Sex Life of One of Earth’s Earliest Animals Exposed
Trilobites are perhaps the most successful group of animals ever to live. Named for their distinctive three-lobed body, these armored, pill-bug-like arthropods were some of the first hard-bodied animals on Earth. They appeared some 520 million years ago and dominated the fossil record of ancient seas for nearly 300 million years afterward. To date, paleontologists have uncovered a staggering 20,000 species, sporting every outlandish configuration of plates, spines and horns imaginable. “It’s just like, ‘Evolution, go home; you’re drunk,’” says Russell Bicknell, a paleobiologist at the University of New England in Australia.
Yet despite their abundance, nobody has been able to figure out how trilobites reproduced—until now. In a very unusual fossil, scientists have found one of the first examples of sexual anatomy in the fossil record: a small pair of grasping appendages that let the male trilobite hold the female close during mating.
Reproduction in extinct animals is notoriously difficult to study, especially when it comes to invertebrates. “Understanding reproductive behavior is difficult because it doesn’t preserve easily,” says Harvard University paleontologist Sarah Losso, one of the co-authors of the recent study, which was published in Geology.
The Washington Post
Siberia’s tundra could soon disappear, scientists warn
What comes to mind when you think of Siberia? If you associate a vast tundra with the massive northeastern region in Russia, you’re not alone. Across nearly 2,500 miles of unbroken wilderness, the Arctic tundra is a unique and unexpectedly abundant ecosystem.
But that could change if human-caused global warming goes unchecked, researchers warn. And if the world doesn’t adopt consistent measures to protect the climate, they write, the tundra could disappear completely.
The dire prediction is reported in a study in eLife that simulates how a changing climate would affect the boundary between the tundra and the forests that border it. When researchers modeled how the forests would respond to climate change, they found what they call an “invasion of forests under global warming.” They predict that a climb in summer temperatures would cause the trees’ habitat to creep northward, overtaking the tundra and threatening both the landscape and its species.
E&E News: Climate Wire
Changes ‘absolutely massive’ in warming European Alps
The snow-capped European Alps are gradually turning from white to green as the region warms, new research finds. It’s a transformation so clear that it’s visible from space.
The study, published yesterday in Science, used satellite data to map out snow and vegetation cover across the iconic mountain range, which stretches from eastern France all the way into Austria. It finds that plants are springing up at high elevations, places they previously wouldn’t have thrived.
About 77 percent of the Alps, above the tree line, have experienced a “greening” over the last 40 years.
“The scale of the change has turned out to be absolutely massive in the Alps,” lead study author Sabine Rumpf, an assistant professor at the University of Basel, said in a statement.
Wildlife Conservation Society
Scientists Show that at Least 44 Percent of Earth’s Land Requires Conservation to Safeguard Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
New research published in the June 3, 2022 journal Science reveals that 44 percent of Earth’s land area – some 64 million square kilometers (24.7 million square miles) requires conservation to safeguard biodiversity.
The team, led by Dr James R. Allan from the University of Amsterdam, used advanced geospatial algorithms to map the optimal areas for conserving terrestrial species and ecosystems across the world. They further used spatially explicit land-use scenarios to quantify how much of this land is at risk from human activities by 2030.
“Our study is the current best estimate of how much land we must conserve to stop the biodiversity crisis - it is essentially a conservation plan for the planet,” said lead author James Allan. “We must act fast, our models show that over 1.3 million square kilometers of this important land – an area larger than South Africa – is likely to have its habitat cleared for human uses by 2030, which would be devastating for wildlife.”
Carbon dioxide now more than 50% higher than pre-industrial levels
Carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2022 at 421 parts per million in May, pushing the atmosphere further into territory not seen for millions of years, scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanographyoffsite link at the University of California San Diego announced today.
NOAA's measurements of carbon dioxide at the mountaintop observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island averaged 420.99 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 1.8 ppm over 2021. Scientists at Scripps, which maintains an independent record, calculated a monthly average of 420.78 ppm.
“The science is irrefutable: humans are altering our climate in ways that our economy and our infrastructure must adapt to,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “We can see the impacts of climate change around us every day. The relentless increase of carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa is a stark reminder that we need to take urgent, serious steps to become a more Climate Ready Nation.”
