Forget Where Your Keys Are Again?

By Focus Factor (Sponsored Content) | February 26, 2018 10:59 am


It seems simple right, leave your keys in the key bowl on the kitchen counter and you won’t lose them? Simple? Yes. Do we keep to this routine daily? On occasion. Keys these days seem to grow a pair of legs and find themselves their own “safe spot”, and on a regular basis.

According to the “Lost & Found Survey” by Pixie, 28 percent of Americans lose their key at least once a week. That’s a substantial amount of time that could be spent actually getting to work or school on time. So what if there was a brain health supplement that could help with this common predicament? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: personal health

Your Weekly Attenborough: Microleo attenboroughi

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 23, 2018 4:08 pm
(Credit: Peter Schouten)

(Credit: Peter Schouten)

Tiny. Marsupial. Lion.

Those three words should be enough to stop you in your tracks, and if SEO worked like it ought to, this post would be flooded with traffic. I had no idea there was such a thing as a miniature lion with a baby pouch, and now that I do know, I’m feeling all Veruca Salt. Come on, it’s adorable. Read More


Ancient Flood Left Its Mark in the Mediterranean Sea

By Charles Choi | March 23, 2018 2:07 pm
An artist's interpretation of the Zanclean flood. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An artist’s interpretation of the Zanclean flood. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

One of the largest floods in Earth’s history may have deluged the Mediterranean Sea more than 5.3 million years ago, leaving behind a mass of debris roughly the size of Greece’s largest island, Crete, researchers say.

Scientists investigated a roughly 640,000-year span of time starting nearly 6 million years ago when the Mediterranean became a hyper-salty lake. This so-called Messinian salinity crisis “was the most abrupt environmental change, at a planetary scale, since the end of the Cretaceous — that is, a sudden mass extinction, including dinosaurs, due to a meteorite impact,” said study lead author Aaron Micallef, a marine geoscientist at the University of Malta.

This event happened because the Mediterranean became isolated from the Atlantic Ocean. The dry climate of the region caused the Mediterranean to evaporate almost completely, with sea levels there dropping by up to 7,800 feet.

During this time, a layer of salt up nearly 1 mile thick was deposited at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, equivalent to 5 percent of global salt mass of the oceans.

“The Messinian salinity crisis thus reduced global ocean salinity and had an impact on ocean circulation, ice formation and, thus, climate,” says Micallef.

Previous research suggested the Mediterranean was abruptly restored back to a normal sea at the end of this event. One theory to explain the refilling of the Mediterranean was a catastrophic flood through what is now the Strait of Gibraltar. During this so-called Zanclean megaflood, prior work suggested that 90 percent of the Mediterranean refilled within a few months to two years, with the sea’s waters rising by up to more than 10 meters per day.

Until now, conclusive evidence of debris from this megaflood had eluded scientists. To look for the aftermath of this catastrophe, Micallef and his colleagues analyzed the boundary between the western and eastern Mediterranean Sea, which is marked by a 155-mile-long and more than 1-mile-high limestone cliff called the Malta Escarpment.

“If the Zanclean flood did ever occur, it should have left a mark either on this cliff, or at least at its base,” says Micallef.

Leaving Its Mark

The scientists examined the most comprehensive collection of seafloor data yet from offshore eastern Sicily and the Maltese Islands, which research vessels gathered using sonar over the course of five years. That is where “we found our evidence — a wide seafloor canyon and an extensive buried mass of material,” Micallef said. The scientists detailed their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

The buried mass of material is equivalent in size to Crete and nearly 3,000 feet thick in places. This mass is consistent with material eroded and transported by a megaflood passing from the western to the eastern Mediterranean via a southeastern Sicilian gateway.

The researchers suggested the Zanclean flood resulted in a waterfall five times the height of the Eiffel Tower. This water carved a canyon 3 miles wide and 12 miles long that is still preserved underwater off the southeastern Sicilian city of Noto.

“We may be dealing with the one of the largest floods that ever occurred on our planet,” Micallef said.

For example, some of the largest known terrestrial megafloods occurred at the end of the last ice age at Missoula in what is now the western United States, and Altai in central Asia, discharging an estimated 2.7 million, 10 million, and 900,000 cubic meters per second, respectively, Micallef said. In comparison, the Zanclean flood discharged “up to 130 million cubic meters per second,” he noted.

The researchers have not yet been able to directly analyze rocks from the Zanclean megaflood debris because those deposits “are buried beneath hundreds of meters of sediment at water depths of 3 kilometers,” Micallef said. He and his colleagues are now planning to drill into those rocks and computationally model the megaflood to shed more light on the catastrophic event.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: natural disasters

Solar System Still Reels From Ancient Star Intrusion

By Bill Andrews | March 22, 2018 2:10 pm
Red and Brown dwarf binary system

An artist’s illustration of Scholz’s star. (Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

When ‘Oumuamua passed by our neck of the woods last fall, it got everyone talking. Sure, some of your Facebook friends were likely eager to speculate on the rock’s possibly extraterrestrial origins. But as the first known interstellar visitor, it got scientists curious too. Maybe there are other intergalactic interlopers among us?

Perhaps it would be possible to study the orbits of known, weirdly orbiting objects in the solar system, and divine any extrasolar origins simply by tracing their path through space backwards? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

New Brain Scanner Fits Right Atop the Head

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 21, 2018 2:24 pm
The MEG helmet. (Credit: Wellcome)

The MEG helmet. (Credit: Wellcome)

When it comes to observing the inner workings of our brains, there are a few ways we can do it. But, for most, bulky machines and carefully controlled environments are the norm. The traditional trade-off researchers face for a glimpse inside the mind is a mind that’s constrained in some fairly unnatural ways. It can make doing research on how the brain works during basic human activities difficult.

