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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 editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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.

Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Alabama, Arkansas, and California.

This week's featured story comes from

Found! Oldest Known Alien Planet That Might Support Life
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
June 03, 2014 07:01pm ET

Astronomers have discovered what appears to be the oldest known alien world that could be capable of supporting life, and it's just a stone's throw away from Earth.

The newfound exoplanet candidate Kapteyn b, which lies a mere 13 light-years away, is about 11.5 billion years old, scientists say. That makes it 2.5 times older than Earth, and just 2 billion years or so younger than the universe itself, which burst into existence with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

"It does make you wonder what kind of life could have evolved on those planets over such a long time," study lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, of Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Racist Fox 'News' guest attacks Neil deGrasse Tyson because he 'fit the profile'
by Laurence Lewis

The Progress of Fighting Lyme (and Co-infections) 2
by lisakaz

The Texas solar power enigma - highest potential, nearly lowest per capita solar - maybe changing
by HoundDog

Spotlight on Green News & Views: Us extinct? The future of our drinking water, killing weeds
by Meteor Blades

Measuring Southward Transport of the Fukushima Contaminant Plume in the Western Pacific
by MarineChemist

President Obama's clean-energy push and new EPA rules will prevail predicts John Podesta in CSM
by HoundDog

This week in science: it's a bug planet!
by DarkSyde


Culture 24 (UK): In Pictures: Horn handles and axeheads from 10th century Viking graves found in Cumbria
By Ben Miller
05 June 2014

An investigation of nationally-important Viking discoveries, sparked when a Cumbrian metal detectorist found a brooch in 2004, have paved the way to six Viking burials hinting at a culture and tales from a volatile period of political history

Culture 24 (UK): Looted stone of Roman mint reveals stories of prehistoric and medieval civilisations
By Ben Miller
05 June 2014
A Roman mint would have produced copper alloy coins on the site of a former villa in Leicester, according to archaeologists investigating pits full of pottery and moulds of valuable metal at the city’s Blackfriars productivity hive.

Culture 24 (UK): Urethral syringe used in 19th century venereal treatment declared best archaeological find
By Ben Miller
27 May 2014

See the syringe declared Wessex Archaeology's best find of the past year, plus some of the finest artefacts uncovered so far in 2014

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Discovery News: Why Female-Named Hurricanes Are More Deadly

A groundbreaking new study revealed that hurricanes that are named after a women are more deadly than hurricanes with male names! What's the reasoning for this? Tara and Laci discuss how people don't take hurricanes with female names as seriously as those with male names!

Discovery News: Why Do We Stay Awake When We're Tired?

It's late at night, you're tired, but you just don't want to go to sleep! Why do we all procrastinate when it comes to when we go to bed? Join Tara as she explains this new phenomenon and why it occurs.

Discovery News: Are Cat People Smarter Than Dog People?

There are cat people and there are dog people, but which are smarter? Trace tells you about new research that found a clear answer, and explains what choosing one animal over the other says about us!

Discovery News: Where Do We Store Nuclear Waste?

Nuclear energy is one of the most efficient forms of energy, but it is also very dangerous. Where do we store the radioactive waste? Trace explains where we store it, and if our current method of storage is safe.

Discovery News: Are We Ready For Suspended Animation?

Suspended animation, or cryogenics, is a procedure where the body is drastically cooled down so that human life can be temporarily stopped. How does it work, are we ready for it, and what are the benefits of this procedure? Trace and Tara discusses how a new, approved study will allow for the testing of suspended animation on humans.

NASA: Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Update: All Systems Go!

2014 is off to an amazing start as NASA rockets toward this year's launch of Exploration Flight Test-1.

JPL/NASA: LDSD: The Great Shakeout Test For Mars

NASA readies for the experimental flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a test vehicle designed for landing larger payloads on Mars. The saucer-shaped vehicle will undergo its first test flight in June 2014 from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

JPL/NASA: What's Up for June 2014

Moon and planet pairings at dawn and dusk. Spot elusive Mercury, some comets, and more.

Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: June 2014

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." June boasts an intriguing variety of planets and stars.

Discovery News: This Amazing Comet Sculpture Landed In Brooklyn!

Last weekend, Trace went to New York City to attend the World Science Festival! In Brooklyn, there is now an art piece representing how NASA is attempting to land a spacecraft on a comet this summer! Watch as Trace learns about the project, and learn why we're trying to land on a comet this summer!

Astronomy/Space Astronaut's cloaked Klingon space patch: Star Trek-inspired emblem revealed
June 6, 2014

In a mirror universe right now, an alternate Steve Swanson is wearing a space patch bearing the logo of the fictional Klingon Empire.

In this reality, NASA jettisoned the astronaut's "Star Trek" inspired emblem before it could reach space.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of California's California Magazine: Aliens Are Almost Surely Out There—Now Can We Find the Money to Find Them?
By Glen Martin
June 4, 2014

Dan Werthimer thinks his testimony last week before the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology went pretty well. As director of the SETI Research Center at Berkeley, Werthimer updated committee members on the search for extraterrestrial life, and provided a generally upbeat evaluation: ET microbial life likely is ubiquitous throughout the galaxy, and new technologies have improved the chances of detecting signals from advanced alien civilizations.