How the giraffe got its neck: ‘unicorn’ fossil could shed light on puzzle
How did the giraffe get its long neck? Researchers say a species of giraffoid that lived millions of years ago in China could shed light on this puzzler. The animal, named after a mythical unicorn-like creature, had a thick headpiece optimized for high-speed head-bashing fights.
The giraffe’s neck has intrigued researchers for decades. There should be a good reason for the extraordinary length, because it causes hardship. A giraffe’s heart needs to pump blood 2 metres up to the head, which requires a high blood pressure and management to avoid fainting or stroke. “It’s beautifully adapted to this, but it’s a big cost,” says Rob Simmons, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who was not involved in the study.
One prevailing theory is that giraffes evolved longer necks to reach higher trees for food. “This is widely believed; it’s really entrenched,” says Simmons. This makes sense, but isn’t as simple as it sounds — research has shown that giraffes tend to eat from lower levels, and tall giraffes aren’t more likely to survive drought, when food competition is highest. Another idea is that giraffes evolved longer necks for sexual competition, with male giraffes engaging in violent neck-swinging fights and longer necks attracting mates. This “necks for sex” theory is sometimes contested by the fact that males don’t have longer necks than females. “It been very difficult for the traditional giraffe researchers to accept this sexual selection idea,” says Simmons.
The ancient giraffoid’s fossilized remains, described on 2 June in Science, add some more data to the debate.
The New York Times
Dinosaurs Started Out Hot, Then Some of Them Turned Cold
Paleontologists have long wrangled with the question of dinosaur metabolisms — whether they ran hot, like modern birds and mammals do, or resembled the slower metabolisms of modern reptiles. In a surprise, the answer seems to be both.
“While we had assumed that most dinosaurs were warm-blooded, there was just no way to measure the underpinning metabolic capacities,” said Jasmina Wiemann, a paleontologist at the California Institute of Technology. In the absence of available dinosaurs, she said, paleontologists grappling with questions about prehistoric metabolisms — whether a given beast was warm-blooded or coldblooded, for example — have had to rely on indirect evidence, like isotopic evidence or growth rates from slices of bone.
Now, Dr. Wiemann and her colleagues have pioneered a new method for directly measuring the metabolic rate of extinct animals. Their conclusions, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, confirmed that many dinosaurs as well as their winged relatives, the pterosaurs, were ancestrally warm-blooded. But in a twist, the research also suggests that some herbivorous dinosaurs spent tens of millions of years evolving a coldblooded metabolism more like those of contemporary and ancient reptiles.
Did volcanic ‘glasses’ help spark early life?
When life emerged, it did so quickly. Fossils suggest microbes were present 3.7 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the 4.5-billion-year-old planet had cooled enough to support biochemistry, and many researchers think the hereditary material for these first organisms was RNA. Although not as complex as DNA, RNA would still be difficult to forge into the long strands needed to convey genetic information, raising the question of how it could have spontaneously formed.
Now, researchers may have an answer. In lab experiments, they show how rocks called basaltic glasses help individual RNA letters, known as nucleoside triphosphates, link into strands up to 200 letters long. The glasses would have been abundant in the fire and brimstone of early Earth; they are created when lava is quenched in air or water or when the melted rock created in asteroid strikes cools off rapidly.
The result has divided top origin-of-life researchers. “This seems to be a wonderful story that finally explains how the nucleoside triphosphates react with each other to give RNA strands,” says Thomas Carell, a chemist at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. But Jack Szostak, an RNA expert at Harvard University, says he won’t believe the result until the research team better characterizes the RNA strands.
Severe Covid cases ‘more likely in highly polluted areas’
People who contract Covid-19 are more likely to suffer severe symptoms if they have been exposed to air pollution for long periods.
A study found that people who live in places where there are high levels of the atmospheric pollutant nitrogen dioxide had higher chances of ending up in intensive care units (ICUs) or of needing mechanical ventilation after they had caught Covid.
Nitrogen dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned, and the gas is known to have harmful effects on people’s lungs. In particular, endothelial cells – which form a thin membrane lining the inside of the heart and blood vessels – become damaged, and this inhibits the transfer of oxygen from inhaled breath to a person’s blood.
Dogs can detect Covid with high accuracy, even asymptomatic cases
Questions about whether dogs can sniff out Covid — and how well — have intrigued researchers since early in the pandemic.
A study published Wednesday in the journal Plos One offers further evidence that dogs can indeed be trained to detect Covid. The dogs tested in the research accurately identified 97 percent of positive cases after sniffing human sweat samples. That made them more sensitive than some rapid antigen tests.