Researchers from the U.K., however, have found a better way to get inside our heads. They’ve designed a helmet equipped with sensitive scanners that they say can precisely monitor the activity of neurons in the brain, while still allowing the wearer to move relatively freely. The device should allow researchers to get much better data on children and those with disabilities, as well on a broad range of activities requiring movement they couldn’t before. Read More

MORE ABOUT: medical technology

What Stephen Hawking’s Final Paper Says (And Doesn’t Say)

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 20, 2018 4:51 pm
(Credit: Martin Hoscik/Shutterstock)

(Credit: Martin Hoscik/Shutterstock)

Before he died, renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking submitted a paper, with co-author Thomas Hertog, to an as-yet-unknown journal. Hawking’s last known scientific writing, the paper deals with the concept of the multiverse and a theory known as cosmic inflation. Though the paper currently exists only in pre-print form, meaning it hasn’t completed the process of peer-review, it’s received a significant amount of coverage.  “Stephen Hawking’s last paper,” after all, does have a bit of a mythological ring to it.

Stephen Hawking wrote a lot of papers, though. Most dealt with the same sort of heady concepts as his last, and few received such an inordinate amount of attention. Claims that the paper make predictions for the end of universe, or could prove the multiverse exists abound. But it’s worth remembering that the things Hawking thought and wrote about are abstract, they exist largely in the realm of theory. Even more well-known concepts like Hawking radiation have continued to elude scientists, so drawing solid conclusions from any one paper is difficult.. Like many topics in theoretical physics, the ideas that Stephen Hawking pondered were so radical and far-out that we usually couldn’t even test them. Read More

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

Move Over Hops, Yeast Can Give IPAs Their Signature Flavor

By Carl Engelking | March 20, 2018 3:47 pm
a woman holding hops in her hands

(Credit: Shutterstock)

The craft brew revolution is fueled by an earnest pursuit of hoppiness.

Many craft beer enthusiasts are drawn to the potent, bitter, aromatic flavors of a primo India Pale Ale (IPA), and brewers take pride in delivering a roundhouse kick to mouth in every bottle. Indeed, the names of IPAs often connote a cataclysmic struggle between man and beer: Hoo Lawd, Hopslam Ale, Pound Town, Hoptrocity, Ruination. You get the point.

As the names suggest, hops—the flowers of Humulus lupulus—are key to the flavor profile of an IPA. During the brewing process, specific hops are typically added to the wort boil to impart a bitter flavor, and a different hop species is added at the fermentation stage to impart a hoppy, aromatic flavor. But that distinct flavor comes at a cost. Read More

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

Are Airplanes Really a Microbial Playground?

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 19, 2018 4:43 pm
(credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock)

(credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock)

Crying babies, chronic snorers — they’re the usual targets of our displeasure when we fly. But, the real villains of the sky might be germs.

Flyers are packed into a cramped metal tube for hours on end where movement is limited. It seems like a microbe’s playground. But research on the topic is a bit inconclusive, despite worrying cases involving SARS and an aggressive type of influenza. Studies suggest that caution is warranted, but researchers have so far had trouble saying exactly how air travel affects disease transmission. At the moment, public health guidelines state that anyone within two rows of an infected individual could be at risk, although other studies suggest otherwise. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Uber’s Self-Driving Car Involved in Fatal Pedestrian Accident

By Lauren Sigfusson | March 19, 2018 4:13 pm

(Credit: Uber)

Uber’s self-driving car hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, overnight, according to the Tempe Police Department. The car was in autonomous mode with a human operator behind the wheel with no passengers, police told Discover in an email.

The pedestrian, a 49-year-old woman, was walking her bicycle near a crosswalk, but not within the lines, at about 10 p.m. Sunday when she was struck by the vehicle, according to Tempe police officers. She died of her injuries at a local hospital. This appears to be the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving vehicle. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Your Weekly Attenborough: Blakea attenboroughii

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 16, 2018 4:45 pm
Blakea attenboroughii (Credit: Darin Penneys)

Blakea attenboroughii (Credit: Darin Penneys)

Plants, they’re just like us.

We begin our lives as, really, parasites. A baby may bring some joy into the world, but it’s not contributing much beyond that. It takes feeding, cleaning, protecting, teaching and money to polish a human being into something approaching societal worth. After all, David Attenborough wouldn’t have been Sir David Attenborough without Frederick and Mary. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

This Optical Illusion Could Help to Diagnose Autism

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 15, 2018 2:23 pm
(Credit: Turi et al., eLife, 7:e32399, 2018)

(Credit: Turi et al., eLife, 7:e32399, 2018)

You probably see a cylinder when you look at the illusion above. But how our brains translate two intersecting sheets of moving dots into a 3D image reveals telling differences in visual perception that could perhaps help diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

It’s been shown that people with autism are better at picking out the details of complex images, at the cost of understanding what all those details mean when put together. This can mean seeing the trees, but not the forest, or the strokes of a paintbrush but not the subject of a painting. It’s a trait that’s supported by years of research, but it can be difficult to assess exactly how an individual perceives an image just by asking them questions. The cylinder illusion, applied here by a group of researchers from Italy and Australia, offers a more reliable way of telling what a subject is seeing. Read More


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