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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.

First, a moment of silence.

This week's science, space, health, and environment stories after the jump

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Getting to Know Your Solar System (34): Rhea
by Troubadour

Green diary rescue: The redwoods, the High Plains Aquifer and fracking ourselves crazy
by Meteor Blades

Why Reality is Inadmissible Evidence
by cskendrick

This week in science: Perspective
by DarkSyde


The giant tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma is already being called one of the more destructive tornadoes in US history. Anthony looks at how massive twisters like this form and what more we can expect from this particular system.

BBC: Ten species named after famous people
Naming new species after celebrities is a very good way to draw attention to your findings. Here’s some of the most weird and wonderful tributes. (Spiderphobes, beware - eight-legged beasts are included)
May 21, 2013

Every year, somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 new species of animal are discovered, so how do scientists come up with original names for them? Not surprisingly, some seek inspiration in the world of popular culture, as witnessed recently when a scientist discovered a fossil of an extinct creature with scissor-like claws, and named it Kooteninchela deppi in honour of – you guessed it – Edward Scissorhands star Johnny Depp.

It’s not simply a matter of randomly attaching any name to a new species you think you may have discovered in the field or a museum. Your findings have to be accepted for publication in a scientific journal for you to give it a name – but once that’s done it lasts forever.
Here, we list some of the weird and wonderful species named after famous... and infamous people.

Also see the story provided by annetteboardman under Science is Cool.

Al Jazeera English on YouTube: Seeds of doubt prompt global anti-Monsanto protests

Tens of thousands of people across the globe spent the day marching against biotechnology firm Monsanto.Protesters in more than 250 cities joined the co-ordinated marches. They say genetically-modified seeds sold by Monsanto have dire implications for the health of humans and animals alike. But Monsanto says its products are safe and help farmers produce more food. Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports.
For local coverage of the protests in Michigan, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids had Protests against Monsanto all over USA.
Marches and rallies against seed giant Monsanto were held across the U.S. and in dozens of other countries Saturday.

" March Against Monsanto " protesters say they want to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Marches are planned for more than 250 cities around the globe, according to organizers.

Hundreds of protesters showed up to voice their concerns at rallies in Grand Rapids at Ah-Nab-Awen Park
and in Kalamazoo.

NASA Television on YouTube: The Oklahoma Storms As Seen From Space on This Week @NASA

Also, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden received updates on the important work being on done at the agency's California centers, , a New Crew Prepares for Launch to the International Space Station, and a look at Dream Chaser Flight Simulations. These and other stories on This Week @NASA.

NASA Television on YouTube: Kepler Update on This Week @NASA

This week, the Kepler science team announced the spacecraft was in a Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode. The root cause was undetermined but the proximate cause appears to be an attitude error caused by a malfunction in Kepler's reaction wheel 4, one of the telescope's pointing mechanisms. The team has since put the telescope in what's known as a Point Rest State, to minimize fuel usage while the investigation continues. Though no decisions have been made about the fate of the mission, the team notes that even if data collection were to end, Kepler has collected substantial quantities of data that should yield a string of scientific discoveries for years to come. Also, Living Off Earth, Future of Human Space Exploration, Garver briefed on Future Technologies, J-2X prepared for gimbal tests, Bolden checks out Aero Tech, Dreamchaser's arrival, Hangout with Star Trek cast and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Big Weather on Hot Jupiters

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are making weather maps of an exotic class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters." What they're finding is wilder than anything we experience here in our own solar system.


JPL/NASA via PhysOrg: Galaxies fed by funnels of fuel
May 24, 2013

Computer simulations of galaxies growing over billions of years have revealed a likely scenario for how they feed: a cosmic version of swirly straws.

The results show that cold gas—fuel for stars—spirals into the cores of galaxies along filaments, rapidly making its way to their "guts." Once there, the gas is converted into new stars, and the galaxies bulk up in mass.

"Galaxy formation is really chaotic," said Kyle Stewart, lead author of the new study appearing in the May 20th issue of the Astrophysical Journal. "It took us several hundred computer processors, over months of time, to simulate and learn more about how this process works." Stewart, who is now at the California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., completed the majority of this work while at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

University of California via Science Daily: Detection of the Cosmic Gamma Ray Horizon: Measures All the Light in the Universe Since the Big Bang
May 24, 2013

How much light has been emitted by all galaxies since the cosmos began? After all, almost every photon (particle of light) from ultraviolet to far infrared wavelengths ever radiated by all galaxies that ever existed throughout cosmic history is still speeding through the Universe today. If we could carefully measure the number and energy (wavelength) of all those photons -- not only at the present time, but also back in time -- we might learn important secrets about the nature and evolution of the Universe, including how similar or different ancient galaxies were compared to the galaxies we see today.