The samples were collected at community centers in Paris from a mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, as well as healthy people without Covid. The researchers found the dogs to be especially good at detecting asymptomatic infections, with a sensitivity nearing 100 percent.
How will climate change impact cold-water corals? Mostly through food loss, study says
Between 1869 and 1870, the H.M.S. Porcupine sailed into the North Atlantic Ocean and scraped a dredge along the seafloor. When the sailors pulled the dredge back to the surface, it held pieces of stony coral that lived in the cold, sunless depths of the sea.
Examining the coral back on land, English paleontologist Peter Martin Duncan noted in a report, with some wonder, that these corals could live as easily in the deep, cold ocean as well as other organisms could in the warmer, shallower parts of the sea. “It suggests that a great number of the Invertebrata are not much affected by temperature,” he said, “and that the supply of food is the most important matter in their economy.”
Today, the ocean is a very different place than what it was when the H.M.S. Porcupine set sail. Climate change is causing global ocean temperatures to rapidly rise, while lowering oxygen levels and acidifying the water. The seas are also being damaged by overfishing, pollution, and other human activities like transportation. But according to a new study published in PLOS Biology, the biggest threat to cold-water corals, like the ones scooped up by the H.M.S. Porcupine all those years ago, is a lack of food. As it turns out, Duncan’s observations appeared to be correct.
Over 100 hidden asteroids detected thanks to new algorithm studying old telescope data
Researchers using an innovative astrodynamics algorithm have uncovered over 100 asteroids that had gone undetected in archived images of the sky.
Asteroids are rocky objects left over from the formation of the solar system more than 4 billion years ago. Ranging in size from several feet to hundreds of miles across, these rocky bodies are too small to be considered planets.
The 104 previously undiscovered asteroids were detected using a new algorithm called Tracklet-less Heliocentric Orbit Recovery (THOR), which is a part of the Asteroid Institute's Asteroid Discovery Analysis and Mapping (ADAM) cloud-based astrodynamics platform. This algorithm recognizes asteroids and calculates their trajectories by linking points of light in different sky images that are consistent with asteroid orbits, according to a statement from the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research and technologies for mapping and navigating the solar system.
Uranus and Neptune both have the blues. But different hues.
Neptune and Uranus are both ice planets in our solar system, but they possess different shades of blue. While Uranus has a pale cyan color, Neptune is a more vibrant blue. Astronomers from NASA have finally figured out why these two similar planets have different hues. The study, published last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, found that haze particles accumulating in a planet’s atmosphere can whiten its appearance, which could explain Uranus’s paleness.
Understanding differences in color could help astronomers better understand the environment of these two planets. Besides the different shades of blue, both worlds have much in common. They both have similar atmospheric makeups, masses, and sizes—each about 4 times larger than Earth (if Earth was a nickel, Uranus and Neptune would be the size of a baseball).
Student-Built, Dime-Sized Instrument Is Venus-bound on NASA’s DAVINCI
Planned for launch in 2029, the DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will send a spacecraft and a probe to Venus to investigate numerous unsolved mysteries of the planet. Prior to dropping its descent probe into the Venus atmosphere, the spacecraft will perform two flybys of the planet, taking measurements of clouds and ultraviolet absorption on the Venusian day side, and taking measurements of heat emanating from the planet’s surface on the night side. Two years after launch, the mission’s probe, called the Descent Sphere, will enter the Venus atmosphere, ingesting and analyzing atmospheric gases and collecting images as it descends to the surface of the planet at the Alpha Regio region.
VfOx will be mounted on the outside of the Descent Sphere, where it will measure the oxygen fugacity – the partial pressure of the oxygen – in the deep atmosphere beneath Venus’ clouds, including the near-surface environment.
By analyzing these ground-breaking VfOx measurements, scientists will, for the first time, seek to identify what minerals are most stable at the surface of Venus in the highlands and link the formation of rocks to their recent modification histories. VfOx will measure the amount of oxygen present near the surface of Venus as a “fingerprint” of the rock-atmosphere reactions that are going on today.
Dust devils and daytime upslope winds explain Mars's constant haze
A large team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in the U.S., Spain, France and Finland has found that frequent dust devils and daytime upslope winds are the reason for Mars's constant atmospheric haze. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their study of data from the first 216 sols of Perseverance rover's trek across the surface of parts of the red planet and what they learned from it.