“They were quite engaged,” Werthimer says of the representatives, members of a Congress notorious for its ideological partisanship and not particularly renowned for a deep commitment to science. “They asked reasonable questions, and they seemed disinclined to go at each other.”

On the other hand, Werthimer acknowledges that it is discouraging that the current science subcommittee has convened more hearings on extraterrestrial life than on climate change.

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory: Surprisingly Strong Magnetic Fields Challenge Black Holes’ Pull
Analysis of radio waves from black holes shows long-neglected magnetic fields have an unexpected presence.
Kate Greene
June 4, 2014

A new study of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found magnetic fields play an impressive role in the systems’ dynamics. In fact, in dozens of black holes surveyed, the magnetic field strength matched the force produced by the black holes’ powerful gravitational pull, says a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. The findings are published in this week’s issue of Nature.

“This paper for the first time systematically measures the strength of magnetic fields near black holes,” says Alexander Tchekhovskoy, the Berkeley Lab researcher who helped interpret the observational data within the context of existing computational models. “This is important because we had no idea, and now we have evidence from not just one, not just two, but from 76 black holes.”

University of California: Curiosity finds earthly similarities on Mars mission
By Harry Mok, UC Newsroom
Monday, June 2, 2014

After traveling 354 million miles and surviving a nail-biting descent to the surface of Mars, the Curiosity rover is finding that the Red Planet was once a lot like the Blue Planet.

Curiosity’s exploration of Mars’ barren landscape is revealing signs that water once flowed freely and that life could have existed on the planet.

“Our findings are showing that Mars is a planet that was once a whole lot like Earth,” said UC Davis geology professor Dawn Sumner, co-investigator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory team, which is exploring whether the planet ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life.


High Country News: Archaeology’s poisonous past
Most U.S. ethnographic collections are contaminated with toxins. Will new cleaning methods help tribes reclaim artifacts?
by Joaquin Palomino

Between the Trinity Alps and Humboldt County's coastal range, the Trinity River has carved a narrow, verdant valley in Northern California, where the Hoopa people have lived for thousands of years. Here, redwoods mingle with oaks, ancient traditions co-exist with modern amenities, and the reservation's small Hoopa Tribal Museum holds hundreds of treasures, from obsidian blades to intricately woven reed hats. Almost all of them can be checked out by members of the 3,000-person tribe and used in ceremonies. "The museum is for the people," museum curator Silis-chi-tawn Jackson explains. "It's not about the people."
As Jackson examines a hide headband, small filaments break free into the air. "Whenever I touch anything," he says, "all of these little tiny feathers fly everywhere." Carpenter cautiously steps back.

That's because, unlike most artifacts at the Hoopa museum, these objects – all of them retrieved from Harvard University's Peabody Museum – are coated in dangerous amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead and DDT. Usually, the tribal museum keeps them wrapped in plastic and quarantined in a storage room. "Just working here, I consider it to be a health hazard," Jackson says, turning on the air conditioning for extra ventilation.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of California: Cleaning the air with roof tiles
By Sean Nealon, UC Riverside
Thursday, June 5, 2014

A team of University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering students created a roof tile coating that when applied to an average-sized residential roof breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles.

They calculated 21 tons of nitrogen oxides would be eliminated daily if tiles on one million roofs were coated with their titanium dioxide mixture. They also calculated it would cost only about $5 for enough titanium dioxide to coat an average-sized residential roof.

That would have a significant impact in Southern California, where 500 tons of nitrogen oxides are emitted daily in the South Coast Air Quality Management District coverage area, which includes all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

University of California: Reducing emissions will be primary way to fight climate change
By Meg Sullivan, UCLA
Monday, June 2, 2014

Forget about positioning giant mirrors in space to reduce the amount of sunlight being trapped in the Earth's atmosphere or seeding clouds to reduce the amount of light entering Earth's atmosphere. Those approaches to climate engineering aren't likely to be effective or practical in slowing global warming.

A new report by professors from UCLA and five other universities concludes that there's no way around it: We have to cut down the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. The interdisciplinary team looked at a range of possible approaches to dissipating greenhouse gases and reducing warming.

"We found that climate engineering doesn't offer a perfect option," said Daniela Cusack, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of geography in the UCLA College. "The perfect option is reducing emissions. We have to cut down the amount of emissions we're putting into the atmosphere if, in the future, we want to have anything like the Earth we have now."

Still, the study concluded, some approaches to climate engineering are more promising than others, and they should be used to augment efforts to reduce the 9 gigatons of carbon dioxide being released each year by human activity. (A gigaton is 1 billion tons.)


UC Davis: Failure to launch: California brown pelicans’ breeding rates dismal
June 2, 2014

California brown pelicans’ breeding numbers are in drastic decline this year, according to an annual population survey led by a University of California, Davis, professor emeritus. The low nesting rates this spring could indicate that an El Niño event could occur sooner than expected, or that other factors are imperiling the once-endangered species.

The search for food — mostly anchovies, sardines, and other small, schooling fishes — resulted in thousands of brown pelicans flocking to food hot spots along the southern California coast and as far north as Washington this May, about six weeks earlier than expected. Large numbers are also being observed migrating across the Baja Peninsula roughly six weeks early.

California brown pelicans were delisted from the Endangered Species list in 2009. Roughly 90 percent of them typically breed and rear their young off the coasts of western Mexico, with the remainder breeding in the Channel Islands in Southern California.


