An Imposing Egyptian Queen, Survived Only By Her Knees

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 2, 2016 4:19 pm
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An image of Nefertari, taken from inside her tomb. (Credit: The Yorck Project/Wikimedia)

After years of speculation, researchers have proven that a pair of mummified knees found in Egypt’s Valley of the Queens once belonged to Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses the Great.

The partial legs are all that remain of the legendarily beautiful Nefertari, who was buried in a lavish tomb during Egypt’s 19th Dynasty, around the 13th century B.C. At some point after her death, robbers ransacked the tomb. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

For Cancer Patients, Psilocybin Brings Much-needed Relief

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 1, 2016 3:18 pm
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Fruit bodies of the fungus Psilocybe semilanceata. (Credit: Alan Rockefeller/Wikimedia Commons)

Two recent studies of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in so-called magic mushrooms, contend that the chemical can act as a powerful remedy for cancer patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

The two studies, one from New York University and one from Johns Hopkins University, are the largest and most rigorous studies of psilocybin and depression in decades, and they report that the anti-depressant effects of the drug can last for months, offering relief to chronically ill patients for whom traditional treatments have failed to work. Read More

Found: A Missing Link in Whale Evolution

By Jon Tennant | December 1, 2016 2:03 pm
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Alfred the Aetiocetid. (Credit: Carl Buell)

Whales are some of largest animals to ever exist on Earth, and they have an incredible evolutionary history.

Modern species can be divided into two major groups depending on their feeding style: the toothed carnivores, such as the killer whale, and those such as the blue whale that use comb-like ‘baleen’ to filter enormous amounts of plankton from seawater. Baleen is formed from a series of plates made from keratin that hang suspended from the upper jaw, and provide a distinct filtering system to that of teeth.

When this dietary divide occurred in their evolutionary story has long eluded scientists, even from the time of Charles Darwin, due to an incomplete whale fossil record. That is, until now. Read More

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

Google’s Timelapse Tool Shows How Busy Humanity Has Been

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 30, 2016 1:07 pm

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One of the most difficult problems for writers and historians alike is that it’s hard to encapsulate the sheer magnitude of man’s impact on the planet. Spill as much ink as you want about continents shifting, glaciers melting and humans taking over the planet, but some things are too massive to adequately put into perspective.

An update to Google’s Timelapse tool, first introduced in 2013, does a pretty good job of conveying the speed at which some parts of our planet are changing. Using satellite imagery dating back to 1984, mostly collected from NASA’s Landsat program, Google constructed a year-by-year series of snapshots of the entire planet —some 5 million individual images stitched together. The interactive visualization allows users to select any place on Earth and watch how it changed over the course of three decades.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

In Tiny Spaces, Boiling Water Stays Solid

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 29, 2016 3:37 pm
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(Credit: Iryna Dzvonkovska/Shutterstock)

A new study shows that confining water to very small spaces can keep it solid past even its normal boiling point.

Using carbon nanotubes, researchers from MIT report that they kept water from turning into a liquid, and even a gas, at far higher temperatures than normal. While not technically ice, this solid water could be used to create new types of wires that take advantage of solidified water’s unique properties. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, top posts

Coconut Crabs’ Crushing Grip Finally Measured

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 28, 2016 4:10 pm
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A coconut crab. (Credit: Shin-ichoro Oka/PLOS.org)

Talk about a powerful handshake.

Researchers have measured the crushing grip of coconut crabs, the largest hermit crabs on Earth, for the first time, and the results are imposing. The crustaceans’ claws are capable of exerting forces that rival a lion’s bite, researchers from Japan’s Okinawa Churashima Research Center say. They think this impressive show of strength is partly an adaption to their shell-less existence, swapping out formidable weaponry for protective defenses. Read More

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

A Brief History of Celebrating Thanksgiving in Space

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 23, 2016 2:41 pm
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A turkey adorns the interior of the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Nothing puts the concept of “thanks” in perspective like floating in a tin can, high above the world. Not only do astronauts in orbiting space labs get to dine in zero gravity, they’re treated to an unrivaled view: the bright blue marble that supports and sustains us.

Celebrating in space comes with some limitations, of course. The food is all freeze-dried or thermo-regulated, and forget baking a turkey in the oven. Still, space residents do the best they can preparing a special menu, inviting their foreign companions to dine with them, and even treating themselves to some football piped in from mission control. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Antarctica’s Fastest Melting Glacier Began Retreating in the 1940s

By Eric Betz | November 23, 2016 1:25 pm
(Credit: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA)

A large ice crevasse begins forming on the Pine Island Glacier. For perspective, the crevasse in the foreground is approximately hundreds of feet deep. (Credit: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA)

In the late 1940s, with World War II finally over, the USS Pine Island was redeployed from the fight in the Pacific on yet another perilous mission: Operation Highjump.

Pilots would launch from the ship, surveying Antarctica from seaplanes and helicopters, and performing some of the earliest photo mapping of the continent. Three airmen died during the mission. And a Texas-sized chunk of ice was named in honor of their ship: The Pine Island Glacier. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

When Humans Domesticated the Turkey

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 22, 2016 4:58 pm
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(Credit: dmitro2009/Shutterstock)

As Thanksgiving approaches we all try to remember to count our blessings, but we should also give thanks to the animal that sacrificed it all for our holiday meal — the noble turkey.

Bald eagles aside, turkeys are one of the most recognizable birds native to North America, and their meaty bulk has earned them a place on tables all around the world. Turkeys have been kept for food, and for other purposes, since well before the Pilgrims touched our shores. They were likely an important food source for Native Americans — who may have done more than just hunt them. Read More

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

The ‘Impossible’ EmDrive Thruster Has Cleared Its First Credibility Hurdle

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 21, 2016 4:52 pm
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The experimental setup of the controversial “EmDrive.” (Credit: White et.al)

After years of unwarranted hype and dubious experimental claims, the EmDrive, an “impossible” propulsion device that claims to produce thrust while violating Newton’s Laws of Motion, has received its first published, peer-reviewed paper.

A team of researchers from the NASA-affiliated Eagleworks lab published a paper last week describing a series of tests on the EmDrive. They say their methodology accounted for nearly all possible errors and returned results indicating that the device produced thrust, an apparent violation of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. The drive works by bouncing microwaves around the inside of a cone-shaped chamber, apparently producing thrust even though nothing is being emitted from the device. This is in opposition to the laws of physics as we understand them, which state that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. For example, conventional propellant-based rockets are pushed forward by the ejection of superheated gas from the nozzle. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology
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