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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, 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, health, energy, and the environment.

This week's featured story comes from

Labor Day In Space: Astronauts Take Time Off, Too
by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
August 30, 2013 04:36pm ET

Americans across the United States will pause to celebrate the Labor Day holiday on Monday (Sept. 2), even space travelers soaring high above Earth aboard the International Space Station.

There are two American astronauts — NASA's Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy — currently serving on the space station's six-person crew, and they are expecting a light work day Monday, NASA officials said.

While station astronauts typically take a break from their usual duties on holidays, they still may need to do a little work. Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano might take part in a quick training session to prepare for the arrival of an unmanned cargo-carrying Cygnus spacecraft, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly told via email.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Green diary rescue: hummingbirds and tortoises, nukes and bees, fighting ALEC
by Meteor Blades

This week in science: Cryo-canyon
by DarkSyde


Daily Mail (UK): When science and beauty collide: Dazzling photographs reveal the often hidden wonders of our world - and prove that research needn't be dull

  • Photography is part of the International Images for Science exhibition which launches in Newcastle tomorrow
  • Highlights include a human lymphocyte cell, the head of a weevil, a mouse embryo and cells inside a blood vessel
  • The exhibition, by the Royal Photographic Society, will go on a UK from October 1 before heading to Europe

By Ellie Zolfagharifard
PUBLISHED: 08:57 EST, 30 August 2013
These stunning photographs, selected for the Royal Photographic Society’s latest exhibition, highlight the incredible beauty of scientific research.

The sensational images come from various disciplines of science and highlight how important photography is for academics.

The photographs form a dazzling display of the world’s best scientific photography going on show to the public.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story. Drying US More Prone To Fire, NASA Model Shows

Changes in temperature, rainfall and wind speed over the next 77 years increases the likelihood of extreme fire events across large portions of U.S, Canada and Mexico.

NASA Explorer: Greenland's Mega Canyon

Hidden for all of human history, a 460 mile long canyon has been discovered below Greenland's ice sheet. Using radar data from NASA's Operation IceBridge and other airborne campaigns, scientists led by a team from the University of Bristol found the canyon runs from near the center of the island northward to the fjord of the Petermann Glacier.

A large portion of the data was collected by IceBridge from 2009 through 2012. One of the mission's scientific instruments, the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder, operated by the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at the University of Kansas, can see through vast layers of ice to measure its thickness and the shape of bedrock below.

JPL News: What's Up for September 2013

A lunar night launch, Comet ISON is spotted again, and the moon meets up with Saturn, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

NASA Television: LADEE To The Moon and Remembering Gordon Fullerton on This Week @NASA

NASA prepares for the launch of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer or LADEE probe to the moon. Also, a new crew of ISS Astronauts meet the Media, and the Spitzer and WISE Telescopes get ready to help in the search for asteroids. These stories and more on This Week @NASA.

NASA Television: New Explorers, New Roadmap on This_Week @NASA

A big week for NASA's newest astronaut candidates ... chosen from more 6-thousand applicants, the group of eight arrived at Johnson Space Center to begin training for future missions and were introduced to the media during a news conference with Administrator Charlie Bolden. The candidates could be some of the first explorers to help NASA and its international partners blaze the trail outlined in the recently announced Global Exploration Roadmap. The roadmap makes clear the U.S. and its international space partners share an interest in pursuing ambitious exploration goals. Also, Commercial Capsule Visit, ISS Spacewalk, Lunar Mission Previewed, Webb Backplane Arrives, Climate Mission Media Day, NASA 905 to Houston and more!

Science At NASA: ScienceCasts: NASA Mission Seeks Lunar Air

A NASA spacecraft slated for launch in September will fly to the Moon to investigate the tenuous lunar atmosphere. Researchers hope "LADEE" will solve a mystery that has been puzzling them since the days of Apollo. NASA Chief Remembers Guy Bluford, First African American in Space

NASA administrator Charles Bolden talks about the contributions of former astronaut Guy Bluford, who became the first African American in space in 1983.
This video accompanies 30 Years Ago: First African-American Launches into Space on

Astronomy/Space On Giant Blue Alien Planet, It Rains Molten Glass
by Elizabeth Howell, Contributor
August 30, 2013 04:15pm ET

There's a "blue marble" alien planet just 63 light-years from Earth, but the world is anything but friendly to life. Researchers say the blue color in the atmosphere likely comes from a rain of molten glass.

This super-hot glass rain is just one consequence of the close proximity between the gas giant alien planet HD189733b and its sun. which causes daytime temperatures to soar as high as 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (930 degrees Celsius), scientists said.