Scientists have known for many years that Mars looks red not only because of the dust that coats its surface, but because much of that dust is borne aloft in the planet's atmosphere. What has remained a mystery, until now, are the factors responsible for keeping the dust aloft. Prior research has shown that Mars experiences large, periodic dust storms that carry enormous amounts of dust into the atmosphere, but study of the storms has shown that they are not frequent enough to explain the persistence of dust in the atmosphere. To find its true cause, the researchers studied data from the Perseverance rover.
NASA Prepares to Solve 'Lunar Mystery' With New Moon Explorer
In the coming decade, NASA is determined to emulate Apollo-era energy by bringing space exploration back to the moon. The agency has a timeline of ambitious missions, collectively dubbed the Artemis plan, poised to culminate in the practical realization of stunning sci-fi fantasies like lunar ground stations, vehicles, power sources and even the "Lunanet."
And on Thursday, NASA announced an update to one such exciting moon project: Solving the puzzle of the Gruithuisen Domes.
Basically, telescopes from here on Earth show scientists that there are a few dome-shaped structures on the moon distinct from surrounding terrain. After years of observation, many concluded the so-called Gruithuisen Domes must be made of a type of magma, or melted rock typically stemming from volcanic activity, rich in silica and similar to the composition of granite.
Webb Space Telescope's First Full-Color Images Are Just Weeks Away
Long before Webb even launched from French Guiana, we’ve been waiting for this moment: the first full-color images from this cutting-edge space telescope. NASA announced yesterday that those pictures will be available on July 12, along with some spectroscopic data.
“The release of Webb’s first full-color images will offer a unique moment for us all to stop and marvel at a view humanity has never seen before,” said Eric Smith, a Webb program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a NASA release.
Webb launched on December 25 and arrived at its observation point in space—a place called L2, a million miles from Earth—one month later. Since then, NASA scientists (as well as scientists at the European and Canadian space agencies, who are partners on the telescope mission) have been hard at work preparing the machine to do science.
Dying Early Universe Galaxies Could Be Killed by Their Supermassive Black Holes
The Milky Way galaxy isn't very active, as far as galaxies go. Every year, it produces around three to four Suns' worth of new stars in the entirety of its spiral body, and stars of all ages can be found sprinkled throughout.
But there are some galaxies even quieter – elliptical galaxies, for which most star formation ceased long ago. In these galaxies, none or very few stars can be found younger than a certain age, suggesting that at some point most star formation abruptly ceased, leaving the galaxy to slowly wink out over the eons, star by star.
Exactly how star formation is switched off in these smooth, nearly featureless galaxies is something of a mystery, but astronomers believe it has something to do with the supermassive black holes found at the center of every galaxy. Now an international team of astronomers led by Kei Ito of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI in Japan has peered back into the early Universe to find out if that's the case.
Crusader-era hand grenades? New research examines uses of medieval ceramics
A common artifact from the medieval Middle East were sphero-conical containers, which had a variety of purposes, including beer-drinking vessels, mercury containers, containers for oil and containers for medicines. Now, new research suggests that some of these items could have also been used as a type of hand grenade.
This latest research, led by Carney Matheson of Griffith University, focused on medieval ceramic vessels and what a residue analysis revealed about them. The findings showed that some of the vessels contained a flammable and probably explosive material that indicated they may have been used as medieval hand grenades.
In the research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, the team examined four ceramic sherds, excavated from Jerusalem and likely dating to either the 11th or 12th century. Through a variety of scientific tests, they determined this items would have held compounds such as mercury, sulphur, aluminium, potassium, magnesium, nitrates and phosphorous.
Egypt displays trove of newly discovered ancient artifacts
Egypt on Monday displayed a trove of ancient artifacts dating back 2,500 years that the country’s antiquities authorities said were recently unearthed at the famed necropolis of Saqqara near Cairo.
The artifacts were showcased at a makeshift exhibit at the feet of the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, 24 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of the Egyptian capital.
According to Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the find includes 250 painted sarcophagi with well-preserved mummies inside, as well as 150 bronze statues of ancient deities and bronze vessels used in rituals of Isis, the goddess of fertility in ancient Egyptian mythology, all from the Late Period, about 500 B.C.