University of Alabama at Birmingham: Early, phone-based, palliative care support improves caregiver quality of life and patient survival
by Tyler Greer
June 03, 2014

The earlier a specific phone-based, palliative care support program can be introduced to caregivers, the better they will be able to cope with the caregiving experience, according to research conducted by University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing investigators.

The patient outcomes from the study, known as ENABLE III, were presented June 3 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago by Marie Bakitas, D.N.Sc., associate director in the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care in the Department of Medicine. J. Nicholas Dionne-Odom, Ph.D., R.N., a postdoctoral fellow in the UAB Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program and researcher in the School of Nursing, will present the caregiver outcomes from the study.

“Family caregivers are a crucial part of the patient-care team. Because the well-being of one affects the well-being of the other in a reciprocal way, both parties benefit when caregivers receive palliative care,” said Bakitas, the senior study author and Marie L. O’Koren Endowed Chair. “We found that, when caregivers began receiving palliative care support around the time of the patient’s advanced cancer diagnosis, they had less depression, perceived themselves to be less burdened by performing caregiving tasks and had better quality of life.”

University of Alabama at Birmingham: The breakfast debate: New study determines whether it helps with weight loss
by Nicole Wyatt
June 04, 2014

Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day. Nutritionists regularly suggest it be eaten each morning for many health benefits, including weight loss and weight maintenance. But new research led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that, when comparing regularly consuming with regularly skipping breakfast, weight loss was not influenced.

Past breakfast research, including an examination of 92 studies about the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity also performed at UAB, has found that, while an association exists between breakfast and weight management, the question of whether eating versus skipping breakfast causes differences in weight has not been answered by research, until now.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the impact of a recommendation to eat or skip breakfast, and the impact of switching breakfast eating habits for the study, on weight loss in adults trying to independently lose weight.

University of California: Faster DNA sleuthing saves critically ill boy
By Jeffrey Norris, UC San Francisco
Thursday, June 5, 2014

A 14-year-old boy’s turnaround and quick recovery after mysteriously being stricken by brain-inflaming encephalitis, which led to him being hospitalized for six weeks and put into a medically induced coma after falling critically ill, shows that the newest generation of DNA analysis tools can be harnessed to reveal the cause of a life-threatening infection even when physicians have no suspects.

The quick diagnosis and successful treatment of the adolescent just 48 hours after cerebrospinal spinal fluid and blood were received for analysis portends the broader application of powerful, “next-generation sequencing” (NGS) techniques in solving infectious disease mysteries, not only in cutting-edge research labs, but also in clinical laboratories accessible to hospital physicians everywhere, according to Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, a professor of laboratory medicine at UC San Francisco. Chiu is senior author of the case study, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on June 4, 2014.

The workflow pipeline developed in Chiu’s UCSF laboratory to streamline genetic sleuthing of disease pathogens with NGS dramatically cut the time between sample collection and actionable diagnosis and helped a medical team at the University of Wisconsin save the young patient’s life.

UCLA: UCLA researchers report double dose of promising lung cancer findings
Shaun Mason
June 04, 2014

Researchers with UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centerreport that two new experimental drugs have shown great promise in the treatment of patients with non–small-cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 85 percent of all lung cancers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

The drugs — ramucirumab and CO-1868 — were shown in separate clinical trials to increase survival times with fewer toxic side effects than standard treatments. The findings were presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

UCLA: Two UCLA researchers combat lethal disease to save son and thousands like him
Their efforts have rallied others to the cause of defeating Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Shari Roan
June 04, 2014

“I like to dance,” said Dylan, who has a mop of thick brown hair, dimples and an irrepressibly joyful attitude. “But I don’t like to dance in public. I like pop, rock ’n’ roll — ’80s — hip hop, rap and electric.” Drs. Nelson and Miceli sigh, get up from the couch and join in the dance. There’s no way they’re getting out of it.

To say these two parents would do anything for their funny and exuberant son is an understatement. Besides dancing, Nelson and Miceli have rerouted their careers to help beat back a disease that afflicts Dylan and one of every 3,500 boys worldwide.They're engaged in a very personal fight against a lethal genetic illness. And because of their efforts, their Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) at UCLA is leading the effort to find treatments and extend lives — including that of their son.

As a toddler, Dylan was diagnosed with DMD, the most common fatal genetic disease of childhood. Mutations in the Duchenne gene, which is on the X chromosome (thus affecting only boys), impair production of the protein dystrophin, which is required for healthy muscle function. Boys with Duchenne typically lose their ability to walk by adolescence and go on to experience respiratory and cardiac failure. Life expectancy is about 25 years of age.

UC San Diego: The Connection Between Oxygen and Diabetes
by Scott LaFee
June 5, 2014

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have, for the first time, described the sequence of early cellular responses to a high-fat diet, one that can result in obesity-induced insulin resistance and diabetes. The findings, published in the June 5 issue of Cell, also suggest potential molecular targets for preventing or reversing the process.

