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Science News

Nearly complete 'chicken from hell,' from mysterious dinosaur group

This is a mounted replica skeleton of the new oviraptorosaurian dinosaur species Anzu wyliei on display in the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pa., USA.Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A team of researchers has announced the discovery of a bizarre, bird-like dinosaur, named Anzu wyliei, that provides paleontologists with their first good look at a dinosaur group that has been shrouded in mystery for almost a century. Anzu was described from three specimens that collectively preserve almost the entire skeleton, giving scientists a remarkable opportunity to study the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of Caenagnathidae (pronounced SEE-nuh-NAY-thih-DAY) -- the long-mysterious group of theropod dinosaurs to which Anzu belongs.

The three described fossil skeletons of Anzu were unearthed in North and South Dakota, from roughly 66 million-year-old rocks of the Hell Creek Formation, a rock unit celebrated for its abundant fossils of famous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. The scientific paper describing the discovery appears today in the freely-accessible journal PLOS ONE.

Leaf me alone: ancient insect blended in with foliage

A fossil stick insect referred to as Cretophasmomima melanogramma, in Inner Mongolia at the Jehol locality, a site from the Cretaceous period (L), and a plant fossil, Membranifolia admirabilis (R) are pictured in this handout photo courtesy of, Olivier Bethoux, a paleontologist with the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.By Will Dunham

(Reuters) - Sometimes it is better not to be noticed.

A number of insect species look so much like sticks or leaves that they simply blend in with the foliage, providing camouflage that helps keep them out of the beaks of hungry birds hankering for a big bite of bug.

But this is no recent adaptation. An international team of scientists said on Wednesday they have discovered the fossil of an insect in China that lived about 126 million years ago whose appearance mimicked that of a nearby plant. It is the oldest-known stick or leaf insect that used such natural trickery, they said.

The insect, named Cretophasmomima melanogramma, was found in Liaoning province in northeastern China, part of the Jehol rock formation that has yielded many stunningly detailed fossils of creatures like early birds and feathered dinosaurs.

Technology News

Why Workers Can Suffer in Bossless Companies Like GitHub

The founders of GitHub. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WiredBy Klint Finley

GitHub wants to change the way businesses operate, making them more egalitarian and more productive. But these changes may also bring new problems.

The San Francisco startup built its operation with a “flat” organizational structure with few, if any, middle managers or formal job titles. Rather than waiting for a rigid hierarchy of managers to give orders, employees simply rally around projects that need to be done.

A growing number of companies have adopted this type of structure, including game developer Valve and W.L. Gore, the company behind Gore-Tex. But the idea had particular resonance coming from GitHub, as it mirrors GitHub’s web service that provides a means for large groups to freely collaborate on software projects. For many developers who use the service daily, the flat structure seemed like an idea that could reinvent businesses by making them as democratic — and as powerful — as a good open source project. But the reality may be a little different.

A Clever Toothpaste Tube That Squeezes Out Every Last Bit

Nicole Pannuzzo has redesigned the Colgate toothpaste tube.By Liz Stinson

Among the bathroom-related design woes out there, there are few as frustrating as the toothpaste tube. Even when we know it’s gone, we act like there there’s always just a little more toothpaste to be squeezed out. So we flatten, we roll, we pinch, but mostly, we just get annoyed.

There are all sorts of tips and tricks to remedy this problem, but the real issue is that we have to use tips and tricks at all. It would make a lot more sense if we could just use a toothpaste tube that didn’t trap unknown amounts of goop inside it. “Toothpaste is something we use everyday, but it’s also something we overlook,” says Nicole Pannuzzo. “I’m really interested in taking the little things that bother us and doing something about it.”

Which is exactly what Pannuzzo, a senior at Arizona State University, did. For a recent class, Pannuzzo decided completely overhaul Colgate’s traditional packaging in an attempt to make the product more efficiently dispense toothpaste. Drawing inspiration from origami, the designer created a spiraled, cylindrical tube that’s shaped like a helix. The idea is, as you use toothpaste the tube will shrink like an accordion until it’s completely flat and empty.

Environmental News

Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy

A big challenge for utilities is finding new ways to store surplus wind energy and deliver it on demand. It takes lots of energy to build wind turbines and batteries for the electric grid. But Stanford scientists have found that the global wind industry produces enough electricity to easily afford the energetic cost of building grid-scale storage.Stanford University

The worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40 percent a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Now a team of Stanford researchers has looked at the "energetic cost" of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid. At issue is whether renewable energy supplies, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, produce enough energy to fuel both their own growth and the growth of the necessary energy storage industry.

"Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front," said Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford. "Studies show that wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations now produce more energy than they consume. The question is, how much additional grid-scale storage can the wind and solar industries afford and still remain net energy providers to the electrical grid?"

Goldilocks principle: Earth's continued habitability due to geologic cycles that act as climate control

Researchers from USC and Nanjing University in China have documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator -- the geologic cycles that churn up the planet's rocky surface.University of Southern California

Researchers from USC and Nanjing University in China have documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator -- the geologic cycles that churn up the planet's rocky surface.