That bath of ancient and young photons suffusing the Universe today is called the extragalactic background light (EBL). An accurate measurement of the EBL is as fundamental to cosmology as measuring the heat radiation left over from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background) at radio wavelengths. A new paper, called "Detection of the Cosmic ?-Ray Horizon from Multiwavelength Observations of Blazars," by Alberto Dominguez and six coauthors, just published today by the Astrophysical Journal -- based on observations spanning wavelengths from radio waves to very energetic gamma rays, obtained from several NASA spacecraft and several ground-based telescopes -- describes the best measurement yet of the evolution of the EBL over the past 5 billion years.

via Science Daily: Accurate Distance Measurement Resolves Major Astronomical Mystery
May 23, 2013

Sometimes astronomy is like real estate -- what's important is location, location, and location. Astronomers have resolved a major problem in their understanding of a class of stars that undergo regular outbursts by accurately measuring the distance to a famous example of the type.

The researchers used the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) and the European VLBI Network (EVN) to precisely locate one of the most-observed variable-star systems in the sky -- a double-star system called SS Cygni -- at 370 light-years from Earth. This new distance measurement meant that an explanation for the system's regular outbursts that applies to similar pairs also applies to SS Cygni.

"This is one of the best-studied systems of its type, but according to our understanding of how these things work, it should not have been having outbursts. The new distance measurement brings it into line with the standard explanation," said James Miller-Jones, of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Australia.

NASA via Science Daily: Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula’s True Shape
May 23, 2013

The Ring Nebula's distinctive shape makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books. But new observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of the glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sun-like star reveal a new twist.

"The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it's like a jelly doughnut, because it's filled with material in the middle," said C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He leads a research team that used Hubble and several ground-based telescopes to obtain the best view yet of the iconic nebula. The images show a more complex structure than astronomers once thought and have allowed them to construct the most precise 3-D model of the nebula.

"With Hubble's detail, we see a completely different shape than what's been thought about historically for this classic nebula," O'Dell said. "The new Hubble observations show the nebula in much clearer detail, and we see things are not as simple as we previously thought."

NASA via Science Daily: Hidden Population of Exotic Neutron Stars
May 23, 2013

Magnetars -- the dense remains of dead stars that erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation -- are some of the most extreme objects known in the Universe. A major campaign using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other satellites shows magnetars may be more diverse -- and common -- than previously thought.

When a massive star runs out of fuel, its core collapses to form a neutron star, an ultradense object about 10 to 15 miles wide. The gravitational energy released in this process blows the outer layers away in a supernova explosion and leaves the neutron star behind.

Most neutron stars are spinning rapidly -- a few times a second -- but a small fraction have a relatively low spin rate of once every few seconds, while generating occasional large blasts of X-rays. Because the only plausible source for the energy emitted in these outbursts is the magnetic energy stored in the star, these objects are called "magnetars."

L.A. Times: Dark, massive asteroid to fly by Earth on May 31
By Deborah Netburn
May 17, 2013

It's 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sticky black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT.

Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated from. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be the result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.


NOAA via Science Daily: Active or 'Extremely Active' Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted for 2013
May 24, 2013

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

N.Y. Times: Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust

Published: May 19, 2013

HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. — Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.

Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.

“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”


McGill University (Canada) via Science Daily: Bacterium from Canadian High Arctic Offers Clues to Possible Life On Mars
May 23, 2013

The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15ºC, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting. The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on both the Saturn moon Enceladus and Mars, where similar briny subzero conditions are thought to exist.

The team of researchers, led by Prof. Lyle Whyte and postdoctoral fellow Nadia Mykytczuk, both from the Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, discovered Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 after screening about 200 separate High Arctic microbes looking for the microorganism best adapted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic permafrost.

"We believe that this bacterium lives in very thin veins of very salty water found within the frozen permafrost on Ellesmere Island," explains Whyte. "The salt in the permafrost brine veins keeps the water from freezing at the ambient permafrost temperature (~-16ºC), creating a habitable but very harsh environment. It's not the easiest place to survive but this organism is capable of remaining active (i.e. breathing) to at least -25ºC in permafrost."

Cell Press via Science Daily: White Tiger Mystery Solved: Coat Color Produced by Single Change in Pigment Gene
May 23, 2013

White tigers today are only seen in zoos, but they belong in nature, say researchers reporting new evidence about what makes those tigers white. Their spectacular white coats are produced by a single change in a known pigment gene, according to the study, appearing on May 23 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"The white tiger represents part of the natural genetic diversity of the tiger that is worth conserving, but is now seen only in captivity," says Shu-Jin Luo of China's Peking University.

Luo, Xiao Xu, Ruiqiang Li, and their colleagues advocate a proper captive management program to maintain a healthy Bengal tiger population including both white and orange tigers. They say it might even be worth considering the reintroduction of white tigers into their wild habitat.


BBC: Irish potato famine pathogen identified
By Helen Briggs BBC News

Scientists have used plant samples collected in the mid-19th Century to identify the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine.

A plant pest that causes potato blight spread to Ireland in 1845 triggering a famine that killed one million people.

