPlanet: Where Do Hawaii's Great White Sharks Come From?
Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 24, 2013 04:37 PM ET

Although it's a relatively rare occurrence, great white sharks have occasionally been sighted near the Hawaiian Islands throughout history (and even prehistory — teeth from white sharks have been found in artifacts from ancient islanders).

The small number of sightings and lack of young sharks seen, however, suggests that there isn't one group of sharks that lives in the region, and that the animals that have been spotted are drifters who have wandered far from their native waters. But whence do they come?

A recent study compiled all records of great white shark sightings around Hawaii in modern history — a total of 13 — and all published reports of satellite-tracked sharks that reached the region, a total of 22. By comparing the records with data from tracking studies, it appears the sharks most likely come from the population centered in the eastern Pacific, along the west coast of Mexico and the United States.

Life's Little Mysteries via LiveScience: To Save Rhinos, Just Add Poison
Marc Lallanilla, Life's Little Mysteries Assistant Editor
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 05:24 PM ET

In the struggle to prevent illegal poaching of endangered African rhinos, wildlife managers believe they've found a new weapon: poison.
To stem the slaughter, wildlife managers have started to tranquilize rhinos in places like the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, located adjacent to South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Once the animals are tranquilized, a hole is drilled into their horns; the hole is then filled with a combination of pink dye and a parasiticide (parasite poison) that's used to control ticks on horses and cattle.


LiveScience: Battling Obesity ... with a Brain Implant?
Denise Chow, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 25 April 2013 Time: 03:39 PM ET

The brain may not seem like an obvious place to look for possible treatments for obesity, but researchers say implanting a device that stimulates a specific region of the brain may help curb the compulsion to overeat.

The new study on obese mice found that deep brain stimulation (DBS), which involves implanting a device that sends electrical impulses to precise targets in the brain, may reduce binge eating and other obesity-related behaviors.

"Once replicated in human clinical trials, DBS could rapidly become a treatment for people with obesity due to the extensive groundwork already established in other disease areas," lead author Casey Halpern, a resident in the department of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Inside Science News Service via LiveScience: Physicists Explore Secrets Of Hearing Sighs And Whispers
Peter Gwynne, ISNS Contributor
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 12:33 PM ET

Scientists don't fully understand how we detect faint sounds, because they should be drowned out by the background noise that the ear itself produces. Now, however, researchers at UCLA have produced clues to the process that allows us to hear a pin drop, or understand a whispered comment. They did so using hair cells taken from bullfrogs that they studied in laboratory glassware.

The UCLA team used an optical microscope and a high-speed camera to detect how the relationship between signals from faint sounds and bundles of the frogs' ear hairs differs from that between signals from louder sounds and the hair bundles.

Researchers in this field already knew that the hair cells synchronize with strong sound signals. They oscillate in phase with the incoming sounds; the louder the sound, the greater the degree of synchronization.


LiveScience: Why Mom of Alleged Boston Bombers Buys Conspiracy Theories
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 03:34 PM ET

Despite a reported confession by one of the suspects, the parents of the two alleged Boston Marathon bombers say their sons are innocent.

"I am sure that my kids were not involved in anything," said a tearful Zubeidat Tsarnaev at a press conference in Russia on April 25. Tsarnaev maintains that her sons have been set up, and has also suggested that the bombing might have been staged.

Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, such denial is not uncommon in the families of killers, experts say, though plenty of killers’ family members are also well aware of their relatives’ capability to kill.


PLoS: Tracing Our Footsteps: Archaeology in the Digital Age
By Souri Somphanith
Posted: April 22, 2013

Human ancestors that walked the earth left few traces of their passage. Some of their footprints have lithified, or turned to stone, but some survive to this day, unlithified, in soft sediment such as silt. These fragile records of ancient footprints pose a sizable challenge to archaeologists today: how do you preserve the ephemeral? According to new research published in PLOS ONE, the answer may be to “record and digitally rescue” these footprint sites.

