Editorial: Evidence Shouldn’t Be Optional
In a tumultuous few weeks, the Supreme Court has ignored the scientific evidence underlying safe abortion, the need to slow climate change, and the value of gun safety laws. It is alarming that the justices have now indicated a willingness to consider a voting rights case next term, given Chief Justice John Roberts’ feelings on what he calls the “sociological gobbledygook” of research into the effects of gerrymandering.
The promise of democracy is being sorely tested by the recent injustices leveled by the Supreme Court’s conservative justices in cases involving health, welfare and the future of the planet. Over and over this term, their decisions have put industry, religion (specifically, a conservative strain of Christianity) and special interests above facts. They have devalued the role of expertise.
Disregarding science and evidence is a terrible shift for the highest court in the land, which once safeguarded the health of the public in rulings that upheld state vaccine mandates and safe food production. […]
You don’t need to be a scientist or mathematician to make good decisions and judgments. But if you are a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people hanging on your every opinion, you owe it to us to use the data that science painstakingly compiles when handing down your decisions. We cannot go back to a world of religious and racial supremacy, where the bodies of women and people of color are objects without self-determination. We must not become the dystopian future so much science fiction has warned us about. Let evidence rule judgment.
After Roe v. Wade: US researchers warn of what’s to come
Years of studies point to the negative economic and health effects of restricting access to abortions. […]
Public-health researchers and economists submitted evidence to the Supreme Court ahead of the case showing that restricting abortion access has negative consequences for pregnant people, who are at increased risk of physical and mental-health issues when they are denied an abortion, and for infant health. “We know from other severe restrictions in states like Texas what happens when abortion access is curtailed,” says Liza Fuentes, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, based in New York City. […]
A substantial proportion of people who want abortion services but don’t have access to them will end up carrying their pregnancies to term. The consequences of this have been documented thoroughly by research. One of the most comprehensive studies examining the effects of abortion access is the Turnaway Study, an effort that followed about 1,000 US women for five years after they sought abortions and either received or were denied them.
Led by Diana Greene Foster, a reproductive-health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, the study showed, for example, that women denied an abortion were more likely to live in poverty afterwards than those who received one. And it showed that those denied an abortion were more likely to report not having enough money to cover living expenses over the five years than were those who did not give birth. Women who were unable to receive the procedure also fared worse in areas such as education, and physical and mental health.
Once people who are denied an abortion go through the experience of giving birth, they rarely choose to place the child for adoption, the Turnaway Study showed.
The Real Target of the Supreme Court’s EPA Decision
In yet another major blow to democratic constitutionalism, the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA that the Clean Air Act does not give EPA authority to regulate the power grid as a whole. The decision will likely limit the EPA’s authority to address climate change across the board. But the issue is even broader. The opinion undermines the federal regulatory state that Congress has established—with the court’s blessing—over the past 200 years. Using a legal rule of its own invention that defies the intent of Congress, the court has struck at the heart of government agencies’ ability to protect the public. […]
West Virginia v. EPA strips the EPA of significant authority to address climate change. The Supreme Court itself practically required the EPA to take action against climate change during the second Bush administration. Years later, the Obama administration’s EPA issued a groundbreaking Clean Power Plan to do so. […]
West Virginia—a coal-producing state—and other parties sued to stop the rule from going into effect. In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court stayed the rule while appeals were pending toward the end of the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s EPA then replaced the Clean Power Plan with its Affordable Clean Energy rule. ACE was extremely weak by design: It did away with CPP’s grid-level improvements, claiming that the Clean Air Act did not permit them. The American Lung Association and other parties challenged this rule, and the DC Circuit struck it down.
West Virginia v. EPA emerged as an appeal from these challenges. At the outset, the court should never have taken this case. That’s because there is no live “case or controversy,” as the Constitution requires before the judiciary can intervene. The CPP never went into effect, and it couldn’t spring back into effect now, because the deadlines it set have already passed.
Satellites watch record-breaking wildfires burn across Alaska
A hot, dry start to summer has sparked a record number of wildfires in southern Alaska, and weather satellites are tracking the development of the blazes from space.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) geostationary satellites have captured striking images of the fires burning across south-central and southwestern Alaska since early June. Lightning strikes from thunderstorms are sparking these early-season wildfires, which are then feeding on dry vegetation from a mild winter, according to a statement from NOAA(opens in new tab).