“We’ve described the etiology of obesity-related diabetes. We’ve pinpointed the steps, the way the whole thing happens,” said Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, associate dean for Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego. “The research is in mice, but the evidence suggests that the processes are comparable in humans and these findings are important to not just understanding how diabetes begins, but how better to treat and prevent it.”
Past research by Olefsky and others has shown that obesity is characterized by low-grade inflammation in adipose or fat tissues and that this inflammatory state can become chronic and result in systemic insulin resistance and diabetes. In today’s Cell paper, the scientists describe the earliest stages of the process, which begins even before obesity becomes manifest.


UC San Diego: How to Erase a Memory – And Restore It
by Scott LaFee
June 1, 2014

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have erased and reactivated memories in rats, profoundly altering the animals’ reaction to past events.

The study, published in the June 1 advanced online issue of the journal Nature, is the first to show the ability to selectively remove a memory and predictably reactivate it by stimulating nerves in the brain at frequencies that are known to weaken and strengthen the connections between nerve cells, called synapses.

“We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections,” said senior author Roberto Malinow, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences.


Culture 24 (UK): Archaeologists find Bronze Age settlement beneath Aberdeen park and ride site
By Richard Moss
04 June 2014

4,000-year-old pottery from the early Bronze Age, the remains of timber roundhouses and evidence of Iron Age smithing are among the discoveries made by archaeologists investigating a proposed park and ride site near Aberdeen.

The Archaeological dig undertaken by AECOM and Headland Archaeology ahead of construction work on the “Park and Choose” site, which is being developed as part of new link road, took place on a “relatively undisturbed” site where archaeological discoveries have been made in the past.

Meath Chronicle (Ireland): Athboy discovery could be 3,000 year old baby
Wednesday, 4th June, 2014 5:40pm

Human remains, thought to be that of of a 3,000 year old baby have been found during archaeological works at Tlachtga, on the Hill of Ward, Athboy.

The remains were found at the base of a 1.5m ditch at the site. It is believed the fully-intact skeleton is of a baby between seven-10 months old but it is not thought the child was the victim of any human sacrifice on the ritualistic site.

The Express Tribune (Pakistan): Echoes of the past : Relics dating back to 190 BC unearthed in archaeological dig
AWKUM archae­ology team sets sight on develo­ping archae­ologic­al profil­e of Mardan distri­ct.
By Hidayat Khan
Published: June 2, 2014

PESHAWAR: A team of archaeologists from Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM) has identified an excavation site in Mian Khan village, Katlang with the aim to put the area on the world’s archaeological map.

During the month-long excavation which began on May 2, a number of relics dating back to 190 BC have been discovered, contributing significantly to the archaeological profile of the district.

Mashable: Archaeologists Unearth Roman Fort and Harbor in England

A team of archaeologists and volunteers unearthed the remains of what is believed to be a Roman fort and harbor on the coast of northwest England Tuesday.

While excavating the remains of a known Roman fort in the town of Maryport in Cumbria, England, the Oxford Archaeology North team, an independent archaeology and heritage practice in Europe, discovered a new fort that might predate the original Maryport one, as well as a harbor north of the site. There is currently no information about the new fort and harbor.

The Sun Sentinel via WPEC-CBS 12 Palm Beach: Boynton Beach indian mounds reveal 'Belle Glade culture' history
By Attiyya Anthony, Sun Sentinel

WESTERN BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. -- Tucked away in western Boynton Beach are the remnants of a relatively unknown prehistoric culture.

Just off US 441 and Boynton Beach Boulevard, in a spot guarded by cottonmouth snakes and alligators, are eight Native American mounds belonging to a group that became known as the Belle Glade culture.

The mounds have been largely untouched since the 1970s, but one Florida Atlantic University graduate student, Rebecca Stitt, went on a recent dig at the mound complex, where she found pottery and ceramics. Her research and items from a previous dig will be on display at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County until June 28.

L.A. Times: Ruins revealed by Arizona's Slide fire tell story of early settlers
Paresh Dave

A couple of short stacks of logs that appeared to be intersecting at a right angle caught the eye of a firefighter battling the Slide fire in Arizona. An archaeologist with the crew confirmed what the firefighter suspected:

The blaze had uncovered the ruins of a cabin at least a century old.

"The finding itself was very subtle," said Jeremy Haines, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist. "It's a collapsed, degraded cabin related to the earliest Euro-American settlement of this rugged, remote piece of Arizona."

Heritage Daily: Gilded female figure gives a glimpse of the Viking Age
June 4th, 2014

The Viking Age can often seem like something from mythology rather than reality – and it can be difficult to imagine how the Viking people actually looked.

The discovery of a small female figurine made of gilded silver by amateur archaeologists in Revninge (Denmark), has given a face and body to the Danish ancestors of the Viking Age.

Dating from around 800AD, archaeologists believe the figurine now named the “Revninge – woman”, may depict the goddess Freya by the hand posture holding the stomach. Other interpretations include the Norns, Diser, vølver or possibly the Valkyries.

Bangkok Post (Thailand): Up from the deep
The discovery of a 1,000-year-old Arab-style ship in Samut Sakhon may give a clearer picture of life and trade during the Dvaravati period
Writer: Pichaya Svasti
Published: 3 Jun 2014 at 00.39

Now buried several metres deep under the muddy ground in a former shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon province, a millennium-old ship once sailed many oceans of the world. The vessel, 25m long, had travelled from faraway lands to transport a variety of goods to cities on this part of the Earth before it sank here during the Dvaravati period (6th-11th centuries).