A fresh set of observations of the planet in X-rays also suggest HD189733b has an outer atmosphere that is far larger than expected. First 'Trojan' Asteroid Companion of Uranus Found
by Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
August 29, 2013 02:00pm ET

Astronomers have discovered an unexpected, novel kind of triangle in the sky — one whose points are the sun, Uranus and the first "Trojan asteroid" ever seen near the tilted planet.

The discovery of the Trojan asteroid for Uranus suggests Uranus and Neptune could have far more such asteroid companions than previously thought, scientists say.

In astronomy-speak, objects that share their orbit with a planet — but do not collide with the world — are known as Trojans. Such objects have been seen around several planets in our solar system, including the Earth, but the newfound asteroid 2011 QF99 near Uranus is the first ever seen for that planet. Saturn Moon Titan Sports Thick Icy Shell & Bizarre Interior
by Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
August 28, 2013 01:01pm ET

The tough icy shell of Saturn's largest moon Titan is apparently far stronger than previously thought, researchers say.

These surprising new findings add to hints Titan possesses an extraordinarily bizarre interior, scientists added.

Past research suggested Titan has an ocean hidden under its outer icy shell 30 to 120 miles (50 to 200 kilometers) thick. Investigators aim to explore this underground ocean in the hopes of finding alien life on Titan, since virtually wherever there is water on Earth, there is life. Mars Rover Curiosity Drives Solo for First Time
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
August 29, 2013 08:20am ET

After obeying orders on the Red Planet for more than a year, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has finally gotten its first taste of freedom.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover used autonomous navigation for the first time on Tuesday (Aug. 27), driving itself onto a patch of ground that its handlers had not vetted in advance. The robot will likely employ this "autonav" capability more and more as it continues the long trek toward the base of Mars' huge Mount Sharp, NASA officials said.

In autonav mode, Curiosity analyzes photos it takes during a drive to map out a safe route forward. The car-size rover used this ability on Tuesday to find its way across a small depression whose fine-scale features were hidden from Curiosity's previous location. China's First Moon Rover Will Launch By End of the Year
by Megan Gannon, News Editor
August 29, 2013 08:03am ET

China will launch its first moon rover by the end of this year in what will be the most ambitious lunar mission yet, according to state media reports released Wednesday (Aug. 28)

If the Chang'e 3 moon rover mission is successful, it will mark the first time China lands a spacecraft on another celestial body.
The Chang'e 3 spacecraft will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. After it reaches orbit around the moon, its lander will fly down to the moon's surface — to a targeted landing site or Sinus Iridium, or the Bay of Rainbows. Then, the lander will deploy a rover to explore the lunar landscape. A Chang'e 4 spacecraft, which also includes a lander and rover, has also been built to serve as a backup, according to past reports. Russian Meteor Explosion: Space Rock Had Near-Misses Before Impact
by Clara Moskowitz, Assistant Managing Editor
August 26, 2013 06:15pm ET

The meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February likely had a near miss before it hit Earth, possibly with another solar system object or a too-close graze by the sun, scientists have found.

The bus-size space rock was largely vaporized by the heat of impact with Earth's atmosphere, but many fragments survived to crash into the ground as meteorites when it hit on Feb. 15. The impact shattered windows, damaged property and injured more than 1,000 people in the city, which lies 950 miles (1,500 km) east of Moscow.

Analysis of the meteorites that crashed into Russia's Chebarkul Lake has found interesting geologic signatures in the rock fragments. Some meteorites show evidence of melting, caused by intense heating, before they ever reached Earth's atmosphere.


LiveScience: How Air Pollution Affects Climate: NASA Mission Explores
Robert Pearlman, LiveScience Contributor
August 28, 2013 08:56am ET

HOUSTON — In an attempt to better understand how air pollution and natural emissions of certain chemicals are distributed by storms and how that movement affects Earth's climate on a global scale, NASA has commenced its most complex airborne science study of the year, drawing together coordinated observations from the agency’s satellites, aircraft and ground sites.

The Studies of Emissions, Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys mission — known as SEAC4RS — is currently underway at Ellington Field here near NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Flying laboratories built into an airliner, a business jet and a spy plane are providing new insights into the effects of the gases and tiny aerosol particles that are emitted into the atmosphere.

The SEAC4RS aircraft and sensors are probing the atmosphere from its top to bottom to see the effects across the atmosphere's various layers, and they're investigating at a time of the year when weather systems are strong enough and regional air pollution and natural emissions are prolific enough to pump gases and particles high into the stratosphere, according to a NASA statement. This movement of aerosols has potentially global consequences for Earth's atmosphere and climate.


Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics via PhysOrg: Using math models to make predictions: How vegetation competes for rainfall in dry regions
Aug 30, 2013

The greater the plant density in a given area, the greater the amount of rainwater that seeps into the ground. This is due to a higher presence of dense roots and organic matter in the soil. Since water is a limited resource in many dry ecosystems, such as semi-arid environments and semi-deserts, there is a benefit to vegetation to adapt by forming closer networks with little space between plants.