"This year has been an unusually active fire season in the region, with abnormally warm and dry conditions that led to more than 300 wildfires igniting in recent weeks," NOAA officials wrote.
Extreme weather clearly linked to human-induced climate change, new study says'
Scientists have finally confirmed the link between human-induced climate change and some extreme weather events, in a new review paper.
The research shows that human activities have a direct effect on certain types of severe weather including heatwaves and heavy rainfall. […]
“I think we can very confidently say that every heatwave occurring today has been made more intense and more likely because of climate change,” says climate scientist Dr Friederike Otto, who co-authored the study…
The paper, released today in new research journal Environmental Research: Climate, looks at how climate change impacts the intensity and likelihood of these weather events.
Johns Hopkins University Hub
Simultaneous Extreme Weather Created Dangerous Conditions in U.S.
Intense heat in the southwestern United States broke records last summer partly because it hit in tandem with an unusually severe drought, a new Johns Hopkins study shows. The study measured for the first time how the two extreme weather events dangerously interacted in real time.
Though the drought's impact on that heat wave was modest in general, it increased temperatures by four degrees in some areas, and the researchers say similarly dueling weather events likely drove this year's New Mexico wildfire to historic proportions. Moreover, as climate change advances, these one-two weather punches, called cascades, and their inherent hazards will become increasingly common.
"With more extremes happening, the possibility of an extreme drought plus a heat wave and even a fire, together...the odds are just better that it's going to happen," said co-author Benjamin Zaitchik, professor of earth and planetary sciences. "Understanding how a compound event can lead to a cascade where you end up in a record-shattering situation that can be really damaging for people and ecosystems is something that many climate scientists are trying to understand."
The findings are newly published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Never-before-seen microbes locked in glacier ice could spark a wave of new pandemics if released
Stunned scientists have uncovered more than 900 never-before-seen species of microbes living inside glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. Analysis of the microbes' genomes revealed that some have the potential to spawn new pandemics, if rapid melting caused by climate change releases them from their icy prisons. […]
It is the first time that a microbial community hidden within a glacier has been genetically sequenced.
The team found 968 microbial species frozen within the ice — mostly bacteria but also algae, archaea and fungi, the researchers reported June 27 in the journal Nature Biotechnology(opens in new tab). But perhaps more surprisingly, around 98% of those species were completely new to science. This level of microbial diversity was unexpected because of the challenges associated with living inside glaciers, the researchers said. "Despite extreme environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, periodic freeze-thaw cycles and nutrient limitation, the surfaces of glaciers support a diverse array of life," the study authors wrote.
You Can Spot Climate Change in Old Restaurant Menus
[…] Climate change is an intensifying reality for the marine species that live near Vancouver and for the people who depend on them. In a new study, a team from the University of British Columbia (UBC) shows one unexpected way that climate effects are already manifesting in our daily lives. To find it, they looked not at thermometers or ice cores, but at restaurant menus.
“With a menu, you have a physical and digital record that you can compare over time,” explains William Cheung, a fisheries biologist at UBC and one of the study’s authors. Cheung has spent his career studying climate change and its effects on the world’s oceans. He has contributed to several of the landmark reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but along with John-Paul Ng, an undergraduate student at UBC, he wanted to find a different way to both study and communicate those changes.
“Many people, especially in Vancouver, go out to restaurants and enjoy seafood, so we wanted to see whether climate change has affected the seafood that the restaurants serve,” Cheung says.
The Pandemic Showed We Totally CAN Limit Global Warming. Here's How
With researchers warning that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C is fast slipping from our grasp, we know it will take a mammoth effort to reach. But the scale of emissions reductions required is actually something we have already achieved before – quite recently and rather by accident.
In 2020, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 6.3 percent or some 2,200 metric tons (MtCO2), a new study in Nature Geoscience reports. That reduction "is the largest absolute annual decline in emissions, larger than the emissions decrease of the 2009 financial crisis (380 MtCO2) and even larger than the decrease reconstructed at the end of World War II (814 MtCO2)," Tsinghua University Earth system scientist Zhu Liu and colleagues wrote in their paper.