Bangkok Post (Thailand): Gold treasure found buried in farmer's field
After farmer finds gold in field while plowing, hundreds rush to field to search for gold. Fine Arts Department finally arrives & offers to buy gold.
Assawin Pakkawan

The Fine Arts Department will take control of the field where an ancient hoard of buried gold was found in Phattalung’s Khao Sonchai district last weekend, sparking a local, frenzied rush to dig up the treasure.

The gold cache was uncovered after the land owner hired a backhoe to prepare the ground to plant four-rai of oil palm trees.

After heavy rain last Saturday, the land owner and workers planting the trees came across a buried hoard of gold.

Culture 24 (UK): Archaeologists discover bottles and hearth of pub on haunted 19th century cattle lands
By Ben Miller
06 June 2014

18th century glass and a 19th century coin could chart the rise and fall of a pub used by drovers within sight of a ghostly lady

Resting with their feet up and supping a drink, the spoils of a drover or traveller, popping to the pub in rural Scotland 200 years ago, have been found in a hearth the size of a modern-day living room in Ayrshire.

The abandoned stop-off - known as a Drovers’ Inn - is the first of its kind to be found in the country, excavated on the edge of a droving route known for its position near a bridge haunted by ghosts on the Cowal Peninsula.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Heidelberg University (Germany) via PhysOrg: One of the world's most significant finds of marine reptile fossils from the Cretaceous period
Jun 04, 2014

The cache of skeletal ichthyosaurs stumbled upon ten years ago in Chile turns out to be one of the world's most significant fossil finds of marine reptiles from the Cretaceous period, containing many nearly fully preserved ichthyosaur skeletons as well as numerous other fossils. This is the conclusion of a German-Chilean research team of geoscientist Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of Heidelberg University and palaeontologist Prof. Dr. Eberhard Frey of the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe. The scientists have fully catalogued the discovery for the first time, while at the same time reconstructing the conditions that led to the excellent preservation and unusual concentration of "fish-lizard" skeletons. Their results were published in the journal "Geological Society of America Bulletin".

Cell Press via PhysOrg: First 3D pterosaur eggs found with their parents
Jun 05, 2014

Researchers have discovered the first three-dimensionally preserved pterosaur eggs in China. The eggs were found among dozens, if not hundreds, of pterosaur fossils, representing a new genus and species (Hamipterus tianshanensis). The discovery, described in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on June 5, reveals that the pterosaurs—flying reptiles with wingspans ranging from 25 cm to 12 m—lived together in gregarious colonies.

Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology says it was most exciting to find many male and female pterosaurs and their eggs preserved together. "Five eggs are three-dimensionally preserved, and some are really complete," he says.

The fossil record of the pterosaurs has generally been poor, with little information about their populations, the researchers say. Prior to this latest find, only four isolated and flattened pterosaur eggs were known to science. via PhysOrg: The incredible shrinking dinosaur
by Sheyna E. Gifford, M.d.,
May 26, 2014

Dinosaurs still roam the Earth - only now, according to researchers at the University of Oxford, they rule the air. At least, according this landmark study, their miniaturized forms do.

"Dinosaurs aren't extinct," said Dr. Robert Benson, vertebrate paleontologist at Oxford University, England, "there are about 10,000 species alive today in the form of birds."

New York University via PhysOrg: Early humans were "Westward Ho," dental records reveal
by James Devitt
Jun 05, 2014

Early humans, or hominins, stretched further west—into today's Central Africa—than previously known, according to findings by a research team that included NYU anthropologist Shara Bailey.

The results, which appeared in the journal PLOS ONE, expand the range of early hominins significantly farther west and suggest that they made use of a wide range of geographic locations and likely ecological conditions. They also reveal a need for a shift in our paradigm about where to search for early hominins.

"While the eastern branch of the Rift Valley is an important place for early human evolution, this find suggests additional results may come from farther west than we once thought," says Bailey.

LiveScience: Humans Blamed for Extinction of Mammoths, Mastodons & Giant Sloths
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer
June 03, 2014 07:01pm ET

The latest volley in a long-running debate over why woolly mammoths, giant sloths, mastodons and cave lions died out worldwide suggests that humans are to blame.

 A new global look at the extinctions of large mammals over the past 130,000 years finds that the loss of species correlates more closely with the arrival of humans than with changes in climate, which some studies have cited as a possible culprit.

Nonetheless, the paper is unlikely to settle the debate over what really caused the Quaternary extinction, a die-off of large mammals worldwide at the end of the Pleistocene epoch about 12,000 years ago. It is, however, one of the first fine-grained, yet global, look at how and when species died.

University of Barcelona (Spain) via PhysOrg: Mitochondrial DNA of first Near Eastern farmers is sequenced for the first time

The mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers has been sequenced for the first time. In the research, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, experts analysed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, located in today's Syria and date at about 8,000 BC.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Cleveland Museum of Natural History via Science Daily: Scientist uses fossils to prove historic Ohio millstones have French origins
June 4, 2014

A geologist studied fossils to confirm that stones used in 19th century Ohio grain mills originated from France. Fossils embedded in these millstones were analyzed to determine that stones known as French buhr were imported from regions near Paris, France, to Ohio in the United States. Dr. Joseph Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was lead author on research published in the Society for Sedimentary Geology journal PALAIOS.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Stanford University: Stanford scientists solve mystery of ancient American lakes
New Stanford research shows that enormous lakes that existed in the western United States during the peak of the last Ice Age grew large due to a cooler climate and a reduced evaporation rate. The finding could help improve computer simulations of climate change.
By Ker Than
June 5, 2014

A new study by Stanford scientists solves a longstanding mystery of how ancient lakes in the western United States grew to such colossal sizes.