Hence, vegetation in semi-arid environments (or regions with low rainfall) self-organizes into patterns or "bands." The pattern formation occurs where stripes of vegetation run parallel to the contours of a hill, and are interlaid with stripes of bare ground. Banded vegetation is common where there is low rainfall. In a paper published last month in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics, author Jonathan A. Sherratt uses a mathematical model to determine the levels of precipitation within which such pattern formation occurs.

"Vegetation patterns are a common feature in semi-arid environments, occurring in Africa, Australia and North America," explains Sherratt. "Field studies of these ecosystems are extremely difficult because of their remoteness and physical harshness; moreover there are no laboratory replicates. Therefore mathematical modeling has the potential to be an extremely valuable tool, enabling prediction of how pattern vegetation will respond to changes in external conditions."

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Discovery News: Walking Shark Found Strolling in Waters
by Jennifer Viegas
Aug 30, 2013 12:53 PM ET

A walking shark, which uses its fins like legs, has just been discovered taking a stroll off a remote Indonesian island, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Scientists from Conservation International and the Western Australian Museum made the unusual find. Their timing could not have been better.

“The epaulette (long-tailed carpet) shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera, uses its fins to walk across the ocean floor in search of small fish and crustaceans,” Emmeline Johansen of Conservation International’s Asia Pacific Field Division, told Discovery News.

“The discovery comes at a time when Indonesia is significantly ramping up its efforts to protect shark and ray species that are now considered vulnerable to extinction, including whale sharks and manta rays.”


MedicalXpress: Vaccination may make flu worse if exposed to a second strain
by Lin Edwards
August 30, 2013

A new study in the U.S. has shown that pigs vaccinated against one strain of influenza were worse off if subsequently infected by a related strain of the virus.

Microbiologist Dr. Hana Golding of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at Bethesda in Maryland and colleagues at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa and elsewhere, vaccinated "naive" piglets (those that had never been exposed to flu viruses) against the H1N2 influenza strain and later exposed them to the rare H1N1 virus, which is the virus responsible for the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

When the piglets were vaccinated they produced a wide range of antibodies to block the H1N2 virus, but these "cross-reactive" antibodies not only failed to provide protection against the second virus, H1N1, but appeared to actually help the H1N1 virus infiltrate lung tissue and cause more severe symptoms and respiratory system complications such as pneumonia and lung damage. The unvaccinated controls suffered milder pneumonia and fewer other complications. This effect is called Vaccine-Associated Enhanced Respiratory Disease.

University of Copenhagen (Denmark): One in four has alarmingly few intestinal bacteria
August 28, 2013

All people have trillions of bacteria living in their intestines. If you place them on a scale, they weigh around 1.5 kg. Previously, a major part of these 'blind passengers' were unknown, as they are difficult or impossible to grow in laboratories. But over the past five years, an EU research team, MetaHIT, coordinated by Professor S. Dusko Ehrlich at the INRA Research Centre of Jouy-en-Josas, France and with experts from Europe and China have used advanced DNA analysis and bioinformatics methods to map human intestinal bacteria.

"The genetic analysis of intestinal bacteria from 292 Danes shows that about a quarter of us have up to 40% less gut bacteria genes and correspondingly fewer bacteria than average. Not only has this quarter fewer intestinal bacteria, but they also have reduced bacterial diversity and they harbour more bacteria causing a low-grade inflammation of the body. This is a representative study sample, and the study results can therefore be generalised to people in the Western world," says Oluf Pedersen, Professor and Scientific Director at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Oluf Pedersen and Professor Torben Hansen have headed the Danish part of the MetaHIT project, and the findings are reported in the scientific journal Nature.


Columbia University Medical Center via MedicalXpress: Researchers identify major cause of age-related memory loss
August 28, 2013

A team of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers, led by Nobel laureate Eric R. Kandel, MD, has found that deficiency of a protein called RbAp48 in the hippocampus is a significant contributor to age-related memory loss and that this form of memory loss is reversible. The study, conducted in postmortem human brain cells and in mice, also offers the strongest causal evidence that age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's disease are distinct conditions. The findings were published today in the online edition of Science Translational Medicine.

"Our study provides compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right, apart from Alzheimer's. In addition to the implications for the study, diagnosis, and treatment of memory disorders, these results have public health consequences," said Dr. Kandel, who is University Professor & Kavli Professor of Brain Science, co-director of Columbia's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science, and senior investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, at CUMC. Dr. Kandel received a share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries related to the molecular basis of memory.