Oldest shoe in Norway, dating to 3,000 years ago, recovered from melting ice patch
The oldest shoe in Norway — a 3,000-year-old bootie from the Bronze Age — is just one of thousands of ancient artifacts that were recovered from the country's melting mountain ice patches in the past two decades, according to a new report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Unlike objects trapped in acidic soil or beneath gargantuan glaciers, the artifacts recovered from Norwegian ice patches are often found in impeccable condition, showing minimal decomposition and deformation, even after thousands of years of frozen slumber. That's because ice patches are relatively stable, unmoving and free from corrosive compounds. Perfectly intact weapons, clothing, textiles, and plant and animal remains have all emerged from the ice, helping to bring thousands of years of Norwegian history to light.
But now, the report authors said, climate change could bring that all to an end.
A 3400-year-old city emerges from the Tigris River
A team of German and Kurdish archaeologists have uncovered a 3400-year-old Mittani Empire-era city once located on the Tigris River. The settlement emerged from the waters of the Mosul reservoir early this year as water levels fell rapidly due to extreme drought in Iraq. The extensive city with a palace and several large buildings could be ancient Zakhiku – believed to have been an important center in the Mittani Empire (ca. 1550-1350 BC).
Iraq is one of the countries in the world most affected by climate change. The south of the country in particular has been suffering from extreme drought for months. To prevent crops from drying out, large amounts of water have been drawn down from the Mosul reservoir – Iraq's most important water storage – since December. This led to the reappearance of a Bronze Age city that had been submerged decades ago without any prior archaeological investigations. It is located at Kemune in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
This unforeseen event put archaeologists under sudden pressure to excavate and document at least parts of this large, important city as quickly as possible before it was resubmerged.
Technische Universität Dresden
Your liver is just under three years old
An international team of scientists used retrospective radiocarbon birth dating to show that the human liver stays young throughout life and is on average less than three years old.
The liver has a unique ability to regenerate after damage. However, it was unknown whether this ability decreases as we age. International scientists led by Dr. Olaf Bergmann at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) at TU Dresden used a technique known as retrospective radiocarbon birth dating to determine the age of the human liver. They showed that no matter the person’s age, the liver is always on average less than three years old. The results demonstrate that aging does not influence liver renewal, making the liver an organ that replaces its cells equally well in young and old people. The interdisciplinary study was published in the journal Cell Systems.
The liver is an essential organ that takes care of clearing toxins in our bodies. Because it constantly deals with toxic substances, it is likely to be regularly injured. To overcome this, the liver has a unique capacity among organs to regenerate itself after damage. Because a lot of the body’s ability to heal itself and regenerate decreases as we age, scientists were wondering if the liver’s capacity to renew also diminishes with age.
Megalodon vs great white: New clues to demise of world’s largest shark
A prehistoric food fight may help explain the mysterious disappearance of megalodon, the world’s biggest shark. It may have found itself in a losing battle for prey with great whites, suggests an analysis of zinc in ancient tooth enamel of both types of shark.
It has been an estimated 3.5 million years since the last megalodon died, but the reason for the giant carnivore’s demise remains a mystery. Previous research suggests megalodon may have struggled to find enough food to meet their massive appetite, and Kenshu Shimada at DePaul University, Illinois, and his colleagues were eager to find out more about the giant fish’s place in the food chain.
Megalodon’s roughly 15-metre-long body contained a skeleton made of cartilage – which doesn’t fossilise well – so researchers are left with the animals’ palm-sized teeth for clues about how it lived.
How plesiosaurs swam underwater
Plesiosaurs, which lived about 210 million years ago, adapted to life underwater in a unique way: their front and hind legs evolved in the course of evolution to form four uniform, wing-like flippers. In her thesis supervised at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the University of Bonn, Dr. Anna Krahl investigated how they used these to move through the water. Partly by using the finite element method, which is widely used in engineering, she was able to show that it was necessary to twist the flippers in order to travel forward. She was able to reconstruct the movement sequence using bones, models and reconstructions of the muscles. She reports her findings in the PeerJ magazine of 3 June 2022.
Plesiosaurs belong to a group of saurians called Sauropterygia, or paddle lizards, that re-adapted to living in the oceans. They evolved in the late Triassic 210 million years ago, lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, and became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. Plesiosaurs are characterized by an often extremely elongated neck with a small head – the elasmosaurs even have the longest neck of all vertebrates. But there were also large predatory forms with a rather short neck and huge skulls. In all plesiosaurs, the neck is attached to a teardrop-shaped, hydrodynamically well adapted body with a markedly shortened tail.