The research, published in the journal Geological Society of America Bulletin, found that the lakes were able to grow large – rivaling the Great Lakes – during the peak of the last Ice Age 21,000 years ago, a period known as the "Last Glacial Maximum," because evaporation rates were significantly lower than today.

"It was previously thought that the lakes grew because there was more rain and snowfall during this period of the Earth's history," said Daniel Ibarra, a graduate student in Stanford's Department of Environmental Earth System Science and the first author of the study.


University of Alabama: With Patented Technology, UA Professor Hopes to Improve Electronic Devices
June 2, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Electronic devices could be made cheaper, smaller and more efficient by reducing the complexity of their internal method of converting and regulating energy, according to a patent by a University of Alabama engineering professor.

An indispensable part of electronic devices, a power converter transforms incoming electricity to a form useable by the device. Increased sophistication of electronics, especially mobile technology, has required more complexity in power converters, driving up costs and energy used by the electronics.

However, Dr. Jaber Abu Qahouq, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the UA College of Engineering, developed a controller for power converters that does not need to sense the current traveling through the device in order to improve the way power is supplied to the device. This could eliminate existing methods used for the same function, reducing complexity, size, cost and energy.

University of California: The energy cost of streaming video
You might think streaming video might be a greener way to enjoy a movie than driving to the video store for a rental. You'd be right, but don't pat yourself on the back yet.
Lawrence Berkeley Lab
Monday, June 2, 2014

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have analyzed the energy usage of home movie viewing. They found that transmitting the bytes across the Internet accounts for the bulk of energy usage and emissions when streaming videos.

In 2011, Americans streamed 3.2 billion hours of video (that's a lot of "Game of Thrones" and "Breaking Bad," folks). All that streaming consumed 25 petajoules of energy — enough to power about 175,000 U.S. households for a year — and emitted 1.3 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide.

But that was then, says study co-author Arman Shehabi of Berkeley Lab. “There’s going to be an explosion in the amount of movie streaming. What’s happened between 2011 and now is like earth and sky." Moreover, Shehabi says, videos themselves have grown more complex, requiring faster streaming rates.

KQED: Tobacco Gets a Makeover as New Source for Biofuel
Post by Lindsey Hoshaw for QUEST Northern California on Jun 03, 2014

Tobacco is about to get a facelift. As a key ingredient in cigarettes, the plant contributes to gum disease, emphysema and cancer. This has led to a decline in cigarette sales and tobacco production in the United States over the past 25 years. But one research team thinks tobacco could provide a societal benefit by becoming a new source for biofuel.

“All the things that make tobacco bad are really good for fuels,” said Bill Shelander, business development specialist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“When you smoke cigarettes you are smoking tar and nicotine, and the tar is bad for health,” he said. “Tobacco is unusually high in tar content and it’s the type of chemical that can be converted into fuels — they are precursors to oil. If these plants were buried for millions of years they would be a very nice oil reserve.”


UCLA: UCLA researchers create nanoscale structure for computer chips that could yield higher-performance memory
Matthew Chin
June 04, 2014

Researchers at UCLA have created a nanoscale magnetic component for computer memory chips that could significantly improve their energy efficiency and scalability.

The design brings a new and highly sought-after type of magnetic memory one step closer to being used in computers, mobile electronics such as smart phones and tablets, as well as large computing systems for big data. The innovative asymmetric structure allows it to better exploit electrons' spin and orbital properties, making it much more power efficient than today's computer memory.

"This work will likely provide a powerful approach for engineering new nanoelectronic devices and systems," said Kang Wang, the Raytheon Professor of Electrical Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the study's principal investigator. "In conjunction with related types of magnetic devices being studied by our team, it represents a tremendous opportunity to realize higher performance memory and logic for future instant-on and energy-efficient, green electronic systems."


UC Irvine: Molecule unmasked
UCI research team pioneers imaging technique that clearly reveals structure, individual chemical bonds
May 23, 2014


Overjoyed researcher Chi-lun Chiang of UC Irvine physicist Wilson Ho’s group penned that inscription, complete with 14 exclamation points, in a laboratory notebook at 10:35 p.m. last July 17. He and another doctoral student in the group had rushed from their dorm rooms after seeing an image of the structure of a single molecule appear on their computer screens. They raced to the experiment site in the basement of Reines Hall and confirmed their success.

Using a two-story scanning tunneling microscope and a tiny carbon monoxide needle dubbed the “itProbe” (both hand-built on the premises), they’d been able for the first time to clearly reveal the individual chemical bonds in a single molecule by bringing into focus features that are a million times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Their results have now been published in the prestigious journal Science, testament to the breakthrough work. For decades, chemists have used ball-and-stick models to represent what they thought the structures of molecules would look like. But the UC Irvine group could see with incredible detail what others had only imagined – the polygons forming a four-petal cobalt phthalocyanine molecule.