Of course, we all know that was due to the massive disruption to our economies and way of life wrought by the deadly and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – not something we want to repeat. But if we made equivalent changes in a targeted and controlled manner, it is technically possible to achieve these emissions reductions, and with far fewer negative impacts to boot.
The Washington Post
Orcas are eating great white sharks’ livers off South Africa’s coast
In 2017, five great white shark carcasses washed ashore in four months in South Africa. Four of them were missing livers, and one had its heart removed.
Now, scientists have zeroed in on the suspects: a pair of male orcas named Port and Starboard with a taste for energy-rich shark liver.
The attacks have continued, and the pair are probably not the only orcas terrorizing great whites in the area. A study published in the peer-reviewed African Journal of Marine Science on Wednesday found that orcas are displacing great whites as the top predator in Gansbaai, a popular shark viewing destination about 75 miles east of Cape Town. With great whites increasingly absent, smaller predators can multiply unchecked, threatening prey species and destabilizing the entire ecosystem.
'Gasps' as Scientists Reveal Preserved Baby Woolly Mammoth
She’s over 30,000 years old, and yet her preservation is astounding: She has her skin, her tiny tusk nubs, her toenails, and her little tail. She still has tufts of fur, and her trunk—with its prehensile tip—is complete and malleable. Looking at the initial photograph from where she was found at a Yukon gold mine, she looks like she only recently met her demise.
Her name is Nun cho ga, a name decided upon by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elders.
“‘Nun go’ is ‘baby,’” Debbie Nagano, heritage director of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government told Gizmodo, explaining the words chosen from the Hän language. “‘Cho’, of course, is ‘big.’ And ‘ga’ is ‘animal.’”
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in are one of 14 First Nations in the Yukon, and it is upon their land that the mammoth was found. Remarkably, the day this little mammoth appeared last week is significant. It was June 21, both National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada and the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
After a few months in space, astronaut bones don’t look so pretty
Floating around in space sounds like fun, but doing so takes a massive toll on your body. A study published on June 30 in the journal Scientific Reports found that spending just a few months in space changes astronauts’ bones, causing a loss of density equivalent to what most humans would lose in a couple of decades on Earth. More concerning is that after a year, many astronauts do not fully recover their lost bone mass.
The connection between bone mass and spaceflight has been studied for quite some time. One prior NASA study from 2007 estimated a two to nine percent loss in bone mass within nine months of space travel. Another study published in 2020 simulated the impact of a three-year spaceflight to Mars, finding a 33 percent risk of osteoporosis for long-distance travelers. Decreases in bone density can weaken a person’s skeletal structure and increase the risk of back pain, bone fractures, and loss of height.
The poor osteopathic health likely results from the lack of gravity in space… Unless scientists figure out if the lost bone mass is fully recoverable, the findings jeopardize the hope of sending humans to Mars in 2030.
‘Beenome’ project aims to boost bee conservation with genetic mapping
From tiny, jewel-toned metallic bees to cartoonish and lumbering bumblebees, the United States is home to more than 4,000 native and 55 non-native bee species. Now, scientists have announced a plan to map the genomes of at least 100 of these species, representing each of the major bee taxonomic groups in the U.S.
The project “will help researchers answer the big questions like what genetic differences make some bee species more vulnerable to climate change or whether a bee species is likely to be more susceptible to a pesticide,” entomologist Jay Evans with the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, and co-lead of the project, said in a statement.
The “Beenome100” project, a first-of-its-kind library of genetic information led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will create a digital repository of the complete set of genes present in 100 bee species. With this genetic map in hand, scientists can link specific genes to bee functions.
Italian researchers a step closer to understanding cognitive abilities of the octopus
A team of Italian researchers identified a group of genes that could explain the remarkable intelligence of the octopus, according to a study published in the journal BMC Biology. […]
Researchers from the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Naples, Italy, found that some crucial genes are active both in the human brain and in the brains of some species of octopus. This discovery could help us understand the secret behind these animals’ brain abilities.
The human genome includes 45% of sequences called transposons or jumping genes. These sequences can move from one point to another in a person’s genome. In most cases, these elements stay silent and have no visible effects or lose their ability to move. Some are inactive because they have accumulated mutations over the years or are blocked by cellular defence mechanisms.