DNA extracted from museum specimens shows the strain that changed history is different from modern day epidemics, and is probably now extinct.

Other strains continue to attack potato and tomato crops around the world.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

American Technion Society via Science Daily: Advanced Biological Computer Developed
By Kevin Hattori
May 23, 2013

Using only biomolecules (such as DNA and enzymes), scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed and constructed an advanced biological transducer, a computing machine capable of manipulating genetic codes, and using the output as new input for subsequent computations. The breakthrough might someday create new possibilities in biotechnology, including individual gene therapy and cloning.

The findings appear today (May 23, 2013) in Chemistry & Biology (Cell Press).

Interest in such biomolecular computing devices is strong, mainly because of their ability (unlike electronic computers) to interact directly with biological systems and even living organisms. No interface is required since all components of molecular computers, including hardware, software, input and output, are molecules that interact in solution along a cascade of programmable chemical events.

University of Pittsburgh via Science Daily: Drug Reverses Alzheimer's Disease Deficits in Mice
May 23, 2013

An anti-cancer drug reverses memory deficits in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers confirm in the journal Science.

The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer's Association, reviewed previously published findings on the drug bexarotene, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cutaneous T cell lymphoma. The Pitt Public Health researchers were able to verify that the drug does significantly improve cognitive deficits in mice expressing gene mutations linked to human Alzheimer's disease, but could not confirm the effect on amyloid plaques.

"We believe these findings make a solid case for continued exploration of bexarotene as a therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said senior author Rada Koldamova, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.


National Institutes of Health via Science Daily: Molecule That Triggers Sensation of Itch Discovered
May 23, 2013

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health report they have discovered in mouse studies that a small molecule released in the spinal cord triggers a process that is later experienced in the brain as the sensation of itch.

The small molecule, called natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb), streams ahead and selectively plugs into a specific nerve cell in the spinal cord, which sends the signal onward through the central nervous system. When Nppb or its nerve cell was removed, mice stopped scratching at a broad array of itch-inducing substances. The signal wasn't going through.

Because the nervous systems of mice and humans are similar, the scientists say a comparable biocircuit for itch likely is present in people. If correct, this start switch would provide a natural place to look for unique molecules that can be targeted with drugs to turn off the sensation more efficiently in the millions of people with chronic itch conditions, such eczema and psoriasis.

University of Rochester: Motion Quotient: IQ Predicted by Ability to Filter Visual Motion
May 23, 2013

A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain's unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose brains are better at automatically suppressing background motion perform better on standard measures of intelligence. The test is the first purely sensory assessment to be strongly correlated with IQ and may provide a non-verbal and culturally unbiased tool for scientists seeking to understand neural processes associated with general intelligence.

"Because intelligence is such a broad construct, you can't really track it back to one part of the brain," says Duje Tadin, a senior author on the study and an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. "But since this task is so simple and so closely linked to IQ, it may give us clues about what makes a brain more efficient, and, consequently, more intelligent."

The unexpected link between IQ and motion filtering was reported online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 by a research team lead by Tadin and Michael Melnick, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

via Science Daily: Depression Linked to Telomere Enzyme, Aging, Chronic Disease
May 23, 2013

The first symptoms of major depression may be behavioral, but the common mental illness is based in biology -- and not limited to the brain. In recent years some studies have linked major, long-term depression with life-threatening chronic disease and with earlier death, even after lifestyle risk factors have been taken into account.

Now a research team led by Owen Wolkowitz, MD, professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, has found that within cells of the immune system, activity of an enzyme called telomerase is greater, on average, in untreated individuals with major depression. The preliminary findings from his latest, ongoing study will be reported today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco.

Telomerase is an enzyme that lengthens protective end caps on the chromosomes' DNA, called telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been associated with earlier death and with chronic diseases in population studies.


LiveScience: Baby Neanderthal Breast-Fed for 7 Months
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 22 May 2013

A baby Neanderthal who lived in what is now Belgium about 100,000 years ago started eating solid food at 7 months old, revealing a new aspect of the evolution of breast-feeding.

The precision of this estimate is courtesy a new technique that uses elements in teeth to determine when breast-feeding started and stopped. Though researchers can't be sure the young Neanderthal's pattern was typical of its kind, such a breast-feeding pattern is not unlike that seen in many modern humans.

Discovery News: Neanderthal Greek Paradise Found
by Jennifer Viegas
May 22, 2013 11:30 AM ET

Anthropologists have discovered a beautiful Greek waterfront paradise once inhabited by generations of Neanderthals up to 100,000 years ago, according to a new study.

This particular population was based at what is known as The Kalamakia Middle Paleolithic Cave site on the Mani peninsula of southern Greece.

Previously, only one other Neanderthal tooth suggested that the now-extinct hominids settled in Greece.