Science Crime Scenes

Reuters via Chicago Tribune: Vandals destroy prehistoric rock art in Libya's lawless Sahara
By Ulf Laessing
6:18 a.m. CDT, June 3, 2014

TADRART ACACUS, Libya—Vandals have destroyed prehistoric rock art in lawless southern Libya, endangering a sprawling tableau of paintings and carvings classified by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value."

Located along Libya's southwestern tip bordering Algeria, the Tadrart Acacus mountain massif is famous for thousands of cave paintings and carvings going back up to 14,000 years.

The art, painted or carved on rocks sandwiched by spectacular sand dunes, showcase the changing flora and fauna of the Sahara stretching over thousands of years.

N.Y. Times: Sweden Returns Ancient Andean Textiles to Peru

One of the world’s most precious troves of looted antiquities — brilliantly colored burial shrouds from an Andean civilization that flourished a thousand years before Columbus — is on its way back to Peru for a ceremonial handover in Lima.

Science Network Western Australia via PhysOrg: Digs uncover reformative work colonies
by Geoff Vivian
Jun 05, 2014

Excavations of the Toodyay and York convict hiring depots in WA's Wheatbelt has confirmed that there were stark differences between convict systems in eastern and western Australia.

UWA archaeologist Dr Sean Winter, whose team conducted the digs, says the Swan River Colony had two systems operating at the same time.

A punishment system operated out of Fremantle Prison, and a reform system based on the "Ticket of Leave" allowed convicts to work for private sector employers on release.

The Huffington Post: Zoo Worker Accidentally Shoots Tranquilizer Dart Into Employee Wearing Gorilla Suit
By Sara Gates

If it looks like a gorilla and walks like a gorilla, it's a gorilla -- right?

Not always, as one zoo worker in the Canary Islands learned this week. According to local Spanish reports, a veterinarian at Tenerife's Loro Parque zoo mistakenly shot a tranquilizer dart into an employee dressed in a gorilla suit.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Alabama at Birmingham: Passwords? Soon you may log in securely without them
by Katherine Shonesy
June 03, 2014

Passwords are a common security measure to protect personal information, but they don’t always prevent hackers from finding a way into devices. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham are working to perfect an easy-to-use, secure login protection that eliminates the need to use a password — known as zero-interaction authentication.
Zero-interaction authentication enables a user to access a terminal, such as a laptop or a car, without interacting with the device. Access is granted when the verifying system can detect the user’s security token — such as a mobile phone or a car key — using an authentication protocol over a short-range, wireless communication channel, such as Bluetooth. It eliminates the need for a password and diminishes the security risks that accompany them.

A common example of such authentication is a passive keyless entry and start system that unlocks a car door or starts the car engine based on the token’s proximity to the car. The technology also can be used to provide secure access to computers. For instance, an app called BlueProximity enables a user to unlock the idle screen in a computer merely by physically approaching the computer while holding a mobile phone that has been set up to connect with it.

UC San Diego: Computer Scientists Develop Tool to Make the Internet of Things Safer
By Ioana Patringenaru
June 04, 2014

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a tool that allows hardware designers and system builders to test security- a first for the field. One of the tool’s potential uses is described in the May-June issue of IEEE Micro magazine.

“The stakes in hardware security are high”, said Ryan Kastner, a professor of computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

There is a big push to create the so-called Internet of Things, where all devices are connected and communicate with one another. As a result, embedded systems—small computer systems built around microcontrollers—are becoming more common. But they remain vulnerable to security breaches. Some examples of devices that may be hackable: medical devices, cars, cell phones and smart grid technology.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Belfast Telegraph: Ballymaglaff Stone Age site 'lost because of planning error'
DoE probes claims of unsuitable dig prior to developers moving in
By Linda Stewart – 03 June 2014

Planners have launched a probe following claims that a rare site where early humans settled has been badly damaged without carrying out proper archaeological investigation.

The Department of the Environment (DoE) said its planning department has launched an enforcement investigation to establish if a breach of planning control had taken place at Ballymaglaff in Dundonald in relation to archaeological matters.

The Billings Gazette: Old wooden Indian structures have disappeared
By Brett French
June 01, 2014 12:00 am

The piles of logs and branches in the old photos don’t appear to be built by humans, but according to a National Register of Historic Places nomination filed in 1974, they were once shelters constructed by American Indians.

“They don’t look like much unless you know what you’re looking for,” said Carolyn Sherve-Bybee, a Bureau of Land Management archaeologist in Billings.

Now, the shelters described in the 1970s seem to have all disappeared.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Alabama at Birmingham: Sustainability experts to consider ways to revitalize metro area
by Katherine Shonesy
June 05, 2014

The Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is bringing in experts from around the world for the third annual Sustainable Smart Cities Symposium on June 12. The event, free and open to the public, will focus on lessons learned in sustainability and innovative solutions to make Birmingham a smarter and more livable city.

The UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Symposium is an annual forum designed to keep stakeholders in the Birmingham community — and scientists at UAB and other academics across the region — at the forefront of urban sustainability and development. The symposium works with other programs at UAB and partner institutions, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration and the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management, to encourage investigators to advance the science of cities.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell will introduce this year’s program, which will address a number of sustainability-centered topics, including economic development, energy conservation and innovation, smart sensors and technologies, and green architecture and construction, plus the health and livability of cities.