The authors explored two methods in this study: digital photogrammetry, where researchers strategically photograph an object in order to derive measurements; and optical laser scanning, where light is used to measure the object’s physical properties. To begin, the authors filled trays with mixtures of sand, cement, and plaster and instructed a participant to walk through these samples. Four wooden 1 cm cubes were then placed beside a select number of footprints and photographs were taken. A laser scanner was then used to measure the same footprints. This simple procedure was also replicated outside of the lab, at a beach in North West England.

Science: Who Were the First Australians, and How Many Were There?
by Traci Watson
23 April 2013, 7:15

Some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, a band of intrepid Southeast Asians became the first humans to reach Australia, and without a single glance at a GPS unit. Now new research suggests that perhaps 3000 people—many more than previously thought—made that foray into the unknown to become the continent's founding population and the ancestors of Australia's aboriginal people.

The study is among the first to specify just how many adventurers weathered the trip to become the original Aussies, although researchers are divided on whether the new numbers are accurate. The study has also stirred debate on exactly when and why the aboriginal population ballooned to hundreds of thousands of individuals.

"People remained at low levels, we believe, for 40,000 years and suddenly, for no apparent reason, we see … their numbers start to build," says study author and archaeologist Alan Williams, a graduate student at the Australian National University in Canberra. "We need to ask what changed."

BBC: Stonehenge occupied 5,000 years earlier than thought

New archaeological evidence from Amesbury in Wiltshire reveals traces of human settlement 3,000 years before Stonehenge was even built

An excavation funded with redundancy money shows Stonehenge was a settlement 3,000 years before it was built.

The archaeological dig, a mile from the stones, has revealed that people have occupied the area since 7,500BC.

The findings, uncovered by volunteers on a shoestring budget, are 5,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The University of Gothenburg (Sweden) via Science Daily: New Excavations in Sweden Indicate Use of Fertilizers 5,000 Years Ago
Apr. 26, 2013

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have spent many years studying the remains of a Stone Age community in Karleby outside the town of Falköping, Sweden. The researchers have for example tried to identify parts of the inhabitants' diet. Right now they are looking for evidence that fertilisers were used already during the Scandinavian Stone Age, and the results of their first analyses may be exactly what they are looking for.

Using remains of grains and other plants and some highly advanced analysis techniques, the two researchers and archaeologists Tony Axelsson and Karl-Göran Sjögren have been able to identify parts of the diet of their Stone Age ancestors.

LiveScience: Giza Secret Revealed: How 10,000 Pyramid Builders Got Fed
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 23 April 2013 Time: 11:50 AM ET

The builders of the famous Giza pyramids in Egypt feasted on food from a massive catering-type operation, the remains of which scientists have discovered at a workers' town near the pyramids.

The workers' town is located about 1,300 feet (400 meters) south of the Sphinx, and was used to house workers building the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure, the third and last pyramid on the Giza plateau. The site is also known by its Arabic name, Heit el-Ghurab, and is sometimes called "the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders."

LiveScience: Ancient Europeans Mysteriously Vanished 4,500 Years Ago
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer

The genetic lineage of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4,500 years ago, new research suggests.

The findings, detailed today (April 23) in the journal Nature Communications, were drawn from several skeletons unearthed in central Europe that were up to 7,500 years old.

"What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don't know why," said study co-author Alan Cooper, of the University of Adelaide Australian Center for Ancient DNA, in a statement. "Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was."

The Guardian (UK): Remains of woman buried 4,500 years ago are discovered near Windsor

Woman dubbed 'Kingsmead's queen' is found with unusual necklace of gold beads and finely decorated cup

The remains of a woman who was buried almost 4,500 years ago has been discovered in a quarry in Berkshire wearing a precious necklace of gold beads – a particularly rare find from a woman's grave, when even her near contemporary, the Amesbury archer, the richest burial of the period ever found, only had two small gold hair ornaments.

