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The Crux

Homo heidelbergensis: The Answer to a Mysterious Period in Human History?

By Bridget Alex | September 17, 2019 11:56 am

Cranium 5, a skull found at Sima de los Huesos and thought to be either a late Homo heidelbergensis or an early Neanderthal. (Credit: Rept0n1x/Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a murky chapter in human evolution, one that occurs right before our species entered the scene.

Over 1 million years ago our ancestors belonged to the primitive-looking species Homo erectus. Jump to 300,000 years ago and Earth is home to at least three lineages of big-brained humans: Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Deni …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: human origins

D-brief

Study Finds Air Pollution Particles Can Get Inside the Placenta

By Jillian Mock | September 17, 2019 10:00 am

Particles of black carbon have been found inside the placenta, raising questions of health risks to fetuses. (Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Many of us don’t give much thought to the air we breathe. But if you live in a city, near a major road, next to an industrial plant or even just have a wood burning stove, that air is often laced with miniscule pollutants. After we inhale, those particles can lodge in our lungs and travel throughout the body. For pregnant women, this may put thei …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Health & Medicine

D-brief

New Interstellar Comet is 'Very Red', Initial Results Show

By Mara Johnson-Groh | September 16, 2019 5:30 pm

The Gemini Observatory in Hawaii caught this first-ever color image of the interstellar comet and its faint tail. (Credit: Composite image by Travis Rector. Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA)

Astronomers are in a frenzy to learn more about the newest
visitor to our solar system, comet C/2019 Q4. While it hasn’t yet been
officially confirmed, they’re largely convinced the object originated outside
our solar system.

“I will say there is no debate at this point,” said Quanzhi
Ye, astronom …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: comets, solar system

The Crux

Cows Burp Out Tons of Methane. Feeding Them Seaweed Could Help

By Jennifer Walter | September 16, 2019 5:13 pm

Adding seaweed to cows’ diet would help tamp down their methane emissions. (Credit: Jan K/ Shutterstock)

Every morning, Breanna Roque goes out to the barn to feed the cows. But this isn’t your typical farm – in fact, it’s a laboratory. The University of California, Davis graduate researcher spends her time among bovines, tweaking their diets so that they burp less. Why? Less burps means less methane. And less methane, on a global scale, could mean slowing down climate change.  

 …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, Top Posts

Out There

At 100, James Lovelock Has New Ideas About Gaia and Earth's Future

By Corey S. Powell | September 14, 2019 5:10 pm

Our blue-marble planet, imaged by the DSCOVR spacecraft. Life maintains a stubborn balance here — but for how long? (Credit: NOAA/EPIC)

James Lovelock has a lot to
celebrate. The renowned British futurist and environmentalist just enjoyed a
100th birthday party with his wife and friends. Over his long career
he has seen his once-controversial Gaia hypothesis steadily gain significant acceptance
among his colleagues. And capping all that, he has just published Novacene, a book that predicts  …

The Crux

9 Ways to Instantly Cut Your Environmental Impact

By Anna Groves | September 13, 2019 4:43 pm

Buying clothes and other items second hand is a great way to cut your environmental impact. (Credit: Cabeca de Marmore/Shutterstock)

Helping the environment might seem like an impossible task, especially when there are a couple billion other people out there, still doing their thing. But even just cutting your current environmental impact a little is better than doing nothing at all. So, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Buy Stuff Second Hand

What has less of an impact than buy …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

D-brief

Hubble Sheds New Light on Lives of Star Clusters

By Hailey Rose McLaughlin | September 13, 2019 4:07 pm

A new look at the Large Magellanic Cloud is helping astronomers better understand how groups of stars evolve. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken new observations of
the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way and
found new insights into the star clusters that live there.

Star clusters are quite common in the universe. If a galaxy
is a cosmic metropolis, star clusters would be like a small town. They form as huge
clouds of gas and du …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: stars

D-brief

Insecticides May Be Giving Songbirds Anorexia and Delaying Their Migrations

By Roni Dengler | September 12, 2019 5:00 pm

An experiment with white-crowned sparrows shows that insecticides may be impacting songbirds. (Credit: Phil Lowe/Shutterstock)

Some migrating songbirds may be starving thanks to agricultural pesticides. Neonicotinoids are popular insecticides used in industrial agriculture across the U.S. But the chemicals’ are controversial because of their detrimental impact on bees and other pollinators.

Now, a group of researchers has added heat to the debate, showing that even small amounts of one pa …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts

D-brief

Adrenaline Doesn't Actually Cause the Fight-or-Flight Response, New Study Says

By Jennifer Walter | September 12, 2019 4:49 pm

When you’re overcome with fear, it’s not adrenaline making you want to fight or flee. (Credit: Master1305/Shutterstock)

A thrilling high when you’re faced with danger, a boost of energy when you’re going for an intense run – we tend to associate these rushes with adrenaline, a hormone synonymous with our fight-or-flight response. But it turns out adrenaline might not be what activates our brains’ stress reaction after all.

In fact, our bones might be doing more work than we origina …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

D-brief

Astronomers May Have Just Discovered an Interstellar Comet Visiting Our Solar System

By Mara Johnson-Groh | September 12, 2019 4:00 pm

Astronomers first found Comet C/2019 Q4 on August 30. The past week of observations, including this image taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Big Island, have increased astronomers confidence that the comet started life in another solar system. (Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope)

A newly discovered comet has astronomers excited. Formally
named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), the object appears to have come from outside our
solar system. If confirmed, that would make it the seco …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: comets, solar system
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