The second feature that makes plesiosaurs so unusual are their four uniform wing-like flippers. “Having the front legs transformed into wing-like flippers is relatively common in evolution, for instance in sea turtles. Never again, however, did the hind legs evolve into an almost identical-looking airfoil-like wing,” explains Anna Krahl…
Study examines why the memory of fear is seared into our brains
Experiencing a frightening event is likely something you’ll never forget. But why does it stay with you when other kinds of occurrences become increasingly difficult to recall with the passage of time?
A team of neuroscientists from the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering and Tufts University School of Medicine have been studying the formation of fear memories in the emotional hub of the brain – the amygdala — and think they have a mechanism.
In a nutshell, the researchers found that the stress neurotransmitter norepinephrine, also known as noradrenaline, facilitates fear processing in the brain by stimulating a certain population of inhibitory neurons in the amygdala to generate a repetitive bursting pattern of electrical discharges. This bursting pattern of electrical activity changes the frequency of brain wave oscillation in the amygdala from a resting state to an aroused state that promotes the formation of fear memories.
Published recently in Nature Communications, the research was led by Tulane cell and molecular biology professor Jeffrey Tasker, the Catherine and Hunter Pierson Chair in Neuroscience, and his PhD student Xin Fu.
Scientists Tweaked Genes in a Way that Made Hamsters Very, Very Angry
In the universe of charismatic rodents, the hamster looms large. They’re great pets for kids; as emotional-support animals, they’re “adorable, portable, and convenient,” according to the website ESA Doctors.
But, in what’s perhaps another sign of our dawning dystopia, scientists have managed to use emerging genetic technology to make your friendly hamster into a hyper-aggressive tyrant. Using CRISPR Cas9, a gene-editing technique, a group of University of Georgia researchers took a bunch of hamsters and eliminated a “neurochemical signaling pathway that plays a critical role” in affecting group behavior in mammals—DNA thought to shape “social phenomena ranging from pair bonding, cooperation, and social communication to dominance and aggression,” according to the university’s press release. Shocking the Georgia team, the gene-edited hamsters emerged as bullies. Put a couple into a small cage, and it might turn into the equivalent of an MMA ring—a kind of portable Fight Club set.
The researchers figured what they did would make the fuzzy critters more passive, because they assumed the pathway, known as vasopressin, triggers conflict. “We anticipated that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication. But the opposite happened,” the eminent neuroscientist H. Elliott Albers, one of the study’s authors, said in the press release. In other words, they thought the modified hamsters would be more chill. Instead, they became more hostile. Oops.
University of Oxford
Researchers show dynamic soaring isn’t just for albatrosses
The new study published today in Science Advances proves it is not just albatrosses that perform the aerial acrobatics needed for dynamic soaring on the windy open ocean. The research shows that sleek seabirds called Manx shearwater perform the same feat of flight in the seas around the UK.
Albatross glide in a corkscrew motion to harvest energy from the wind gradient over the ocean surface, where the wind gets faster with height. This method of harvesting wind energy to conserve effort is called dynamic soaring, and explains how albatross can travel thousands of miles across the oceans whilst barely flapping their wings.
Using bird-borne video cameras and GPS loggers, researchers from the Department of Biology, University of Oxford have shown that Manx shearwater also use dynamic soaring. The key difference is that by flapping their wings for part of the cycle, shearwaters can perform the same feat of flight in weaker winds.
Complex Human Childbirth and Cognitive Abilities a Result of Walking Upright
Childbirth in humans is much more complex and painful than in great apes. It was long believed that this was a result of humans’ larger brains and the narrow dimensions of the mother’s pelvis. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now used 3D simulations to show that childbirth was also a highly complex process in early hominins species that gave birth to relatively small-brained newborns – with important implications for their cognitive development.
During human birth, the fetus typically navigates a tight, convoluted birth canal by flexing and rotating its head at various stages. This complex process comes with a high risk of birth complications, from prolonged labor to stillbirth or maternal death. These complications were long believed to be the result of a conflict between humans adapting to walking upright and our larger brains.
Bipedalism developed around seven million years ago and dramatically reshaped the hominin pelvis into a real birth canal. Larger brains, however, didn’t start to develop until two million years ago, when the earliest species of the genus Homo emerged. The evolutionary solution to the dilemma brought about by these two conflicting evolutionary forces was to give birth to neurologically immature and helpless newborns with relatively small brains – a condition known as secondary altriciality.