She has been dubbed "Kingsmead's queen" after the quarry near Windsor where she was found, but experts from Wessex archaeology have more properly called her "a woman of importance". She clearly had considerable wealth and status in her community. The fragmentary bones, almost destroyed in the acid soil, suggest she was at least 35, and as well as the necklace of tubular sheet gold beads interspersed with black disks of lignite, she had several pierced amber beads, which may have been buttons for a jacket, and more black beads that may have been a bracelet.

Gulf News (UAE): Millennia-old burial chamber found in Oman
The site dating back to around 1300 BC was unearthed while building a sports club
Staff Report
Published: 16:15 April 26, 2013

Muscat: An international team of archaeologists has stumbled upon a cache of relics dating back several millennia in the northern Omani enclave of Musandam.

The discovery, which was made in the Dibba district of Musandam Governorate, is believed to be some 3,500 years old, and has been billed by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture as among the most stunning archaeological finds of recent times.

According to a report in the Arabic newspaper Oman, the site first came to light last year when construction workers building the foundations of a local sports club, chanced upon what appeared to be an ancient tomb strewn with human bones.

Al Ahram (Egypt): Roman industrial area uncovered in Egypt's Suez Canal
A fully furnished Graeco-Roman industrial area discovered on Thursday in Tell Abu-Seifi area, east of Egypt's Suez Canal
Nevine El-Aref
Wednesday 24 Apr 2013

The discovery was found during routine excavation work at the archaeological site of Tell Abu-Seifi, located east of the Suez Canal and south of Qantara East.

The industrial area includes of a number of workshops for clay and bronze statues, vessels, pots and pans as well as a collection of administrative buildings, store galleries and a whole residential area for labours. Amphora, imported from south of Italy, was also unearthed.

"It is a very important discovery that highlights Egypt’s economical and commercial relation with its neighbouring countries on the Mediterranean Sea," MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. He added that it also gives a complete idea of the Egyptian labours’ daily life.

University of Leicester (UK) via Science Daily: Prehistoric Metalwork Discovered at Iron Age Site, Along With Gaming Pieces

Apr. 22, 2013 — Archaeologists from the University of Leicester in the UK have uncovered one of the biggest groups of Iron Age metal artefacts to be found in the region -- in addition to finding dice and gaming pieces.

A dig at a prehistoric monument, an Iron Age hillfort at Burrough Hill, near Melton Mowbray, has given archaeologists a remarkable insight into the people who lived there over 2000 years ago.

LiveScience: Oldest Temple in Mexican Valley Hints at Possible Human Sacrifice
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

A newly discovered temple complex in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, reveals hints of a specialized hierarchy of priests — who may have committed human sacrifice.

The evidence of such sacrifice is far from conclusive, but researchers did uncover a human tooth and part of what may be a human limb bone from a temple room scattered with animal sacrifice remains and obsidian blades. The temple dates back to 300 B.C. or so, when it was in use by the Zapotec civilization of what is now Oaxaca.

The Scotsman (UK): 7 more skeletons found near Old Town knight grave
Published on 25/04/2013 08:15

A CITY car park has been hailed a “real treasure trove of archaeology” after seven more skeletons were unearthed from the grave of a medieval knight.

Archaeologists working on the site now believe they have uncovered the remains of a family crypt having found bones from three fully grown adults, four infants and a skull.

The exciting discovery comes one month after experts ­excavated the burial site of a medieval knight – affectionately christened Sir Eck – within the grounds of the new Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) at High School Yards, off Infirmary Street.

Carvings of the Calvary Cross on an elaborate sandstone tomb and an ornate sword found beside the remains led archaeologists to believe it was the burial plot of a high-status individual such as a knight or nobleman.