Washington Post: Poverty strains cognitive abilities, opening door for bad decision-making, new study finds
By Brady Dennis
Published: August 29

Poverty consumes so much mental energy that people struggling to make ends meet often have little brainpower left for anything else, leaving them more susceptible to bad decisions that can perpetuate their situation, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

“Past research has often blamed [poverty] on the personal failings of the poor. They don’t work hard enough; they’re not focused enough,” said University of British Columbia professor Jiaying Zhao, who co-authored the study as a Princeton University graduate student. “What we’re arguing is it’s not about the individual. It’s about the situation.”
The results showed that people wrestling with the mental strain of poverty suffered a drop of as much as 13 points in their IQ — roughly the same found in people subjected to a night with no sleep.

University of Washington via MedicalXpress: Researcher controls colleague's motions in first human brain-to-brain interface
August 27, 2013

University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher.

Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus, causing Stocco's finger to move on a keyboard.

While researchers at Duke University have demonstrated brain-to-brain communication between two rats, and Harvard researchers have demonstrated it between a human and a rat, Rao and Stocco believe this is the first demonstration of human-to-human brain interfacing.


PLoS via Science Daily: Hidden Shell Middens Reveal Ancient Human Presence in Bolivian Amazon
Aug. 28, 2013

Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.

CBC: Artifacts in northern Quebec could be 7,000 years old
Archaeologists start dig after finding rare arrowheads on Waskaganish territory
CBC News
Posted: Aug 25, 2013

A Quebec archaeological team will begin its work at an extraordinary site this week, as it explores a settlement that could be as old as the invention of the wheel.

The Saunders Goose Pond discovery, which could date back 7,000 years, was found last summer on Waskaganish territory in northern Quebec.

LiveScience: Ancient Humans Dined on Bacon from Weird, Spotted Pigs
Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
August 27, 2013

Ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe, whose meat intake was once limited to wild game , may have enjoyed bacon, ham, pork chops and other tasty bites from pigs they owned starting about 7,000 years ago, researchers say.

The new findings suggest these hunter-gatherers had domesticated pigs about 500 years earlier than previously thought, yielding new insights into the movements and interactions of prehistoric humans and the exchange of technologies and knowledge, scientists said.

The Daily Mail (UK): Discovery of 5,000-year-old skull 'in fabulous condition' on side of river sparks mystery as archaeologists claim it would not have survived in water

  • Skull is believed to be of a middle aged woman living in 3,300 BC
  • Unbroken skull found on the banks of the River Avon in Worcestershire
  • Carbon dating technology places the piece between 3,338BC and 3,035 BC
  • The 'exceptional' find suggests there is an undiscovered burial site nearby

By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 14:11 EST, 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 08:50 EST, 31 August 2013
A 5,000-year-old human skull in 'fabulous' condition has been discovered on the banks of a river in Worcershire by a walker who thought it was a coconut.

Experts said the piece of ancient skull is an 'exceptional find' as the intricate marks from blood vessels are still visible on the inner surface.

The smooth dark outer side gives only a tantalising glimpse as to what the person may have looked like, although there are 'tentative' suggestions it may have belonged to a woman in middle age living in the Neolithic period - around the time Stonehenge was built.

The Herald (UK): Earliest Bronze Age sheepskin is found in the Highlands
David Ross
Highland Correspondent
Friday 30 August 2013

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are claiming a highly significant discovery in the Highlands in the form of a 4000-year-old sheepskin that is believed to be the earliest surviving example in Britain.

It was recovered from a burial cist in Spinningdale, on the east coast of Sutherland, which was discovered when a septic tank was being installed in 2011. Since then archaeologists have been undertaking a sophisticated analysis of what they found and are only now publishing the resulting data.

Peru This Week: Archeologists discover two stone sculptures at Chavin de Huantar in Ancash
by Diego M. Ortiz
August 27, 2013

The sculptures are in the shape of decorative heads and weigh around 250 kg.

Two stone sculptures believed to date back to 1200-1500 B.C. were discovered at the Chavin de Huantar archeological site in Huaraz, according to the team led by Dr. John Rick, an archeologist from the United States.

The sculptures, which are in the shape of decorative heads, measure approximately 103 centimeters in length and weigh around 250 kilograms. The heads were found approximately two meters from one another.

These were not the first such heads discovered in the Chavin Huantar site. In 1920 an archeologist named Julio C. Tello found a large number of “cabezas clavas” that were buried inside the façade of the temples. Many of them were swept away and lost in a flood that covered the site in 1940.

Red Orbit: Unearthed Ancient Roman Structure Predates Invention Of Mortar
Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online
August 26, 2013

Archaeologists digging at a long-buried city in Italy have unearthed a massive stone monument dating back at least 300 years before the Colosseum and 100 years before the invention of mortar. The new discovery indicates that the ancient Romans had developed architectural skills much earlier than previously believed.