Irish Times: Constructing the life as lived by our ancient forebears
Experimental archaeology helps show how people lived in the past
John Holden
May 23, 2013

Have you ever tried digging a hole with a stick? Or chopping down a tree with a stone axe? How about living on porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month? Reading about the way people lived in Stone Age and Mesolithic (10000-5000 BC) times gives only a very limited understanding of how things were in the distant past. Actually recreating everyday life introduces a sense of empathy and other dimensions which paint a far more detailed picture: the essence of experimental archaeology.

Let’s begin with a clarification. Experimental archaeology should not be confused with reconstruction. Those involved don’t dress up as cavemen and women for the sake of an audience. They are using certain tools and techniques common in different time periods to try and learn more about the variables which affected hunter gatherer life while also exposing some of the misunderstandings that have become accepted truths.

Discovery News: Prehistoric Dog Lovers Liked Seafood, Jewelry, Spirituality
by Jennifer Viegas
May 22, 2013 06:00 AM ET

An analysis of ancient dog burials finds that the typical prehistoric dog owner ate a lot of seafood, had spiritual beliefs, and wore jewelry that sometimes wound up on the dog.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, is one of the first to directly test if there was a clear relationship between the practice of dog burial and human behaviors. The answer is yes.

"Dog burials appear to be more common in areas where diets were rich in aquatic foods because these same areas also appear to have had the densest human populations and the most cemeteries," lead author Robert Losey, a University of Alberta anthropologist, told Discovery News.

The Scotsman (UK): Mystery of structure at bottom of Sea of Galilee

A CIRCULAR structure lying at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee could contain the secrets of ­ancient life in the Middle East, researchers believe.

But the Israeli researchers have no way of finding out what lies beneath because they lack the funding to carry out a full-scale under-water ­excavation.

The archaeologists, who have seen grainy images of the conical structure, are trying to raise money to enable them to access the submerged stones that were first seen in a routine scan in 2003.

Haaretz (Israel): The Israelite who wore diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Luxurious footwear is not a modern phenomenon. Evidence shows that it already existed in Judea some 2,000 years ago.
By Roni Bar
May.21, 2013 | 3:32 PM

Many theories have offered insights into the obsession with stylish shoes, often attributed to the allure of the female gender or the effects of modernity and the consumer culture. Nonetheless, luxury shoes are not a modern phenomenon, and the use of shoes as status symbols is as old as time, beginning centuries before footwear designer Christian Louboutin considered dying his soles red.

Evidence of the phenomenon’s origins in antiquity was discovered more than 50 years ago in a cave in the Judean Desert - a piece of leather with golden ornaments, which remained a mystery until recently.

Newcastle Evening Chronicle (UK): Roman relics return to the region after 150 years
By Tony Henderson
24 May 2013 09:30

Ancient gold and silver pieces acquired by the British Museum in 1850, are returning to the region in which they were found

A treasure hoard unearthed on Tyneside over 150 years ago has returned to the region.

The gold and silver items, dating from the Second Century, were unearthed near the former mining village of Backworth in North Tyneside in 1811.

They were acquired by the British Museum in 1850 and have remained there since as part of its Roman Britain displays.

But now the treasure is back near where it was found as it was unpacked to go on show at Segedunum fort in Wallsend.

BBC: Cave paintings in Mexico: Carvings uncovered in Burgos

Archaeologists in Mexico have found 4,926 well-preserved cave paintings in the north-eastern region of Burgos.

The images in red, yellow, black and white depict humans, animals and insects, as well as skyscapes and abstract scenes.

The paintings were found in 11 different sites - but the walls of one cave were covered with 1,550 scenes.

The area in which they were found was previously thought not to have been inhabited by ancient cultures.

The Guardian (UK): Afghan mine delays at ancient site delight archaeologists
Renegotiation of contract with Chinese company mean more time for dig at former Buddhist settlement
Emma Graham-Harrison in Mes Aynak
The Guardian, Thursday 23 May 2013

The forts and temples of the ancient Buddhist town at Mes Aynak in Afghanistan throng with the biggest crowds they have seen in more than 14 centuries. Nearby, rows of sheet metal housing built for Chinese miners are almost empty.

Hundreds of archaeologists are working at the site to excavate gilded statues of the Buddha, elaborate stupas that rise from ornately carved floors and delicate frescoes protected by centuries of mud and forgetfulness. The rich vein of copper that once funded Mes Aynak's creation is now likely to bring about its destruction: a Chinese state-owned mining company paid $3bn (£1.9bn) for the extraction rights, and the site will eventually become the world's biggest copper mine.

But while the fevered excavations are a thrilling sight for those racing to save the last traces of Mes Aynak, the lack of activity in the mining camp is alarming financial mandarins in Kabul, who are counting on mining revenue to make up for slowing streams of western aid.

The Montana Standard via the Ravalli Republic: Archaeology dig near Helena searches for ancient pollen
By PAT HANSON for The Montana Standard

DEER LODGE — Most people think of archaeology as the study of artifacts such as shards of pottery, tools, and arrowheads.