The Daily and Sunday Express (UK): Love beyond the grave: Skeletons discovered holding hands in coffin together
LOVE can last beyond the grave as shocked archaeologists working in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, discovered.
By: Dion Dassanayake
Published: Mon, April 22, 2013

While excavating the courtyard of a former Dominican monastery in experts discovered skeletons of a couple buried together holding hands.

The bodies were discovered in the former cemetery of the monastery and it is believed the double grave dated back to the Middle Ages.

Adrian Rusu, from the Cluj-Napoca Institute of Archaeology and History of Art, said: "It is a mystery - and rare for such burials at that time.

"We can see that the man had suffered a severe injury that left him with a broken hip from which he probably died.

Art Daily: Mexican archaeologists investigate a group of petroglyphs found in northern Veracruz

MEXICO CITY.- Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) are registering and investigating a group of petroglyphs that were found at the foot of Cerro del Sombrete, municipality of Alamo-Temapache, in the northern part of Veracruz, among which the representation of a priest or “wise man” stands out. Its symbolism and iconography are linked to the art of “counting time”; this had not been previously registered in the Huastec region.

Said graphic manifestation was inscribed on a great plaque of sedimentary rock (2.90 meters [6.84 feet] by 2.50 meters [6.72 feet]), 500 years of age. It was discovered mid January by citric farmers from the area.

According to Maria Eugenia Maldonado Vite, the archaeologist responsible for the registry, these cultural expressions could possibly be related to the art of “counting time”, the movement of heavenly bodies or a specific homage to the hills.

First Coast News: Archaeological team digs at St. Augustine's Fountain of Youth
8:37 PM, Apr 23,

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A significant archaeological dig is underway at the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine.

The rectangular holes in the ground are surrounded by firing cannons, tourists and re-enactors.

Under the tarps and in the holes is a crew led by Dr. Kathy Deagan, an archeologist with the University of Florida.

"We're trying to learn more and uncover more of the original settlement of St. Augustine of 1565," Deagan said.

She has worked on digs at the park since 1976.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


American Chemical Society via Science Daily: Ice Tubes in Polar Seas -- 'Brinicles' or 'Sea Stalactites' -- Provide Clues to Origin of Life
Apr. 24, 2013

Life on Earth may have originated not in warm tropical seas, but with weird tubes of ice -- sometimes called "sea stalactites" -- that grow downward into cold seawater near Earth's poles, scientists are reporting.

Their article on these "brinicles" appears in ACS' journal Langmuir.

Bruno Escribano and colleagues explain that scientists know surprisingly little about brinicles, which are hollow tubes of ice that can grow to several yards in length around streamers of cold seawater under pack ice. That's because brinicles are difficult to study. The scientists set out to gather more information on the topic with an analysis of the growth process of brinicles.

University of Alberta (Canada) via Science Daily: Fish Was On the Menu for Early Flying Dinosaur
Apr. 22, 2013

University of Alberta-led research reveals that Microraptor, a small flying dinosaur was a complete hunter, able to swoop down and pickup fish as well as its previously known prey of birds and tree dwelling mammals.

U of A paleontology graduate student Scott Persons says new evidence of Microrpator's hunting ability came from fossilized remains in China. "We were very fortunate that this Microraptor was found in volcanic ash and its stomach content of fish was easily identified."

Prior to this, paleontologists believed microraptors which were about the size of a modern day hawk, lived in trees where they preyed exclusively on small birds and mammals about the size of squirrels.

Durham University (UK) via Science Daily: As People Live Longer and Reproduce Less, Natural Selection Keeps Up
Apr. 25, 2013

In many places around the world, people are living longer and are having fewer children. But that's not all. A study of people living in rural Gambia, published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 25, shows that this modern-day "demographic transition" may lead women to be taller and slimmer, too.

"This is a reminder that declines in mortality rates do not necessarily mean that evolution stops, but that it changes," says Ian Rickard of Durham University in the United Kingdom.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

LiveScience: Madagascar Dinosaur Fills 95-Million-Year Fossil Gap
Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 01:53 PM ET

A new species of dinosaur from the island of Madagascar has been identified.