The team of 60 researchers, including 35 undergraduates and 15 graduates, from the University of Michigan and Yale University were on hand this summer to work at the site. The excavation of the city is expected to continue through 2014, but with the new discovery under their belt, the archaeologists are hoping the $2 million U-M Museum of Archaeology-funded project will be extended.

Shalom Life (Canada): Israeli Archaeologist May Have Found Where Jesus Walked on Water
Professor Shmulik Marco has uncovered a third-century mound of stones in the Sea of Galilee that may provide details of the New Testament miracle
By: Daniel Koren
Published: August 26th, 2013

A land brimming with historical significance, religious affiliation, and archaeology wonderment, thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and the like travel each year to the Jewish homeland to get a first-hand experience of Israel's breathtaking sites and sounds in Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and Nazareth, to name a few.

As archaeological sites continue to offer new explanations to questions historians have pondered since the dawn of time, one Israeli researcher/archaeologist may be able to shed light on one of the most important miracles located in the New Testament: the time Jesus Christ walked on water.

BBC: First Scottish Iron Age 'loch village' found in Wigtownshire

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an Iron Age "loch village" in Wigtownshire, the first of its kind to be found in Scotland.

Experts believe it could be "Scotland's Glastonbury", a reference to the lake village in Somerset.

The excavation was part-financed with £15,000 from Historic Scotland.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop described the village discovery at Black Loch of Myrton as "an exciting and unexpected find".

Iris Independent: 1,300-year-old monastic site hailed the new Clonmacnoise by archaeologists
Greg Harkin
29 August 2013

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered an ancient monastic settlement of "huge national importance" during work for a church car park.

The treasure trove is set to put a boggy field beside an old rural parish church on the archaeological map of Ireland.

Archaeologist Mick Drumm compared the find in Co Donegal this week to the settlement at Clonmacnoise.

CBC: Ancient farming evidence found at Winnipeg museum site
At least 400,000 artifacts found where Canadian Museum of Human Rights is built
CBC News
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 9:33 AM CT
Last Updated: Aug 28, 2013 9:30 PM CT

Archeologists have unearthed more than 400,000 artifacts from the site of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, with some of the ancient items suggesting that farming was an important activity there many years ago.

Officials with the human rights museum, located at The Forks — a historic site at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in what is now downtown Winnipeg — have shown off some of the artifacts, which date back hundreds of years.

Archeological teams uncovered the artifacts between 2008 and 2012, while the museum was under construction, in what officials have called the largest block excavation in the province.

BBC: Lincoln Castle archaeologists to extract sarcophagus

Archaeologists are preparing to extract a sarcophagus discovered at Lincoln Castle and thought to contain "somebody terribly important".

The stone sarcophagus, believed to date from about AD900, was found alongside the remains of a church which was previously unknown.

Archaeologists have been on site for almost a year and their work came to an end this week.

They believe the sarcophagus could contain a Saxon king or bishop.

Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Excavations at Byzantine castle in Istanbul reveal 80 artifacts
ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency

This year’s works are almost completed at Istanbul’s Byzantine Yoros Castle. Some 80 artifacts have been unearthed during the excavations

Excavations in Istanbul’s only Byzantine castle, Yoros, will come to a close at the end of this month. During excavations this year some 80 artifacts have been unearthed.

The Yoros Castle, which is located in the city’s Anadolukavag(? neighborhood and whose date of construction is not known exactly, has been hosting excavation teams of the Istanbul University since 2010. The excavation team, made up of archaeologists, art historians, faculty members, university students and veterinaries, has so far revealed lots of artifacts.

Anchorage Daily News via The Sacramento Bee: Excavation reveals largest trove of Yup'ik artifacts
Anchorage Daily News
Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 - 5:21 am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Unfamiliar items washed out on the beach near the Bering Sea village of Quinhagak about five years ago. The curiosities were clearly indigenous to the area, with designs similar to those found in the Yup'ik Eskimo culture of the region. And they were wood, a material that usually decays after a few decades. Yet they were also old.

The question was: How old?

Associated Press via Detroit Free Press: Possible Griffin shipwreck artifact to get CT scan to determine age
By John Flesher
Associated Press
August 22, 2013

TRAVERSE CITY — The hunt for the Griffin, a ship commanded by legendary French explorer La Salle, has taken an unlikely detour from northern Lake Michigan to a small-town hospital, where modern technology may help determine whether a wooden slab is wreckage from the 17th-Century vessel.

A team led by explorer Steve Libert, who has searched 30 years for the mysterious ship, hauled the roughly 400-pound beam ashore in June. He discovered a 10.5-foot section of it protruding from the lake bed in 2001 during a dive near uninhabited Poverty Island, and received permits this summer to dig beneath it. But his crew discovered the beam wasn’t attached to anything.