World's biggest plant discovered off Australian coast
The largest known plant on Earth… has been discovered off the coast of Australia. Using genetic testing, scientists have determined a large underwater meadow in Western Australia is in fact one plant.
It is believed to have spread from a single seed over at least 4,500 years. The seagrass covers about 200 sq km (77 sq miles), researchers from the University of Western Australia said.
The team stumbled upon the discovery by accident at Shark Bay, about 800km (497 miles) north of Perth. They had set out to understand the genetic diversity of the species - also known as ribbon weed - which is commonly found along parts of Australia's coast.
Enormous 'rogue waves' can appear out of nowhere. Math is revealing their secrets.
In 1826 Captain Jules Dumont d’Urville, a French scientist and naval officer, was caught in a turbulent storm while crossing the Indian Ocean. He watched as a wall of water rose some 100 feet above his ship, the Astrolabe. It was one of several waves more than 80 feet tall that he recorded during the wild storm. One of his crew was lost to the sea. Yet after Dumont d’Urville made it back to land, his story, backed by three witnesses, seemed so outlandish that it was dismissed as fantasy.
Scientists at the time believed waves could only reach about 30 feet tall, so the handful of 19th century reports of massive waves rising in the open ocean were largely written off as maritime myths. Only later would scientists realize that the accounts were rare because many mariners who experienced these so-called rogue waves didn't survive to tell the tale.
Today a rogue wave is defined as one that is more than twice as tall as the waves around it. These giant swells can appear suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. With steep sides and a deep trough below, they resemble a wall of water rising out of the sea. They can occur during storms with choppy seas but have also been reported in calm waters, which is one reason they’re so difficult to predict.
How neutrinos could ensure a submarine’s nuclear fuel isn’t weaponized
Nuclear submarines might provide rogue nations with a path to nuclear weapons. But neutrinos could help reveal attempts to go from boats to bombs.
Neutrinos, lightweight subatomic particles that are released from the reactors that power nuclear subs, could expose the alteration or removal of the nuclear fuel for nefarious purposes, physicists report in a paper accepted in Physical Review Letters. Crucially, this monitoring could be done remotely, while a submarine is in a port with its reactor shut off.
To ensure that countries without nuclear weapons don’t develop them, international inspectors monitor the use of many types of nuclear technology around the world. Nuclear submarines are particularly worrisome. Many use highly enriched uranium, a potent type of fuel that can be weaponized relatively easily. But submarines are protected from monitoring by a loophole. Unlike nuclear power plants, nuclear submarines are used for secretive military purposes, so physical inspections could infringe on a country’s national security.
US retakes first place from Japan on Top500 supercomputer ranking
The United States is on top of the supercomputing world in the Top500 ranking of the most powerful systems. The Frontier system from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) running on AMD EPYC CPUs took first place from last year's champ, Japan's ARM A64X Fugaku system. It's still in the integration and testing process at the ORNL in Tennessee, but will eventually be operated by the US Air Force and US Department of Energy.
Frontier, powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise's (HPE) Cray EX platform, was the top machine by a wide margin, too. It's the first (known) true exascale system, hitting a peak 1.1 exaflops on the Linmark benchmark. Fugaku, meanwhile, managed less than half that at 442 petaflops, which was still enough to keep it in first place for the previous two years.
Frontier was also the most efficient supercomputer, too. Running at just 52.23 gigaflops per watt, it beat out Japan's MN-3 system to grab first place on the Green500 list. "The fact that the world’s fastest machine is also the most energy efficient is just simply amazing," ORNL lab director Thomas Zacharia said at a press conference.
Solar and wind keep getting cheaper as the field becomes smarter
As solar and wind energy ramps up in the United States, the industries have gotten better at installing and operating their facilities. This experience can be seen in how the facilities are financed. According to new research, people working in the fields—and adjacent ones—have learned to be more efficient, reducing the overall cost of power. Further, according to Mark Bolinger, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the paper's authors, this so-called learning rate can be extrapolated into the future, and it spells good news for the two renewable sources of energy.
"The people who operate these turbines naturally get better over time as they do more of it. They get more efficient, and it allows them to lower their costs a bit," Bolinger told Ars, adding that the same holds true for the workers manufacturing the facilities. "Some of them have been doing it for a really long time… All things being equal, that should lead to a reduction in manufacturing costs."