The Moon Once Had An Atmosphere?

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 6, 2017 10:43 am
An artist's conception of the ancient moon with lava venting gases into a thin atmosphere. (Credit: NASA MSFC)

An artist’s conception of the ancient moon with lava venting gases into a thin atmosphere. (Credit: NASA MSFC)

Barren and desolate today, our moon was once swathed by a thin atmosphere.

Born from geothermal eruptions when the moon was still young, gaseous traces of carbon monoxide, sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen once swirled across the moon’s surface, say researchers from NASA. The atmosphere would have persisted for about 70 million years, they estimate, and existed three to four billion years ago, soon after our rocky companion was formed. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: solar system

These Giant Stick Insects Never Disappeared, Genetic Tests Confirm

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 5, 2017 3:07 pm
An adult female Lord Howe Island insect. (Credit: Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo)

An adult female Lord Howe Island insect. (Credit: Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo)

Lord Howe Island stick insects are back for good. Nearly a century ago, they were exiled from their homeland by invasive rats and thought extinct, only to be rediscovered in 2001, confined to a lonely rock spire in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The insects looked different though. They were skinnier and had lost some of their spines, raising questions about their origins.

Now, a new genetic analysis confirms that the two are indeed members of the same species, Dryococelus australis, finally putting the mystery to rest and easing a potential re-introduction of the insects, also called tree lobsters, to Lord Howe Island. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: animals, ecology

Expensive Meds Can Hurt…Literally

By Carl Engelking | October 5, 2017 2:46 pm
money-meda

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Paying a higher price for something is typically associated with positive benefits. When you shell out more for a thing, you feel it’s faster, stronger, softer or cleaner. You know that premium you paid was worth it.

But when it comes to medication, the association between high price and added benefits is sort of flipped on its head: A medication perceived to be expensive was associated with more negative side effects. That, at least, is a key finding in a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.   Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: sense

The Newest, Most Accurate Clock Uses Quantum Gas, Lasers

By Bill Andrews | October 5, 2017 1:00 pm
quantum-clock

Researchers have created the world’s most accurate clock by combining strontium atoms, a “quantum gas,” and various lasers. (Credit: G.E. Marti/JILA)

Time, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, is a fundamental part of the universe. Albert Einstein showed us it was inextricably linked to the “stuff” of the universe, so the better we can understand and measure it, the better we can study everything else. So how do you study time?

With better clocks! And researchers announced today they’ve come up with the best one yet. Read More

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

Neonicotinoids Are Showing Up in Honey Samples Worldwide

By Lauren Sigfusson | October 5, 2017 1:00 pm
honey-pesticides-neonicotinoids-bee-decline-study

 (Credit: Simon Rowell Photography)

The bee population has it rough right now, and neonicotinoids are partially to blame. According to research, this class of insecticide is contributing to the population decline of bees, and even showing up in honey.

These pest control chemicals, which are chemically similar to nicotine, can cause growth disorders, neurological and cognitive disorders, impact the efficiency of the immune system, and more in bees — even at low concentrations. On top of impacting invertebrates like bees, there are growing concerns that neonicotinoids can impact vertebrates, including humans.

Since these harmful molecules are widely used in agriculture around the world, a group of researchers wanted to analyze bees’ exposure to them around the world. This information could help governments worldwide weigh the risks and benefits of using neonicotinoids and help scientists trace their path into the honey we consume.

Harmful Honey?

From 2012 to 2016, citizen scientists gathered 198 honey samples from local producers located on every continent, except Antarctica. Scientists then tested the samples for five commonly used neonicotinoids.

According to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, 75 percent of those honey samples were contaminated with at least one neonicotinoid. These levels are below the highest concentrations of pesticide residue allowed for food or feed by the European Union (EU), but could have dire consequences for the world’s declining bee population.

Here’s what they found:

  • 30 percent contained one neonicotinoid
  • 45 percent contained two or more neonicotinoids
  • 10 percent contained four or five neonicotinoids

This study, led by Edward Mitchell of the University of Neuchâtel, shows pollinators the world over are exposed to neonicotinoids, with some concentrations high enough to be harmful to bees.

“The fact that 45 perfect of our samples showed multiple contaminations is worrying and indicated that bee populations throughout the world are exposed to a cocktail of neonicotinoids,” the paper states.

Alexandre Aebi, a scientist from University of Neuchâtel who took part in the study, says this research confirmed his team’s fears: that the majority of their samples were contaminated by at least one molecule. “I was also shocked to see that there is no region in the world that is not exposed to neonicotinoids.”

What Can You Do?

In 2013, the EU passed a two-year ban on these pesticides. Some countries are investigating the importance of using these pesticides, while France will soon be implementing a ban.