LiveScience: 19th-Century Shipwreck Finally Identified Off NJ Coast
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
August 27, 2013 02:52pm ET

A 19th-century steamer that sank beneath the waves after a violent crash off the New Jersey coast has now been found.

The Robert J. Walker, a pre-Civil-War-era ship that surveyed the Gulf Coast, wrecked in 1860 after being struck by a commercial ship.

Divers discovered the shipwreck site in the 1970s, but the ship's identity has been shrouded in mystery until now. Scientists used the wreck's location and unique features to make the positive identification.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Evolution/Paleontology Earth Life Likely Came from Mars, Study Suggests
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
August 28, 2013 06:05pm ET

We may all be Martians.

Evidence is building that Earth life originated on Mars and was brought to this planet aboard a meteorite, said biochemist Steven Benner of The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida.

An oxidized form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, was likely available on the Red Planet's surface long ago, but unavailable on Earth, said Benner, who presented his findings today (Aug. 28; Aug. 29 local time) at the annual Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Florence, Italy.

National Geographic News: Ancient Fish Downsized But Still Largest Ever
Once thought to be 90 feet long, the fish is now a more modest 26 to 55 feet.
Brian Switek
for National Geographic
Published August 27, 2013

Of all the fish to ever swim in the seas, Leedsichthys problematicus may be the record-holder for the world's largest. But as the Jurassic plankton-feeder's species name suggests, Leedsichthys is a problematic fish.

Working with bits and pieces of incomplete skeletons, scientists have had a hard time figuring out the precise dimensions of the enormous creature. Now it seems that Leedsichthys, which swam the seas 165 million years ago, may have been smaller than previously believed-roughly half as big as earlier estimates, in fact.

Even so, it was probably a little bigger than today's plankton-feeding whale sharks, and its standing as the biggest bony fish ever is still intact.


LiveScience: Bizarre! Supervolcano's Ash So Hot It Turned to Lava
By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor
August 29, 2013 11:08am ET

Ash from supervolcanoes dwarfing any volcanoes on Earth today could have been so hot that it turned back into lava once it hit the ground miles from an eruption, new research suggests.

Supervolcanoes are capable of eruptions surpassing anything seen in recorded history, expelling thousands of times more magma and ash than even the biggest of modern-day eruptions. A dozen or so supervolcanoes exist today, including one sitting dormant under Yellowstone National Park in the western United States.

After a volcano erupts, lava typically flows directly from the site of the outburst until it cools enough to harden in place. However, scientists unexpectedly found signs of an ancient lava flow in Grey's Landing, Idaho, miles away from a supervolcano eruption near Yellowstone that happened about 8 million years ago.


National Geographic News: Six Stealthy Energy Hogs: Are They Lurking in Your Home?
Brian Handwerk
For National Geographic
Published August 26, 2013

Does your smartphone use more energy than a refrigerator? A recent report by the Digital Power Group claimed that an average iPhone uses more juice for battery charging, data use, and wireless connectivity than a medium-sized, ENERGY STAR refrigerator.

But an iPhone's power requirements vary dramatically depending on how it's used for video, gaming, and other apps. And estimates for just how much data the average owner uses a month also vary widely, so the controversial study has drawn critics who claim that the comparison is greatly overstated. (See quiz: "What You Don't Know About Electricity.")

Whether your mobile phone's power use rivals your fridge or not, the chances are good that hidden energy hogs in your home are burning more power and money than that refrigerator—sometimes much more. Here are half a dozen surprisingly power-hungry devices that may be feeding your electric bill.


University of Chicago via PhysOrg: Ultracold Big Bang experiment successfully simulates evolution of early universe
by Steve Koppes
Aug 29, 2013

Physicists have reproduced a pattern resembling the cosmic microwave background radiation in a laboratory simulation of the Big Bang, using ultracold cesium atoms in a vacuum chamber at the University of Chicago.

"This is the first time an experiment like this has simulated the evolution of structure in the early universe," said Cheng Chin, professor in physics. Chin and his associates reported their feat in the Aug. 1 edition of Science Express, and it will appear soon in the print edition of Science.

Chin pursued the project with lead author Chen-Lung Hung, PhD'11, now at the California Institute of Technology, and Victor Gurarie of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Their goal was to harness ultracold atoms for simulations of the Big Bang to better understand how structure evolved in the infant universe.

University of St. Andrews (UK) via PhysOrg: Fastest rotating man-made object created
August 28, 2013
A team of researchers at the University of St Andrews has created the world's fastest spinning man-made object.

