Over 100 New Hair Color Genes Help Untangle A Confusing Trait

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 16, 2018 2:25 pm
(Credit: YuriyZhuravov/Shutterstock)

(Credit: YuriyZhuravov/Shutterstock)

It’s easy to tell what color someone’s hair is, but figuring out the genetics behind how it got that way is anything but simple.

A new study from a team of international researchers analyzing 300,000 people of European descent finds more than 100 new genes related to hair color in some way. But even with their newfound knowledge, the researchers have only partial success predicting hair color based solely on genes. It’s a testament to the knotty genetics of pigmentation, but their research also turned up a surprising finding: Women are more likely to have lighter-colored hair than men are. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

Your Weekly Attenborough: Electrotettix attenboroughi

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 13, 2018 5:10 pm
Attenborough's amber grasshopper. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Attenborough’s amber grasshopper. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Last week I waxed mildly poetic on the ephemeral nature of living beings and the inorganic reality of a fossil. Fossils are just shadows, I said, or memories … or something like that.

Well, this week I’ve got something much more exciting and less poetic. It’s an ancient pygmy grasshopper, Electrotettix attenboroughi, and it’s no rocky fossil, no sir. This is a genuine, mint condition, honest-to-God organic grasshopper, encased in a shiny amber shell and preserved for something like 20 million years. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Meet the Fish With a Switchblade on Its Face

By Charles Choi | April 13, 2018 11:19 am
A cleared and stained specimen of a Warty Prowfish (Aetapcus maculatus). (Credit: William Leo Smith, KU associate curator and associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology)

A cleared and stained specimen of a Warty Prowfish (Aetapcus maculatus). (Credit: William Leo Smith)

Deadly fish known for their spikes and venom may pack a newfound weapon — switchblades on their faces, some of which can fluoresce green, a new study finds.

The discovery began when ichthyologist William Leo Smith at the University of Kansas at Lawrence dissected a wispy waspfish that had been his pet. Wispy waspfish are a species of stonefish, a group inhabiting Indian and Pacific coastal waters that are among the deadliest in the oceans. Many protect themselves with spikes or camouflage, and “some stonefishes are the most venomous fishes on Earth — they can easily kill an adult human,” Smith said. “Defensiveness has just run amok in this group.” Read More


Features on Pluto’s Moon Charon and Mercury Get Official Names

By Alison Klesman | April 12, 2018 5:07 pm
A bright spot imaged on Mercury's surface by MESSENGER in 2009, is associated with past volcanism. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

A bright spot imaged on Mercury’s surface by MESSENGER in 2009, is associated with past volcanism. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Naming objects and the features that cover them help astronomers to characterize, understand, and communicate about the subjects of their studies. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has recently released official names for seven features on the planet Mercury, as well as 12 on the largest moon of Pluto, Charon.

On April 6, the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature released its approved names for seven faculae on Mercury. Faculae are bright surface features that stand out against the surrounding terrain. The term facula not only refers to bright spots in the field of planetary science (from the Latin term for “little torch”), but also derives from the snakes that appear on the Roman god Mercury’s staff. On Mercury, faculae are associated with past volcanic activity; these features have also been seen on Venus, Ceres, Ganymede, and other solar system bodies. In February, the same group approved the theme “word for snake” in various languages from around the globe as a naming convention for Mercury’s faculae. In keeping with that theme, the newest features to boast are: Abeeso Facula (Somali), Agwo Facula (Igbo), Nathair Facula(Irish), Neidr Facula (Welsh), Suge Facula (Basque), Thueban Facula (Arabic), and Slang Faculae (Afrikaans).

Read More

MORE ABOUT: solar system

Yes, You Can Sweat Blood

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 12, 2018 4:19 pm
An Italian woman says she had been sweating blood for three years. (Credit: CMAJ)

An Italian woman says she had been sweating blood for three years. (Credit: CMAJ)

We’ve all heard of sweating bullets, but this is something else entirely.

A medical case report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal from Italian researchers last year details a 21-year-old patient who began mysteriously sweating blood from her face and palms. The condition had been ongoing for about three years, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports, when she decided to check herself into a hospital — needless to say, the doctors were perplexed. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Subglacial Lakes Could Offer Extraterrestrial Life Preview

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 11, 2018 1:00 pm
The surface of Canada's Devon Ice Cap. Two lakes likely lie over 2,000 feet below. (Credit: Anja Rutishauser)

The surface of Canada’s Devon Ice Cap. Two lakes likely lie over 2,000 feet below. (Credit: Anja Rutishauser)

These days it’s hard to find a place on Earth where humans haven’t interfered in some way. Venture to the most remote jungle or the depths of the Mariana Trench and you’ve likely been preceded by some emissary of humanity, whether that’s chemicals carried on the wind or something more tangible. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Climate Change Is Weakening a Crucial Ocean Current

By Eric Betz | April 11, 2018 12:10 pm

New research indicates the Atlantic Ocean currents are getting weaker. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

When you picture the rugged coastlines of Norway, tropical heat probably doesn’t come to mind, but it should. Even in the country’s Arctic reaches, the coast is typically free from ice and snow, and the weather is often more Seattle than Anchorage.

How can that be? Residents can thank the Gulf Stream, an ocean conveyor belt that pushes warm water their way from the tropics.

And Northern Europeans aren’t the only ones who should be thankful, either. Much of Europe and the east coast of North America benefit from a massive system of circulating seawater called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, or AMOC. The Gulf Stream is just one small part of that system. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change

Tiny Alcohol Monitor Sits Just Beneath the Skin

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 10, 2018 2:57 pm
(Credit: David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

The alcohol-detecting chip with a penny for comparison. (Credit: David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

A tiny chip implanted just under the skin could be the Breathalyzer of the future.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego reported today that they had created a tiny chip that can read levels of alcohol in the body and relay that information to a smartwatch. It could be an alternative to traditional means of detecting whether someone has been drinking, and offers users the ability to monitor their blood-alcohol levels in real-time. Read More

MORE ABOUT: medical technology

Eyebrows: A Hidden Force In Human Evolution?

By Charles Choi | April 9, 2018 10:54 am
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

From Spock to “The Rock,” arched eyebrows can speak volumes. Now researchers suggest that communicative eyebrows may have proven key to the evolution of modern humans, a marked advance over the prominent brow ridges of early humans.

Modern humans possess smooth foreheads with expressive eyebrows. In contrast, early humans had sloping foreheads with thick brow ridges. Read More

MORE ABOUT: human evolution

Your Weekly Attenborough: Cascolus ravitis

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 6, 2018 5:17 pm
Cascolus Ravitis. (Credit: Siveter et al.)

Cascolus ravitis. (Credit: Siveter et al.)

Let’s think about what a fossil really is. A creature turned to rock, right?

For the lucky few that get immortalized (or nearly) by geology and chemistry, hard tissues slip away as minerals take their place, molecule by molecule. The ancient dinosaur, or crustacean or plant is wiped entirely from the face of the Earth, and in its place is a kind of negative image. Read More


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