“I strongly believe that given the impact these molecules have on honeybees and pollinators, governments should follow France’s example and ban these molecules,” says Abei.

Shaken by these findings? You can purchase honey from producers who have refused to use neonicontinoids in production, or contact your local government representatives and encourage them to ban neonicotinoids.

Love your honey? Since the contamination levels are below the EU recommendations, Abei believes people shouldn’t worry about eating honey. He adds, “If we stopped eating food that contains traces of pesticides, I am afraid not much will be left on our dining tables.”

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

A Dog-Killing Meteorite Just Rewrote Mars’ Volcanic History

By Eric Betz | October 4, 2017 4:44 pm
A 3-D image of Mars' massive volcano, Olympus Mons. (Credit: NASA)

A 3-D image of Mars’ massive volcano, Olympus Mons, which is the largest in the solar system. (Credit: NASA)

For millions of years, a group of tiny asteroids circled our solar system. Then, around 9 a.m. on June 28, 1911, one blazed into earthly skies near a village outside Cairo, Egypt. Locals watched the fireball, and they heard its explosion. A farmer even claimed a dog was killed by one meteorite fragment, making it—if true—the only known modern space rock casualty. Let’s hope it was just a rumor, but NASA says there’s no reason to doubt it.

In the years since, about a dozen siblings from that meteorite have been found all over Earth. Astronomers call these nakhlites, and they all hail from Mars. Read More

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

Some Odd Behavior Was Detected in a Distant Galaxy

By Bill Andrews | October 4, 2017 4:16 pm
Gasparin_airplane_trails

As galaxy in the Abell 1033 system (in orange at left) travels, it leaves a gas trail behind it that is somehow brighter at the oldest end, near a second white-orange galaxy. (Credit: Francesco de Gasperin/Leiden University)

Imagine a sparkler, crackling and spitting, leaving behind a faint trail of smoke. Now imagine your surprise as, instead of dissipating away, that smoke trail actually got bright over time, or lit up. That’s effectively what astronomers have seen in the Abell 1033 system of colliding galaxy clusters about 1.6 billion light-years away — and they don’t understand it.

“This was totally unexpected,” said lead author Francesco de Gasperin of Leiden University in the Netherlands in a statement. The study appeared today in Science Advances. Read More

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

Tumor Cells Get Hooked on Cancer Drugs, Meet Their Demise

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 4, 2017 12:00 pm
(Credit: science photo/Shutterstock)

(Credit: science photo/Shutterstock)

Cancerous tumor cells get addicted to the very drugs meant to eradicate them.

It’s an ironic twist in the field of cancer treatment. A small percentage of tumor cells can possess a resistance to cancer-fighting drugs, rendering treatments ineffective. These few cells usually possess a mutation that renders them immune, but the protection comes at a cost. To withstand the drug regimen, the cells must alter their metabolisms to adapt to the new environment. This effectively makes them reliant on the cancer drugs for survival, and when the treatment is cut off, they will die. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: cancer, genes & health

Robots Rule This Futuristic Barley Field

By Leah Froats | October 3, 2017 2:54 pm
An automated combine harvests crops. (Credit: Hands-Free Hectare)

An automated combine harvests crops. (Credit: Hands-Free Hectare)

Is there anything more quintessentially American than a farmer in the heartland, toiling away on their land? But this vision of agrarian life will fade into the dusty shelves of sentimental nostalgia, because agriculture is poised to become an industry ruled by robot laborers. Companies like Hands Free Hectare (HFHa) are leading the way.

After a year of work, the HFHa project successfully harvested a crop of spring barley, grown using only autonomous machine labor. Members of the Harper Adams University engineering staff and precision agriculture company Precision Decisions partnered on the HFHa project. Though many farmers are already using satellite-guided equipment to assist in the harvest, the initiative aimed to be the first in the world to farm a crop with a single person developing callouses. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: computers, robots

Finding E.T. Here On Earth

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 3, 2017 1:49 pm
Saturn's moon Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn’s moon Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

When aliens arrive in the movies, they typically come from distant galaxies. Extraterrestrial life, however, could exist right here in our own solar system, nestled in briny oceans under the surface of icy worlds close to home.

Multiple moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn have proven to hold, or once held, liquid oceans. Of these, Saturn’s moon Enceladus has emerged as the most promising candidate for life in recent years, thanks to the discovery of hydrothermal plumes gushing from beneath its frozen surface. The vents these plumes emanate from could foster an an ideal environment for the emergence of organic life, pumping in crucial compounds and energy. To find out if that might be the case, Laurie Barge travels to other worlds in her lab—here on Earth, of course. Read More

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

D-brief

Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+