However, an archaeological dig in 2011 at Beaver Creek Rock Shelter near Nelson, east of Helena, led Darla Dexter to study pollen found at the site.

Dexter, a 1994 graduate of Powell County High School in Deer Lodge, became interested in archaeology while taking a Native American Studies class with Lauri Travis, at Carroll College in the fall of 2011.

Last May she joined archaeologist and anthropologist Travis and others for a two-week dig. The Beaver Creek Rock Shelter was used by Indian tribes for more than 2,000 years as a temporary shelter for two or three people at a time, so fire hearths, bones, shells and rock flakes chipped off during the shaping of arrowheads were found.

Agence France Presse via PhysOrg: Villagers discover ancient ball game statue in Mexico
May 21, 2013

Villagers installing a water pipe in southwestern Mexico stumbled onto an ancient granite statue depicting a player from a pre-Hispanic ball game, the national anthropology institute said Monday.

The stone had been sliced at the neck, like a decapitation, and buried in a ritual that was common at the time, the National Anthropology and History Institute said in a statement.

There are indications that the 1.65-meter (5-foot-4) tall statue, which depicts a bow-legged ballplayer with his arms crossed, was built onto an I-shaped ball game field before it was buried and could be more than 1,000 years old.

Sun Advocate: Archaeologist treats guests to 1,000-year-old recipes
May 23, 2013

It seems the ancient Fremont people would have taken a real fancy to scones, Jell-O, funeral potatoes and Dutch Ovens.

Granted, Utah's signature foods were not exactly on Fremont menus 1,000 years ago, but these early state dwellers did chow down on bone, hide and connective tissues, from which gelatin is derived. They also consumed plenty of bread- and potato-related food items found in their maize, tubers and rhizomes, and engaged in some serious containment cooking.

The Australian: 1000-year-old coins found in Northern Territory may rewrite Australian history
by: Barbara Barkhausen
From: AAP

REMEMBER when you were taught that Australia was discovered by James Cook in 1770 who promptly declared it "terra nullius" and claimed it for the British throne?

Turns out that could be completely and utterly wrong.

Five copper coins and a nearly 70-year-old map with an "X" might lead to a discovery that could rewrite Australia's history.

Australian scientist Ian McIntosh, currently Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University in the US, is planning an expedition in July that has stirred up the archaeological community.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation via Yahoo! News Australia: Musicians rebuild Cambodia's lost ancient harp
Rosa Ellen in Phnom Penh, ABC
Updated May 21, 2013, 8:36 am

A Cambodian composer has revealed the sound of an ancient harp which has gone unheard for more than eight centuries.

The pin harp is shown being played by maidens in the stone reliefs on the walls of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

It lends its name to pinpeat orchestras, which perform ceremonial music of the royal courts and temples in Cambodia.

The Mountain Press: Archaeologists uncover remains of Pigeon Forge's origins
May. 17, 2013 @ 11:43 PM

PIGEON FORGE - A team of archaeologists from University of Tennessee and other agencies set up under the Old Mill General Store next to the Little Pigeon River Thursday to excavate remains of Iron Forge, the original forge for which the city was named.

Iron Forge, built in 1817, included a bloomery furnace and water-powered trip hammer to smelt and mold ore into iron bars.

"The forge was a small operation, a small forge," said Alan Longmire, a blacksmith and archaeologist in the environmental division of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. "There's iron ore all along the ridge up there by Middle Creek Road, and they would just bring that down here and put in the forge."

Montreal Gazette (Canada): Historic gas works uncovered in Griffintown
By Marian Scott, THE GAZETTE

MONTREAL — The discovery of an important 19th-century archeological site in Griffintown is reviving the debate over whether surging development is erasing the historic district’s past.

Bulldozers excavating for a condo tower on Ann St. this week uncovered the foundations of a structure once used to store the gas that lit Montreal’s streets.

N.Y. Times: Haunting Relic of History, Slave Cabin Gets a Museum Home in Washington
Published: May 18, 2013

EDISTO ISLAND, S.C. — The floors creaked. The walls swayed in a strong breeze. Rot and termites had destroyed parts of the rickety structure built before the Civil War.

But when curators from the Smithsonian’s new African-American history museum in Washington visited this marshy island last year, they found exactly what they were looking for: an antebellum slave cabin that captured the stark life of plantation workers before emancipation.

L.A. Times: Navy dolphins discover rare old torpedo off Coronado
Two trained dolphins surprise Navy specialists with their find: a Howell torpedo, state-of-the-art for its day in the late 19th century. It's only the second one known to exist.
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
May 17, 2013, 7:29 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — In the ocean off Coronado, a Navy team has discovered a relic worthy of display in a military museum: a torpedo of the kind deployed in the late 19th century, considered a technological marvel in its day.

But don't look for the primary discoverers to get a promotion or an invitation to meet the admirals at the Pentagon — although they might get an extra fish for dinner or maybe a pat on the snout.

