Neural Cells Don’t Always Express Mom and Dad’s Genes Equally

By Charles Choi | February 24, 2017 1:24 pm
gene-expression

(Credit: Gregg Lab)

We’re all the product of genes from both parents. But in the brain, neurons may favor genes from mom or dad far more than previously thought, which is an effect that could impact one’s risk for mental disorders.

Everybody generally receives two versions, or alleles, of each gene, one from each parent. The fact that each person has a spare copy of a gene in case the other is defective is one reason why scientists think sex evolved in the first place, says study senior author Christopher Gregg, a neurogeneticist at the New York Stem Cell Foundation and at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Gooooal! Bumblebees Learn to Play Soccer

By Carl Engelking | February 23, 2017 1:00 pm
bumble-bee

A bumble bee hard at work spinning a ball toward its goal. (Credit: Courtesy Clint Perry, Queen Mary University of London)

If scoring a goal is the only way to earn a sugary treat, a bumblebee will summon its inner Messi.

Indeed, rolling a ball into a goal—soccer, sort of—is the latest puzzle solved by Bombus terrestris after training with scientists/bee trainers at Queen Mary University of London. In October, scientists from the same lab—the Chittka Lab—taught bees to tug strings for treats. There are no plans to start a traveling carnival; instead, scientists are pushing bees’ to their cognitive limits to learn how complex behaviors arise from minuscule brains. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, intelligence

4 Thumbnail-Sized Frog Species Discovered in India

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 22, 2017 1:25 pm
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Vijayan’s Night Frog, Nyctibatrachus pulivijayani,, a 13.6-millimeter, miniature-sized frog discovered from Agasthyamala hills in the Western Ghats. (Credit: SD Biju)

Four frogs tinier than an average adult thumbnail are among seven new species identified in India’s Western Ghat mountain range.

The new frog species all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. As the name suggests, they usually come out after dark and prefer to hide out under damp vegetation on the forest floor. Unlike their stream-dwelling cousins, they don’t have webbed feet. All of the species found appear to be fairly common in the region, but the frogs’ size, combined with their secretive habits and unusual insect-like calls, are probably why they have gone undiscovered for so long. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts

7 Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting a Tiny Star

By John Wenz | February 22, 2017 12:01 pm
trappist

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

TRAPPIST-1 has a solar system like no other. The tiny, tiny red dwarf is just barely big enough to be considered a star, and is, radius-wise, a hair bigger than Jupiter. When it was announced last May, there was some excitement: the system had three Earth-sized planets, and they might all be habitable.

We’re going to have to revise that, though. It has seven planets. The results of an intensive study were published today in Nature. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

What Does a Meteor Sound Like?

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 21, 2017 4:57 pm
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(Credit: Cylonphoto/Shutterstock)

When a meteor screams through our upper atmosphere, it’s a silent show for us here on the ground. Most meteors burn up dozens of miles above the surface, and even if a sonic boom reaches us it comes minutes after the visual spectacle.

However, reports of meteors have for years been accompanied by reports of strange sizzling sounds filling the air, as if someone was frying bacon. Sound travels too slowly for the meteor to be directly responsible for the phenomenon, so such reports are usually dismissed or attributed to earthly causes. But now, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) say that they have uncovered a mechanism that could account for the mysterious crackling noises. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Kennewick Man’s Bones Reburied, Settling a Decades-Long Debate

By Amy Klinkhammer | February 21, 2017 4:47 pm
kennewick-reconstruction

(Credit: Brittney Tatchell/Smithsonian Institution)

Unearthed in 1996 after part of his skull was found along the shores of the Columbia River in Washington, Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old Paleoamerican, would soon be regarded as the most important human skeletal discovery in American history. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

The Brightest Pulsar Has a Complex and Powerful Magnetic Field

By Alison Klesman | February 21, 2017 2:27 pm

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The supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies are known for their extreme X-ray emission. This emission is associated with the massive hot disks of gas and debris that circle these monstrous black holes before it is consumed.

However, X-ray observations of distant galaxies have also uncovered additional luminous X-ray sources that aren’t associated with the galactic centers (where supermassive black holes are found). These are ULXs, or ultraluminous X-ray sources. ULXs have been traditionally explained as large stellar-sized (80-100 solar masses) or possibly intermediate mass (1,000-100,000 solar masses) black holes accreting material at high rates. Now, one famous ULX has been identified not as a black hole, but as a neutron star with a mass less than 1.5 that of our Sun, exhibiting a complex and powerful magnetic field. Read More

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

In Ancient Chacoan Society, Women Ruled

By Ian Graber-Stiehl | February 21, 2017 12:03 pm
chacoan

Pueblo Bonito taken from the northern rim of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. (Credit: Douglas Kennett, Penn State University)

Before they disappeared in 1130, the Chacoans of New Mexico were a society on par with the Mayans.

Without a writing system to speak of, they maintained complex trade partnerships with nearby populations. They lived in sprawling, complex stone mini-cities called “great houses”—the largest of which, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, boasted 650 rooms. They Chacoans were one of North America’s earliest complex societies, but archaeologists still aren’t sure why they disappeared—climate change and drought are leading theories. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

Atmospheric Rivers Bring Record Winds, Torrential Rains

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 20, 2017 4:02 pm
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A river of moist air hits Western Europe during Storm Desmond in 2015. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Rivers in the sky may be responsible for up to 75 percent of the largest, most extreme wind and rainfall events that ravage the coasts.

The streams of moisture, called atmospheric rivers, originate in the tropics and often stretch for thousands of miles across the ocean in a thin band. They deliver a deluge of rain that causes major floods, landslides and a rash of insurance claims. In addition to soaking us, a new study shows that atmospheric rivers are also responsible for bringing powerful winds and strengthened many of the most damaging storms in Europe. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Watch a Record 104 Satellites Tumble Into Orbit

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 17, 2017 2:18 pm

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An Indian rocket delivered a record-setting 104 satellites into orbit Tuesday night.

A camera on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle captured the spacecraft, most of them tiny CubeSats, as they tumbled into orbit—the most placed into orbit by a single vehicle. A majority of the satellites belong to a U.S.-based company called Planet which hopes to establish a network of tiny satellites to provide near-real-time imaging of Earth.

An Indian cartography satellite and two experimental nanosatellites, weather-monitoring CubeSats and student-built experimental craft were also on board. The 101 CubeSats took flight shortly after the rocket entered orbit in a carefully orchestrated maneuver involving 25 “Quadpacks.” Packed with four tiny probes apiece, the Quadpacks used a spring-assisted delivery system to eject the probes into orbit two at a time.

The 88 satellites from Planet, called Doves, will join 12 others already in orbit to form a string of small imaging probes that completely encircles the globe. Placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit that reaches from pole to pole, their network should allow them to take pictures of Earth multiple times an hour once they are all in place. And, because their orbit takes them over the same place every day, it allows for day-by-day comparisons of specific areas.

The company says that with this launch they are operating the largest fleet of satellites ever assembled. The CubeSats they use are only about a foot long, and are often utilized as a low-cost way of testing preliminary technologies and running experiments. The satellites are small enough that they can often squeeze onto launches as secondary payloads, allowing for cheaper rides into orbit.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
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