Dubbed Dahalokely tokana by its discoverers, the dinosaur was a member of a group called abelisauroids, carnivorous dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period that were common in the Southern Hemisphere, according to a news release. In fact, the dinosaur is the oldest abelisauroid to date found on the island of Madagascar, the researchers write online April 18 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Dahalokely was between 9 feet and 14 feet (2.7 and 4.3 meters) long and probably lived only in Madagascar and India. The two landmasses were once connected, and were isolated in the Indian Ocean; they broke apart some 88 million years ago.


University of California, Riverside, via Science Daily: Rethinking Early Atmospheric Oxygen: Possibility of More Dynamic Biological Oxygen Cycle On Early Earth Than Previously Supposed
Apr. 24, 2013

A research team of biogeochemists at the University of California, Riverside has provided a new view on the relationship between the earliest accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere, arguably the most important biological event in Earth history, and its relationship to the sulfur cycle.

A general consensus exists that appreciable oxygen first accumulated in Earth's atmosphere around 2.4 to 2.3 billion years ago. Though this paradigm is built upon a wide range of geological and geochemical observations, the famous "smoking gun" for what has come to be known as the "Great Oxidation Event" (GOE) comes from the disappearance of anomalous fractionations in rare sulfur isotopes.
However, diverse types of data are emerging that point to the presence of atmospheric oxygen, and, by inference, the early emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis hundreds of millions of years before these MIF signals disappear from the rock record. These observations motivated Reinhard and colleagues to explore the possible conditions under which inherited MIF signatures may have persisted in the rock record long after oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere.

BBC: Earth's core far hotter than thought
By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter, BBC News

New measurements suggest the Earth's inner core is far hotter than prior experiments suggested, putting it at 6,000C - as hot as the Sun's surface.

The solid iron core is actually crystalline, surrounded by liquid.

But the temperature at which that crystal can form had been a subject of long-running debate.

Experiments outlined in Science used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

OurAmazingPlanet: Extreme Green: Earth Recycles 2.5-Billion-Year-Old Ocean Crust
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 24, 2013 04:46 PM ET

The remains of a real-life journey to the center of the Earth are preserved in a South Pacific volcano, a new study suggests.

The lava that erupted from the Cook Islands volcano, called Mangaia, contains a few tiny grains of sulfide, a mineral, with a peculiar ratio of sulfur isotopes, according to research published in today's (April 24) issue of the journal Nature. The unusual ratio could only have formed before oxygen-breathing life appeared on Earth 2.45 billion years ago. Isotopes are versions of elements with different numbers of neutrons, giving them differing weights.

The study researchers think the sulfide formed at Earth's surface ages ago in ancient oceanic crust, and then sank deep into Earth's mantle, likely all the way to the core-mantle boundary, 1,865 miles (3,000 kilometers) below the surface. Some billions of years later, a plume of hot material rising from above the core ferried the sulfide skyward, until it escaped through Mangaia about 20 million years ago.

OurAmazingPlanet: New Mexico Earthquakes Linked to Wastewater Injection
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 23, 2013 05:13 PM ET

An ongoing earthquake swarm in New Mexico and Colorado, which includes Colorado's largest earthquake since 1967, is due to underground wastewater injection, researchers said Friday (April 19) at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

The earthquakes are concentrated near wastewater injection wells in the Raton Basin, where mining companies are extracting methane from coalbeds. The basin, which is actually a series of rock layers exposed in the Rocky Mountain foothills, stretches from northeastern New Mexico to southern Colorado.

Since 2001, seismicity has increased rapidly in the region, said Justin Rubinstein, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research geophysicist and lead author of one of several studies on the Raton Basin presented at the meeting. The rapid rise in earthquakes followed a significant increase in wastewater injection starting in 1999, he said. Wastewater injection is the disposal of water and brine produced from fracking. When mining companies extract resources via fracking, they inject water to make new fractures. After the water is removed, it's usually stored nearby, in porous rocks deep underground.  An ongoing earthquake swarm in New Mexico and Colorado, which includes Colorado's largest earthquake since 1967, is due to underground wastewater injection, researchers said Friday (April 19) at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.