Dr Yoshihiki Arita, Dr Michael Mazilu and Professor Kishan Dholakia of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere, purely using laser light in a vacuum, briefly up to 600 million RPM before it broke apart.

This speed is half a million times faster than the spin speed of a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill.

University of Arkansas via PhysOrg: Physicist disentangles 'Schrodinger's cat' debate
Aug 26, 2013

Physicist Art Hobson has offered a solution, within the framework of standard quantum physics, to the long-running debate about the nature of quantum measurement.

In an article published August 8 by Physical Review A, a journal of the American Physical Society, Hobson argues that the phenomenon known as "nonlocality" is key to understanding the measurement problem illustrated by "Schrodinger's cat."

In 1935, Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrodinger used the example of a cat in a closed box to illustrate the central paradox of quantum physics: microscopic particles such as electrons, photons or atoms can exist in two quantum states at once. These states are known as "superpositions."


LiveScience: New Super-Heavy Element 115 Confirmed
By Megan Gannon, News Editor
August 27, 2013 11:38am ET

Scientists say they've created a handful of atoms of the elusive element 115, which occupies a mysterious corner of the periodic table.

The super-heavy element has yet to be officially named, but it is temporarily called ununpentium, roughly based on the Latin and Greek words for the digits in its atomic number, 115.  

The atomic number is the number of protons an element contains. The heaviest element commonly found in nature is uranium, which has 92 protons, but scientists can load even more protons into an atomic nucleus and make heavier elements through nuclear fusion reactions.

Harvard University via PhysOrg: Gel-based audio speaker demonstrates capabilities of ionic conductors, long thought limited in application
Aug 29, 2013

In a materials science laboratory at Harvard University, a transparent disk connected to a laptop fills the room with music—it's the "Morning" prelude from Peer Gynt, played on an ionic speaker.

No ordinary speaker, it consists of a thin sheet of rubber sandwiched between two layers of a saltwater gel, and it's as clear as a window. A high-voltage signal that runs across the surfaces and through the layers forces the rubber to rapidly contract and vibrate, producing sounds that span the entire audible spectrum, 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz.

But this is not an electronic device, nor has it ever been seen before. Published in the August 30 issue of Science, it represents the first demonstration that electrical charges carried by ions, rather than electrons, can be put to meaningful use in fast-moving, high-voltage devices.

Science Crime Scenes

Miami Herald: Search for bodies at Dozier School for Boys begins
News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE -- Excavation of long-buried human remains from unmarked graves at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna will begin Saturday.

The weekend work outside the Boot Hill section of the closed Panhandle reform school is expected to be the first in a number of digs to occur over the next year, University of South Florida spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said Monday in an email.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

National Geographic News: Opinion: We Sued the Oil Industry So New Orleans Can Survive
John M. Barry
For National Geographic
Published August 28, 2013

After Hurricane Katrina, which struck eight years ago August 29, and the collapse of the levee system—a system entirely designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—Louisiana wanted a new kind of local levee board, one made up of flood experts instead of political appointees. So, with 81 percent of the vote, the state's citizens passed a constitutional amendment that created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE), a reform board that oversees the levee system of greater New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi River, and of which I am a member.

The members of this levee board are nominated by a committee that includes deans of the state's engineering schools and representatives of good-government groups; the governor must appoint board members from a list provided by this committee. The members of other levee boards in the state serve at the governor's pleasure. To insulate them from politics, however, SLFPAE members cannot be removed except for cause. This distinction has suddenly become important.

On July 24, the SLFPAE filed suit against Exxon Mobil, Shell,* BP, Chevron, Atlantic Richfield, and 92 other oil, gas, and pipeline companies for destruction of the "buffer zone" of land and marsh that had historically protected the area.

We expected controversy. We got an uproar.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Art Newspaper: Row erupts in Mexico over chocolate museums at Mayan sites
National archaeology institute’s management of Unesco heritage sites called into question
By Laurie Rojas. Web only
Published online: 29 August 2013

A row in Mexico about the construction of museums of chocolate at Chichen Itza, the Mayan complex in the Yucatán peninsula that is a Unesco World Heritage site, and in nearby Uxmal, has revealed deep divisions within the National Institute of Archaeology and History and called into question the institute’s management of such sites.

Opponents of the planned museums, some of whom work for the institute, organised a public campaign that resulted in the institute ordering work to stop on the Choco-Story Museum at Chichen Itza. The chocolate museum was being built on private property but within the site’s protected archaeological zone—around 30 metres from the Great Ball Court of Chichen Itza. Starting construction without a permit breaks a law that protects Mexican national heritage.