Rise of the dinosaurs traced back to their adaptation to cold
Fossil hunters have traced the rise of the dinosaurs back to the freezing winters the beasts endured while roaming around the far north.
Footprints of the animals and stone deposits from north-west China suggest dinosaurs became adapted to the cold in polar regions before a mass extinction event paved the way for their reign at the end of the Triassic.
With a covering of fuzzy feathers to help keep them warm, the dinosaurs were better able to cope and to take advantage of new territories when brutal conditions wiped out great swaths of more vulnerable creatures.
“The key to their eventual dominance was very simple,” said Paul Olsen, the lead author on the study at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “They were fundamentally cold-adapted animals. When it got cold everywhere, they were ready, and other animals weren’t.”
The New York Times
Fossils found in China give a hint to the development of the panda’s pseudothumb
[…] To shovel stalks into their mouths, pandas utilize a sixth, thumblike digit on their paws to clutch shoots like a human holding a churro. This pseudothumb comes in handy — pandas need a tight grasp as they gnaw at rigid bamboo. “It’s not nearly as good of a thumb as ours, so they can’t make tools or complex movements,” said Xiaoming Wang, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. But the crude “thumbs” are more than capable of gripping bamboo.
Scientists have long been perplexed by this rudimentary thumb, which is actually a protruding extension of the panda’s wrist bone. But a lack of fossilized panda paws has made it difficult to decipher when the strange trait originated. For years, the earliest evidence was only around 150,000 years old. But in a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, Dr. Wang and his colleagues posit that panda relatives have been utilizing pseudothumbs for millions of years.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Salmon nose deep into Alaska ecosystems
During a good year in Bristol Bay, a surge of more than 100 million pounds of sockeye salmon fights its way upstream, spawns, and dies. In Bristol Bay and elsewhere in Alaska, this incredible pulse of salmon carcasses enriches streams and rivers and makes young salmon hardier.
That’s the finding of scientists who study Alaska streams and rivers that are teeming with salmon. Aquatic ecologist Mark Wipfli of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology is one of those scientists who pull on rubber boots to find the ways that salmon enhance the waters of their birth and the surrounding forests. […]
“We’re learning now that salmon are not only making food webs more productive, but are improving the health of fish and other creatures that live there,” Wipfli said.
University of Buffalo
Study: How placentas evolved in mammals
The fossil record tells us about ancient life through the preserved remains of body parts like bones, teeth and turtle shells. But how to study the history of soft tissues and organs, which can decay quickly, leaving little evidence behind?
In a new study, scientists use gene expression patterns, called transcriptomics, to investigate the ancient origins of one organ: the placenta, which is vital to pregnancy.
“In some mammals, like humans, the placenta is really invasive, so it invades all the way through the wall of the uterus, into the maternal tissue. In other mammals, the placenta just touches the wall of the uterus. And then there’s everything in between,” says senior author Vincent J. Lynch, PhD, associate professor of biological sciences in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Wanderlust: What are whale sharks up to?
The largest fish in the ocean is a globe-trotter that can occasionally be found basking in the coastal waters of the Panamanian Pacific. However, little more is known about the habits of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) in the region. By satellite-tracking the whereabouts of 30 of them, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and the University of Panama explored the factors influencing this endangered species’ behavior.
The R. typus, like other large sharks, may take years or even decades to reach maturity and reproduce, making them vulnerable to population declines, especially when combined with human threats. For instance, they may be caught in fishing nets as bycatch or face the risk of vessel strikes when shipping lanes overlap with their feeding sites. Being able to understand and predict whale shark behavior is a necessary step for protecting the species. […]
Although they used marine protected areas, the whale sharks also spent time in industrial fishing and vessel traffic zones, which could endanger them according to the new article published in Frontiers in Marine Science.
University of Sussex
New study reveals impact of plastic on small mammals in England and Wales
Researchers investigating the exposure of small mammals to plastics in England and Wales have found traces in the faeces of more than half of the species examined.
In a paper published in Science of the Total Environment, researchers from the University of Sussex, the Mammal Society and the University of Exeter state that the densities of plastic excreted were comparable with those reported in human studies.
[The paper] identifies plastic polymers in four out of the seven species for which [the researchers] had faecal samples for. The European hedgehog, wood mouse, field vole and brown rat were all found to be plastic positive.