The so-called Howell torpedo was discovered by bottlenose dolphins being trained by the Navy to find undersea objects, including mines, that not even billion-dollar technology can detect.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Ohio University via PhysOrg: Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
May 21, 2013

The mighty T. rex may have thrashed its massive head from side to side to dismember prey, but a new study shows that its smaller cousin Allosaurus was a more dexterous hunter and tugged at prey more like a modern-day falcon.

"Apparently one size doesn't fit all when it comes to dinosaur feeding styles," said Ohio University paleontologist Eric Snively, lead author of the new study published today in Palaeontologia Electronica. "Many people think of Allosaurus as a smaller and earlier version of T. rex, but our engineering analyses show that they were very different predators."

Snively led a diverse team of Ohio University researchers, including experts in mechanical engineering, computer visualization and dinosaur anatomy. They started with a high-resolution cast of the five-foot-long skull plus neck of the 150-million-year-old predatory theropod dinosaur Allosaurus, one of the best known dinosaurs. They CT-scanned the bones at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, which produced digital data that the authors could manipulate in a computer.

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology via PhysOrg: Small, speedy plant-eater extends knowledge of dinosaur ecosystems
May 22, 2013

Dinosaurs are often thought of as large, fierce animals, but new research highlights a previously overlooked diversity of small dinosaurs. In the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a team of paleontologists from the University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and University of Calgary have described a new dinosaur, the smallest plant-eating dinosaur species known from Canada. Albertadromeus syntarsus was identified from a partial hind leg, and other skeletal elements, that indicate it was a speedy runner. Approximately 1.6 m (5 ft) long, it weighed about 16 kg (30 lbs), comparable to a large turkey.

Albertadromeus lived in what is now southern Alberta in the Late Cretaceous, about 77 million years ago. Albertadromeus syntarsus means "Alberta runner with fused foot bones". Unlike its much larger ornithopod cousins, the duckbilled dinosaurs, its two fused lower leg bones would have made it a fast, agile two-legged runner. This animal is the smallest known plant-eating dinosaur in its ecosystem, and researchers hypothesize that it used its speed to avoid predation by the many species of meat-eating dinosaurs that lived at the same time.

University of Bristol (UK): Fossil brain teaser: New study reveals patterns of dinosaur brain development
May 20, 2013

A new study conducted at the University of Bristol and published online today in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology sheds light on how the brain and inner ear developed in dinosaurs.

Stephan Lautenschlager from Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, together with Tom Hübner from the Niedersächsische Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany, picked the brains of 150 million year old dinosaurs.

The two palaeontologists studied different fossils of the Jurassic dinosaur Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki: a very young (juvenile) individual of approximately three years of age and a fully grown specimen of more than 12 years of age.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

American Museum of Natural History via Science Daily: Scientists Offer First Definitive Proof of Bacteria-Feeding Behavior in Green Algae
May 23, 2013

A team of researchers has captured images of green alga consuming bacteria, offering a glimpse at how early organisms dating back more than 1 billion years may have acquired free-living photosynthetic cells. This acquisition is thought to have been a critical first step in the evolution of photosynthetic algae and land plants, which, in turn, contributed to the increase in oxygen levels in Earth's atmosphere and ocean and provided one of the conditions necessary for animal evolution.

In a paper that appears in the June 17 issue of Current Biology and is available online today, researchers identify a mechanism by which a green alga that resembles early ancestors of the group engulfs bacteria, providing conclusive evidence for a process that had been proposed but not definitely shown.

"This behavior had previously been suggested but we had not had clear microscopic evidence until this study," said Eunsoo Kim, assistant curator in the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology and corresponding author on the paper. "These results offer important clues to an evolutionary event that fundamentally changed the trajectory of the evolution of not just photosynthetic algae and land plants, but also animals."

University of York (UK) via Science Daily: Why Early Human Ancestors Took to Two Feet
May 24, 2013

A new study by archaeologists at the University of York challenges evolutionary theories behind the development of our earliest ancestors from tree dwelling quadrupeds to upright bipeds capable of walking and scrambling.

The researchers say our upright gait may have its origins in the rugged landscape of East and South Africa which was shaped during the Pliocene epoch by volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates.

Hominins, our early forebears, would have been attracted to the terrain of rocky outcrops and gorges because it offered shelter and opportunities to trap prey. But it also required more upright scrambling and climbing gaits, prompting the emergence of bipedalism.

The York research challenges traditional hypotheses which suggest our early forebears were forced out of the trees and onto two feet when climate change reduced tree cover.


United States Geological Survey via Science Daily: Two Volcanoes Erupting in Alaska: Scientists Are Monitoring and Providing Alerts On Pavlof and Cleveland Volcanoes
May 24, 2013

Two of Alaska's most active volcanoes -- Pavlof and Cleveland -- are currently erupting. At the time of this post, their activity continues at low levels, but energetic explosions could occur without warning.