The Independent (UK): One giant leap for mankind: £13bn Iter project makes breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion, a solution to climate change and an age of clean, cheap energy
It may be the most ambitious scientific venture ever: a global collaboration to create an unlimited supply of clean, cheap energy. And this week it took a crucial step forward. Steve Connor reports
Saturday 27 April 2013

An idyllic hilltop setting in the Cadarache forest of Provence in the south of France has become the site of an ambitious attempt to harness the nuclear power of the sun and stars.

It is the place where 34 nations representing more than half the world’s population have joined forces in the biggest scientific collaboration on the planet – only the International Space Station is bigger.

The international nuclear fusion project – known as Iter, meaning “the way” in Latin – is designed to demonstrate a new kind of nuclear reactor capable of producing unlimited supplies of cheap, clean, safe and sustainable electricity from atomic fusion.

Physics Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet
by Clara Moskowitz, Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 25 April 2013 Time: 02:01 PM ET

An extreme pair of superdense stars orbiting each other has put Einstein's general theory of relativity to its toughest test yet, and the crazy-haired physicist still comes out on top.

About 7,000 light-years from Earth, an exceptionally massive neutron star that spins around 25 times a second is orbited by a compact, white dwarf star. The gravity of this system is so intense that it offers an unprecedented testing ground for theories of gravity.


OurAmazingPlanet: How Eerie Sea Ice 'Brinicles' Form
Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 26, 2013 01:16 PM ET

What's cooler than being cool? Brine-cold.

When salt-rich water leaks out of sea ice, it sinks into the sea and can occasionally create an eerie finger of ice called a brinicle. New research explains how these strange fingers of ice form and how the salty water within sea ice could have been a prime environment in which life may have evolved.

The study, published in the American Chemical Society's journal Langmuir, suggests that brinicles form in the same way as hydrothermal vents, except in reverse.

Science Crime Scenes

New Zealand Herald: 'Scandalising' ancient nudes pulled from Qatar exhibit
9:25 AM Friday Apr 26, 2013

Greece has pulled two ancient statues of nude males from an Olympic exhibition in Doha after Qatari authorities insisted on veiling them.

A Culture Ministry official says exhibition organizers wanted to avoid scandalising female visitors.

BBC: Syria clashes destroy ancient Aleppo minaret

The minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques has been destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.

The state news agency Sana accused rebels of blowing up the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque.

However, activists say the minaret was hit by Syrian army tank fire.

The mosque, which is a Unesco world heritage site, has been in rebel hands since earlier this year but the area around it is still contested.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

OurAmazingPlanet: How President Nixon Spied on Earth Day
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Apr 22, 2013 03:48 PM ET

The launch of Earth Day in 1970 raised suspicions in Washington, D.C., according to former Representative Pete McCloskey, one of the organizers of the first Earth Day.

The annual event was launched as a national teach-in on April 22, 1970, by former Senator Gaylord Nelson, McCloskey and others. Earth Day galvanized a political movement that led to some of the country's most significant environmental legislation, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

At a panel discussion on the Endangered Species Act and its future, held Jan. 31 at the Western Section of The Wildlife Society's annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif., McCloskey recalled the FBI's scrutiny of the event. According to McCloskey, President Richard Nixon ordered the FBI to observe college students across the country.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

N.Y. Times: The Latest Threat to Pompeii’s Treasures: Italy’s Red Tape

POMPEII, Italy — Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, Pompeii survived excavation starting in the 18th century and has stoically borne the wear and tear of millions of modern-day tourists.