While expecting to see higher plastic concentrations in samples from urban locations and less plastic in herbivorous species, researchers actually discovered that ingestion of plastics were occurring across locations as well as across differing dietary habits – from herbivores, insectivores and omnivores.
San Francisco State University News
Study begins to unravel the mysterious evolution of fatherless male insects
New data is the first to support a difficult-to-test hypothesis for the evolution of sex determination found in some insects
It’s not often that you see genetic systems described as “bizarre” in the title of a scientific research paper. That is unless it’s from the lab of San Francisco State University Associate Professor of Biology Scott Roy, who has a particular penchant for weird genetics.
In his latest paper for PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), Roy and his collaborators provide the first empirical evidence supporting a hypothesis for the evolution of haplodiploidy, the unusual sex-determining system found in species like bees, ants and wasps.
University of Arizona News
Engineers design motorless sailplane for Mars exploration
Alexandre Kling, a research scientist in NASA's Mars Climate Modeling Center, … is partnering with a team of University of Arizona engineers that aims to … [design] a motorless sailplane that can soar over the Martian surface for days at a time, using only wind energy for propulsion. Equipped with flight, temperature and gas sensors as well as cameras, the sailplanes would weigh only 11 pounds each. The team details its proposal in a paper published in the journal Aerospace.
Flight on Mars is challenging due to the planet's thin atmosphere, and this is not the first team to try addressing it. Most notably, NASA's Ingenuity is a 4-pound helicopter that landed in Mars' Jezero Crater in 2021. With miniaturized flight technology and a rotor system span of about 4 feet, it's the first device to test powered, controlled flight on another planet. But the solar-powered vehicle can fly for only three minutes at a time, and it reaches heights of just 12 meters, or about 39 feet.
"These other technologies have all been very limited by energy," said the paper's first author, Adrien Bouskela, an aerospace engineering doctoral student in UArizona professor Sergey Shkarayev's Micro Air Vehicles Laboratory. "What we're proposing is just using the energy in situ. It's kind of a leap forward in those methods of extending missions. Because the main question is: How can you fly for free? How can you use the wind that's there, the thermal dynamics that are there, to avoid using solar panels and relying on batteries that need to be recharged?"
University of Surrey
New fossil galaxy discovery could answer important questions about the history of the universe
An ultra-faint dwarf galaxy, believed to be a “fossil” of one of the first ever galaxies, has been discovered by galactic archeologists at the University of Surrey.
The fossil, which was uncovered via a systematic visual search of legacy survey images using the Mayall 4-metre telescope, led by Dr David Martinez Delgado, could teach scientists about how galaxies form and confirm their understanding of cosmology and dark matter.
Dr Michelle Collins, an astronomer at the University of Surrey, UK and lead author of the paper announcing this discovery said: “We have found a new, extremely faint galaxy whose stars formed very early in the history of the Universe. This discovery marks the first time a galaxy this faint has been found around Andromeda using an astronomical survey that wasn't specifically designed for the task.”
Named ‘Pegasus V,’ the dwarf galaxy is located on the outskirts of Andromeda and appears as just a few sparse stars hidden in the sky.
Chemical & Engineering News
The US EPA’s definition of PFAS chemicals is narrower than an international one
The name for a family of commercial chemicals usually provides a fairly clear idea of the related compounds within it. An example is organophosphate pesticides. Another is brominated flame retardants.
But the moniker per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is less distinct. What constitutes this clan of thousands of environmentally persistent and widely used synthetic compounds, including some toxic molecules, depends on a detailed definition.
There’s more than a single definition of PFAS. The one that policy makers use will ultimately determine which fluorinated chemicals are scrutinized for possible regulation.
In the US, environmental and health activists are worried about a PFAS definition that the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a year ago. It includes far fewer molecules than one crafted by an international panel that included EPA scientists. Meanwhile, the US chemical industry’s largest trade association says both the international panel’s definition and the EPA’s are too broad. Ultimately, Congress may decide which definition federal agencies follow.
Horseshoe crabs: 'Living fossils' vital for vaccine safety
On a bright moonlit night, a team of scientists and volunteers head out to a protected beach along the Delaware Bay to survey horseshoe crabs that spawn in their millions along the US East Coast from late spring to early summer. […]
With their helmet-like shells, tails that resemble spikes and five pairs of legs connected to their mouths, horseshoe crabs, or Limulidae, aren't immediately endearing.