Located close to the western end of the Alaska Peninsula, Pavlof is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, having erupted more than 40 times since the late 1700's.

Pavlof has been erupting since May 13, 2013, with relatively low-energy lava fountaining and minor emissions of ash, steam, and gas. So far, volcanic ash from this eruption has reached as high as 22,000 feet above sea level. The ash plume has interfered with regional airlines and resulted in trace amounts of ash fall on nearby communities. The ash plume is currently too low to impact commercial airliners that fly between North America and Asia at altitudes generally above 30,000 feet.


Asociación RUVID (Spain) via Science Daily: Researchers Design Photobioreactor to Produce Biofuel from Algae
May 24, 2014

Researchers at the University of Alicante have patented a new device that allows more efficiently to cultivate microalgae and can be used as raw material for biofuel or for other valuable substances in the agri-food or pharmaceutical industry.

The Research Group in Polymer Processing and Pyrolysis at the University of Alicante is the team that has designed and developed this device, consisting of a photobioreactor, easily scalable to larger production, which has attracted the interest of both Spanish and foreign firms in the sector of biotechnology.

The director of the research group, Antonio Marcilla Gomis, explained that the novelty of this photobioreactor compared to those existing is that it allows mass production, less cleaning and maintenance operations, better use of CO2 and better light transfer to cultivation.

National Institute of Standards and Technology via Science Daily: New Filtration Material Could Make Petroleum Refining Cheaper, More Efficient
May 23, 2013

A newly synthesized material might provide a dramatically improved method for separating the highest-octane components of gasoline. Measurements at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have clarified why.

The research team, which included scientists from NIST and several other universities, has published its findings in the journal Science.

Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the material is a metal-organic framework, or MOF, which can be imagined as a sponge with microscopic holes. The innumerable interior walls of the MOF form triangular channels that selectively trap only the lower-octane components based on their shape, separating them easily from the higher-octane molecules in a way that could prove far less expensive than the industry's current method. The Long laboratory and UC Berkeley have applied for a patent on the MOF, which is known by its chemical formula, Fe2(bdp)3.


National Institute of Standards and Technology via PhysOrg: The better to see you with: Scientists build record-setting metamaterial flat lens
May 24, 2013

For the first time, scientists working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated a new type of lens that bends and focuses ultraviolet (UV) light in such an unusual way that it can create ghostly, 3D images of objects that float in free space. The easy-to-build lens could lead to improved photolithography, nanoscale manipulation and manufacturing, and even high-resolution three-dimensional imaging, as well as a number of as-yet-unimagined applications in a diverse range of fields.

"Conventional lenses only capture two dimensions of a three-dimensional object," says one of the paper's co-authors, NIST's Ting Xu. "Our flat lens is able to project three-dimensional images of three-dimensional objects that correspond one-to-one with the imaged object."

An article published in the journal Nature explains that the new lens is formed from a flat slab of metamaterial with special characteristics that cause light to flow backward—a counterintuitive situation in which waves and energy travel in opposite directions, creating a negative refractive index.

PhysOrg: Physicists suggest possible existence of other kinds of dark matter
By Bob Yirka
May 24, 2013

A team of Harvard University physicists has proposed the possible existence of a type of dark matter not described by current physics models. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team suggests it's possible that not all dark matter is cold and collision-less.
If true, it would mean there could be whole dark galaxies out there, undetectable, yet as real as those we can see with the naked eye. Much more research will have to be done in this area before adding such types of dark matter to models in general use, of course. Until then, it will remain an abstract theory.


University of Sheffield (UK) via Science Daily: New Archaeological 'High Definition' Sourcing Sharpens Understanding of the Past
May 22, 2013

A new method of sourcing the origins of artefacts in high definition is set to improve our understanding of the past.

Dr Ellery Frahm at the University of Sheffield developed the new technology to better study Mesopotamian obsidian tools unearthed in Syria, where cultural heritage is threatened by the ongoing conflict.

The research brings five decades of research full circle and presents a significant advance in the field. While at the University of Sheffield from 1965 -- 1972, Professor Lord Colin Renfrew developed a technique that matched stone tools made of obsidian, naturally occurring glass, to their volcanic origins based on their chemical fingerprints.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Science Crime Scenes

Michigan State University via Science Daily: Facial-Recognition Technology Proves Its Mettle
May 24, 2013

In a study that evaluated some of the latest in automatic facial recognition technology, researchers at Michigan State University were able to quickly identify one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects from law enforcement video, an experiment that demonstrated the value of such technology.

In the Pattern Recognition and Image Processing laboratory, Anil Jain, MSU Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, and Josh Klontz, a research scientist, tested three different facial-recognition systems.

