Ailing Neanderthals Used Penicillin and ‘Aspirin’

By Charles Choi | March 8, 2017 1:00 pm

The upper jaw from an individual from El Sidron. You can see the dental calculus deposit on the rear, right molar. (Credit: Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC)

The stuff that clings to teeth can tell an interesting story.

On Wednesday, scientists revealed new insights gleaned from dental plaque stuck on the teeth of five Neanderthals from Europe. From a few teeth, scientists learned how Neanderthals used natural medicines and how their diets varied by region. They also learned that modern humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit long ago.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Blue Origin Wants to Land Rockets on a Floating Platform, Too

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 7, 2017 3:46 pm

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 12.51.45 PM

Blue Origin today unveiled a video demonstrating takeoff and landing procedures for its New Glenn rocket. Feel like you’ve seen this act before?

You’re not alone; the process looks very similar to the maneuvers performed by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on its trips to space. The short presentation shows the rocket lifting off, delivering a payload to orbit and touching back down on an oceanic barge. From the neat flip the rocket performs on the way down to the barge landing, Blue Origins appears to be following in the footsteps of Elon Musk and company. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Elusive Beaked Whales Filmed Swimming Underwater for the First Time

By Carl Engelking | March 7, 2017 6:00 am

The first underwater images of True’s beaked whales offered insights into their coloration patterns and group behavior. (Credit: Roland Edler)

True’s beaked whale sightings are so rare, that scientists who devote careers to studying these animals may never actually witness one swimming in the wild.

But thanks to an international team of scientists that compiled True’s beaked whale sightings, we can all watch the first underwater video of True’s beaked whales swimming near Pico Island in the Portuguese Azores. Researcher’s collection also included the first close-up images of a young calf of the same species, and a genetic analyses of two stranded whales. Read More

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

New ‘Sponge’ Material Is Like a ShamWow for Oil Spills

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 6, 2017 1:37 pm

(Credit: jukurae/Shutterstock)

When an oil tanker runs aground or a deep-sea well suffers a leak, millions of gallons of oil can flood into the ocean. Once there, oil slicks can be tremendously difficult to contain, and pose risks to ocean-dwellers and coastlines when they wash ashore in waves of sticky sludge. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology, top posts

Human-Caused Minerals: Another Sure Sign of the Anthropocene?

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 3, 2017 11:54 am

Chalconatronite, a result of quarrying, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada. (Credit: RRUFF)

To the ever-growing list of uniquely human tweaks to the planet, we can add the creation of 208 minerals.

A list compiled by researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Maine and the University of Arizona provides the first assessment of how many unique compounds human activities have created. The collection is another piece of evidence in favor of the Anthropocene, the authors say, and is illustrative of the effects human activities have had on the surface of the planet. Read More


Building a Better Polar Ice Forecast

By Eric Betz | March 3, 2017 10:44 am

A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker pierces the Beaufort Sea ice pack in September. (Credit: Alek Petty/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Watching Arctic sea ice shrink to record lows has become a summer tradition for climatologists. And while few would expect that long-term trend to reverse, it’s still a struggle to predict the annual highs and lows of polar sea ice.

In fact, just looking at long-term statistics — how much the sea ice maximum and minimum usually shrinks each year — has proven more accurate than existing forecast techniques. But a long-term approach can’t predict extreme years or forecast sea ice in specific regions. A local ice forecast would be vital for native Arctic hunters, wildlife researchers, as well as shipping companies hoping to move freight through newly melted passages. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Pushing the Theoretical Limits of DNA Data Storage

By Charles Choi | March 2, 2017 1:00 pm

Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski, associate scientist at the New York Genome Center, prepare to make trillions of of a DNA file. (Credit: New York Genome Center)

By 2020, the volumes of data that humanity generates may reach 44 trillion gigabytes, according to information technology analyst firm International Data Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts. That’s equivalent to over 6 towers of 128-gigabyte iPad Airs, each reaching from Earth to the moon.

To make use of all this data, it needs to be stored somewhere, and DNA may be up for the task.

Now, using a new strategy called DNA Fountain, scientists have nearly reached DNA’s theoretical storage capacity, and still recovered their data with zero errors. The secret of the new technique is that it essentially encodes files in DNA as very simple Sudoku puzzles, says study lead author Yaniv Erlich, a computational biologist at Columbia University in New York. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology

With Iron Nanoparticles, Cryopreserved Tissue Springs Back to Life

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 1, 2017 1:00 pm

Senior author John Bischof and a sample. (Credit: University of Minnesota)

Every year, thousands of donated organs go to waste because they cannot be matched with recipients in the brief window of time in which they are still viable.

Extending the shelf-life of organs could help alleviate this problem, potentially cutting into waiting lists for organs where many patients languish for years. Chilling organs at extremely low temperatures and then reheating them when they are needed is one current solution. The freezing and reheating process still needs work before we start shipping large inventories of tissues to “organ banks,” but scientists are making progress.

University of Minnesota researchers reported Wednesday that they have developed an innovative way to quickly and safely warm tissues from sub-zero temperatures—a technique that could greatly increase the viability of donated organs. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Oldest Fossils Ever Found Give New Clues to Life’s Origins

By Eric Betz | March 1, 2017 12:21 pm

Haematite tubes from the hydrothermal vent deposits are said to be the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth. (Credit: Matthew Dodd)

Four billion years ago, as a faint young sun beat down on the newly-formed Earth, a cluster of creatures—each less than half the width of a human hair—were already thriving around volcanic vents.

In a study published Wednesday in Nature, researchers say they’ve found the microfossil remnants of organisms that, if confirmed, lived at least 3.77 billion years ago. Read More

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

Urine Is Sugary and Swimming Pools Are Sweet

By Ian Graber-Stiehl | March 1, 2017 10:58 am

(Credit: tano_d’ere/Flickr)

Calorie-free, artificial sweeteners aren’t metabolized in the body—they go in, and they come out unscathed.

With that in mind, take a moment to metabolize the title of a new study: “Sweetened Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs.”

Indeed, in a study published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, researchers describe a new test that measures levels of acesulfame-K, a widely consumed artificial sweetener, floating in dubious pool water. Of course, researchers put their method to the test in pools and hot tubs in Canada, and the results may be disconcerting for some. It’s yet another addition to the corpus of research focusing on the cocktail of chemicals we swim in for fun.  Read More

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


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