But now, its deep-hued frescoes, brick walls and elegant tile mosaics appear to be at risk from an even greater threat: the bureaucracy of the Italian state.

In recent years, collapses at the site have alarmed conservationists, who warn that this ancient Roman city is dangerously exposed to the elements — and is poorly served by the red tape, the lack of strategic planning and the limited personnel of the site’s troubled management.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story. Planetary Scientists Protest 'Disastrous' NASA Budget Cuts Proposed for 2014
by Clara Moskowitz, Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 25 April 2013 Time: 06:04 PM ET

Supporters of planetary science are rallying against NASA's proposed 2014 budget, which they say unfairly guts funding for solar system research and exploration.

The Obama administration unveiled the budget plan April 10, requesting $17.7 billion for NASA — $50 million less than the agency got in 2012. The budget must be approved by Congress before it becomes official. Under the budget proposal, planetary science would receive $1.217 billion in 2014. Discounting the $50 million earmarked for producing plutonium-238, which fuels deep space vehicles (this used to be paid for by the Department of Energy), and $20 million for asteroid detection in service of a future manned asteroid mission, this represents a $268 million cut from planetary science funding levels approved by Congress for 2013, advocates said.

Science Education Atlantis Exposed: Space Shuttle Fully Unwrapped for NASA Exhibit
by Robert Z. Pearlman, Editor
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 03:28 PM ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Atlantis is ready for its spotlight — well, almost.

The retired NASA orbiter, which is set to go on public display June 29 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, was fully revealed Friday (April 26) after workers spent two days peeling off its protective shrink-wrap cover of the past five months.

"It looks fantastic," Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Parks and Resorts, which runs the visitor complex for NASA, said after seeing Atlantis unwrapped. "It looks better than I thought it was going to look."

LiveScience: What Does the Average American Know About Science?
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 22 April 2013 Time: 06:03 PM ET

Can you identify the gas that makes up most of Earth's atmosphere? If yes, you may be surprised to be among the minority in the United States. (Hint: It's not oxygen.) But if you know which kind of radiation that sunscreen protects against, you're in good company.

The American public's knowledge of basic science and technology varies widely, according to the results of a 13-question survey by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine.

About 78 percent of the public know red blood cells carry oxygen to the body, whereas 83 percent know sunscreen protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, the poll found. Most know the Earth isn't such a static place, with 77 percent choosing "True" over "False" when told that the continents have been moving for millions of years and will keep moving in the future.

Science Writing and Reporting

LiveScience via Controversially, Physicist Argues Time Is Real
Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 03:25 PM ET

NEW YORK — Is time real, or the ultimate illusion?

Most physicists would say the latter, but Lee Smolin challenges this orthodoxy in his new book, "Time Reborn" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2013), which he discussed here Wednesday (April 24) at the Rubin Museum of Art.

In a conversation with Duke University neuroscientist Warren Meck, theoretical physicist Smolin, who's based at Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, argued for the controversial idea that time is real. "Time is paramount," he said, "and the experience we all have of reality being in the present moment is not an illusion, but the deepest clue we have to the fundamental nature of reality."

Science is Cool Refurbished 'Star Trek' Bridge Aims To Beam To San Diego
by Elizabeth Howell, Contributor
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 02:55 PM ET

Calling all wannabe space captains: The starship Enterprise bridge from television's "Star Trek" may open to the public in the next year. After lying in a studio backyard for years, a display version of the bridge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is slowly being refurbished by a group called New Starship.

Nothing's confirmed yet, but organizer Huston Huddleston said he is in talks with the San Diego Air & Space Museum to bring the bridge there in the middle of 2014. It will remain there for a year, the plan goes, before possibly hitting the road for other locations.

This exhibit, Huddleston said, would not only include the bridge, but recreations of other iconic "Star Trek"ship locations such as the transporter room and Captain Jean-Luc Picard's personal quarters. (The museum confirmed the talks to, but said plans are yet to be finalized.)

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 08:58 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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