Earliest Americans May Have Hunted Elephant-Like Mammal

By Gemma Tarlach | July 14, 2014 2:37 pm
Knight_Gomphotherium

An artist’s depiction of a gomphothere. Credit: Charles R. Knight

The site is called the “end of the world,” but for archaeologists, it’s just the beginning of a new chapter in understanding the origin and activities of the earliest Americans.

Located in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert, the excavation site of El Fin del Mundo (Spanish for “the end of the world”) has yielded a number of artifacts identified as Clovis — considered the Americas’ first indigenous culture — and remains of elephant-like animals called gomphothere (Cuvieronius sp.). Although gomphothere were once spread over large areas of North America, it was thought they predated the arrival of humans to the continent. El Fin del Mundo, dated to about 13,390 years ago, is the first site to hint that humans may have hunted the animals. Read More

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

World’s First Climate-Controlled City Planned for Dubai

By Carl Engelking | July 11, 2014 2:59 pm
The Mall of the World as seen at night in a simulation. (Credit: YouTube, Dubai Holding)

The Mall of the World as seen at night in a simulation. (Credit: YouTube, Dubai Holding)

Imagine a city where the temperature is always perfect and you never have to worry about a rainy day ruining your day’s plans. Sound like fiction? If you live in Dubai, a city-state already known for ambitious feats of engineering, a mini-metropolis with a thermostat is poised to become a reality.

Officials in Dubai last week announced plans to build the world’s first climate-controlled city. Dubbed the Mall of the World, the 48 million-square-foot complex will feature 100 hotels and apartment buildings, the world’s largest indoor theme park and the world’s largest shopping mall. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: urban environment

A Maps App That Takes You the Scenic Route

By Carl Engelking | July 10, 2014 3:43 pm

tourists

There’s nothing like taking the scenic route while vacationing in a new city, but the always-efficient GPS programs we navigate with simply plot the shortest route to reach a destination. But now there’s hope for the aesthetically oriented wayfarer: Researchers have designed an algorithm that charts the most beautiful route from point A to B.

Yahoo! researchers used crowd-sourced data to build a program that automatically identifies the most alluring pathways through a city. What’s more, the application plotted a course that was on average just 7 minutes longer than the shortest route — a small sacrifice for a more pleasurable journey.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Jet Lag Snacks: How Foods Affect Your Body’s Internal Clock

By Ben Thomas | July 10, 2014 11:00 am

jetlag

Ever stumble off an all-night flight and wonder whether you should be eating breakfast or dinner? Your biological clock may be highly adaptable, but when it’s thrown off-balance, nothing else feels quite right.

Our bodies’ circadian clocks – which regulate our hunger, tiredness, digestion and dozens of other biological processes in response to the time of day – are kept in balance by a delicate dance of hundreds of chemicals; each of them influenced by a specific type of environmental factor.

And now, a new study suggests that we may be able to set our biological clocks back or forward – a kind of self-induced daylight savings time – depending on what we eat.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: nutrition

Name That Planet! Exoplanet Names Opened to Vote

By Bill Andrews | July 9, 2014 4:21 pm
iau1301a

Artist’s rendering of an exoplanet seen from its moon. Courtesy IAU/L. Calçada

Everyone knows it’s not always cool to follow the rules, and even less cool making sure everyone else does. So it’s not surprising the International Astronomical Union has a bit of a bad rap. First they take away Pluto’s planetary status, then they started grumbling about groups trying to give exoplanets and Martian craters cool new names.

Well, it seems the ol’ IAU’s taken a bit of a chill pill, because it’s just announced a new contest that will allow the public to vote on a set of up to 30 such popular names for exoplanets and their stars.

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

Gorillas Use Body Odor to Communicate

By April Reese | July 9, 2014 2:20 pm

gorilla

When it comes to wild ape communication, it’s not just monkey see, monkey do — it’s also monkey smell, monkey do. A new study finds that gorillas use odor signals to communicate.

The study — the first analysis of chemical signaling in wild gorillas — may also shed light on how odor signalling between humans evolved.

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

World’s Largest Flying Bird Had 24-Foot Wingspan

By Gemma Tarlach | July 7, 2014 2:00 pm
Pelagornis sandersi has replaced Argentavis as the largest flying bird known. courtesy of Liz Bradford.

Pelagornis sandersi has replaced Argentavis as the largest flying bird known. Courtesy Liz Bradford

With a wingspan double that of today’s largest flyers, Pelagornis sandersi was truly the Big Bird of its day.

Researchers describing fossil remains of P. sandersi for the first time say the bird had a wingspan of up to 24 feet, qualifying it as the largest flying bird ever to take to Earth’s skies. Its size exceeds some estimates for the limits of powered flight, though computer models based on the well-preserved skeleton suggest the animal was an excellent glider. In a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers theorize the bird flew long oceanic distances in search of prey, similar to today’s albatrosses. Read More

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

New Exoplanet Has Strange Companion

By Bill Andrews | July 3, 2014 1:00 pm
Binary exoplanet diagram

Astronomers have discovered for the first time an exoplanet orbiting one star in a binary system, as shown in this artist’s rendering. Credit: Cheongho Han, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea.

Just as we Americans are heading into a long weekend, astronomers have given us a little something extra to celebrate: a new exoplanet discovery! “Sigh, another one?” you might think to yourself. But this one is special. It’s the first known planet similar to Earth that orbits its star at an Earthlike distance, all with a relatively nearby companion star in orbit! The never-before-seen arrangement isn’t just cool on its own, either — it also tells astronomers something about the nature of planetary distributions and how to look for other Earths.

Ogling an Exoplanet

The planet in question has a mouthful of a name — OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb — but let’s call it Tatooine, after another famous planet in a binary system. An international team of astronomers found it in data from the OGLE (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) telescope, using a planetary detection system known as microlensing. Unlike other methods, microlensing doesn’t depend on how much light its targets emit, instead focusing on the gravitational warping effects they have on a more distant object’s light.

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

New Fossil Suggests More Complex Evolution for Feathers and Flight

By Gemma Tarlach | July 2, 2014 12:00 pm
The 11th specimen of Archaeopteryx under ultraviolet light. Credit: Nature.

The new specimen of Archaeopteryx under ultraviolet light. Photo courtesy of Helmut Tischlinger.

We all know the early bird gets the worm, but apparently it also gets a fabulous set of feathered “trousers.”

Extensive feather preservation on a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, is giving researchers an unprecedented look at how both feathers and flight may have evolved among theropod dinosaurs, the ancestors of modern birds. The fossil’s plumage also challenges previous theories about why feathers evolved.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: birds, dinosaurs, evolution

Ancient Southwest Baby Boom Offers Lesson in Overpopulation

By April Reese | June 30, 2014 2:57 pm
Sites like Pueblo Bonito in northern New Mexico reached their maximum size in the early A.D. 1100s, just before a major drought began to decrease birth rates throughout the Southwest. Credit: Nate Crabtree Photography

Sites like Pueblo Bonito in northern New Mexico reached their maximum size in the early A.D. 1100s, just before a major drought began to decrease birth rates throughout the Southwest.
Credit: Nate Crabtree Photography

With 7 billion people now inhabiting the planet — more than at any other time in history — you’d think we’re having more babies than ever before. But a millennia ago, birth rates were actually higher in the Southwest than they are anywhere in the world today, researchers have found. Back then, the regional population soared — and then crashed eight centuries later. Can modern-day humans learn anything from the ancient Puebloans’ downfall?

Indeed we can, says a team of anthropologists at Washington State University, who report surprising population trends in the first millennial Southwest in as study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts, Uncategorized
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