Auburn University: Auburn and Alabama business professors team up to pinpoint ideal locations for rural telemedicine health centers
June 5, 2014

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The world gets smaller as we use smartphones, tablets and laptops to communicate each day, touching every aspect of our lives. But can that technology aid in rural areas when someone needs to make a lengthy trip to see a medical specialist?

Business professors from Auburn University and the University of Alabama have collaborated on research that could ease the state’s health care access problem and give rural residents an alternative to traveling long distances to see that specialist.

Rafay Ishfaq, assistant professor of supply chain management in Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, and Uzma Raja, associate professor of management information systems in Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, applied supply chain and business analytics principles in research that introduces telemedicine to the public. Supply chain management involves managing all the activities that deliver products to the consumer in an effective and efficient way.

Science Education The full Montpelier: Madison’s mansion gets its day in the sun
Jordy Yager
6/04/14 at 10:42 AM

It’s 4pm on a Friday, and Matt Reeves hasn’t eaten lunch yet. But the salt-and-pepper-haired director of Montpelier’s archaeology department is bouncing off the walls of his rustic office on the southeast side of the 2,650 acre estate nestled in the rolling fields of Orange County.

Reeves is ecstatic because his team of 11 full-time archaeologists and 17 students from James Madison University has been excavating the foundation of an 18th century brick building a stone’s throw away from the palatial columned mansion that most of us think of when we imagine Montpelier.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Writing and Reporting

University of Alabama at Birmingham: UAB neurologist edits first textbook on newly defined disease process
by Bob Shepard
June 05, 2014

Anthony Nicholas, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a co-editor of the first textbook on the subject of protein deimination in human health and disease.

Deimination is a process by which selected positively charged arginine amino acids are converted to neutral citrulline amino acids by the peptidyl arginine deiminase family of enzymes. The book is a comprehensive look at this rapidly developing field and illustrates the connection between deimination and numerous illnesses, including autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, periodontitis, glaucoma, spinal cord trauma and peripheral nerve injury.

Authors for each chapter of the book, titled “Protein Deimination in Human Health and Disease,” are international experts from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

University of Arkansas: Intern Embraces Nerd Beat
By: Leah Markum
June 6, 2014

As a science writing intern I get to skip the conventional newsroom experience and start writing a beat of my choice—I like to call it the “nerd” beat. By that I mean I cover science and topics outside of science that require some academic curiosity such as history and cultural anthropology.

In a lot of ways I do the same things that I did in my college classes or even on my own time. I read, I take notes, I write up the notes in the appropriate format. Specifically, I may read a newly-published journal article written by a University of Arkansas professor, note all the interesting facts, compose a news release, and submit it to the researcher to review for, what I call, “factual accuracy.”

University of California: Physics Girl wins national competition
By Kim McDonald, UC San Diego
Thursday, June 5, 2014

Videos featuring Rihanna, One Direction and Bruno Mars are, not surprisingly, among YouTube’s most viewed channels. Videos on physics? While some videos on physics have gained a cult-like following and hundreds of thousands of views, the subject that makes most people’s eyes glaze over still can’t compete with entertainers like Katy Perry in the YouTube world.

That could change, however, thanks to an energetic young physicist who works as an outreach coordinator at UC San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences and who uses her upbeat and sometimes wacky personality to communicate physics to the public on YouTube with videos that are not only informative, but also fun and cool.

Earlier this week, Dianna Cowern was awarded the top video prize in a national science communications competition by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at SUNY Stonybrook for her entertaining YouTube production explaining the physics of color. The award, given annually for the past three years as part of a contest called the “Flame Challenge,” was presented to her at the World Science Festival in New York City by the actor himself.

Science is Cool

Gizmodo: These 3,000-year-old trousers are the oldest in the world
Omar Kardoudi

An international group of archaeologists have found these trousers—worn between 3,000 and 3,300 years ago—in a tomb in western China. The trousers were invented for horse riding by Chinese pastoralists and are the oldest known examples of this kind of apparel:

New Scientist (UK): Wearable submarine to hunt for 2000-year-old computer
by Mark Harris
04 June 2014

THE world's most advanced robotic diving suit is getting ready to help search for one of the world's oldest computers.

Called Exosuit, the suit has a rigid metal humanoid form with Iron Man-like thrusters that enable divers to operate safely down to depths of 300 metres (see photo).

University of Southampton (UK) via Science Daily: Medieval manholes: plumbers led the way in utility maintenance
Date:June 4, 2014

Research by a University of Southampton professor has revealed the story of the medieval plumbers who maintained a complex water supply system, which was centuries ahead of its time.

A unique network of subterranean tunnels, partly dating back to the 14th century, still lies beneath the streets of Exeter, Devon. These once channeled fresh drinking-water from springs outside the town-walls to public fountains at the heart of the city.

Sun Sentinel via MSN: Solving the mystery of 'Lost City' in the Everglades
B Ken Kaye of Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Deep in the Everglades is Lost City, a place where mobster Al Capone reportedly produced moonshine to keep a nearby saloon jumping in the 1930s.

Before that, during the Civil War, about 30 to 40 Confederate soldiers hid out there until they were killed by Seminole Indians, or so the story goes. Some even hold that the locale might be haunted or inhabited by skunk apes.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 08:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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