By using actual law-enforcement video from the bombing, they found that one of the three systems could provide a "rank one" identification -- a match -- of suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Capitol Times: Young people are driving less, but Wisconsin's highway spending motors on
May 21, 2013 1:15 pm

“This is America,” shouted radio host John ‘Sly’ Sylvester (WEKZ/FM 93.7). “This is the home of Route 66. This is the home of an interstate system. This is the home of cool, windy roads.”

The boisterous populist was expressing his dismay over a new study that found that young people drive considerably less than their parents’ generation. Although typically left-leaning, Sylvester is a devoted advocate of the American auto industry (he has been known to judge political candidates based on their ride) and holds in particular contempt public officials who he believes prioritize bicycles over cars.

Among Madison liberals, of course, Sylvester is an outlier. Most are celebrating the study, which suggests that, in addition to a number of economic factors that limit people’s ability to afford cars — the sluggish economy, high gas prices, student debt — many young people simply aren’t interested in driving.

Science Education

The Community Research and Development Information Service (European Union) via PhysOrg: Challenging the public's view of gender and science

According to She Figures 2012, which analyses gender equality in research, in 2010 women accounted for only 10 % of university rectors in Europe and 15.5 % were heads of institutions of the higher education sector. Although, the research has shown that the number of PhD graduates in general is getting closer to gender balance.

However, engineering, technology, natural sciences and mathematics remain a less attractive choice for young women in graduate studies. At an early age girls are just as interested, and as good as boys in these fields. But the reality is that hard sciences remain an uncommon choice for young women in graduate studies, with gender stereotypes undermining girls' confidence and interest and excluding them from traditionally male-dominated fields.

Challenging the social prejudices that causes gender discrepancy has been the aim of the TWIST project ('Towards Women in Science and Technology'). This is an ambitious series of programmes and activities within science centres and museums across Europe. The project brings together 11 partners, led by the Experimentarium Science Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark. Funding of nearly EUR 3 million was contributed by the European Commission to help achieve their aims.

The Record Herald: Restoration School will educate residents in historic preservation
May 25, 2013

Waynesboro, Pa.  --  Two local nonprofit organizations hope to educate local residents in historic preservation while giving historic buildings the facelifts they need. Little Antietam Creek, Inc. (LACI), and Antietam Historical Association (AHA) will co-sponsor classes in restoration arts beginning in June. The classes will include lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on student participation in restoring historic structures. They are designed to meet the needs of tradesmen, homeowners and high-school vocational students.

The Herald-Leader via Tom Eblen: Metal detectorist seeks legitimacy more than treasure
By Tom Eblen - Herald-Leader columnist
Published: May 21, 2013

PARIS — I always thought it would be fun to have a metal detector. I wasn't so much interested in hunting for buried treasure as finding bits of history hidden a few inches beneath my feet.

Scott Clark, an Internet business consultant in Lexington, has similar interests. An avid metal detectorist since 1985, he has become quite skilled at it — and increasingly passionate about improving the ethics and image of his hobby.

Metal detecting doesn't have the best of reputations, thanks to "treasure hunters" who look for relics on Civil War battlefields or pock-mark parks in search of lost valuables. Many historical archaeologists view detectorists about as favorably as a brain surgeon would a witch doctor.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Writing and Reporting

University of Washington via PhysOrg: The tea party and the politics of paranoia
By Peter Kelley
May 23, 2013

Members of tea party claim the movement springs from and promotes basic American conservative principles such as limited government and fiscal responsibility.

But new research by University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker argues that the tea party ideology owes more to the paranoid politics associated with the John Birch Society—and even the infamous Ku Klux Klan—than to traditional American conservatism.

Parker is the author, with fellow UW political scientist Matt Barreto, of a new book titled "Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America," published this spring by Princeton University Press.

Science is Cool

Agence France Presse via PhysOrg: Slovenian flyer lands in France on return trip from Arctic

Slovenian adventurer Matevz Lenarcic landed on Thursday in Western France after having overflown the North Pole in an ultra-light plane equipped to measure air pollution.

"Only yesterday (Wednesday) I flew almost 4,000 kilometres (2,485 miles), no other similar (ultra-light) plane could do this," Lenarcic told AFP shortly after landing in Saint-Nazaire's airport, western France.

He added, the stop in Saint-Nazaire was not initially planned but the weather conditions and a problem with getting the type of fuel needed for his plane in an Irish airport forced him to change the route and land in France.

Imperial College London (UK) via PhysOrg: Actor Johnny Depp immortalized in ancient fossil find
May 16, 2013

A scientist has discovered an ancient extinct creature with 'scissor hand-like' claws in fossil records and has named it in honour of his favourite movie star.

The 505 million year old fossil called Kooteninchela deppi (pronounced Koo-ten-ee-che-la depp-eye), which is a distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions, was named after the actor Johnny Depp for his starring role as Edward Scissorhands - a movie about an artificial man named Edward, an unfinished creation, who has scissors for hands.

Kooteninchela deppi is helping researchers to piece together more information about life on Earth during the Cambrian period when nearly all modern animal types emerged.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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