But if you've ever had a vaccine in your life, you have these weird sea animals to thank: their bright blue blood, which clots in the presence of harmful bacterial components called endotoxins, has been essential for testing the safety of biomedical products since the 1970s, when it replaced rabbit testing.
Female lineages anchored Pacific islands for 2000 years
Some 3000 years ago, people sailed toward the sunrise—and the last swatch of our planet uninhabited by humans: remote islands of the Pacific. By 1200 C.E. societies flourished from the Marianas to Rapa Nui, more than 12,000 kilometers apart. How the Pacific gradually became home to these groups—and just where they came from—has long been a mystery.
Some answers and twists are emerging, thanks to a large genomic study published today. Data from nearly 300 ancient and modern individuals reveals that at least five distinct groups migrated to the islands across 3 millennia. Once an island was initially settled, women stayed, maintaining maternal lines generation after generation. In contrast, male partners came from afar.
“It’s a fascinating paper,” says Christian Reepmeyer of the German Archaeological Institute, an expert on Pacific archaeology who was not involved in the study. “It shows the complexity of the human past,” and “opens up a whole lot of new ideas about population movements.”
Fast-evolving COVID variants complicate vaccine updates
As countries brace for another Omicron wave driven by the variants BA.4 and BA.5, calls to update COVID-19 vaccines are growing louder.
Existing vaccines based on the version of the virus SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 are a poor match to current Omicron strains. As a result, the vaccines now offer only short-lived protection from infection — although they seem to be holding up against severe disease.
This week, an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet to discuss whether COVID-19 vaccines should be updated — and what the upgraded vaccines should look like.
Many — although by no means all — scientists agree that COVID-19 vaccines are overdue for change. But constantly emerging variants and hard-to-predict immune responses mean that it’s far from clear what the new jabs ought to look like.
Reclassification of Earth's minerals reveals 4000 more than we thought
There may be 4000 more minerals in the world than previously thought, according to a new catalogue that identifies them not only by their internal make-up, but by the ways they are formed. […]
“Minerals are essentially time capsules that lock in their formational conditions and the subsequent weathering and alteration that they underwent,” says Shaunna Morrison at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. […]
The Carnegie researchers found that minerals could be formed in 57 different ways, such as asteroid collisions, evaporation or oxidation. Microorganisms also can leave behind metal deposits when they take specific elements for themselves, or when they separate compounds in search of a burst of electrical energy. These classifications allow mineralogists to concentrate their questions on the patterns across minerals, in a nascent discipline called mineral informatics.
The Webb telescope just took the deepest photo of the universe ever
In a matter of days, scientists will release an unprecedented photo of the universe, going deeper into the cosmos than ever before and revealing some of the oldest stars and galaxies.
The image is one of 10 to 20 photos that will come from the James Webb Space Telescope, the preeminent observatory in the sky, on July 12, NASA officials confirmed during a news conference on Wednesday. For the few scientists who have seen a sneak peek, the new snapshots have inspired profound existential experiences and left some on the verge of tears, they said.
"It's an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science missions. "It's not an image. It's a new worldview."
Wolves survived the ice age as a single, global population
[…] Researchers have generated a much clearer picture of the last 100,000 years of wolf evolution. The picture it paints is a population that remained a single unit despite being spread across continents in the Arctic, with the population sporadically refreshed from a core centered in Siberia. […]
The ability to sequence ancient DNA was essential to this new work, which involved obtaining DNA from 66 wolf skeletons that collectively span about 100,000 years of evolution, including most of the last ice age. Wolves are found in the Northern Hemisphere, and the skeletons used here tend to be closer to the Arctic (probably in part because DNA survives better in cooler climes). But they are widely distributed, with Europe, Asia, and North America represented. The researchers also included five ancient wolf genomes that others had analyzed, along with some genomes of modern wolves.
Typically, you'd expect to find regional populations that don't often intermingle with their more distant relations. If you map out the most closely related genomes, you'll typically find they cluster together. That's not the case here; instead, the ancient wolf genomes clustered together in time. That is, a given wolf was most likely to be closely related to other wolves alive at around the same time, no matter where those wolves lived on the planet.