Tag Archives: Science

Paleontologist discovers tiny terrifying dinosaur – beak of a parrot, fangs of a vampire

Dr. Paul C. Sereno, a paleontologist at University of Chicago has discovered a new dinosaur, from The Register:

A two-foot long dinosaur with the beak of a parrot, teeth of a vampire and covered in some sort of bristly quill stuff…the Pegomastax africanus scampered around the earth 200 million years ago.

Called Pego, and judging by the illustration, the beast was terrifying with fangs in its beak and sharp quills down it’s back. But it would have weighed less than a house cat and was a herbivore – speculation is that the fangs were for fighting during mating competitions.

The fossil was surprisingly well preserved in volcano ash, allowing Dr. Sereno to study the bristles in addition to the bones. And the reason for this discovery is the Doctor finally pulled the fossil out of his desk drawer. It had been sitting there for 50 years collecting dust. Now, he is moving on to the second drawer.

Scientists discover 2 million new plankton species – on a 2.5 year ocean voyage

A team of scientists spent 2.5 years traveling the oceans, over 70,000 miles, and came back with a startling discovery. There was once thought to be 30,000 species of plankton but they discovered more than 2 million species. The diversity, and strangeness, is astounding. One species combines together to form a chain 40 meters long while another forms symbiotic colonies, living within each other.

Watch the BBC story:

 

Learn more about the Tara Expédition by visiting their website, listening to PRI’s interview, or following them on Facebook.

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Scientists set out to study Earth’s most forbidding – and Mars-like – locations

If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.

The four places are:

  • Chott-el Jerid, a salt pan in Tunisia
  • Atacama desert in Chile
  • Rio Tinto in Southern Spain
  • Deception Island in Antarctica
Deception Island in Antarctica. (source: Astrobiology)

 

From AstroBiology:

“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”

The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.

More about this research and the results from each site – from AstroBiology Magazine - Mars-Like Places on Earth Provide Insight to Life.

Child obesity and soda – science says it’s a problem, soda companies say it’s not

Here is the perfect example of the obesity debate in America. Last Friday, the New England Journal of Medicine published the following:

The increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among both adults and children in the United States and other countries is considered a potential contributor to the obesity pandemic. Sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages alone, which are the largest single caloric food source in the United States, approaches 15% of the daily caloric intake in several population groups. Adolescent boys in the United States consume an average of 357 kcal of the beverages per day. Sugar-sweetened beverages are marketed extensively to children and adolescents, and large increases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages have occurred among black and Mexican-American youth

Which prompted a response from the American Beverage Association (ABA):

The fact remains:  sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving obesity.  By every measure, sugar-sweetened beverages play a small and declining role in the American diet:

  • While Americans consume about 617 more calories today than they did in 1970, more than 90 percent of those incremental calories come from sources other than beverages.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute about 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet.
  • Caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages declined by more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2010, yet obesity rates continued to rise.

And the most interesting part is the disputed fact – is soda 7% or 15% of the American diet? The answer – it depends. The Journal said 15% in “several population groups” and hinted at children, minorities, and adolescent boys as those groups. While the AMA did not give details and so we can only assume 7% is for all population groups.

This type of confusing disagreement is common in the food industry. One obvious statement is blurred by a logical response, and the argument that wins isn’t the science – it’s the commercials on TV and packaging on food.

The best thing we can do is become more educated eaters and support scientific studies that can explain the truth. In the end, this may be like the smoking and cancer debate of the 1980s – where multiple attempts were made to confuse the public, but in the end the truth came out.

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You can read the full piece in the New England Journal of Medicine or a summary at Time.com - and here is the ABA Press Release.

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Scientists discover the motion of sperm cells using 3-D technology

If nature finds the best way, then move in a spiral pattern to get there the quickest, from the UCLA Newsroom:

The team developed a lensless computational imaging platform that accurately tracked more than 24,000 individual sperm cells in a large volume. This involved observing the individual rotations of each sperm cell, including helical movement patterns, rotation speed, and linear and curved distances traveled.

90% of them move in a right-handed spiral – damn I’m left-handed – and they move fast for microscopic entities, 20-100 micrometers/second.

That’s a big difference in speed…one sperm cell could be 5x faster than his brother.

 

Image demonstrating three-dimensional motion of human sperm cells. (source: UCLA)

The Periodic Table as Illustrated Cartoons

In Bunpei Yorifuji’s new book, Wonderful Life with the Elements, each element in the periodic table has personality. From the scary poison of Beryllium to the battery power of Lithium. And not to forget Carbon:

It’s wonderful book and worth buying for only $10. More images from the book are available at Brain Pickings.

I also recommend Bunpei’s past work, the humorous Tokyo Metro “etiquette” posters – Do It At Home.

 

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Help the new PBS web series – A Moment of Science – go viral!

I’m excited for the new PBS web series, A Moment of Science. It will feature short video clips on YouTube discussing basic science concepts. I love the idea of skipping television and going straight for the web audience. But I think it all depends on the videos going viral.

They are off to a decent start with 300 Facebook likes, 70 plusses on Google+, and 10 retweets in 24 hours. But I think they need our help. Show your support for science by clicking one – or all – of the links to like, retweet, or share.

Here is the first video, enjoy!

 

 

The world’s most intense natural color – Pollia Condensata

Pollia condensata produces its blue color at the nanoscale level and is more intense than anything ever studied. From the Smithsonian Magazine:

When they examined P. condensata on a cellular level, they realized that the fruit produces its characteristic color through structural coloration, a radically different phenomenon that is well-documented in the animal kingdom but virtually unknown in plants. They determined that the fruit’s tissue is more intensely colored than any previously studied biological tissue—reflecting 30 percent of light making it more intense than even the renowned color of a Morpho butterfly’s wings.

Most plants produce a pigment which coats the plant but is not a part of its cells. When the plants die they no longer produce the pigment and fade in color. Not the amazing blue of P. Condensata.

 

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Biomimicry at the zoo – San Diego Zoo creates a Centre for Bioinspiration

Science look to nature for innovation, via BBC News:

San Diego Zoo in California has opened a Centre for Bioinspiration, which aims to take ideas from nature to see if they can be applied to solve human issues.

The concept is known as biomimicry.

 

Examples of biomimicry, from Xconomy:

Mirasol display technology…generates colors…by mimicking the interference of reflected light by microscopic scales on the iridescent surface of the morpho butterfly’s wings.

—San Diego’s Biomatrica has developed DNA and RNA preservation technology based on anhydrobiosis, a dehydration process that occurs in nature with brine shrimp and other organisms.

 

Fascinating stuff. More examples can be found at San Diego Zoo’s – Biomimicry in Action.

 

// Image - Biomimicry in Action

“Our first attempt to take man to another heavenly body” – Neil Armstrong tribute

An amazing tribute video to Neil Armstrong composed of archival video and audio from NASA. From Science Friday:

Put together by Stephen Slater, is not just an excellent tribute to the first man to walk on the moon, but it’s also a nostalgic snapshot of the early days of America’s manned space program.

 

 

I think Neil should have been a poet. He had so many iconic statements:

“We the crew of Apollo 11 are privileged to represent the United States in our first attempt to take man to another heavenly body.”

“We came in peace for all mankind.”

“The eagle has landed.”

“One small step…”