Giant Raptor Fossil Discovered in South Dakota

By Jon Tennant | November 2, 2015 1:32 pm

An artist’s rendering of Dakotaraptor steini. (Credit: Emily Willoughby)

Scientists have discovered the remains of one of the largest raptors known to man in the fossil graveyards of North America.

A research team led by Robert DePalma, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History, discovered the partial skeleton in the Late Cretaceous (66 million years old) Hell Creek Formation of Harding County, South Dakota. They’ve named the raptor Dakotaraptor steini, and it is the second recently named raptor from Hell Creek. Known from a partial skeleton, it represents one of the largest known dromaeosaurids, the scientific name for what are popularly known as ‘raptors’, and close relatives of the first birds. Read More

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

Enceladus Could Be Bursting with Evidence of Life

By David Rothery The Open University | October 27, 2015 1:58 pm

Cassini image of plumes bursting from the surface of Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn’s 502km-diameter icy moon Enceladus has fascinated scientists since it was first seen up close by NASA’s Voyager probes in the 1980s. The moon is venting plumes of ice particles into space including traces of methane, carbon and simple organic compounds – making it a good candidate for harboring life.

Now laboratory experiments suggest that chemical reactions between the water of Enceladus’s internal ocean and its rocky core are likely to provide enough energy in the water to feed microbial life – a process similar to that near hot “hydrothermal” vents on the Earth’s ocean floor. The study, published in Nature Communications, predicts that the reactions should create molecular hydrogen that should be detectable in the plumes, which the Cassini probe could corroborate following its flyby on October 28. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Tiny ‘Tractor Beam’ Moves Objects With Acoustic Holograms

By Janine Anderson | October 27, 2015 11:00 am
Scientists created acoustic holograms with shapes such as tweezers, twisters and cages that exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.

Scientists created acoustic holograms with shapes such as tweezers, twisters and cages that exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them. (Credit: Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian)

It’s a classic science fiction scene: A large vessel moves near a smaller one, captures it in a so-called tractor beam, and pulls it inside.

Now imagine bringing that technology to life, but instead of moving meddlesome space ships, terrestrial tractor beams would perform touchless assembly, microsurgery or deliver drugs directly to the body part that needs them. You may not have to imagine for long: A British research team is making early strides toward developing small-scale tractor beams, using high-amplitude sound waves to create invisible force fields they can adjust in real-time. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

For Howler Monkeys, Louder Calls Mean Smaller…

By Janine Anderson | October 22, 2015 11:17 am


For howler monkeys, it appears the louder the calls, the smaller the — ahem — balls.

A research team looking into the monkeys’ incredibly loud and low vocalizations, and the physical structures that support the calls, discovered the correlation. Animals with louder and lower calls had larger hyoids, a bone in the front of the neck that appears to act as an amplifier, but smaller testes. There was significant variation in hyoid size between howler species, but also between male and females within a species. The disparity tipped researchers off that something else was going on. Read More

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

Young Infants Have No Clue Who’s Tickling Their Feet

By Andrew Brenman London University | October 19, 2015 1:44 pm

(Credit: Patrick Lecarpentier/Shutterstock)

For a newborn baby emerging from the cozy womb, the outside world is much bigger, much colder and quite a different kind of place. At birth, the way newborn babies sense their environment changes dramatically. How do they make sense of all the new sounds, sights, smells and sensations?

Our new research has focused on the way babies experience touch, such as tickling. We’ve found that young infants of four months old, unlike older infants, are pretty accurate at locating where they’ve been tickled, even with their limbs crossed. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Artificial Skin for Prosthetic Limbs Can Sense a Grain of Salt

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | October 15, 2015 12:44 pm
prosthetic skin photo

(Credit: Bao Research Group, Stanford University)

Prosthetic limbs may one day have “skin” with working nerve endings, letting patients feel with their artificial limbs just like they would with a real one.

One of the many challenges of adjusting to life with a prosthetic limb is that the new limb lacks sensation; patients can’t feel where their artificial limb is in space, or what it’s touching, so they have to work mostly by sight. Adding a sense of touch could make controlling prosthetic limbs easier and more natural – but that’s a challenge for engineers. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology

City Dwellers and Hunter-Gatherers Have Similar Sleep Habits

By Carl Engelking | October 15, 2015 11:46 am

An unidentified member of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. (Credit: Papa Bravo/Shutterstock)

We tend to blame the fruits of industrialized society – the Internet, mobile devices, long hours in the office — for stripping us of a good night’s rest. But are we really sleeping less now compared with our distant relatives, before iPads and PowerPoint presentations were invented?

According to a provocative new study, the answer is no. A UCLA-led team of researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of people living in three tropical, preindustrial societies still thriving today in Bolivia and Africa. You won’t find a computer screen or a light bulb in these communities, but people living in these pre-modern conditions have sleeping habits that are strikingly similar to your average city dweller, challenging the belief that modern society is robbing us of our natural beauty sleep. Read More

Stonehenge Builders Threw Organized Barbecue Parties

By Carl Engelking | October 14, 2015 4:27 pm


If you enjoy tailgating before a sporting event, you’d fit right in at the barbecues Stonehenge builders were hosting in their neighborhood thousands of years ago.

A new analysis of animal bones and pottery found at Durrington Walls, a Late Neolithic monument and settlement thought to be the place where builders of nearby Stonehenge lived, revealed residents enjoyed large-scale barbecues and ceremonial feasts. The menu options at the time, researchers say, indicate culinary organization in Britain during the 25th century B.C. was more advanced than previously thought. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Gene Editing Could Make Pig-to-Human Organ Transplants Feasible

By Carl Engelking | October 12, 2015 6:23 pm


To address the limited supply of organs available to a growing list of patients awaiting transplants, we might have to look outside our species.

Transplanting pig organs into humans, believe it or not, is one of the more promising options to address the dearth of organs available for those who need them. Pigs and humans share a number of physiological and anatomical similarities, but pigs also carry harmful viruses in their genome making pig-to-human transplants dangerous. Now, researchers say, they can simply remove the viruses native to pig cells, reviving the idea of xenotransplantation — using animal organs in humans. Read More

Connections in the Brain, Like Fingerprints, Can Identify Individuals

By Janine Anderson | October 12, 2015 11:03 am

This image shows the functional connections in the brain that tend to be most discriminating of individuals. (Credit: Emily Finn)

Each person is unique. You can identify people by their DNA, fingerprints, personal preferences and behavior. But new research out of Yale University has shown we have another unique identifier: How our brains work.

“We all have this intuition that people are unique. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, our quirks and personalities, what we’re good at and how we handle things,” says study co-first author Emily Finn, a pHD student in neuroscience at Yale. “It’s very easy to observe that from the outside … but it’s been pretty hard to find correlates in brain activities.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts


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