The thing about space is that it’s pretty huge and vast and superlative. There’s a reason something with a lot of zeroes in its price tag is said to have an astronomical cost. So when astronomers, used as they are to working with the biggest or oldest or coldest or something-est things in the universe, are impressed by an object’s stats, you know it’s a big deal.
It’s in that spirit that I present to you a spinning husk of a dead star traveling at millions of miles per hour shooting a spiraling jet longer than any known in our whole galaxy — and in a weird direction to boot. Got all that?
Finally, there’s proof: If you build it, they will cross.
As highways and other roads have stretched deeper into once-remote corners of the planet, building wildlife crossings has become a common way to preserve migration routes and prevent population isolation for a variety of species. One problem: there was little data showing the crossings actually work.
A new study, however, has provided the first evidence that they do. Crossings built over and under a major highway in Banff National Park are being used by the surrounding grizzly and black bear populations, and are in fact preserving the bears’ genetic diversity, as intended.
Laser beam weaponry was once confined to the fantasies of sci-fi villains. But this summer, the U.S. Navy will turn fiction into reality when it deploys its first laser weapon aboard one of its ships.
The new weapon, dubbed the solid-state Laser Weapons System, promises to be able to incinerate aerial drones and speedboats quickly and on the cheap. That presents a big improvement over today’s weaponry, which typically relies on a finite supply of interceptor missiles that cost roughly $1.4 million a shot. The laser, on the other hand, can be fired continuously and costs just a few bucks per shot. A prototype will be deployed this summer on board the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. Read More
Eyesight is a vital part of sports, from golf to gymnastics. Now, a new study finds that athletes can improve their vision with practice, and that that improvement translates into better performance.
“Though we’d been hoping for measurable benefits all along, we were still amazed to see such concrete performance improvements,” says UCR neuroscientist Aaron Seitz, who led the study. “And this demonstrates an important principle: Just as with physical exercise, we can measurably improve our mental fitness with the right training.”
Lungs are a notoriously delicate organ. That makes useable donor lungs hard to come by—in 2010, just 1,800 lung transplants took place in the United States. However, researchers are getting closer to addressing the shortage by growing lungs, for the first time, in the lab. Although these lungs haven’t been actually transplanted, the technology could someday help shorten the list of people waiting for donors.
Scientists at the University of Texas used damaged lungs from two children who died in car accidents. In a cutting-edge kind of tissue engineering, they stripped away all the cells from the lungs and left behind the “scaffolding,” the intricate web of proteins that holds cells in place. Researchers then coated this scaffold with viable lung cells from a second pair of lungs, not suitable for transplant. Finally, they placed the lungs in a nutrient bath for four weeks to allow the cells to grow and fully re-create lung tissue. The new lungs look like the real thing, just softer and less dense.
Fat keeps the body warm, so it stands to reason that people living far from the equator have more body fat. A new study says that could be because people who live farther North have more obesity-related microbes in their guts.
Researchers at UC Berkeley studied the proportions of two particular types of gut bacteria in stomachs around the world: Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Previous studies have shown that people with a lot of Firmicutes and very little Bacteroidetes are more likely to be obese.
Astronomy can be a funny old science sometimes. Whole planets can suddenly stop being planets. Black holes may or may not exist. And now, after 400 odd years, we’ve finally really figured out what one of the solar system’s biggest objects fully looks like. Scientists this week released the first global geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s seventh moon.
When Galileo Galilei first turned his homemade telescope toward the heavens, he saw things no one else had seen. Among them were the four largest moons of Jupiter, now named the Galilean moons in his honor. Ganymede, the largest of these, is not just the biggest moon in the solar system, it’s bigger than Pluto and Mercury, and has a surface area more than half as large as all the land on Earth. It’s pretty darn big, is what I’m saying (about 3300 miles across).
Scientists are a step closer to harnessing the same force that powers the sun, nuclear fusion, to someday pave the way for reactors that could provide an almost-infinite and carbon-free source of energy for Earth.
There is a long way to go before nuclear fusion reactors power our homes, but researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California reached an important milestone: For the first time, scientists produced a fusion reaction that yielded more energy than went into it. Read More
The sequencing of DNA from the earliest known North American remains has provided the first genetic confirmation of Native American ancestry, quashed a controversial alternative theory and hinted at possible migration patterns that may revise our understanding of population dispersal from modern-day Alaska to the southern tip of Chile.
Whew. Pretty impressive achievements for a baby.
Researchers today announced the successful whole-genome sequencing of Anzick-1, the remains of an infant boy who lived roughly 12,600 years ago. The remains were discovered in central Montana in 1968 during a construction project. Anzick-1 was a crucial find for archaeologists even before scientists completed the DNA analysis — the child’s remains are the oldest known burial in North America and the only human remains ever found that are definitively associated with the Clovis people, the continent’s first known indigenous culture.
Like a good wine, NASA’s eye on the sun — the Solar Dynamics Laboratory (SDO)— keeps getting better with each passing year. On Tuesday, the space organization released highlights from its fourth calendar year monitoring the activity of our closest star.
The SDO is a research satellite, launched on Feb. 11, 2011, that keeps a 24-hour watch on the entire disk of the sun. It captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths to catch solar flares, x-ray emissions and other solar phenomena.
NASA’s movie gracefully documents examples of a variety of solar activity over the past year, including the largest sunspot observed in the past nine years. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a visually-striking year on the sun.