The institute ordered the building to be dismantled this month. However, it granted permission to the same company to finish building a museum at Uxmal. Both Choco-Story museums are owned by the Van Belle family, who are the founders of Puratos Group, a Belgian chocolate company.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story. Is NASA's Plan to Lasso an Asteroid Really Legal?
By Leonard David, Insider Columnist
August 30, 2013 05:59am ET

NASA's ambitious asteroid-capture mission is seemingly being blueprinted with little dialogue about whether or not it is actually legal.

NASA intends to grab an asteroid and drag it to a stable orbit near the moon, where it can be visited by astronauts, perhaps as early as 2021. But does this bold plan run afoul of 1967's Outer Space Treaty (OST), which provides the basic framework of international space law, or 1972's Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects? asked several lawyers with space specialties to offer views about the legality of tagging, bagging and shoving an asteroid around. Air Force Study Reveals Threats to US Space Activities
by Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist
August 29, 2013 08:04am ET

No matter where you look in the air, outer space and within the depths of cyberspace, these are congested, contested and competitive environments. A recently released U.S. Air Force study scopes out a science and technology vision to deal with these concerns.

At its heart, a new report, titled "Global Horizons," strives to take advantage of $1.4 trillion in worldwide research and development investments to protect the Air Force's global missions. Those missions involve operating in, from and through the global domains of air, space and cyberspace — all geared to support America's security interests.

But times are tight, dollar-wise. How best to make investments near-term and into the future?

LiveScience: New Drilling Rules Reflect Old Problems (Op-Ed)
Briana Mordick, Natural Resources Defense Council
August 29, 2013 08:16pm ET

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is at a fork in the road to America's public lands. One path offers outdated, inadequate rules — the path that the agency has been following to regulate oil and gas drilling for more than three decades. Down the other path are requirements for oil and gas producers to use today's best-available practices to protect America's clean air, clean water, wild lands and human health. That path would lead toward a future where oil and gas resources are more responsibly developed, in ways that reduce threats to public health and the environment and respect the quality of life in local communities.

The BLM, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, has said its current rules don't address the real environmental and public health risks from technologies like hydraulic fracturing. Unfortunately, the BLM's revised proposed rules, released in May, indicate that the agency plans to continue down the same risky, well-trod path to oil and gas development on public lands it has been walking for 30 years. Fortunately, it's not too late for the BLM to change course and protect the millions of Americans who live, go to school, work, and experience recreation on or near public lands.

Science Education

Scientific American: Blackboards Make You Stupid (Or Is It Just Me?)
By Evelyn Lamb
August 31, 2013

I just finished my first week teaching after a few years out of the classroom. Whenever I teach, I’m struck by how much detail I need to put in my notes to make sure I don’t say something absolutely ridiculous when I’m in front of the class. Even with careful preparation, I sometimes arrive back at my office wondering why I couldn’t answer a question that perplexed me in class but suddenly seems so simple. The reason? Blackboards make me stupid, and they probably make you stupid too.

A quick search through stock photos reveals that the intelligence-suppressing powers of blackboards are well documented. But the exact amount that a person’s intelligence decreases when he or she stands at the front of a classroom with a blackboard has only recently been determined—by yours truly.

This week, I came up with a preliminary formula that describes the troubling phenomenon of Blackboard Stupidity.

Science Writing and Reporting 'Space Tourism' Added to Oxford Dictionary
by Robert Z. Pearlman, Editor
August 29, 2013 04:09pm ET

"Space tourism" is now "buzzworthy," at least according to one prominent dictionary.

Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) added "space tourism" (and "buzzworthy") to the more than 350,000 entries that it defines, the Oxford University Press announced Wednesday (Aug. 28).

The newly-added entry describes "space tourism" as "the practice of travelling into space for recreational purposes." Oxford Dictionaries Online also includes with the entry an example of the "mass noun" used in a sentence: "Space tourism could be a $10 billion-per-year industry within two decades."

Science is Cool Artist to Recreate Astronaut's Amazing Space Photos as Body Art
by Elizabeth Howell, Contributor
August 27, 2013 11:14am ET

When Canada's rock star astronaut Chris Hadfield visits his birthplace of Sarnia this fall, he'll have a chance to see his dazzling snapshots from space re-imagined on human bodies.

Local Sarnia artist Cat Cabajar has received a $1,000 Canadian (US$962) grant to recreate Hadfield's amazing space images as body art on human models. When complete, the skin of each model will blend in with poster-sized versions of the space photos captured by Hadfield during his five month mission to the International Space Station this year. The astronaut returned to Earth in May. [See astronaut Chris Hadfield's stunning photos of Earth]

The body art space project will be on display at Sarnia's DeGroot's Nursuries in mid-November and Chris Hadfield plans to visit the town on Nov. 23 to sign autographs as a part of a national tour to discuss his upcoming book "An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth," which debuts in October.

Originally posted to Astro Kos on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 08:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Overnight News Digest.

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