Scientists have long known that "fresh" rock pushed to the surface via mountain formation effectively acts as a kind of sponge, soaking up the greenhouse gas CO2. Left unchecked, however, that process would simply deplete atmospheric CO2 levels to a point that would plunge Earth into an eternal winter within a few million years during the formation of large mountain ranges like the Himalayas -- which has clearly not happened.

And while volcanoes have long been pointed to as a source of carbon dioxide, alone they cannot balance out the excess uptake of carbon dioxide by large mountain ranges. Instead, it turns out that "fresh" rock exposed by uplift also emits carbon through a chemical weathering process, which replenishes the atmospheric carbon dioxide at a comparable rate.

Medical News

New approach makes cancer cells explode

Graphical abstract.Karolinska Institutet

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that a substance called Vacquinol-1 makes cells from glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumour, literally explode. When mice were given the substance, which can be given in tablet form, tumour growth was reversed and survival was prolonged. The findings are published in the journal Cell.

The established treatments that are available for glioblastoma include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But even if this treatment is given the average survival is just 15 months. It is therefore critical to find better treatments for malignant brain tumours.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and colleagues at Uppsala University have discovered an entirely new mechanism to kill tumour cells in glioblastoma. Researchers in an initial stage have exposed tumour cells to a wide range of molecules. If the cancer cells died, the molecule was considered of interest for further studies, which initially applied to over 200 kinds of molecules. Following extensive studies, a single molecule has been identified as being of particular interest. The researchers wanted to find out why it caused cancer cell death.

Scientists find mechanism to reset body clock

Researchers have discovered a new mechanism that governs how body clocks react to changes in the environment.University of Manchester

Researchers from The University of Manchester have discovered a new mechanism that governs how body clocks react to changes in the environment.

And the discovery, which is being published in Current Biology, could provide a solution for alleviating the detrimental effects of chronic shift work and jet-lag.

The team's findings reveal that the enzyme casein kinase 1epsilon (CK1epsilon) controls how easily the body's clockwork can be adjusted or reset by environmental cues such as light and temperature.

Internal biological timers (circadian clocks) are found in almost every species on the planet. In mammals including humans, circadian clocks are found in most cells and tissues of the body, and orchestrate daily rhythms in our physiology, including our sleep/wake patterns and metabolism.

Space News

Cassini Spies Wind-Rippled Sea on Titan

Cassini VIMS image showing specular reflections in one of Titan’s many lakes during the T85 flyby on July 24, Irene Klotz

New observations from NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft show what appear to be glints of sunlight bouncing off a wind-rippled lake on the moon Titan.

“If correct, this discovery represents the first sea-surface waves known outside of Earth,” University of Idaho planetary scientist Jason Barnes wrote in an abstract of a paper presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston this week.

Comparisons with computer models indicate four measurements of Titan’s northern polar region made by Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on July 26 and Sept. 12, 2013, were wavy seas reflecting the sun.

“We cannot rule out mudflats covered in a liquid layer as the source of these slopes, our best-fit value indicates slopes of 6 degrees, plus or minus 1 degree,” Barnes added.

“If the roughness is indeed due to waves, then the implied winds are (about) 0.76 meters per second (2.5 feet per second),” he wrote.

Researchers Identify Cause Of Rare, Powerful 2012 Solar Storm

Image Caption: This image captured on July 23, 2012, at 12:24 a.m. EDT, shows a coronal mass ejection that left the sun at the unusually fast speeds of over 1,800 miles per second. Credit: NASA/STEREOredOrbit Staff & Wire Reports

Researchers have uncovered the origin and cause of an extreme space weather event that took place July 22, 2012 on the sun which generated the fastest solar wind speed ever recorded directly by a solar wind instrument.

The formation of the powerful event showed remarkable features as a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun’s right side, zooming out into space and passing one of NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft along the way.

According to NASA, scientists clocked the speed of this giant cloud, known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, at more 1,800 miles per second as it left the sun – a speed that would circle the Earth five times in one minute.

CMEs are clouds of magnetic fields and plasma – a hot gas composed of charged particles.

The July 2012 storm was so powerful that had it been aimed at Earth instead of at the STEREO A spacecraft, which was located 120 degrees off to the side of Earth, the consequences could have included satellite malfunctions and potential failures within ground-based electricity grids.

Odd News

What singing fruit flies can tell us about quick decisions

To capture the male fruit fly's mating song, the researchers constructed an octagonal chamber covered in copper mesh and fitted with nine high-fidelity microphones (above). The researchers then placed a sexually mature male and female in the chamber and recorded more than 100,000 song bouts.Princeton University

You wouldn't hear the mating song of the male fruit fly as you reached for the infested bananas in your kitchen. Yet, the neural activity behind the insect's amorous call could help scientists understand how you made the quick decision to pull your hand back from the tiny swarm.

Male fruit flies base the pitch and tempo of their mating song on the movement and behavior of their desired female, Princeton University researchers have discovered. In the animal kingdom, lusty warblers such as birds typically have a mating song with a stereotyped pattern. A fruit fly's song, however, is an unordered series of loud purrs and soft drones made by wing vibrations, the researchers reported in the journal Nature. A male adjusts his song in reaction to his specific environment, which in this case is the distance and speed of a female -- the faster and farther away she's moving, the louder he "sings."

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