The Universe Is 10 Times More Vast Than We Thought

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 13, 2016 12:22 pm

A composite of images from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field study. (Credit: NASA/ESA)

The universe seems a little less lonely today.

Astronomers from the University of Nottingham conducted a new survey of the universe’s galaxy population and concluded that previous estimates lowballed the census by a factor of about 10. Using data from Hubble and telescopes around the world, as well as a new mathematical model, they estimate that there are ten times more galaxies in the observable universe than we thought; previous estimates put the number of galaxies in the universe at around 200 billion. Read More

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

Ancient Ducks Honked and Quacked Just Like They Do Today

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 12, 2016 1:49 pm

An artist’s reconstruction of Vegavis iaai, with the location of the syrinx shown. (Credit: Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for UT Austin)

If you were walking around Antarctica toward the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, you may have heard a very familiar sound: the riotous honking of ducks.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis of the oldest bird vocal organ ever discovered. Although it may predate modern birds by over 60 million years, it nevertheless bears striking similarities to the fleshy folds and cartilaginous rings that ducks use to communicate today. The find pushes back the evolution of modern-looking avian vocal organs to the time of the dinosaurs and promises to shed light on how they first evolved and changed through the ages. Read More

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

Be Extraordinarily Cautious About the Newest Alien Claim

By John Wenz | October 11, 2016 5:38 pm

(Credit: Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill / Wikimedia Commons)

The slightest whiff of aliens is enough to send the public into a frenzy. There have been quiet rumblings after a pre-print paper was released on ArXiv from two French-Canadian researchers who interpreted certain sky signal data to be possibly of intelligent extraterrestrial origin.

According to their research, it’s not just one star candidate. There are several, all coming from data in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. These stars experienced rapid bursts of light that, to some researchers, would be the calling card of an intelligent civilization turning on an optical (rather than radio) beacon. There’s something quite tantalizing about the conclusion, “We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” and the paper has been accepted into Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Read More


Project Blue Wants to Photograph an Earth-like Planet at Alpha Centauri

By John Wenz | October 11, 2016 4:29 pm

(Credit: ESA/Hubble)

Pale Red Dot fulfilled its goal of finding a planet around Proxima Centauri. But a new group, going under the name Project Blue, is ready to turn its attention toward the largest stars in the system: Alpha Centauri A & B.

The goal? To do what others have failed to do: find a planet there. But not just any planet. The two year initiative will concentrate on finding a planet in the habitable zone of one of the stars. And they’ll try to snap a picture of it, a more distant “Pale Blue Dot” picture. Read More

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

Bubbling Hot Crater Could Have Sheltered Life After Dino Doomsday

By Eric Betz | October 11, 2016 2:39 pm

Earlier this year, scientists drilled into the central peak ring of the Chicxulub crater to reconstruct the timeline of a global catastrophe and the subsequent recovery. (Courtesy: European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling)

On one particularly hideous day 66 million years ago, Earth burned. A city-sized asteroid struck off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and pushed the planetary reset button, wiping out species from plankton to plesiosaurs.

Some 75 percent of all life — including every land animal larger than 55 pounds — went extinct. The calamity changed the course of evolution. Without this Chicxulub impact, named for a small nearby town, humanity would not exist. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

How a Good Run Could Help Repair the Brain

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 11, 2016 2:08 pm

(Credit: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock)

The more the mice ran, the longer they lived.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital have discovered that compounds produced during exercise helped brain-damaged mice significantly extend their lifespans. They identified a key protein that they say likely makes all the difference, and their findings could help pinpoint therapies for degenerative neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS). Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

This Map Shows Every Volcanic and Seismic Event Since 1960

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 10, 2016 3:03 pm


It’s easy to forget if you live far from a fault line, but Earth has a heartbeat you can feel.

At the junctures between continental plates, slippages create earthquakes and magma boils up from below in a never-ending process of creation and destruction. Now, for the first time, a global visualization of seismic and volcanic data lets us spy on the planet as it moves and shakes.

The interactive map, from the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History tracks every recorded volcanic eruption, earthquake and major sulfur dioxide emission since 1960. Sulfur dioxide emissions, caused by volcanic activity, appear beginning in 1978, when satellites started recording global data in the ultraviolet spectrum of light. The project combines data from the program with information from the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA satellites. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: earth science

FDA Approves First Artificial Pancreas Faster Than Anyone Expected

By Dan Hurley | October 10, 2016 1:37 pm

The MiniMed 670G hybrid closed-loop system. (Credit: Medtronic)

“My guess is that even Medtronic is surprised.”

So said Jeffrey Brewer, the visionary tech entrepreneur who has been leading efforts to bring an artificial pancreas to market for a decade, in response to the unexpected news on Sept. 28 that the Food and Drug Administration approved one developed by Medtronic, already a leading manufacturer of insulin pumps.

A mere two weeks earlier, results were released of the largest and longest study yet of the device that fuses two existing technologies — an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor that measures blood-sugar levels 24/7 — together with a computer algorithm that permits automatic delivery of insulin for people with type 1 diabetes. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: medical technology

To Move Past Hand-Waving Theories, Scientists Disarm Sue the T. rex

By Hannah Gavin | October 10, 2016 12:15 pm

Bill Simpson, Collections Manager of Fossil Vertebrates, carefully disassembles Sue’s arms during a public event Friday. (Credit: Hannah Gavin)

Sue, the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex fossil housed at Chicago’s Field Museum, measures 13 feet tall from the ground to the top of her hip — a grown man balancing on another man’s shoulders, arms fully outstretched, would barely reach the top.

But in terms of reach, an average human arm just about matches the length of Sue’s. Relative to her colossal body, that makes Sue’s arms small – puzzlingly small. So small that the dinosaur couldn’t scratch her own face, says Bill Simpson, a collections manager at Chicago’s Field Museum. Read More

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

What Scientists Learned by Dropping a Frozen, Dead Bird in Water

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 6, 2016 4:57 pm

A dead, frozen gannet plunges into a tank. (Credit: B. Chang, M. Croson, L. Straker, S. Gart, C. Dove, J. Gerwin and Sunny Jung)

For sea birds like the gannet, diving is more of a way of life than an idle pastime.

They feed near the coast, dive-bombing en masse into the water to reach schools of fish swimming below. Gannets can dive from more than a hundred feet in the air, reaching speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour on the way down — a feat that would likely kill a human. Read More

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


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